Thursday, March 23, 2017

Day 22: Christian Fasting

These past few weeks have been hectic.  I sort of fell off the radar because I was feeling blah, which probably is best explained by the sudden onset of illness from other members of the family.  In other words, I think I was fighting off what they had but didn't know it at the time.  Then HB got a rather nasty cold with a huge amount of coughing.  Last week on Thursday I went to pick him up from school only to be notified that his teacher and four other students (6 according to him) puked.  On Friday I picked him up complaining of stomach issues.  A few hours later he developed this plague.  Fortunately nobody else has gotten it.  Although Hubby has gone out of town and texted me saying he thought that he had a fever (which HB had a fever too).  So....I guess you see why I haven't posted anything in a couple of weeks.

I mean, who wants to think of food when this is going on?

I have a barter/trade thing going on.  I give music lessons to a teenager in exchange for babysitting.  So in the midst of all that is sickness, I was giving lessons because said teenager has an upcoming exam.

It was also her sister's birthday and there was a cake, which was offered to me.  Now you all know that cake consists (ordinarily) of eggs and milk.  So I passed on it with the explanation that I was going vegan for Lent.

You'd think I just announced that I was joining a cult.  Her father's eyes got hugely wide, but then he simmered down.

What really struck me during the brief exchange was that he thought that some Christian fasting practices are over-the-top and "unBiblical."  I politely refrained from pulling out my ninja Bible skills.  He's a Presbyterian and not a very well versed one.  I don't expect him to be a theologian.  Nor do I know of many Protestants who do fast.  He's got a very busy job and has to raise three children.  So I bit my tongue and reminded myself that in all charity not everyone has the time or inclination to do their homework.

Since I do have the time and inclination, permit me to enlighten you.

Fasting practices are ancient.  There are many references to fasting found in the Old Testament and New Testament.  And dietary restrictions are also normal.  Sampson, from the Old Testament, was raised as a Nazirite.  He was not allowed to drink alcohol. The Essenes, a group of Jews during Jesus' time, were forbidden from sacrificing or eating meat. According to the Gospel of Matthew, John the Baptist, who there is some debate if he was influenced by the Essenes, is said to eat or have for meat only locusts and honey.

That right there should blow any notion of dietary restrictions and fasting being "unBiblical" right out of the water. It has always been a part of the Church as well.  Jesus, in the Gospel of Mark, tells the disciples to fast and pray in order to heal.  Later in the Acts of the Apostles, there was prayer and fasting especially before missionary work.  Prayer and fasting go hand in hand.

In modern times, Coptic Orthodox Christians of Alexandria and Ethiopia have the most restrictive diet.  Outside of 7 weeks after Easter, they eat a vegan diet. According to Wikipedia, they are vegan 250 days a year.

Other Orthodox Christians and Eastern Catholic Christians observe fasting practices during Advent and Lent.  These are often referred to as Little Fast and Great Fast respectively.  During Lent, there is a progression of abstaining.  First it is meat, then it is cheese (dairy and eggs too), and lastly oil (and fish).  The idea is that it was a time of rest for the animals.  Today, oil doesn't require the use of animals to produce so this is merely a tradition.  Usually on Sundays (and for some Saturdays) the fast isn't observed.  Wednesdays and Fridays are vegan.  This of course depends on the Bishop's directive and if you are in good health.  If you are interested in understanding this more, here's a great blog post on the topic from a Priest's wife.

Western Catholic Christians have historically had stricter fasting observances/dietary restrictions.  Black Fasts were part of the early church and are still observed by Orthodox and Eastern Catholics on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  Over time the Church has eased many of it's restrictions.  Here is an article detailing fasting/dietary restrictions in the United States back in 1906. I imagine my Catholic great-grandparents had to observe this fast.

Monastic orders have traditionally held higher dietary restrictions and fasts than the laity.  To this day, some monastic orders such as the Carthusians and Cistercians practice vegetarianism on a regular basis.

Protestants also have fasting and dietary restricting traditions.  Seventh-day Adventists tend to be vegetarians and are expected to follow Old Testament dietary laws.  Some Mormons restrict their meat intake.  Also some Society of Friends extend their practice of peace to animals and are vegetarians or vegans.

So with all this in mind, I decided to hold a stricter fast than is required.  This is actually encouraged by the Bishops as a form of personal penance.  But one doesn't have to fast just for Lent or before Mass, it's Biblical to fast for a myriad of reasons in conjunction with prayer.

Here's what I ate today:
Breakfast: not pictured overnight oats

Snack: not pictured hashbrowns with nutritional yeast and ketchup

Lunch: not pictured, salad and spaghetti with mushballs

Snack: not pictured, rest of overnight oats

Dinner: not pictured, vegan chili and toast

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Day 9: Accidentally Vegan

Some of the foods I've purchased specifically say "Vegan" or contain the happy little V on them to denote that they are vegan.  These are foods created specifically to be vegan.  Some vegetarian products can also be vegan, but usually they have both marked on the packaging.  I've looked at some vegetarian burgers only to discover that they have egg in them, but those spring rolls only say vegetarian when they are also vegan.

See "Happy little V" It looks like plant while the vegetarian designation just looks kinda sad.

Other foods are designed to be Kosher or Halal.  The bacon bits are Kosher and contain the U symbol on the packaging.  Since keeping kosher involves avoiding milk and milk products mixing with meat, then some of these foods are also vegan.  They are accidentally vegan.  In other words, the manufacturer never intended them to be vegan, but they are anyway. It's important to note while some of these Kosher products don't contain meat, bugs, or dairy, they will sometimes contain egg so you have to read the ingredient list if you are using kosher products as another way to shop.  My pretzels also don't say they are vegetarian or vegan, but they have a U on them.  A quick glance at the ingredient list shows that they are vegan.  Just so you know the U is the Orthodox Union's designation.  There are other Kosher designations including one with flag thingy and a the letter K which I've seen (KofK). They are just different organizations giving their particular stamp of Kosher approval. Wikipedia has several articles about keeping Kosher and food symbols, but this one I thought was interesting because it mentions how being Kosher is different than vegan when it comes to food products. So if I managed to confuse you, it should help.

See the U next to "flavored" on the bac'n pieces and the U next the "net" on the pretzels.  I bet you thought it was some sort of trademark symbol.  Nope.  It denotes that it's Kosher.  Gold star if you start looking through your cabinets and declare "hey this is Kosher."

Halal doesn't have the same dietary restrictions as Jews.  They eat dairy with meat and bugs are fine.  There are no Halal alcohols while there are Kosher ones. The similarity is in how the meat is slaughtered.  So finding a food product that's vegan and Kosher is more likely than Halal and vegan.

Then there are products with no such markings of any kind.  Oreos are vegan.  So are oriental roman noodles and teddy grahams, some crackers, and some breads.  You can read through the ingredient list and discover that there isn't honey, meat, eggs, or dairy in any of them.  If you call the company, they won't claim to be vegan because they make some of the products on the same machines as other products that do contain dairy.  Therefore it's easy to transfer minute bits of dairy to the product even if it doesn't actually have it in the ingredient list.  Some companies will actually warn you of this on the packaging because they don't want allergic reactions.  It's up to the individual vegan how strict they want to be about this.

I know that you're probably like "Not another vegan post.  I think I'd rather gouge my eyes out.  Wasn't this supposed to be about religion or something?"  In fairness I am talking about keeping Kosher and that's sort of the jumping off point where Christians get their fasting practices.

But, you'd be right. I haven't really discussed Christian fasting practices...yet. I'm setting up a contrast between veganism and how Eastern Catholics or the Orthodox fast.  So the next set of posts are going to be about their fasting practices and how I'm doing it.   Since I've set up the vegan end, the next post will be discussing the fasting practices of Eastern Catholics.  So stick around....

What I ate today:
Breakfast: overnight oats and black berries

Lunch: bagel with hummus, spinach, and tomato.  1 orange and yogurt

Because it was a day in which I needed to be in two places at once (both kids were dismissed at noon), I packed my lunch.  Ordinarily I go to Bible study across town on Thursdays so it's normally okay to get back home for lunch, but not today.  And when I say across town, I mean that.  I come the furthest away from anyone.  My local parish has Bible study for moms (and non-moms. there's actually a lot of them) but the one for moms is in the evening which takes away from family time.  This one across town is during the day. 

Snack: not pictured black berries and pretzel

Dinner: Leftover lo mein, and spring rolls
It didn't taste so great warmed up.  So this is one I'll have to portion out so less chance of leftovers.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Day 8: What's a Vegan

You probably remember me talking about vegetarians and vegans simultaneously in a psuedo-interchangeable way.  Historically this is correct because the term "vegan" wasn't coined until the 1940s.  That isn't to say that there weren't vegans, but they were such a small minority of vegetarians that they were referred to as vegetarians or to be distinctive strict vegetarians.  In other words, vegans aren't really separate from vegetarians, but rather they are a subset. 

Vegetarians are more common historically speaking.  No one knows where the term vegetarian comes from, but there are several cultures that have practiced vegetarianism over the historic landscape of humanity.

Vegans, even though they are subset, don't agree with what is acceptable in a vegan diet.  This is similar to a vegetarian who may or may not eat eggs.  Some vegans have no problem consuming foods derived from insects such as red dye number 4 or honey.  Others are so strict that they refuse to eat sugar that has been whitened with bone char or manufactured in a plant with machines that also process food with dairy.  I even came across a gentlemen arguing that it wasn't vegan to buy the chicken romen noodles even though the person wasn't consuming the packets. It's a kind of surreal vegan in-fighting and squabbling over who can out-vegan the other. 

It gets worse when you branch outside of the realm of food consumption to any animal consumption.  Some life-style vegans argue that dietary vegans who wear leather or wool should drop the vegan moniker.  The argument goes that they are only eating a plant-based diet and should refer to themselves as such.  They aren't vegans because they don't subscribe to same set of ethics.

All of this actually reminds me of Christians or Catholics with the in-fighting of who can out-Catholic each other.  Not a trad-Catholic who attends Latin Mass- quelle horror!! In other words, I don't take the militant vegan seriously and many vegans don't either because it doesn't actually help their cause.  The ones I see more often want to educate the public and encourage baby steps not large leaps since that's the more likely way a person will stick with veganism.

What I ate today:
Breakfast: apologies for the weird camera lighting.  That's overnight oats with black berries.

Snack: not pictured half a bagel with hummus and black berries

Lunch: left over pizza and a salad with vegan ranch not pictured chocolate chips with peanutbutter

Dinner: not pictured loaded bake potato and salad with vegan ranch.

The potato had black beans, vegan cheese, vegan sour cream (which it has saturated and trans fat so I don't think I'll be purchasing again), vegan butter, and bacon bits for crunch.

Bacon bits?

Yes. Unless it says "made from real bacon" it's not really bacon.  Bacon bits are actually soy bits.  They are flavored and dyed to look bacon-y.  And by dye I mean the unnatural kind red dye no 40.  Bacon bits are vegan.  They are what vegans term "accidentally vegan" which I'll explain tomorrow.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Day 7: Wraping up the Week

It's Day 7 and I've finished the week.  It has been at times hard.  This is because there are three other members of my family who are not giving up animal derived foods for Lent.  My children are under the age of 14 and haven't really gotten the hang of Lenten penance.  I don't think my interest started until I was much older either.  I do make them vegetarian meals for Friday, but other than that....  So naturally when I open up the fridge I have to remind myself that my snacks are limited.  My mind says "oh, look, cheese! Oh, that's right. No cheese."  I think it would be easier if those things weren't here- much how during Passover Jews remove the leavening agents of bread.  But we carry on.

Over the summer when I switched over to a low-carb diet I spent three days with a rough headache.  So you may be thinking, what's going vegan like?  Gas.  Lots and lots of gas. 👃💨 At times it's a bit painful until one expels it.  I remember reading that you would need to take something like beano from a vegan website, but I didn't realize how accurate that would be.  Yep.  I think you'd need some sort of gas thingy for a week at least.  Of course I've just done it the hard way and offered it up.  That's because of laziness and cheapness.  But you don't have to be like me.

And in case you are thinking "Oh, I'll never go vegan for Lent."  I say "ha" to you.  If Jesus asked you to do something for a spiritual exercise, then you'd do it.  Judging by a Twitter query of "what's the most interesting thing you've given up for Lent", he's asking a lot of people to do this.  "Vegan" was listed or alluded to several times to my shock.  Check here too. Perhaps it's in solidarity with our Eastern Catholic Brethern who are particularly being persecuted in the Middle East or perhaps it's a need for renewal and more visibility within the Western Catholic Church that he's asking for this.  It's probably many reasons both for the individual and for the Church as a whole.  So don't say "Oh, I'll never go vegan for Lent."  Because next year you might feel the tug too.  I just hope that reading my journey and the fruits of my research will help you.

What I ate today:
Breakfast: not pictured bagel with avocado and hummus and one large strawberry.

It was one of those days of rushing through breakfast.

Snack: not pictured pretzel with mustard

Lunch: Vegan Pizza and not pictured strawberries.

The pizza I bought was your typical frozen pizza.  It also tasted that way.  I think if I made my own vegan pizza it would taste better.  I didn't eat the whole thing, but the image is after I sliced it up.

Snack: not pictured chips

Not healthy I know.

Dinner: Chocolate Chip Pancakes and hashbrowns  I forgot to put nutritional yeast on the hashbrowns.  Woops.

I feel like I should have had some leaf greens in there somewhere today.  I guess I'll just have to make that up tomorrow.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Day Six: Why Make Similars

*not verbatim dialogue

Hubby: I really don't understand. Why do they call it vegan cheese or vegan meat?  It's like they are trying to make everything taste like an omnivore's diet.

Me: Actually some of the vegans I've come across feel the same way that you do.  They don't like that foods are called meat balls if there's technically no meat in them.  They prefer things like soy patties or cheeze.

It is kinda weird that when packaging food, manufacturers use the same names but in quotations or denoted as meatless. See the two examples above. I think this is part due to a few things: 1) vegetarianism while ancient has only ever been practiced by a minority of people long term and 2) a number of those who are vegetarians or vegans didn't grow up that way.  It's easier to connect what a food is for if it's labeled similarly to it's equivalent animal version from childhood.

What exactly do you call several vegetables molded and shaped into nuggets with breading?  Veggie nuggets?  Well, at the store I usually see them called chick'n nuggets.  And it probably sells better than calling it a veggie nugget.  So promoting a product also means naming it something appealing.  If vegans or vegetarians don't like what the manufacturer is doing, then there are numerous ways to say "rename your product please."

I think, though, for my husband it's weird that the food closely resembles animal versions.  To him it's like vegans and vegetarians want the animal version minus the animal.  Yes, yes, they do.  But he doesn't know why they don't invent their own recipes.  Well they do.  But omnivores eat cold cereal and pretzels etc.  Pretzels were invented by monks for a vegan treat during Lent, and cold cereal was created as a vegetarian health food.  Those particular dishes have become mainstreamed.  To me it's the equivalent of a European-descent person who enjoys his local Chinese buffet getting angry with a Chinese person if they also eat corn beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day (which you can't eat the corn beef this year because it falls on a Friday).   There's nothing wrong with enjoying the flavors and tastes of food from other cultures and sub-cultures and also making them your own. So there!💪 How's that for flexing my research muscles!  Who's the woman!  That's right I am.

So next time you pour a bowl of corn flakes, remember it was vegetarians who invented it.  You've essentially assimilated the sub-culture.  So maybe my husband should stop eating bran?  Just teasing, Hubby, just teasing.  You can eat a vegetarian-invented food product.

What I ate today:
Breakfast: Bulgar Wheat waffles with maple syrup and applesauce with cinnamon.  I've always preferred maple syrup (which comes from a tree) to table/pancake syrup (which is corn syrup).  But that's just me.
Lunch: Bagel with hummus, spinach, and tomato, potato chips, and not pictured chocolate chips w/peanut butter

Yes, Margret, there a ton of choices for vegans when it comes to potato chips.  And I realize that these fried things are not healthy.

Snack: not pictured leftover spaghetti with mushballs

Dinner: Spring rolls and lo mein (which had mushrooms, peas, celery, onion, and garlic) 

This was another dinner hit.  Even Knee really liked the lo mein noodles, and he wasn't a fan of the potato gnocchi nor did he even try the spaghetti with mushballs (which I liked because the mushballs had cumin and tumeric in them so it made the spaghetti spicy instead of sweet).  If I had played my cards right, I would have remembered to pick up a bag of orange chicken for the non-vegan members who instead had to settle for plain chicken nuggets (not to be confused with chick'n nuggets.)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Day Five: The Thing About Vegans

The thing about vegans is that they come in all shapes and sizes much like Catholics.  The basic categories are these:

Dietary vegans- Vegans who eat a plant based diet and may or may not follow the lifestyle. The lifestyle meaning they refuse not only to eat things made with animal products but also to use or wear anything made from animals. Usually dietary vegans become vegan for reasons of health.

Ethical vegans- These are vegans who range from being concerned about the meat industry (which we all should be as a matter of stewardship) to those who negate a Judeo-Christian understanding of human/animal relationships.  By this I mean they are ethical vegans because they believe that it's morally wrong to eat animals.  Perhaps it's because they believe that animals have a soul, but then so do plants.  Jews and Christians believe that humans are superior to animals because we are made in the image and likeness of God and were given stewardship over animals.  But not all vegans share this philosophy.

Environmental vegans- Those who are concerned about the rapidly growing use of animals for food and it's impact on the planet.  It's far less hazardous to grow crops then it is to raise animals and their food. 

So where do I fall into?  Well, I'm not a vegan.  I'm an omnivore.  I took up a plant-based diet for Lent.  So I eat vegan foods, but I'm not vegan.  I do share similar concerns about the ethical ways of raising livestock to it's environmental impact.  But as a Catholic I find nothing immoral about eating animals.  If a Catholic wants to be vegan, it's perfectly fine so long as they understand there's nothing immoral about eating animals.  Humans are superior to animals.  Much like angels are superior to humans. 

What I ate today:
Breakfast: bagel with avocado and coconut and strawberry yogurt

Snack: Two clementine oranges

Lunch: Leftover spaghetti, salad with vegan ranch, not pictured half a bagel with hummus, vegan chocolate chips and peanut butter

Dinner: Not pictured- left over potato gnocchi soup and a pretzel with mustard

Day Four: Shopping!

You might be thinking "Going Vegan means having to shop at a specialty/health food store."  During my research I learned "not necessarily."  The only things I bought vegan at a specialty store were vegan ranch and vegan chocolate.  I usually buy chocolate from that store anyway because it's fair trade chocolate that I can't find anywhere else.  Something about young children loosing fingers and never going to school disturbs me when eating a Hershey's.  My husband jokingly says he prefers his chocolate to be mixed with children's tears whenever he sees my fair trade stuff.  But that's right before he tears a new one into a dark chocolate fair-trade bar.  So there you go.

While I have a Trader Joe's and a Whole Foods, I don't usually go to them.  I go to the dollar stores.

"Wait, what?!"

Yay, you read that right.  Dollar stores.  Just today I bought a package of vegan meatballs from the 99c store among other things. I also find lots of other vegan things at Dollar Tree in their freezer section.  Usually 99c store is my thang as they have cheap produce.  But maybe you don't have one of those or maybe their limited selection leaves


"What's a Fry's?"

That's a Kroger to all you other folks.

"Kroger?  You find vegan stuff at Kroger?!"

Mmm. Hmmm.  I do.  Whatever I can't find at the 99c store I know is at Fry's.  I just have to look in the section marked "Natural."  It's easy to spot because it's green.  It's in practically every aisle.  And don't be fooled.  Some of it is junk food.  They have a section dedicated to vegan icecream.  Don't think that's whole foody goodness.  Of course your Kroger may not have that much stuff because of where you live.  I live in AZ.  There are lot of vegans and vegetarians.  We have a whole restaurant in town that serves only vegan food.  But don't give up hope.  You can always ask the manager to carry it for you.  Without customer feedback, they don't know what consumers want.  If you tell them if you carry vegan cheese or vegan icecream or vegan pizza, that you will buy it they usually will start stocking it.  And if not, tell them you'll ask an competitor or start purchasing food from online.  Vote with you dollar.  That's what I do.  That's why I avoided the soy milk at the 99c store and got excited when I saw today vanilla almond milk on the shelf (well now it's in my fridge).

So what I ate today:
Breakfast: Hashbrowns topped with ketchup and nutritional yeast, strawberries

Lunch: not pictured bagel with hummus, spinach, tomato, and small clementine orange

Snack: not pictured pretzel with mustard

Dinner: Spaghetti and mushballs topped with nutritional yeast not pictured salad and spoon full of peanutbutter

The spaghetti noodles is wheat and vegg.  The pasta sauce is a mushroom type while the balls were made from mushrooms and rice mostly.  Yum!