Saturday, February 21, 2015

Local Care

I wrestle with my intentions in this space. Recently, I was thinking about what kinds of blog posts I'd been working on: Project 333 and recipes/food posts. Is this the best I can do? Isn't there something more important I should be saying? I look around and see injustice everywhere, and I think I should be doing more than just writing about my life. To write about food and clothing like it's a choice everybody gets is to write within a place of privilege. 

On the other hand, there's a difference between acknowledging the privileges I've had in my life and overindulging in them just because I can. I keep coming back here because those of us who are able to shelter, feed, and clothe ourselves well, to the point of excess even, still need to take a step back, ditch the junk, and reconnect with our values.

Living simply is still relevant. I'd argue that people who choose to make things by hand, grow their own food, or downsize their possessions help make our world a little more equitable. 

Last week I had my students read an essay entitled "The Common Life" by Scott Russell Sanders. In it, Sanders claims, "The history of local care hardly ever makes it into our literature, for it is less glamorous than rebellion; yet it is a crucial part of our heritage."

You see, I'm not a leader. I'm an educator, but I'm not a leader. The pressure to initiate an idea, run with it, and get others to go along with me is too much. I think rebellion is rad, but I won't be the one starting it. Although I don't like to think of myself as a follower--nobody does--I do believe I am a mindful participant. Sanders' words hit me; "local care" is exactly what I'm working on. 

Caring for myself, for others around me, and for my immediate environment is a powerful act--powerful because it's accessible. Small actions I can take day by day and week by week might not make it into history books, but they can improve the lives of the people I care about most. Most importantly, these small but mindful acts change me

Friday, February 13, 2015

Reflections on Weekday Vegetarianism + Leaning Plant-Based

Spicy stir fry with magical Sambal and Harvest Grains from Trader Joe's

A couple weekends ago while grocery shopping, I passed by a man with his family. I smiled at him because I had passed him a couple times already. I saw him look at my basket and say to his family, "Puras verduras!" Just vegetables! And last weekend a cashier at Raley's commented on the Sambal I was buying (it's a delicious Asian hot sauce), which prompted the woman in line behind me to look at what we were buying and say, "I want to come to your house for dinner!"

I've come a long way since my days of eating off the dollar menu at Wendy's in college.

About three years ago, I became a weekday vegetarian. It worked well for me, and I'd encourage people to try it if they want to try vegetarianism but still have some flexibility. In the beginning, I did crave meat and ate it about once a week. When I thought about it, what I was craving more than anything else was the convenience of throwing a chunk of meat in the slow cooker and calling it dinner. It took some time to develop a vegetarian repertoire that didn't bore me or leave me starving. I also missed salt (easily fixed by adding salt to my meals sometimes).

Now, I'm looking more towards a plant-based diet (basically vegan). I feel better when I stick to fresh produce and whole grains. Now that I'm well into my 30s, I'm starting to think seriously about not dying at a young age. It sounds morbid, but actually, I just want to be around for a long time. If I can improve my day-to-day health and extend my life by eating a ton of vegetables every day, it's worth it. And I like vegetables. And I don't like pollution or animal cruelty. It's good all around.

I'm not ready to commit 100%--maybe closer to 90%. Basically, I don't think consuming a little bit of meat or animal products is terrible. The real food-related problems in our culture are the result of mass production/mass consumption, so I think it's most important to avoid habits that contribute to those underlying issues. With that said, I happily still "cheat" sometimes, but it's increasingly rare and it's mostly just to make my life a little easier. One day I might strive for 100%, but that day is not today.

I've found that even in this day and age, people are rather perplexed about what vegetarians and vegans eat. If you're curious, or if you're looking for ways to cut back on your meat intake, here's what I've been cooking pretty frequently (I'm happy to share recipes):

potato and lentil soup
stir fry (pictured above)
roasted vegetables with turmeric and curry
walnut pesto pasta
curry + coconut milk potatoes with vegetables
pumpkin or butternut squash soup
black bean chili
potato and spinach tacos

I've been using recipes from Crazy Sexy Kitchen and Isa Does It and experimenting on my own. I'm actually not very adventurous with my cooking and eating habits, so if I can manage a mostly plant-based diet, then you know it can't be all that difficult :)