One thing I love is cooking and sharing food with friends and family. Recently, my beautiful friend Molly, who just happens to be our beloved Marble the cat’s guardian angel, and I decided to cook a vegan feast together. Take a look!
I have been wanting to make another cooking video for a while now, but time always seems to be in short supply. Plus, I am still quite the amateur with iMovie. My thanks to Robert Ward for helping me with sound editing, in particular.
And to Molly, a huge thanks for being a great friend to people and animals alike. You are one of the kindest people I know.
They can be exhilarating, romantic, horrifying, puzzling, and often, to me, inexplicable. Many people describe recurring dreams that they have when stressed or anxious. You know, showing up naked for an exam you aren’t prepared for, that kind of thing.
My anxiety dreams often involve either driving or swimming. I avoided learning to drive and getting my driver’s license until I was in my 30s. I’ve never really learned to swim and am afraid of water. It’s not just the idea of drowning, but all of the things that might be lurking under the water. I don’t take long baths, and stick to quick showers, avoiding with all my might getting water in my eyes. Don’t worry, I do stay clean!
I don’t mean to single out sharks. I don’t fear them in particular. There are lots of tiny little toothy things in the water that can nibble on you, too.
The other night, I was having a rather enjoyable dream that I was going on a shopping trip to Mars. The planet Mars. The Red Planet, named after the God of War. Not your usual shopping destination.
Note that I am not one who likes to go out shopping. Online shopping has transformed my life. I rarely have to go into an actual brick and mortar store. I haven’t resorted to having my groceries delivered. Yet. But a trip to a mall is my idea of hell on the planet Earth. I do enjoy perusing small local shops when I travel, but that’s not nerve wracking and annoying like going to THE MALL.
But in my dream I was very happy to be going to Mars for my shopping expedition. I was on a space shuttle-like transport that looked a lot like the Swedish subway system. It was clean and quiet and not very crowded. In fact, I was the only passenger. Perfect!
I wasn’t wearing a space suit. I guess the whole gravity thing had been figured out. Hey, it’s my dream. I don’t have to wear a space suit and get helmet hair if I don’t want to!
I was happily anticipating my arrival on Mars. The shuttle was starting to vibrate as it approached the station. And just as we were about to dock I woke up (groggily) realizing that at 2:40 a.m. we were experiencing a real-life earthquake. It’s California. They happen. This one was 4.4 magnitude. We live on the Hayward fault. The epicenter of this quake was the nearby Claremont Hotel. As far as I am aware, there were no reported injuries or damages.
I pretty quickly went back to sleep after a brief wait for either a bigger jolt to come or aftershocks, but I never got to find out what my shopping experience on Mars would be. What would I be shopping for? I imagine if I were to be shopping on the moon, say, I might find a cheese store. A vegan cheese store at that, since there aren’t any dairies on the moon and I only eat vegan cheese anyway. I’d be like Wallace, when he goes to the moon on A Grand Day Out with Gromit and they picnic on moon cheese. Einstein can fill in for Gromit.
In my mind, I would enjoy my Mars shopping experience because it would be quiet, not crowded, and I wouldn’t have to drive anywhere. Except maybe to ride on a Rover. That might be fun.
I found a company online that purports to sell land on Mars, but I don’t need to be a land owner. Mars isn’t anyone’s to sell that I know of!
Another site tells me that 200,000 people have signed up with the company Mars One for a one-way mission to Mars. Should I say 200,000 gullible people?
Back to my shopping trip. Who would set up shop on Mars? I don’t want it to be kitschy souvenir stars with key chains and mugs and pencil sharpeners or televisions shaped like space helmets.
No advertising slogans like “Out of this world deals!” It will all be understated and tasteful. Again, I think I have Mars confused with a Scandinavian country. Only brown and dry.
By Scandinavian, please don’t think IKEA! I mean the expensive, gorgeous housewares and furniture of my dreams. Not DIY particle board furniture and Swedish meatballs.
Amazing Open Plan Kitchen Living Room – best 25+ open plan living ideas on pinterest | scandinavian dining – Broxtern Wallpaper and Pictures Collection
My Mars shopping experience must include: delicious vegan chocolate, coffee, books, gorgeous ceramics, amazingly comfortable yet flattering shoes, and a kitchen store beyond all kitchen stores. And perhaps a pet supply store. Otherwise it’s not worth the approximate 300 day trip. In my dream, I think it only took about 20 minutes, but still, for me to put on shoes, get to a shuttle, and go into stores, it’s gotta be good.
Chocolate. Luxury Martian chocolate. In the shape of planets and fun little Mars rocks. Dark chocolate. Mmmm.
Coffee. Can’t travel without it. The shuttle to Mars will have a barista and coffee bar, naturally.
Books. If it takes 300 days to get to Mars, I assume it takes the same amount of time to return to Earth. (Maybe I’m wrong. I avoided any courses in physics throughout my academic path.) I am going to need a lot of books! As much as I love Powell’s City of Books (3 stories across an entire city block) in Portland, Oregon, I think my Mars bookstore should be a bit more, I don’t know, sleek? Celestial? Breathtaking? I’m voting for Prologue Bookstore in Singapore to take on the Mars venture.
Ceramics. I am envisioning ceramics along the line of Heath Ceramics (based in Sausalito, California), only made of Mars dust.
Shoes. Good shoes are so important to health and happiness. I wasn’t born with the shoe obsession my mother and a lot of other women seem to have, but shoes can make or break your day.
I work at an animal shelter and am on my feet all day. My shoes have to be practical and comfortable. I am tired of shoes that make my feet look like clown feet.
If you are bopping around on Mars, you have to have good shoes. I want them to still be cute and petite looking, while not hurting my feet. Currently, I mostly wear Skechers or clogs, which are fine, but give a girl a break. I’m a girly girl at heart. And a vegan. Finding cute, practical, comfortable shoes that are vegan friendly ain’t that easy. Please don’t suggest Crocs.
I’m leaning right now toward the Mars store being an outlet of Insecta shoes from Brazil. Cute, ecologically minded, vegan. I haven’t tried them on yet to gauge the comfort level, but I am intrigued. They are made from recyled used clothing and plastic bottles.
The one kitschy souvenir idea I am behind–socks with images of Martians, space ships, etc. You have to have the sock wardrobe.
Kitchen store.Kitchen gadgets, accessories, and cooking tools–yes! I adore a good kitchen store.
Some people claim that the 190-year old store E. Dehillerin on Rue Coquillière in Paris is the best place on planet Earth for buying cookware. If it’s good enough for Julia Child…There’s also the highly rated Kitchen Bazaar on avenue de Maine in Paris. I’m thinking I should take a little research trip there soon.
Pet supplies. Should I take any of the resident companion animals along on the shopping trip? Einstein gets motion sickness, so he might not appreciate the shuttle trip to Mars. Marble could maybe handle it if I took enough crunchy food along for him. Sara is too old; at 19 she’d rather stay home and get updates in the comfort of her warm bed. For some reason, I see Misty coming along for the trip.
Once we get there, I’ve promised her a beautiful blue jeweled collar as a memento of the journey. So, we will need an awesome pet supply store on Mars, too.
I imagine this celestial shopping journey is going to cost a pretty penny or two, so I better get out there and start saving up! But a girl can dream. So I will.
I worry about the products I buy and whether they are cruelty-free. Do celebrities, especially the animal-loving ones, pay attention to what they have their staff buy for them? First, I wanted to find out who some of these beautiful vegan celebrities might be; I know many beautiful vegans who aren’t famous, but the world seems to want celebrity to give something credibility. So here are some famous, beautiful vegans. (Note: My definition of beauty includes inner qualities, not just the outer ones.)
So how do they maintain this beauty and stick to their vegan ideals? There are cruelty-free products out there; one just has to look. Look for symbols from organizations like the Leaping Bunny or get the Cruelty Cutter app from the Beagle Freedom Project. With the app, you can scan the barcode on a product and find out whether it is cruelty free before you purchase.
This led me to the thought of how I could make my own, since DIY is always more fun than buying something. I often have a bowl of okara, the ground soy beans left from making soy milk (see The milk of human kindness (is non-dairy) in the refrigerator, and I’ve been trying to find ways to utilize it. I sometimes add it to soups and stews and even baked goods as a protein boost.
In the directions that came with the soy milk maker, there is a recipe for an okara facial mask. The recipe uses honey, which is not a vegan product. I gave it a try, mixing the okara with some agave as a binder instead of honey, and a little Vitamin E oil in place of the various essential oils recommended, since I didn’t have any of those. It actually did make my skin feel soft and smooth after I rinsed it off.
What are some other simple, do at home (with things you probably already have) vegan beauty recipes? One good source is the DIY Home page of the blog Vegans Have Superpowers. I am not volunteeering to do the banana facial mask; just sayin’. If you have things at home like apple cider vinegar, witch hazel, oats, sea salt, baking soda, olive oil, and essential oils, among others, you can make your own skin-care and hair-care products.
The editor of The Vegan Beauty Review, Sunny Subramanian, has a book with co-author Chrystle Fiedler, The Compassionate Chick’s Guide to DIY Beauty. I just ordered my copy.
Don’t want to make your own products but want to try some fun and different products from a variety of cruelty-free manufacturers? You can subscribe to the monthly Petit Vour cruelty-free/vegan PV Beauty Box.
Nerd that I am, I also find smart people really sexy. You think being vegan is stupid? Just ask these people.
And then there’s me, kinda cute, kinda smart, and kinda silly, but not doing too badly at age 55. I’ll never be a star, but I do what I can to lead an ethical and compassionate life, and that’s a beautiful thing.
But whoever said the latte part has to come from cows? Cow’s milk is for baby cows! It is great for calves–rich in fat and perfect for promoting growth OF A COW. Like 500 pounds growth in a year. I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in a growth formula.
The dairy industry is also unspeakably cruel, separating calves from their mothers immediately after birth. Many die. Males are “dispensable” and often killed or sent to veal crates. The mothers mourn for their babies. So we can drink their milk.
Not so long ago, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to block the use of the word “milk” in the labeling of non-dairy products like soy milk and almond milk. If NMPF wants “truth in labeling” then they can label cows milk as a lacteal secretion. Sounds yummy, yes? No.
Shakespeare is credited with the phrase “the milk of human kindness”, referring to care and compassion for others.
(Is it just me, or does the above portrait of Shakespeare look a lot like the actor Steve Weber?)
From Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 5, (1605):
Lady Macbeth: Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be What thou art promis’d. Yet do I fear thy nature, It is too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way.
For ambitious and ruthless Lady Macbeth, the milk of human kindness denoted weakness; she was afraid her husband lacked the wherewithal to muder King Duncan as the quickest way to the throne.
I, however, fully approve of the milk of human kindness. And I extend it to the cows of the world by using alternate milks in my latte.
I’ve even started making my own soy milk in my handy dandy Japanese soy milk maker.
Here’s a quick video:
There are some continuity issues in the video (I put the top of the machine on backwards and then corrected it).There are dinner dishes in the sink. I couldn’t get Taste Tester Bob to try the soy milk. I will never forget the time at his friend Dave’s house when Dave was trying to get Bob to try soy milk on his bowl of cereal. Dave was basically chasing Bob around the kitchen with a carton of soy milk. Highly entertaining.
Commercially, I like Wildwood Farms soy milk, and any of the plant/nut-based milks from Califia Farms. I prefer the unsweetened and unflavored milks, but there are options if you have a sweet tooth or like a vanilla latte.
(By the way, I freaked out when I Googled “sweet tooth” and the first image was a horrible scary clown. I do not like clowns.)
Speaking of the milk of human kindness, can we stop with the scary clowns already? Real life is scary enough.
Someday, I will figure out how to make almond milk and rice milk in the soy milk maker. The directions promise that I can! Then there is the okara–the ground up soy beans left at the end of the process. Being from Georgia, I keep thinking the word is okra…
Okara can go into veggie burgers; I’ve put it in stews and sauces for a protein boost. The recipe book that came with the soy milk maker includes okara “chicken” strips, okara bread, and, the one that might be my next video–an okara facial mask!
Oh, one last thing. Please don’t ask me where I get my protein.
I decided to make a vegan cheesecake (“cheezcake”) a few days ago, inspired by having a big bowl of lemons and a new copy of the cookbook Vegan Under Pressure by Jill Nussinow.
When life gives you lemons, bake something! I also wanted to try doing a dessert in the Instant Pot. Problem was, I didn’t have a lot of the ingredients other than the lemons and the cashews, used as the basis for “cheeze” in vegan cheesecake. So I substituted. It mostly worked, although there was a stage where it wasn’t so pretty. Here is the video, bloopers and all! You’ll notice (or not) a wardrobe change near the end. I was in my pajamas and bathrobe by the time we actually ate the cheesecake.
No, this is about my new pressure cooker! I finally bought an Instant Pot after reading about them on Facebook page for Instant Pot Vegan Recipes.
I first became interested after going to a holiday cooking demonstration at the Oakland offices of the PETA Foundation last year. I am not going to comment one way or the other about PETA here; this is about food! Let’s come together around the table. Or the Instant Pot.
The presenter was JL Fields, and you can follow her at JL Goes Vegan. She is funny and informative and PRACTICAL about food and vegan cooking.
But it took me a year to convince myself to buy the Instant Pot. Now that I have it, I need to make a point of using it, which means learning HOW to use it. I got the cookbook:
I am a bit afraid of pressure cookers; back in the day they were dangerous, and I had a bad experience with one. I know so many people with a mother or grandmother with a near-death pressure cooking story.
I decided to start with something easy. I am not much of a breakfast person (beyond coffee), but Bob likes to start his day with traditional Western breakfast foods. I had a day off and was avoiding my academic duties (I love writing, but sometimes…), so I made oatmeal for breakfast!
Granted, oatmeal isn’t that hard to make in any case. But the pressure cooker was calling me, it sounded quick and easy, and one benefit of pressure cooking is you set it and walk away. Oatmeal on the stove can get messy if left unattended.
In my new capacity as wannabe Vegan Food Network Star (see Can I Vegan That? (My first cooking video!), I ended up making a video of the project. I have no pride; I am in my pajamas with bed hair. Hey, it’s real life. I spend a lot of my day off in pajamas! And you might notice near the end of the video that I have sweater fuzz on my chin. That is not a chin hair! I have a habit of wearing my shabby old gray cardigan over my bathrobe on cold mornings (see Tim Gunn and Ruby Dee walk into a bar…). You might not think it’s pretty, but I think it’s warm and comforting, like a bowl of oatmeal.
The oatmeal was pretty good. In hindsight, I would have added more liquid (2-1/2 cups to 1 cup of oats instead of 2:1), and maybe cooked it at 4 minutes pressure instead of 5. But it was a learning experience, and I am more comfortable using the Instant Pot now. Heck, Bob cooked dinner in it last night. The lure of using a new gadget was stronger than his dislike of cooking!
Happy viewing! I’d love your (vegan) pressure cooking tips!
I am addicted to cooking shows, especially the competition ones, but I know I’d never survive against a timeclock and a group of cutthroat competitors. For a while, I was also addicted to the show The Chew on ABC, a daytime multi-host show about food, cooking, home, entertaining.
One of the recurring segments on the show, at least when I was last watching, was with Carla Hall, called Can You Blend This?
She’d take a bunch of weird leftovers, blend them together, and make her cohosts taste it. Interesting faces were made. Sometimes the answer was yes, sometimes definitely no.
As a vegetarian, I always wanted more vegetarian alternatives, or at least not to be made fun of. Then I went vegan, and I felt totally left out of the Food Network world!
My dream is to have a segment called Can I Vegan That? But I’ve never made a video before.
Here is my trial run. Clearly, I need to up the production values. A second person to hold the iPhone would be nice! Bob was taking a nap until the end; I was on my own. Until cats develop opposable thumbs, I’m without assistance. And someone (not a cat, thanks) to do hair and makeup would be even better!
Brownies, not a huge challenge, but an easy one to start off with and I happened to have the ingredients and a sweet tooth. Next up? I’m open to suggestions.
So, grab some non-GMO popcorn and turn down the lights. Here we go:
I figure I won’t survive any kind of zombie apocalypse. Not even sure I’d want to!
I’d try to save my pets, but really I’d be a goner.
And the dystopian future of The Hunger Games? Definitely not my cup of almond milk latte.
I’m a peaceful person who spends most of my waking hours (and sleeping too sometimes) surrounded by cats and dogs and visions of sugar plums (if they were made of dark chocolate).
I have been a vegan for about 1-1/2 years, vegetarian before that since 1995 and on and off vegetarian for years since about 1975. A teenage phase at the time maybe, but it did eventually stick. I’m also a very non-confrontational, shall we say pacifist, introvert with people-pleasing tendencies. I would not survive the arena or the zombie horde.
The only thing vegan I can recall from The Hunger Games is the nightlock berries that will kill you in a gruesome way if ingested. What is author Suzanne Collins’ problem with fruits and vegetables, anyway?
So why have I been obsessed with reading the trilogy of The Hunger Games books recently?
Or maybe it’s for the same mysterious reason that I watch shows like Making a Murderer, or that seemingly normal people like horror movies. It’s disturbing, yet we can’t stay away. They access some part of our emotions that perhaps makes us feel better about our own lives. I don’t know.
I also like sad songs and melancholy singer songwriters. And movies that make me cry? Yes, please!
From left, the earliest movies I can think of that made me cry: All Mine to Give (1957), The Yearling (1946), and Shenandoah (1965). I watched a lot of late night television when I was a growing up in the 60s and 70s.
And of course, by the time I was watching Tom La Brie’s late night movie choices, I was in my first vegetarian phase. Which brings me back to tofu. It’s delicious! All you tofu haters out there, have you ever even eaten tofu?
But maybe I would survive the zombie apocalypse precisely because I eat tofu! Hmmm. Guess what happened when I Googled vegan and zombie?
“Let’s go out there and do a f*** ton of good!” was the closing sentence of Will MacAskill at the Effective Altruism Global 2016 conference held at UC Berkeley August 5th through 7th this year. Professor MacAskill is the youngest tenured professor of philosophy in the world (yes, in the world, at age 29) and is the co-founder of Giving What We Can, author of Doing Good Better, and a major voice in the Effective Altruism movement. As one might hope at a conference of altruists, the book was free!
I only heard about the conference and the movement itself the day before the conference, when I met Tobias Leenaert, The Vegan Strategist, when I went to a talk he gave at the newly opened Berkeley Animal Rights Center.
One online application submitted and there I was, at the Effective Global 2016 conference with about 1,000 other altruists.
After making my way through registration, and grabbing a coffee (altruists need coffee too!), I went to my first session, How to Change Your Mind, presented by Miya Perry, Head of Training for the Oakland start-up Paradigm Academy. We learned about changing our behaviors by digging deep into our System 1 and System 2 beliefs (I found this description helpful).
Next up: Cooperative Conversations, led by Tsvi Benson-Tilsen, formerly of the UC Berkeley Math Department and now at the University of Chicago. Conversation is more complicated than you think. We all operate from different world models of knowns, “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns”, and our models may or may not overlap.
Et voilà, it was time to check out dinner! Being altruistic can work up an appetite. The food was delicious and predominantly vegan, with a couple of vegetarian alternatives for those who must have cheese (I understand, I really do). Vegan as the default was such a great way to go! Thank you, Centre for Effective Altruism, for that decision as well as the compostable bamboo plates and forks.
And of course, you know I wouldn’t leave out the all important dessert!
Saturday started with the keynote talk, The Past, Present, and Future of Effective Altruism, by Will MacAskill and Giving What We Can co-founder Toby Ord. (Note: a side benefit was getting to hear all of the wonderful accents and languages from this international community. Will is Scottish and Toby is Australian, though both are now at Oxford in England.)
Toby presented about the past, going through the history of ideas, while Will spoke about the present expansions in the EA literature, EA groups, and outreach.
Tired yet? It’s early still! Let’s grab a coffee and keep moving.
Away we go, to The Future of EA for Animals, presented by Jacy Reese from Animal Charity Evaluators. It was a quite lively discussion about the most effective ways to help animals
Time for lunch. The lunch buffet was set up on the plaza in front of Zellerbach Hall. In addition to good food, lots of small groups formed to continue the conversations that the various sessions (of which I went to only a handful) so far had triggered.
While a nap might have been a good thing about now, I soldiered on to Are Scientists Responsible Enough?, a talk given from the UK via the magic of Skype by astrophysicist Lord Martin Rees for the Centre for the Study of Existential Risks. As Lord Rees says (paraphrasing), because of the huge implications of the possible actions by a few people, we need more conerned and socially engaged scientists. As he said, “the global village has its village idiot with a global range”. In the US, his book is sold under the title Our Final Hour.
Back to my favorite topic–animals–with Irene Pepperberg from Harvard, talking on Avian Cognition and Consciousness: The Gray Parrot and Its Implications for Animal Welfare. We share this world with many other creatures and we are all interconnected. Empathy is called for, and we are only just finding out how much we don’t know about non-human animal intelligence.
Next, I went to a workshop on how to prioritize and compare different interventions for helping non-human animals, run by Lewis Bollard from Open Philanthropy Project.
Still holding up okay? Me too!
If we want to make the world a better place, of course, humans are a big part of the picture. The next session I chose was The End of Poverty, a lofty goal.
Utilitarian philsopher Peter Singer, author of many influential books (Animal Liberation, Darwinian Left, and, relevent to this presentation, The Life You Can Save: How to Play Your Part in Ending World Poverty) was able to participate in a question and answer session with the audience through Skype.
His ending message: don’t think in terms of sacrifice but of fulfillment in your efforts to make the world a better place. As the saying goes, the life you save may be your own.
This was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Rajesh Mirchandani from the Center for Global Development.
When evaluating possible interventions, some of the things to consider: scale, evidence/data, incentives, accountability, and transparency.
Catch your breath, and now we move on the day 3, which I started with a round of 3 20-minute talks. These were in the Senate Chambers for the Associated Students and Graduate assembly at UC Berkeley, on the 5th floor of Eshleman Hall. Very spiffy, and great views.
First up, Tobias Leenaert on Helping Animals with Technology or Morality? It takes a lot of motivation to get people to change their habits for ethical reasons. Maybe the vegan movement should focus on getting people to eat meat alternatives as they become more readily available (just try them, they’re [mostly] delicious!), and then their attitudes toward animals will shift as a result. In other words, instead of trying to change people’s beliefs to change their behavior, change their behavior and the attitude shift will follow. I will say that I am creeped out by lab meat, aka, clean meat, cultured meat, and tissue-engineered meat. But I am not a meat lover and my attitude is already with the animals!
Tobias was followed by Adriano Mannino of Effective Altruism Foundation on Affecting the Far Future with the Animal Cause. The foundation is an anti-speciesist think tank and project incubator headquartered in Germany. His point, if I understood correctly, is that people who value the lives of animals and want to prevent animal suffering are of a mind-set that also predisposes them to take on other causes and value all things living, human, non-human animals, plants, the planet, and that we can build toward a better future for all utilizing those values.
Finally, the round of speakers ended with nanotechnologist and futurist Christine Peterson, co-founder of Foresight Institute on Upstream Altruism: Applying EA Principles to Early-Stage Action.
My favorite bit was the idea of “hit and run” altruism, which could be equated to random acts of kindness. Nanotechnology means nothing to me, kindness does.
We aren’t done with lab-grown meat yet! Back to Zellerbach Hall for a panel discussion, Rethinking Meat and the End of Factory Farming, moderated by Claire Zabel with Open Philanthropy.
I met Allison Smith again at the workshop on interventions, led by Allsion and Jacy from Animal Charity Evaluators.
I promise this is the last on lab-grown meat; panelists Uma Valeti of Memphis Meats, Oliver Zahn of Impossible Foods, Tim Geistlinger from Muufri, and Isha Datar from New Harvest answered audience questions about technology, nutrition, and the notion of cellular agriculture. I’m still sticking with plant-based, thanks.
We’re almost done! Yes, I’m getting tired too.
I couldn’t leave without going to the talk by Cass Sunstein, who I know as the editor of texts I’ve used in animal protection classes in my humane education program. He has other claims to fame: Harvard Law professor, legal scholar, Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2012, and author of many books, including The World According to Star Wars (surprised by that one?!).
Professor Sunstein’s talk was titled From Behavioral Economics to Public Policy. Don’t let the title scare you. Many Star Wars references were sprinkled throughout (I won’t pretend to have understood most of them).
It was a very interesting talk on social meaning and concepts like using nudges to get people to do good things. For example, at the Amsterdam International Airport, flies painted in the urinals nudge men to aim at a spot where pee doesn’t overflow onto the floors. These have resulted in 44% less “spillage” in the men’s bathrooms at the airport. Don’t ask me how it was measured. Or who had to measure it.
And now to the closing remarks!
A gathering on stage of the staff of the Centre for Effective Altruism who made the conference happen, the awesome volunteers, and a big thank you to them and to all of us for attending and spreading the ideals of effective altruism.
And proving that we are also optimists, all of us went outside to gather for a group photo, I haven’t seen the final result, but here we are trying to squeeze together in front of Sproul Hall.
I’d like to end this with one last thought. The weekend before this, I attended the World Vegan Summit 2016 in the same location. I thought I would have a lot to write about, but I had an uncomfortable feeling the whole time (compounded by food poisoning; gotta wash those fruits and veggies and use clean hands, food service people!). It was an amazing opportunity to hear Professor Gary Francione, a divisive but forceful leader in the animal rights movement, and I learned alot. But there was a vibe of “our way is the only way” that doesn’t sit well with me. I am much more interested in open-minded thought and discussions.
I am a 54-year old educated white woman living in an upper-middle class neighborhood in a liberal city in Northern California. We were the first house on our street to have our Bernie Sanders 2016 yard sign in place. Our home is shared with a rescue dog and two rescue cats. I volunteer at an animal shelter. Until recently I worked at a major public university often referred to as Berzerkeley. I have been vegetarian since 1995, an aspirational vegan for the last year. I sometimes participate in animal rights protests. I am not considered weird in my world.
As a child in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia in the 1960s, my thoughts about food and animals were confused at best. I grew up in a household full of human children and non-human animals (of the dog and cat variety, with an occasional frog or turtle my brother brought home from the Fernbank Forest behind our house). What was unusual about our family in that time and place was the fact that we were being raised by a single working mother. We lived in a nice house in a nice neighborhood, went to good schools, and never felt we were deprived on anything materially. But we were the kids whose father died and whose mother didn’t have the time or inclination to cook.
My mother was not a natural or good cook. She never forced us to eat things we didn’t want to. Stories of children being forced to sit at the table until they ate their [insert hated food here] made me sad. I was the strange child who loved my fruits and vegetables. My memories of dinners at my grandmother Nana’s house are about big bowls of succulent green beans, corn on the cob, sliced summer tomatoes, and juicy peaches. I know she served meat, platters of fried chicken being her favorite. My mother wouldn’t eat chicken for years; as a child she visited her grandparents at their farm in Alabama and saw firsthand how the chickens got from the chicken yard to the frying pan. And she told us about it. And I’ve never forgotten. Nana always served leg of lamb with mint jelly for Easter. I wouldn’t eat the lamb, but I loved the mint jelly. It got melty and oozy and oddly delicious next to the hot green beans on the plate.
Our father was of French heritage from an old New Orleans family. He liked to eat what I think of as weird food, frog legs and snails being the ones that I was repelled by but fascinated by as well. Again, my mother told us the gruesome stories about how when she put the frog legs in the frying pan, they would jump out of the hot pan and land on the floor. Maybe there is a scientific explanation for this and maybe Mom was having us on, but the picture of something I never witnessed remains strong in my mind.
As with many children, my favorite books were ones that featured animals. Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame is still one I re-read from time to time and holds a place of honor on my bookshelf. Did I connect Mr. Toad with the real amphibians my father supposedly ate or the ones that my brother kept in shoeboxes on the porch? Not that I remember. Did I connect Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White) to the bacon in the BLTs I liked up until I became obsessed with plain tomato sandwiches after reading Harriet the Spy (Louise Fitzhugh)? I’m pretty sure I didn’t.
I declared myself a vegetarian the first time in 1976 as a 15-year old high school sophomore living with my mother and stepfather at that time in a small town in the Nevada desert. This might have been normal for a teenager living in some places, but not in Gardnerville, a community of ranchers where 4-H was big in school. My friend Kara across the street kept horses, who I was afraid of at first, and sheep. In the pasture were 5 lambs, who grew up to be 5 large sheep. They had names. I thought they were the coolest pets! And then one day the sheep were no longer in the pasture, but cut up in packets in freezer. I never felt the same way about Kara again. Now she was the one who frightened me. I avoided the 4-H kids and spent a lot of time in the art classroom. I would do anything to avoid having to buy the school lunch. Tomato sandwiches and salted carrot sticks remained my reliable go-to lunch.
Then we moved to Sacramento, California, and I fit in a little better. My new friend Julie had a copy of Frances Moore Lappé’s Diet for a Small Planet (1971). There was a vegetarian restaurant in our neighborhood. I left home and went to college the first time (it didn’t stick) in a small town on the Oregon border now famous for its Shakespeare theater. The food in the dorms was horrendous; I lived off of the salad bar and instead of gaining the “freshman 10” that is now the “freshman 15”, I lost that amount of weight. There was a food co-op, the first I’d ever been to, that smelled of cumin and faint vegetable rot. But I met a boy, a beautiful boy from another country where only poor people didn’t eat meat. I followed him halfway around the world, and gave up being vegetarian (although his family did still tease me about my “rabbity” way of preferring the salads and vegetables).
Not all things last. The boy and I are divorced, incompatible in ways beyond food choices. Some things do last. I returned to vegetarianism in 1995 after seeing the move Babe. Where I didn’t make the connection with Wilbur in my childhood, I made the connection with Babe in my adulthood. For some reason, I still didn’t make the connection to fish, and I had no idea of how the dairy industry treated animals, so I continued to eat fish and cheese and eggs. I always felt guilty about the fish, but I still ate their bodies on occasion. This all changed a year ago when I went to the 4th Annual Conscious Eating Conference. I had been exploring ideas around compassion and ethics, and was attracted to the program. I went on a whim, something to do on a Saturday. I haven’t eaten cheese or eggs or fish since, although I sometimes slip-up around milk in my coffee if there is not a non-dairy option available. My boyfriend is a firm lacto-ovo-pescatarian. I know animal activists who won’t share a table with non-vegans, but I don’t feel okay with that stance. And since I do most of the cooking and shopping, the fish and dairy are primarily consumed away from home. I also don’t try to make the dog and cats eat vegan. I still have leather and wool in my closet; I can’t bring myself to give away the shoes and coats and sweaters. I now buy vegan alternatives but still love that sweater I bought on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Norway and will not part with it.
I am still conflicted, albeit in smaller, more defined ways and I haven’t managed to bring myself to drinking black coffee (and forget giving up coffee). I still have a terrible sweet tooth, but thank goodness for vegan dark chocolate! There are vegan junk foods, so I don’t always manage a healthy diet. What has changed over time is my awareness and the increased ability to link my desire to not harm animals to my choices I make every day. And my comfort with saying “no bacon” when I order at restaurants. Here’s to you, Wilbur. I finally get it.