Even being on the Nice list won’t save you this year!
It’s an interesting thing to experience my first holiday season as a vegan. It’s another eye-opening experience to realize how much of our seasonal traditions revolve around food. It’s as though Purdue and Smithson have as much influence over our holidays as Hallmark. Forget about the shopping and the decorating tasks. Forget about the travel craziness and the family drama. Christmas plans are trumped with one major decision – turkey or ham? Once that main entree is figured out, the rest revolves around it in one very neatly choreographed display of food.
The American tradition (holiday or otherwise) of meat as the main entree is one that any new plant eater will likely face for almost forever. Like any other change (scaling back on fattening foods, scaling back sugars or other refined carbs), the shift from meat as the main entree is one that anyone can make with a simple change of perspective. Haven’t you ever filled your plate with tantalizing dishes, and found yourself with an overflowing plate only to realize you hadn’t even gotten the turkey or ham yet? Isn’t there more than enough to eat without it?
I am SO thankful this year for the efforts my family hosts have made to accommodate my husband and myself in our new culinary preferences. One dinner featured such a barrage of veggies I can hardly name them all – carrots, sweet potatoes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, corn, chinese cole slaw, beats, stuffed celery, olives, cranberry sauce, and more. Sure, there was stuffing, mashed potatoes, and turkey too, but who needs it?! Another dinner featured veganized green bean casserole, Brussels sprouts, chinese cole slaw (a new fav), quinoa salad, cranberries, and corn. Snacking before and after dinner? Of course – raw veggies, fruit, miso dip, hummus and chips, and even a splurge on homemade chex mix. More than plenty to satisfy! Let’s not forget the chocolate raspberry cake on Christmas eve and the pumpkin cheesecake on Christmas day. Delish! I was thrilled to be able to enjoy such delicious food and know that it’s all not only good for me, but good for the planet and kind to the animals.
I remembered an interesting and disturbing factoid during our dinner chat last night too. We were discussing the status of a beloved uncle who’s been fighting way more than his share of illnesses – diabetes, renal failure, and prostate cancer just to name a few. I hadn’t recalled that these are all being blamed on exposure to Agent Orange during his service as a young man. When my father-in-law explained the crazy practice of dousing forests and agricultural lands with massive amounts of potent herbicide to remove the hiding places for the enemy and to improve our chances in the guerrilla warfare our troops faced, I had to read more about it. Turns out the US is responsible for destroying over 25 million acres of agricultural land in South Vietnam alone. It takes a pretty lethal chemical to take down entire fields and forests in just a couple days with nothing but a spray from above.
The discussion about Agent Orange and its horrific long term effects on a loved one triggered something in my memory. The company that is credited with much of the Agent Orange creation and production is Monsanto. For any of you that have watched Forks Over Knives or Food Inc, Monsanto should also ring a bell. You may recall that this is not the only scary thing Monsanto has been involved with. Not only did they create what may be the most toxic chemical known to man when they created Agent Orange, they are the same pioneers creating food crops worthy of a leading role in a sci-fi film.
That’s right, they’ve created crops that can withstand an astronomical amount of herbicide. The formula is simple:
1) Buy magic seeds from Monsanto and watch them grow.
2) Spray acres of farm land with Round-Up (oh btw, it’s a chemical that’s also made by Monsanto).
3) Watch every living plant die – except those that sprouted from the magic seeds.
4) Harvest the super crops and sell to the public. Don’t bother to label them as sci-fi foods because the public is too dumb or too complacent to care.
What makes these particular crops resistant to this particular chemical? Good genes run in many families, but Monsanto has figured out how to create ‘good’ genes in their prodigy. They simply isolate the gene for resistance to their own chemical and insert it into the genes of specific plans to create “Round-Up Ready” seeds. What exactly does this do to the seed or the plant or to the person that eats it? We’re not sure. We suspect it’s not good. In fact, scientists have been warning of the dangers of genetically modified organisms for decades now.
Cynical story perhaps, but I challenge you to prove me wrong. My sister-in-law shared a story of witnessing massive uproar, protest, and public outcry about Genetically Modified Organisms when she lived in London. 13 years ago the public in the UK and EU fought like heck and won – GMO food is completely banned in more than 20 countries including the entire European Union, the United Kingdom, and countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.
The very food that is considered illegal in all of these places (for a reason, by the way!) is the exact same food that is on our grocery store shelves and in our restaurant food every single day. Without a warning label. Without even a heads-up that it’s in there. So even if you do care enough to avoid it, good luck doing so. Why aren’t we testing the long term results of consuming massive amounts of GMO food? Monsanto said there’s no need to worry. Why aren’t we labeling GMO food? Monsanto says that if Americans had GMO labels on their food, they might be reluctant to buy it. It might cause undue concern and scare people into buying organic food.
And that would be bad why? Oh, that’s right, it would hit Monsanto in their Genetically Modified Nuts.
The solution? Educate yourself. Care about what you’re putting into your body. Make a statement that you are not the dumb nor complacent public that’s going to buy chemically laced corn any more than you would choose to buy corn laced with crack cocaine without your knowledge! Here’s a super easy site that spells out some more details about how to avoid GMOs if you choose to.
If you feel like learning more about Monsanto, here’s an article about their most recent acclaim – voted the worst company in 2011. They’re no strangers to awards though. They earned this title in 2010 too. In 2011 they also earned the title “Least Ethical Company in the World” by a Swiss research firm called Covalence.