**Full content warning below.
This week we’re approaching an oft-discussed topic in the environmental movement–veganism! Olivia goes back thousands of years to cover the history of plant-based diets, and Elise brings us through the high and lows of the now-booming meat replacement market. We also discuss our own food journeys, white veganism and gatekeeping within the vegan community, and wisdom gleaned from Jonathan Safran Foer’s We Are the Weather.
**Content warning: this episode discusses food and diet, animal cruelty (non-graphic language), systemic racism and colonial history in relation to food, and briefly mentions disordered eating.
While researching for this episode, we put up a few polls on our Instagram. Here are the results:
Is veganism/eating less meat and dairy something you think about often? 82% Yes, often / 18% Not really
Do you hear much about veganism in your everyday life? 63% All the time / 37% Not really
Do you deal with perfectionism regarding what you eat? 23% Yes / 77% No
This is a quote from We Are the Weather that we mentioned later in the episode, but it’s worth putting up front:
“The best way to excuse yourself from a challenging idea is to pretend that there are only two options.”We Are the Weather by Jonathan Safran Foer
Story #1: The History of Veganism (Olivia)
The History of Vegetarian Diets: Explore the Progression of Plant-Based Eating by Food and Nutrition.org
The Surprisingly Black History of Veganism on ATTN
The Evolution of Diet by National Geographic
Vegans in Ancient Times by Bite Size Vegan
You Will Never Look at Your Life in the Same Way Again and Every Argument Against Veganism by Earthling Ed
Colonization and the role of agriculture in a nutshell by World Rainforest Movement
History page of The Vegan Society
The Invisible Vegan documentary by Jasmine C Leyva (Watch free on Tubi.)
Story #2: Meat Replacements (Elise)
The Rise Of Meatless Meat, Vox, February 2020
Key Facts And Findings, FAO
Here’s how the footprint of the plant-based Impossible Burger compares to beef, Fast Company, March 2019
What you need to know about antibiotics in livestock, Grist, July 2015
Lab-grown meat and the fight over what it can be called, explained, Vox, August 2018
Can you guess which Americans are most into plant-based meat?, Vox, February 2020
A Brief History Of Plant-Based Meat, Pacific Standard, September 2016
We’re Entering A New Age Of Meatless Mean, But We’ve Been Here Before, Smithsonian Magazine, April 2019
The History of the Veggie Burger, Smithsonian Magazine, March 2014
Buttery Bonus Content from Elise
Looking into meat alternatives and thinking about my own habits, I got to thinking if vegan butter replacements were really more eco friendly since I incorporate them frequently in my baking and cooking. Turns out, butter typically has 4x the carbon footprint of margarine, so yes, vegan butter is ultimately more sustainable. However, it’s best to find margarines that don’t contain palm oil as that contributes to a lot of deforestation. I generally have been using Earth Balance vegan butter sticks which have an oil blend that does contain palm oil, so I might rethink that choice and try to find another alternative. Another thing to consider is that margarine is more processed than butter, so that is a downside. Ultimately, there’s not a perfect option, so find the thing that works best for you and best aligns with your personal values.
The Bitter Truth About Butter’s Environmental Impacts, Grist, March 2016
Earth Balance Vs Butter, New University, Sept 2010
If you like to bake or even make things like eggnog, Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer is a magic step in the direction of veganism that you can find right in the grocery store. It’s $4.69 on Bob’s Red Mill website for the equivalent of 34 eggs that don’t take up space in your refrigerator and won’t go bad making it a really affordable option. It’s made of potato starch, tapioca flour, baking soda, and psyllium husk fiber so its also all natural and gluten free. Another option is taking 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed and combining it with 3 tablespoons of water, which works just as well but you can see the little flecks in the baked good.
We talked a bit in the episode about the abundance of cheese in the Western diet. It happens to be a particularly handy crutch in a vegetarian diet because it’s a really easy way to make everything filling and taste good. This cookbook The French Market Cookbook has amazing vegetarian recipes that don’t rely on cheese, which I love and overall it made me realize my frequent thoughtless use of cheese. I love the challenge of making an absolutely delicious cheese free meal and this cookbook has inspired so many things for me.
I’ve also been wearing out this vegan/vegetarian friendly falafel recipe. This is the perfect recipe to make when you have a fridge full of produce that’s on the way out. I’ve added a sizeable amount of leftover greens, carrots, and celery to this recipe without feeling it was altered too much – yay for minimizing food waste! You can put this falafel on sandwiches or make a little bowl with roast broccoli which is what I’ve been doing. Plus its super freezable so it’s easy to save for when you don’t feel like cooking!
Researching meat alternatives, I came across this article with a few different veggie burger recipes. My favorite thing about these kind of recipes is that they can serve as inspiration for ways to use your favorite veggies or things you already have in your pantry! Get creative!
We spent most of the normal ‘Dump’ time talking about our own journeys with food and food choices. Food is one of the rare things we all have to encounter every day. It can present challenges, especially when you’re trying to align your lifestyle with your values. It can also be an incredible source of community, creativity, and connection. If you’re reading this, if you’re thinking critically about your food choices (regardless of what those choices might be), pat yourself on the back. You’re doing the work, and you’re doing a good job!
You guys should also probably go ahead and read We Are The Weather by Jonathan Safran Foer, which you can find in our bookshop, because we can’t stop talking about it.
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Thanks for listening!