Earlier this week, The Oprah Show featured an episode where over 300 of Oprah's employees (including herself) went vegan for a whole week. As my quest for a healthy lifestyle and a nourishing diet is always in progress, I was excited to see the show and learn even more about this "non-animal" cuisine I've been delving into lately. Oprah's guests included notable author of best sellers including "The Omnivore's Dilemna" and "In Defense of Food", Michael Pollan as well as the newly coined "The Veganist", Kathy Freston who is the author of several cookbooks and a devote vegan herself. Oh, and she is slightly annoying and much too thin. :)
Oprah herself makes a point from the moment the camera started rolling that the show was, in no means, an anti-meat show (mostly out of fear of being sued again by the beef industry). Instead, it was a show dedicated to encouraging people to be "conscious eaters", a phrase that we are hearing more of in this country and especially in the beautiful Northwest where I live. What does "conscious eating" mean? Basically, it means knowing where your food comes from, how it is grown/raised, how it is brought to your table and what consequences it brings to our health, living things and our Earth. Pretty simple, right? Wrong.
I can honestly say that until about four or five years ago, I never once thought about where my food came from. I ate what was put in front of me or what I thought tasted good, but I never bothered to let my mind wander further than that. I became vegetarian for most of high school and college, but even then I didn't really care what produce I ate and I never once thought about the consequences of eating packaged food. A few years after college I started to pay attention to what I was buying in grocery stores and I became one of those people who thought buying "free range" chicken would somehow seal my spot in Heaven. My vegetarian status changed with the seasons and my love for animals kept me firmly ignorant about where the flank steak I was throwing on my BBQ really originated. Subconsciously, I don't think I wanted to know.
In reality, where our food comes from and how it is raised/grown effects everything in our modern world. Our health, our planet, our economy and the creatures of the world. I won't spout out statistics or include diagrams because frankly you can find all the information you want from books, the web and from simply people around you. Plus, I think deep down most of us know intuitively that its probably not good to eat things that can be microwaved in 60 seconds after adding water, most likely animals we are eating don't have the best life and fresh produce probably shouldn't have toxins and hormones in them. Common sense.
What I liked so much about the show was everyone, besides Kathy (who was wearing an amazing pair of leather boots....made out of ???) made a point to say that eating animal products is a personal choice. However, everyone should see and know the backgroud of where their food comes from and if they are still ok with eating those ingredients, more power to them. It, ironically, wasn't the filming inside the slaughter house that got to me. I grew up with my dad hunting elk and deer and I don't have a HUGE issue with the killing of animals to feed another. I don't want to see it or pull the triger myself, but I can understand parts of the practice. What got to me most was the fact that the cows and chickens live horrible lives, eat unnatural food for their bodies and endure a less than pleasant death. Nothing about it showed respect to the species.
So where do you draw the line and what is truly the best for your body and for our world? I'm not sure, but the restaurant where I work right now is a "farm to table" restaurant (another commonly used term these days) and I am starting to think that this movement is what I want to put my beliefs behind. Farm to table means that ingredients literally come from the farm to the table, or in our case, from the farm to our kitchen where we prepare the food and serve our customers. No toxins, no hormones, no disgusting conditions for our cows or our tomatoes and little to no impact on the environment because our ingredients are coming from local farmers. What a concept.
I've been trying to eat this way for the last few months with many days of cheating here and there because frankly it takes some planning and some hard work. After the Oprah show, I have been "vegan" for three days and I feel great, my "muffin top" is smaller (what a horrible term!!) and I feel like I'm nourishing my body from the inside out. So I challenge you.....find a local farmer's market, buy local, buy grass fed and natural meat if you choose to eat meat and eat what comes out of the ground and not out of a box.
My thoughts on beautiful leather boots? Undecided. :)