/=/ complicity

My veganism happened to me. It wasn’t something I aspired to, or something I did “to be a better person”. Because I didn’t think I could do it. I guess I thought people who were vegan were tough sunovabitches who didn’t need food to comfort them, to fill them up, the way I did.

I believed if I became vegan, I would be hungry all the time.

And sad.


But wait, let me go back:

The first time I tried veganism I was thirteen. I was off to a YMCA camp, and there was little there for me to eat. I didn’t know how to advocate for myself, either. I ate plain bagels and applesauce and felt hungry and pinched and sorrowful about it all. I felt anger at all the people there who just didn’t give a shit. I was tired and grouchy.

I got home from camp, and I remember a lot of green salads and french fries at restaurants. I think I went without animal products about six months, that time around. No slouch there, I mean. Many thousands’ gallons water, hundreds of lives spared. But I didn’t feel supported, understood. I felt alone. It couldn’t last.

In the twenty-plus years since I’ve flirted with veganism and vegetarianism more than once. It was inspiring for a bit, then would come to seem impossible. An uphill battle.

But something changed earlier this year. I had finally settled into vegetarianism in earnest, and with a bit of joy. Meat had come to taste like death, like a corpse. I could leave it behind, finally. Eggs were no trouble. They’ve always been a bit repellant to me, and that conviction had been growing.

And then, early this year, I came to know I’d soon be saying goodbye to dairy. No one has loved cheese more than I. Let me tell you!

Yet, I was seeing deeply that behind any animal product, no matter how much we don’t want to look, and how much we insist we “try” to buy “humane” meat or eggs or milk, there were things happening that no human being could feel okay with. I started to know the math wasn’t right. Backyard chickens – we used to house some, remember? Well, where did all the boy chicks go, when you order your chicks from the feed store? Nowhere nice, as a very haunting video demonstrated. A two-and-a-half second video that to this day, I wish I hadn’t seen.

Where did roosters go? Did they have a quality of life? Are hens supposed to lay as many eggs as we’ve bred them for? Do they enjoy safety and longevity? Are the many health and predation issues they suffer, just “part of life”? Or is there another solution?

What about all those calves? Do they miss their mothers? Where do they go? They are slaughtered and turned to veal. The dairy industry is the meat industry. Cows cry, bellow, and feel pain. Mothers search for their babies for weeks after they are torn away.

I knew this.

And I couldn’t even stand to watch videos that answered any of these questions. I still haven’t viewed the phenomenal and award-winning documentary Earthlings; I saw less than a minute of footage and had nightmares for two days.

But it was a conversation, two in a row in fact, that lit the lamp of awareness. I had started to explore the cruelty of eggs and milk, aloud, when the topic came up. I wasn’t in a hurry to talk about it all; but I was thinking it through. And these two conversations I was met with ignorance – a man passionate about “natural” foods, who insisted the males on the dairy farms had good lives after they were “sold”. I said, “Where are they sold to? What becomes of them?” – and he said, “They go to farms,” as if these bulls were given long happy lives. Then, two days later, a woman who promoted cage-free eggs on Facebook responded with startling vitriol when I suggested any kind of egg consumption may not be very ethical by any human standard.

The anger that met my most open-hearted musing really made an impression. I came to see that if I wanted to offer a choice to people, I would have to step across the threshold myself.

And I woke up a few days later and knew, Today’s the day.

And now? I’m vegan.

It has been a beautiful experience. I could write so much more about it! Veganism this time around has given me an intense, keen joy. To my astonishment, my family and many friends have followed along. Some to full veganism, some to vegetarianism, some to just less animal products – good for them, good for the environment, good for the heart and mind.

My children follow. My daughter is a passionate, lovely vegan. Her sense of humor is different than mine; but we are wicked and we share our joys and frustrations together. My son, who I never thought to see eschew meat, became a vegetarian just before my birthday. He is working toward veganism now.

Our household has changed. It happened so quickly, but it is not a surprise, not really.

Gentleness suits us. It seems to deliver more life, more humor, and more peace. Some people think when we consume meat, we consume not just hormones and poisons and unsafe chemicals – but adrenaline and fear and hate.

I don’t know what I think of that, but I do know that veganism brings me joy. I wouldn’t have found this serenity if I hadn’t let myself change. I find there is more to learn, more to love. I find I don’t have to listen to arguments, apathy, and angry words from people who don’t demonstrate a better plan for the environment, for the compassionate heart. They are free to their opinion, but are they who I want to advise me? This helps me think deeply – who do I want to listen to? Who can help me?

Joy has entered my household, in a surprising, wonderful way.

May you find the same!

“just keep ’em appetizing!”

The last few days have been full of lots of home-cooking. A broccoli, swiss, and pepperjack quiche, an apple pie with oat, brown sugar, pecan and cranberry topping, baguettes, green beans, mashed potatoes (SERIOUSLY Ralph does a great job on these), pot roast and green beans, spaghetti and meatballs (in case you’re wondering, two days ago Phoenix emphatically lifted vegetarian requirements but suggests organic and/or ethical meat when we cook with it), butter broccoli, roasted garbanzo beans atop red and white basmati rice (again, Ralph nailed this one) with an attendant fresh-veggie tray, salad with butter lettuce and cherry tomatoes that burst in one’s mouth, sweet tea and our usual hot coffee, ice cold Red Hook beer.

I struggle with occasional experiences of guilt when it comes to my kids and their care – food is an aspect of that care and it’s hard to feel daily okay about my efforts (unless you’ve been a mom you may not fully understand – not that every mom necessarily does, either).  In a more balanced vein, the part of me that feels genuinely Me instead of feeling under pressure, one of my pleasures in life is to cook for those who enjoy the food provided; there is an additional pleasure I get in seeing my kids devour everything on their plates (which they don’t always do, but for instance they did tonight). I think it’s a pretty simple thing, really. Their bodies and minds are strong and beautiful and growing; their robust appetite reminds me of this and feels like an odd sense of security and love. I also genuinely enjoy it when I’m able to provide someone with the exact thing they want, and my family loves what I provide. My kids tell me fresh bread or lemon asparagus or frijoles refritos or hardboiled eggs and carrot sticks or bún thịt xào; I can make it happen as if by magic, and always with love.

Tonight I worked right up until I realized it was long time for me to rest. I wanted to be brave enough to not do the dishes (Ralph almost always does them but tonight he watched a movie with me instead). But, no dice, becuase once I get an idea in my head it’s hard to let it go. Just after 4 AM I washed dishes and wiped counters and made some new sweet tea for Ralph tomorrow but soon l I felt genuinely beat, and I still had more work to do. I followed the kids through their bath and picked up bath toys and re-sorted tidied the living room…

and got a cold beer and came to bed and turned on a ghost television show on Netflix …

And now? Close the laptop and take a few minutes with the kiddos before Slumbertown, Population: Us.

needing decompression

Ralph, Phoenix and I have just returned from attending “Erase the Hate”, a community discussion project curated by the Matthew Shepard Foundation. The event was less of a discussion than I’d thought it would be, but was nevertheless a great presentation and talk delivered by Thomas B. Howard, Jr., Ed.M.

During the introductory video I cried silently and rather fluidly.

Howard’s subsequent speech and presentation kept me on the edge of my seat (not so much for Phoenix, who after two hours flagged a bit). I was also very pleasantly surprised to see how intersectionalist the Foundation’s work is – the stated missions as expressed on their site’s FAQ are rock solid and were borne out tonight.

Dr. Howard made it clear his personal eschewal for the “kids will be kids” excuse in response to bullying activity and resultant harm and suicide in our nation’s youth population; he emphatically stated, “Kids will be the kids we teach them to be.” Yes, yes, a hundred times yes. I found myself fervently wishing for more strong, compassionate and proactive leaders of Howard’s ilk in the lives of our young people.

He also expressed his opinion the “athletic white male” and white males in general have incredible privilege they can leverage to make things better for marginalized and abused populations. Yes, again. Another strong point in a very strong presentation.

But there was deep sadness for me in this event, too.

I knew schools were oppressive for marginalized groups but I didn’t realize how much. Near tonight’s conclusion one young white man stood up and after thanking Howard profusely announced his intention to start a GSA at his own high school – Hoquiam. He also said he was the only out gay male in the school. This bothered me quite a bit. I went to this same school and graduated sixteen years ago; at that time we had one “out” male student (who was mistreated horribly). Sixteen years and youth still aren’t safe?

A handful of other young people stood up and told part of their stories. It was clear that although the college campus is generally experienced as a bit more inclusive, the problems in our public schools are quite severe. In support of my impressions Howard said today’s conversation at Hoquiam High School had been a good one but Aberdeen was “the worst school he’d been to.” He said he was not so upset at the disrespect of the students but because the adults in power did nothing to stop it. This is very grievous indeed, but is substantiated by other experiences I’ve read about regarding this school (see: “ALCU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Harassed Student” ; you can read the school district’s response here, where sadly and predictably they deny they did anything wrong or have any responsibility for Russell’s experience.)

It seemed like everyone left smiling and relaxed – in one attendant’s view, “empowered”. I felt quite disturbed and sad. First, I would expect most attendants tonight to be those who already supported many aims of the Foundation – and it was hardly a full house. If this small populace does not take their inspiration tonight and continue to meet the rest of the world with strength and compassion and an improved listening ability, I worry change will continue at a glacial pace. Secondly, I feel anger and sadness about the larger community that does not task themselves to do better. And I was and am rattled to hear the testimonies from within school.

I did take some comfort: it appeared many of the young students there (Phoenix was the youngest but there were students from age thirteen and up) took a lot of strength from what they saw. This is a good thing, probably even an essential one. At the end of all this, for me, I simply have to believe people who said they found the work helpful. I can’t let myself get cynical or apathetic.

And on that note, today I stumbled across “Born This Way” and read through a few entries. Not quite enough, not yet, to feel better. But a good start.


In additional news: today the Hogaboom kids announced their intentions to convert to vegetarianism (they haven’t quite grasped how near-impossible this is to do if eating out, ever, in Hoquiam and Aberdeen). I am not super-surprised as we’ve been watching the typical glut of nature films lately and both kids have been expressing a high degree of compassion and empathy for animal life; for quite some time they’ve also been aware of big agriculture processes (as opposed to our happier chickens, for instance). I am a good enough cook with regards to vegetarian fare but – three meals a day for four people! Yikes! Recipe sources that don’t suck and aren’t boring are highly appreciated!

lift the couch cushion – maybe there’s some Cheetos under there.

Today’s featured recipe: Asparagus Gruyere Tart. Um, this could NOT be easier and is very full-fat and tasty (kids eat up asparagus when it’s got cheese and olive oil applied!)

When I think about the fact that on Tuesday I planned our entire week’s meals out, shopped for the food (stopping at three grocery stores) – cooked for my family and entertained my brother – I feel a sense of accomplishment. In the interest of total transparency I’m posting our entire menu, grocery list and dollar amounts. Keep in mind we have company for dinner at least twice a week.

So here is this week’s menu:

On to the grocery list. Bought at Jay’s Fruit Stand in Aberdeen:
1 bunch kale
3 lbs. jalapeños
3 lbs. rhubarb
1 english cucumber
5 lbs. yukon gold potatoes
1 bunch romaine
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
12 oz. cherry tomatoes
2 bunches asparagus
3 lbs. granny smith apples
1 lb. carrots
2 lb. zucchini
2 lemons

Total: $22. Yeah, I know. I shit you not.

Then, on to Top Food to purchase the remainder of the week’s fare. When I can, I stop at Jay’s first. They have great produce deals but sometimes the produce is a little iffy. Keep in mind there have NEVER BEEN BUGS like I encountered frequently at the PT Food Co-op. I said it once and I’ll say it again: dirty, filthy neo-hippies. Bug-free may be – nevertheless, at Jay’s I once purchased two pounds of carrots there that were… so unbelievably gnarled and woodier than I thought carrots possible.

At Top Food I knew I’d be facing a large bill – we were out of household sundries (toilet paper, laundry soap, etc) and I was going to get coffee and a rare “processed” item – my beloved Annie’s dressing. Dear Lord. P.S. next installment of “grocery opus” shall include a lecture on condiments. I bought:

1 can petite dice tomatoes
1 can vegetarian refried beans
1 can garbanzo beans
1 can medium black olives
1 can baby corn
1 1/2 qt. canola oil
tostada shells
1 bottle Annie’s Goddess Dressing
1 1/2 lb. Tully’s coffee
dozen eggs, Wilcox brown
1 lb. whole milk plain yogurt
2 lb. organic butter (one to use, one to freeze – they were on sale)
1 qt. organic half & half
1/2 gal. wilcox organic milk
24 oz. sour cream
1/2 lb. gruyère
6 pack Red Hook ESB
1 package Pepperidge Farm puff pastry
Spic N Span (for the bathtub, itself told me this was the correct product)
new scrub brush (“Quickie!”TM)
Dawn dish soap
24 roll toilet paper
12 lbs. laundry soap
300 ct. Q-tips

Total: $114. Not too bad.

Now we’re on to the not-so-necessary purchase pleasures. Namely, cosmetics and soaps. I stopped at our “naturals / health food” store in Aberdeen – The Marketplace – and picked up these items:

2 bath soaps
16 oz. Dr. Bronner’s castille soap (tea tree)
1 lb. coconut oil
carton chocolate rice milk (chosen by the kids, natch)
fruit enzyme cleanser
calendula skin renewal lotion

Total: $45. Keep in mind – this was fully 25% of my grocery bill. It gives pause to frequenting these sort of stores. And using soap. But you really do have to do that, if you want to be accepted by society.

Sophie has informed me she is now “full vegetarian” – no more bacon for her. This is impressive given she is a creature who often has no way to provide her own food needs. Today at Los Arcos restaurant during lunch I briefly considered getting the fresh-halibut fish tacos. “Mom, fish is meat!” she accusingly sounded. I couldn’t really argue of course. I had a cheese enchilada, rice, and beans.

beans are my friends, and i say this without sarcasm

We have a unique situation this week as I had thought Ralph was getting paid on the 6th – and it turns out it’s the 10th. Four more days of scraping by and not paying bills when I said I would (tee hee!). This actually coincides nicely with the offset time period I was planning our weekly menu. Without further ado, here is our attempt to be vegetarian, economical, tasty, and easy:

(You may notice my life consists of a few meals a week of Mexican food. Fuck you.)

And for this, the grocery list (all purchased yesterday):

1 head cabbage
1/2 head red cabbage
1 lb. jalapenos
1 lb. carrots
1 large bunch broccoli
1 head garlic
1 lemmon
2 serrano chiles
1 bunch green onions
2 lb. green grapes
2 cans medium olives
1 can kidney beans, 16 oz.
1 can navy beans, 16 oz.
5 lb peanut butter (no sugar added)
3 cans vegetable broth, 14 oz.
1 can green chile enchilada sauce, 19 oz.
1 large can chunky organic tomato sauce (1 lb. 12 oz)
1 lb. bag tortilla chips
1 dozen eggs, brown organic
14 oz. firm tofu
5 oz. shredded parmesan cheese
2 lb monterey jack cheese
1 lb. rigatoni pasta
1 pint sour cream
50 corn tortillas (2 lb. 14 oz.)
1/2 lb nutritional yeast, large flake
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/3 lb. white figs, dried
2 lbs. great northern beans, dried
2 lbs. pinto beans, dried organic

The total for everything was $67. Sixty-seven dollars for quality groceries for a week! Now, I will be buying a few odds and ends – I think milk and eggs perhaps. I’ll make sure to post the full weekly total when I have it.

Tonight for our company I made the No Mas Carne Enchiladas, chile relleno, and Hogaboom Trademark Roasted Jalapeños.

My brother teases me on the phone tonight (we totally have matching Swatch phones!) that my enchiladas (which I accidentally called “vegan” because, well, they are) aren’t any good. First off, I had Ralph drive him over a plateful to prove that little monstrerd wrong. Secondly, there are two types of veg*n food in life: the kind that leave you barely full, vaguely pissy, and longing for real food – and the kind that is delicious and does not leave you ruminating on what’s lacking in the meal but rather energized by the goodness of the fare. So help me God, I don’t believe I make that first type and I willingly accept the daily challenge to make the second. Even Brother Ass himself reluctantly agreed my food is not bland hippie fare and has variety – although he then went on to say I will soon be making Assy Veggie Loaf. I didn’t think I’d say this past the early nineties, but Whatever.

"Okay, Ryan, you told Toby that Creed has a distinct old man smell?"

Today I bought a pound each of sunflower seeds and cranberry beans, two pounds of Thompson midget (dwarf? miniature? I can’t remember) raisins, two pounds of mung beans, two pounds of extra-thick rolled oats, four figs (at Sophie’s request), and four pieces of organic black licorice.

The total came to $5.54 for this food.

I am learning things daily now that I don’t cook meat. For instance – did you know that when you get those big sprouts on your salad or on top of your noodle bowl – the whitish yellow ones – they are usually mung bean sprouts? Did you know these beans are grown predominantly in China and in the states, Oklahoma (another punch to the groin of any 100-mile diet ambition)? Did you know even though I now have mung beans I will never make daal, because it’s tasteless ass?

My children are accompanying me on learning new ways to buy, store, and prepare food. Today I was pleased Sophie recognized the figs she likes: fully 1/2 of the bulk food available at The Marketplace are things I have never tried! Some things I have and found worthless (carob, bee pollen, any kind of “natural” refined-sugar substitute), many others I am slowly learning the skills to prepare. But as I more earnestly throw myself into preparing delicious, nutritious, environmentally-friendly and economical food I really hope my children don’t view these foods – as I did and sometimes do – as tasteless “health” staples that lack flavor and texture (P.S. extra big “fuck you” to carob, I am not interested in losing my bigotry there). I like the idea my children really will know what these foods are, even if they don’t care for some of them. Fuck you carob. Again.

I am determined not to go overboard and invest in any fancy-assed veggie accoutrement and yes, that includes not even buying large, inexpensive glass jars to hippie-display my beans and grains in (by the way, beans really are beautiful – I can see the temptation). Right now anyway we have a hierarchy of what’s needed for our food and sundry. Our kitchen is lacking in general dishes, especially plates: we have a grand total of seven. Payday on Monday and Ralph has (sort of) given me permission to buy a few place settings. Whee!