Four Years of ‘Freak’

As it turns out, I quite like to read. The last two or so years I’ve been getting through books like a Norwegian through dried fish. I thought I might try a little writing too, it turns out I’m taking to it like a dog with a ball….it’s fun to keep me occupied until food turns up and then I forget all about the ball. Thinking about ethics and morals of food has occupied a large frypan in my mind the last few years, which developed into reading lots about it, morphing into an attempt to write about it, and hopefully change some folk’s thinking about it.

A little over four years ago I made the permanent switch to vegetarianism and it’s become clear to me that I feel I’m doing the right thing. When someone discovers you’re a vegetarian there’s two common questions – 1) Why?; 2) Don’t you miss meat?

Here then are my answers, happily unchanged the entire time.

Why? I think it is the right thing to do. Right for me, right for animals, right for the planet. What has changed from four years ago is my knowledge and passion for the whole topic of happy food choices, and the more I learn the more I agree with myself. Vegetarians have probably already taken a bigger interest in happy food choices than their carnivorous cousins, and that interest has increased with every book I read on the topic. Each book inevitably leads to another, each time confirming my choices will make either me, animals or the planet happier…and more often than not all three at once.

Don’t you miss meat? There are two parts to this, firstly the answer to ‘don’t you miss the taste of meat?’ is a big fat juicy steak NO. Occasionally I can be caught sniffing a seafood dish just to be reminded of how that tasted, but it’s incredible how delicious fruits and vegetables are when they are the meal and not just an accompaniment. Legumes and seeds are not merely a substitute but an amazing replacement. In answer to ‘doesn’t your body miss meat?’, the proof is clearly in the apple pie. I have four years of healthiness, energy and happiness to show that it’s possible to not eat meat (and do without nutritional supplements also).

So, I reckon I know a bit about happy food choices and I want to share them with everyone through this blog. There are a thousand million different ideas about which food is bad or good for you, there will be plenty more every week that scientists keep looking into the microscope, and I’m not here to say which is right and wrong because sure as eggplants different choices work for different people. What I hope to do is to encourage people to make the healthiest choice as often as possible and turn it into routine.

Too often our food choices are based on price rather than health. When selecting a stereo or car or dining table or tech support service or shirt or nailpolish or mobile phone contract or potplant or holiday package, by all means take the cheapest option, but what a silly idea to sacrifice your health for a few bucks. As an example, think about buying a pair of shoes – there’s no way you’d choose a pair that was two sizes too small just because it was cheaper, it wouldn’t be good (healthy) for your feet. Why is it then that when we go to the supermarket the number one consideration is price and not health? If there are two competing products on the shelf that look pretty similar but one is way cheaper, bet your last banana that it’s because a healthy natural ingredient has been substituted for a cheaper unnatural version.

At it’s simplest, bread is made from flour, water and yeast….now go to the kitchen and check out the ingredients on your bread packet. Do you even know what that ‘acidity regulator’ is? Do you know what effect that ‘emulsifier(diglyceride)’ has on your body?

Helpfully, it is law in most countries to display a list of ingredients on food packaging, and in most cases they must be displayed in weight order. Two simple reasons to leave an item on the shelf are – 1) if you don’t know what an ingredient is; 2) if it has more than 5 ingredients.

It’s not a chore think more about food, it’s a joy to make the right choices. After four years of being a vegetarian ‘freak’, it comes naturally to me now and I realise that healthy choices apply to everyone – vegan, vegetarian, only-eat-chicken-if-it’s-sustainable eater, or meat with every meal – whichever type you are start taking a greater interest in where your food comes from.

Small habit change – Reading labels takes time, don’t do it all at once or you’ll go mouldy quicker than bread without that acidity regulator. Limit your research to a couple of items every shop, or next time you cook a meal just quickly check out the label on a few items. If they don’t fit the two criteria above, change them – start taking the happy food choice for yourself!

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12 thoughts on “Four Years of ‘Freak’

  1. Steak tastes gooooood….

    Good post though, agree wholeheartedly that we should all know what we’re ramming into our gobs. Since I found out I was lactose intolerant I’ve been forced to study the ingredient list of everything, and have also come to the conclusion that less is more. Gotta make the point though that not all food additives are (a) artificial, (b) unhealthy. Certain types of emulsifiers, for example, are naturally occurring and not at all harmful.

    On a related note we started supermarket shopping ethically last year. You take your ethical shopping guide (in the form of a phone app or hardcopy book) and look up each item want to buy (e.g. breakfast cereal, toilet paper, milk) and it lists the credentials of pretty much all the companies that manufacture that item. The companies are graded on their known ethical / unethical merits, which are also listed for reference. It sounds like a lamo feel-good attempt – shit, maybe it is – but it’s hard not to feel good about directing the thousands of bucks we spend on food a year towards companies that aren’t supporting murderous regimes, animal cruelty or literally slaughtering orangutans for palm oil plantations. Plus the food produced by the ethical brands tends to be much healthier – I guess if a company cares about being ethical, they also care about making food that’s good for their customers. Win win.

    • Agree that not all additives are chemicals, my main point here is why does bread and everything else even need to contain them? The only reason they’re there is to make it cheaper to produce and therefore a lower price in the store. But the real cost is to our health – in the end there are not many that are natural and unless you’re a guru at remembering all of them you’re unlikely to know, so *in my opinion* it’s better to avoid at every opportunity.

      That ethical shopping guide is a brilliant idea – for those with smart phones 😉 – is the one you use http://www.goodguide.com? I’ve seen it but it’s American based and therefore not always applicable. Tell me more!
      Is it a lamo feel-good attempt? Wouldn’t have thought, it seems like a great way to direct your money the way you want. I’m proud at my shopping habits and choices, every little bit you do is better than doing nothing. 10 points for Ash!

  2. Hey Schurno – i love the new site. Funnily enough i am thinking of making a new blog myself. I have been very interested in self sufficiency as well. I am currently 7 weeks quit smoking and i am not vegetarian but i only eat free range eggs, organic meat bought from proper butchers maybe twice a week and try to replace meat with spinach and eggs. In fact just this last two weeks i have been getting into coarse boulgur wheat – the fine version is used in tabouli – the coarse stuff is almost arborio like. Very tasty with fresh vegetables a little parmesan or gruyere. Anyway love the site schurno and i will endeavour to keep in touch and add some more comments soon.

    • Hey Stump, thanks man. With our powers combined perhaps? You can tell the world about your latest veggie patch additions? Time for some chickens to wake up the neighbours and provide your eggs I say! Keep up the happy meat choices, some other suggestions for good meat replacements are chickpeas (think chana masala) or quinoa (you’ll love this….a bolivian superfood). Also, one can never get enough broccoli.

  3. Hey I guess it couldn’t hurt to look at the labels and such although I wouldn’t know what to look for :/ But I really couldn’t see myself going vegetarian, I don’t eat seafood though so thats a start right? 🙂

    • No, no it couldn’t hurt at all. But as I said, don’t do it all at once or it will become overwhelming way to quickly. I most certainly will be posting more about what to look out for on labels, in the meantime follow the two rules in the main post. Can still have Sat morning berliner as well 🙂 I’m not out to push vegetarianism either – it just so happened I thought it was a good place to start – rather promote better choices through knowing what’s happened to your food before it gets to the supermarket.

  4. Thanks Schurn! Lovely to hear what’s rattling around in your head. As you say above – START SMALL!
    If you are used to eating meat twice a day (and a lot of people are) then try to cut it down to once. Or try a meat-free day. I’ve been vego for a long time but am still making conscious changes and it can still feel a little overwhelming. The point is not to give up or be complacement. Changing habits that have been hardwired into our nervous system by ourselves, our family and our culture can take a lifetime.

    So, I take on one or two things a year that I am going to avoid in my food / cosmetics or a couple of things that I will start to do. I started with buying Fluoride free toothpaste and Sodium Laureth Sulfate free shampoos and conditioners because they are readily available at the supermarket at a competitive price so there’s really no negative. My partner and I also started buying less and less at the supermarket (I’m sure Schurn could devote a whole blog to why that’s a good idea…). This year is all about increasing the raw food in my diet.

    The basic tenent for anyone, whether you eat meat or not, is the further from it’s original nature it is, the less healthy and the worse for the environment it’s likely to be.

    And don’t get me started on pre-sliced, plastic packaged apples… who’s with me there?

    • Nice one NayJay! My head rattles with food ALL THE TIME!! Nice tips for small changes, everyone should make the changes at their pace, but always trying to improve their choices. There’s still things for all of us including me to do, some of them overwhelming some of them simple. Hopefully that’s where we can hep each other. We need to have a conversation some time about toothpaste and raw food. We’ve started smoothie breakfasts, amazing. One more time, amazing. Banana, blueberry and orange, hangover cure right there.
      I may get started on packaging at some point, it’s over-the-top-ridiculous in europe.

  5. Schonny love the blog and love the shoe analogy in particular- so true. I think this topic in particular of ethical and sustainable food choices, I reckon it is something radelaidians are starting to come around to, everything is so expensive anyway, a trip to a farmers market is a whole lot more fun, you are helping out someone you can see and touch, not a dirty big american corporate, and the food is a whole lot better tasting and better for you- People are flocking to these markets. Im no saint and make some pretty crap choices at times, but rate what you’re saying and will read more to get some tips!! Hope your well old mate.

    • Cheers Sammy! More on farmers markets and dirty big american corporates to come….
      and people are coming around, no matter how much you do it’s a start! One of my hopes here is that you bring people with you and take the journey together.

  6. Schurno,

    Some interesting ideas here. I suspect I’m going to agree and disagree with you on a few things.

    I agree that westerners could and should reduce their meat intake, both on ecological and health grounds. My girlfriend is vegetarian so I out of practicality and opportunity I have probably halved my meat intake over the last year, and I’m feeling better for it.

    I’m less inclined, however, to blame “big corporations”. There are some obvious cases of questionable ethics, but most of the time they are simply giving people what they want, which, as you point out, is usually cheap and devoid of nutritional value. But at the end of the day there is nothing forcing us to buy a McHeartAttack or a frozen pizza, instead of stir-frying some veggies. I agree with you that people should think more about what they put in their mouths, and choose accordingly. (The thinking part seems to be a problem for a lot of people… and not just about food.)

    The Crotts

    • Hello The Crotts!
      I like that your meat intake has reduced and that you feel better for it, positive news story. I reckon you’re a sucker for the organic section when you do buy meat as well, aren’t you?
      I’m not necessarily blaming them, but just saying they cannot be trusted to do the right thing by you because any corporation’s responsibility is to it’s shareholders, not to your health. Of course each individual is in control of what they buy, but it’s terribly hard to buy something at twice the price, even if you know it’s better for you. Which is one of my main themes here, you are in control and the healthy choice is unfortunately the expensive one. I thought about something the other day that I might expand on later – a general rule for shopping today might be ‘the cheaper it is the worse it is for you’.
      There are as you say, questionable dealings that go on between government and industry that provide the monetary incentive for the companies to produces cheap, unhealthy food.
      I had a little trouble staying on track there but more later….

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