Saturday, January 31, 2009

umm...what was that? "q-u-i-n-o-a"?

Actually it is pronounced "keen-wah" and it was used by the Inca civilizations! It is a grain with a light consistency but pure protein and served as an appropriate food for these ancient peoples in such a hot climate. To prepare it, quinoa must be soaked in warm water for 3-5 minutes so that the bitter quality of the seeds is "agitated" and released into the warm water, leaving behind an almost milky substance. Remember that the amount of seeds you use will produce an amount of cooked quinoa that is double. Ahh to take part in antiquity - in the water turning this stuff over in my hands I contemplate a sacred connection with the hard working women of these sun-socities. If you are willing to see the history in your lunch, it is an incredibly humbling experience to prepare this vegetarian staple! If only I could also hang out at Machu Picchu and munch some down. It can be used in a lot of other recipes, especially for breakfast.

Well I'm going to the CJAM 91.5fm potluck today and this recipe is what I prepared. I altered some of the ingredients to accommodate the contents of my fridgidare! Its a salad - easy to make and right up the vegetarian alley. Actually its vegan depending on the dressing you choose! I'm not sure what I'll use yet but probably something mild, oily and sweet to compliment the quinoa and mango. Enjoy - I know I will and hopefully those at the CJAM potluck will also.

Mango Quinoa Salad

Pre-Salad-Assembly Directions:

Ok so first prepare the quinoa enough time in advance so that it can cool and maybe sit in the fridge for a couple hours or overnight. For every one cup of the grain, add two cups of water to soak it in and once that water is disposed of then two cups again to boil it with. Only leave it on the stove for about 10-15 minutes though - until it gets fluffy! Then let it sit for a few and absorb the leftover water before you put it in the fridge because it has to be cold if used in a salad. (I mean unless you want a hot and soggy salad which doesn't sound too appetizing). The great thing about salad recipes though is that you can change it how ever you want and it will probably still taste good. Just keep the pairing up of ingredients in mind and put as much or least of whichever you want to end up on your plate.

Ingredients (most of which you can get at a fresh market and bulk food store):

-whole fresh spinach leaves
-1 ripe mango, peeled and cubed
-crushed almonds (put almonds in a little bag and go to town with one of those meat hammers)
-cucumber (cut into cubes if possible)
-crunchy pita chips
-sprinkle of roasted sesame and hemp seeds
-handful of peapods cut into halves

Sunday, January 25, 2009

"Veggienomics" and Vegecology

When I took a philosophy class entitled "Animal Ethics" I had no idea about the wealth of information that was available for everyone to see. Since it is the job of animal production companies to keep the public largely ignorant of important facts surrounding their methods, it was no wonder that I was shocked at what really goes on. Acquiring some insight into the unethical and inhumane processes of animal farming and slaughtering changed my diet and lifestyle, helping me to make a direct impact. But this post is NOT to throw a bunch of links at you that will take you to horrific videos and bring you to a PETA petition or for that matter, guilt you into vegetarianism. I am writing this to enlighten those who are interested in how their food choices affect not only the animals themselves but affect you as an individual and the world economically, ecologically and environmentally.

A great article was just published in The Global Voice which is OPIRG's published journal. A copy of this can be found inside the January 2009 edition of The Scoop. OPIRG (Ontario Public Interest Research Group) whose offices can be found on the second floor of Dillon Hall, featured an article on Page 2 of the recent issue (Vol. 8, No.1 Winter 2009) called "Veggienomics: Vegetarianism affects our Economy too". OPIRG also has a show on our campus-community radio station that you can stream live from Noon to 1pm on Thursdays: CJAM 91.5FM OPIRG's The Shake Up is well worth the listen. The issue also dealt with other topics including Fair Trade and Islamic Feminism - fascinating stuff! But back to greenness.

The article was written by OPIRG volunteer Gurpreet Dhaliwal and it gave a lot of important and relevant facts that I think everyone should want to know about. It specified that about 95% of pesticide residue in one's diet comes from meat, dairy products and fish and that over 15 million pounds of antibiotics used in animal production end up in the meat on your plate. A fundamental aspect that many vegetarians and vegans have considered is that "your diet affects not only the environment, but also the lives of six billion other people we share the planet with along with countless animals". Think of the economic, ecological and environmental affects of the-diet-dynamic. "Modern meat production involves intensive use - and often misuse - of grain, water, energy and grazing areas and contributes heavily to all sorts of pollution and soil erosion". These are all resources that could be used in more efficient ways: ways that could build our self-sustainability. "There would be enough food to feed the entire planet" if resources weren't used up to maintain carnivorous diets. Imagine all the people...

I take a central axiom from OPIRG's article: even though it seems inconceivable that these facts will instantly turn most people onto being veg, the important lesson is knowing these facts will enable a clearer understanding of the interconnectedness of the planet. Your diet is important to how it functions - your choices affect everything.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Less You Own The More You Have

aaah! the frustration of trying to minimalize. Lately, I've been dropping off a few grocery bags a month full of clothes I no longer wear: all apart of my lax, down-shifting endeavours. "Down-shifting" you say? Well I just heard the word first myself not long ago when the sense of it all embedded itself in my brain! There are a few definitions such as living on less but I think of it as downsizing consumerism and minimalizing posessions. The concept of what we need to live in a post-industrial society is deeply invested in consumerist ideals. The standard needs to change! Not lowering the standard-of-living per se but changing it. It's about re-evaluating our mind set of the criteria of what makes life enjoyable and worth while. But it is also how we can reshape our needs and dependencies without having to abandon all of our worldly possessions and to set up shelter at the base of any sacred mountain of our choosing. Most of us don't have the strength, let alone understanding of or motivation for that kind of life! We just have been saturated with MOREMOREMORE mentality when we should be meditating on a LESSISMORE framework. Recent blog posts on downshifting - a path to simplicity highlight some of the key issues surrounding down-shifting:
"As individuals and humans we are all interconnected in a series of interdependent systems."
This is a concept that is always inherent to the sustainability issue. If it was understood that everything in the environment, the system of nature and its relationships, was infinitely connected and dependent on each other for any kind of healthy existence than we would all be in a better place. DOWN WITH APATHY! I'm not telling you to necessarily throw away your television or give all your clothes to charity. But making small changes one day and one action at a time can make all the difference. Blah blah you've heard it before but that it can make the MOST difference is what needs to be acknowledged. To create a real shift in necessity and ecological impact, the smallest choices on an individual level are where the average person should begin.

On the downshifting journey of course there will be moments of confusion and evaluations of lifestyle. "On a deconsuming pattern, changes will happen and withdrawal symptoms for many will be heartfelt." This is a challenge but it doesn't have to seem impossible because it is so much easier than anyone might imagine if the mind - which it is all in - can expand to consider, sometimes radically different possibilities of living. Of course our individual actions also directly correspond to our actions as a group of humans, explained in a global context in this video that articulates "without some readjustment on our lifestyles we can no longer sustain such a demand on the planet's resources". David Suzuki also reitorates that there are lots of things you can do right now at your own home.

Vegetarianism is certainly one way that you can immediately and drastically reduce your ecological footprint. It helps also to put a perspective on down-shifting. As a relatively new vegetarian I've completely changed a set of food choices I've left unquestioned all my life. Seeing the benefits individually, environmentally and ecologically of removing unnecessary selections from my diet has lead me to perceive all the other possibilities. It's true that we only wear 10% of clothes in our closet - thin out what you don't wear and don't think you'll need. Heard of thrifting? That's another word for recycling clothing! One of my favourite down-shifting activities include having a "clothes party" with friends when you just bring along the items you no longer wear and exchange with others. Make a decision that will influence your future decisions of buying - ask W-H-Y-? Never buy another plastic water bottle again if you can help it! This includes investing in a water canteen, (one paradoxical consumer choice that can actually fight consumerist ideology!) Recycle, Recycle everything. Cereal and tampon boxes. Shampoo bottles and electronics! Call your municipality and become aware of all of the recycling opportunities. Go online and do some research of how to furthur reduce your ecological footprint! Any of David Suzuki's books or websites are a great place to start. If you can't recycle something you want or think you need, evaluate where it will end up in the future and ask yourself how every decision you make will effect the environment. Bring cloth shopping bags with you if you think there is any chance of purchasing items. If you forgot them and if it is possible then kindly decline the plastic shopping bag at the store and carry what you've bought or shove it in your purse! Of course, walk instead of drive if at all feasible.

These are some easy steps I've found simple to work into my life. Maybe you will too. Small stuff is big stuff. These have been notes of a fairly new and lax but conscious down-shifter, wish me luck - I challenge you (and myself) to live green or greener!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Choice: A Non-Violent Ethos

The choice to be a vegetarian or vegan is often for reasons multiple and complex to each individual. Many, myself as well, include the Ghandian ethos of compassion and simplicity: non-violence towards all living things. This was also of course his solution to conflict-resolution as you can find out about by learning more about Mahatma Gandhi. In "The Story of My Experiments with Truth", he articulates: "I was intellectually converted to vegetarianism". This was also my experience, naturally because it is thinking about food choices that first causes a moral examination of food choices: choices we make multiple times every day of our lives. This process of the mind lead me to the ideology that no other beings lives need to be infringed upon for me to eat healthily and with pleasure! What started in my mind eventually became practiced in my body. A simple choice completely changed the impact that my previously un-evaluated cuisine decisions were having on my health. Importantly, this choice does not just effect me as an individual - it also directly impacts the the environment by reducing my ecological footprint. I've been a vegetarian for just over a year now and WOW do I feel fabulous - one of the best decisions and changes I've ever made. It's a choice and it is certainly yours and only yours to make.