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A year and nine months ago I made the switch from omnivore to herbivore.  The transition was a grueling process.  While I continued to eat milk-based products, I gave up eggs.  I learned a lot about food along the way.  For example, eggs and other animal byproducts lurk hidden in foods that one would think are entirely non-animal. A case in point: castoreum is an ingredient used in many raspberry and vanilla products.  It is made from the oil that beavers produce in their nether regions (i.e., beaver butt juice). This additive may be cleverly disguised as “natural flavors” in the product’s list of ingredients.  Not something I wanted to think about when drinking a vanilla crème soda….

It took several months to figure out what to eat and what to avoid.  Eventually I managed to get the vegetarian thing on automatic.

Now I’m facing another vertical learning curve with food. A few weeks ago I went to the doctor because of a couple allergic reactions I was having.  One reaction was to poison ivy and the other was to “God only knows what,” according to my allergist.  He wasn’t too worried about the unidentified allergen because it responded well to Benadryl. However, I found out while I was at the doctor that I’m vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficient.  And so the vegetarian saga continues. My doctor prescribed prescription-strength vitamin D and a weekly shot of B12.  I’m not crazy about the idea of taking vitamins; I’d rather get my nutrients from the food I eat.   And the thought of having to get a weekly shot of a vitamin didn’t work at all in my head.

“Can’t I just go sit in the sun and drink milk?” I whined.

As it turns out, I’d have to drink about four cups of milk a day to get my RDA of B-12. That’s way more milk drinking than I’m willing to do on a daily basis.

I reluctantly agreed to take the vitamin D on a short-term basis, but I said heck no to the weekly B-12 shots. Realistically vitamins, enriched soymilk, and fortified cereal aren’t viable options – I don’t like any of these things well enough to eat them on a regular basis.  Red Star Nutritional Yeast – too complicated.  I bought some three weeks ago and have yet to use it.  I need something motivating that I’ll actually eat. So I’m back to doing food research.  It turns out that shellfish are one the best food sources for B12.  Three ounces of oysters provide over 1000% DV of B-12. I’ll be adding a smidgeon of oysters to my weekly diet until I can figure out a better solution.

Any vegetarian readers out there who can offer up some ideas? How are you getting your B-12?

This time last year I was trying to figure out how to be a vegetarian and documenting my trials and tribulations in obnoxious detail.   Although I had been working at it for five months, by May 15, 2011 I had only made it without meat for two consecutive weeks (Enlightenment Day 125).

A year later, I’m happy to report that I have finally got the vegetarian thing on automatic. The hardest part of the conversion was dealing with hamburger cravings, especially in the summer when all my family’s gatherings traditionally revolve around eating them.

The media successfully made hamburgers much less appealing to me recently with the “pink slime” reports.  Apparently, 70% of beef products in our country contain this additive which consists of various cow parts glooped together and then gassed with ammonia to disinfect the concoction.  Yum!

This isn’t brand new news…we’ve known about this at least since 2009.

And the beef industries comeback?

“Beef is beef.”

…Yes, thank you…I’ll have the veggies.

 Through a strange series of events I recently acquired a live-in indentured servant.  That may sound like a wonderful thing, and surely it is; however, we’re both still coming to terms with the change.   While I am adapting to the loss of my quiet solitude and independence, she is adjusting to eating (and usually preparing) the vegetarian menu. 

Earlier this week she baked vegan pumpkin cupcakes at my request.  They were so good that she baked another batch a couple days later to share with her friends.

 “I just won’t tell anyone they’re vegan.”  She said. 

I was bewildered by that statement, so I asked, “Why not tell people?”

“Because they won’t understand.”

“What’s not to understand?”

“Vegan sounds healthy, and people don’t think health food tastes good.”

“You need to tell everyone they’re vegan to eliminate that ridiculous misconception.”

“Ok, I’ll tell them after they eat it.”

This exchange left me thinking about culture and the role of language and perception in food taste.

First, why would the terms “healthy” or “vegan” automatically be perceived as something that doesn’t taste good?

Second, when I think “cupcakes,” I don’t think “health food,” vegan or not.  Despite the mass quantity of sugar, I suppose vegan pumpkin cupcakes do have relative health merits – vitamins A, E, C & K to name a few. Plus pumpkin is a pretty good source of iron. Still, it is a cupcake! Cupcakes are usually considered “junk food.”

Finally, on a related note, why would something that stays “fresh” in a box on a grocery store shelf for months (e.g., Twinkies) be perceived as food at all?  (Hint: an annual $10,000,000,000 food marketing machine.)

Truly man is the king of beasts, for his brutality exceeds them. We live by the death of others. We are burial places.

—Leonardo Da Vinci

A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral.

—Leo Tolstoy

Each snowflake in an avalanche pleads not guilty.

—Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

 

******

To all I haven’t scared off with the above quotes,

Welcome to the latest adventure in my vegetarian escapades: broccoli sprouts! 

Broccoli is good for you.   We all know that.  It contains a cancer-fighting compound called sulforaphane, which helps the liver detoxify carcinogens and other funky stuff that floats around in your body, wrecking havoc on the system.  What you may not know is that broccoli sprouts contain 10-100 times the amount of this compound than mature broccoli.  Thus, eating one ounce of broccoli sprouts is roughly the equivalent of eating a pound and a half of broccoli.  Who knew?   

Here’s the weird thing about broccoli sprouts: They taste nothing like broccoli and they burn. Horseradish is one of their cruciferous cousins. I didn’t know this before hand and I was alarmed by the fire that ignited in my mouth and throat when I began gobbling them down with wild abandon.  They need to come with a warning and recipes.  So there’s your warning and in a little bit, I’ll give you recipes.  Consider this an altruistic public service announcement.  Or if you’d prefer, you can send me money.

Here’s how I made the healthful burning magic happen:

          1.  Buy sprouting seeds and sprouting containers. 

This can be done easily online at Handy Pantry by clicking  HERE.  (I’ve also found their sprouts at Whole Foods.)

          2. Pour two tablespoons of broccoli sprouting seeds into a tray, put the tray in the sprouting cover, fill it with water, and soak ’em overnight.

          3. Let the water drain from the tray and cover the tray with the cover. Rinse and drain seeds three or four times a day for three or four days. 

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

          4. Uncover tray and put the tray in the sunlight for about a day so the sprouts will start producing chlorophyll.  Rinse them a couple times this day too.

          5. Remove hulls by letting them soak in water so thell hulls float up to the surface.  Pour them off the top. 

          6. Enjoy!

Below you’ll find a couple ideas and links to recipes for the sprouts.

1. Top off salads with broccoli sprouts.

2. Add ’em to veggie burgers in place of lettuce.

3. Dana of zona pellucida said she makes a mean multi-sprout springroll, which sounds amazing.

4. Spicy broccoli sprout sushi.

I haven’t tried this one yet, but given their heat, I bet broccoli sprouts would add the perfect kick.

****

(image courtesy of Tim Ferriss: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/)

In the spirit of full disclosure, Handy Pantry graciously supplied the broccoli sprouts pictured in this blog in exchange for the sprouting tutorial I wrote above.  All opinions of said broccoli sprouts are soley mine. 🙂

If you want to read something completely untainted by trade agreements, though still touting sprouting, you may check out  my first post on the topic:  Sprout it Out Loud

Enlightenment, Day 198: Vegging Out
 

If you liked the idea of raising Sea Monkeys as a kid, you will love growing your own bean sprouts.  Personally, I found Sea Monkey reality a grave disappointment.  Everyday, I would squint into the crappy magnified plastic container, point at a bubble or other floaty fleck, and ask my dad, “Is that  one??” “When will they grow hair and legs?”  “Will they be able to talk?”  Obviously, I was expecting the happy finned family on the box instead of the miniscule creepy shrimp things without smiles, much less faces.   I wanted to perform the 1, 2, 3 packet alchemy and then have something amazing happen so I could raise my hands in the air and shout, “It’s Alive!!”  But the results were never that dramatic.  Fortunately, bean sprouting totally satisfied this mad scientist craving of mine. I wish I’d known about them as a kid. They would have been so much cooler than stupid sea monkeys.  Everyday the sprouts transform into something different – something which truly warrants hands in the air shouting as far as I’m concerned. And the best part is –  you can eat them! (Unlike the sea monkeys, which you can’t eat unless you’re a whale, according to my dad.) 

With only 31 calories, about a cup of mung beansprouts will provide 7% of your daily value of fiber, 6% protein, 23% vitamin C, 43% vitamin K, 6% thiamin, 8% roboflavin,  4% niacin, 5% vitamin B6, 16% folate, 4% pantothenic acid, 1% calcium, 5% iron, 5% magnesium, 6% phosphorus, 4% potassium, 3% zinc, 9% copper, 10% manganese, 1 % selenium, 16.6 mg omega-3 fatty acids, 43.7 mg omega-6 fatty acids (based on a 2,000 calorie reference diet).

Here are annotated references for studies that show the health effects of various types of sprouts: http://www.isga-sprouts.org/MainSproutNutritionPoints.pdf

And here are their baby pictures!

Mung Sprouts, Day 1

Day 2 - Eeeeyaaa!

Day 3

Day 4 – It’s ALIVE!!

Day 4 is looking sparse because I kept eating them and taking them places before I remembered to photograph them.

To put the world right in order we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.

–Confucius

When the heart is right, “for” and “against” are forgotten

–Thomas Merton

~~*~~

photo editing courtesy of Skattur

Today marks 194 days since I decided to confuse and amuse family, friends, and myself by declaring that I was officially taking “the plunge into Sainthood.”  Compelled by the things I had been reading and a chain of coincidental environmental and personal events that revealed a discrepancy between my beliefs and my behavior, I decided to take Proverbs 23:20 to heart and to “be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh.”  With the conviction to quit consuming alcohol, meat, seafood, and eggs, I went skipping and tripping down the yellow brick road of righteousness, with a strange cast of characters guiding my way: King Solomon, Yogi Hari, and The Supreme Master Ching Hai. (Oh my!)

When I first set out on this mission I had no idea it was going to be such a drastic paradigm shift in my thinking – and not just about food. It took nearly six months to reach 39 consecutive days of vegetarianism.   On the 40th day I overlooked “egg” on the list of ingredients and wound up eating a pasta salad that had egg in the dressing, so it was back to “Day 1” for me.  Today I realized that I’ve surpassed my last stretch. This time around I’ve logged 43 days without meat, eggs, or seafood. 

 I still suffer from the occasional bout of bloodlust – and I have imbibed the occasional alcoholic beverage, but the changes are becoming more of a habit than a struggle.  This is progress.

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