Dormancy

April 29, 2011

Our blog has been dormant for much of the winter. I could say that we were observing the cyclical nature of the seasons, but that’s not true. You might think we’d have more time to share our thoughts during the colder, darker months when we’re relegated to the indoor life. I would have thought the same, but our absence had little to do with the season, and it had only a little to do with the busy-ness of life. About once a month, my lovely wife would say something like: “we really need to post on the blog.” And we’d sigh.

She said it again last night, and this time I’m doing something about it. Without concern for order or cohesion, here are some things that have occupied our thoughts or time over the past few months:

  • It’s really difficult to keep tropical ferns happy through the winter–especially when our house is 50 degrees at night.
  • We met our newest niece, a chubby, dark-haired, happy lil’ thing.
  • It’s difficult to balance the desire to use as little electricity as possible with the need for some light, even if it is artificial.
  • Spring is a tease.
  • The first market of the season is my favorite day of the year. I get so excited for this day that I hardly sleep (and I purchase every green thing I see). Now I just need some morels.
  • We spent some warm, beautiful days in the mountains of Arkansas. We picked, we played, and we sipped moonshine (with some wonderful company).
  • I am sick of politics, and I find the political discourse in our country to be truly maddening. This is why David Bazan’s latest album, Strange Negotiations, is such a breath of fresh air.
  • We hosted a successful celebration of New Beer’s Day. Our guests brought far too much beer (which I am still enjoying), and I am further convinced that it needs to be a recognized national holiday.
  • The Farm Bill is up for renewal in 2012, and it is vital to our country’s future that we attempt to understand this bill’s importance.
  • We got rid of a cell phone in favor of an orange rotary phone.
  • Very soon we will open our windows wide, and we won’t close them for several months.
  • Spring is glorious.
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Waiting on Washington: Food

November 3, 2010

It’s come and gone. Election day didn’t bring the end of the world. For us regular ol’ Americans, life goes on about the same.
 
Washington is bound to be just about the same as it was last week, but that doesn’t have to slow us down. Let’s talk about food. I’ve blogged about food before. We’ve talked about voting with our food dollars, and that’s very important. I don’t want be redundant here, so if you want to read more, visit some of my older posts.
 
As far as legislation goes, The Farm Bill is set to expire in 2012, and Congress is currently discussing food safety legislation. The Farm Bill largely dictates what farmers grow–currently, the subsidies we dole out ($56 billion for corn over a decade) provide huge incentives to grow “corn and beans.” The current Farm Bill makes processed foods cheap, since they’re loaded with various forms of corn and soy beans, but shouldn’t such a bill make produce cheap? Our USDA food pyramid reads one way, towards produce, but our subsidies read another, towards sugary, fatty, processed foodish stuff. Food safety is a joke, because as we’ve seen recently, not all food is safe. Our eggs make us sick, our celery is tainted, and we get free frogs in our bags of frozen veggies, but the current regulations (or lack of enforcement) are almost begging for such issues. Like most other action in Washington, I don’t expect the end products of either of these to be ideal, but I still think it’s worth our time to call our representatives. We can also act on our own.
 
Luckily for us, there’s something afoot. It’s called the Food Movement. This movement is already responsible for many changes we’re seeing. Marion Nestle, renowned nutritionist, says the Food Movement that we see sweeping across the country is democracy. I love this! At a time when our democracy seems to represent anything but the voices of the people, our voices are being heard because of what we put in our mouths. I realize it’s a bit dramatic to talk of our democracy as if it’s crumbling–we’re still free, and I am still mostly proud to be American–but it sure is good to see democracy working.
 
We don’t need a bill to dictate what foods are important for our tables, and we don’t need safety regulations to tell us that foods not processed in massive facilities are probably safer for our families. Because of lobbying efforts from some large companies, our tax dollars are propping up some unsustainable choices, but our dollars are just that: our dollars. Unfortunately, for those without the time or resources to educate themselves about smart, sustainable food choices or without the financial means to do anything about it, they are subject to Washington’s decisions. Democracy may be guiding this Food Movement, but is it true democracy if it doesn’t afford healthy and safe options to all Americans?
 
40% of children’s calories come from junk food. Yeah, read that again. I trust that parents want bright futures for these children. They don’t dream of their children developing diabetes, or living with health issues exacerbated by obesity. I don’t know how you’d rank affordable access to healthy food with other justice issues: women’s rights, slavery, civil rights, gay rights. Those are big issues. But I think this is another great social justice issue. It’s a great social injustice that there are Americans who cannot make the best food decisions for their families. Even if these individuals knew which food choices were most beneficial to them and to the environment, do they have the financial resources to make those choices? Well, I don’t have an easy answer to that, but I think at least part of the answer involves changing our priorities.

In the 1930s the average American household spent 22% of its income on food.  Now it’s 10%. Food, as you might imagine, is pretty important. We kind of need food to survive. But it only makes up 10% of our budgets! What things have filled in the gaps? Cell phones, cable TV, car payments. There are many more, but the common denominator in these is that they’re unnecessary. I don’t mean to come down on those of us who spend money on these things. Fortunately for many, we can afford these things plus food that’s good for us and the environment. This is where our values come in.
 
Large companies recognize a desire among Americans for cheap food (especially cheap meat), and in order to make it cheap they’ve got to skimp on doing things the right way. If animals are butchered properly, the bacteria naturally present in their digestive systems should not find it’s way into our peanut butter. Do we understand that we get what we pay for? I recognize that money isn’t growing on trees, but if we value food that’s good for us and good for our environment, then we should expect extra costs.
 
While I would love to see sweeping changes overnight, I realize that neither Washington nor consumers have that kind of power. But I’m very encouraged by movements I’ve seen. Corporations such as Wal-Mart see that we want locally grown produce, so they’re responding. I’m not Wal-Mart’s biggest fan, but their commitment to green practices continues to grow. And another thing: Wal-Mart has a knack for makin’ stuff cheap. If larger corporations continue to see the movement toward a sustainable food future, we can only hope that this will make healthy decisions possible for more Americans. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that we’re a country of trend-followers. At least with the Food Movement, it’s a trend that benefits our land, our food producers, our animals, and our consumers.
 
When it comes to food, our grassroots democracy seems to be working, and we owe ourselves a pat on the back. So what can we do now? Celebrate with a home-cooked meal made from local products and some green beer. Let’s keep doing what we’re doing, and let’s each take a step or two more. Lend your informed voice to push for local school lunch reform, shop at your local farmer’s market, join a CSA or a community garden. It’s encouraging to see our progress, but we still have work to do.

Breathe.  This tip is about as simple as you can get.  Breathe.  And think about it.  Breathing is essential, as you might already know, but how often do we think about breathing?  Eating is essential, and we (okay, I) think about it all the time.  Sleeping is essential, and we think about sleep (that deserves its own post).  But breathing is most often an afterthought.  Take a closer look at ancient literature, and we see that ancient peoples saw breath as more than just our sucking and blowing of oxygen.  Breath is our spirit, our life, our energy.  Real, intentional breathing can slow your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, release stress, and help strengthen your immune system.

Take a few minutes each day to think about your breathing.  Practice breathing exercises, like these, or do yoga, or just be conscious of your breathing.  If practiced regularly, you’ll notice a difference.

The Great Pumpkin Shortage

October 8, 2010

Wipe your brow! We have just survived the pumpkin shortage of 2009-2010 (I encourage you to leave comments on how you braved this last year without pumpkin spice cake. Ms. Eggsandsoup and I will also host a post-pumpkin shortage recovery group next Monday evening). Okay, so honestly, I didn’t know about this crisis until Saturday, and apparently it’s already over. I am still a little baffled–just as I, you probably didn’t scream in terror at the thought of not being able to find pumpkin at your local grocer. But we can all rest easy knowing the nearly year-long pumpkin shortage is over.

Now I need to rant: I get that we like pumpkin.  It’s colorful, it’s tasty, it’s healthy, and it’s necessary for many holiday traditions. Maybe I’m missing something, but even if your grocery store was out of canned pumpkin, what happened to cooking real pumpkin? I have been to two different farmer’s markets in the last week, and I assure you, there are plenty of pumpkins (and would guess that small, local farmers were probably annoyed at this pumpkin shortage frenzy, because they were thinking “we have tons of freakin’ pumpkins!”). Real pumpkin tastes better than canned pumpkin.  And with real pumpkin you don’t have to worry about BPA (yes, most cans are lined with BPA, and you know if the FDA is expressing some concern about BPA, then it’s definitely something we should avoid).

Cooking real pumpkins is super easy. It takes a little more time, but while it bakes, head outside and enjoy the fall weather (it won’t be long before you’ll have to wrap up in layers each time you venture out). Here’s how to do it: slice the pumpkin in half, scrape out the seeds and stringy stuff, lay the halves face down in a baking dish, and bake at 350 for 90 minutes. The lovely smell of fall will fill your house, you’ll have zero waste (since you’re composting that pumpkin skin and toasting the seeds for a snack), and you’ll know from where your pumpkin comes and which small farmer you’re supporting.  And did I mention it tastes better?

Big Bad VOCs

September 14, 2010

Every day we are bombarded with chemicals leaching from upholstery, carpets, computers, walls, and more. It sounds like a scare tactic–watch your back, or you might be gagged by an invisible deadly gas!–but it’s true. These chemicals are typically referred to as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, and while they’re not acutely toxic, long-term exposure can cause liver damage, kidney damage, and cancer. They include formaldehyde (even if the Koch brothers would rather you believe it’s safe), solvents used in paints and coatings, and gasoline.

We’re well aware of VOCs, and we’re determined to decrease our exposure. Unfortunately, we have little control over our work spaces, and we did purchase a new-ish car. But we can focus on our home. During the warmer months, we are able to open windows, so we aren’t trapped in the indoor air. During winter, though, whatever VOCs exist in our home are cycling through our bodies, and many studies show VOCs indoors to be as much as 5 times greater than outdoors. Additionally, newer homes are more tightly sealed, which improves energy efficiency, but it also prevents VOCs from escaping (this is called sick building syndrome).

Here’s what we’ve done to limit our exposure:

VOC-free paint – we are beginning to paint some of our walls, so we purchased Safecoat primer and paints from Straw Sticks & Bricks. Since these paints have no VOCs, they have very little smell, so you won’t get intoxicated from the fumes (just have a beer while you paint to simulate the effect). Safecoat paints are more expensive than conventional paints, but the extra cost is justifiable. If you don’t want to shell out the extra bucks, look for the VOC measurement on cans of conventional paint. The added benefit to painting, for us, is that we’re covering up walls and windows that may contain lead paint. Lead paint is toxic, especially for children, so if you’re scraping or removing old paint, you should wear a face mask and gloves. If your home was painted before 1978, you probably have lead paint, and it’s especially hazardous if it’s in poor condition. Be sure to clean up your work space after dealing with paint that may contain lead.

Organic latex mattress – I’ve been sleeping on the same mattress since I was a teenager, so it was time for a new mattress anyway, but the thought of flame retardants soaking into our bodies 8 hours a night has always been very disconcerting (why are flame retardants required in mattresses anyway? If my house is burning, and the flames get to my mattress, I think I’m in trouble regardless of how well it retards the flames). I researched, and dreamed about, mattresses for quite a while, and we decided to purchase a natural latex mattress. Rubber trees can be tapped for 180 days, and they will heal within a day, so latex is a very sustainable option. It is also VOC-free. Ours is a Savvy Rest mattress made of Dunlop latex and covered with an organic cotton and wool case. Wool is naturally flame resistant, and allows mattresses to pass the government’s safety standard (not to beat a dead horse, but maybe the gov’t needs to worry about hazards more pressing than mattress flammability; ahem, contaminated eggs) You can customize the level of firmness, and your mattress will keep its shape for the next 20-50 years (we’ll also get $100 for referrals, so tell them the eggsandsoups sent you). You’re probably complaining about the superfluous parentheses in this paragraph (I bet my wife is too).

Indoor plants – we’ve been collecting plants ever since we moved into our house. We’re currently at 22, if you count our little jade, and our tiny dwarf pomegranate. We have a chart to tell us when to water, because it’s just too hard to remember. As you know from elementary school science class, plants take in carbon dioxide and put off oxygen. They also clean our indoor air, which is especially helpful in the winter. Here is a list of some of the most effective air-cleaning plants. Some of them are super easy to care for, so you might pick up a couple (or ask a friend to divide a plant or two), and develop your green thumb.

Used furniture – we try to purchase all of our furniture second-hand, because even though it’s probably still off-gassing, it has at least done some of it in another home. The guilty culprits are often the pieces that are stuffed, and since none of us wants a church pew as our couch, we do have to consider more air-friendly options. You can find some organic couches, but your options are limited, and they are quite pricey. We bought our leather couch at Urban Mining–it started at $295, and after some waiting, the price dropped to under $100. It has some wear, but we consider it character. Another benefit to purchasing second-hand is we reduce the amount of items that are adding to the waste stream. Try adding a “worthless” piece of furniture on Freecycle, and you’ll see that there is always somebody who wants what you have.

Some other ideas:

Burn soy candles (they put off less soot than conventional candles)
Step outside to smoke
Use homemade or earth-friendly cleaners
Replace your air filter every three months

Let us know if you have other ideas. Let’s de-VOC our homes!

Do You Know Your Soy?

April 21, 2010

This might seem like an odd question.  If you are a vegetarian, it’s an important question, and considering many processed and packaged foods contained some form of soy, it may be an equally important question for meat-eaters.  Many highly processed forms of soy involve the use of hexane, which is a neurotoxin.  Thanks to our friend, Jayson, here is an article from Mother Jones with more information.

Charlotte Vallaeys, senior researcher for The Cornucopia Institute says “If a non-organic product contains a soy protein isolate, soy protein concentrate, or texturized vegetable protein, you can be pretty sure it was made using soybeans that were made with hexane.”  Well, The Cornucopia Institute created a list that rates all brands of organic soy.  The list allows you to click on each individual company to see why they received a particular ranking.  Here’s the list.

We Have a Meat Problem

March 17, 2010

I know I’m preaching to the choir.  Our nation has a meat problem.  Our world has a meat problem.  But most of our world’s meat problem is due to our nation’s meat problem.  This article highlights a report on global meat production and the social, economic, health, and environmental impacts of this industry.

Take this quote: “Livestock production accounts for approximately 40 percent of the global agricultural gross domestic product.”  There are starving people throughout the world, and as population continues to increase, the number of hungry people is only going to grow.  But we are using nearly half of our agricultural products (corn, soybeans) to feed cows.  No, not people but cows.

Or this: “The livestock sector, including feed production and transport, is responsible for about 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.”  And many claim this is a conservative estimate.  If you don’t believe humans are contributing to global over-heating, you may not find this as disturbing, but it’s worth noting.  This starts with the agricultural process (running tractors and fertilizing with natural gas), moves on to cow waste (methane–if you’ve ever seen a fart lit, you know what I mean, but cow waste is also stored in big ol’ pools and sprayed on fields), and finishes with distribution (shipping uses fuel).  And indirectly, this doesn’t take into account the portions of the Amazon (remember from science class that trees use CO2) that are being leveled to keep up with the demand for cheap beef.

On top of these, small farmers in Poland and China are losing their farms because they can’t stay competitive.  Industrial meat manufacturers can buy 10 farms in these countries and turn that into 2 or 3 jobs.  More, we have no idea the impacts of this consumption on our health.  We are beginning to see, but we are still human lab rats.  What kind of effects does genetically modified corn (which our factory farm cows eat, along with chicken feathers, chicken waste, and antibiotics–these are necessary because cows, as ruminants, cannot digest corn, so they develop infections) have on our health?  I know GMOs are hotly debated, and I don’t have an answer, but should we test them before consuming them, or should we just take a “wait and see” approach?  Because of the overuse of our strongest antibiotics, are we sitting ducks waiting for an outbreak of antibiotic-resistant MRSA?

Our overconsumption of meat is an issue, and there is only one solution: eat less meat.  I realize this can all be overwhelming, and most of us can only focus our attention on one or two important issues.  For some of us those issues are politics or the passing of health care reform or fighting crime in our communities or attending to family crises.  I get that; we all have a lot going on.  But you can mostly ignore this issue and be an active participant in a very simple way.  We don’t need to do anything–we just need to stop doing something.  Or do it less.  Most of our readers aren’t big meat fiends, but we all know people who are.  We don’t have to berate people for eating meat, but there are those close to us who might benefit from hearing about our meat problem.

This is a social justice issue.  This is an environmental issue.  This is a health issue.  This is an economic issue.  Our meat problem is relevant in many areas of our lives, and it’s one we can’t ignore.

Adventures in Buycotting

March 5, 2010

Buycott is a relatively new term to me.  And I like the idea.  A boycott, as you well know, is the refusal to buy products from or support a company or business.  This can be for many reasons; most famously, individuals during the Civil Rights movement boycotted establishments that refused to serve blacks.  A buycott, on the other hand, is the act of choosing to buy products from or support a company.  So, imagine that an ice cream parlor during segregation hung a sign that read “We will serve any individual who desires a cold, creamy treat, regardless of race.”  I would visit that business.  And that would be a buycott.
 
We are all very good at voicing our displeasure to companies that let us down–I don’t think we’ve ever had a problem with that.  Have you ever seen the kitten poster (yes, my sister and I had kitten posters, because kittens are cute) that contains a picture of a, wait for it, kitten that has destroyed a ball of yarn and is all tangled up?  The bubble extending from the kitten’s little head reads “When I do something right, nobody remembers, but when I do something wrong, nobody ever forgets.”  Even if you’ve never seen the poster, you’ve probably heard similar ideas.  Well, this is what we often do with companies.  I avoid Wal-Mart, I avoid Smithfield, I avoid Monsanto.  And say that I send those companies messages detailing my complaints.  Or say I just avoid purchasing their products.  Either way, that’s the essence of a boycott.  Now, think about how positive a change it could have if I buycott companies that share my values.
 
An easy way to buycott a company like Patagonia is to purchase their products.  This supports their bottom line, and it sends a subtle message saying, “I support you as a company.”  But there is another way: what if I actually send a company a message?  Ultimately, they want our money, so I’m sure Patagonia would prefer that you buy their products, but while they do feel your support, they don’t know whether you’re buying that fleece because you like it or because you support them as a company and you like it.  So what if you send them a message with your purchase detailing why you chose to support them?
 
I’ve had the opportunity to buycott recently, and I’m going to share, because I want to show how easy it is.  First, I sent an e-mail to Wal-Mart.  No, I didn’t purchase their products, because while their ridiculously low prices are tempting, I choose to visit Walmart seldomly.  Walmart has made some strides toward sustainability, though, and I think, maybe because of countless discrimination suits, they are beginning to see the value in treating their workers fairly.  In Kansas City, there aren’t a whole lot of places where we can recycle plastic shopping bags, but Wal-Mart is one of those places.  I e-mailed them a thank you for that service.  There response was generic and not specifically related to the topic of plastic bag recycling, but I suppose they heard my message.
 
Another recent buycott: Court and I shop at the Wild Foods/Whole Oats on Main (see what I did there), and when we want mushrooms we choose between shiitakes and baby bellas, which are a cross between portabella and white button mushrooms.  We usually use shiitake for their superior flavor and nutrition, but occasionally the others work better for a recipe.  But, and this is a pretty big but, they are packaged in styrofoam.  So we never buy them.  Well, recently, Monterey Mushrooms switched to compostable containers.  I wish that I could say that their change was due to a message I sent them, but that’s not the case.  After the fact, though, I did purchase the mushrooms, and I sent them a message praising their switch.  They get my money, and they get my message.
 
Finally, I noticed that J. Crew uses paper from sustainably-grown forests for their magazines–look for the FSC logo.  I like J. Crew’s clothes, but I try to avoid buying new as often as possible, especially with clothes.  I still enjoy looking through their magazine and occasionally stopping in the store.  But, say I do purchase something from them; I appreciate that they have taken at least this step, and maybe my message will encourage them to take additional steps.  And if they take additional steps (say, show a commitment to fair working conditions for overseas laborers or use organic materials) maybe I will be tempted to buy new.  Until then, I will give them some positive press on this here blog.  “Hey J. Crew, about 8 people just found out that you use paper from sustainable forests for your magazine!”
 
These are my experiences so far.  I am a new convert, but I hope to encourage more companies to make changes toward sustainability through my words and my dollars.
 
P.S. The author’s of the Better World Handbook have given me a new perspective on spending–every dollar I spend is a vote.  We may get frustrated with our political system, because it often feels like our votes mean very little, but with our money, we vote nearly every day.  Let’s make sure our financial decisions represent our values.

So on to my alternatives.  I don’t guarantee that these are easily accessible, but I hope they will inspire you to find your own.  Additionally, just as I wouldn’t advise a meat-eater to consume a reuben every day, I suggest you don’t eat a vegan reuben every day.  We are healthiest when we seek variance in our diets, and limiting your intake of even vegan thousand island dressing is probably a good idea.

Also, just to add to the suspense, I will offer this disclaimer.  Since I have given up some foods that i absolutely love, because they have meat, you might ask why I don’t just replace the meat in those with sustainably raised meat (since I am, after all, an “ethical omnivore”).  This is a good question.  But when I say I miss burnt ends, I know that I could get an ethical piece of beef brisket and make me some burnt ends, but what I miss is Jack’s Stack burnt ends, not a poor immitation of them that I could make at home.  Get the point?  But it’s true–if I must have burnt ends, that is the way to do it.  Plus, I have become pretty good at cooking meatless, I am far healthier for it, and there is no doubt that I live a more sustainable life, so I don’t plan to be a regular meat eater in the near future.

The Vegan Reuben.  I discovered this only recently, and I’ve had it only once, so I am excited about our new relationship.  The Chicago Diner serves only vegan fare, and I suspect their vegan meatloaf and their bbq “rib” sandwich are just as tasty.  But I am in love with their reuben.  From the looks of it–the melty cheese (dairy free for the vegans, regular cheese for those like me), the sloppy “corned beef,” the crunchy rye–you would swear it was an average meaty reuben, and you can taste nary a difference.  I can’t wait to return and enjoy my reuben with a beer from Great Lakes Brewing Company.

Veggie Burger.  Court and I eat so many veggie burgers that we have shortened it to v-burg–I know, we’re dorks.  But isn’t it exciting to eat a “burger” and still know you are getting some of your daily veggies?!  I have to mention two veggie burgers.  First, any self-respecting mid-towner knows McCoy’s serves the best veggie burger in the city.  With the avocado spread, those big ol’ sprouts, and some added spicy mustard, that “burger” is easily one of my favorite meals.  Second, we have discovered Organic Sunshine Burgers at Whole Foods.  These are soy free and gluten free.  They are as good as I’ve had, and I can have them any time I want.

Veggie Bratwurst.  I know this sounds strange, but you gotta stick with me.  I like to grill out, and besides burgers, everybody loves to grill a good brat.  Field Roast Grain Meat Co. makes a couple of excellent brat replacements.  They have an Italian “sausage” and a delicious smoked apple sage “brat.”  You might imagine that they don’t taste exactly like brats, which is true, but they are still very tasty.  And just as their meaty brethren, they are perfected by spicy mustard and sauerkraut (and beer).

Biscuits and Gravy.  This meal was a staple through college, and though I think it’s a good thing that I no longer eat it daily, it’s nice to have an alternative to satisfy my craving.  Handlebar in Chicago (I know, KC has some catching-up to do, but Bluebird has some good b&g too) serves big biscuits with seitan sausage gravy.  You also have the option of adding scrambled eggs or tofu.  To wash it all down, you have to order the Trifecta–it’s the perfect blend of Guinness, Jameson, and espresso.  You will begin your day (or afternoon) well-fed and perfectly buzzed.

Veggie Frittata.  My last favorite includes eggs, which I allow myself, so if you’re a strict vegetarian or vegan, this may not work for you, but I love eggs.  Love them.  A frittata is very filling, and once you get the timing down (I burned the edge the first couple of times), it’s a perfect meal–you can throw in any random veggies you have.  We’ve added sweet potatoes, kale, mushrooms, chard, tomatoes, onions, carrots, and probably more.  It keeps well, and it transports well, so you can have lunch too.

I may not have met your expectations (I hope I didn’t imply that I had the veggie burnt ends replacement–I’m still looking, and I would love for some tips).  And buffalo wings, they may just be part of my past.  Though I should give some merit to the earlier question I assumed you might ask: you know, the one about why I don’t just make my own burnt ends?  Well, there are some great sustainable meats in KC, and I ought to highlight a few, so the flesh-lovers among us can feel good about what they eat.

Vendors: KC Buffalo Company sells buffalo burgers, steaks, briskets (burnt ends, anyone?), brats, and tongue.

Restaurants: The Westside LocalBluebird BistroJulian.

Websites: Kansas City Food Circle is a wonderful resource for finding all kinds of organic and free-range foods.

There are gives and takes to adopting the vegetarian lifestyle.  Now, let me clarify: I am more of an ethical omnivore, which by my definition means I eat meat when I know where it comes from and how it was raised, but since I eat a meatless diet about 350 days a year, I usually just go by “vegetarian.”  We all want to label everything and everybody, and I am in no mood to explain my actual diet and justification to every Jane that I encounter; add to this that I’m really a pescetarian because I eat fish (and if I’m confessing, eggs and milk, too) and it only gets more complicated.  So let’s keep it simple: I’m a crazy vegetarian.
  
I’ve been an ethical omnivore/mostly vegetarian for almost a year, and I enjoy it.  I have to cook more creatively, I have to pay closer attention to my diet, and I am more healthy for it.  It has been such a good experience that I plan to continue.  But there are some things I miss.

So, after wasting nearly two minutes of your time, here is my list of the fleshy foods i miss most:
 
The Reuben.  I love the mixture of salty corned beef, crunchy sauerkraut, homemade (real) thousand island dressing, melted swiss cheese, and slightly toasted rye bread.  Hungry?  I know.  Add some good fries, and you have a meal easily worth the coma that follows.
 
Burnt ends.  Between bread or on a plate, nobody does ’em like Jack’s Stack.  Oh, they’re greasy and crispy all at the same time.  And because I wouldn’t consider having one without the other, I’ll lump baked beans with the burnt ends.  I do miss them both.
 
Buffalo wings.  I was sitting at the bar at McCoy’s Public House when the guy next to me ordered some wings.  The smell of them was so enticing that I actually contemplated ordering them, having forgotten that I don’t eat meat.  No, it wasn’t in breach of my vegetarian oath that I considered ordering them–it was because my stomach spoke so loudly and authoritatively that my mind, for at least a moment, thought it to be a fantastic idea.  I had another beer to console myself.
 
[See a trend here–these aren’t especially healthy foods.  And they are much better with beer (there’s no point to that, other than the fact that i like beer).]
 
Hamburger.  You knew this had to make the list.  We all have our favorites.  I’ve found veggie burgers and fish burgers that act as very solid substitutes, but I will always miss a great hamburger.
 
Bratwurst.  No, I’m not German, but I love the bratwurst.  I want it with some chunky stone ground mustard and as much kraut as you can fit on the bun.  No Johnsonville for me, though.  If you’re from KC, it’s gotta be Scimeca’s.  Did I mention that my brother married a German?  My niece and nephew are part German, so that makes me at least an 1/8th, right?
 
That’s the list.  My next list will offer the best vegetarian alternatives I’ve found in my little time as an ethical omnivore.  Stay tuned.