Why Do Jews and Muslims Not Eat Pork or Shellfish? Preventative Health Reasons.

Before switching over to a kosher diet 9 years ago on Thanksgiving Day 2008, I always assumed that the reason Jewish and Muslim people didn’t eat pork or shellfish was more arbitrary; something to the effect of simply showing obedience to God by disciplining their eating habits.

But after eliminating all pork (ham, bacon, sausage) and shellfish (shrimp, scallops, clams), and seeing for myself how it was causing my eczema (dyshidrosis) to finally start clearing up after nearly a decade, even though it’s “medically incurable”, I realized that this whole kosher thing actually had a scientific purpose.

In the same way we all know now that beef is worse for our health than chicken, certain “bottom-feeder” animals are naturally less healthy than others for us to eat.

It easily makes sense that a pig, which will eat nearly anything and has no sweat glands, is naturally going to be less nutritious to the human body, as compared to a cow; though beef is red meat, cows eat only plants.

So indeed there is a scale of uncleanness in the animal kingdom, that helps us to understand which are most likely to increase our chances of getting cancer and disease.

I believe we all know by know what the black strip is along the back of a shrimp, right? When it comes to seafood, shellfish are the bottom-feeders who eat all the rotting remnants and feces. Even catfish fall into this category.

The more I learned about this, and realized that by eating only plants, I didn’t even have to worry about the “scale of uncleanness” anymore, it was a natural transition for me to switch to the Mediterranean diet, then vegetarian, and finally vegan.

So nine years ago I became kosher, and for the most recent half of those years I’ve been vegan.

The eczema has been gone for many years now. And the sinus infections. And the pet allergies.

Coincidence? I submit it is not.

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Stay-at-Home Dad 101: What I Eat During the Day, As a Vegan

The thought seemed intimidating when I was first immediately launched into my new career as stay-at-home dad:

“But what will I eat?”

Turns out, the answer was simple. I eat the same stuff I ate every day back when I commuted nearly an hour away to an office; only minus the oatmeal with trail mix and a banana.

I eat a little less because I am a little less hungry, and I suppose that might have something to do with the fact I’m not getting outside to exercise as much. When I worked at the office, I took my breaks walking or biking or running outside; as for now, I have an 18 month-old daughter and cold or hot weather to consider.

My calorie consumption begins each morning with a cup of instant organic iced coffee. (Honestly, it’s only 2 calories; but I’m not counting!) The entire container only costs about $5, the same amount of just one Starbucks latte.

While I could opt for the unsweetened vanilla almond milk in the fridge to add some flavor and creaminess, somehow along the way I discovered I genuinely like the taste of cold, black coffee.

But I do bring out the unsweetened vanilla almond milk about an hour later for my official breakfast, which is the manly vegan smoothie I invented. My recipe is high in protein and total fat, but contains very little saturated fat and zero cholesterol.

The ingredients, in addition to the almond milk: A whole banana, a cup of frozen blueberries, a half cup of plain oatmeal, a teaspoon of chia seeds, a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa or carob powder, and a tablespoon of peanut butter. Then I put that all together in the blender for about 20 seconds.

My lunch is quite predictable for me as well. There’s a brand of organic ramen noodle available at Whole Foods and Sprouts, called Koyo. They are around a dollar a package, and I cook 2 of them for my lunch. They are also high in protein, like my smoothie. I typically go with the “low sodium” version, but if it’s not available, I don’t let it bother my conscience: I usually consume under my daily allowance of sodium, since I don’t eat meat.

Throughout the rest of the afternoon, I may go for another cup of coffee, but I’m typically not really hungry after having consumed so much protein and good fats earlier in the day.

Depending on what’s for dinner, I may start prepping for when my wife and son get home. What’s really great is when my wife has already put together a crock pot meal the day before and placed it in the fridge. I can have that heating up during the afternoon so it will be ready for dinner. Plus, I can throw together a festive salad.

If I do stray from my ramen noodles routine for lunch, it’s only to finish off any leftovers from the night before, like my wife’s homemade vegan pizza; and maybe a bowl of cereal as well.

And consider, this meal plan is coming from a guy who said most of his life, “I got to have meat! I need more meat! I’m still hungry. I could never be a vegetarian. I couldn’t do it. Especially not a vegan!”

Obviously, there was dynamic character growth in the person narrating this story.

But I have embraced my identity as a manly vegan; and here more recently, as a stay-at-home dad as well.

How I Accidentally Became a Stay-at-Home Dad Back in October… Finally, I’m Ready to Talk about It

Imagine the irony. The very same week I was driving around in a $50,000 car, the 2017 Lexus IS 350 to promote here on my blog, I became unemployed. That fancy car then began serving as my vehicle to begin a new job search.

Yeah, that was a crazy week.

And really, it’s been an interesting month and a half since then. Let me catch you up on what I was hiding from social media this whole time…

It was simply my fate. I was already a vegan daddy blogger and a YouTuber. The demographics were there. So it only made sense that a guy like me would end up as a stay-at-home dad.

On October 18th, after having worked for over a decade at the same company in the Human Resources field (recruiting, onboarding, and retention), the new president of the company basically shut down the whole branch where I worked in Tennessee.

Imagine the psychology: Spending over 10 years of your life at the same company, seeing the same people day after day, appreciating the solitude of the same hour long commute to and from work; simply having a predictable routine which made me feel like I was financially providing for my family.

And then suddenly, it all ends. The plug is pulled. Not just for me, but for an office full of people who suddenly have a new full-time job: to find a new full-time job.

I admit, I was privately struggling with it. Even though it wasn’t my fault, nor the fault of the dozens of other people who were laid off that day as well, it still felt like a death, of sorts.

That job was part of my identity. I was always grateful for it. It was my first real job out of college; and really, my only full-time job.

During the next 30 days, I applied for over 60 jobs online; plus, I signed up with 4 different staffing agencies. It all resulted in one legitimate job interview, but they ended up hiring someone else for the position.

Through all this, it was important to me that no one else knew I had lost my job and that I was in search of a new one. I didn’t want the free world asking me everyday if I was okay, or asking if I got a new job yet.

To put myself in that situation would make me feel like I was some sort of victim- which I am not. I always choose to be victorious; never a victim.

The way I’m wired, I didn’t want anyone to know about any of this, until I had a success story to tell.

Just as I was about to cross the line of “not okay anymore”, right before Thanksgiving my wife presented me with some amazing news which I was quite thankful for.

As she is the one who handles our budget, she joyfully explained to me that since losing my job, we have been continually putting more money into our savings account each week; not less.

When I asked her how, her immediate response was, “I know it has to be a God thing.”

She went on to break down all the ways we were saving money:

We are no longer paying for two kids to be in daycare full-time.

Our daughter, who was growing up in day care, stopped getting sick, so our doctors’ bills ceased.

I am no longer filling up my car with gas each week; only monthly now.

While that may not sound significant, my wife told me that considering the cost of two kids in day care, my job was ultimately only making our household $200 per week. I was being paid appropriately for my position where I worked, but my wife has a Master’s Degree and therefore has been making a bit more money than me for a while now.

So actually, those little things added up to more than cover the $200 per week difference.

Me? A stay-at-home dad?

It would have been too crazy of a plan; for me to leave my steady job of over a decade. But that steady job came to an end; with over 10 years of Human Resources experience as a souvenir.

We wouldn’t have chosen this. It wouldn’t have seemed like a smart position. But it’s working for our family right now.

And obviously, I truly enjoy getting to actually spend time with my awesome kids. Even my wife and I have more quality time as well, including the fact she is able to call me everyday on the drive home from work. We have more time together as a family now.

Granted, I’ll remain on the look-out for a great job in Human Resources, as I never stopped applied for jobs. And while my daughter is taking her nap each day, I work diligently on further building my YouTube channels, which I predict will eventually exceed the $200 weekly difference.

But as for now, I have officially made it part of my identity. Last night, I changed the “work” section on my Facebook profile:

I am now a stay-at-home dad.

What Do Vegans Eat for Thanksgiving? Bacon & Eggs, Lasagna, Pizza, and Lemon Pie

Keep in mind that veganism has increased by 500% since 2014. That means when I became a vegan back in March 2013, less than 1% of Americans were vegans. Now in 2017, that number has risen to an amazing 6% of America’s population.

That’s around 19 million Americans who no longer eat turkey for Thanksgiving, but who did just a few years ago. Imagine how that invisible shift that has been created in our economy- and how grocery stores have had to adjust accordingly.

So if you’re an outsider looking in, who is curious to fathom how a person who no longer eats meat, eggs, or dairy could possibly enjoy a wonderful feast for Thanksgiving… well then, you’ve come to the right place!

Just as it’s never been easier in the history of the world to become obese and/or develop onset Diabetes, especially here in America, it’s also never been easier to live the vegan lifestyle. It’s so easy to obtain food alternatives in most grocery stores these days. Obviously, America’s grocery stores are now being forced to cater to the dietary needs of 6% of America’s population; in addition to the mainstream.

So while we could have opted for the Tofurky as we’ve done every vegan Thanksgiving before this one, we chose instead to have more of an Italian theme; despite learning this year from MyHeritage DNA tests that my Italian side of the family is actually genetically Sephardic Jewish and Middle Eastern…

The assumption is that vegans are left with limited options for meals. But as a surviving vegan of 4 and a half years (meaning that I’ve yet to die from “not getting enough protein”), I have actually found I have much more freedom than ever before.

Turkey is boring. Even back when I still ate meat, I was never really that excited about turkey.

But just take a look at these pictures, which still only cover about 2/3’s of what our family ate for Thanksgiving:

Vegan lasagna with “cashew” cheese sauce, vegan English muffin pizzas, and even a hearty Southern style breakfast thanks to vegan bacon and scrambled tofu.

Plus, I can’t forget the desserts: from molten chocolate lava cake to lemon tart pie. And it’s not like these recipes are hard to find. Just Google them.

In case I need to actually say this, here it is: All the food was so delicious!

The non-vegan family members were not disappointed at all to be forced, by default, to join us in our traditional vegan Thanksgiving festivities.

What do vegans eat for Thanksgiving? Anything we want.

As long as it comes from the vegan food sources:

Veggies, fruits, grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.

6% of America is Now Vegan, While 4.1% of Americans Now Identify as Gay (LGBT)

Has America underestimated the growing presence and underground influence of its own vegan population? Does America even care that we vegans have arrived, ordering our six dollar coffees with coconut milk instead of dairy? Or does America just assume we all died a while back from a lack of protein?

According to Top Trends in Prepared Foods 2017, which was released in June 2017, there are currently 6% of Americans who identity as vegan; and that is up from just 1% in 2014.

That means the number of vegans in America has increased by 500% in just 3 years! Try to fathom that.

Meanwhile…

According to Gallup News in a study released in January 2017, currently 4.1% of Americans, or 10 million people, now identify as LGBT; and that is up from 3.5% in 2012.

There are more vegan Americans than there are gay Americans.

No, it’s not a competition. But I do compare those numbers to prove a point:

It is safe to say that the American vegan population is larger than most people realize. And as relevant as the LGBT community is in our nation and its culture, I feel that comparing the numbers of both groups shows how surprisingly popular that veganism has become in our country.

With the current population of America being 323.1 million (323,100,000), that means 6% is 19,386,000.

Yes, there are now over 19 million vegans in America and 10 million are gay Americans.

That means there are arguably nearly twice as many vegan Americans than there are gay Americans.

No, I am not conflating veganism and homosexuality. I have no interest in implying vegans have struggled in any comparable way that the LGBT community has. I do not feel that way at all.

Instead, this is my point: No one else seems to be noticing or caring about the massive invisible influence that vegans have on America.

Just imagine the millions of Americans over the past few years alone who, like me, have quietly bowed out of the system; the system of depending on meat, dairy, and eggs for nutrition.

It’s a bold move. It’s rebellious. It’s counter-cultural.

Imagine the effect that must have on America’s economy. Imagine how grocery stores have already adapted to this shift. Imagine how restaurant chains must be hurting, as they have lost 6% of their customer base.

Vegans aren’t taking over America. But we are the reason you can easily find cashew milk ice cream in most large grocery stores now.

Yeah, that’s a real thing. Cashew milk ice cream.

Are American Restaurants Still Ignoring Vegans as Potential Customers? As a Millennial Vegan Daddy Blogger, I Say Yes.

Today I was contacted by a brand promoter for Applebee’s, who invited me to participate in their newest campaign, “There’s No Shame in Being a Meat and Potatoes Man.” I would have received a gift card for my family to dine at Applebee’s, as I promoted the following options for the modern Meat-and-Potatoes Dad:

Topped Steaks & Twisted Potatoes Line-Up:

  • 3 Steak Choices:  6 ounce USDA Choice Top Sirloin, 8 ounce USDA Choice Top Sirloin, 12 ounce USDA Choice Top Sirloin
  • 3 Steak Topper Choices:  Tavern Mushroom & Onion, Savory Herb & Butter Sauce, Creamy Horseradish & Gravy Topper
  • 3 Twisted Potato Side Choices (pick 1):  Twisted Tots, Loaded Potato Casserole Back, Loaded Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  • 1 Perfect Side: Fresh Broccoli

Hey, I would have appreciated the free meal for my family and would have had a lot of fun promoting Applebee’s here on my blog. One small problem, though…

I am a vegan and my wife and kids are vegetarians.

It’s not that big of a deal that I don’t eat meat. Not eating meat or animal products (for health reasons, not necessarily for animals’ rights), is becoming somewhat normal. In fact, this past summer Moe’s Southwest Grill actually hired me as a freelance writer to promote how vegan-friendly and vegetarian-friendly their menu is.

Some restaurants, like Moe’s Southwest Grill, are able to perceive a shift has occurred in the eating habits of health conscious Millennials, like myself, and how that has an effect on my family’s spending habits at restaurants.

When you Google “how much of the American population is vegan?”, one of the top answers that shows up is an article from onegreenplanet.org, which claims that there currently 6 million vegans in America!

And that in itself is a 6% increase since 2014, when only 1% of the American population identified as vegan. That’s a significant increase!

Isn’t 6% of the population significant enough that restaurants would at least try to cater to folks like us?
My guess is, apparently not. Apparently there are people who are better than I am at math (and who have done enough market research) and have decided that vegans aren’t worth the trouble to get in their restaurants; even though we currently account for 6% of the American population.
Imagine all that collective money that American restaurants aren’t making from families like mine. Oh well.
With that being said, here’s my casting call to any restaurants out there who would like a Millennial vegan daddy blogger with good SEO on his blog to promote the “vegan-friendly” aspect of their restaurant.
Any takers?

Our Morning of Americana at High Brow Brew (Featuring the 2017 Lexus IS 350)

Last Saturday before trekking 30 minutes to Gentry’s Farm & Pumpkin Patch in Franklin, Tennessee, my wife decided the perfect autumn morning just wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t start it out with a good cup of coffee en route to our destination.

So after choosing our favorite flannel shirts from our closets, we hopped in the Lexus IS 350 and made our way to glorious coffee.

Back in the summer of 2014, Lexus invited me to participate in their “True Grit, Pure Grace” Lexus NX Press Preview in Nashville. While participating in a scavenger hunt for that, part of our route was to get a coffee at a place in Franklin called High Brow Coffee + Tea.

Turns out, High Brow Brew is just across the street from the pumpkin patch. So now, three years later, in a different Lexus, I revisited that coffee shop that perhaps I would not have otherwise being aware of.

Stepping in to this place is like entering a museum of modern day Americana. Obviously, the coffee is every bit as good as you’d expect. To appease my ancient Central American and Spanish roots, I ordered none other than the Spicy Mocha, which consists of dark chocolate ganache and cinnamon cayenne peppers; mixed with an almond and coconut milk blend.

Though she’s used to it by now, my wife thinks it’s crazy that I would willingly drink hot peppers and spices in my coffee in the morning. But for me, nothing else makes sense.

In fact, perhaps I would perceive that drinking a pumpkin spice flavored latte is bit crazy. In any other time of the year, a pumpkin is just a strange looking gourd. But during the best and shortest season of the year, pumpkin spice becomes the official flavor of not just coffee, but pretty much anything these days!

Needless to say, my wife was very pleased to have her pumpkin spice latte; especially from such a quaint little coffee shop.

My son ordered the only artisan version of a Pop-Tart I’ve ever seen. I liked the visual of it so much, I currently use an image of it for my header banner on my Facebook page.

In addition to my family of four, my sister and her family were in town as well. Being from a small town in Alabama, High Brow Brew was something special and exotic. My sister compared us being there to feeling like we were actually in Portland.

(Wow. Even as I’m writing this, I’m somewhat tempted to drive back there and get another Spicy Mocha. I already miss that place.)

After all coffee and artisan Pop-Tarts were consumed, it was time to cross the street and enjoy the rest of our Morning of Americana at the pumpkin patch. But it wouldn’t have been the same if my wife hadn’t suggested we go out for coffee first.

She’s a smart woman.