How To Have A Vegan, Vegetarian, Kosher Or Plant-Based Christmas

How To Have A Vegan/Vegetarian/Kosher/Plant-Based Christmas

Though I’ve been a vegan for more than a year and a half, a vegetarian for 3 years, and kosher (no pork, shellfish, etc.) for 6 years, I haven’t always held non-meat eaters in the highest regard.

Back before my gradual conversion that began in 2008, I used to mock the concept of vegans and vegetarians. I had them stereotyped pretty easily in my mind.

How To Have A Vegan/Vegetarian/Kosher/Plant-Based Christmas

Then, as my eyes began being opened by watching Netflix documentaries like Supersize Me, Food Inc., Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, and Hungry For A Change, I began understanding the attraction towards an “I eat nothing from an animal diet”,  but I chose not to participate because I wasn’t ready to make such a lifestyle change.

Supersize Me, Food Inc., Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, and Hungry For A Change

If you ask me, becoming a vegan or vegetarian requires you to live an alternative lifestyle.

I would know, since I live the vegan life 100% every day, no exceptions.

Supersize Me, Food Inc., Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, and Hungry For A Change

By the way, part of the lure to veganism is that it means your daily cholesterol intake is less than 1%; or in other words, 0%. While “vegan food” (veggies, fruit, grains, beans, nuts, & seeds) do contain some cholesterol, it’s never enough to register high enough to count as 1% on the food label.

So I thought it would be interesting to produce a collection of picture collages featuring what our family ate during the 5 day Christmas vacation we just came off of.

Supersize Me, Food Inc., Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, and Hungry For A Change

I must admit, I have a major advantage in my vegan lifestyle: My wife is an extremely good cook, and she loves planning and cooking our family’s meals. (That’s her in the picture above in the blue and back shirt.)

Supersize Me, Food Inc., Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, and Hungry For A Change

In the way I am passionate about blogging, she is passionate about making good food for our family.

One of her secrets is a website called Oh She Glows. The majority of the food you see today is derived from her plant-based recipe website.

Supersize Me, Food Inc., Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, and Hungry For A Change

Over Christmas vacation, we dined on sweet potato chili, spinach pasta with “vegan meatballs” (made with oats), vegan veggie pizza (vegetarian for those who eat cheese), vegan nachos (made with potatoes and avocado), and cashew sauce pasta, to name a few meals.

Supersize Me, Food Inc., Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, and Hungry For A Change

And thanks to my mom and my sister, we definitely weren’t short on vegan desserts.

Supersize Me, Food Inc., Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, and Hungry For A Change

How To Have A Vegan/Vegetarian/Kosher/Plant-Based Christmas

My mom had a table full of vegan cookies and cakes, while my sister made vegan chocolate cupcakes, per my son’s request.

Supersize Me, Food Inc., Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, and Hungry For A Change

The biggest challenge was when we drove an hour to a family reunion near Chattanooga, Tennessee.

We wanted to be able to spend time with that side of the family, but we were unable to eat any of the food there; and I especially didn’t want to be a hardship to them because of our dietary limitations.

Supersize Me, Food Inc., Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, and Hungry For A Change

So here’s what we did: We packed the Lexus LX (the vehicle I was reviewing last week) with Larabars and water; which kept us full through the visit. We arrived 30 minutes early, to maximize on spending quality family time, before the food part started.

Supersize Me, Food Inc., Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, and Hungry For A Change

In total, we were there for a solid hour and a half, before they started serving their food, which is the point at which we left.

Supersize Me, Food Inc., Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, and Hungry For A Change

Fortunately, the Whole Foods was only 8 miles away; that’s where we had our lunch that day.

Supersize Me, Food Inc., Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, and Hungry For A Change

I admit I was a bit skeptical going into this holiday season how as I vegan, I would be able to participate in a feast of Biblical proportions. But my family made it happen.

Supersize Me, Food Inc., Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, and Hungry For A Change

Honestly, I don’t feel like I missed out on anything food-wise this holiday season. I ate very well and had a great time; just without the cholesterol.

For more on this kind of stuff, just click on tab on the upper left-hand side of the page: My Vegan Life.

And of course, feel free to ask questions in the comments below!

Supersize Me, Food Inc., Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, and Hungry For A Change

dad from day one: Southeast Tornadoes April 2011, Part 2

Week 23 (5 months).

Our power went out Wednesday at 5:30 PM, an hour before the Wheel of Fortune episode I had been promoting would have aired.  Thursday afternoon after I posted from a Starbucks in Rome, Georgia, we drove home and collected all of the salvageable food from our fridge and freezer.  My parents, along with my sister and her husband, did the same thing.  My dad used his gas grill to cook Thursday’s dinner and Friday’s breakfast.  I never thought of cooking spaghetti, peach pie, and scrambled eggs on a grill, but it all turned out very well.

We didn’t go hungry, but I will admit, Baby Jack didn’t sleep very well through Thursday night- nor did his mom or me.  He woke up pretty much once an hour, and each time he did, the only light we had to rely on were our cell phones, which were already going dead.  Not really knowing when the power would come back on, my mom had me book a suite in Rome, GA for the 7 of us to stay in Friday and Saturday night.  And that brings me to now:

Jack's bath time in the hotel sink, last night.

It’s 6:05 Saturday morning and I’m writing this in the dark- not because there is no power here in this Country Inn & Suites, but because Jack, Jill, and I are sleeping in the main room on the fold-out couch and I don’t want to wake Jack. Here at the hotel, he’s had his first decent night of sleep since the tragic tornadoes causing the power going out.

As I logged on to Facebook a few minutes ago, I saw that my friends on Lookout Mountain where I live (half of Fort Payne is on the mountain; half is not) now have power again.  Granted, that doesn’t mean any of my family will be able to return to work, since most businesses are located down in the valley.  But at least we can return tomorrow to our empowered houses again.  Though now there is no food in our refrigerators and I can imagine how it will be the first several days as the grocery stores began getting in new shipments of food.

But thank God the power is returning quicker than we expected and again, that we are even alive and still have houses to go home to.  Last night in the hotel lobby I talked to a man and his wife who are staying here because they lost their home in the tornado.  For those who follow my “dad from day one” series, imagine what must be going through my head concerning our move to Alabama back in December.  We have now survived four of unemployment with a newborn, then not even a month into my new job, we are spared from the deadliest tornado since 1974, and possibly since 1932.  According to Wikipedia, over 350 people were killed by the tornadoes; 250 of those being in Alabama alone.

You can imagine some questioning on my end, as far as our decision to move from Nashville to Alabama.

This picture was taken in complete darkness, other than the candle on the table. (I used the flash on my camera.)

However, following what we perceive as God’s will doesn’t mean we are taking the easy road, leading us to an extravagant life of riches.  In our case, our current test of faith has everything to do with the willingness to resettle our lives in Alabama. No decision we can make in our lives can guarantee things will get either better or worse.  It’s a lot like Wheel of Fortune.

Which, speaking of, I just want to again invite anyone who missed Diana (who gave me the idea for the name of my upcoming spin-off) on Wheel of Fortune the night of the tornadoes, to watch the episode now.

CHICAGO MOM SPINS AND WINS ON
“WHEEL OF FORTUNE”

Diana Taub of Chicago, IL, will be a contestant on “Wheel of Fortune” on Wednesday, April 27, 2011. Diana is a huge fan of “Wheel” and grew up watching the show. A former elementary school teacher, she used to play a version of the game in the classroom with her students. Diana currently stays at home with her eight month old son, Jake. In her free time she enjoys baking, photography and crocheting. She hopes to use her winnings to turn her favorite hobby of photography into a business. Diana also wants to take her mother on a trip to Scotland. She tried out to be a contestant at a Wheelmobile event.

Additional Information: Diana won $7,050 in cash and prizes, including a trip to Dublin, Ireland.

The Return of the Small Town: Boom Days 2010 in Fort Payne, AL

A glimpse at the culture of Fort Payne, Alabama.

It can be common for people who grow up in a small town to want to move away as soon they graduate high school, as was the case for myself.  Since I graduated from Fort Payne High School in 1999, I have lived in Florida, Virginia, and for the last five years, Nashville.  That means for over 11 years, I have pretty much lived away from the hometown that molded me.  Now, I realize that a lot of this could be that I am married now and have a baby on the way, but I must admit, my old hometown suddenly seems really cool again.  Maybe it’s because the pace of my life is slowing down, compared to my single days and even my married-with-no-children days, and is now starting to match the speed of a small town and no longer a big city.  But I still think something special is happening in this small town, apart from my interference or commentary.

This past weekend my wife and I spent the weekend there with my parents, sister, and her husband.  My sister Dana had mentioned to me that there was this thing going on called “Boom Days” on Saturday in the city park.  She heard something about free pancakes and people dressed up like “old times”.  That’s all she knew.  I was way too curious about this possible Lord of the Rings picnic not to go.  So I went.

Turns out the pancakes weren’t free, but instead they were part of an all-you-can-eat-pancake-buffet for just five bucks, and the people dressed up were Civil War reenacters, not from Medieval times.  There was also a llama, a clown, a car show, a guy on a unicycle, horses, cool crafts exhibits, three concert stages, (four if you count two guys playing bluegrass on the sidewalk), a BBQ competition, and even a dog show.  I had originally only planned to check it out for a little while to say that I went, then leave.  But instead, I was there for over two and half hours and left with a slight sunburn.

In other words, I had a whole lot of fun.  It was a reunion of sorts: I caught up with some childhood classmates like Alex Igou and Tiffanie Baker Vincent, as well as our legendary elementary school librarian, Mrs. Jane Mauldin.  Boom Days 2010 was truly the kind of city wide event that had something for everybody.  I predict that like the days of June Jam (1982-1997), Boom Days will similarly help the culture of the town to resurface.

It wasn’t really until I was in college and started bringing friends home for the weekend that I realized that Fort Payne supersedes commercialized stereotypes of what a small Southern town is supposed to be like.  Fort Payne is not simply Country music, cows, and tractors- which are all good and necessary.  Being that when I was growing up I was constantly in plays and musicals, most of them written and directed by native Eddie McPherson, I was always aware of Fort Payne’s love of the arts.  It has to mean something when there are two theatres in downtown, on the same street, a block away from each other.

Fort Payne is also set apart from many towns in that half of the city is on a mountain and the other half is in a valley.  I grew up on the mountain side, sandwiched in between Little River Canyon, Little River Falls, De Soto State Park, and the artistic town of Mentone.  So while the valley half is where I learned to be social and outgoing, at school and at church, it was the outdoorsy mountain half that catered to my introspective and artistic side.  Simply put, Fort Payne is the perfect environment to yield well-rounded and level-headed people.

It takes a village.  Mine was Fort Payne.

All of the scenic route snapshots  used in this post were taken during Boom Days 2010, courtesy of Nick Shell.


Country Music vs. Rap Music

There are two kinds of people in the world- those who are more prone to listen to Country, and those who are more prone to listen to Rap.  Either way, I do think that those who equally like them both are kinda weird.

My hometown is Fort Payne, Alabama.  When I was born, the town wasn’t even on the map yet.  But Fort Payne had a secret weapon that would shortly change that for us- a country music band that by 1983 would be a force to be reckoned with: Alabama.  The lead singer’s son was in my grade (192 graduating seniors for the entire city) and Randy Owen and the other band members would often drop off their kids at school themselves.  And even today, my parents’ house is only a few miles away from a few of the band member’s houses.

Needless to say, I grew up listening to Country music.  Not only Country music though- it was just something that got thrown in the mix with everything else.  Sort of like the way country music is perceived in Australia and other foreign countries that have a large country music fan base.  It’s not so much a mindset that Country music is its own entity- instead, it’s just American music that happens to be recorded in Nashville and Southern-flavored.

The Closer You Get (1983)

And that’s what Country music is to me.  Just like any other genre of music- some of it’s really good, some of it’s okay, and some of it is pretty horrible.  Some artists are classier, like George Strait and Lady Antebellum; while there are also the self-proclaimed rednecks like Hank Williams, Jr. and Toby Keith.  And just for the record, I like certain Country artists from each level of the spectrum.  I’m not too sophisticated for “Let’s Talk about Me”, assuming the song is meant to be funny.

Something I have observed is that when you ask a person what kind of music they like, you’ll generally get an answer like this: “Oh, I like pretty much all of it- classic rock, oldies, Motown, hard rock, alternative.  I even like a little (Country or Rap), but definitely not (Country or Rap).”

The people who like a little Country music tend to be the ones that will not listen to Rap; the ones that tend to like a little Rap music typically won’t listen to Country.  In other words, both Country and Rap music are polar opposites of each other, but the thing they both have in common is that they are both on the edges of mainstream.  Of course, there are people out there who pretty much only listen to Country, or only listen to Rap, but I’m talking about everyone else- people like me.

Downtown Fort Payne

Of the two examples I mentioned, I personally am the kind of person that will say, “I even like a little Country, but definitely not Rap.”  It’s not that I don’t think Rap sounds good or that rappers don’t have real talent because they typically don’t play instruments.  It doesn’t even bother me that Rap songs often use the choruses of hits from the ‘80’s, instead of coming up with their own.

For me personally, the lyrical content of Rap music is largely irrelevant to my life.  It comes across angry, violent, degrading to women, and obsessed with material possessions (I’m overaware I’m not the first person to say that).  But for all the millions of Rap fans in the world, there are obviously themes that ring true and connect to their listeners.  Rap music is relevant to millions; I’ve just not one of them.

South End of Fort Payne

While I didn’t grow up on a farm and wear Wranglers, there is much I can relate to in Country music, like its common themes of love, family, God, and simple living.  And as content as I am to listen to John Mayer and Guster and Phil Collins on a 4 hour road trip, it’s always a given that I have to slip in a Brad Paisley album into the mix.  Country music provides a lyrical grounding for me in the midst of rock songs which I love, but are better left vague in their meaning (like pretty much anything by Stone Temple Pilots or Smashing Pumpkins).

So there’s my biased opinion.  Which is it for you, though?  Which musical extreme do you identify with most- Country or Rap?  (You can either answer quietly to yourself or in the form of a passionate and/or angry comment below.) I think it’s a pretty interesting and revealing question to ask someone.  Like simply asking a person “Batman or Superman?