February: Gentle Eating Rules for the Month

Ecological Footprint: 1.9 earths (down from 2.3 in January), 19.3 hectares (down from 20.3 in January) 

I eat animals. 

I LOVE sushi, a good charcuterie board, and a breakfast platter adorned in animal products. 

I have also proclaimed several times in my life that if I were to ever discover I was lactose intolerant, there would be no need for me to go on. If I can’t partake in a hearty cheese board, what is life really about anyway? 

Here’s the kicker: I really love animals. I can not even watch a movie where trouble or harm befalls an animal. I can watch a movie where the entire human cast dies, and not miss a beat, but a dog gets injured and I’m a mess for days. Case in point: the new Dumbo movie is coming out… I sobbed… at the TRAILER! One glance at Dumbo dressed like a clown and being mocked by the circus crowd… Ugh, I can’t even talk about it anymore. 

I have been finding myself presented with this idea a lot lately: how in the world can I say I am an animal lover and also consume them? To take it a step further, I would never eat a dog EVER, why do I think a pig is any different? Or a cow? Or even a chicken or a fish (gasp)? 

Family Values

Much of the way I eat is reflective of how I grew up. Meat, cheese, butter, and milk were staples; I’m Italian for crying out loud, isn’t that a birth right? My husband makes the same retort; he is Ugandan, therefore it is his right to eat chicken and pork. But just because this is the way our parent’s eat, and our communities eat, does that mean it’s right? 

The New Canadian Food Guide

Canada recently rolled out the new Canadian food guide and there are significant changes from what I remember as a child. The biggest changes being the removal of emphasis on meat and dairy, and the focus on eating a plant based diet.

dims

Apart from the animal cruelty involved in the meat and dairy industry (which is indeed a big deal), there is also the matter of the damage these industries have on our environment. Here are just a few statistics from http://www.onegreenplanet.org:

  • Raising animals for food (including land used for grazing and land used to grow feed crops) now uses a staggering 30% of the Earth’s land mass. (Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options, a 2006 report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization)
  • The massive amounts of excrement produced by livestock farms emit toxic gases such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia into the air. Roughly 80% of ammonia emissions in the U.S. come from animal waste (The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).
  • Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of the total release of greenhouse gases world-wide (this is more than all the cars, trucks, planes, and ships in the world combined)  (Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options, a 2006 report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization)

For the past few months I had been trying to transition my diet to “plant-based.” I was doing pretty well until December… and then I fell off the wagon… hard. Like, sausage and egg McMuffin hard. Now for the month of February I am going the cold-turkey route (so to speak that is) and am going to live that sweet Vegan life. My hope is that it sticks for good. 

My rules for February are few but mighty! 

  1. Eat zero animal products (I am not including yeast, or “bee” products)

Education: 

  1. Learn from a real life Vegan
  2. Watch: Food Inc., What the Health… Any other suggestions? 

How to Keep your Husband Alive

When I got married to my husband, Giddy, I had a lot of people volunteer relationship advice:

  • Never let the sun go down on your anger
  • Men want sex all the time; prepare yourself
  • Your first year of marriage is going to be hard 
  • Never say “you always,” or “you never” 

And then, of course, I got a ton of unsolicited advice about when, where, and how we were to have children. 

But of all the advice I received, no one warned me of what would be the greatest challenge my marriage would face. 

The dreaded question: “What are we going to eat for dinner?” 

I knew before we got married that Giddy had a very specific list of foods he would not eat:

  • Shepherd’s Pie 
  • Lasagna 
  • Sandwiches 
  • Soup
  • Pirogies
  • Macaroni and Cheese

In my mind that left me with: 

  • Chicken
  • Rice 
  • Potatoes
  • Left-over chicken, rice, and potatoes 

At first I thought he had merely had bad experiences with these foods but surely he would like my versions of them. 

Giddy would sit quietly at the dinner table looking at me as I devoured my handcrafted sandwich. 

Me: “What?”

G: “I don’t eat sandwiches”

Me: “But you haven’t tried THIS sandwich” 

G: “I don’t eat sandwiches” 

Me: “Why don’t you just try it before you decide it’s not for you.” 

G: “I have tried sandwiches. I don’t like them. I don’t need to try yours.” 

This would throw me into a fit of rage. 

Then I decided I would try to be tricky and rename the foods on the fated list in an attempt to broaden his pallet. This had a 50% success rate.

G: “What is this?”

Me: “Baked Pasta”

G: “It looks a lot like Lasagna.”

Me: “No, it’s baked pasta.” 

*Insert Gideon giving me a dubious look* 

My adventures and misfortunes of attempting to find foods my husband would eat only began to expand his “do not serve list”:

  • Lettuce Wraps
  • Anything with a cream sauce
  • Tacos 
  • Anything that combines chocolate and peanut butter (fine on their own but combined? Atrocious!)

I floated between being infuriated that Giddy wasn’t eating all of my cooking creations, to being panicked that I was going to unintentionally starve my husband within the first year of marriage. I could hear the voices of my critics/advice givers now, “The man could survive living in Uganda during the civil war, but his wife’s food killed him.” 

Well, isn’t that interesting

Almost immediately upon Gideon’s arrival to Canada, we were invited over to friend’s houses for dinner so they could meet Giddy. Friend’s would ask, “Does Giddy have any allergies?” The truthful answer is no, no he doesn’t have anything that physically keeps him from eating certain foods. “But should I mention Giddy’s list of aversions?” I’d think to myself. No, I determined that would be rude, and I could risk the purchase of McDonald’s on the way home to keep Giddy’s BMI up and keep down my wife-guilt about starving my husband. 

But then something interesting would happen. 

He would go to other people’s houses and eat every, dang, thing. He would even make proclamations across the dinner table like, “Ashley, why haven’t you ever made this for me?” 

OH, you mean this cream-based soup and grilled cheese sandwiches? Because it causes us to doubt the validity of our marriage, that’s why. 

And this was not a show for my friends, he would genuinely request these recipes after the fact. 

99 Problems But Food Ain’t One

I am happy to report after four years of marriage, our food saga has (mostly) ended. My husband is not malnourished, and I do not have an anxiety disorder over what to pack for lunch. I have at least 10 recipes I can throw into rotation (though many of those recipes are just chicken and rice cooked in a variety of ways) and Giddy even cooks a great deal of our meals. Self-high-five! 

Marriage Advice

Four years of marriage does not feel like enough time to become one of those people who hands out relationship advice. With that said, this was the only piece of advice I didn’t get when Giddy and I got married, and it would have been really helpful. 

So get ready for some unsolicited marriage advice:

Spend your pre-wedding date nights strolling the isles of Chapters Indigo in the cookbook isle, and scrolling through Pinterest. Have your significant other identify recipes that look appetizing; use force if necessary. 

If at any point your significant other mentions their mother, abort all plans, register for gift cards to major food chains, and call it a day. 

Now go in peace.