Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Changing Tastes

I was able to spend some time with a man that took a central approach to food. After growing up in the Midwest and spending most of his adult life feasting on the offerings of the beef belt, Grant Butler, writer for the Oregonian, decided in February of this year to completely change his eating lifestyle. He became a vegan.  

To some people, the word that denotes eating a simple and balanced approach to a meatless world, does to others, invokes images of radical protesters in front of a fur store protesting the treatment of animals or midnight raids on animal compounds in an effort to "free" the occupants.

For most of the 4% of the U.S. population that choose this eating option, they are far from radical.

Being vegan is defined in dietary terms as the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals. Most vegans abstain from eating all forms of meat (to include fish) and the products that animals produce, i.e, eggs, butter, dairy products, to name a few. There are variations of being vegan, to include lacto-vegetarians, those that allow dairy as a part of their diet and  lacto-ova vegetarians, those that allow not only dairy but eggs as well.

Grant started his vegan adventure as he puts it, "It was a journalistic stunt... for a month". He further states;
"The intent was mostly earnest. Portland has a large and quickly growing vegan community. And after seeing documentaries like "Food, Inc." and reading works by Michael Pollan, I'd become increasingly convinced that eating less meat -- perhaps even eliminating it altogether -- was the greenest, most-humane thing I could do."
But as he approached the 30 day mark, a interesting thing happened. He didn't want to return to his prior eating habits. Vegan eating, he discovered, is anything but boring, and the cooking is interesting and multifaceted. And for Grant, it comes with some fringe benefits. Physically, he feels better than he has in years. He has experienced an increase in energy. That extra energy has helped him kick his afternoon  2-3 cup coffee habit.
"At night, I'm sleeping better -- I suspect because my body isn't having to work overtime digesting meat. And I've effortlessly lost all the weight I gained over the holidays, without ever experiencing the sort of hunger pangs that come with traditional dieting."
Grant relates that he lost about 17 pounds the first month. His cholesterol levels are down, which being raised in Kansas City with steak and potatoes and BBQ and having a mom that can cook like Paula Deen has given him a dilemma. His weakness is the holidays, when all of the family gathers around the dinner table. How to veer his mother toward making a vegan dish. He thinks that if he can get at least one dish incorporated on the holiday table, he will have made a substantial inclusion in his vegan journey.

He has received great support through the comments on, as well as social-networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
"I never expected to get tips and encouraging words from readers as far away as Melbourne, Cape Town and Kuala Lumpur".
Some members of his new electronic followers check in with him on a weekly basis.
Grant finds that he spends more time in the produce section of the market and finding new ways to make meals. Trying and buying meat alternative products can be an adventure in it's self. Can we say Tofurky?

Grant shares a favorite recipe he developed for one of his articles.

South of the Border Black Bean Sauté
Published March 23, 2010,

Makes 6 servings
This spicy black bean dish is perfect on its own with a side of quinoa or long-grain brown rice. Or you can use it as an alternative to taco meat, folding spoonfuls of it into warmed corn tortillas.

  •  1 tablespoon light olive oil
  •  1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  •  2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  •  6 cloves garlic, minced
  •  1/2 large jalapeño chile, minced
  •  1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  •  3 large cremini mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
  •  1 Field Roast vegan Mexican chipotle sausage, casing removed and discarded, and sausage crumbled
  •  1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  •  1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  •  1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and heat until it starts to shimmer. Add onions and carrots and sauté until they soften and start to brown, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add garlic and jalapeño and cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes, until garlic starts to brown. Add beans, mushrooms, crumbled sausage and spices. Cook an additional 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently so seasonings are dispersed and flavors mingle.
While being a vegan is not for everyone, there are ways to reduce your dependence on meat and meat products. Eat to live rather than living to eat is a start followed by knowing where your food comes from. When some of today's meals can top 4,000 calories in one sitting, then maybe a change in one's diet provides more of a benefit that should be heeded.

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