Sadly, our dear vegan food writer, Kelly Alissa Burns, had to stop writing her monthly column. We’ll definitely miss her inventive style and unique take on things.
Now we’re looking for someone to step in and fill the void. So if you like writing about vegan foods, especially from the perspective that, done right, it offers one way to seriously lower your carbon footprint, please contact me.
In the meantime, because I’ve had so many readers say they love it that we include veganism on Transition Voice, I’ll fill the temporary void.
Hold the tofu
I’ve flirted with all kinds of eating styles over the years. Mostly I’ve aligned with organic eating in the local slow foods movement. I have a particular passion for grass-fed beef and dairy, and for free range chickens, eggs, and forest-rooted pork. Its been years since I’ve really eaten vegan. And even so, when I do it’s not because I share the view that veganism is inherently more ethical. For me vegan eating is more about freshness, simplicity and local, seasonal offerings.
These days, some of my meals are vegan only because, well, peanut butter on celery is vegan. A handful of nuts and a salad for lunch is vegan. But its never really because I’m trying to be vegan.
But heck, I figured if I was going to write something about veganism, I should at least give it a personal, up-to-date, meaningful try. Big problem was that I didn’t really want to. Our friend Joel Salatin farms right down the way and I have every reason to enjoy the bounty of the seasons in animals and plants by living adjacent to the second biggest agricultural county in Virginia.
At the same time there’s plenty of reports about food crises all over the world. Food prices are skyrocketing here, too. That lead me to wonder anew just what it would mean to be prepared in case there was ever a serious crunch. I don’t mean being prepared by collecting a basement full of canned goods. I mean to be mentally and spiritually prepared for the kinds of shortages peak oil price spikes and supply disruptions might prompt.
To answer that quandary, I felt most inclined to look within. To pray.
Full disclosure: I’m a Christian and my faith is a big part of my life.
But as you can probably tell from most of what I’ve written and published here, I’m not going around proselytizing about religion left and right. I do have a passion for reading theology, and for worship, and yet a pretty good sense of humor about being a Christian in a country where other Christians have been doing some whack-job stuff in the name of Christ over the past couple of decades, if not longer.
I’m also deeply committed to religious diversity and enjoy posting other perspectives in our spirit section.
In spite of it all, my faith is a topic I like to approach publicly from time to time. It’s a key driver in my concern about ecology, justice and lifestyles. And it’s the core element that lead me to discover my life purpose as a communicator about peak oil.
But what does this have to do with veganism?
The fast lane
Today, along with my husband Erik, I’m starting a kind of vegan “fast” (some would not regard any modified diet as an authentic fast where you go completely without).
Fasting has long been a part of my spiritual practices. It’s something I feel called to do and that I enjoy. It offers a time of great focusing. And even though fasting is meant to be a time of prayer and reflection, and even though I love to pray and reflect, most of my fasts haven’t quite gotten to that place where abstinence and prayerful reflection meet. Because I haven’t really had a guided spiritual plan to accompany my past fasts, most of them have ended up focused more on health and less on really connecting with God in a way that is otherwise important to me.
This time we’re doing what’s known in Christian circles as a Daniel Fast. The Biblical origins for this come from scripture in the short book of Daniel.
As one of a group of strong, talented Israeli men, Daniel is captured and pressed into service for King Nebuchadnezzar. The King’s servers lay out huge feasts to buff up the guys, readying them for battle. But Daniel refuses, taking only water and vegetables. After ten days of this diet, Daniel is deemed even more fit, and allowed to go on with his special eating. He eschews meats and all other “choice” foods, eating only simple foods instead.
Daniel’s sense of purpose is regarded by Biblical scholars as a sign of the strength of his faith. He is later imbued with insight and made able to interpret dreams and visions. Even late in life Daniel used fasting to grow closer to God.
Many contemporary Christians have been doing Daniel Fasts in the past few years. In essence, it’s a 21-day vegan diet that also prohibits alcohol, caffeine, herbal teas, sugar, yeast and processed foods. But moreover it calls for using a very regular meditation and prayer plan to keep the fast truly focused on the development of your inner life, and in particular, your relationship to God.
There was a lot I found appealing in the Daniel Fast. And not just that you actually get to eat.
The fast is kind of plug-and-play if you will. In addition to menu guides, people who have helped spur the Daniel fast have made detailed scriptural reading plans along with daily issues to reflect on that fasters can use to help support their fasts. This made it easier for me to feel that this time my fast will be different, more focused, more what I want it to be in a holistic sense.
For me this wasn’t a short cut or less commitment. It just meant I didn’t have to invent the wheel. I invent enough wheels. Sometimes I just want to ride.
Maybe I am a cornucopian
So over the next few weeks I’ll share some of my adventures in temporary veganism. (Or maybe get Erik to do so as well. The guy is a pork-lover extraordinaire. He also never met a beef jerky he didn’t like. We’ll see how he fares, especially without his well earned end-of-the-day home brew.)
Whatever the case, it seems only fitting to actually try veganism again on a regular basis if I’m going to write about it and this really feels like a good way to go about it.
After all, if I’m going to suggest that people be prepared for potential disaster, it also seems fitting to try a few conscious drills on getting by with less while maintaining a willing attitude.
As for the food, the fast already doesn’t seem so bad.
We sat down to a platter of flat bread, carrots, tomatoes, cashews, figs, and olives today for our first meal. That lunch reminded me why I love the title of Sharon Astyk’s book Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front. In America we’re surrounded with so many food options, some of them clearly insane, often served in portions that would have fed a small family in the past, and we falsely conclude that anything less is privation.
Yet, with the right mental frame, there is so much more to discover in the simplest foods.
Though there is poverty in America, and hunger, the vast majority of us don’t know from privation. Even when I’m cutting out the meats, I still have olives. No cookies? That’s okay, there’s figs. Dolmas and flatbread go a long way to making up for a BLT. Not that this is how it will always be given how far olives generally have to travel to get to the local stores. But baby steps are often a good way to approach possible change.
And the reflection is good, too. This morning simply making time to sit for 15 minutes meditating in the sun bath through the window cleared my mind and readied me for the day. Talking the time with Erik to share the scriptural passages added back into our lives a texture we’ve often enjoyed but too readily set aside when there’s so much going on.
There’s a lot to be said for the art of the pause.
I don’t claim to be doing anything special. Just hoping I can learn something new. Just hoping for a fresh perspective. A fresh food perspective, too.
— Lindsay Curren