Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving with the Turkeys

Last weekend the weather was perfect-indeed it was unseasonably warm, with a bright sunny sky and crisp clean air. We arrived at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary just after noontime. After signing in and giving our financial donation, we ambled over to the rows of white-clothed tables to place down my Tupperware container of rice and cranberry salad. There were already all sorts of foods set out on the table--everything from mashed squash to black bean and sweet potato chili. Clearly today was going to be as always a glorious vegan feast. But first we had to pay our respect to one of Poplar Spring's more famous residents--its sole white turkey,Opal.

She was standing by the little house next to a food and water dish. Amazingly everyone else was just strolling past, not noticing her. I went over to say hello and stroke her soft white feathers. She is 6 years old now, very old by any standard since turkeys are usually slaughtered around 4 months old. My heart does a jig every time I see her. She is so sweet and friendly, when as a turkey once destined for slaughter she has every reason not to be.

I for one give thanks this year and every year for Terry and Dave and the volunteers at Poplar Springs not only for taking in animals like Opal but also for letting us come together at the sanctuary every year. Hundreds of strangers coming together for a cruel-free feast--what a true joy. Let's be honest--where else can you have a peaceful, argument-free Thanksgiving? Here you won't find that obnoxious uncle who overindulges in the beer or the aunt who insists on arguing that being vegan is so dangerous to one's health. At Poplar Spring, we all unite in peace for love of all animals, to truly give thanks for them and for each other in a life-affirming way. Isn't that what Thanksgiving is supposed to be about?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanks but no thanks

The above cartoon is one of Dan Piraro's best, in my humble opinion. It begs the question, how does eating a tortured animal express in any way our personal gratitude for the blessings we have received in life? I still marvel that until I turned 40 and vegetarian, I had participated so willingly and happily in this barbaric tradition. Why did I not ever put two and two together?

Today of course was the day of one of America's more disturbing traditions, which is the Presidential pardoning of two turkeys out of the millions that will be slaughtered to satisfy greedy human appetites. Watching President Obama usher out his daughters to witness this act of mercy was a bit irritating to me and yet a part of me hoped, part of me so desparately wanted to see either Sasha or Malia say to their father, "But Dad, why can't you spare ALL the turkeys in the country?" Wouldn't that have been something? I suppose we must wait for Dennis Kucinich to become President for such a magnanimous gesture to be made.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Woody and Cinnamon - Home Sweet Home

The new digs for Woodstock and Cinnamon

Cinnamon enjoying her new room with a view

Woodstock enjoying his bunny jacuzzi (also known as a Homedic Foot Spa, until now, collecting dust in a closet.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

As the Rabbit World Turns

So we had to move my basement bunnies to the third floor of our townhouse last weekend. You would think such a thing to be simple, right? You would perhaps if you haven't been living with rabbits for eight years.

Here's the thing- rabbits are very territorial. And the hard truth is, we only had one other room to use for Woodstock and Cinnamon's new home. It happened to be a place that my bunnies Ghirardelli and Willow occasionally used as a playroom. I emphasize the word occasionally. Ghiri and Willow live in a luxurious six foot tall cube cage we lovingly call Thump Tower. It stands in what little space we have left in our bedroom. They get to play on our bed and bounce on our backs in the morning to waken us at godawful early hours. So please don't think they are living the life of Jane Eyre.

Still, they are really pissed off about their new neighbors. Every night Ghirardelli comes down the hall to glare at the new occupants. At the moment Woody seems to care less--he has more important things to concern himself with, namely how to connive to get more papaya treats out of Mommy. At first Cinnamon seemed spooked by the swarthy black rabbit who comes to thump in protest before the gate every night. But tonight I caught her hopping after him as Ghirardelli turned to head back to Thump Tower. Willow has also stopped by to look disdainfully with her one eye at Woody and Cinnamon. She is not at all amused, but that is almost a perpetual state with her.

So what now? Will Cinnamon start flirting in earnest with Ghirardelli even as she strives to care for her disabled mate Woodstock? Will Ghiri and Willow ever except their new neighbors? Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Who says vegans can't be fat?

Let's debunk a stereotype today. Not all vegans are pencil-thin; they do not subsist only on beans and rice; they are not all card-carrying progressives( that in itself is a topic for another day.) You want proof? Just look at me.

The fact is, I love food and I eat too much of it. That is the bottom line. That and the cold hard fact that I don't exercise enough. However or whatever you eat, it all boils down to intake and output. Calories consumed verses calories burned. Not hard to understand and yet perceptions of what vegans are supposed to look like still dictate the odd looks I get on the occasions when I reveal I am a vegan. The surprise in the eyes is brief but I always catch it.

Once when we were discussing this at work, my boss asked me why Alec Baldwin is so fat if he is vegan. At least he had the sense not to ask why I was overweight (incidentally I do not believe Mr. Baldwin is vegan; I read an interview with him a few months ago during which he was eating salmon.) Is it really so hard to grasp that if you eat an entire Tofurkey pizza in one sitting you will gain weight just as if you had eaten at Papa John's?

In 2010 vegans have a smorgasbord of goodies to indulge in. As a new vegan, I reveled in all the choices I have out there, from local places such as Sticky Fingers bakery, to mail order shops like Pangea or Vegan Essentials. Okay, I confess to going a little crazy, ordering and sampling everything under the sun. Have you tried pumpkin marshmallows from Sweet and Sara? If you have, then you see how easy it is to go a little sweet crazy.

So moderation is long overdue in my case. Also I need to look at food as a necessary means of existence, not just a means of consolation during times of high stress and/or depression. This is sadly a common perception of food for vegans and non-vegans alike. How we use food is as important as how we acquire and process it. Even vegan food can be used as a weapon of self-destruction. Sooner or later I need to say no to Emily's Desserts and resist the urge to order chocolatey Little Devils from Sticky Fingers. I like defying stereotypes as much as the next person, but not at the risk of my health. In the long run, what omnivore is going to take a pudgy vegan seriously anyway? THAT is really the question to be considered.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Power of Guilt

I have a confession to make. I am going through some dark days right now, and I did not order the bowl of strawberries for dessert the other day at Cheesecake Factory. I dove into my self-pity pool and opted for the Adam's Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple cheesecake. This even as I plucked from my purse a packet of Soy To Go creamer for my coffee. WTF is that about?? Really, should a marital crisis of epic proportions be an excuse to dive off the vegan wagon? Couldn't I have indulged my fears and sorrows in the berries? Or even a coffee with some whiskey in it? ANYTHING but a dessert that required heaven knows how many eggs, milk, etc. Mea culpa to all the cows and chickens to whose suffering I contributed so much at this meal. I feel terrible about this lapse. We are not talking about an alcoholic slipping up and having a drink. Going vegan was a conscious MORAL choice for me--it really had nothing to do with health or a need to battle an addiction. Nevertheless, I too easily set those values aside to feed this void in my soul when in fact all I did was increase the void. Shame on me! Is there anyone out there who can relate to me? Can I find redemption somewhere? Can someone tell me WHY THE HELL DID I DO THIS??

Friday, November 5, 2010

A November Observation

I hate going to the supermarket this time of year. Standing in line, I face magazine after magazine with covers boasting glossy photos of turkey carcasses and perky headlines about perfect Thanksgiving turkeys and dinners. Celebrating our blessings with a corpse as the main dish? I don't think so. Ironically enough, I believe Thanksgiving is the easist meal to prepare as a vegan. (No, it doesn't have to be Tofurkey or nothing!) For me, it has always been about the side dishes anyway, how creative AND how ambitious you can be. Heck, I can fill up just on cranberry sauce alone. Stuff a squash, not a bird, this year--there are SO many great recipes for preparing a good squash and the presentation is MUCH lovelier than a dead bird. And the real bonus? You won't get that awful bloatedness you feel when you get up from the table and lurch toward the sofa for that post-dinner nap.