I want to make a promise to you before you read, because I know this vegan/ environment stuff is scary stuff. I know because I was too scared to care or to pay attention myself. I was too scared, until I realized a couple important things. The first?
It's kind of crazy that I have to preface ANY argument of any kind by using the "science matters" card, but, sadly, I think we can all at least agree that in this day and age I do.
So there it is: the concept we all need to embrace this Easter as fervently as we do chocolate. Mmmm chocolate. (I promised not to scare you. Otherwise, this would be the time to bring up the upcoming planet-wide chocolate shortage. However, that is way too scary for even me to contemplate. So let's get back to less scary things like meat and water and science.)
100% absolutely, US-grade guaranteed, the world needs us to pay attention, simply because... science. Because the polar icecaps are melting, which means ocean levels are rising.
Because we're depleting our underground aquifers faster than we're replenishing them. Because, most of all, climate change is a thing. A very real, very scary thing.
But we're getting too scary again. I promised not to scare you, and I KEEP MY PROMISES.
So here's the worst part, and guess what? It's not scary. I promise. The worst most Orwellian craziest part of all is how it's so easy for us to help, to make a difference, to be the change.
Easy AND fun AND not scary at all.
For instance, how hard is it to not eat meat as often? That's it. Eat less meat. In another recent post, I pointed out that we could all save the world by-- and this is ABSOLUTELY SCIENCE-Y THE WHOLE TRUTH-- not doing laundry as often. That's it. So this not eating meat as often thing is kind of like that not doing laundry as often thing. SO easy.
And here is the best, easiest reason why:
For every pound of beef you don't eat, you save a whopping 2,500-5,000 gallons of water.
Don't worry about going vegan if the word or concept or lifestyle freaks you out. Just east less meat. Eat more fruit & veggies. As a non-chef myself, I can promise you, non-meat recipes are SO much easier to make and clean up than the smelly, bloody, meaty kinds.
I could go into other benefits: weight loss, clearer skin, more energy, a brighter outlook. But I shouldn't even have to play those cards, because the only card that matters is the one I already played: science matters. The Earth matters. And yes, you are part of the Earth.
You matter, too.
Now here's the two easy recipes I promised! The first recipe I like to call...
Recipe 1: A Green Smoothie That Doesn't Taste Like a Disgusting Bitter Salad Because Mmmm Peanut Butter
I found this original recipe in a magazine and decided to try it. You can really tinker with this one and end up with dozens of delicious variations. The one I ended up most emulating is the one below (with pics above).
1 bag of frozen berries (I like the blue kind, because the final mixture ends up purple, and I can tell my toddler it's Twilight Sparkle Ice Cream and get her to consume kale, guys. KALE!)
2 tablespoons of almond butter (peanut butter works equally well and is highly, HIGHLY motivating towards you actually making this thing. Do not skimp on this part!)
2 handfuls of fresh kale leaves
1 handful of sunflower seeds (optional: I just like the extra crunchiness and texture)
1 pouch of applesauce (optional)
1 small container of coconut water
Mix on high until well blended. Add a handful of ice cubes if desired and mix again until smooth. So filling. So delicious. So healthy. Enjoy!
Recipe 2: Mémé's Soup or 4 Ingredient Soup
(Or 1 onion if leeks are unavailable.)
(You can use plain ole Russet. I make this soup so often, I've started playing with potato varieties.)
(You can use less or more depending on how big you want the soup to be or how much you like cabbage.)
(I add more, because I like the extra sweetness.)
*1 sweet potato
(Optional-- it makes the soup sweeter, and I like that. Also, sweet potatoes are wicked good for you. Not part of the traditional recipe, though.)
Simply chop these veggies up in smallish chunks. Throw them in a pot and top them with filtered water. Let it boil until soft. After you mix it with whatever you have at hand, you can season the soup with salt and pepper to taste.
I used to add milk and cheese, because I was too lazy to mix the veggies up before I discovered the Cuisinart Smart Stick. The blend is tasty enough to stand on its own without the need of adding any other ingredients, barring salt. It takes 30 seconds to stick the hand-held blender in your pot of boiled veggies and mix up this surprisingly delicious mélange of simple vegetables. It usually makes enough to last me 3 or 4 days. I've also recently started adding dried red pepper flakes. My husband adds sherry vinegar and thyme to his.
This soup doesn't need much to be delicious! It's simple peasant food and what many French, non-vegan people eat every single evening for their supper along with a fresh baguette. I remember once my sister and I got in the breadbox and devoured the baguette my grandmother had fetched fresh from the baker that morning. A daily chore. I will NEVER forget the utter horror and incomprehension on my poor grandfather's face when he was informed he would have no baguette with his dinner. I actually enjoy this soup on its own or with crackers, but some nice hot rolls-- or a baguette!-- help make this soup feel fancier!
I was so excited to hear that the world's first mall for recycled goods has opened in Eskiltuna, Sweden:
The facilities contain both a recycling center and a shopping mall. Customers can donate the items that they no longer need, then shop for something new – all in one stop.
Read more about it here.
Honestly, at first, I felt jealous of this little Swedish town, and then, upon reflection, I realized how many sustainable options there were in my own neighborhood. Everything from an upscale boutique for sustainable fashion like Roots, Inc. to secondhand stores and consignment shops like Greene Street Consignment. Up and down the Hill, you can find co-ops with local produce and farm fresh options like Weaver's Way and artist-owned Artist Supply and Crafts. Green Design, one of the number one green design stores in Philadelphia, is on Germantown Ave, right there beside block after block of antique shops and rare book sellers. Not to mention, from time to time, the Clover Market, a flea market for upcycled goods, comes to town.
And yet, I rarely see people in these stores. The Clover Market, which took place this past Sunday, was packed from white shining stall to white shining stall, but on a day to day basis, when I walk up and down Germantown Ave pushing with my baby in his stroller, the street has a haunted feeling like it's a set for The Sixth Sense as much as anything else. We need to support these kind of stores, not just in theory but with our dollars and our hearts. Next time you need a basket, don't make a Target run, try stopping into Garden Gate Antiques, so called for the charming, postage stamp-sized garden at the back of the shop.
Eskiltuna took it to a new level, granted. Not only can you go there for upcycled goods but you can bring your own gently used items to drop off as well.
Every town needs an Eskiltuna, but I bet every town has something pretty close already. Check it out! Explore! Have fun! And maybe help save the Earth, too, in the meantime.
Yoga wisdom can sometimes come across as a little fortune-cookie-ish to the outside observer.
"Breathe out through the top of your head," a yoga teacher might command you in class.
Um, what now?
You can go with it or you can let your intellectual mind take over and scoff. I find going with it easy when I'm in great shape, but considerably harder, when, like I am now, I'm struggling to get back into the flow of things after a long, stressful winter. For the past week, I've been taking advantage of an unlimited pass at Rebel Yoga in Chestnut Hill, and both loving and loathing the unusual amount of practice. Usually, it's a pleasure to test my own gains in strength and flexibility. But when you're experiencing the opposite-- how you've weakened and softened-- it's hard not to get into your head in the afore-mentioned critical way.
In short, it's hard not to get competitive, when you're feeling insecure. I realized the broader implications of that feeling, when the teacher commanded us not to breathe through our skulls but to take what we had learned on the mat and apply it to life.
"That's ridiculous," I thought. "I don't act this competitively in real life..." Oh wait.
I was aware of my yoga class competitiveness, and I was already ashamed of it. There's nothing worse than another student beside you, radiating tension, shaking with effort and rage.
Effort and rage are not what yoga is about to say the least.
It's so much better to move gently through poses, breathing, and enjoying yourself. But when you can't flow where once you could, it's hard not to become the very, uncool fire-breathing version of a yogi yourself.
"Am I being this competitive because I'm... insecure?" I mused for a while after our teacher spoke her yoga Yoda piece. It certainly helped explain why I was suddenly not enjoying myself, because yoga is usually a chance to reconnect with the 9-year-old inside of me who spent an ENTIRE SUMMER UPSIDE DOWN.
I was never a great gymnast, but dang if I was not an enthusiastic one.
In how many other areas of my life, I wondered, had I spoiled my own enjoyment, measuring myself against others instead of being in the moment? Of course, physical stuff came to mind immediately, because 1. and 2. I live in a world that never stops messing with women's heads.
I'm happy to say that in becoming a mother I have become considerably less competitive in that category. I'm not 100% immune to the advertising, because I'm not blind, deaf, and dumb/ liar, but after having experienced gaining 70 lbs, losing 65, gaining another 70 back and then losing 60 in the course of two pregnancies in less than three years, I'm much kinder to myself about my shape. Partially, I'm just grateful my shape-shifting days are over.
It was also interesting-- like being the heroine of a sci-fi story-- to be all these different sizes. However, it was disconcerting to change that dramatically that swiftly. It wasn't a process I had a lot of control over, but it did leave me feeling more body-positive. After all, when you've experienced your body making people and then shrinking back down to your normal size as if nothing happened, it's hard not to be a bit in awe of a wisdom that surpasses all rational explanation. It's hard on days like today when I step on the scale, and it tells me I'm still 20 lbs heavier than when I was modeling in New York, but I mostly win that battle. I mostly feel good about myself.
It's the not feeling good that mostly fuels the worst aspects of the fashion industry, I think. And that's unfortunate. There's no reason the silly, vain, sweet art of self-decoration needs to be despised by some or honored by others the way it is. Go with me here as I metaphor, but if your body is like your mat, really your experience there should be your own. For me, to be happy, I need to be gew-gawed, bedazzled, and spackled to the tee. However, a problem arises, I think, when we women let the world make us insecure, when we look around at other mats, and wonder whether their gew-gaws are gooier.
When I think of how happy I am to inhabit a healthy, fit body, I am content. When I weigh myself and begin to think critically or compare myself to others, I become less so.
I become a shopper. I become compulsive. I help fuel the world's second most polluting industry after big oil. The silliest part is beauty truly does come from inside. I never felt beautiful when I modeled. Never. But I feel beautiful now. It's the feeling inside your own self, on your own little mat that counts towards happiness more than any other factor, and finding that flow in any way you can is your own wonder and work.
The more I learn about the fashion industry, the more I want to define my own ideal of beauty and living. To my great surprise, I have not had to give up style to do so. There are SO MANY gently used clothes out there. Did you know most garments only get worn FOUR TIMES?
So that's my struggle at the moment: defining my own sense of style and fashion, finding my completion within myself, instead of comparing myself to others, and letting those cracks of insecurity crack open all my happiness and cause me to contribute to a global epidemic otherwise known as fast fashion. For example, the dress above does not fit me. I bought it on ebay. My very first auction! And I usually always wear a size 4, but at the moment my body is still shifting and changing.
I'm selling the Self-Portrait dress here, rather than hoarding it-- my preciouses, sigh!--soon to be listed in the shop section of my site! I'm 5'9", and it's a bit too short on me and won't close up the back. I bought it from another new mother, and I understand now why she was selling it brand-new. (It's still got its tags. I just wore it for this blog post before I gave up the good fight.) It would suit someone a bit shorter and...er... not a mommy (to use a euphemism for my still heavy, breast-feeding boobs. Email me at email@example.com or DM me through the site if you're interested in learning more.
Thanks for reading! I'm always curious what people think of these essays, so be sure to let me know your thoughts below. Do you think insecurity is the contributor the world's great ills or do you think that's a bit of an overstatement/ yoga fortune cookie?
French-American dual citizen on a green journey, making a Paris out of Philly or a Philly out of Paris, depending on the day.