Plant Power

When you begin questioning the systems that make up a country whose very foundation is a bedrock of lies and half-truths, the challenge becomes—how far do I go in disavowing falsehood? It’s easy to backtrack on a handful of things, but in a capitalist economy, most people have little choice but to sell their labor to employers and kowtow to the powers that be.

Back in August, we went out to Omaha. I wrote about Mary’s participation in the USA Triathlon National Championships held there. It was a hectic but fun six days.

Mark met us on his way back across the country.

On Saturday night, we decided to go out to dinner as a family like we’ve done countless times before. Mark’s been embracing a plant-based eating program for more than a year. I suppose we could have taken him to a steak restaurant and made him eat salad while we chowed down on top sirloin, but doing that seemed like a shitty thing to do to a son who has consistently shown up in support of his parents and their various endeavors, be it book signings or triathlons, not to mention extended-family gatherings. Plus, I like vegetables, too.

Yelp is an app that’s rarely led me astray. When I checked out vegan restaurants in Omaha, a place called Modern Love sounded pretty funky and cool. I called, made a reservation for three, and plotted the night’s plan.

We loved the restaurant. It was a unique little space that at one time had been a gas station, I think. The real hit, however, was the food, what the restaurant bills as “swanky, vegan comfort food.” That it was.

I had always considered vegan food to be short on flavor and choices. I’m not sure why. Actually, most times I’ve been around a group of vegans, the food’s generally been pretty good. Like when I was part of an anarchist gathering in Boston back in 2006, and the vegan meals supplied by Food Not Bombs were hearty and plenty tasty.

Mary and I have visited another vegan place in Pawtucket with Mark, the Garden Grille Café. They bill themselves as a vegetarian restaurant that serves vegan fare. We’ve had some memorable dishes that didn’t contain meat, and the atmosphere was always festive and fun. On a recent visit, I had a BLT with tempeh (not bacon) that was outstanding!

So, if vegan (or plant-based, as Mark and others call it) food is tasty, and the case can be made that it’s a healthy way to live, then why not consider it? Especially given that I’ve not had much good to say about paleo eating, save for maybe the first few weeks. I know many swear by it, but gouging myself on copious quantities meat, along with developing cravings for a host of crappy processed foods wasn’t helping me maintain a healthy weight. There were other issues that I’ve continued to deal with, like joint inflammation whenever I run longer distances. That wasn’t being helped by meat and the dairy products I found difficult to leave behind.

I’m three weeks into eating a plant-based diet. Rich Roll’s podcast, when he had Neil Barnard as a guest, was really eye-opening for me (thanks for recommending it, Mark). Eating plants and foregoing dairy hasn’t caused me to start wasting away. I’m sure that’s probably just around the corner.

Plant-based food is delicious.

Plant-based food is delicious.

No actually, I’ve been impressed reading about Roll, an amazing athlete—who went from being an overweight father of four, badly out-of-shape and close to a heart attack—who transformed his life through a vegan, or plant-based diet, and now does extreme endurance events.

When I see pictures of Roll, who is nearing 50, I see a guy that I want to be like. Not feeling like I’ve felt lately—an old man who has been struggling with my energy and weight for much of the summer and early fall.

During my investigation of plant-based resources, I’ve gathered some amazing recipes from cookbooks written by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. She’s the woman who started Modern Love in Omaha, as well as being a vegan cookbook author and rock star of sorts, at least in vegan/plant-based circles.

Dr. Barnard brought up a host of issues during the aforementioned podcast. He’s been a helpful guide in reminding me that like so many other things inherent in being a citizen of the United States, dietary guidelines regarding meat and protein are misleading if not downright false. You can learn more about some of the dietary and health issues that serve as Barnard’s foundational beliefs about nutrition by visiting the website for The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, or picking up one of several books he’s written.

Oh, and George Monbiot’s piece on how he became a vegan also had an effect on me two months ago, even if  I was initially in denial about what he wrote concerning dairy farms and the environment—that is until recently.

Speaking of Barnard’s books, I found a copy of his book, Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings—And 7 Steps to End Them Naturally.

 Plant-based eating may not be for everyone (less than 3 percent of Americans follow a plant-based diet free of animal products). I’m also a mere three weeks into eliminating meat and dairy from my diet. I could go back to eating bacon and eggs every morning. However, I think Barnard’s points (which echo many of the claims that Dr. Dean Ornish has made about cardiovascular health) are hard to refute.

Given our recent water woes—at least until we get our new well drilled—means no showers at home. I’ve been swimming three times each week just so I can shower at my local Y, as well as starting back running again. This on top of all the things I’ve had to do requiring endurance and strength, in readying to sell our house. I’m happy to report that I’ve not been short of energy.

And then, there’s Mark’s journey across the country—fueled by a plant-based diet. You can color me impressed on that front, too.

3 thoughts on “Plant Power

  1. I have been updating David on Mark’s journey and told him the police have been called a few times. To which my husband replied in his supportive way, “I don’t think it’s against the law to walk barefoot.” Simple statement but it makes me proud to see how important it was to bring up our daughter to see the importance of being who one is and to have the freedom to not dismiss that right of freedom of creativity of spirit and to have the unthinking bravery to push through. Looks like you and Mary nurtured that in Mark.

  2. I guess that means the next time I’m through Portland, I won’t be buying you a steak!

    Not sure I could ever give up meat. Good for you, though. Seems like it fits with your healthy, active life. Me, I’ll just keep eating, drinking, and being a merry fat man.

  3. Hey, PJohn! No problem. You can have your steak and I’ll have a salad–I’ll be a cheap date!

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