Uncommon Valor Pt. 2

Uncommon Valor Pt. 2

My father died last week.  He had just turned 70 years old.    The official diagnosis was Agent Orange Related Parkinson’s Disease.   The official cause of death was asphyxiation.   He died choking on his own blood.  And though he may have died on January 29th, 2020, the truth is, Agent Orange exposure killed him 50 years before.   He died a slow, painful death.   And guess what?  It seems that he, and millions of other sons, fathers, brothers, and husbands, have died for fucking nothing.   I don’t care who you are and I don’t care what you believe, there is only one truth.  There are brave men, and there are cowards.

To quote the late Edmund Burke “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  Unlike our current puppet, my father served his country with valor and honor.   In fact, he told my mom once that being a soldier was the only thing he was ever really good at.    Yet, after doing his duty (with honors) he came back to a nation that spits and yells at him.  Can you imagine?

For the first two years of their marriage, my mom was the recipient of many a late-night trip to the floor as my father would grab her and toss her,  yelling  “incoming.”   The only story I had ever heard about his time in Vietnam was one in which he was riding shotgun, holding a shotgun, as their convoy passed through a small village.   As was often the case the villagers in town would gather on each side of the road as the soldiers would throw provisions and food to them.   The young Vietnamese children would run up yelling, “chop, chop”  which meant candy.   In fact, my Dad said he often knew when they were among the Viet Cong because no one gathered.   But this particular day as the crowd parted a young Vietnamese girl about 4 years old walked from the crowd and stopped about 20 feet ahead of them.  My father saw the grenade.  As the truck stopped he got out and slowly made his way over to her.  He spoke to her in Vietnamese and asked her to drop it.  He asked again, and he asked again.  In one fail swoop, my father made a decision that would change his life forever.  I HAVE TO ASK MYSELF WHY. Why have good men died, and are still dying, so that opportunists, and careerists, can treat our Constitution like a placemat?

The only other story I have heard about my dad, and Vietnam, came last week at his service.   This letter was written by one of my dad’s platoon buddies.   Jay had reached out to my dad via email before he died, but my dad was unable to respond.   So after letting the pastor know about the email, he decided to reach out to him.  This is the letter that was read…

Hello Reverend Apple,

Thanks so much for letting me know about Glenn’s passing.  I am sorry to hear that he is gone and wish we might have had the opportunity to reconnect.   My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Glenn did indeed save my life on Easter Sunday 1969 (April 6) in a clearing in the jungle near Black Virgin Mountain Nui Be Den) in Vietnam.  Our company’s lead platoon was ambushed earlier in the afternoon, with two men either killed or badly injured laying in the clearing, exposed to fire from North Vietnamese Army soldiers concealed in well-camouflaged bunkers.   Our platoon was called forward to try to reach the casualties, and the platoon leader instructed me to send a fire team (3-4 guys) forward toward the nearest body to pull it back.  Leading the team, I crawled across the clearing, but was suddenly hit by a burst of fire from an AK-47, which tore my rifle from my hands and also punctured my left lung, just missed my heart, and wedged within an inch of my spine.  About the same time, a rocket-propelled grenade went off in a tree at the edge of the clearing, and I was also spattered with shrapnel.  I did some serious praying, and God sent Glenn Dale and the platoon leader across that bullet-swept field to pull me back.  The enemy was still very much present, as I was shot again in the leg after being pulled back to our side of the clearing. 

I suspect that Glenn did not receive an award for bravery for his actions that day (enlisted men seldom did), but he certainly deserved to do so, as he openly exposed himself to the enemy fire in order to carry me to safety.  Without his action, I would certainly have died there and then.

Later in the afternoon, I almost missed the medevac helicopter, as they thought I was a goner.  When I finally lay on an operating table at a MASH hospital in Tay Ninh, a priest gave me the last rites. You cannot imagine my surprise when I awoke the next morning.  I spent the rest of 1969 in military hospitals until discharged – from the hospital and the army – on December 31, 1969.

Please express my condolences and my eternal thanks to Glenn’s family for sending him to me on that Easter over a half-century ago.

Jay Phillips

P.S.  The two men we were hoping to rescue, Angelo Figueroa and Melvin Lee, did not survive and their names are on panel 27 West, lines 24 and 25 of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC.

My father did receive an award.   But what difference does it make?  We have a box of ribbons and metal.   Fort Leavenworth is so full of bodies for those who fought for our country that there was no room for his body, only his ashes, much like the ashes of our democracy, which is but dust in the wind.

Uncommon Valor

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The word valor comes from the Latin word “Valorem” and it means strength, moral worth, and courage. But I found another version that I liked much better. And that is, “To have the strength of mind or spirit that enables a person to encounter danger with firmness.” To encounter danger with firmness, I like that. But what is firmness? It means being resolute, or determined. It also means the application of steady, but not excessive power or strength. It also means unyielding. Unyielding, now that’s a word–unbending, uncompromising, and unshakable. Whether the dangers we face are physical, or they are just the dangers of the mind…imagine if we all had a little valor what our lives could be? 

My life has been full of changes lately and change is scary. Some might even say that change can be dangerous. But what’s worse than fear is being complacent.  Because complacency is the path of least resistance, and it also offers the least reward.  Staying the same is easy. Dreaming is easy. But bringing our dreams into reality requires us to have valor. Learning to do something new, quitting your job, getting divorced, going back to school, whenever life offers us something new it can be exciting, promising, and scary.

But we are required to change, and we are required to grow. This is our gift and our curse. But be not afraid. Fear, desire, anger, and pride are emotions set around the ego. And these uncomfortable emotions drive us into action. But if we linger too long in these emotions we often find ourselves making poor decisions. So to move from our discomfort we seek out courage, willingness, and acceptance. These are rational higher emotions and they are considered neutral. This stage gives us balance, a better footing for the next phase of change where we encounter our most sacred emotions; love, joy, and peace. These are the gift that we receive for combating our fears.   

Somebody said to me once we all have possibilities, but we all also have probabilities. We all have dreams and desires, but how many of us have the guts to make them happen? 

Aloo Gobi with Chana

Aloo Gobi with Chana

After Mexican food, Thai food, and Indian food vie for second as my most favorite food.   A few weeks ago my husband ordered a Veg Manchurian from our favorite Indian restaurant. It was delicious, but it was waaaaay too SPICY.  I got the hiccups and couldn’t feel my tongue after 7 bites.   Maybe it’s just my western palate, but I would have enjoyed it so much more if it lost some of its heat.   So I decided to dive headfirst into Indian cooking!   The ingredients sound complex, but it really is ALL about the spices.  After perusing many a dozen recipes (both North and South Indian) I realized that most of the spices in this recipe are universally Indian/Middle Eastern, and by adding them to my pantry, I opened up a whole new world (or at least a dozen countries worth) of food!

Aloo Gobi is a simple dish made from cauliflower and potatoes.  There are generally two kinds of Aloo Gobi, one made with onions and tomatoes, and one without.   I love both, but this one is my favorite…mostly because I envisioned eating it over creamy coconut curried lentils!  I added chickpeas or “chana” to bump the protein and it was delicious!

Baked Aloo Gobi with Chana

•2 medium russet potatoes, cut into 1” cubes

•1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into small florets

•1 14 oz. can chickpeas (chana) 

•2 Tbsp Olive Oil 

•2 tsp. ground cumin 

•2 tsp. ground turmeric

•1 tsp. ground coriander

•¾ tsp garam masala

•¾ tsp dried fenugreek leaves

•¾ tsp amchur (dry mango powder)

•1 Tbsp. minced ginger

•1 Tbsp. minced garlic

•Pinch of asafetida (optional, but really great)

•Pinch of cayenne (adjust according to preference)

•1 tsp. (or more) kosher salt

•1 Tbsp. (or more) fresh lime juice

•½ cup chopped cilantro

Instructions

1. Chop the cauliflower into small florets and put in large bowl.

2. Chop the potatoes into 1” cubes and add to the bowl.  Add drained, rinsed chickpeas.

3. Mix spices until well combined.   Remove Add spices to the vegetable mix; toss to coat.

4. Add olive oil, minced ginger, and garlic, to the bowl and toss well. 

5. Let the vegetable mix sit for a minute or two.

6.Spread mixture in a large stoneware or 3” ceramic baking dish. 

7. Bake at 400° F (204 C) for 20 mins, then cover with parchment and bake for another 15 mins or until tender. Taste and adjust salt and spices accordingly. Garnish with fresh cilantro, a dash of turmeric, and lime juice. And serve hot with any Indian bread.

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Running the Path

Running the Path

The other day my neighbor came over for coffee.  She seemed a bit down and out and told me she was thinking about running.  She said she wanted to feel better about her body, and that losing some weight would make her feel better about herself.   She told me she had never run before, and wanted to pick my brain on how to run.   I smiled and said, “Go put on some running shoes and run!  Don’t overthink it.   Just go for a run.  Don’t worry about how fast you are, how long your run is, or how many times you had to stop to catch your breath.  Just go run.”  I remember not being able to run ¼ mile without stopping.  Now I run a full 8 miles without resting once.   I started by simply putting one foot in front of the other.  “But,” I also cautioned her, “it’s not the weight you lose from running that makes you feel good about yourself.  Weight loss is an extrinsic motivator and will likely be a reason you stop running.  Don’t seek to be a size two.  Instead seek dedication, consistency, and persistence.  They will make you feel better about yourself.”  Change your vernacular and you will change your life.

Like yoga, running has changed my life.  It’s become a way for me to quiet my mind.  It is like a moving meditation.   I focus solely on my breath and let go of all tension and thought.   When I hit my stride, I feel like I could run forever.   I achieve the same state when I stay in certain deep asanas, like pigeon, for a long time.   It’s the best feeling in the world.  If I am in a bad mood, anxious, stuck creatively, whatever is going on, I will go for a run, or do some flows.  And when I’m done, all is well again.

When I look back over the last year, hell, over the last decade… I am proud to say I have accomplished much.   I have gained a lot, learned a lot, but also forgotten much, and lost a lot.   I have reached some goals that I never imagined possible, while I watched other dreams go up in smoke…but that, as they say “is life.”    The “one foot in front of the other” mentality has served me well, until now.   Lately, I feel fearful and uncertain about some big things in my life.  And the truth is, I don’t really know why.  Life has pretty much stayed the same.  But then I think maybe that’s the reason I feel this way.  The Buddha said, “There is no fear for one whose mind is not filled with desires.”  I get it, I want more.  But thinking about my future is almost paralyzing.   It was the Buddha who said, “Overthinking is the greatest cause of unhappiness.”  So perhaps silence is best.  Who knows, maybe I’ll slow down and give silent meditation a try.  Or maybe I’ll just go for a longer run.  🙂

With that, Happy New Year’s and Happy New Decade.  May you have many abundant blessings, and may you get back all that you give.  Remember to seek out joy, as it is always there for us. May you find peace in any given moment, and may you do hard and scary things!  Grow abundantly!  Namaste!

Vegan Gluten-Free Gravy Mix

Vegan Gluten-Free Gravy Mix

This is a super easy and delicious gravy mix.   When I first began my search for a good vegan gravy recipe I was sorely disappointed.  I desperately wanted to find something that even closely resembled the gravy I grew up eating.   But the base for the gravy I was used to eating was made from sausage grease and whole wheat flour!  Oh, and did I mention that I also needed it to be gluten-free?   So for a few years, I used various time-consuming methods to achieve a mediocre gravy.   After years of experimenting, I give you this!  Now I can make a delicious vegan gravy that has all the flavor and consistency of the gravy from my past!  Vegan Slingers here I come!

Easy Vegan Gravy Mix

¾ cup brown rice flour

1 Tbsp nutritional yeast

1 Tbsp corn starch

1.5 tsp sage

1.5 tsp salt

1.5 tsp pepper

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp onion powder

Add to a mason jar and shake well.

To Use:  Add ¼  cup of dry mix to a sauce pan and add 2-3 cups of plant-based milk.    Stir well and bring to a boil.   Reduce heat and add more milk if needed.   Enjoy!

 

Fire Roasted Vegan Tomato Bisque

Fire Roasted Vegan Tomato Bisque

The other day my oldest daughter was craving tomato soup.  I had to admit it sounded really good to me too.   Grilled cheese and tomato soup is the best!  Of course, her version was a can you throw in the microwave, and mine was, well…this.

Fire Roasted Vegan Tomato Bisque

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1medium onion, diced
  • Two 14 1/2-ounce cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes, with juices
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (regular sweet paprika works, too)
  • kosher salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup(80ml) light coconut milk, or cashew cream

INSTRUCTIONS

    1. Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot, over medium-low heat. When the pot is hot, add onions and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the onions are soft. Stir often and add 1 TBSP stock or water if needed, to keep the onions from burning.
    2. Add tomatoes, including the liquid, and stock. Add tomato paste, dried oregano, dried basil, paprika, and a pinch of kosher salt. Raise the heat to medium and bring everything to boil. Let the soup simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Turn off heat. Let the soup cool off for 5 minutes before transferring to a blender to blend.  (I blend a little more than half of the mixture and leave the rest for a bit for texture).
    3. Return soup to pot and stir in coconut milk or cream.
    4. Serve in bowls with black pepper, minced basil leaves, nutritional yeast, and a swirl of cashew cream, if you’d like.
    5. Top with croutons. I used Minimalist Baker’s “Actually Crispy Chickpeas”  She nailed it!

Vegan Pumpkin Soup

Vegan Pumpkin Soup

For years when I thought of pumpkins, of course, I thought of Halloween and my absolute favorite pie in the whole world.  But when I had Pumpkin Soup for Thanksgiving in New Orleans one year, I realized my view had been very short-sided, and maybe there was more to this magical fruit than I knew!  Pumpkins are a cultivar of a squash plant and are technically a fruit.   And in this soup, they lend a creamy texture and a rich depth of flavor amplified by spices and slow-cooked onions.  Yes.  The Onions.  To me, they are what make this soup shine.   A no-oil onion sauté deglazed with hearty vegetable stock.  To me, this is one of the most amazing ways to build flavor.   Let me show you how.

Ingredients:

1 large onion, diced; or two medium-size shallots diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

1 ½ tsp ginger, minced, or ¾ tsp of ginger powder

2 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried coriander

1 tsp salt

½ tsp cayenne pepper

1/8 tsp black pepper

4 cups vegetable stock

1 14 oz can coconut cream (can use canned coconut milk in a pinch)

3 cans organic pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)

Hot sauce (optional, I use a mild Green Tabasco)

Heat pan on low medium heat until warm.  Add onions, stir until onions become translucent and begin to stick.   Add ½ cup stock and stir to deglaze the pan.  Once the water begins to evaporate add spiced and stir.   Cook for 1-2 minutes and add garlic and ginger.   Cook for 30 seconds and add remaining vegetable stock and stir to deglaze pan again.  Add coconut cream and pumpkin puree.  Stir well and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Taste for spices, and adjust according to your preference.  I added a bit more salt and a little more thyme.  Serve with roasted Pepitas (pumpkin seeds), and roasted spiced chickpeas. Enjoy!   

Mexican Tortilla Soup

Mexican Tortilla Soup

One of my favorite things in the whole world used to be Qdoba’s Tortilla Soup. I loved it. Couldn’t get enough of it. However, when I looked up the ingredients, I was astonished! It tasted so simple and delicious. There were a ton of preservatives and an ungodly amount of salt. I never would have imagined that it was so processed! So when it came time to develop my menu for a Mexican cooking class at the Conservatory…I knew what I was going to do. This version is delicious, clean, and a perfect “Welcome to Fall” soup!

  • 1 can jackfruit drained, rinsed 
  • 2 Leeks chopped
  • 3 cloves Garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 Red Bell Pepper (diced)
  • 1/2 Green Bell Pepper (diced)
  • 1 Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce (diced)
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Mexican Oregano
  • 1 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Pepper
  • 1 cup Chunky Salsa
  • 2 cans Fire Roasted Tomatoes (15 oz ea.)
  • 4 cups Vegetable Broth (low sodium)
  • 3.5 cups black beans, drained, rinsed
  • Toppings:

    • 5 Corn Tortillas
    • Avocado 
    • Chopped Green Onions 
    • Lime Wedges 
    • Vegan Sour Cream 

    Jackfruit:

    Lay the jackfruit on a clean kitchen towel and pat dry. Using your fingers, press the jackfruit chunks and pull apart into large shreds. Set aside.

    On medium heat:

    1. Add leeks and garlic to large soup pot. Sauté in veggie broth, until softened
    2. Add Bell Peppers and Chipotle Peppers, and simmer until softened
    3. Add Jackfruit 
    4. Add all spices and stir well.  Sauté for 2-3 minutes
    5. Add Salsa
    6. Add Tomatoes (with juice)
    7. Add Veggie Broth, and deglaze pan 
    8. Bring to a simmer and stir well*
    9. Drain beans and add to pot
    10. Cover, and simmer on low, or until heated through, about 15-20 minutes.

    Tortilla Strips

    1. Preheat oven to 375° degrees
    2. Cut Corn Tortillas into 1/2″ wide strips
    3. Add strips to a plastic bag or paper sack and toss with 1/2 tsp each: chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, garlic salt etc.  (You can use oil or a little broth to help them stick)
    4. Lay strips onto cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes
    5. Toss occasionally to ensure even crisping.

    *If you want to blend the soup and return to pot for a more authentic Qdoba soup, now is the time. Once pureed you can add the black beans and jackfruit, and simmer through until warmed. About 15-20 minutes.

    **If you wish to add more heat: Use 1 tsp of adobo sauce from chipotle pepper can until you reach desired heat. 

    When soup is finished, garnish with 1 small dollop of vegan sour cream, minced cilantro, small avocado slice, a few tortilla strips, and serve.

    Deconstructed Burrito Bowl

    Deconstructed Burrito Bowl

    We love bowls! It’s one of our favorite go-to meals and makes for a quick dinner. Most times we just use various ingredients we have on hand. Be warned they are suuuuper filling! You can be super creative with your bowls or just keep them simple. The basic bowl is this: One part grain, vegetables, one part protein (we use beans, tofu, or tempeh), and top with some kind of sauce. In a pinch, I have used hummus that has been thinned out as a drizzle! Top with your choice of onions, herbs, nuts, or seeds.

    Deconstructed Burrito Bowl

    • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, cubed
    • 2 medium russet potatoes washed, cubed
    • 1 medium onion sliced into ¼ ” wide slices
    • 1 red pepper sliced into ¼” thin slices
    • 1 15 oz. can pinto beans (or, bean of choice)
    • 1 tsp ground cumin
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    • ¼ c water
    • 1-2 ripe avocados, sliced, or diced
    • 1-cup brown organic basmati rice (any brown rice will do)
    • 1-cup Pico de Gallo (store bought is easiest)
    • 1-cup cashew queso, thinned (see recipe below)
    • Green onions, diced on bias (optional)
    • Cilantro, minced (optional) 
    • Salt and pepper

    Preheat oven to 400°.  

    Make rice.  I add two cups of water to 2 cups of basmati rice to my Instapot and cook for 15 minutes.    Otherwise, follow package directions.   (You will have leftovers.  You can freeze extra cooked rice in ziplock bag.)

    Peel and dice squash into bite-size pieces.  I use pre-diced store bought and cut larger pieces into 1” cubes.   Wash potatoes and cut into 1” cubes leaving the skins on.  Wash and slice red pepper into ¼” long slices.  Peel and slice onion and in half, cut into ¼” slices.   Add potatoes, squash, red pepper, and onions to a large mixing bowl.  Add 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil and toss vegetables with salt and pepper to coat. Add vegetables to a parchment paper lined baking sheet.   Bake, turning once, for 25-30 minutes, or until vegetables are fork tender. 

    While veggies are cooking, add one can of drained pinto beans to a small pot, add cumin, garlic powder, and salt.  Add ¼ cup water, cover, and simmer until warmed through.   Keep warm. 

    Make Cashew Queso:  

    • 1 ½ cup raw, unsalted cashews
    • 8 oz of water
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 chipotle chili pepper in adobo (or, cut in half if too spicy)
    • 3 TBSP Nutritional Yeast (I use Bragg’s, but you can use any)

    Add all of the ingredients to a high-speed blender.   Blend until smooth.  In my Vitamix it takes about 45 seconds on high speed, stopping once to scrape down the sides.   ***It is very important that queso is completely smooth.  Add more water 1 Tbsp at a time, if needed and continue to blend until smooth. 

    When vegetables are done remove from oven.   Assemble Buddha bowls.  Add up to 1-cup rice per bowl.  Top bowls with the roasted vegetables, beans, Pico de Gallo, avocado, drizzle with cashew queso, and finish with cilantro and green onions, if using.  

    Enjoy! 

    From Here to Eternity…

    From Here to Eternity…

    I will always be a vegan. Now that I know, what I know. I have seen the remarkable effects physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Sounds dramatic, right?  Well, it has been.  In my early 40’s I was carrying around an autoimmune diagnosis, 40 pounds of extra weight, I was depressed and tired.   Now, not quite 4 years later, my doctor still marvels at my annual blood-work. He is amazed that I am at my recommended body weight and not taking any medications.  Amazed because the Mayo clinic estimates 7 out of 10 of us adults are taking some form of a prescription drug, with many of us taking 3 or more meds…and 75% of us are overweight and 40% of us are obese.   Being sick and overweight has become the new norm.  Therefore it’s not surprising that the US is ranked dead last in the “healthy’ category against 10 other wealthy countries in the world.   How is that possible? 

    Well, imagine you are sitting at a table and you keep banging your leg against the chair so long and so hard that it becomes bruised and quite painful.  Finally, someone comes along and says, “Hey, I’ve got a medication that will soothe your pain and another medication that can fix those nasty bruises.”  So you take the pills, and sure enough, the pain goes away and your skin looks better, so you think you’re healed.   But you’re still banging your leg on the chair, and now because the real problem has never been addressed, your original issue has become catastrophic.  Yet nobody ever tells you, “Hey stop banging your leg on the table.” Doctors are taught to prescribe medications for a certain set of symptoms. They are not required to recommend nutritional interventions and, in fact, nutrition is not even a requirement in most medical schools. With the AMA only allowing doctors 15 minutes to spend per patient, it’s not long enough to talk about diet anyway, it’s just long enough to write a script.  Because the truth is there is no money to be made if we are all well, only if we are sick.     

    Heart disease and diabetes are directly correlated to an excessive amount of animal protein consumption and are rarely related to genetics. But a good many people believe they are simply victims of their genes, doomed to a life of middle-age weight gain, cancer, heart disease and diabetes.  And we are seeing a rise in colon cancer rates for the first time in people in their 20’s, a disease not normally seen until our 50’s. A recent study by the Pentagon revealed that 71% of young men between the ages of 17-24 (over 24 million) are ineligible to serve in the military because they are physically unfit. And I am sadder, yet, that we are rearing a generation of kids who are not predicted to live as long as their parents…all because of our food choices.

    Truth is, four years ago, I never gave much thought to the likes of a cow, a chicken, or a pig.  I only knew that they would eventually become food bought in a store.   I never made a connection that those packs of chicken and ground beef were once living breathing animals. I didn’t know that they were purposely hidden away on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s), because if we actually saw what was happening to them we would be disgusted and appalled.  I felt better buying cage-free eggs.  Though more expensive, I figured cage-free was better because these chickens were allowed to run around in the sun.    What I didn’t know was that baby chicks have their beaks cut off so they don’t peck other chicks in their cramped living quarters.  And that cage-free really just means that tens of thousands of chickens are crammed in warehouses instead of cages, and where there is only 1 foot of space per chicken on average. Many of them sustain painful lesions and suffer from ammonia blisters due to sitting on unsanitary floors.  A sad life indeed. 

    I also didn’t know that dairy cows were forced to stand in inches of their own excrement while getting milked 10 months out of a year until they are eventually turned into ground beef.  I didn’t know that most E-coli outbreaks in lettuce and kale stemmed from a CAFO’s waste lagoon, or pools of poop, that pollute our fields, rivers, and streams.  And worse, some of these CAFO’s can make the individuals living by them very, very sick.  Don’t even get me started on Duplin County, North Carolina. 

    I have also learned that it takes a lot of money and resources for us to eat these animals.  I didn’t know that lobbyists fought to have our tax dollars subsidize the meat and dairy industry.  I didn’t know that it takes nearly 2,400 gallons of water just to grow just 1 pound of meat.  I didn’t know that 800 million people could be fed with just the grain that livestock eat alone.  And that much of that grain is produced here in the Midwest.  It’s why they call Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, eastern Nebraska, and eastern Kansas the corn-belt because we grow corn for livestock.  In fact, more than 90 million acres of grain is planted here just to feed livestock feed alone.  It is also an area where cancer rates are on the rise and the levels of pesticide use are skyrocketing.   

    But that’s not the only thing…about 24% (some argue it’s more like 50%) of all global greenhouse gases come from our support of commercial agriculture. These warming gases are caused by things like livestock methane gas production, and deforestation, or the clear-cutting of trees in order to make room for more livestock.  You’ve probably heard that the Amazon Jungle in South America in on fire.  That is because they are a developing nation that is looking at places like the U.S. (land of the rich and plentiful) as an example. So now they are cutting down trees in record numbers because they have discovered the economic value in cattle production; those companies who own the factory farms are the fuel for the fire.  And those who have long associated eating meat with affluence and prestige inadvertently fan their flames.    

    Plant-Based eating has never been shown to cause disease. In fact, it has actually been shown in some cases to halt and even reverse many diseases. It is a way of eating that supports our bodies ability to do its job naturally, without drug intervention. It is better for the animals and better for the planet. I am hopeful the tide is turning and more and more people are waking up, so to speak. I remain mindful that a few years ago, I didn’t know any of this either.  And I am joyful at the prospect that others may follow their own journey because of myself, or countless others like me, that have inspired them to do so.  Being a vegan is one of the greatest gifts this life has given me.