Vegan in Dallas – Who Knew?

Spiral in Dallas

It’s early Saturday morning in Dallas, TX and it’s raining again. Cue Stevie Ray Vaughn – “It’s flooding down in Texas, all the telephone lines are down.”

I came here for a conference for work and we’ve had storms three days out of the four that I’ve been here. We’ve had some great lightning and thunderstorms. We don’t get those in CA – or rain for that matter.

But that’s not why you’re reading this, you want to hear about vegan food in Big D – Dallas. I found two great restaurants.

SykamoreThe first one I found – thanks to Happy Cow and Yelp! – was Sykamore Vegan House. It’s located close to downtown, near the Baylor University Medical Center. Their menu includes asian dishes with vegan beef, chicken and fish; smoothies and juices.

I had a Thai basil chicken dish made without oil and fresh rolls. The food was excellent.

Sykamore Thai basil chicken  Sykamore fresh rolls

Last night I visited Spiral Diner. It is located near the Bishop Arts District in southwest Dallas, across the river from downtown. The Dallas area transit system – DART – has a free bus called D-Link that takes you from downtown to the Arts District. It was a quick and easy way to get there and see some of the surrounding neighborhoods. I was pleasantly surprised by how much public transit there is in this city and how easy it is to get around.

The Spiral has an extensive menu – breakfast, wraps, sandwiches, hot plates and homemade deserts. They also have a small vegan market. I had one of the quesadilla specials – Sweet Potato and Soyrizo Dilla – with sweet potato, chirizo and amazing melty cheese. Yummy, followed by a piece of peach-ginger pie.

Spiral dinner  Spiral books

They have books for sale and some on a shelf for you to read while eating. I found copies of books by Carol Adams and Marinite Patti Breitman.

One place I didn’t have time to check out, since I’m heading back to CA today, is Glazed Donut Works. It is just east of downtown in a neighborhood called Deep Ellum. Happy Cow says they offer one vegan option everyday. They have interesting hours – on Fridays they are open 7am–12noon and then again from 10:30pm–2am.

If I have the opportunity to visit Dallas again I’ll give them and other vegan options a try.

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Another Timeless Brunch

Timeless_coffee

Yesterday, my daughter and I went to Timeless Coffee for brunch. If you are in the Bay Area on a Sunday morning, this is the place to be – but get there by or before 9:30 when they start serving brunch. We got there about 9:25 and the place was mostly empty. By the time we finished ordering brunch (and one of their yummy vegan cinnamon rolls) the place was packed. Note to self: order a coffee refill when you order brunch so you don’t have to wait in line to order a second cup.

Here was yesterday’s brunch selection

Waffle Bowl

and how it looked on the plate.

Timeless

It was delicious.

The Chocolate App – Eat Your Ethics

Chocolate ListSlavery free chocolate – there’s an app for that.

The Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.) is a small non-profit here in the Bay Area that ascribes to the old adage – Think Globally, Act Locally. Their goal:

create a more just and sustainable world by recognizing the power of one’s food choices. We encourage choices that reflect a more compassionate society by spotlighting the abuse of animals on farms, the depletion of natural resources, unfair working conditions for produce workers, the unavailability of healthy foods in communities of color and low-income areas, and the importance of not purchasing chocolate that comes from the worst forms of child labor.

Locally they work with farm workers to improve their working and living conditions (including a yearly school supply drive for the children of these workers), and raising awareness about the food deserts in the Bay Area and working to get more fresh food into these areas.

Globally one of their primary projects is the issue of child labor and slavery in the chocolate industry.

Chocolate is a product of the cacao bean (commonly referred to as cocoa), which grows primarily in the tropical climates of Western Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Western African countries, mostly Ghana and the Ivory Coast, supply more than 70% of the world’s cocoa. The cocoa they grow and harvest is sold to a majority of chocolate companies, including the largest in the world.

In recent years, a handful of organizations and journalists have exposed the widespread use of child labor, and in some cases slavery, on cocoa farms in Western Africa. Since then, the industry has become increasingly secretive, making it difficult for reporters to not only access farms where human rights violations still occur, but to then disseminate this information to the public. … The farms of Western Africa supply cocoa to international giants such as Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestlé—revealing the industry’s direct connection to the worst forms of child labor, human trafficking, and slavery.

In order to help consumers buy chocolate sourced from areas free from slavery, F.E.P. created the Chocolate List and an app for iPhones and Android phones. The list looks at companies that sell vegan chocolate and is quite extensive. It is broken down into several categories – recommend, cannot recommend (and a subset of those working on the problem), and those companies that wouldn’t disclose suppliers or didn’t respond.

Please visit F.E.P.’s website, download the app and learn more about how the issues of social and economic justice are tied into the food we eat.

Defensive Omnivore Bingo

Defensive Omnivore BingoAll the greatest hits from your meat-eating friends and family are here. If the comments you get aren’t here, check out Defensive Omnivore Bingo II. This has been on the Internet for some time, but I thought it was worth sharing.

If you are having a hard time reading the image, here is a table version of the Bingo card.

Game On!

DEFENSIVE OMNIVORE BINGO
“If God didn’t want us to eat animals, then why did he make them out of meat?” Begins to wax sentimental over some variety of meat that they could never give up. Asks where you get your protein. Brings up PETA. “I didn’t climb to the top of the food chain to eat plants.”
Explains how they tried vegetarianism once and it didn’t work out. Argues that humans are different than other animals, and therefore eating them is morally justified. Argues that humans are no different than other animals, and therefore eating them…Lions eat zebras, right? Asks what would happen to the cows if we didn’t eat them. Feigns concern. Expresses concern for plant suffering.
Preaches to you about how preachy vegans are. Wonders how we’d grow enough food to feed us all if everyone went vegetarian overnight. Bingo! Asks why you care more about animals than human beings. Describes some highly unlikely hypothetical scenario in which you’d be forced to eat meat to survive.
Points out that some object you own contains some infinitesimal amount of animal product. “Do you eat fish?” Tells you all about the vegan somewhere who once did something wrong. Concludes all vegans are hypocrites. Mentions canine teeth. “Vegetarian: Indian word for ‘bad hunter’”
Describes the happy farm animal they once saw somewhere. Expresses a completely unrelated concern for starving children somewhere. Something irrelevant about cavemen. Wonders why you don’t make better use of all that time you waste not eating animals. Describes a vegan they once knew who suffered from some random ailment. Concludes it was caused by lack of meat.

 

Make Your Voice Heard – Dietary Guidelines – Updated

USDA-HHS logosFollowing up on my previous post about the Dietary Guidelines, I wanted to give you more information about submitting comments.

I created this one-page sheet (Update – submission period has been extended to May 8) with information about the new Guidelines and why it is so important to submit comments.

I heard author and nutritionist Marion Nestle interviewed on KPFA (Up Front, Feb. 25) last week. She talked about how critical it is that the public weigh in on these guidelines. Ms. Nestle blogs at Food Politics, her latest post is not very reassuring:

Yesterday’s Hagstrom Report (daily ag newsletter) quotes USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s comments to the Commodity Classic on the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee:

The “folks who put those reports together … have freedom. They are like my 3-year-old granddaughter. She does not have to color inside the lines.”

His 5-year-old grandson, he said, “is learning about coloring within the lines.”

“I am going to color inside the lines,” Vilsack said.

Sounds like the USDA has no intention of doing what the DGAC recommends.

For those of you who don’t want to follow the link to find out about the Commodity Classic, I did, so you don’t have to.

Commodity Classic is where America’s farmers meet with success. Commodity Classic is open to all friends of corn, soybeans, wheat and sorghum—from growers to member associations to agribusiness to farm media.  It’s a one-of-a-kind convention and trade show—farmer-focused and farmer-led.

I also found this quote from a Republican Senator from North Dakota in an article titled What’s the beef with meat? in the Dickinson (ND) Press.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said in response to the USDA’s guidance that the committee should focus less on environmental impacts and solely on nutritional value of meals.

“The USDA should only focus on nutrition here. No extraneous factors should be taken into consideration,” Hoeven said. “We all want to have a healthy diet, especially for our children. That’s the main point. That’s what we need to be focusing on here.”

Please distribute the information about submitting comments widely. Big Ag, the ranchers and their congressional pawns are not going to give up without a fight.


I also wanted to point you to an online form created by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) related to another part of the Guidelines and recommendations about cholesterol. PCRM is headed by Dr. Neal Barnard, author of many books including Power Foods for the Brain.

The report has also reversed decades of warnings against cholesterol. Decades of science have conclusively linked dietary cholesterol to cardiovascular disease, which kills nearly 2,200 Americans daily. The Physicians Committee is urging the USDA and DHHS to exercise its authority to reiterate prior federal recommendations that Americans limit their cholesterol intake.

In a petition filed today to the USDA and DHHS, the doctors group asks that the DGAC’s findings stating that “[c]holesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption,” be disregarded because the DGAC deferred entirely to a 2013 report by the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology and one meta-analysis of egg consumption. The reliance on the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology report does not comply with the spirit of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which sets standards for bias among federal advisory committees.

Please take the time to fill out their online form.

Parkinson’s Disease Linked to Statins

pillsA new study conducted by researchers at Penn State College of Medicine and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) found that long-term statin use can increase the risk of Parkinson’s Disease.

A recent article titled Statins Maybe Not a Wonder Drug for Parkinson in Neurology Times

The new study was conducted over a 20 year period and shows that long-term use of statins can produce some detrimental side effects. However, the study also suggests cholesterol may have a vital role in protecting the brain and nervous system.

In late 2013 I wrote about new heart disease and stroke prevention guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA) and American College of Cardiology. These guidelines suggested doubling the number of persons who take statins. I suggested at the time that maybe we should just put statins in the water.

About 43 million Americans take statins or are statin therapy candidates, and the American Heart Association estimates that number will soon increase to 56 million or even more. Guidelines recommend that even persons who do not have high cholesterol but have other risk factors also take statins.

Following the release of this report, some public health officials are reconsidering the widespread use of statins for people with low risk of heart disease.

Dr Xuemei Huang, who led the research on the link with Parkinson’s disease, recently published in the journal of Movement Disorders, expressed concerns about the widespread prescription of statins.

The professor of neurology at Penn State College of Medicine in Pennsylvania said: If we blanket prescribe statins to people we could be creating a huge population of people with neurological problems.

I think doctors are over-enamoured with statins and think it is a cure-all.

Eating a vegan or whole-food plant-based diet will keep you away from statins – the “wonder drug” that might not be so wonderful.

 

April is Festival Time!

Berkeley Vegan Earth Day

It looks like April is going to be a busy month for getting out and celebrating with my fellow vegans (and vegan wanna-bees).

I already told you about the Conscious Eating Conference in Berkeley on April 4 – with some fabulous speakers.

Now there are two more dates to add to your calendar.

April 19, the Berkeley Vegan Earth Day will happen from 9:30am to 3:00pm. The speakers are nutritionists, animal activists, doctors and chefs, including Dr. Alan Goldhamer of True North and Keegan Kuhn co-director of Cowspiracy.

Spend the day listening to educational and earth-friendly talks and panel discussions, or wonderful food demos. There will also be vendors selling vegan products and activist groups to connect with.

Not to be outdone by its East Bay neighbor, Oakland is planning a Veg Week!

Oakland Veg WeekSome of the details are still being finalized, but there is something for everyone.

The movie on Tuesday will be Forks Over Knives followed by Q&A with a health coach and vegan athletes. Thursday is a Vegan Bar Crawl and Friday join the Youth Hip Hop Green Dinners for an event. The Veg Fest on Saturday will take place at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater – more details to come, but there will be lots of free food samples. Sunday’s event is a bus ride to Animal Place farm animal sanctuary in Grass Valley.

The Friday and Sunday events are by invitation only. Visit the site for more details.

I love living in the Bay Area and having these great events happening. It’s going to be a great spring. See you at the events.

Our Planet Needs You to Stop Eating Meat

report cover

Everyone should read the Chatham House report Livestock – Climate Change’s Forgotten Sector: Global Public Opinion on Meat and Dairy Consumption. Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is an independent policy institute based in London. Their mission is to help build a sustainably secure, prosperous and just world.

The report looks at the alarming growth in meat and dairy consumption in non-Western countries, especially in Asia, and makes the case that the only way to deal with this problem is to lower consumption.

In the report they go beyond detailing the disastrous impact of animal agriculture on climate change, but also look at, like Cowspiracy, why governments, environmental groups and the media aren’t raising awareness about this issue.

This lack of awareness means that people who might be willing to change their eating habits, don’t get the messages that would drive that change.

To discover the size of this awareness gap, Chatham House commissioned a multi-country, multilingual online survey. The results found recognition of the livestock sector as a significant contributor to climate change is markedly low. The chart below shows the difference between the survey participant’s perceptions and the actual contribution to climate change for different sectors of the economy. Note the big difference for meat and dairy production.

Chatham House Figure 7

However, the survey also found that in those areas, like energy and transportation, where governments, environmental groups and the media have raised awareness, consumers are willing to make changes to impact the climate.

This is a tremendous challenge, and opportunity, for those of us who would like to see the message in this report spread far and wide.

The survey asked participants who was best able to shift the awareness gap

Closing the awareness gap appears to be an important precondition for behaviour change. An important question, therefore, is who is best placed to inform publics of the links between livestock and climate change. The survey assessed public confidence in a range of sources to which consumers may turn for information about the environmental and health consequences of meat and dairy consumption. Across all countries polled, those labelled ‘experts’ – with an unidentified field of expertise – were afforded the highest degree of confidence from respondents…although there were important differences across countries.

Here are the results of the survey

Chatham House Figure 9

Looking at the results is a bit disheartening. The respondents in the US ranked experts highest with environmental groups a distant second. They also gave social media a thumbs down as a helpful source of information.

We already know that the major environmental groups aren’t talking about reducing meat and dairy consumption. If you haven’t seen Cowspiracy, do it now (you can finish reading when you get back) to find out the extent of the disconnect between the goals of these groups to save the planet and their lack of action regarding animal agriculture. Our government – captured by the meat, dairy and agriculture industries – isn’t willing to upset their “owners.”

The report lays out these reasons for the lack of action:

  • Intrusion in lifestyle decisions
  • Cultural significance
  • Private-sector resistance
  • Public ambivalence regarding climate change
  • Uncertainty regarding the efficacy or acceptability of policy interventions

However, behind these concerns lie multiple assumptions and generalizations. The belief that in aggregate they represent an insurmountable challenge is untested, and clear examples of behavioural shifts in populations do exist. In reality there is minimal research on how dietary change might best be effected. Ironically, this lack of research may well be symptomatic of the belief that the challenge is insurmountable, suggesting a cycle in which a lack of research allows this belief to remain uncontested, leading in turn to a lack of research. The result of this is the policy vacuum described above.

I’m not sure that I have any good answers to this dilemma. We need to lift up the voices of the experts who are willing to go against the status quo. Experts like Dr. Richard Oppenlander, author of two books on this subject – Comfortably Unaware – Global Depletion and Food Responsibility and Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won’t Work.

Can we meet this insurmountable challenge? We must if we are going to have a chance at limiting the impact of climate change. Let’s get to work.

 

NY Times – Farming Science, Without the Conscience

Michael Moss/The New York Times

Michael Moss/The New York Times

Last week I wrote about the Jan. 19 article in the New York Times about the the experiments done on cows, pigs and sheep at a USDA research facility in rural Nebraska.

Yesterday the Times followed up with an editorial asking Congress to “oversee it and reform it — or shut it down.”

Here is some of what the Times wrote, you can read the whole editorial online.

You don’t have to be a vegan to be repulsed by an account in The Times revealing the moral depths to which the federal government — working as a handmaiden to industrial agriculture — has sunk in pursuit of cheaper meat and fatter corporate profits.

American consumers have steadily grown more aware of the ruthless excesses of industrial agriculture. Animal-rights advocates have toiled for years exposing things the industry does not want customers to know. Some reforms have taken hold; federal laws have improved the treatment of livestock since Upton Sinclair wrote of the horrors done to animals in “The Jungle.”

But the conditions of industrial feedlots and factory farms — the confinement of animals, the rampant use of antibiotics, the manure lagoons — would shock anyone who naïvely imagines farms as bucolic places out of children’s books.

The humans who work at the center are not necessarily oblivious to its failings. Some veterinarians and researchers told The Times they were appalled by the suffering and abuse. They should not have their consciences degraded by what is supposed to be beneficial work. Congress founded the center 50 years ago. It should oversee it and reform it — or shut it down.

 

Kaiser Embraces the Plant-Based Diet

kaiser-permanente-logoBack in September 2013, the first post on this blog was about Kaiser Permanente advising their doctors to

consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients…encouraging whole, plant-based foods and discouraging meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods.

I believe they want their patients to be healthy, but… given that they are a managed care organization, the more of their patients who eat a plant-based diet, the better their bottom line looks.

Plant-based DietAlong with the recommendation, Kaiser produced this 20-page guide with information about the “New Food Groups” their patients will be eating from, tips for getting started, and sample menus and recipes.

Reading this guide, I thought I was reading any number of books by Drs. Esselstyn, Campbell, McDougall, Barnard or Ornish.

This explanation of the benefits of a plant-based diet read like the list of benefits from Dr. Campbell’s book Whole.

  • Lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar
  • Reversal or prevention of heart disease
  • Longer life
  • Healthier weight
  • Lower risk of cancer and diabetes
  • May slow the progression of certain types of cancer
  • Improved symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
  • Fewer medication
  • Lower food costs
  • Good for the environment

The guide recommends that patients with heart issues stay away from nuts and oils, like Dr. Esselstyn.

What a radical idea – improving health with diet, not pills.

The resources section at the end of the guide points patients to the Forks Over Knives movie and website, and the websites and books of the good doctors listed above. You can download the guide from their website.

Kaiser is my health care provider and the doctor I see there is not necessarily on board with this program. Despite my telling him that I eat a plant-based diet, he suggested I take fish oil to ensure I get enough Omega-3s. He also wanted to make sure that I was getting enough protein. I should have asked him if he ever tells his omnivore patients to eat less.

However, it is great to see the health care establishment embracing plant-based diets for their patients. Whatever the motivation, their patients win.