Giving Compassionately: Ethics vs. Need

https://mainstreetvegan.net/giving-compassionately-ethics-vs-need-susan-m-landaira-ms-vcle/

by Susan M. Landaira, MS, VCLE

Our world has seen many devastating tragedies of late. We are all called to action to help one another. What happens to our belief systems in a time of need? I’ve had this question brought up to me numerous times recently. In a time of need, can we ask people to donate vegan items? Can we cook vegan food? Can we offer vegan cleaning supplies and products? The answer is yes. When people are moved to volunteer, they are moved out of a sense of compassion. Funny, how that’s what the vegan lifestyle is all about, compassion. It wouldn’t make sense to give in any other way.

As someone living a vegan lifestyle and teaching people about this lifestyle, I sometimes come across resistance. We all know this. There are cultural issues, there are different beliefs about the ethical treatment of animals (that’s another post altogether) and there are people who’ve just “grown up that way.” As educators, it is our duty to inform people about the ethics, about why we live our lives a certain way and about why we want them to hear about it. However, in a time of crisis, we may find it hard to stand true to our beliefs. It is difficult to turn someone away who wants to donate non-vegan food, but if I wouldn’t eat it myself, why would I feed it to someone in need? If I collect boxes and cans of food that, in my eyes, are unethical, how can I be compassionately donating my time and energy? I felt this personally. The dilemma between ethics and needs. Really, though, it’s not a dilemma at all. It’s a reality that some organizations collect money, some collect medicine, and some collect vegan food.

In a world where we are donating, collecting, and volunteering because of tragedies, isn’t that more of a reason to demonstrate compassion? We see countless volunteers risking their lives to save animals. How can we consciously bring animal products to these people? Is there a difference, in the eyes of humans, between allowing an animal to suffer the tolls of a hurricane vs. allowing an animal to suffer to be put on our plates? I look at this as an opportunity to teach. There’s no doubt that we would all save an animal who needed our help. We constantly see videos about people saving animals from cars and traps, etc., yet, there is an extreme disconnect from the idea of saving a live animal to the idea of eating one that has been killed for us to consume. Why is that? Is it because, as humans, ignorance is bliss? If we don’t listen to the vegans of the world, our lives won’t be disrupted. If we don’t take time to figure out that a Mama Cow cries when her babies are taken away, we won’t feel empathy towards her. If we don’t learn that animals are skinned alive, we can still wear leather.

Why not take every chance to teach people? If you’re cooking a meal for a family in need, make it a vegan meal and show them how hearty and delicious it can be. If you’re donating food, show them how many options there are for an ethically chosen meal. If you’re donating time, stand by your values, know that what you are doing has meaning and teach compassion through doing. So, you see, vegan-ethics and need go hand in hand, they both are acts of kindness.

Susan M. Landaira, MS, VLCE, is a Special Education and ESL teacher. She is the CEO/Coach of Vegan Teacher LLC and a Main Street Vegan Academy Certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator. Susan writes for various blogs, newpapers and websites. Vegan Teacher’s offerings are individual and group coaching via skype and in-person; on-line courses; in-person courses, lectures and workshops. They have launched their new Vegan Night Out, a culinary experience hosted by you for your friends/family. Susan can be found at Vegan Teacher on FB, @TeachVeganism on Twitter, and www.VeganTeacherLLC.weebly.com.

Susan M. Landaira, MS, VCLE
Vegan Teacher LLC, Coach/CEO
VeganTeacherLLC.weebly.com
Vegan Teacher on FB
@TeachVeganism on Twitter
veganbodymindandworld.wordpress.com

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Prepping and Batch-Cooking: Five Steps Towards Easy Weekday Meals

Ahhhh, Autum!  We are now back into our routines, the days are getting shorter and chillier and we are finding ourselves busier as the days go on.  On our ever-changing resume’s we find, chauffeur, housekeeper, note-taker, executive, accountant and, of course, chef.  As the chef of the household, or even the sous-chef, we strive to make meals that are tasty and easy.  If you have some of the items prepared in advance, you will find endless creativity flows your way!

What is batch-cooking?  Well, we all know what cooking is, heck, it’s on our resume’s.  The philosopher in me feels the need to define terms for you, so here goes…Webster’s dictionary defines batch as:  the quantity produced at one operation.  Thus, you will be cooking mostly one time.  You will do the bulk of your cooking at one time, thereby lessening the time you spend cooking during the other times.  For example, you know your teens like to sleep in on Sunday mornings.  GREAT!  You get up, make some tea and off you go on your batch-cooking adventure!  Here are some tips:

  1.  Invest in an Instant Pot or some type of crock pot or pressure cooker.  I was blessed to have my Instant Pot gifted to me by a friend. (THANK YOU, Christine!)  If you aren’t lucky enough to know Christine, then, sorry, you’ll have to buy one of your own.  I recommend the Instant Pot because it can be used as a crock pot OR pressure cooker OR rice cooker AND can be used to make yogurt!  Whew!  How’s that for a sous chef?  You can make a batch of lentils, wheatberries, rice, beans, barley, etc. on a Sunday (or other day) morning (or other time, you choose) using the pressure cooking setting.  In two hours, if using the pressure cooker, you can make pots of a few of these.
  2. Decide what you want for the week before shopping.  Meal planning should go hand-in-hand with batch-cooking.  Take a few minutes to sit down and decide what you’d like to make.  This isn’t written in stone and it can, and probably will, change, but at least you have some ideas.  Now, make your shopping list and head out the door.
  3. Batch-cook recipes that are versatile.  There’s nothing worse than making an entire crock pot full of soup and having to eat the same thing every day.  Your kids will not thank you, at least, my kids wouldn’t.  Try making recipes for the week that can be transformed.  A crock pot full of chili can become tacos or burritos.  It can top baked sweet potatoes or tofu dogs or can be turned into Mexican lasagna.  (Don’t forget, you have the rice you’ve cooked to add to it!)  Look at this!  You’ve created a week’s worth of delicious meals in one pot and no two meals look the same.  In addition, everything was prepped for you, you just need to heat and serve.
  4. PREP. So prepping the remaining ingredients for your meal is as important as the meal itself.  It’s no fun to come home to a pot of chili and then have to chop all of the fixings for the burritos, etc. Take time while your sous-chef (aka your Instant Pot) is cooking the main courses, to chop your produce.  Chop cilantro, basil and other herbs, greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc.  Be prepared for salads and mix-ins.  Chop fruit for the week, as well.  Trust me, you’ll find yourself reaching for that chopped watermelon before those cookies if it’s readily available.  PS:  Remember to use your crock pot setting to reheat meals like soups, chilis, stews that have already been cooked.  You’ll come home to a meal that’s ready and your home will smell great.  (Check your settings and use the one for reheating or reheat on low.  You may have to add extra liquid.)
  5. Batch-cook and prep for all meals.  Remember, we typically (and should) have our three meals a day.  Don’t just batch cook dinner and then drive yourself crazy prepping breakfasts and lunches.  While your chopping greens and produce, chop enough to make everyone lovely salads or veggie sandwiches for lunch (add some hummus that you’ve taken five minutes to make on Sunday, as well).  Keep the salads fun by adding beets, artichokes, the beans you’ve cook (even some of that chili), tofu, seitan, etc.  Breakfast’s are important.  We all know the mornings where the alarm didn’t go off or little Timmy lost his shoe.  If you’re prepped for breakfasts, you’ll have more time to tend to those “ut-oh” moments.  During batch-cook time, chop fruits for the week, separate them by how much you would need for one smoothie or for smoothies for your family.  Package them accordingly.  Now, on a hectic morning, you pull a container out of your freezer, put the contents in your blender with whatever liquid you desire and blend away.  (Add some PB2 powder, flax or hemp seeds before blending, if you like and are not allergic.)  Rinse the blender, put it in the dishwasher and you are out the door in five minutes, hopefully, with everyone’s shoes.  Another great breakfast idea that can be prepped is overnight oats.  You place your oats in a mason jar with desired liquid and some nuts, spices, dried fruit, let sit overnight and grab and go.  These are great eaten cold, but if you need to heat them, since they’ve been soaking, they will heat up in two minutes or so.  Don’t dismiss the quick salad for breakfast or overnight oats for lunch, either.

Doesn’t sound so difficult, does it?  By carving out a little time (one-time, an hour or so), you’ll have easy cooking days ahead.  You can minimize the time spent batch-cooking and prepping by recruiting your family to help.  Little ones love to chop and sort, have them put salads together or separate fruits for smoothies.  Put someone in charge of the pressure cooker, another in charge of the lists, another in charge of overnight oats.  You’ll have fun and you’ll thank one another during the week when you’re eating delicious meals and have time left over to, ummmm…do HW, play board games, take a walk, etc. Happy cooking!!!!

VEGANISM: THE HUMAN COMPONENT

When we think of Veganism, our minds automatically go to the animals, as they should.  However, in our extreme desire to save all of the animals of the world, we may begin to overlook a key component to Veganism.  Veganism stems from compassion.  Compassion, by definition, is feeling of concern for the suffering and mistreatment of others.  A vegan’s compassion, no doubt is aimed at animals.  Are we overlooking something?  In our desire to turn the world vegan, are we forgetting that we are human, as well.  Humans make mistakes.  Humans aren’t perfect.  I’ve been speaking to more and more clients who are almost afraid to take the first step towards veganism because they are afraid of failure.  They don’t want to call themselves “vegans” because they may accidentally eat something not vegan and be called out on it.  In our very well-intentioned effort to save the planet, get healthy and end animal suffering, we must take a step back and notice the human aspect to it all.  We want to be compassionate beings.  Some want to take this leap, whatever the reason may be.  Yet, they are afraid, maybe even suffering, because of it.  Isn’t that the reason we do this?  We want to end suffering, not instill it on others.  How do we do that?  Compassion!

As humans, we like to understand our options, know that there is room for error and that it’s ok to make a mistake.  As advocates, we know that when we force veganism at another person, we do not get the same response as if we sat down and spoke with them or, better yet, shared a delicious vegan meal with them.  When you have the opportunity to teach someone something, whether it’s a kindergartener learning to spell his/her name or an adult wanting to learn about veganism, compassion, patience and practice prevail every time.  We need not judge either of these learners for making mistakes.  We wouldn’t yell or tell them to stop trying.  We would try and understand what their needs are, where the mistakes are coming from and offer acceptance and guidance.  This, is true learning.  This, is makes people want to keep trying.  This, is compassion.

As a vegan, whether you are an educator or not, you are representing a lifestyle.  A lifestyle that is a mystery to some.  You now have an opportunity to set a good example, demonstrate how wonderful the lifestyle can be and answer questions in a calm, patient way.  Let’s help each other save the animals by showing one another compassion!

http://mainstreetvegan.net/veganism-human-component/

 

Memorial Day and Beyond: Silent Food Activism and the Summer BBQ

It’s finally here!  The sun is shining (most days) and Memorial Day weekend is drawing near.  We probably either all have plans already or are in the process of making them.  Are you going out with friends, having your own bbq or taking advantage of a lazy weekend at home?  No matter what you decide for this coming holiday weekend, chances are you’ll be at a gathering, which contains food, at some point during the summer.  Like most vegans, I find myself, most of the time, being the only vegan in the bunch.  What do you do when you’re invited to a non-vegan bbq?  I say, take this time to showcase foods that you would normally find at a bbq, only “veganize” them!  Your friends will realize you can eat what they eat and that the food tastes just as good, if not better.  In addition, in your own way, without saying a word, you are performing a form of activism.  You are not harming animals, cooking and sharing great foods and, in the meantime, maybe even convincing a friend or two.

Here are some tips for being a silent “food” activist:

  1. Bring or serve items people love and expect to eat at a BBQ.  Try vegan potato salad, vegan pasta salads, veggie burgers with the trimmings and vegan “veggie” kabobs.  (Check out some great recipes in the recipe section of this page.)   People are more likely to try foods they are familiar with.
  2. Print or handwrite recipe cards for your items.  After your friends realize they taste great and are better for the animals and planet, they’ll want to make them.  I guarantee you’ll get asked for recipes, so better to be prepared!
  3. Don’t over-advertise that something is vegan.  Let people figure it out for themselves.  It’s odd, but when people hear the word vegan, they tend to back away.  Let them discover the deliciousness for themselves.
  4. Show everyone that vegans do not only eat salads and that a bbq can be vegan and still decadent and flavorful.
  5. Enjoy your own food.  When you are truly enjoying something, people will want to see why.

By bringing vegan items to an outing or serving them at your outing, you’re helping the environment and the animals without even saying a word!  Activism can be a delicious thing!  Enjoy!

Fat-Shaming in the Vegan World

So…..there’s a lot of talk about fat-shaming in the Vegan community recently.  I think there’s some confusion about what a Vegan Lifestyle entails.  I’d like to take a moment to think about the focus of a Vegan Lifestyle..that is..compassion.  In a compassionate world and a compassionate life, there is no room for shaming of any sort.  Vegans come in all shapes, colors, sizes, denominations, genders, and anything else I’ve missed.  Our Vegan community is one filled with people who are in it for the good of the animals.  A Vegan Lifestyle, after all, is one that does not contribute to animal suffering.  A Vegan doesn’t eat meat, dairy, eggs, honey or wear wool, leather, silk, etc.  A Vegan’s home does not have candles that contain beeswax or leather sofas.  If you’re a Vegan who loves cake, you’re still a Vegan.  If you’re a Vegan who loves veggies, you’re still a Vegan.  We need to come together instead of tearing one another down.  I came across a great post on this topic from vegan dietician, Taylor Wolfram, on the World of Vegan webpage, entitled, “Why All Vegans Should be Weight-Inclusive” and I thought I’d share it with you. 
 
Remember..the only way to a Vegan world is to remain UNITED!   
 
Here’s the link….
 

Compassion in Today’s World: It’s All About Perspective

We all know how the world is changing around us.  New government, new policies, people liking and disliking.  Take a moment, though, to stop…..think about what you like and what you don’t like about our “new U.S.”  There may be a lot you like….fantastic!!!!  There may be some things you severly dislike.  What you do about it is all about perspective.

I’m not here to add politics to your fun of perusing blogs and reading for pleasure.  I’m here to shake you up a bit, to say, “Hey, if you don’t like it….what are you going to do about it?” I once came across a coach who was teaching a child to bowl.  While chatting with him, he said to me, “I can’t start this child in the game, the child isn’t good enough”.  I looked at him and said, “I understand, but you are the child’s coach, what are you doing to help the child?”  He looked at me shocked and confused and honestly (which I give him credit for) said “Nothing”.   He understood the child was not the best bowler and he was the adult guiding the team, teaching the players, yet he admitted to not helping this child.  Coaching, you see, in this situation, was all about perspective.  He thought he was coaching because he was choosing who was fit to start and fill and end, yet, he wasn’t teaching, he wasn’t helping, he wasn’t, in fact, coaching.

Look around the world today.  So many of us are posting things we like and dislike on social media.  Hey, that’s great, this is how we spread the word, but what are we doing about it after we press that post button?  Are we stopping to think how it effects us or are we stopping to think of how it effects our community, our state, our country, our world, as a whole.

We are part of a bigger picture.  We are part of a world in need of help.  We are part, on a smaller scale, of a community in need of help.  We may not like the reforms being made..is it a call to action for you or are you going to sit back and complain.  It’s all about perspective.  Life, you see, throws things at us we may not expect.  You may be called so strongly to a certain cause and not understand why only to sit and reflect on it and realize you can help, perhaps, if only on a small scale.

What can we do when the government is turning things upside down (or so we think)?  We can sit back and realistically think of how we can help.  Animal lover….you can help.  Elderly neighbors who need assistance…you can help.  Someone lose a job or need childcare…you can help.   Help may only be in the form of finding a resource for someone or it may be in your taking action yourself, but what is lost by us allowing our government to divide us is a sense of community.  We are losing the compassion we should feel towards one another.

There’s a bigger picture at play here.  Are we being divided or are we being pushed to do something on a level that we wouldn’t have been moved to before?

It’s all about perspective.

 

 

The Season of Compassion: Lent and Veganism

As the Catholics among us walked around with their (myself included) ashes on their foreheads yesterday, I began to wonder the meaning of this ritual and how it connects to the world around us.  The Ash Wednesday ritual began as a sprinkling of ashes on a person’s body after they have passed to forgive sins.  It turned into a visible sign on our foreheads of the sins we may have committed throughout the year and our repentence from those sins.  Take a moment now to reflect on sins you may have committed during the year with a reminder that there are sins we’ve actually committed and sins of omission, meaning we should’ve done something, but didn’t.  It’s easy to teach our children about these sins by using simple examples such as, if someone drops something in the grocery store and they cannot pick it up, but you walk on by without helping, there’s a sin of omission.  As we get older though and more wiser, we may not focus on sins of omission.  Why?  Because sins of omission are usually things we know we could’ve done and probably should’ve done, but didn’t.  They lay on our conscience sometimes and thinking about them strikes a nerve.  Why didn’t we help when we could’ve?

In my life, of course, as an ethical vegan (a vegan for the animals), a great deal depends on animals and the ability to not cause harm to them in my own life and to try and spread the word about the lives the animals people consume live.  A dairy cow, for example, who cries as her baby is taken away so the baby will not drink the milk so the farmer can sell it to us.  Wait….are we baby cows?  Do we need this milk?  Hmmm….. Anyway, how can we simply neglect the fact that we’ve done this?  Does the cross we wear on our heads on Ash Wednesday abolish sins that we know we are going to continue making?

We try our best to be kind to one another, many now even try really hard to be kind to the planet by composting and recycling and buying solar panels.  We are really kind to our pets.  They have toys and treats.  What about the animals who give their lives for us daily?  Did you know by being vegan you would save one animal’s life daily????  WOW!  That’s 365 animals over the course of the year (don’t forget that extra one on a leap year) per person who is Vegan!  Amazing!  These animals are sentient beings who want what your puppy and kitty want.  They want to be loved.  Have you ever rubbed a pigs belly?  They will lay there for hours allowing you to and they’ll love it!  I guarantee you’ll love it, too!

Ok, guys, living a Vegan Lifestyle isn’t as hard as you think.  My Catholic friends, I know your giving something up for Lent.  Why not try giving up eating meat?  You do it on Fridays, try adding more days to it or the entire 40 days of Lent!  Why not?  What do you have to lose?  If you try it, you’ll have saved 40 animals by the time Lent is over!  What a blessed Lent you will have knowing you’ve saved so many animals!  Who knows?  You may even want to continue after Easter Sunday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Search for the Best Meatball

So, if you’re a foodie, like me, you have that one food that you can’t find made just quite right. Well, I know this happens to others because it happened to my hubby. During his omnivore days, he would over and over again order spaghetti and meatballs in the search for the best meatball. Repeatedly, he was disappointed. Fast forward to my hubby’s post-omnivore days and his search continues. Recipe after recipe, vegan restaurant after vegan restaurant, he searched.

“Why meatballs?” one might ask. Who knows! We all have that one food. For me it’s a vegan reuban sandwich…never done quite right and the search continues. For him, however, as a once omnivore, you would’ve thought (or an omnivore would’ve thought) that he would’ve found his perfect meatball back in those days, right? WRONG!

One cold, snowy winter night in NYC, we stumbled into Candle Cafe West for a quick bite to eat. Candle Cafe West holds a spot near and dear to my heart, as that is where the Main Street Vegan Academy held it’s graduation lunch, but I digress. Since it is a special place, I often think of the amazing and rich foods they create. They are beautiful and delicious. There’s risotto and portobello steaks, etc. etc. Imagine my surprise when he orders, spaghetti and wheatballs.

OK, OK…I should back up. There’s nothing wrong with spaghetti and meatballs (vegan), but as a kid, this was the cheap, fast dinner. So…when I go out, I want something I cannot make at home (or won’t make because it is so time consuming). I want something beautiful and delicious and unique. Not him, spaghetti and wheatballs it is! I thought he was nuts! The journey continues! This search for the perfect “meatball” is never going to end! Order something decadent, I want to yell! But, I don’t!

Our meals come and our plates are gorgeous! He tastes it and is blown away! You know I’ve got to try it now! WHOA! The search has ended! This dish is decadent, rich, delicious and NOT your ordinary cheap, fast spaghetti and “meatball” dinner! It’s truly amazing! We are both left speechless!

As we clean our plates, the search for the perfect “meatball” has ended! Who would’ve known it would’ve taken so many years and a switch to a vegan diet to find it! Vegan Wheatballs…you rock!

2016 is Gone: The New Year Begins

via Daily Prompt: Gone

Some of us mark the new year by the school calendar…new books, new teachers, summer is over, it’s September.  Some of us mark the new year by calendar year…a new start, resolutions, the hope for a new beginning, it’s January.  Some of us choose to honor each new day as a new beginning.  Whichever you choose, we are all together as we usher in 2017.  You may see it as a continuation or a new beginning.

January 1st, for some, tends to be the marker for fresh starts.  We tend to think of things we’d like to change and begin making those changes.  We think of things we want to leave behind.  We reflect on what the year has brought to us and what we have lost.  While the calendar year of 2016 may be gone, the ideas we have are not.  We may want to lose weight, take a class, learn a lanuguage or to play an instrument, learn to live a vegan lifestyle.  Whatever your thoughts are for this new “start”, you must think about how you will implement them.  Here are some pointers:

*Make a list of what you’d like to accomplish.  Do not overload yourself with resolutions.

*Set reasonable goals and timeframes–don’t make it too large or too far away.  I find small goals are more easily attainable and boost your confidence thus enabling you to get to the finish line.

*Enlist a buddy.  It’s so much easier to reach your goal if you have someone cheering you on and working towards the same goal.

*Focus on your goals each day.  Why are you doing this?  What is the benefit?  What will it bring to your world?  We all need reminders.  Write down your goals and why your working towards them each day.  Give yourself post-it boosts on your mirror (post a note to yourself the night before for a great pick-me-up in the am!).

*If your goals change, don’t be so hard on yourself. Sometimes we realize what we are doing is not really for us.  It’s ok.  You gave it your all.  For example, your resolution is to take up hiking, but after trying and pumping yourself up, you realize you’re more of a yoga gal.  It’s ok.  New days bring new beginnings!  You don’t have to wait until 2018 to begin yoga classes!

*If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!  You may miss a target goal or your timing may not be as planned, it’s ok, get back up and try again!  Don’t be too hard on yourself!

With last year gone and this year beginning, you can continue being as great as you are or you can add some new greatness!  Be you!  Happy New Year!