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Memento Mori (or: why I still have spots) October 7, 2010

Posted by tuimeltje in food-related, rant.

As much as I love being vegan and can enjoy a bit of vegan community, there’s a thing about the vegan community that tends to bug the hell out of me.
Here one recent example, the one time I bothered bothering. I don’t intend it to be a one-off thing. Hardly the only one, just the one I can write about fairly easily because it’s recent and it involves me.

So here’s the story.
Tuesday evening I read the Vegan Hope Facebook page, one I’ve come to rather like since that $21 challenge.
What I found that day was this:

Wishes more people would stop thinking pink and start thinking GREENS. If we are serious about stopping *most* breast cancers we must become serious about the way we eat.

Quite a bold statement, that.
Prevent or cure* most breast cancers? Reading that had me wanting some information about how one would come to such a conclusion, especially after my most recent dip into that subject (admittedly, that was a good few months ago) had me under the impression that diet hadn’t been shown to have much of an influence on breast cancer risk, with the closest I could find being excess alcohol use and obesity.

So I asked for references to back up this claim, which is the sensible thing to do in those kinds of situations. I was thinking I’d be getting something along the lines of a recent article, maybe some link for a cancer society or a recent blog post, something about a recent discovery. Something we could discuss and pick apart to see if the data supported that statement.

What I got, however, was a long list of books and DVDs, with The China Study mentioned twice. I’ve read that book and while a good read, I was was somewhat uncomfortable with it mainly going on about a somewhat simplistic One True/Main Cause for really rather complex conditions.
I am not the only one with doubts, and as a reader of the Science Based Medicine blogs, I’ve enjoyed these two blog posts which did a little critical reading (and was happy I was eating plants for the ethics).
I mentioned one in my comment after the few that gave me a reading list rather than an answer, along with an ACS link and an NCI link about breast cancer and diet.**
If I don’t get an answer, I’d better look for one myself.
I also clarified that I would prefer PubMed info to books and probably some other thing, but I don’t fully remember.

You see, when I’d gotten to my computer the next morning, my messages had been deleted and, judging by the inviting “like” button, I was no longer a follower of that particular page.
Rather bad form, that.
It also means I’m working from memory. So while I know there was another link I put there, one with a list of cancers and and possible dietary risk factors, I was unable to find that link again.

Because I’d not expected that and am not used to such things, I’d not made any screen caps. I made some this morning, which may no longer show my posts but do show someone else mentioning me as proof that I was, at one point, there.

See here:
Where did I go?

(yeah, crappy and small. This one is marginally better)

Deletion like this is very annoying and *so* not the way to deal such a situation.
The proper course of action when asked to back up a clearly*** defined statement with evidence? One brings evidence (and no, an avalanche of books will not do. I’ll get to that in a sec). Following that, the evidence will be discussed to see if the statement is supported.
It is *not* shutting down the conversation when it turns out not everyone wants to pat your back for speaking “truth” and then delete the bits that question that “truth”.

I’m pretty easy, really. If you don’t want to discuss it, you can tell me. If I’m honest, I would be disappointed because I think making sloppy claims hurts veganism and the public perception of vegans and veganism and there’s some issues to the statement I’ll get into below, but I’d respect your wishes and be content to take it no further. People made curious by my statements would know where to find me.

However, this act of silencing, apart from being rather rude, makes me very uncomfortable. Stifling anything that comes close to dissent, discouraging actual debate and critical thinking, deleting the bits you don’t like, show only the bits that agree with you, makes the whole thing a very groupthinky affair and it all gets a little too close to cultishness for me.
This does not help veganism.
These kinds of instances creep me out and are among the main reasons I prefer hanging out with vegans rather than being part of some vegan community.†

Apart from the deletions, there’s another thing that bugged me.
The huge reading/viewing list.

I have no idea if it was intended like that, but it felt like it was a way to tell me to “stop being contrary, shut up until you’ve read this, be convinced, then come back and play nice”. As if asking for clarification or substantiation of a claim made me the thick kid who didn’t quite get the awesomeness of plant-based living, like not having read all of those books made it so I was clearly not in possession of all the information needed to participate in this conversation, and could I go fix that please, before taking to my keyboard again.
Conveniently, fixing that would take a good amount of my time and more money than I’m willing to spend on books, so would be a nice, polite, non-confrontational way of getting me to shut up indefinitely which means that, for the time being, you can take your fingers out of your ears and stop saying silly things in a sing-song voice because I won’t be around to ask you to defend whatever you might say next.

It also reframes the argument somewhat. While the only thing I wanted was some information on the basis for that specific claim, I now have a whole list of books, no doubt filled with too many claims to check, to go through and dissect. Or accept at face-value, if I can’t be bothered to be thorough and kind of like what they’re saying and want to remain part of the group.

And really, there was no need for all of this. I’m not exactly hostile to veganism, or Vegan Hope specifically. Like I said, I rather like the blog and thought the $21 challenge was a great way to create awareness. Thing is, debate me, and you have a chance to hone your argument, get a clearer idea of what statements you can defend in a debate with non-vegans who know their stuff (and believe me, there are plenty of those), all with someone who is keen on veganism and seeing it represented well to the rest of the world.
Missed chance, really.

There’s more.

It’s not just the silencing that bothers me. We’ve not yet gone into why I’m bothered by the actual statement.
This part of the rant goes beyond what happened on Facebook and is more generalised. While the Vegan Hope example was hardly the most bothersome one I’d ever come across, it was bothersome nonetheless so deserves mention and it is, at the moment, topical for me.
Just so you know this isn’t me trying to attack Vegan Hope personally.

What bugs me about people going on about how veganism, or a whole foods plant-based diet (I get the feeling two tend to be used interchangeably in these kinds of debates) is a cure-all, a prevent-all, and the way to immortality, so everyone would be perfectly fine if they’d just get with the programme already.
The claims tend to be rather grand, often grander than the evidence warrants.
Yes, there is evidence that certain lifestyle factors increase or decrease one’s chance of getting certain diseases and healthy habits should be encouraged at every turn, but even with that, we’ll still get ill, we’ll still die. Claiming otherwise, making bigger claims than the evidence supports, does no one any favours.
Beyond that, this “all” kind of thinking tends deny that and have an unspoken undercurrent of victim-blaming that makes me very uncomfortable.

Ill? Well, since eating just plants would have prevented that, you must have done something wrong. Here, let me educate you.
Not getting better after you’ve mended your wicked ways? I bet you cheated or didn’t find quite the right way to go about it.

It allows you to accept neat, understandable, and above all, avoidable reasons to explain how other people got themselves in some rather unenviable position, and feel smug about how *you* are not doing that and managed to kill your fears of becoming ill by knowing that *your* actions will spare you such a fate. A rather judgmental attitude that neatly gets in the way of actually being compassionate and helpful to people who could really use it.
It’s the sort of thing that makes my blood boil, especially when combined with disparaging remarks regarding modern medicine and medical professionals.

As an aside, this also very much goes for parents who have a child born with (a) congenital defect(s). Most of the time, there are no known (avoidable) risk factors, nothing they could’ve done differently to prevent their child from being born like that.
If you discuss what they might’ve done wrong or shun them because only dodgy parents get defective kids, I’ll not be pleased and I *will* call you on it.

The idea that people are fully in control of their own (or unborn baby’s) health, go on as if the most natural state of the human body is “healthy” and therefore living “naturally” or “healthy” will restore your body to that supposed baseline, makes me really, really punchy. Apart from there being a whole lot of genetics, uncontrollable factors, unknowns, and simple bad luck involved with health that such an ideology refuses to account for, there’s also some iffy classicist implications.
Those rich people living longer and more healthily? They totally deserve that! Those lazy poor slobs should just take better care of themselves.
Ben Goldacre wrote it better than me here (scroll down a bit, though the whole thing is well worth a read).

The fact of the matter is, veganism doesn’t actually need any of this. It’s a perfectly nice ethical concept which is mostly easy to implement in one’s daily life. Few people, especially few doctors and researchers, question the healthfulness of eating plenty of plants. There’s ample evidence to back that up.
There’s nothing wrong with mentioning that evidence. Just know the limits and stick to what’s known rather than what you’d like to be true.
It’s not as if, when you find out that the main risk factor for some disease isn’t diet-related, the whole exercise is pointless. Veganism is, above all, an ethical view from which certain dietary practices follow.
It not curing/preventig all ills does not mean that the improvements you made through dietary change are irrelevant or illusory.
Nuance. Subtley. Shades of grey. They matter. Learn to love them.

Oh, and by the way, I still get spots. PETA pretty damn near promised me going vegan would give me a skin free of blemishes.
Guess they were wrong.
Good thing there are actual good arguments in favour of veganism, isn’t it?

If you’ve read this far, you might interested in learning more about critical thinking and skepticism. If so, check out something skeptical. Say, one of the many podcasts or blogs. If you’ve found one or two, it’ll take you no time at all to find more than you can keep up with. That’s how I got started.
As for blogs, I already mentioned two in this post (by the way, be sure to also check out Ben Goldacre’s book), as for podcasts, my firsts were Hunting Humbug 101 and Skepticality, I’ve a strong love for the Quack Cast, and just today I was listening to Righteous Indignation podcast.

If I get around to it, next post will be a bit more cheerful and should involve the carrot my girlfriend gave me for World Animal Day.

* Initially I took the statement to be about prevention, but after rereading, I realised it could just as easily, if not more easily, be about curing breast cancer. I mentioned this in my last comment, but never got an answer.

** Want PubMed links? Here’s one. Want more? Go to PubMed.com and search for something along the lines of “breast cancer diet” or “breast cancer risk factors”. Have fun!

*** Well, sorta. See *

† This is not limited to the vegan community but is something I can find to some degree in many communities.


Day Two August 10, 2010

Posted by tuimeltje in breakfast, dinner, food, lunch, meals, rant.
Tags: , ,
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Oatmeal with cinnamon and chopped apple. Filling and nice enough, though tomorrow I’ll have to add a pinch of salt before microwaving.

Four sandwiches, peanut butter+cucumber slices+sambal.

The rest of the salad, fried rice and veg with some peanut sauce.
Salad: dumped whatever was left into a bowl, added some soya sauce and pepper.
Fried rice and veg: chopped up one bell-pepper, chucked it into the frying pan. Chopped up three carrots, added them to the pan. Waited a bit, then chopped up two tomatoes and added them to the pan. Added a few (regular, not measuring, precision not necessary here) table spoons of rice. Added some soya sauce and some of the spice mix I’d used yesterday. Let it heat up for a bit.
Peanut sauce: put a heaped (regular, not measuring) spoon of peanut butter in a small bowl, added some water (amount depends on desired consistency. Start with a little, add more if you want it more runny), added some sambal (red pepper paste, optional, can be subbed with whatever peppery thing you want), some sumac, some garlic powder, and some fenurgeek powder. Stir until it becomes a homogeneous paste, heat it in the microwave. I heated it for just about a minute, and it got a fair bit thicker so you may want to keep that in mind when adding water.

Food day 2

While eating this, I watched Rhys Morgan’s video about what went on at a Crohn’s forum he was registered at. Apparently at support forums, it’s not okay to mention that some quack nonsense is not just unhelpful but also actually dangerous and going against the mood will get you banned. :/
Really annoying, such things.

Stuff used:

  • Mircowave: gift.
  • Plates: salad bowl: bought at IKEA <€2-ish, small bowl: bought second hand <€0.50
  • fridge: gift
  • cutlery: gift
  • frying pan: bought not too long after moving out, <€10, possibly €5
  • Two Again July 23, 2008

    Posted by tuimeltje in administrative, dinner, food, rant, travel.
    Tags: , , , , , , , ,

    Two things, mostly related to my internet access and posting frequency, though it does end with a rant.

    One, I’ll be hanging out in the UK for a few short days, playing my pipes and spending too little time with Sinead. I’m unlikely to have internet access there at all, though I’ll bring my camera and post about the highlights later.

    Two, I’ll be moving soon. I’ve been sort of looking for a flat for a while now, what with me getting slightly tired of student housing and looking forward to living with my boyfriend, but this is still happening rather suddenly so I’ll have to arrange a bunch of stuff quite quickly. All very exciting (my own (tiny) kitchen! Gotta get me a fridge…), but again something that’ll lead, if not to scattered internet access, at the very least to scattered internet time.
    And scattered me, certainly. I’m not particularly organised at the best of times, but combining a hardly-prepared move with a job and a nice bit of cat-sitting is probably going to leave me temporarily flaily and absent-minded.
    Or, uhm, more flaily and absent-minded than usual.

    To make this at least vaguely about food, I should maybe mention the soup I made on Monday. Last week, when I made the salad with the last of the rice and beans, I kept some of the celery stalks, hoping they’d last until this week so I could make me some lentil soup to make use of my lentil stash and actually make something with those tinned diced tomatoes I’ve had lying around for, like, ever.
    They lasted, so I made soup. It was good, though I should’ve maybe used fewer of those dried red peppers.
    Live and learn.

    Since I eat my lunch at work these days I rarely have the materials to make a decent sandwich meal, the kind I eat Tuesday evenings on the train to band practice, unless I make a special effort. For last night, I kind of forgot about that (see? Scattered).
    So instead of sandwiches, I took along the frozen leftovers from the lentil soup. Which hadn’t properly thawed when I was on my way there, so I took the time to try that bain marie thing when everyone else was having coffee. While it’s better hot, it’s not too bad eaten cold. Eating it with bits still actually icy, however, kind of sucks.

    Apparently (getting slightly ranty here), a basic, simple lentil soup is a strange and exotic food to your average Dutch omni. And not the good kind, either. The freaky outlandish sort that looks like puke.
    Now I can’t argue too much with how the soup looked, as I’ve probably puked up things that vaguely resembled this soup, but the lentil is a fairly humble and incredibly common legume that is much more exciting than most people’d think.
    Not freaky, and it shouldn’t be that strange and exotic to people who seem to like curry (the UK sort, from a nice jar or served at a friendly pub) and I assume were at least raised vaguely Protestant and might still be practising in some way or another. Red lentils are, like, totally biblical and everything.
    Just ask Esau.

    Also, me eating my lovely not-particularly-exotic soup shouldn’t make people tell me all about their worldly oh-so NOT VEGAN culinary experiences involving grubs and that thin webby bit between a duck’s toes. Really, it’s not what I want to hear when I’m bloody eating.
    I generally quite like these people, but sometimes omnis confuse me. I strongly suspect they (omnis in general, but it became pretty obvious with this crowd) would like to make my eating habits all about the food so they won’t have to think about that pesky little ethical concept underlying it all (and since the food is obviously icky, they don’t have to try that, either). Why else would otherwise considerate people appear so unaware of how a vegan might feel about their NOT VEGAN culinary adventures? This was the sort of thing where the less adventurous omni would either get grossed out or get upset about the cuddly critter eating, so the only reason I can think of as to why someone would discuss it with me is that they see veganism as just another kind of adventurous eating, which would be one hell of a way to not get it.

    It’s times like those that make me appreciate vegan freaks, people who know their legumes and also occasionally feel like aliens among their barbaric acquaintances.

    Soft June 25, 2008

    Posted by tuimeltje in dinner, non-food veganness, rant.
    Tags: , , , ,

    Today kind of sucks on the vegan product front. First I read some disconcerting stuff about palm oil and Earth Balance (see also this post), and while we don’t actually get Earth Balance here, palm oil seems to become more common and is probably found in vegetable margarines here, as well. The one I have refuses to specify which plant fats it uses, but Alpro minarine lists something palm on the package.
    Of course, the other options might not be neutral, either.
    Then I re-read about Ecover losing it’s vegan logo (Dutch forum, but the first message with most of the relevant info is largely in English) and learn that the owner of Ecover is also rather high up at the company in charge of guarding the Guantanamo Bay prisoners. Which, apart from making me want to look into making my own laundry soap and washing-up liquid a bit more seriously (this looks interesting, if I can find properly vegan soap flakes), also has me wondering if Alpro‘s beliefs are little more than a clever marketing ploy making us feel good and slightly smug about using their products. It’s quite possibly better than some alternatives, but that doesn’t automatically make it good, now does it?
    I hate this world sometimes.

    Anyway, on to the food.

    While I had intended to make two different things with the two leftover aubergines, I found them with icky bits today. And after cutting off the icky bits, I didn’t think I’d be able to properly hold them for roasting. So, Bonnie’s baba ganoush suggestion will have to wait until I get me some more auberines. I definitely want to see if I can properly roast them on a candle flame.

    Instead, I used what was left to make this PPK recipe I found while looking for peanut soup. I didn’t have a good few of the ingredients and have no clue how much aubergine I used and how to adjust the other ingredients appropriately, so the amounts are probably a bit off.

    The missing ingredients were the shallots, the hot chili, the ginger, the ground cayenne pepper, the roasted diced tomatoes (I have a can of diced tomatoes, but didn’t feel like adding the whole thing), the green beans, the lemon juice (I have other plans for that lemon. You just wait), the coriander leaves (I have some frozen, but I thing this requires fresh), and the garnish.
    To make up for this, I added part of a pointy red pepper (sweet, not hot), some not-tabasco (which is not particulatly hot, really. Will find new brand should I ever buy more), some kale, a bit of sereh, a tiny bit of kentjur (a ginger-like spice. Never used it before, but found it at the floating Chinese supermarket recently and decided to buy the jar), and your basic black pepper.
    I forgot to take an ingredients picture, so you’ll have to just visualise them this time.

    While I’m not sure I stuck to the recommended cooking/frying times, I did attempt patience with regards to the simmering and the salting. For some reason that bit of the directions seemed important enough to follow.


    It’s nice and comfortably peppery, but somehow I expected something more exciting. It’s kind of like a spicy satay sauce but with bits in. Not too unexpected. Still, again not too strong a peanutty flavour. I should really make me a proper peanutty soup without adding veg. Though I must say, these finely-chopped-kale cubes make for easier eating than the not-so-finely-chopped gai choy. And the aubergine bits are very nice and soft this time. I’ve certainly had different.

    The soup is a fair bit runnier than I’d expected. I thought it’d be more a kind of stew rather than a soup. It looks thicker on the picture and it’s the sort of thing that I feel should be thicker. Maybe I’ll let it simmer some more so some of the water will evaporate.

    Since the recipe mentions it tastes better the next day, I will refrain from eating the whole thing this evening and leave some to try tomorrow. Of course, after having written this, I want to eat more. Figures.

    ETA 26-06-2008: I heated some up this evening and while I’m not sure I can properly compare and tell you whether it’s improved the way I was told it would, I can tell you it was most tasty. It made me feel pleasantly warm, the kind of warm you get after eating slightly spicy or gingery food. That kind of glow radiating out from your stomach. Comfortable.
    The peanutty flavour was present, but wasn’t that prominent. Like part of the soup rather than the soup. And while I didn’t quite manage to boil it down the way I’d hoped, it did seem to be a little less fluid.
    All in all, it’s a soup I will remember and probably make again some day.

    Melon Collie April 10, 2008

    Posted by tuimeltje in breakfast, rant.
    Tags: , ,

    Even though I didn’t turn on my computer before going to work this morning, I still ended up leaving a little later than I had intended to. I keep intending to leave well in advance so I can walk. It’s not far, so it’s not much of a difference, time-wise. Just enough to make me go for my bike when I feel I’m running a little late.
    Which, really, is most mornings. I lose at mornings.

    Anyway, the reason I was running late today is because I insisted on making me a smoothie for breakfast.

    Stuff I used:


    I didn’t use the entire melon. Just half of it. I suspect peeling that one was part of why I ended up running late.
    This was the first time I used an apple in a smoothie. The particular apple was getting kind of dodgy (which is why I put it upsidedown for the picture) and I thought this’d be a good way to use it before it went completely bad.
    I always thought my darling immersion blender would be a little too frail to deal with the crunchiness of your average apple, but s/h/it did marvelously. I guess apple-y crispy is different from carrot-y crispy.

    Normally this particular brand of soya milk isn’t sold here, it’s just found at some of De Tuinen’s shops for some reason. I have no idea if it’s actually true, but I never bought it there before since I assumed it was more expensive than the Alpro/Provamel stuff I usually get (I only got because it was marked down), but I may have to check it again to be sure. This stuff has vitamin D2 in it, something that’s not found in many soya
    milks available here. Maybe that Alpro toddler stuff. That’s the only variety that might have it.

    What I ended up with:

    Well, no picture here. Remember that bit about me running a little late? I totally forgot about taking pictures when I was chugging down my smoothie while putting on my shoes. It was tasty, though. And with all the fruit I chucked in, I ended up with rather a lot of it. Enough to feed two not-too-hungry people. Or two people who’re also eating some nice oatmeal this morning.


    Remember that Nutritional Data site I mentioned not too long ago? Well, they also have a blog. Though most of the advice and information is either not relevant or not relevant to me, it’s a nice enough blog and I subscribed to it when I found out about it.

    Usually it’s basic tips on eating better and healthier living in general, explaining confusing concepts for which there is a lot of conflicting advice, and answering questions from readers.
    All very well and pleasant, that. Quite Sensible, in general. While it’s not exactly a radical read (the author cited Nina Planck in an answer regarding a veg*n pregnancy :rolls eyes:), it has made mention of the weirdness surrounding stevia and it does seem to be about properly informing people about basic nutrition rather than pushing some branded, overpriced “health”food.

    Their most recent entry, however, bothers me somewhat. Go read it and guess why.
    Also guess which comment is mine.

    It could’ve been a little more eloquent, I suppose, but my mind went all &grrr;flsz!!;Khaaan!! and I was too annoyed to do a proper search for relevant articles. At least this saved it from having the thing to turn into a giant, anger-fueled link-dump.

    Thanks to Sinead for that lovely “please eat less meat” quote by that Indian guy who works for some fancy UN committee. I could’ve put it around some nicer paragraphs, but still. It’s a good quote.
    Go click that link if you want more environmental rants.