HEALTHY COOKING TECHNIQUES
Let’s say you’re convinced. You’d like to make a change. Where do you start? How do you cook this healthy food I’m talking about? Keep reading, and I’ll tell you step-by-step.
LIQUIDS, JUICE AND TEA
When we wake up, we are thirsty. Drink a glass of water. Exercise and drink more water or tea. If you drink coffee, drink water first. I speculate that the craving some people have for coffee is really a craving for water. If you drink too much coffee, maybe it’s time to quit. Please do not drink lattes and mochas made with milk. Drink Americano, and keep asking your local espresso stand to get some soy or rice milk and organic sugar or maple syrup.
I make tea a glass at a time. But I also make it in bulk. I buy teas in bulk at the Coop; they cost a fraction of the cost of tea in bags. I put one or even six different herbs or teas into a big pot and boil or steep them in a lot of water. After the tea cools, I put it into big glass peanut butter jars, refrigerate them, and drink them over a period of days, sometimes heated, sometimes cold.
Some of the store-bought teas and herbs I make teas out of are as follows, listed in no particular order: Licorice root, mint, fennel seed, fenugreek seed, pau di arco, milkweed seeds, clove, sarsaparilla, ginger, ginsing, dandelion, hyssop, star anise, turkey rhubarb, burdock, sheep sorrell, slippery elm, lemon grass, and others. Licorice root sweetens tea, as does stevia. You get the idea.
I also make tea out of things that grow in our garden. Our front yard is blessed with raspberries. The fresh leaves make an excellent tea. We have stinging nettle growing in several segregated areas of the yard. And we have several kinds of mint.
Generally, you should steep and not boil teas made from green leaves, while you should actually boil teas made from dried leaves, seeds, or roots.
Each edible plant species contains dozens of different minerals and phytochemicals, none of which can harm us, and some of which may be just the phytochemicals our cells may need to repair themselves. Bark, twigs, seeds, and leaves are inedible unless boiled. Generally you would not want to eat the cellulose, so you drink the soak water, which is richer in minerals and phytochemicals if boiled. So give your cells a phytochemical smorgasbord: Drink your tea.
FILTERED OR DISTILLED WATER, BARLEY WATER
Buy a carbon block water filter. It will remove chlorine and some chemicals from the water. Granulated charcoal is inadequate, because water tends to flow in channels around the granules, and thus some water is not filtered. Chlorine is very important to public health because it eliminates bacteria. On the other hand, it is carcinogenic and contributes to atherosclerosis. The best solution would be for cities to convert from chlorine to ozone treatment. Until that happens, an alternative is to filter out the chlorine just before you drink the water. Another alternative is to let your drinking water sit in an uncovered pitcher for a day; and the chlorine will evaporate. If you are concerned about removing chemical pollutants and such bacteria as giardia and cryptosporidium, additional and special filtration will be required.
From the moment you install a new filter it begins filling up with the things it filters out. Fluoride is a tiny molecule that is not filtered out by the typical carbon filter. The most thorough way to clean your water is with a water distiller. What you are left with is straight water. Dr. Mercola says distilled water is good for you as part of a temporary cleansing but bad for you on a long term basis. (www.mercola.com/article/Diet/water/distilled_water.htm; www.chetday.com/distilledwater.htm.) He says that it is so free of minerals that it absorbs carbon dioxide and becomes acidic. His alternative is to use a filter, however, he says nothing about the amazingly high levels of pollutants in tap water and that fact that filters do not remove all of them. Dr. Andrew Weil disagrees and says distilled water has “close to a neutral pH and has no affect on the body’s acid/base balance.” www.distilledwater.ca/Is%20Distilled%20Water%20Safe.PDF).
If Dr. Mercola is right, and given the fact that distillation is the best way to remove impurities, then the solution is to add minerals back to the distilled water. One way to do this is to make Korean barley water. Start with unhulled barley, also known as sprouting barley, not pearled barley. Roast the barley in a pan on low heat. Keep it moving until it is lightly browned. Drop a tablespoon of the roasted barley into your water carafe and leave it there. Or add water to the barley in the hot pan and turn off the heat. This should mineralize the water. Problem solved.
Another alternative is to add raspberry leaves, mint, or stinging nettle to your water. You should be growing all of these in your yard.
FRUIT, JUICE, AND SMOOTHIES
I often do not eat cooked food until lunch time. It’s a good way for me to control my weight. Once I start eating, I have trouble quitting until I go to bed. So I start the day drinking water, tea, and juice, and eating fruit. Fruit and juice are very easy to digest. They contain healthy vitamins, minerals, and other phytochemicals, and they are full of the water we don’t drink enough of. From May to September we have raspberries growing in our front yard. In August and September we pick the blackberries that grow along our jogging route. From September to December we eat the grapes and other fruit we grow.
We have ten different varieties of grapes growing in our yard. Prune the plants properly and give them proper support and they will produce heavily. My favorite grape is the blue concord grape with seeds—tart skins with sweet meat inside. All through the fall I harvest several big bunches each morning. I carry them away in a paper bag to the office and eat them as I work. I would store the seeds under my upper lip until it would bulge out and then I would go outside to spit them out. One day in a micro-epiphany I realized it would be lot easier just to swallow them. It is the same way with watermelon seeds. They come out the other end. There is nothing more invigorating than fresh grapes. They make you feel strong.
The good thing about grapes is that you can put them in a ziplock bag and freeze them as-is. Later you can toss the frozen grapes into a blender with frozen banana, some rice milk, juice, peanut butter or sesame butter or avocado, nutritional yeast, and lecithin, and you will have a great smoothie. I freeze both seedless and seeded grapes. The blender breaks up the seeds; I swallow them without chewing them. People pay big bucks for a grape seed extract known as pycnogenol. I get it for free.
Why freeze bananas? Because you can buy boxes of overripe bananas for ten cents a pound. It is impossible to eat so many bananas before they go bad. So take the skins off and freeze them at their sweetest in plastic bags. Put them frozen into the blender. They have all the wonderful flavor of fresh, overripe bananas. The same thing is true of other fruit, which we have in abundance in the fall and need to store for later enjoyment. Mix sweet frozen bananas with frozen fruit that is tart, and eat them together, for a tasty combination.
We save frozen plums, berries, bananas, and grapes in our freezer.
I enjoy going out back to my garden and eating whatever is growing there. I sit by the lettuce on a stool and eat some. I sit by the kale and eat some. I sit by the parsley and eat a few more mouthfuls. Parsley is one of my favorites, and once you get it growing you will have it in great abundance. Collect the seeds in the fall and sow them everywhere around the yard and neighborhood. As I edit this today (April 16, 2005), I am eating fresh greens that I picked and cooked in olive oil and water: collard, spinach, mustard, red Russian kale, snow pea leaves, scallion, and leaks.
The lawn produces lots of dandelions—because I do not use Weed & Feed, which contains atrazine. Dandelion flowers are a tasty morsel, a combination of sweet and a little bitter. Bitter is good; we eat far to little in the way of bitter herbs. I pop and eat them like little hunks of juicy bread. I might eat 20 while out jogging. I suspect the neighbors think I’m nuts. Well, by ordinary standards, I am. The stems and young leaves are edible uncooked but are bitter. Larger leaves and roots are tougher and more bitter and need cooking. That’s right: The entire dandelion plant is edible—and nutritious. True dandelion has only one yellow flower per stalk.
During the Summer I get a big handful of whatever is growing and sit on the back deck under the grape arbor, spread out the newspaper on the table, and really chow down as I read. I carry my bag of greens in the car and eat them as I drive and in the office. Once I ate greens before going to see a Chinese herbal doctor. He wanted to see my tongue; Eastern doctors always look at your tongue. I wonder what Eastern doctors see in the tongue that Western doctors never look for. When I opened my mouth and stuck out my tongue, he did a double take and said: “Never see such green tongue!”
In the Northwest many of these greens will grow all year round. Second only to grapes, fresh greens is my favorite snack, any time of day or night. Each variety contains dozens of different kinds of phytochemicals, as I say frequently in this book, none of which can harm you and any one of which might be just the chemical your body needs to fight off some disease. (See “Wildman” Steve Brill’s Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild and not-So-Wild Places and his Shoots and Greens of Early Spring.) Always chew greens thoroughly. Chew, chew, chew. This aids digestion and helps avoid gas.
There is more nutrition your body can absorb from fruit and greens than your jaws can comfortably chew up, especially if your teeth are failing. If you have a successful garden, you will have more greens than you can eat raw. And the more you prune your kale, collards, cabbage, and other greens, the more they will grow. So fill up a paper bag with greens and blend them with a food processor. Juice apples or carrots with them to sweeten them.
Rice is versatile and nutritious. Everyone can digest rice, whereas about 30 percent of humans have a mild allergy to wheat and its kin, spelt and kamut.
Around 4 percent of people are celiacs, reacting to gluten. They should avoid wheat, rye, spelt, and kamut. Most but not all celiacs can tolerate rice. Fortunately they can eat corn, potatoes, quinoa, millet, and buckwheat.
Brown rice is a complex carbohydrate that requires a lot of energy to digest and thus accelerates your metabolism and helps you lose weight. (See the Obesity section of this book, p. 250.) It also provides fiber that helps clean out the crooks and crevices of your intestine. It is bulky and filling.
Brown rice, although stripped of the hard outer husk and the germ, is to be preferred over white rice. White rice has also been stripped of the inner husk, which contains more vitamins and roughage than the white inner starch. The nutritious part is fed to chickens and pigs. Louis Pasteur discovered that rats fed nothing but brown rice stayed healthy while those fed nothing but white rice died of malnutrition.
Does your family prefers white rice? Here’s how to convert them: Cook white rice, but add a little brown rice, wild rice, or kamut berries. Gradually increase the proportion of the whole grains and gradually eliminate the white rice. White rice is a bad habit, just like white bread. It really has no taste, just a particular sticky texture that people become accustomed to. On the other hand, brown rice has a nutty flavor that your family will gradually come to prefer, just the way people come to prefer whole-grain bread. Buy organic rice; if you persist in asking for it, your grocer will stock it.
How do you cook rice? Put the exact amount of rice and water in a pot as stated in the recipe book and cook for the exact amount of time. You must not open the lid or you will ruin the rice. This always frustrated me: How do you check to see if the rice is ready without opening the lid?
There’s a better way to make perfect rice: Cook it in a rice cooker, the way most Asians do. Most Asians eat rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so they have made a science of cooking rice. The word for meal in Japanese is gohan, which is also the word for rice. I recommend the Zojirushi rice cooker from Japan. There are several sizes that range in price from about $80 to $200 depending on the size and where you buy them. A good rice cooker makes perfect rice every time.
Measure three cups of rice into the Zojirushi. Rinse the rice until it flows clear. Add water up to the three-cup line if you are making white rice or up to the 4.5-cup line if you are making whole-grain rice. The rice cooker has a spring loaded switch in the bottom that turns the electricity off when the water is cooked out. Whole-grain rice needs to cook longer, so you must add more water. With brown rice, err on the side of adding too much water instead of too little; it’s hard to make whole-grain rice that is too soft. In a half hour you have perfect rice.
Spend a little extra money and buy a rice cooker with a thermos jar lid. The rice, once cooked, will be sealed in. You can keep the rice hot and ready-to-eat continuously for up to 48 hours by leaving the Zojirushi on the “keep warm” setting. Apparently the heat prevents bacteria from getting a foothold. Rice will gradually dry out, so add a little water, stir it up, and put the Zojirushi on the “cook” setting again. The cooker will turn off again when the new water is cooked out.
OTHER GRAINS besides rice, preferably sprouted
Having said good things about rice, I will point out something better.
What I refer to as “brown rice” and what most people refer to as “whole grain rice” is not whole at all; the outer shell and germ have been removed. Thus, brown rice will not sprout. I had never seen true whole grain rice until I visited the Philippines and saw it being dried on the road. There true whole grain rice is referred to as palo. It will sprout, but palo is too hard to eat even after it is sprouted and cooked. A coarse outer husk is removed from palo to make brown rice, and then it is milled again to make white rice.
While you cannot sprout brown rice, you can sprout whole wheat, rye, spelt, barley, and all other grains. Ask your coop to stock barley with the husk intact. It is referred to as “sprouting barley,” as opposed to “pearl barley.”
Unsprouted grains tend to be high in phytates which bind with minerals and impede the body’s ability to absorb them. So grains should be sprouted before they are cooked. Because rice cannot be sprouted, I recommend you eat other grains instead and sprout them first. Otherwise the white rice will get too soft.
Variety is the spice of life. Sprout and then cook wheat, spelt, kamut, oats, barley, and other grains in your rice cooker. Don’t mix different grains and cook them together, unless you combine grains that take approximately the same time to cook. You could cook millet and quinoa together, because they both require little cooking time, but you should not mix either with spelt or kamut, which take a long time to cook. Cooking times are longer for whole wheat, brown rice, spelt, or kamut than for white rice. When you want to cook them mixed with white rice, you should add them to the rice cooker first to give them extra cooking time, and then ten minutes later add the white rice.
Kamut and spelt are bigger than rice. They have a nutty flavor and a chewy texture. When spelt or kamut berries are cooked in a rice cooker, they get very plump. Just add extra water for those berries to absorb.
Sprouting is very important, so I will discuss it in some detail. There is much said about the importance of eating whole grains, but little about the importance of sprouting whole grains before eating them. Grains are high in phytates that can interfere with mineral absorption, and some people have allergies to grains. Sprouting grains before eating them allegedly eliminates these problems.
Further, sprouted grains, legumes, or beans are living foods. They have come alive. Their DNA has gone to work making pristine new growth. Sprouts are the stem cells of the plant world. They are the very best thing you can eat to strengthen health. Are you trying to overcome some chronic disease or cancer? Then get into sprouting.
And there is the economic side too. An ounce of grain or legumes or beans quickly becomes two ounces of sprouts. Water and air join with the seed to give you free food. Sprouted grains and legumes are soft enough that they don’t even have to be cooked, saving gas or electricity. They are rich in the Omega-3 fatty acids you need, along with thousands of other nutrients. All beans should be soaked or sprouted before they are cooked, and even soaked or sprouted beans should be cooked. Lentils can be eaten uncooked provided they are soaked or sprouted.
What can you sprout? It is easier to list the things you cannot sprout: You cannot sprout split peas because the germ has been removed. However, you can sprout whole dried peas, and they are very tasty. You can also buy them by the pound and plant them in your garden.
Nor can you sprout brown rice or white rice. The germ has been removed in the process of removing the brick hard hull. You can sprout true whole grain rice, but the hull is still too hard for eating, even if the rice is cooked. This is why I recommend that instead of eating rice you sprout wheat, barley, kamut, rye, or spelt and then eat the sprouts raw or cooked in your rice cooker or cooked in your soup or stir fry. Minimal cooking is needed; you can even add the sprouts at the very last, and they will remain raw foods.
You can also sprout lentils, adzukis, mung, and any other kind of pea or bean. You do not need to sprout anything to the point where there are big leaves, in fact if you wait this long, the sprouts can become bitter and tough. Lentils swell and split open in twelve hours and become a living food. Sprout them for another day or two and they grow little roots and leaves. That’s enough. Eat them while they are tender.
How do you sprout? Sprouting jars are popular, but they offer too little air circulation, and sprouts will mold easily in jars. I recommend that you use a glass bowl for soaking and sprouting. Soak grains, legumes, or beans overnight under water. Rinse them frequently. After a day under water, pour out the water. Keep them wet by running water over the sprouts two, three, or four times each day. In winter let your sprouts grow for three days. In summer one or two days is enough. When your sprouts have grown as much as you want them to grow, put them in a sealed plastic container in the refrigerator. With this method, there is little problem with the sprouts molding.
OLIVE OIL INSTEAD OF MARGARINE
Italians, Greeks, Lebanese, and Cretans don’t smear butter or margarine on their bread. They pour olive oil into a shallow bowl, perhaps add salt, and dip their bread into the oil. Cretans eat a high percentage of their diet as fat, but they have very little heart disease because their fat is mostly olive oil. They eat little meat. They even guzzle olive oil straight.
Tear off some tough, chewy bread, and dip it in olive oil. Olive oil has a delectable flavor. It’s good for you, but bear in mind that fat tends to make you fat—more so than carbohydrates or protein. If you are too skinny and need to gain weight, eat more olive oil, flax oil, or other healthy oils. If you are overweight, cut way down on fat of all kinds except for the essential fatty acids.
To obtain the essential fatty acids, eat flax, hemp, chia, kukui, pumpkin, borage flowers, evening primrose flowers, walnuts, and greens of all kinds.
Margarine is hydrogenated, which means it contains trans-fatty acids. It contains no essential fatty acids. Most margarines contain whey, perhaps because whey is cheaper than soy. (See Healthy Oils and Flax section of this book, p. 253.)
Any oil that gets hot enough to smoke is being broken down into trans-fatty acids and other compounds that are as bad for you as saturated fat and cholesterol. What we are looking for is a way to fry without burning the oil.
To fry foods for long periods at high heat, the best oils are saturated tropical oils, such as coconut and palm oil. These oils can survive heat longer than other oils without breaking down. However, no oil can resist breaking down into unhealthy by-products if the oil is kept hot for long periods of time—as with the oil used to fry French fries in restaurants. The next best oils for frying are high oleic sunflower or safflower oil, refined peanut oil, refined avocado oil, sesame oil, canola oil, and olive oil—roughly in that order. Olive oil is marginally acceptable for low-temperature frying.
The general culinary wisdom is that to make a good pie crust you need a saturated fat such as butter, margarine, lard, or shortening. Nope, coconut cream serves just as well. It is actually a much healthier alternative because although it is saturated, the fatty acid chains are short, and so coconut oil is more easily digested.
Udo Erasmus believes fried foods are never completely healthy:
Frying and deep-frying are completely prohibited if optimum health is what you are after, or if you are attempting to reverse cancer or any other degenerative condition using natural means.
He points out, however, that are there ways of frying that are much less harmful than others: “Traditional Chinese cooks put water in their wok before they add oil.…”? Water keeps the temperature of the oil no higher than the boiling point of water, a temperature that does not transmute oil into trans fats. On the other hand, such heat may destroy some vitamins; so cook no longer than necessary. Erasmus suggests frying with onions and garlic in the oil because they contain sulphur, which lessens free radical damage. (Udo Erasmus, Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill, Chapter 22, Frying and Deep-Frying, p. 125-129. Again, see the Healthy Oils and Flax section of this book, p. 253.)
STIR-FRYING AND STEAM-FRYING TECHNIQUES
There are several ways to make stir-fry. I will focus on methods that burn oil the least.
Whichever method you use, chop everything before you start cooking anything. Cut the tofu into slices. Arrange your chopped and diced veggies, garlic, onions, nuts, and everything else in bowls or in piles on the counter top. Get out the herbs. With everything ready, you will be able to add ingredients at the right time.
Tofu is the first thing you will cook. You cannot stir fry tofu with veggies because even firm tofu will crumble into little pieces. You can fry your tofu in oil, steam it, or steam it first and then add it to the veggies at the end. The latter is the best method.
The old hippie method is to cut the tofu into strips and fry it in oil with garlic and ginger. Brown the strips on both sides. Take the tofu, garlic, and ginger out of the oil and put them on a plate. Then fry the veggies, and add the tofu back to the mix at the end. The problem with the old method is that the oil burns and forms trans-fatty acids.
A better method is to steam (parboil) the tofu first. Put a metal butterfly colander into a big pot, pour in a half-inch of water, and spread the tofu slices on the colander. Bring the water to a boil, and steam the tofu for up to 20 minutes. It will get very firm, even rubbery, much firmer than it will get if it is fried in oil, because steamed tofu gets well-cooked all the way through. Much of the water is evaporated out, leaving small spaces, so steamed tofu marinates well, sucking up liquids like a sponge.
A next optional step is to marinate the tofu in soy sauce, chopped garlic, and lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, especially if you are going to serve it separately instead of stirred into the stir fry.
Now let’s talk about cooking the veggies. The old hippie method was to fry them in the same oil that cooked the tofu. Get the oil really hot, and keep the veggies moving. Throw in the thick vegetables first, the ones that will require more cooking time— broccoli stalks, onions, collard, mustard, and cabbage. A little later add the vegetables that need little cooking, and next those that can be eaten raw and only need to be heated. Finally, return the tofu, garlic, and ginger to the mix at the end, frying for a few minutes so flavors can intermix.
Instead I suggest you steam the veggies first. You can even steam the veggies and the tofu together in the same steamer. Put the tofu in first on the bottom. Give the tofu a 15-minute head start so it will have plenty of time to get firm. You can over-steam vegetables, but it is hard to over-steam tofu. Again, add the veggies in stages, starting with those which need the most cooking.
At this point you have a choice: steam the tofu and veggies to perfection, dump them onto a serving plate, add sauce and eat them without any frying.
Or take the half steamed veggies and the tofu out of the steaming pot and put them into the wok for frying. If you do it this way, put your onions, garlic, ginger, and other herbs into the oil and water mix and cook them for ten minutes so they can soften. Then add the steamed veggies and last the tofu.
Steaming or parboiling and then frying may seem like twice as much work, but it’s really not. It involves the same amount of washing and cutting of vegetables. The steaming is very easy, and once it’s done, the steam-frying just takes a jiffy. Steaming involves no grease, so the big pot and the colander rinse out clean without serious scrubbing.
Let’s look at a fourth method, a really lazy way. It is done all in one pan. Pour a half-inch of water into the pan. Spread the hard veggies such as broccoli stems on the bottom, with some of them actually immersed in the water. Add collard greens and onions because they can take a lot of cooking. Add the tofu strips, not on the bottom in the water, because you want the tofu to dry out and harden, but on top of the veggies. Put the lid on, and steam the mixture. In ten minutes add the veggies which need little cooking. Keep the lid on the pan and steam them together without stirring them.
When the tofu is firm and the thick vegetables are half cooked, add olive oil, and turn up the heat. The fact that the water is boiling means the temperature of the oil stays at 212° F., no more and no less. The food is plenty hot enough to cook, but the oil cannot burn. When the vegetables are almost done, stop adding water. Keep cooking until all the water is gone and there is only oil left. This dries out the vegetables and gives them more of an oily and crispy fried taste.
CRAVINGS FOR MEAT
According to my theory, there are several reasons why people crave meat:
1. People crave salt, and meat is salty.
2. Meat is oily. People crave oily foods because they coat the mouth and lubricate the lining of the stomach, producing a feeling of satisfaction.
3. People crave food with a firm texture to it. Food that has to be chewed a lot lasts longer in the mouth and yields more flavor; meat has “bite” to it, a firm texture. Ironically, although meat is a chewy food, it contains no fiber at all.
4. Animals are frightened when they are killed, and so their adrenal glands have filled their bodies with adrenaline, which is a stimulant to those who eat meat.
5. People have not only hunger cravings, but also vitamin cravings. It is likely they confuse their vitamin cravings for meat cravings, because meat, with its high-fat content, coats the mouth and provides a feeling of satisfaction. However, it does not permanently satisfy vitamin cravings, because meat is not rich in vitamins.
6. People crave essential fatty acids, and those who eat no flax, hemp, chia, or kukui need meat as a source of essential fats, however, animals fattened on corn and soy contain less essential fatty acids than animals which eat grass. Also the sheer volume of non-essential fats so outweighs what essential fats there are, that the essential fats cannot do their job. Except perhaps for the meat of cold water fish or grass fed land animals, meat is not a good source of essential fats.
By perhaps several mechanisms, meat is addictive. I theorize that we have a predisposition to becoming addicted to meat because meat often saved our ancestors when they were starving in winter cold. When we introduce children to meat, we activate this addiction. Dr. Harris says we are a “fat-addicted species.” (William Harris, M.D., The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism, p. 24.) The addiction may also relate to the stimulative effect of adrenaline or some other chemicals in meat or to our need for essential fats.
Milk products and eggs are salty and oily. Their texture is not as firm as meat, however, cheese can be chewy, especially on pizza, and pizza is ranked first among Unitedstatesians as their favorite food. And eggs can be fried and scrambled to firm consistencies. Most of my theories about meat cravings apply to milk products and eggs.
My theory is that you can wean people off meat with non-meat foods that satisfy these cravings. This can be done with soy burgers, falafel, burgers made from Nature Burger mix with ground flax seed added, seitan, tofu, the imitation soy and gluten meats, the firm grains such as spelt and kamut, and other salty and oily concoctions such as my Herbed Pumpkin or Squash and my Zater Pate in the recipe section. I repeat, to wean people off meat, you must add flax, hemp, chia, or kukui to their diet to supply Omega-3.
Don’t take this too far and make everything salty and oily. However, there is a place for such dishes from time to time, especially for those who are making the transition to a plant-based diet, provided they do not suffer from salt-related high blood pressure. (See the recipe section of this book entitled Meat Substitutes, Entrees, at p. 377.)
EATING VEGAN IF YOU HAVE FALSE TEETH
“Spend any amount of money you can lay your hands on to keep your teeth,” said my wise and toothless mother to me on her 90th birthday. Google “Elizabeth Abraham Deal” to read her story. I refused to look at her with her teeth out. I remember well how as a child I thought her the most beautiful woman in the world. Pyorhea, gum disease, is what causes most people to lose their teeth. Eating a diet rich in food that strengthens bones is also important. Milk does not strengthen bones. In the long run it weakens them. Milk has calcium, but it has little magnesium, and without magnesium, your body cannot utilize the calcium. Fluoride also weakens bones, and it weakens bones more in people who do not eat the right balance of minerals.
What do you do if you have lost your teeth and your dentures do not fit well? You can’t chew vegetables well? If salads or vegetables or nuts are too hard, run them through the blender or food processor. As an option, add water and make soup out of them. If the soup is too bland, remember, any soup, and in fact, any food, can be “repaired” by adding sesame tahini and/or nutritional yeast.
STRICTLY VEGETARIAN BURGERS—TRANSITION FOOD
Vegetarian burgers are a transition food; they are popular with people who have recently quit eating meat and who still need something meat-like in the center of their plates. Vegetarian instant burgers and dry mixes all need salt to taste good, and frying them or heating them in a little oil adds to their “burger-ness.” And remember to add ground flax to the burger mix.
I enjoy falafel burgers from the Middle Eastern restaurants down on the Ave in Seattle’s University District. But they are deep fried in fat, and I have gradually made a transition away from most fried foods. At Middle Eastern restaurants I generally go for hummus, baba ganooj, and fool, made of chick peas, eggplant, and fava beans. They are not fried.
Should you be concerned about salt? When you cut out the meat, milk, and eggs, you eliminate 85 percent of the salt in your diet. So you should not feel too guilty about occasionally eating a vegetarian burger with some sea salt in it. Sea salt contains a variety of trace minerals. Braunstein suggests that humans started eating salt after they learned to use it as a means of preserving meat. (Mark Mathew Braunstein, Radical Vegetarianism, p. 37.)
For people who are making the transition out of meat eating, give them the chewy, salty, oiliness they crave. A little bit of oil and salt on a vegetarian burger is much better for a person than a hamburger. Frankly, I find most burger mixes and instant burgers to be a little bland because they are all made without salt.
Ultimately you will probably cut back on the salt and oil. You will find that when you eat everything salty, you mostly taste the salt. When you use less salt, you will then taste all the other flavors. To a certain extent the same is true of oil.
If you want to cut down on oil, heat your out-of-the package vegetarian burger on a Pyrex dish in the oven or microwave. Falafel and burgers made from dry mixes can be baked in the oven instead of fried.
See the Meat Substitutes section of the Goddess Recipes chapter, p. 377, for all the details on how to cook vegan burgers.
EATING WELL WITHOUT DAIRY PRODUCTS
GRANOLA WITH JUICE
I don’t drink milk. But I sometimes like cereal or granola for breakfast or as a late night snack. So I put grape juice, orange juice, apple juice, raspberry juice, or any kind of juice on my granola.
I get the oddest reaction when I tell people about this. They screw up their faces and say “yuck.” The first thing I say is, “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.” Cereal with juice tastes much better than cereal with milk. And then I ask them, “Why is it that pure, organic fruit juice on cereal is yuck but white, greasy cow juice that’s loaded with cow hormones and pesticides is not yuck?” Let’s get our yucks straight here. Cow’s milk is yuck. The dairy industry has done a thorough job of brainwashing people to think of milk when they think of cereal.
STRICTLY VEGETARIAN “MILK” PRODUCTS
Get your calcium the way cows get it, by eating leafy green vegetables—greens, spinach, kale, and so on. Almonds contain much more calcium than milk. Soak almonds in water for an hour or overnight, and they swell up and come alive.
A good alternative to cow’s milk is soy milk and rice milk. Buy the vanilla or carob flavor for straight drinking or to put on cereal. Soy and rice milk are sold in aseptic boxes, keep for months, and do not require refrigeration until the box is opened. So it is a low-risk item for your grocer to stock. (Imagine Foods, 800-434-4246, www.TasteTheDream.com; Vitasoy, www.Vitasoy-USA.com, 800-848-2769; Edensoy, www.EdenFoods.com, 888-424-3336; Westbrae Natural Foods, www.Westbrae.com, 800-434-4246; all organic sources.)
For drinking I prefer rice milk to soy milk. However, original flavor soy milk is the best replacement for milk in recipes that call for milk. Some experts say soy milk and unfermented soy can be bad for us. They rail against it with anger in their voices. However, no one seems to object to soy miso and soy tempeh, which are fermented.
What about eating milk products in the form of ice cream? You don’t need it. It’s 40 or 50 percent butterfat and loaded with hormones. Rice Dream makes excellent, strictly vegetarian rice ice “cream.”
Instead of cheese, try soy cheese. (Zero-Fat Rella, Sharon’s Finest, Box 5020, Santa Rosa, CA 95402-5020, 707-576-7050.) Tofu cheese does not taste exactly like cheese, but it has the same texture, and it does have a good taste, especially the spicy soy cheeses like the jalapeño jack and garlic spice flavors. Soy cheeses are made without salt, and you must add salt to make them taste somewhat like real cheese.
You can use soy cheese to make a pizza that is somewhat like the real cheesy thing. You can even buy frozen pizza made with soy cheese. However, these soy cheeses generally contain casein from milk. Read the label.
Add a little olive oil and salt, because soy cheeses are not oily or salty.
Soymage (Soyco, 2441 Viscount Row, Orlando, FL 32809) is a Parmesan cheese imitation that is very convincing. It comes powdered, and you can sprinkle it on your pasta.
I have written about the importance of eating flax in the health section. (See the section of this book entitle Healthy Oils and Flax, p. 253.) But how do you eat flax? You can put a teaspoon of the seeds in your mouth and chew, chew, chew for a long time and swallow them. I actually like the taste. You can broadcast flax seeds in your garden or yard and eat the seed pods. You can grind the seeds in a coffee grinder and add them to oatmeal, soup, falafel, or other burgers. You can add the whole seeds to your soup or steam stir fry. The seeds will fall to the bottom and soften and swell. I like to spoon up these tender seeds into my bowl. Chew them before swallowing. Or you can pour flax oil onto your potatoes, salad, soup, or baked squash. If you are not eating fish, you should eat flax to get your essential Omega-3 fatty acids. It is a great frustration of mine that vegetarian restaurants do not add flax to anything they cook. Vegans cannot be healthy without the essential fatty acids found in flax, hemp, chia, or kukui.
EATING WELL WITHOUT EGGS
When you need eggs to make cookies or cake, use powdered Ener-G Egg Replacer. (Ener-G Foods, www.Ener-G.com, 800-331-5222.) It is made out of tapioca. Vegenaise made with grape seed oil is an excellent vegan mayonnaise, much better than egg-based mayonnaise. (Heart Island, www.FollowYourHeart.com, 818-348-3240.)
Flax seed, cheap, available widely, and long lasting, is another egg replacer alternative, one that I prefer because it contains the two essential fatty acids we need most and in the right proportions. Plus, it is easy to prepare. To make the equivalent of two eggs, put a half cup of water in a small pan, bring it to a boil, and add two tablespoons of whole flax seeds. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes. It gets as gooey as egg white. If you have a coffee grinder, it’s even easier: Grind the seeds: then add the boiling water to the ground seeds; let the mixture set up for a couple of minutes. Or add the ground seeds as a dry ingredient in pancakes, cookies, muffins, and cakes before adding any liquids. The last method is really the easiest and most practical.
Eggbeaters, frozen and sold in little cartons, is not a plant-based product. It contains egg whites but no egg yolk. Although it is low in cholesterol, it is high in animal protein.
The best thickeners are ground flax, agar agar—a seaweed—and kudzu root. Arrow root is acceptable. Corn starch works too.
Neither ordinary cane sugar—sucrose—nor high fructose corn syrup is good for us since each is highly refined. They raise cholesterol and triglyceride levels. (“Is Fructose More Natural Than White Sugar?” Natural Health, May/June, 1994, p. 40.) We should move to sweeteners that contain lower amounts of sucrose and fructose and more complex carbohydrates, such as barley malt and rice syrup. When buying packaged items, look for those made with FruitSource, which is made from grape juice and rice and which is a mixture of fructose, glucose, maltose and complex carbohydrates. (Fruit Source, 1803 Mission St., Suite 404, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, 408-457-1136.)
Some commercial cane sugar is filtered through cow bones. This is done to remove impurities and produce a sweeter taste. There is no way to tell which sugar is or is not filtered through cow bones. Sucanat is cane sugar made without bone filtration. Some say to avoid honey as it may harbor botulism. Some strict vegetarians believe that bees are exploited: Hives are destroyed when production drops. Some bee keepers clean all the honey from hives in early winter, and as a result the entire hive starves to death.
Stevia is now available in bulk. It is a natural artificial sweetener that is very low in calories.
One-third of people who have high blood pressure are salt sensitive. There are herbs that satisfy the cravings most people have for salt on their foods. Vegesal and Vegit (from Modern Products of Milwaukee WI 53209) are all tasty. Frontier Herbs (Norway, IA 52318) has an entire line of low salt and saltless seasonings. Potassium chloride is a good alternative to ordinary sodium chloride table salt. When you do use salt, use sea salt, which contains several kinds of salt. (Hain Pure Food Co., Inc., Los Angeles, CA 98061.)
SOAPS AND HOUSEHOLD CLEANSERS
Commercial soaps are often made of animal fat. Laundry soap is usually made of animal fat. I prefer detergent for that reason. Commercial household cleansers are made of some pretty serious chemicals. Upgrade your below-the-sink collection of soaps and cleansers. Throw out those that are chlorine-based.
VEGETARIAN DOGS AND CATS
Meat is graded into the following categories: prime, choice, select, good, cutter, and canner. Canner is meat from animals that are dead, dying, disabled, or diseased. It includes the meat of animals that died for unknown reasons and animals that had cancerous tumors. It is no-questions-asked meat. It can be used to make dog and cat food.
There are roughly 53 million dogs and 64 million cats in the United States. Pet owners spend over $8 billion per year to feed 30 billion pounds of meat to them. The pet food industry is an integral part of the meat industry because canner class meat would otherwise be wasted.
There is a cannibalistic side to the story too: There are roughly 10 million pets which are euthanized yearly in this country. That’s 200 million pounds of dead pets. Much of their remains is used to make pet food. Our cats and dogs are eating our cats and dogs. An aside: Much whale meat is made into pet foot.
The vegan who loves pets–what is she to do? For those who want no part of the animal-based food system and who do not want the stuff in their refrigerators and cupboards, there are plant-based alternatives.
Wild dogs eat almost anything; wild cats eat meat almost exclusively, although the first thing a lion eats out of her kill is the stomach with its vegetable content. Domestic dogs and cats hunt instinctively, but they do not necessarily know how to kill, and generally those that will kill will not eat their kill unless they are taught to do so while still puppies and kittens. Does it follow that because wild dogs and cats eat what they hunt, that domesticated dogs and cats should eat meat from animals grown in cruel confinement and which is polluted with chemicals and cancers?
Some vegan pet owners say “No.” They have set about analyzing what specific nutrients dogs and cats need that are not present in plant-based foods or not found there in sufficient quantity for good dog and cat health. They have identified plant-based foods which contain these needed nutrients in sufficient quantities.
The results are in: Dogs can survive quite nicely on the table scraps of a strictly vegetarian household. Cats flourish on a well-planned, plant-based diet that includes a taurine supplement. Animals fed this way are healthier than animals that eat the standard commercial pet food. They live longer. Surprisingly, the animals really like this food, and once they have been eating it for some time, they turn away from commercial pet food. (James A. Peden, Vegetarian Cats & Dogs; R. Pitcairn and S. Pitcairn, Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats; Joan Harper, The Healthy Cat and Dog Cook Book; for strictly vegetarian dog and cat biscuits contact WOW-BOW Distributors, www.Wow-Bow.com, 800-326-0230.)
Milk and eggs contain very little taurine, and plants contain none. Taurine can now be synthesized using chemical processes. Designing Health produces an apparently vegan cat and dog supplement which contains “flax seed, sunflower seeds, blackstrap molasses, rice bran, primary dried yeast, dried alfalfa, dried carrot, dried kelp, lecithin, taurine, spirulina (blue-green algae), sprouted green barley, yucca, garlic, and nettle. (The Missing Link Dog/Cat Vegetarian Formula, Designing Health, 800-774-7387, www.designinghealth.com.)
In addition to such supplements, what do vegans feed their dogs and cats? Tofu, rice, seitan, peas, cauliflower, spinach, shredded carrots, sprouted lentils, nutritional yeast, flax seed oil, chick-peas, olive oil, cornmeal, oatmeal, rice, TVP (texturized vegetable protein), potatoes, squash, and sweet potatoes.
For a while I semi-adopted a wild cat that hung out on my back deck. I fed the critter brown rice or kamut topped with flax seed oil, soy sauce, and nutritional yeast. With a little taurine supplement her diet would have been complete. She gulped it down. It is easier to start a kitten off eating vegetarian food than it is to convert a cat that is accustomed to eating commercial cat food.
Is it unnatural to feed our cats and dogs vegan food? It is less unnatural than feeding them the popular alternative, canner grade meat in the form of commercial dog and cat food. We have taken these animals away from their natural food chain. We can’t feed them live animals or whole dead animals, and we don’t want them hunting in our towns, so we have to feed them. We should feed them responsibly.
EATING VEGAN WHILE TRAVELING
When I fly, I carry my own food. I was flying back to Seattle from Promised Land, Arkansas, in the Summer of 1995, after representing Dad in a five-day jury trial. We won! with the Little Deal standing up for the Big Deal. It was an important father-son bonding experience.
Mom cooked for me during the trial, and I took notes and added several of her recipes to this book. I had lots of great leftovers to pack into plastic containers. I got upgraded to first class but declined the meal offered. Instead I spread out my containers on the tray, displaying my taboli salad, lentil pilaf, green beans and tomatoes, potato salad with mustard, and mustard greens. Mom was always worried I would starve, even though I reassured her that it was only a four-hour flight from Memphis back to Seattle. The stewardess took great interest in my food, and I gave her one of the early drafts of this book.
It is hard to eat a green, plant-based diet while traveling. Vegetarian restaurants, common in Seattle, are rare in most places. In Spain I lived mainly on olives, raw vegetables, fruit, and bread. I carried lentils in a plastic bag. I added a little water to the bag, inflated it half way, knotted it with a slipknot, and let the lentils sprout in my backpack. I started a new sprouting bag each day so I would have a continuous supply. I did the same thing with hulled sunflower seeds. The Spanish eat very badly: The country seems to worship ham. I was happy to get to Morocco, where strictly vegetarian dishes are available everywhere.
In poor countries, it is easy to eat a strictly vegetarian diet: just eat as the poor do. They generally cannot afford meat. In Nicaragua and the rest of Central America, where I have spent many months, I enjoyed beans and rice, plantains, and yucca. Realistic compromises are necessary because otherwise vegetarian food is often cooked in pans that have also cooked meat.
It was in Nicaragua that I learned to pick up food dropped on the floor and eat it and to lick my plate clean. Starving people do not waste any food. Now days, people ask me why I do such things, I tell them about Nicaraguan and explain that I do it as my prayer for Nicaragua.
I have picked up some useful phrases that will help you order vegetarian food: In Spanish: Por favor, vegetales todo sin carne (vegetables completely without meat). Sin huevos (without eggs). Sin leche o queso (without milk or cheese). Sin pescado (without fish). Sin manteca animál (without animal fat). Sin chancho (without pig lard). Como se dice _____ en español? (How do you say _____ in Spanish?)
In Korean: Goji (meat) nun bay go (without) yakeloman (vegetables) juseyo (give me). Turando bay go (without eggs). Sang san do bay go (without fish). Ta ko ji bay go (without chicken). Tach say yo (more please). Aw to kay mathanayo…? (how do you say _____?)
In Japanese: Yasai o kudasai (vegetables please). Gohan-o kudasai (rice please). Wakame-o kudasai (sea weed please). Miso shiru-o kudasai (miso soup, please). Niku-wa arimasen (without meat). Sakana-wa arimasen (without fish). Nihongo-de do imas-ka ____________ ? (In Japanese how do you say ______?)
Google for George Roger’s the tiny but useful booklet entitled Vegan Passport.