Monday, December 22, 2008

What's up with The New York Times' editorial pages?

Did The New York Times' editorial pages really print false information? Look at this fake letter supposedly written by the mayor of Paris. Why is that not surprising? Look at what the Times' editorial pages said about vegans. The nation's best newspaper has tremendous journalistic standards in its news sections, but on its editorial pages, it seems to print whatever it can get its hands on.

Friday, December 19, 2008

'Tis the season, you know

I probably shouldn't be disappointed, but I can't help it. My work put on a Christmas lunch for everyone, and I got my hopes up for a second. The bosses got pasta, pizza and salad. Guess who the salad without dressing was for? I may be a vegan, but I'm not a big fan of iceberg lettuce with red cabbage and tomatoes and no dressing. How boring. The sad thing is they know I'm a vegan, but I was not consulted. By experience, I knew that would happen, so I knew to bring a lunch. I could have guided them to getting a chesseless pizza from Papa Johns with all of the vegetable toppings. Now, that would have been more up my alley. Shucks. I did get a very nice gift from our administrative assistant: a vegetarian cookbook. Well, it wasn't all bad. I can't wait to make our Christmas tamales.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Should Vegans Boycott Olive Garden?

For years, I had been going to Olive Garden with my family in a variety of cities. I knew that I could at least get whole wheat pasta with marinara sauce on it. And, my family was willing to go. So, it was a compromise that didn't make me upset. It never occurred to me that what I was eating might not be vegan at all. Here is what the Olive Garden website says:

Which menu selections are vegetarian?
A few of our menu items can be adjusted to accommodate a vegan or vegetarian diet, but none wholly meet the criteria. Depending on your personal philosophy, we can suggest the following items as meatless, but not necessarily vegetarian or vegan:

Minestrone soup (vegetable and mushroom base; no meat protein)
Garden Salad (without dressing)
Marinara Sauce (mushroom base; no meat protein)
Capellini Pomodoro
Eggplant Parmigiana
Fettuccine Alfredo

It is interesting to me that they say that vegetarians and vegans can be accommodated, but then it says none of their menu items "wholly meet the criteria." To me, that means, nothing is vegetarian or vegan. It makes me think of the food scientists in "Fast Food Nation" adding flavorings made of meat products. That's what McDonald's did when they stopped frying their French fries in beef tallow. To keep the same flavor, they simply added essence of beef fat into the fries. I wonder what sort of crazy experimentation Olive Garden is up to, but as far as I am concerned, they can keep their meals created in laboratories to themselves. They do not cook authentic Italian food, and I will never trust them again.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

It wasn't the onions that made me want to cry

Has it really been that long since I last made a post? I've fallen out of the habit of regularly posting. Well, I've been meaning to share these pictures I took back in April. Anita and I were really excited about finally getting to go to the Onion Festival in Weslaco. Unfortunately, the Onion Festival is not a celebration of the onion as much of it's just a typical festival. They had bands performing, arts and crafts tent and the non-vegan friendly food stands. When we had enough of the festival on that sweltering day, we had the misfortune of see this poor cow put up for display. The cow was being used to advertise milk. She was howling and miserable. People would come up to her oblivious to her suffering. This is systematic of our culture. We use animals for our benefit, but we refuse to see them, even when they are right under our noses. Unlike fellow humans, there is no minimum standard for treating an animal.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sad about seitan

I'm sorry I've been slow about posting blog entries. I have several things I want to get off my chest soon (with pictures). I only have a week left in this semester, and maybe (perhaps I am being too hopeful) I will be able to get some of my mind back then. I just wanted to relay my birthday experience (from April 16, I'm slow). My wonderful wife made me sesame seitan for my birthday. It was so delicious. I've had similar dishes in the past, but now I'm learning I don't feel so well after having such a mega-dose of wheat gluten. After I eat it, I start getting a headache and feeling flushed. It's hard to explain, but I really don't want to experience that ever again. I know for certain it was the seitan because I ate two plates of leftovers, and the symptoms returned. The strange thing is I don't think I am overly sensitive to gluten in foods. I'm guessing it is just having such a concentrated amount in one dish. Well, at least my last seitan dish was a winner, and so much for snubbing my nose at others who balked at seitan. I understand how they feel now.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Spit out that mystery meat and get on over to the Great South Texas Meatout

Are you ready to treat your body right, be consistent in your moral values and help the environment? Then you might want to put down that barbacoa taco and head over to the third-annual Great South Texas Meatout at the Good News Mennonite Church in San Juan (on the corner of Raul Longoria and Eldora) on March 30 from 2-6 p.m.

The free Rio Grande-wide festival will feature vegetarian cooking workshops and demonstrations, with a wide selection of delicious meat-free dishes available for purchase from a cash bar. Samples of the classes include Growing a Salad on Your Front Porch, Vegan Nutrition, Easy Bake Recipes, Mexican Vegan Cuisine, among others.

Visitors will get to sample food from the classes, and for $5, visitors can purchase the Rio Grande Veggie Cookzine, a magazine complete with numerous original South Texas-inspired recipes.

The Great South Texas Meatout is sponsored by the Association for Vegan and Vegetarian Awareness (AVA) and the Cochehua Vegetarian Collective.

AVA ( is a student organization on the campus of the University of Texas-Pan American. Cochehua ( includes vegetarian (and non-vegetarian) members from Cameron and Hidalgo counties and conducts regular meetings in both counties.

For more information about the festival, please contact Sara Alvarado, AVA president at (956) 330-3721 or

For more information about the Great American Meatout, visit, and for a free download about the reasons and concerns of switching to a vegetarian diet, go the Web site for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine at

Monday, March 10, 2008


I do not like writing when I only have negative things to say, but I am really saddened by the announcement of the impending deah of Herbivore Magazine. I guess I should have seen the writing on the wall when they reduced the size of the publication to a tiny booklet and reduced the number of issues per year. The magazine was the one real true voice for vegans. The magazine made me feel less like a freak and more a part of a greater community of people who have similar beliefs. It was edgy and provocative. It cut straight to the heart of the issues more politically correct publications (i.e. Veg News, Vegetarian Times) wouldn't dare cover. Herbivore Magazine once bravely asked meat-eaters, "Why not eat your pets, too?" That isn't such an outrageous statement considering our bloody habits toward other creatures. I learned about people who promoted vegan issues I might never have learned about otherwise, including the singer, Michael Franti. The death of Herbivore Magazine comes on top of the recent closure of Satya, another publication that highlighted vegan issues. To make all of this bad news worse, members of our local vegetarian society recently expressed a desire to allow dairy and egg dishes at our local potlucks. They say that the rule of vegan dishes is discriminatory against vegetarians. Um, isn't vegan food vegetarian? Ugh. It's not like vegans can eat dairy and eggs. Which rule is more discriminatory? Anyway, I'm not posting again until I have something positive to say. RIP Herbivore Magazine.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Losing a great man

Jim Koch sings to his daughter, Anita, the night before her marriage to me.

From left to right are Jim Koch, Anita, me and Sylvia Koch.

It has been a rough two weeks. I lost my father-in-law, Jim Koch, to heart disease on Feb. 13. He was just 68. I enjoyed his passion for left-wing politics and for life. One of the most touching experiences in my life was during the rehearsal dinner on June 22, 2001, for Anita and me. During the dinner, a mariachi band performed, and to the surprise of everyone, my future father-in-law got up and sang several songs in Spanish to his daughter. And you know what, he sang beautifully and powerfully. He cared deeply about his family and was always there when we needed him. He enjoyed being the caretaker for family history. He spoke three languages, English, Spanish and Portuguese. He was a retired public school teacher, an election judge and a political activist. During the last few years, he translated Brazilian poetry. Unfortunately, he had diabetes and was overweight. He liked his fast food. As vegans, Anita and I tried to encourage him to eat less meat. When he came over to our place, he enjoyed the vegan food we prepared. We also made food during the holidays and brought it to his house, such as tamales. At his home, he ate lots of hummus and some tofu. He switched from chorizo to soyrizo. Despite his positive changes, it wasn't enough. He needed to do so much more, namely avoiding fast food. His last heart exam had been 10 years ago. If he had gotten the exam every year, I believe they probably would have caught the build up in his arteries and could have provided him with some treatment. It simply was too late when he was taken to the emergency room. Heart disease, especially build up in the arteries, can easily be remedied with a good diet and exercise (read "The China Study"). I hope anyone who reads this will take better care of their heart and encourage their family members to do the same. We will miss you so much, Jim.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The not-so-smart car: Where veganism and environmentalism clash

I was so excited that the Smart ForTwo car was coming to the United States this year after being available for years in Europe. It is the most fuel-efficient nonhybrid on the market. Only the Toyota Prius gets better highway mileage (45 mpg to 41 mpg, according to the EPA's 2008 standard). Unfortunately, the ForTwo comes standard with a leather steering wheel and leather gear-shift knob. I e-mailed the company about it, and here was their response: "Dear smart Enthusiast, Thank you for your interest in smart USA. Unfortunately at this time leather is the only option available for the steering wheel." It makes me so disgusted. I am trying to be a good environmentalist and want to do the right thing, but I will not buy a car that's dressed up with the skin of another animal. The idea that you can't even special order a non-leather steering wheel and gear-shift knob is just amazing. I'm so glad a company is making a small, reasonably priced and fuel-efficient car. Unfortunately, there's too much cruelty in its make-up for my green.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A fair shake is not too much to ask for

I realize it's a dollar short and a day late and not even really a vegan issue, but I just put up a bug supporting Dennis Kucinich for president. He's already dropped out of the race, so it doesn't matter that much. I try not to be overly political on this blog, but I do want to make a point. Kucinich dropped out of the race because he couldn't get a fair shake in the coverage of the election. He was excluded from debates because TV networks said he wasn't doing well in the polls. He was excluded from stories about the presidential election because he wasn't performing well in the polls. The problem is that you can't fare well in the polls unless you are covered with equal vigor. Michael Bloomberg, who denied his interest, got more presidential campaign coverage than Kucinich, and he wasn't even running. Fred Thompson, who did worse than Kucinich in New Hampshire, got far more campaign coverage than Kucinich. Even in the debates that Kucinich was allowed to attend, he didn't get an equal amount of time or questions as the "leading" candidates. Candidates who have been anointed with the special media buzz get covered by the media. Hillary Clinton got plenty of mention because she is the wife of a former president. Guess where such a public figure starts off in the polls? At the top. As far as I'm concerned, we need campaign reforms that prohibit the reporting of political polls. People get so caught up in perceived leaders that they end up supporting one of them instead of a candidate they identify most with. If a person qualifies to be on the ballot, that should qualify them to be given equal coverage. The media should do stories on the issues rather than on the polls. Let people decide who to support based on where they stand on those issues. Who has the best health-care plan, for instance? I saw a story in The New York Times several months ago about the Democratic candidates' positions on health care. Guess who wasn't mentioned? Kucinich and Mike Gravel. Would it have been so hard for the Times to have put in a few more paragraphs about the other two candidates? Many of the stories that mentioned Kucinich came at the end and said, "Also running are long-shot candidates Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel." What position is the media in to determine who is a long shot and who isn't? Let the voters decide this without interference. Maybe words like "long shot" could be used after early primaries are over. By the way, the public owns the air waves. We should require all networks to run free ads from all of the presidential candidates and dictate that all be given equal coverage. Well, I've said my piece.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Veganism is a win-win for the environment and people's health

I have not been good about keeping up with entries in this blog. I have committed myself to graduate school, and I have a full-time job. Thus, my spare mental energy and time are not there enough for me to keep up with the blog as often as I'd like. I'd like to say I'm resolved to be better about it, but I don't want to make any promises I may or may not keep. Having the blog has been wonderful. It has let me get issues off my chest and provide some education about vegetarian issues to others who live in the Rio Grande Valley. It is one more useful tool to help vegetarians connect with one another. I hope I've conveyed that eating a vegan diet is not difficult, and anyone can do it. Meat is expensive to buy, and it also exerts a tremendous toll physically and environmentally. Long since it printed a column on its opinion pages with blatantly false information about veganism, The New York Times finally printed something honest on Sunday about the cost of meat production called "Re-thinking the Meat-Guzzler" by Mark Bittman. Among his very interesting comments is this nugget: "If price spikes don’t change eating habits, perhaps the combination of deforestation, pollution, climate change, starvation, heart disease and animal cruelty will gradually encourage the simple daily act of eating more plants and fewer animals." The reality is that the planet cannot sustain the current levels of meat eating. It is destroying the environment both in terms of greenhouse gases and pollution to our waterways. It is destroying people's health, and it is making humans desensitized to enormous amounts of pain and suffering by the animals we slaughter.