Interestingly, the more expensive organic brands of yogurt, often aimed at babies and young children, do not contain gelatin.
It’s not just because we’re vegetarians that we avoid ground up animal bi-products in our foods. The way I see it, a hundred years ago when people ate yogurt, they probably didn’t go through the efforts to sprinkle their yogurt with gelatin.
Since I’m very deliberate that our family avoids processed foods as much as possible, I feel that a non-meat food product that requires ground up animal bi-products to taste or look right is too processed for us.
What is the alternative to gelatin in yogurt? Locust bean gum, which is derived from the seeds of trees; I assume they cost more than the animal bi-products that gelatin comes from.
However, there was one brand of yogurt that met all my strict qualifications: It had to be all natural, healthy, vegetarian, kosher, and yet still as affordable as the competition.
The winner… Chobani Greek Yogurt!
So I bought you an 8 pack of their Champions Tubes, which are portable pouches of their Greek Yogurt.
You had no hesitation in trying it. In fact, your immediate response after your first taste was, “I can like it!”
Then I grabbed a tube myself and realized just how good it was. I’ve never tasted yogurt that was so pure and “unchemically,” which is a word I just made up.
Jack, just realize how epic that is. You got upset with me because I took from you the only all natural, vegetarian, kosher, and yet still affordable yogurt on the mainstream market.
We both win.
My congrats to Chobani Greek Yogurt, who I’m sure have no idea who I am, for earning my trust and becoming the only yogurt brand that shares my same high standard and beliefs in what good food should be.
This Easter, enjoy the by-products of pig bones, crushed bugs, and my personal favorite, beaver anal glands. I know I will!
Sorry for the Debbie Downer title and subject matter today, but I think you will appreciate how enlightened you will be by the end of this.
Though I haven’t consumed any meat in a long time now, I will be breaking my vegetarian streak this Sunday.
It’s not because I will be grilling out steaks or chewing on some deer jerky, but simply because I want to join in on all that marshmallowy goodness; as we evidently celebrate the bunnies and baby chicks who were present when our Lord and Savior was resurrected from the grave.
Here is why vegetarians, as well as the kosher abiding, must compromise their principles in order to truly enjoy their children’s Easter candy. And for any of you Doubting Thomas’s or blog snipers out there, I’ve conveniently paired each one with a snopes.com (or other more-legitimate-than-Wikipedia) link where you can verify these aren’t simply urban legends or Internet hoaxes left over from April Fool’s Day.
1. Marshmallows: They are what makes Easter candy special, as compared to Halloween or Christmas candy. But what makes marshmallows themselves so special? Well, it’s just that they are made with gelatin, which is comprised of cow hide, pig skins, and bones of both. Pudding, anyone?
2. Red food dye: If any of your candy contains the red food dye Crimson Lake, you will be appreciating the splendor of crushed scale insects (parasites of plants). This is why Starbucks is currently taking heat for their Strawberry Frappuccinos. Could be worse; at least it’s not made from beaver genitals…
3. “Natural” vanilla flavoring: How can you know when a vanilla flavored food is made with actual vanilla or just castoreum, which is the oily secretion, found in two sacs between the anus and the external genitals of beavers? We can’t, thanks to the FDA. But at least we can credit Jamie Oliver for bringing the truth about castoreum to the national limelight for us; just as he did for “pink slime.”
Though usually this series is for readers asking my unprofessional and unlicensed opinion as a dad, today’s episode is a strange exception. I will simply be responding to a good question asked by a reader of Dadvice #4: Would You Recommend Using A Midwife? when he left this comment:
“You chose to have ‘a natural as possible delivery’ but still chose to circumcise your son? There’s NOTHING natural about a circumcision…where’s the disconnect?”
You’re right. For a guy who is so self-proclaimed “natural” when it comes to medicine and food and lifestyle in general, it appears to be a double standard that I would force circumcision upon my son who was incapable of making that decision himself.
So how is circumcision natural? It’s not.
And that’s the whole point: Circumcision is not natural.
I do believe in the hype and subscribe to the dogma that circumcision is “cleaner” and prevents urinary track infections and all that good stuff that has not necessarily been clearly proven. I’m aware of all the arguments for and against circumcision: I read them all on Wikipedia today.
But for me, my support of circumcision is a personal one: It has to do with Biblical teachings. As I’m sure you know, circumcision goes back to a covenant between God and Abraham; a commandment for the Jews. From there, it also has become popular among Muslims and Christians.
In particular though, why would a Christian Gentile such as myself observe a commandment so blatantly Jewish? Why pick and choose certain parts of the Jewish law to observe when the Apostle Paul in the New Testament made it pretty clear that Christians do not have to eat kosher food or become circumcised?
With me being Mr. Natural and all, I pay special attention to the Old Testament concerning random commandments God gave to the Jews; because sometimes though not specifically mentioned, it has something to do with health.
He instructed them not to eat pork and shellfish; which are extremely low on the food chain.
God didn’t point out the fact that that eating pork would be the leading cause of people getting intestinal parasites, but it is. Why are so many people allergic to shellfish? Because they are the bottom feeders of the ocean; they are slightly toxic.
Why did God tell His people not to eat milk products with beef? Because, as a Jewish man from Israel explained it to me one time, eating the two together in the same meal slows down digestion and promotes constipation.
So two and a half years ago, I converted to a kosher diet. (That eventually led me to become a vegetarian.)
Similarly, I believe circumcision is like that. God didn’t make this commandment for His people in the name of health; but ultimately I think that has a lot to do with it.
Back to my point at the beginning, circumcision is not natural. Instead, it’s man’s recognition of God’s instruction and intervention.
And I think that concept has everything to do with faith in God: As a believer, I am constantly having to make a conscious decision to go against my own selfish desires; like choosing to love my neighbor as myself.
That is not natural.
Sure, ultimately I try to be as natural as I can. Unless I feel that there’s something health-wise I can learn by observing God’s random commandments with the Jewish people; though as a Christian, it’s not necessary I do so.
Would you eat petroleum? What if it made your food more physically more appealing?
What about insects? Are you cool with eating ground-up bugs?
The funny thing is, you and your kids already do. And the FDA approves it.
In 5th and 6th grade, I was a pretty sick kid. I had so many stomach issues back then that today I still owe my ability to unclog any toilet back to 20 years ago when I had to carry around TUMS Extra at all times.
What made it worse was that I suffered anxiety attacks, which helped keep a vicious circle going: I was always nervous that my extreme digestion issues would flare up at any moment, especially in public places where I couldn’t escape to a restroom. And when they did, it only fueled my anxieties.
Keeping in mind that this was during a time when there was no such thing as “looking it up on the Internet,” fortunately my mom heard from another mom that I should stay away from any foods with red food dye: namely “Red 40″ and “Crimson Lake.” There was no way for us to know what was in those food dyes, but whatever it was, I stopped consuming it.
No more red Kool-Aid. No more Twizzlers. No more red anything unless it came that way naturally.
As you can imagine because of this article’s title, both my extreme indigestion and my anxiety attacks went away. But it wouldn’t be until the glorious arrival of Wikipedia that I would know exactly what was in those red food dyes:
Red 40: Made mostly from petroleum, this red dye can easily be found in sodas, cotton candy, and children’s medications. It has been linked to cases of ADHD and hyperactivity in children. Red 40 is also known as Allura Red AC.
Crimson Lake: Made from the powdered and boiled bodies of scale insects (parasites of plants) this dye is commonly found in yogurt, juice drinks, ice cream, and candy. Though I am a vegetarian, I still abide by kosher law, which prohibits the consumption of any insect other than the locust. Crimson Lake is also known as Carmine.
Fun fact: The closing scene of the movie The Wedding Planner makes a reference to these dyes as the “added chemicals” in red M&M’s that Jennifer Lopez’s character throws out.
Can you blame me from not trusting the FDA? It should common sense that people shouldn’t eat petroleum or parasites. So you know what? I am my own FDA. I decide what weird stuff my family does and does not eat.
And I’ll tell ya… bugs and oil are not on our menu.
Top image of scale insects, courtesy of Frank Vincentz.
Bottom image of scale insect nests, courtesy of Oscar Carrizosa.
I guess, honestly, I’ve known this about myself for nearly three years now. But it took this long to work up the courage to come out of the closet. Plus, I didn’t want to deal with the label of it and the usual assumptions based on stereotypes.
However, it would be pretty hypocritical of me to deny who I am as a person based on my own preconceived ideas of people who are just like me.
So here at the very end of 2011, I am ready to show the world my true colors. For the most part, they’re green:
I am a practicing vegetarian.
This is 7 Steps to This Dad Becoming a Vegetarian, not 7 Reasons Why You Should Become a Vegetarian. This is simply the story of my journey to “meatlessness.” By all means, this has been a slippery slope of a process. Perhaps an alternative title to this should be 7 Things Not to Do If You Want to Continue Eating Meat for the Rest of Your Life.
Here’s how it happened:
1. I watched the documentary Super Size Me. It didn’t make me immediately stop eating fast food, but it did cause me to question the quality of food I was putting in my body and realize the connection of America’s obesity and our Western eating habits.
2. I married a health nut. My wife, who is from northern California, hadn’t eaten fast food since 1999 when she got an ice cream cone from the drive-thru at McDonald’s. Call it love or call it intimidation, but I stopped regularly eating fast food. It helped that she was making us healthy meals which I could have the next day for lunch instead of going to Subway or Wendy’s like I had been.
3. I stopped eating processed foods. The reason for this is that I developed eczema on my hands. My skin disease got to the point where I could barely type, which is unthinkable for a blogger! I learned that whenever there is “no medical cure” for something, it means to change your diet. So I stopped eating processed foods; anything in which sugar is added. I even stopped drinking fruit juice; and for the first time in my life, actually started eating real fruit instead on a daily basis.
4. I watched the documentary Food Inc. Though I knew that meat came from living animals, I never considered the actual process of slaughter or even worse, factory farming.
5. I went kosher. Many people thought I converted to Judaism when I cut out pork and shellfish from my diet; but a kosher diet, along with cutting out processed foods with added sugar, caused my my eczema to finally disappear!
6. I stopped buying meat to cook with. By the time my wife and I had gotten used to the no pork and shellfish thing, not to mention only eating whole grain pasta and bread (no more “white”), our bodies didn’t crave meat as much. So we only ate meat when we went out to eat over the weekend. In essence, we were “weekday vegetarians” by this point. After about a month of this routine, the only meat I even wanted anymore was fish.
7. I read the book Eating Animals. During my very first book giveaway here on The Dadabase, one of the winners was a cool guy named Mike Mitchell. I’m not exactly sure why, but he went through the trouble of mailing me a copy of Eating Animals. It is my opinion that reading this entire book is the point of no return. By the time I was halfway through, I had already made up my mind.
Will I ever eat meat again? Sure. If I it were my only source of nutrition and there was no other option in order to survive, yes I would. I would even eat a pig, which isn’t kosher.
If I was stranded from a plane crash in the Andes Mountains and had to eat the corpses of fallen human beings, I would, if it meant I stayed alive to see my family again. (This is a reference to the actual events portrayed in the 1993 movie, Alive.)
I guess the real question is whether, like a lot of vegetarians, I eventually will become vegan.
But an even more important question is how my wife and I will raise our son, concerning the consumption of meat. As for now, he doesn’t like meat anyway. I seriously wonder though, if I will let the pressure of social expectations cause us to allow our son to eat meat when we won’t eat it ourselves.
I’m still sorting that part out right now. I don’t want to be labeled as the wacko guy on Parents.com who deprives his kid of hormone-injected, factory farmed meat from animals who are so physically weak and unnatural that they can’t even reproduce sexually. (Further explained in this clip below.)
Fun Bonus Thought!
If nothing else, becoming a vegetarian this year has answered one of my life-long questions: What are Vienna sausages made out of?
After learning that most pigs are castrated because Americans don’t like the taste of pork with that much testosterone, I know of at least one ingredientnot found in Vienna sausages.