While it’s no secret that our family of three has been serving as advocates of the plant-based lifestyle for a couple of years now, what I haven’t mentioned is that for the past several months, my side of the family has been fiercely transitioning to plant-based life as well.
Your Papa (my dad) and your Auntie Dana (my sister) have basically been vegans since last Fall.
By default, the other family members have ended up finding themselves in this peculiar alternative lifestyle as well.
Even since Christmas when we spent several days there in Alabama with them visiting, there was no meat or eggs served in any of the food.
Two weeks ago when we visited everyone for your cousin’s birthday, Nonna (my mom) proudly showed us her new garden. Yes, the seeds are organic and non-GMO. And the fertilizer is simple, classic horse manure.
You even got to help plant some cucumbers. Nonna texted me a picture yesterday of them sprouting of the dirt. How cool is it going to be when we visit the family later and eat those cucumbers, knowing you were the one who planted them?
One of the ongoing themes you’ve probably noticed, when I write about food, is the importance of questioning where your food comes from.
As for the vegetables and fruits we will eat when we visit family, we’ll know for sure where our food came from.
I should point out that you and I, along with Spiderman, helped water the soil around the garden.
A true vegan, from what I understand, would be more fixated on that factor of it. If I was a vegan by the classic definition of the term, I wouldn’t wear leather or take you to the zoo.
That’s because I’m what is being referenced to as a “new wave vegan,” a phrase I learned from Mike Thelin, the co-founder of Feast Portland, when he spoke to Forbes:
“The new wave of veganism is more about health than animal welfare. For better or worse, this is why it will have more staying power.”
I jumped on board (with the help of documentaries on Netflix and YouTube including Forks Over Knives, Hungry For Change, Vegucated, The Beautiful Truth, Dying To Have Known, Supersize Me, and Food, Inc.) for health reasons alone, not animal rights.
Another way of labeling me is to say I eat a plant-based diet.
However, I don’t like the word “diet” because it could be construed that I am trying to lose weight or get other people to.
Weight loss is a natural side effect of being a new wave vegan, but by no means has it ever been my motivation.
Granted, I did lose over 35 pounds (from 178 to around 142) and 3 pants sizes (from 34 to 31). Actually, that part of it for me was sort of annoying and expensive because I had to buy a new wardrobe.
Another thing I do differently than a traditional vegan is that I’m not simply not eating animal products; I’m also not eating non-food products, as well.
One example is cellulose, which is actually wood pulp that is non-digestble by human beings. It can be found in bread, cheese, powdered drinks, spice mixes, and maple syrup, and a lot of fast food items; just to name a few sources.
And if food is not organic, either, I’m led to believe it contains traces and effects of pesticides, which are not plant-based food sources either.
I think something else that sets apart a true vegan from a person who is plant-based (or a new wave vegan, like me) is that while I am happy to explain my lifestyle to those who curiously ask about it, I have no desire to convert the free world.
By no means do I think I’m better than anyone else because of what I do or do not eat. Therefore, I’m very deliberate in attempting to not sound condescending when I talk about this.
Honestly, I don’t think a person like me could get the approval of PETA. I mean, sure I care about animals’ rights, but I care more about human rights.
I care about humans having the right to know the truth about avoiding cancer and disease, but only if they ask me about it or are curious to read an entire article I write about it.
Or at least watch any or all of the following documentaries on Netflix: Forks Over Knives, Hungry For Change, Vegucated, The Beautiful Truth, Dying To Have Known, Supersize Me, and Food, Inc.
What do a frozen tire and a frozen mac-and-cheese pizza have in common? Other than them both having a Pac-Man sort of thing going on in that picture collage, they were two important plot devices in today’s story.
Let me back up to where the story actually begins, with Mommy quietly waking up at 8:03 AM. She had let me sleep in; I had stayed up until past midnight writing yesterday’s letters to you.
“Nick… something happened to my tire. I just looked out the window. It’s flat. What do we do?”
It’s been a while since I’ve had to change a flat tire to a spare to get it down to the nearest tire store… probably a dozen years, but for some reason, I tend to think most clearly first thing in the morning and late at night. (Evidently my head is just in the clouds for most of the day in between.)
The nearly brand-new tire for Mommy’s car got a nail in the side of it, and overnight, it froze after it flattened.
As it began snowing, you watched me through the front door, making snake shapes out of your Thomas the Train track against the glass.
Thank God this happened on the one day of the week where it didn’t really interfere with our family’s schedule. Had this happened any other day than Saturday morning, it definitely would have been quite annoying and offensive us getting to work and school, or at least church.
Lucky for you, Mommy and I let you pick out a toy car while the tire was getting replaced. You chose a green 1963 Aston Martin, by the way.
(Not to self: Always buy the extended warranty on tires from Firestone… We only had to pay 20 bucks to cover taxes and a re-up on the warranty. Brand-new tire and labor, $20.)
What could have been a really bad day, where I wasn’t able to change the flat to the spare to drive it to the tire store, meaning we had to pay for a tow truck or something, and where I didn’t fork out the extra cash last time for the extended warranty, we would have lost hundreds of dollars today.
Instead, only 20 bucks.
Plus, you got a very special treat for lunch once we got back to our house. I couldn’t have planned it this way, but yesterday, Annie’s Homegrown had someone personally deliver one of their new Macaroni & Cheese pizzas for you to try.
And by default, you have become an unoffical poster child for them.
(We’re even trying to work it out where we can visit their headquarters in Berkely next summer when we visit Mommy’s side of the family in Sacramento.)
So, unsurprisingly, Annie’s Homegrown chose you as one of the first kids in America to review their new Macaroni & Cheese pizza. I kept a little notepad handy to document your thoughts on it:
After seeing Mommy pull it out of the oven, you proudly proclaimed, “I’m going to eat all of that pizza!”
I should point out that you didn’t know you were doing a food review, so I found it pretty interesting that on your own, after you finished the last bite, you provided solid and definite feedback that I didn’t even ask you for:
“Daddy, I like this new mac-and-cheese pizza you got me.”
So I think that pretty much sums it up for the folks at Annie’s Homegrown and for the other curious kids across America who heard about that new mac-and-cheese pizza:
Jack liked it!
Since I was already recording everything you were saying, I want to remind you of the last thing you said before I stopped writing it all down:
“No Huggies, no kissies, ’til I see that wagon bean!”
(That’s your verson of the 1986 hit by The Georgia Satellites, “Keep Your Hands To Yourself.”)
The highlight of my day, though, was going back through the pictures of today’s events and seeing the parallel pictures, comparing me changing and rolling the flat tire in the morning to you changing and rolling your “brown tire” (the base of a papasan chair) later in the afternoon.
It wasn’t a coincidence you were doing that.
Yeah, that pretty much made my day, kid.
Disclaimer: The food mentioned in this story was provided at the expense of Annie’s Homegrown, for the purpose of reviewing.
The other thing I love is that there’s enough people in America who demand real food (that doesn’t contain mysterious and potentially harmful chemicals) so that a brand like Annie’s can be this successful.
This is such a beautiful case of supply and demand.
But most of all, the best part of this story for me is, you love Annie’s enough to mention it at school as one of the necessary staples that you like to buy at the grocery store.
You’re as passionate about Annie’s as I am! (Okay, so maybe you just like the way their food tastes and looks, and you’re not really aware of Annie’s “no GMO” policy, but still.)
That gives me one more reason to be so proud of you.
Our family cares about buying organic and non-GMO foods.
To put it lightly, I’m personally not a fan of Monsanto.
In fact, I recently (jokingly?) referred to them as the antichrist and GMO foods as the mark of the beast:
“And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” [Revelation 13:17]
A good amount (that’s an understatement!) of the food bought or sold in America is GMO and not organic.
What’s the different between non-GMO and organic foods?
To put it simply, non-GMO (“GMO” stands for “genetically modified organism”) means that a company (like Monsanto) has not synthetically interfered with the seed of the food to fit a uniform, worldwide model.
If the food is organic, it means that chemicals and additives (like pesticides and fertilizers) were not used in the process of the food being grown.
Yes, a food product can be one without the other. I think of it this way: “Non-GMO” refers the the seed, “organic” refers to what happens to that seed once it is planted in the ground.
So how can we know which of our foods are both non-GMO and organic?
We’re definitely not waiting on the government to force companies to label their products…
Instead, we’re paying our respects (and money) to the food brands out there who not only have organic and/or non-GMO products, but who are smart enough to label their products that way, so that families like us know to buy them.
We’re not putting our blind trust and health in the hands of companies who use chemicals and synthetic modifications to “make” their foods.
We prefer our foods the way God intended them to be, instead.
And by now, enough people are passionate enough about this, like we are, that it’s getting easier to identify the labels for non-GMO and organic.
So we look for the “Non-GMO Project Verified” logo with the butterfly and the circular USDA Organic logo. We try to buy those options as much as possible.
We can’t stop non-organic, GMO foods from being sold. But we can certainly choose to buy the alternative. By alternative, I mean, the original.
Note: This is an opinion piece of the author and does not reflect Parents magazine or the medical establishment.