By and large, I agree with Thom's politics but learned yesterday he is a typical arrogant vegetarian. A caller started to challenge his choice of diet and ol' Thom wouldn't let him talk. Used incorrect examples to justify eating only plants. Specifically, the elephant 'the largest animal in the world' is an herbivore. Several species of whale are larger and they eat krill, other crustaceans and fish by the ton. Meat. I didn't investigate their gut length or the shape of their teeth (or baleen). Yelling over the caller with incorrect 'facts' doesn't make you right. We humans are omnivores.
I would say there is a developing science over what kind of diet is correct for each individual but the thing is it isn't "developing." Indeed other cultures have recognized biochemical individuality for centuries. This includes India with ayurveda and Chinese medicine (yin and yang). In the west there is the research that lead to things such as "metabolic typing" which finds the correct diet for each individual and which BTW can actually change over time. The ancient practices also recognized this. Before someone (who probably has never been to India anyway) says Indians are all vegetarians (which they are not) those disciplines recognize the use of meat in the diet.
When younger people can get away with a lot more abuse to their body and eating vegetarian when inappropriate for their body type won't hurt them much (though it may have some adverse result later in life). As you get older what you eat becomes more important and inappropriate diet can lead to health problems.
There's a lot of science to this and biochemistry backs it up. For reference search on "Slow Oxidizer" and "Fast Oxider". The former can afford to eat more vegetarian and the latter needs meat. They have even been classified into Carb Type and Protein Type. Searching on these terms will bring up articles and papers on these systems.
Some people become more cerebral on a vegetarian diet and like the high at the expense of stamina. Let's see them plow the back forty however. ;)
All meat is vegetable first so in reality everyone in the world is a vegetarian. The same as almost anyone who lives their life as vegetarian and is in dire straits of starving would likely eat meat (concentrated vegetable) to stay alive if that was the only option. Being a strict vegetarian is a lifestyle choice that only a priviledged set of people can entertain or afford. If the whole world was to change to vegetarian then they would have to also become the killers of all the uneaten animals which would overpopulate the planet faster than humans multiply. So to be a vegetarian or a meat eater seems to be one of those yin and yang type scenarios where what you do seems to be a lifestyle choice that could make you into something else that you don't want to be later on. Ain't life grand.
I think the Real Food approach takes care of almost all the food religion and diet ideology. Local, seasonal and fresh includes a lot of stuff we have not seen in the supermarkets, much less on the Fastfood "crack house" menus. Keeping closer to the ground and avoiding the food industry is the best advice I can give in one dose.
It makes little sense for a denizen of the Canadian prairies to be a vegetarian instead of eating the animals that graze there, at least in Winter. What grows in the tropics allows a vastly greater reliance on fruits than farther toward the poles. Getting good fish in Kansas, other than from rivers and ponds, requires aircraft and fuel.
But, there is a lot of wisdom about what leafs contain good protein and which fish have fat that is good or bad for you. Individuals do have various metabolic needs, and they do change with age. We have allergies, and I think there is wisdom in the idea that our evolutionary adaptation has a mixed effectiveness. This is why wheat and gluten is a problem for some. Milk may also be less than great over a lifetime. Less processed, less refined and as much farm to table as you can get also tastes great.
My other basic point is that you should eat what tastes good and what you enjoy. You might have to get reacquainted with your tastebuds and learn to savor so you don't stuff yourself in the mistaken idea that feeling too full is fun. But, I am not a fan of denial or dogma in food. Learning to cook the tough cuts of meat gives you a flavor bonus, not just cardboard. Veggies expand the flavor palette and enjoyment. Take your time to enjoy your food. You do have to get the good ingredients to make the best come out of your kitchen, but that does not mean the most expensive stuff at all.
Got some good Opah to put with the sea asparagus from Kahuku for tonight from the Farmer's Market at Waikiki. A nice Oregon Pinot Gris, and veggies to match and bon apetit!
The happy thing about the vegetarian diet is that it offers harmony with one's health, with one's concerns for the environment, with one's ethics and values, and with one's progressive soul. The choice to be a vegetarian represents no self-sacrifice at all. Thom's vegetarian position aligns in perfect consistency with the spirit of his politics, while also keeping him healthy.
If I were to claim to be a progressive, while sustaining my life via supermarket-bought meat, I would be in conflict with my most deeply held values. If I am a progressive, why would I provide cash support for an industry that fouls the environment, that contributes to global warming, that systematically brutalizes sentient beings, i.e., animals, and that moves our species away from local, sustainable farming and food production, our only hope for survival in the long run? How could I justify that choice? I don't have food allergies, not to gluten, or soy, or anything else. I don't need to eat meat in order to survive; in fact, I am far healthier as a vegetarian than I would be if I were a meat eater.
DRC - I was expecting you to end your paragraph with, "I'm having an old friend for dinner. I'll be having his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti"
BAM! ZINGER! BAM! ZIH-HI-HI-HING'D... son!
By the way... Love the suit!
Z, I try to avoid factory meats, but I am an omnivore and was only talking about enjoying real food. I am allergic to onions.
Fletch, you just get weirder.
DRC, my comment wasn't directed at you or anyone else, specifically. I only meant to bear witness to the vegetarian diet as a happy choice, where access to non-factory meat is absent but you want to maintain integrity with your values as a progressive and still be healthy. If you're able to find ethically-produced, cruelty-free, non-polluted meat and fish, you're a lucky man. Most people don't have that option.
I realize that pointing out the realities associated with factory meat creates discomfort. But that's why I referred to myself, not to "you." Becoming a vegetarian was how I dealt with the conflict. It's how I maintain my dietary integrity. What other people do is up to them.
Much of the science of this has been under researched and probably hampered by financial interests that don't want the public discovering biochemical individuality as that might really hamper profits. There are many elements involved such as the time it takes food to transit your digestive system, how fast your cells burn glucose, etc. Allergies too fit in. It's all biochemistry (something that a former medical student told many doctors had difficulty passing in college).
Some people are lucky and can get away with a vegetarian diet. Others will limp along on a veggie diet and then someone serves them a steak and they eat and feel like a million bucks and change their lifestyle. I've seen that many times. Anemia does figure into this and no just taking vitamin B12 or folic acid may not solve the problem.
I'm not sure that Thom is all that healthy. From my knowledge of ayurveda he is functioning as a vata type which means that he will make mistakes on air and will get anxious and start talking over people. I've criticized this in the past as I don't think someone growing up where he did would be a natural vegetarian. He did mention the other day that when in Portland he did add some fish occasionally into his diet.
I don't like to mention my own journey in this issue but in 1972 at the recommendation of a friend who was attending the naturopathic college in Seattle I had a physical there. An MD who was also getting an ND certification asked if I was a vegetarian. I said no but had been trying it for a couple weeks. He told me I was already showing signs of anemia and showed me some simple tests to show it. He recommended having some animal protein two or three times a week.
When people brag about being a vegetarian online I never know whether I'm talking to a 150 lb person or a 300 pounder who drags themselves around because they consume way too many carbs trying to make up for the lack of enough protein. My 80 year old brother-in-law 15 years ago decided to become a vegetarian because his daughter was doing the McDougal diet. In fact the whole family went on it against my advice (they just aren't natural vegetarians). My sister came down with depression as a result. My brother-in-law at over 6' tall has gained weight over the years trying to maintain such a constitution on a veg diet and eats too many carbs. A year ago he suffered a heart attack. My niece who started the whole thing found she wasn't suited for that diet either.
I know this is a very sensitive or emotional issue for many people but I encourage people to read up on the research into diet that has been done the last 60 years. Some of the stuff that was felt to be quackery 50 years ago is now becoming part of mainstream medicine. And finally mainstream medicine is recognizing that sugar is a bad food too:
Now watch the sugar corporatists wage war on those of us who want the spread this message. Too much of life on this planet is about money for the human race to survive.
Most people do better on a true vegetarian diet than on a meaty diet. It's the red beef, porky, high animal fat diet that poses risks of heart disease, stroke, hypertension, cancer and other nasty health problems.
We should all be as mentally and physically fit as Thom Hartmann.
Yeah, let's see how much weight Thom can bench press. <laughing>
What has turned me off and what I don't see getting public acceptance is either a "religious" or a "health food" approach to food. I am not against either approach for those who wish to go that way; but I prefer to talk about "real food" and enjoying it to lead people away from the Corporate Crap.
Human beings have an amazingly varied diet around the world, and there are lots of plants that have very good proteins that have been used where meat sources are scarce. I think there is some truth to the slow adaptability of human digestive mechanics to culturally based changes, and going from hunter/gatherers to farmers has still left a percentage of us allergic to glutens, even if bread is "the staff of life." In the same line, I loved the "Man Eating Bugs" book where the author shows how various groups find a delicacy where others are repulsed. It is also clear that what we are fed early has a lot to do with what we can ingest later in life.
What is healthiest about vegetarianism is learning how good vegetables can taste. I have never liked the 'meat substitute' veggie dishes as much as straight ahead vegetables on their own terms. Keep your 'veggie burgers.' But you can also keep a lot of meat burgers because they can be very dull and boring too. On the other hand, a great burger is a delight.
If we had trouble going from hunter/gatherer to farmed crops, is it any surprise that the "modern" industrial diet causes lots of trouble? When "shelf-life" replaces taste as the measure of a good food product, is there any reason to believe it will be good for us? And, sure enough, we find increased fats, salt and sugar as the way to "cover up" a lack of basic taste appeal in almost everything the modern food industry sells us. This trio is historically rare and unusual in food, with salt scarce enough to be as good as gold as well as essential to food preservation and storage in the pre-industrial age. Our brains treat salt, sweet and fat as "food crack" rather than flavor per se. They all have a role in flavor, but by themselves are not great tasting.
Refining has turned flour into something it never was. White bread was a rarity and "luxury" and it became associated with "quality" because of that fact. The same is true of rice. Neither has much flavor compared to the whole grains, and I find the flavor rather than the "health" what makes me want them. It takes longer to cook brown rice, but the results are worth it.
What turned me off to industrial meats was both a lack of real flavor and the limited species the industrial model sees fit to produce. Factory farms have to use antibiotics to 'solve' the problem of unnatural diets for cattle. Controlling diseases in crowded poultry and pig farms leads to the same use of substances that do cause harm to the environment if not to us. Muscles that are not used may be 'tender,' but they lack flavor. On the other hand, artisanal farming can include thinning the herd at birth, and the baby lamb and artichoke I had in Rome was wonderful. Sorry PETA.
Great human cuisine tends to be peasant and country based. My grandparents practiced farm to table because they were farmers. The meat in the freezer had names on the packages, and the milk brought in from the morning milking had real cream on top. I remember chickens with their heads cut off running around before they became dinner, and I helped pluck some. But, the big thing was that everything got used. The big problem with the suburban "take out" diet is that it leaves half the animal behind and does not know how to use cooking greens and unfamiliar veggies. Meat butter and baby spinach do not begin to reward the mouth with what is possible.
I like to cook, and I know that getting the good ingredients is essential. I am not feeding an army, so even the cost of some prime materials is not that huge; but what makes farm to table and farmers' markets great for me is not high prices compared to Safeway. Seasonal stuff is not much more if at all. Most of the chains are after the higher end shopper, but if you can find a locally owned market, you will probably find a good supply of locally grown products at very reasonable prices.
Learn to braise the tough cuts of meat and to cook chard and kale. Cabbage can be king, and use the yams and dark spuds too. Canned tomatos are always better than the industrial kind, and only when the fresh ones are ripe and in season are they worth the price. Avoid the "fast" and "convenient" when you can make it from scratch and know when the labor-savers are worth it. Buy your filo dough, for example. Do not be worried about using fats where they are needed, like in pie crust.
If you enjoy your food, take the time to taste it. The better the flavor, the slower so you can savor it. This will reduce the amount you consume. Avoid unconscious eating and snacking. Make every morsel that passes your lips be worth it. Insist on the absolutely delicious. This will allow you to resist most donuts and coffe break rolls. When you find something great, celebrate it.
Simplify with excellence.