Monday, February 25, 2013

Hide ya kids, Hide ya wife and Hide ya husband

...........because they are just messing up everybody's health outchea!

You don't have to come and confess, we done looking for you.  We done foooound you, we done found you.  Michael Moss ran and told that, ran and told that and that's why he's my homeboy, home home homeboyyyyy!

Leme stop. :)

Special thanks to, Antoine Dodson for the original lyrics from which I adapted the feature above and Michael Moss, the author of this amazing article.

Must Read!  The Extraordinary Science of Junk Food

Usually with the articles that I find, I will put my two cents in but TODAY I will let this article speak for itself.  I will pose some questions and simply highlight parts of the article that I think express some important concepts that answer those questions.  If you are short on time, just read my summary here.  Buuuut I encourage YOU to READ it in its entirety for yourself.  So ONE, my bias doesn't bias you and TWO, because KNOWLEDGE is POWER and I want you to have it.  It's a long article but well worth it.   

As the title suggest, this article details the inner workings of the junk food industry's campaign to exploit basic human responses to stimuli for monetary gain, BIG monetary gains.  Man, that's harsh Marsh! Well, I can try this euphemism instead......."junk food industry's campaign to encourage you to increase the likelihood of you consuming their products".  But I don't roll like that.  I gotsta make it plain.  When I say "inner workings", what I am referring to is the calculated science informed by data and mathematical models that provide companies with reliable formulas that will predict your behavior when it comes to your consumption of their products, detailing:
  • If you will like the product or not
  • How much you will like the product
  • How they can vary the formula while still maintaining what is known as the "bliss range", which is basically the range of optimal satisfaction with the product
Anywhoooos, let me stop rambling here about folk who knowingly damage our health and let the questions begin!

Question 1: Do the companies that produce junk food realize how negatively their products affect public health, especially the rates of obesity, hypertension and other diet-related disease?

"The public and the food companies have known for decades now...that sugary, salty, fatty foods are not good for us in the quantities that we consume them. So why are the diabetes and obesity and hypertension numbers still spiraling out of control? It’s not just a matter of poor willpower on the part of the consumer and a give-the-people-what-they-want attitude on the part of the food manufacturers. What I found, over four years of research and reporting, was a conscious effort — taking place in labs and marketing meetings and grocery-store aisles — to get people hooked on foods that are convenient and inexpensive."

Question 2:  Is there really a calculated science that informs the methodology of creating processed foods?

"In the process of product optimization, food engineers alter a litany of variables with the sole intent of finding the most perfect version (or versions) of a product. Ordinary consumers are paid to spend hours sitting in rooms where they touch, feel, sip, smell, swirl and taste whatever product is in question. Their opinions are dumped into a computer, and the data are sifted and sorted through a statistical method called conjoint analysis, which determines what features will be most attractive to consumers."

Photo Credit: Forrest Performance Group
Question 3: Okay, can you show me an example of exactly how this works?

Sure thing!  Let's take Prego for example.  Prego wanted to optimize their famous spaghetti sauce product and looked to the mathematical guru, Howard Moskowitz, a mathematician who essentially invented the most potent optimization strategy for processed food companies:

"Moskowitz’s work on Prego spaghetti sauce was memorialized in a 2004 presentation by...Malcolm Gladwell at the TED conference in Monterey, Calif.: “After . . . months and months, he had a mountain of data about how the American people feel about spaghetti sauce. . . . And sure enough, if you sit down and you analyze all this data on spaghetti sauce, you realize that all Americans fall into one of three groups. There are people who like their spaghetti sauce plain...spicy. And...extra-chunky. And of those three facts, the third one was the most significant, because at the time, in the early 1980s, if you went to a supermarket, you would not find extra-chunky spaghetti sauce. And Prego turned to Howard, and they said, ‘Are you telling me that one-third of Americans crave extra-chunky spaghetti sauce, and yet no one is servicing their needs?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ And Prego then went back and completely reformulated their spaghetti sauce and came out with a line of extra-chunky that immediately and completely took over the spaghetti-sauce business in this country. . . . That is Howard’s gift to the American people. . . . He fundamentally changed the way the food industry thinks about making you happy.”

Photo Credit: EnchancingMyLife

Question 4: What is the focus of Moskowitz's optimization strategy?  What technique did he master that was so crucial?  What are companies looking for?  

"One thing Gladwell didn’t mention is that the food industry already knew some things about making people happy — and it started with sugar. Many of the Prego sauces — whether cheesy, chunky or light — have one feature in common: The largest ingredient, after tomatoes, is sugar. A mere half-cup of Prego Traditional, for instance, has the equivalent of more than two teaspoons of sugar, as much as two-plus Oreo cookies. It also delivers one-third of the sodium recommended for a majority of American adults for an entire day. In making these sauces, Campbell supplied the ingredients, including the salt, sugar and, for some versions, fat, while Moskowitz supplied the optimization. “More is not necessarily better,” Moskowitz wrote in his own account of the Prego project. “As the sensory intensity (say, of sweetness) increases, consumers first say that they like the product more, but eventually, with a middle level of sweetness, consumers like the product the most (this is their optimum, or ‘bliss,’ point).”

There it is. The bliss point!  The range in which your sensory satisfaction is at it highest.  This means you really like what you are eating and it makes you feel really good eating it.

Question 5: What was Moskowitz opinion of his own work?  How did feel about the fact that he was helping a lot of junk food companies make a lot of money while killing a lot of America's health.

"'There’s no moral issue for me,' he said. 'I did the best science I could. I was struggling to survive and didn’t have the luxury of being a moral creature. As a researcher, I was ahead of my time.'"

Where's the heart Howard, where's the heart?  How's your face looking right now?  Is the eyebrow raised yet?

Question 6:  Why is the bliss point so important?  What are the gains to understanding this concept and applying it?

Moskowitz was a highly valued consultant for a variety of companies, including Dr Pepper.  Dr Pepper was beginning to fall away from the 3rd place spot as a leading soda maker and contacted Moskowotz to help with this probelm.  Moskowitz soon powered up his stream-lined technique, including a ridiculous amount of Dr Pepper taste-testing sessions and soon produced a 135-page report for the company detailing every aspect of soda preference from flavor to "mouth feel".  This is what knowledge of the bliss point allowed:

"On Page 83 of the report, a thin blue line represents the amount of Dr Pepper flavoring needed to generate maximum appeal. The line is shaped like an upside-down U, just like the bliss-point curve that Moskowitz studied 30 years earlier in his Army lab. And at the top of the arc, there is not a single sweet spot but instead a sweet range, within which “bliss” was achievable. This meant that Cadbury could edge back on its key ingredient, the sugary Dr Pepper syrup, without falling out of the range and losing the bliss. Instead of using 2 milliliters of the flavoring, for instance, they could use 1.69 milliliters and achieve the same effect. The potential savings is merely a few percentage points, and it won’t mean much to individual consumers who are counting calories or grams of sugar. But for Dr Pepper, it adds up to colossal savings. 'That looks like nothing,' Reisner said. 'But it’s a lot of money. A lot of money. Millions.'"

Question 7:  Man, how many food companies use this type of optimization strategy?

Basically all of them.  Remember your prized Lunchables from 6th grade?  Oh yeah.  Those Cheetos that used to get your fingers all orange and salty and yummy? Oh Yeah.  They all employ their own variations.  Some focus on bliss point while others key in on consumer-informed marketing strategies but it's all the same game.  

Photo Credit: Weskos

Question 8:  So what happened with Lunchables?  

Oscar Meyer essentially was becoming outdated and wanted to re-invent themselves.  They hired a new vice president for business strategy by the name of Bob Drane.  Oscar Meyer didn't sugar coat a thing.  They asked Drane to basically figure out a way to repackage the same stuff they had because they weren't planning on coming up with any new recipes anytime soon.  This is where you see a business mindset at work.  It's actually quite fascinating.  Drane approaches the problem from a couple different angles.  He considers:

1.  Who was buying Oscar Meyer's products then stopped buying them

2.  What were the reasons that caused them to stop buying

3.  What factors contributed to those reasons

4.  What strategies could counter those reasons and reverse the decline in product consumption

I guess it made sense why they hired him because dude produced solutions.  And he produces them fast!

1.  He figured out that it was mostly mothers who were the largest percentage of consumers.

2.  From their feedback, he learned they had limited time to prepare lunch in the morning for their babes.

3.  He learned that demands of home and work-life created very hectic and time-sensitive schedules for the working mothers.

4.  He figured out that if he created an easy way for kids to access lunch without much work from the mothers themselves in preparing the meals, he'd found a gold mine.  All the mothers wanted was something that could let them feed their kids without crazy chaos in the mornings trying to prepare it for them.

Here comes Lunchables!  The company grossed $218 million in their first year of selling the product.  I mean this was part of pop-culture history.  Who didn't eat Lunchables growing up or at least remember seeing it all over the place in advertisements.  

Here is an interesting thing I noted.  Drane's own daughter, Monica Draine, grew up with Lunchables enough for them to be considered her siblings but doesn't serve it to her own children:

"My mom had joked that it was really like their fourth child, my dad invested so much time and energy on it.'  Monica Drane had three of her own children by the time we spoke, ages 10, 14 and 17. 'I don’t think my kids have ever eaten a Lunchable,' she told me. 'They know they exist and that Grandpa Bob invented them. But we eat very healthfully.'"

I wonder what a lot of children of junk food companies eat.  I really wonder.

Bob Drane now teaches University of Wisconsin M.B.A. students the ins and outs of marketing.  Though he lectures to medical students about the food industry and volunteers at a non-profit, what do his business students learn from him about marketing success?

The article reads:

"'Discover what consumers want to buy and give it to them with both barrels. Sell more, keep your job! How do marketers often translate these ‘rules’ into action on food? Our limbic brains love sugar, fat, salt. . . . So formulate products to deliver these. Perhaps add low-cost ingredients to boost profit margins. Then ‘supersize’ to sell more. . . . And advertise/promote to lock in ‘heavy users.’ Plenty of guilt to go around here!'''

That's reality for you.

Here's a little tidbit that is good to know for any salty junk food addict.  One of the scientists mentioned in the article, Dwight Riskey, was one of a team of scientists at Frito-Lay that discovered that overcoming salt-addiction simply requires refraining from salty food for a period of time.  Your taste buds will find their way back to the right path.  Straight from the article:

"Around that time, the marketing team was joined by Dwight Riskey, an expert on cravings who had been a fellow at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, where he was part of a team of scientists that found that people could beat their salt habits simply by refraining from salty foods long enough for their taste buds to return to a normal level of sensitivity."

Question 9: So back to the calculated science question.  How specific can research get and how much money goes into this?

"Frito-Lay had a formidable research complex near Dallas, where nearly 500 chemists, psychologists and technicians conducted research that cost up to $30 million a year, and the science corps focused intense amounts of resources on questions of crunch, mouth feel and aroma for each of these items. Their tools included a $40,000 device that simulated a chewing mouth to test and perfect the chips, discovering things like the perfect break point: people like a chip that snaps with about four pounds of pressure per square inch."

$30 million to discover things like the chip break-point.  Wow!  They were just not playing any games.

Photo Credit: FritoLay

Okay, sooooooooooooo I had to talk about a little bit the Cheetos too.  My goodness......just check this out:

"To get a better feel for their work, I called on Steven Witherly, a food scientist who wrote a fascinating guide for industry insiders titled, “Why Humans Like Junk Food.” I brought him two shopping bags filled with a variety of chips to taste. He zeroed right in on the Cheetos. 'This,' Witherly said, 'is one of the most marvelously constructed foods on the planet, in terms of pure pleasure.' He ticked off a dozen attributes of the Cheetos that make the brain say more. But the one he focused on most was the puff’s uncanny ability to melt in the mouth. “It’s called vanishing caloric density,” Witherly said. 'If something melts down quickly, your brain thinks that there’s no calories in it . . . you can just keep eating it forever.'"

So that's why it was so hard to put down those Cheetos.  Smh.  You guys (junk food companies) are so wrong for that.

Question 10: Okay, final question, so does any one of these individuals feel bad about their contribution to the skyrocketing increase of processed food consumption?

Thankfully, their is at least some reconciliation to morality.  Some one feels some ounce of regret...well kind of ish:

"If Americans snacked only occasionally, and in small amounts, this would not present the enormous problem that it does. But because so much money and effort has been invested over decades in engineering and then relentlessly selling these products, the effects are seemingly impossible to unwind. More than 30 years have passed since Robert Lin first tangled with Frito-Lay on the imperative of the company to deal with the formulation of its snacks, but as we sat at his dining-room table, sifting through his records, the feelings of regret still played on his face. In his view, three decades had been lost, time that he and a lot of other smart scientists could have spent searching for ways to ease the addiction to salt, sugar and fat. 'I couldn’t do much about it,' he told me. 'I feel so sorry for the public.'"

Photo Credit: StuffPoint

Now this is where it gets pretty bad.  I'm speechless just observing the exploitation.  This quote details the profit-driven mindset of many companies where the focus is profit, profit, profit at all costs.  One of the chief executives at the times was Jeffrey Dunn:

"In an effort to control as much market share as possible, Coke extended its aggressive marketing to especially poor or vulnerable areas of the U.S., like New Orleans — where people were drinking twice as much Coke as the national average — or Rome, Ga., where the per capita intake was nearly three Cokes a day. In Coke’s headquarters in Atlanta, the biggest consumers were referred to as 'heavy users.' 'The other model we use was called ‘drinks and drinkers,’' Dunn said. "How many drinkers do I have? And how many drinks do they drink? If you lost one of those heavy users, if somebody just decided to stop drinking Coke, how many drinkers would you have to get, at low velocity, to make up for that heavy user? The answer is a lot. It’s more efficient to get my existing users to drink more.""

And even worse:

"In his capacity, Dunn was making frequent trips to Brazil, where the company had recently begun a push to increase consumption of Coke among the many Brazilians living in favelas. The company’s strategy was to repackage Coke into smaller, more affordable 6.7-ounce bottles, just 20 cents each. Coke was not alone in seeing Brazil as a potential boon; Nestlé began deploying battalions of women to travel poor neighborhoods, hawking American-style processed foods door to door. But Coke was Dunn’s concern, and on one trip, as he walked through one of the impoverished areas, he had an epiphany. 'A voice in my head says, 'These people need a lot of things, but they don’t need a Coke.’ I almost threw up.'"

The article ends on a less negative note, however, as it describes the same Jeffrey Dunn, after leaving Coke, attempting to sell a pitch for marketing fresh baby carrots successfully.  His efforts appear successful.  The last thing he describes is what I would imagine as food-industry Aikido (a "use your energy against you " type of martial arts) and if it can be successfully employed for all healthy food........Krav Maga as it would over time quite literally incapacitate the processed food industry.  People have the power to do that:

'We act like a snack, not a vegetable,' he told the investors. 'We exploit the rules of junk food to fuel the baby-carrot conversation. We are pro-junk-food behavior but anti-junk-food establishment.'

Not that pro-junk behavior is good at all because it is characteristic of overeating, lack of self-control and other not so good things but getting people addicted to good, healthy food is sooo necessary right now and for the future.

I will leave you with the last paragraph before I end.  It's quite telling.

"The investors were thinking only about sales. They had already bought one of the two biggest farm producers of baby carrots in the country, and they’d hired Dunn to run the whole operation. Now, after his pitch, they were relieved. Dunn had figured out that using the industry’s own marketing ploys would work better than anything else. He drew from the bag of tricks that he mastered in his 20 years at Coca-Cola, where he learned one of the most critical rules in processed food: The selling of food matters as much as the food itself."

I must get my hands on the book from which this article was originally adapted.  Definite summer reading!  Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss, a Pulitzer Prize Winner.  Get on it too, my people!  :)

Thank you for reading!  My people, I appreciate you all so much.  Be happy and healthy.  Ciao!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Butternut Squash Pizza with Caramelized Onions

I love this pizza!!!!  Just another wonderful accident that make my taste buds extra happy.  The crust is firm but flaky and also very light so you don't feel puffed up.  It's simple but the combination of the squash, onions and cheese sauce is just..........bangin'.  This is the pizza I dream about.  The ingredients I use are probably ones that would not come to mind when you think pizza but just you wait..........this might become your favorite pizza too.   This recipe is simple but can take a little time.  A great way to save time is to make the dough and cheese sauce before hand.  Baking the squash while cooking the onions can also save on time.  Let's do this.

My Pizza Dough
2 cups of whole wheat flour
1 cup of oat flour (I simply blend my oats in my magic bullet)
2 tsp  honey
1 pkg. of active dry yeast
1 tsp. sea salt
1 cup warm water
1 Tbs. olive oil

*Side note:  Sometimes I want to make the dough a little extra tasty and so I will add either individually or a combo of:
2 tsp of Italian seasoning
2 tsp garlic powder

My Cheese Sauce
1 cup of raw cashews
2 cups of water
juice of one lemon
1 tsp of a salt
1/4 of a red pepper

My Squash 
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 tsbp olive oil
salt and pepper (to season squash)
1 tbsp garlic powder

My Onions
1 large onion (cooked on a non-stick skillet or with a little olive oil)

Just using what God gave me in nature.

Start off making the dough and make sure to leave an hour for it to rise.  Simply measure all the ingredients, mix them together and knead the dough for 8 mins.  Let the dough rise for an hour.  A good place to store the dough while it is rising is in the oven, like I do, or near the stove or under light.  This dough can also be frozen!  Oh yeah, pizza anytime you want!

Move on to the cheese sauce.  Cut the red bell pepper into chunks to make it easier to blend.  Simply blend together all listed ingredients until smooth.  Remember to blend the cashew down to a powder first and then add the liquid ingredients.  Pour into a small sauce pan and heat on medium until thickened.  Make sure to constantly stir the sauce as well as it can burn if you aren't watching it.

Cut the onion into rings or dice and sauté on medium heat until caramelized.  To caramelize the onions, make sure to keep stirring the onions constantly.  Don't take your eyes off of them!  Once carmelized, set them to the side.  This may take 15-20 mins.  It may also be a good time to preheat the oven to 400 degrees to get ready for the squash and pizza dough. 

Peel away the skin of the butternut squash and dice.  The trick to getting this to cook quickly is to cut the dices to about a 1/2 inch in width (as shown below).  

Oil two baking trays with olive oil.  Add olive oil, salt, pepper and mix with the squash.  I usually add these ingredients right onto the tray and then mix to make it easier.   Bake in the oven for 35 - 40 mins.   As you see in these pictures, I always line my baking pans and trays with aluminum foil.  It just makes clean up easier and keeps my trays from rusting.

Oil a pizza pan with a little olive oil.  Roll the dough out onto the pizza pan.  Bake the dough in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 mins to allow it to slightly cook and firm up.  At this point, you can either cover the dough with sauce and toppings or freeze the dough for future use.

Once the squash has fully cooked, place in a bowl, add garlic powder and mash.  A consistency like mash potatoes is your goal.

Once the dough is slightly baked, remove it from the oven and brush the top with olive oil.  Pile on the mashed butternut squash and smooth it out over the dough.  Spread the thickened cheese sauce over the mashed squash and top with the caramelized onions.  Bake for another 15 mins at 350 degrees.

I made this recipe during the fall

It was PERFECT for that time.  Check out those colors!


Thank you for reading!  My people, I appreciate you all so much.  Be happy and healthy.  Ciao!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Revamped Eggplant Parmesan

This past weekend, I decided to re-invent my eggplant parm recipe.   I liked the original but I wanted the coating to be more firm and hold up better to being immersed in sauce.  So I did some googling and exposed myself to other methodologies to give me some new ideas.  I let the ideas meld and weld, and then Bam! I was able to come up with this.  More flavorful, for sure, and crusty coating, bingo! So, let's do this:

What you will need:

A jar/can of marinara sauce ( I bought mine from Trader Joe's)
1 tbsp of Italian seasoning
1 eggplant
1 cup of cashews
juice of one lemon
1 -1 and 1/2 cups water
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/4 red bell pepper

Seasoned soymilk
1 cup of plain soymilk
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp sea salt

Heat sauce on the stove until steaming.  I like to infuse my sauces even more if I think it needs it so I added 2 cloves of garlic, garlic powder and a little more Italian seasoning.  The sauce you buy may be good as gold, so this may not be necessary.  I'm just obsessed with garlic.

Meanwhile, blend cashews, water, lemon, nutritional yeast, salt and red bell pepper until smooth.   

Slice eggplant into 1/2 inch thick slices.
Spread them out evenly and sprinkle with salt.  Leave for 10 mins.  This will allow the eggplant to sweat a little bit and make room to take up the seasoned soymilk.

Mix all the ingredients for the seasoned soymilk.  You will coat the eggplant in this mixture for 2 mins, flipping the eggplant over after each minute and letting it soak up the soymilk.  Cover the eggplant slice in breadcrumbs until eggplant is coated on both sides.  Dust off extra breadcrumbs.

 Place coated eggplant on a baking tray and bake for 35 mins, 30 mins at 350 degrees then 5 mins at 400 degrees.

Once eggpplant is cooked, place in baking dish, cover with marinara sauce.  Pour the cheese sauce on top.  Bake in the oven at 400 for 5 mins or until cheese sauce on top thickens and darkens.

It almost looks like cheese, doesn't it?  Craziness.

Serve with whole wheat or any other grain pasta.  The Garden in a Bowl salad goes great with this.

*Eggplant is a delicate vegetable, so you don't want to overcook it. This is why I am keeping it to 35 mins max.  If you cook it too much, it will become a bit rubbery. It will still taste great but texture won't be as wonderful as it could be.
Time to eat!


Now, I'm happy. 


Thank you for reading!  My people, I appreciate you all so much.  Be healthy and happy.  Ciao!

Friday, February 8, 2013


My girl, Leah (a fellow Caribbean islander), shares with us how she approached bangin' bird food from an objective perspective.

1.  Tell us about your journey towards embracing a "bangin bird food" lifestyle.

My journey has involved putting plants at the bottom of my food pyramid, becoming more aware of issues of food quality and access and acknowledging the problems with current dominating, farming practices.

I continue to find enjoyment in what I eat, not only because of the taste, but also for the positive steps that I’m taking towards the prevention of illness.  

2.  Did you have a light bulb moment when you decided, "Okay, I am making this change now"? If so, what was it?

For me there was no single moment. After 4.5 years I’m still developing my “bangin bird food” lifestyle. I entered into veganism as a temporary challenge. At that time I was focused on how I was going to rearrange my diet so that it was healthy and vegan. Due to the well-meaning concern and curiosity of family and friends I have been pushed to really examine my veganism.  Now my light bulb moments are concerned with food quality and access. I also think about the relationship between the foods that I eat and my productivity. Briefly, having grown up on St. Croix (a part of the US. Virgin Islands) I think about the politics and sustainability of food transportation and access. I consider why most of the food found in local grocery stores comes from places like California when we have local farmers and fertile land as well as island neighbors with similar resources. 

3.  Was it difficult to make the switch?
The switch was not difficult. Addressing newly developed questions in regard to my veganism did take time. My questions included the following: 
1) Is veganism the only or best path to healthy AND sustainable living that acknowledges that the earth is a share and limited resource and privilege? (My answer to this is actually no)
2) What should my food pyramid really look like and who profits from the idea that meat is an essential component of every meal?

4.  What was the hardest food item to give up along the way?

I did not go through a chicken, steak or cheese induced withdrawal period. That said, the hardest food additive to avoid, which dominated my college-late night snack choices was gelatin.  It’s in most gooey snacks and avoiding gelatin meant coming to terms with the fact that I’m going to want to snack on something when I’m up late and working. At Swarthmore, there was a significant “shift” in your on-campus (really Swarthmore area) food options after 10pm.  Honestly, it was not until graduating that I got a grip on the notion of bringing or preparing food for late nights to avoid eating something that was “real fruit flavored” but not from a specific fruit, sugary and with no really fulfilling taste. 

5.  What sources of information (articles, books, videos, documentaries, blogs, etc) were helpful to you during the transition?

Like I mentioned earlier, I’m still developing the what, why and how of my veganism, so I have had many mini transitions and it has not been a linear path. So, here’s my growing list, which includes some sites and articles that actually caution against veganism. The included links that are luke-warm to cold on a vegan lifestyle are beneficial in that they raise questions that I believe are beneficial for transitioning vegans  to consider. Neither link makes erroneous or dramatic claims about the impact of a vegan diet on health or sustainable living. 

Resources that are excited about veganism:
  • Happycow App (for finding restaurants)
Mixed, luke-warm and cold:

6.  Was there anyone who particularly inspired you to make this lifestyle change?

When I first made the choice to transition to veganism in the summer of 2008, I was surrounded by a group of friends that like me were in Seattle, WA working in biomedical research laboratories and were about to enter college. We were excited about this next phase of our life and were eager to try new things and challenge ourselves. 

7.  How did the switch affect you emotionally, mentally and physically?

During my third year as a “bangin bird food eater” I felt appreciable emotional, mental and physical changes. It would be a misrepresentation of my journey to lay things out in a cause-and-effect manner and say that these changes were the result of being vegan. I can say that around this time I started to take self-care and my personal impact on others more seriously.  Addressing these issues, in part, meant creating a healthier and happier lifestyle that included re-examining what I ate among many other factors (such as learning to pick my battles wisely, saying no, managing my time, prioritizing my goals, recognizing my limitations, gaining new skills to erase some of my limitations). 

8.  What was the single the greatest thing about becoming a "bangin' bird food" eater?

Becoming a “bangin bird food” eater was a door opening experience. I have greater control of my health and I’m more aware of issues relating to food accessibility, quality and security in my various home communities. 

9.  Has your "bangin' bird food" lifestyle had an effect on anyone around you?

Some family and friends.

10.  Did you ever struggle with what you thought people would think about your new lifestyle? If so, how did you overcome that?

Popular images of vegans or of “bangin bird food” eaters in general are often attached to white, at least middle class and very thin people.  I have benefited from knowing many people that complicate and counter these popular images. 

Furthermore, I have also encountered the argument that veganism is a homogenizing lifestyle that excludes the culturally rooted cuisine of many communities of people.  My daily personal experience of enjoying Crucian-style “bangin bird food” has countered this argument for me.  Rather, I would say that the threat of a homogenized and unhealthy lifestyle stems in part from food inequality in the US that is fueled by racism and classism, in both illegal and legal form (like housing segregation). Inequality in food access and quality enables organizations like McDonalds to sell food cheaply while whole foods, vegan or not, are subject to significant price hikes that make eating a plant-based diet seem too expensive and groceries stores geographically more inconvenient than junk-food restaurants in some place. 

11.  How have you been able to maintain this lifestyle? Has it been easy or difficult?

Now that I cook for myself year round and have good quality food, easily accessible and reasonably priced where I live, it has been easy. 

12.  Any restaurants you want to recommend?
Philly, PA: Essene Market and Vedge
Blacksburg, VA: Gillie’s
Fredriksted, St. Croix (USVI): Yuca, Rosa’s booth (for vegetarians and pescatarians)
Christiansted, St. Croix (USVI) Vegan Haven
San Juan, PR: Bebos (I always order the same thing, mofongo relleno de vegetables, but I plan to branch out soon)

13.  What is your favorite bangin' bird food?

Sorry, can’t pick one.  But briefly, mangoes and genips are in my favorite fruits pool.  Yuca, a restaurant on St. Croix, makes the best vegan pate. I’m referring to the type of pate that is rooted in Caribbean cuisine and not the French style of pâtés that’s associated with liver.

Leah has dropped so much knowledge as Swatties do.  I love the varying ideas and opinions that everyone in this series contributes in their interviews.  This is what discussion and truth-seeking is all about.  Making a decision that you are happy with involves considering information from all angles.  I will also take full liberty in promoting bangin' bird food that does not disregard culturally-rooted cuisine.  After all, I am Jamaican.  Those recipes will be coming in soon so stay tuned...... 

Feel freeeeeeeeee to comment and share your thoughts.
Thank you for reading!  My people, I appreciate you all so much.  Be happy and healthy.  Ciao!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Word's Still Getting Out (Two)

So who's the word getting to now?

The first on the list is an artist I like alooooot.  This woman's voice is sooo crazy/amazing/talent-filled/God-blessed/I could never get bored listening to it/makes me wish I had that voice/so awesome she could sing a nutritional label.  The lovely Chrisette Michelle made her debut appearance as a bangin' bird food eater on  

Photo Credit:

She gave Curly Nikki all the deets on her decision to switch to a plant-based diet, how much she has been enjoying it and how it has actually helped her VOICE!  She initially began the journey just intending to do a detox.  

"I became very interested in the raw food movement so I went out and purchased an Angel Juicer. I fell in love with juicing and feeling really clean and started off by juicing the first 60 days of the year. Not only did I lose 17 pounds in those 60 days, but I lost a lot of emotional weight too. It was a great mix for me.  After that, I went vegetarian.."

I love the part she says next:

"I...started writing a bunch of recipes to keep myself interested because I have ADD and get bored, fast. There are a ton of farmers markets where I live so it’s perfect… I’m always so excited to try new things- I even had purple basil one weekend!"

Chrisette totally has the tricks down. NUMBER ONE way to make the switch to bangin' bird food successful?  Be creative and try LOTS of new things.  Eating the same thing everyday would get boring for anybody.  Making things creative is easy cheese.   It just takes a little thought, that's all.

After the detox, she decided to go vegan. 

"At the end of the day, after that detox, I decided to take cheese and eggs out of the equation… even fish… and go vegan!"

Then looked what happened to her voice.....

"And my voice just got 4 notes higher to the point where my mom is like, ‘who is singing on this track?!’"

Looks like she's off to a great start. I'm glad she's enjoying the good life thus far. 

Check out the interview in it's entirety right here!

Photo Credit: Razor Gator

Carrie Underwood has also made the change recently.  Check out this short interview clip on where she shares why she made the switch and how its's been for her.

Here's an interesting story featured by Ecorazzi.  Carrie's new lifestyle caught the attention of Self Magazine who asked registered dietitian, Vandana Sheth, to do an assessment of the quality of her diet, whether it met the nutritional standards or not.  Sheth is a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.   

So what was her conclusion? 

Carrie's diet received an A+.  This is what the dietitian had to say about her choice for lunch:

"Carrie’s lunch is perfectly balanced, colorful and nutrient-rich. It provides whole grains (brown rice), lots of veggies (broccoli, carrots, broccoli slaw, onions), lean protein (Quorn/Gardein chick’n) and is low sodium (Bragg Liquid Aminos). I would, however, suggest substituting the lean protein (Quorn/Gardein chick’n) with one that is not processed such as beans, lentils, tofu, edamame. Another option is to substitute quinoa for brown rice and enhance the nutritional quality of the meal."

I do agree her about using non-processed sources of protein, even if it is vegan.  Not everything that is vegan is healthy or nutritious (ie. junk food).
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Now, check this out!  James Cameron, the award-winning director of Titanic just recently switched to  bangin' bird food immediately after watching Forks Over Knives.  In the YouTube video below, he describes how after watching the documentary, he literally got up, walked to his fridge and cleared his refrigerator of any and all animal products.

It gets even better.  Look who just released an entire cookbook of vegetarian recipes?  Yes, the legendary Martha Stewart.  I took this move as indication of where our food culture is currently moving.  Martha realized that too.  After all, she is a businesswoman.  

Photo Credit:
This last mention is what I like to see.  Mayor Emmanuel of Chicago, a big proponent of fitness, recently endorsed the Engine 2 Diet created by Rip Esselstyn, aiming to encourage firefighters of the city to embrace the meat and dairy-free approach expressed in the book.  His reason was based on his concern for the great healthcare costs that are currently placing stresses on the country and will only continue to grow if nothing changes.  Healthcare costs were listed as the third biggest item on the city budget.  He thinks that encouraging healthy eating and personal responsibility for ones health can begin to cut some of those costs.  Check out the rest of the article here

Thank you for reading.  My people, I appreciate you all so much.  Be healthy and happy.  Ciao!