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Book Review: Vodka Is Vegan

I usually try to come up with a lead in that might draw you in but I’m having a weird time trying to come up with one here. You see, the Vegan Bros are the epitome of the quick lead in type of stuff so how do you really establish something comparable? Their tongues are sharp and the snarky satirical innuendos are either cheered or jeered by the vegan community. You love them or hate them and you’ve been hearing about this book for what seems like an eternity. So let’s get into it.

Matt and Phil, the Vegan Bros, have not always been the eccentric characters they now portray and they sure as heck have not always been vegan. Phil made the switch first and went headfirst into activism working with Mercy For Animals and doing activist tours. Matt on the other hand, was a massively out of shape carnivore who was irritated by Phil’s activism. The book goes into that transition and just how it worked out for him.

Getting down to it, the book is not ground breaking but it is as real as it gets and is rooted in the belief that they have the answers and the know how to help the world turn vegan; “vegan world domination” as they call it. To me, that is a valiant effort regardless of whether or not you think they have the answers. And, while I think that maybe they are trying to hard and at times and that the book feels forced, they speak to an audience that maybe wouldn’t be willing to listen to the hippie vegan approach or the straight edge/ hardcore kid method.

We all hear the same thing when we are in a group of people. “Where do you get your protein?” “Plants have feelings too.” Oh and there’s the everlasting “bacon though.” The Vegan Bros talk about situations like that and what works for them when they encounter people like that. Their opinion on honey is polarizing to some. They’ve been booed in the past for their small steps approach to veganism, and the argument about honey is sometimes the catalyst. “Vodka Is Vegan” talks quite a bit about that, the small steps, less offensive approach. I agree with a good amount of it, it doesn’t help to be combative. It doesn’t help to always throw out the fact you are vegan; your friends and family already know, leave it alone.

To be honest though, the foul talk stuff is growing old. Thug Kitchen did it as did many others. I don’t find the language makes the book, or their methodology, any more approachable. I mean, sure I like to toss out a “shit” and a “fuck this” every now and again, but it’s more for color commentary. I feel like it is a worn out shtick and wish they would try to be more convincing rather than amusing. But that’s me, maybe the approach works for someone else and to be honest, if it means that person is now vegan than keep going; good on ya!

They do have their own guide in the chapter “Badass Homework” which has a lot of valuable info for a person interested in making the transition. Again, I feel like it’s directed toward a certain demographic as I don’t see my mom finding their approach helpful to her. For those younger folks out there though, the millennials who snicker at every cuss word or silly inference to some movie character, the approach is probably perfect.

After reading this review back I feel like maybe it sounds like I’m ripping the book and I’m trying not to make it seem like that. Listen, the book is good. It’s not bogged down with overly technical crap or scholarly diatribes; it’s a quick read. There is a ton of value here not only learning from what has worked for them, but there are facts littered throughout that could help a newb vegan diffuse situations with fact rather than fiction. Those fun facts are interesting and always positive.

I enjoyed reading the book and look forward to seeing what these guys do in the future. I have been following them for a while now and am curious just how far they can go with the system they’ve set in place for themselves. They promise a future that is vegan, and are manifesting it like a “mofo.” Let’s hope that works for them, for us and for the animals.

Check out their site at http://www.veganbros.com and order the book today!

Book Review: North

I remember in 2015 I was glued to social media. Scott Jurek was attempting to set the record for thru hiking the Appalachian Trail. Most of the record holders have set their times going South, from Mt. Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia; Scott wanted to do it by going “North.”

I had been looking forward to following this event since I heard he was going to make the attempt. After making the transition to veganism I had looked for vegan runners to follow and one of the first to pop up was Scott. The list of races he has run is long as heck, and the ultra-marathon wins he has had are nearly as long. In his heyday he was consistently at the top of his game and became an icon; especially to vegan runners.

It was safe to assume we all knew a book was coming after he made the attempt. There’s only so much that can be said on social media. Most of the time there were short updates, and of course that is understandable; he had other stuff to do. So to have the opportunity to read the book and see what was really happening made the achievement that much more inspiring.

In “North” you not only read Scott’s perspective, but you also get to read his wife, Jenny’s. The amount of time it takes to put something like this together is immense, and to see just how much they endured together is a testament to the people they are and the love they share.

You read the ups and down with bated breath. Especially toward the end when it seems like the goal time might not be within the realm of possibilities, but the team buckles down and gets it done. You become so rooted in the story that you feel the heartache.

The book reads with such fluidity. Scott and Jenny’s voices are so clear and intelligible you feel like you’ve read a couple of pages then realize you’ve read through half the book. I love books like that; if I’m not engrossed in a  book and it takes more than a few days to read than I lose interest. That was not the case with “North.” It was gripping and held my attention from the start,

I felt like I was with the team, that was what was most enjoyable. Having run races with a team and vans with support, it was easy to discern what may have been going on. At the same time, I could never imagine attempting something like this. As an aspiring ultra-runner this opened my eyes to the future and has inspired me to keep moving forward.

Michael Harren and His Animal Experience

I’ve sat on this album and PDF book for some time now. I felt like I really had to give them true immersion in order to fully write about them, plus Michael is a friend (and Strong Hearts Vegan Power teammate) so I wanted to treat his project with careful consideration.

Last year, Michael toured the US with his “Animal Show”, a multimedia experience based on his experiences with vegan activism, his sanctuary residency and life. Although I was unable to attend, I heard from friends and online acquaintances that the show was a hit. The “Animal Show” was Michael’s calling and it was evident he put his all into it.

That was 2017 and now in 2018 Michael fully liberates the stage performance and follows it up with a book and album.

As I sit here typing this, I’ve got the album playing once again. I just finished the track titled “Kaporos” and I’m enveloped with sadness. I feel like I’m part of the story, I feel like I’m witnessing the shameful sacrifice of innocent sentient life for “religious tradition” and I’m heartbroken. I know what Kaporos is, I have read about it every year it happens. I’ve seen the videos, even the one’s that Michael has been in. I have heard the chants. I have not ever felt this though; this helplessness.

With his book and album together, Michael assails our senses not only visually but aurally assaults our ears with emotion; his emotion. This is his story, this is his heart and he is giving it all up. Thank you for sharing!

I’ve heard some news he may finally bring the show to the Boston area and I will now be missing it.

Please take a moment and experience this treasure firsthand by purchasing the album and book at http://michaelharren.com/

Did you see the Animal Show last year? What did you think?

**images “borrowed” from Michael’s Facebook page, the album on the rocks is courtesy Eric C Lindstrom and the other photo is credited to Diana Bezanski

 

Book Review: Reborn On The Run

I can’t state the following fact enough; this book only took me 3 days to read through! It has been a long while since I’ve been so captivated by a book. I think that’s due to a variety of reasons.

Catra Corbett’s (aka the Dirt Diva) story isn’t just about ultra-running, she bares her soul to the reader. She allows us an inside look at the struggles she had not only with addiction but with loss of life and love. Her story is truly gripping.

I’ve followed her career since I first heard about her, which was back in 2015 I think. I interviewed her shortly after to learn more about her and answer some personal questions I was curious about. She was kind and thoughful in her responses, you can view that interview at http://vegancableguy.com/interview-catra-corbett/

“Reborn On The Run” isn’t a how-to book that will teach you how to overcome addiction. It won’t teach you how to run ultras or how to grieve when a love one passes. What it will do is change your perception regarding the struggles of others and truly teach one to be empathetic toward them rather than turn their back or raise their noses.

Of course I can’t not mention the fact that Catra has been a vegan for many, many years. Not only that, she is mainly a raw vegan/ fruitarian so take that people who say vegans are weak or can’t be athletic. She holds many records in the ultra-running community and continues to shatter the perception of what a runner should be and or look like.

Before I write a review I like to see what others have to say so I went to Amazon as this book is fairly new. While there weren’t a lot of them, there were a few people that trashed the book for the over the top language. If you are a puritan than I can see the issue but let’s be real, Catra is not one to pull punches and I like that. Is it for everyone? I guess not but those people should get past the language and understand the book is more than just that.

If there’s one thing to take away from this book (there are many more) is that through perseverance you can accomplish what you set your mind too; regardless of  your background. Catra is one bad-ass woman and I look forward to continue following her career.

You can find her on her blog (which hasn’t been updated in a bit) http://trailgirl.blogspot.com/

You can also find her on Facebook which is more updated https://www.facebook.com/catra

Book Review: Main Street Vegan Academy Cookbook

In a genre of books that has a plethora of choices, it’s sometimes hard to stand out from every other cookbook. There are a variety of ways to do that though. For one, you can get two of the most recognizable cooks and vegan activists together. Victoria Moran, the founder of Main Street Vegan Academy pairs with JL Fields, the author of a variety of cookbooks such as “Vegan Pressure Cooking” and “The Vegan Air Fryer’ come together for “Main Street Vegan Academy Cookbook.”

I’ve been listening to Victoria’s podcast, The “Main Street Vegan” for a couple years now and have been cooking from JL Fields’ cookbooks for the same amount of time, especially the air fryer one as I just finally bought an air fryer a few months ago. Needless to say, I’ve been a fan of both. So how do you make a book better than having just two recognizable people? You add a bunch of folks from the Academy itself, including a couple of friends of mine; Britt LoSacco and Danielle Legg.

What’s great about this book is these are really down to earth recipes and anyone can cook them. If you have questions there are little “coaches corner” tips that help you along. You will have the confidence to prepare a dish not only for your family to try but you will be making dishes to bring to the next potluck event. There’ even a chapter specifically for those events titled, “The Social Vegan.” At the end of the month I’m hosting a potluck so I’m thinking the “Sprouted Garbanzo Bean Hummus” on page 70 sounds pretty righteous!

“Main Street Vegan Academy Cookbook” is not just a cookbook though, but it breaks down a ton o the common misconceptions of veganism and the movement. From debunking myths that veganism is expensive or complicated to activism and even how some vegans are shamed for the shape of their bodies; it’s a myth that we are all rail thin!

If you are new to veganism and are looking for a book that is helpful and welcoming, you’ve found it here. If you are looking for simple appetizer recipes, you’ve got it. Have a busy lifestyle and just want to add some stuff to a crock-pot and get on with your life? Yup, you’ve got that here too.

You can get the book at Amazon or head to the publishers site, Ben Bella Vegan for more information.

Book Review: Mercy For Animals

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to start this review for nearly 30-45 minutes now. You see, I’ve read the book from cover to cover once already and started it again to try to pull out parts that I want to share. The problem is I’m nearly 100 pages in again and am having a hard time putting it down long enough to type this.

Nathan’s story is gripping not only because of the experiences he shares, both harrowing and courageous, but because of the compassion from where that story generates. Whether it’s from the beginning of the book and his recounting of his childhood on the family farm or to the undercover investigations he has been a part of; the narration exudes benevolence and pulls you in from the moment you start reading.

There are beings that roam this earth that shine light wherever they go. Some believe those beings are angels or Bodhisattva’s. Suffice it to say, Nathan is surely one of those people. With careful intention, he built an organization that is selfless and has one goal; to save as many animals as possible. What I think makes them different though is the seemingly minor things they do like push for more space for chickens and hens in cages and crates. It’s about pushing for more humane conditions for animals that are already part of our shameful “food supply chain”. Mercy For Animals pushes for those little things because with small steps come bigger one’s.

Speaking of “bigger one’s”…

I have not followed MFA over the years so this book opened my eyes to one of the major breakthroughs they had; and that was with Nestlé. Through tireless investigations and work MFA were able to get Nestlé to commit to the “Five Freedoms Of Animal Welfare” which are:

  1. Freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition
  2. Freedom from fear and distress
  3. Freedom from physical and thermal discomfort
  4. Freedom from pain, injury and disease
  5. Freedom to express normal patterns of behavior

Nestlé did this on their own after being shown evidence of just how horrific their supply chains were and how despicable the animals were treated. The company was absolutely floored by the documentation they were shown. But, they swore to implement changes and that is amazing.

The fact of the matter is, Nathan Runkle lives and breathes his convictions. There is no denying that.

I walk away from this book with not only a deeper understanding of what it means to be an animal activist, but how to be one. Nathan’s story can, and will, inspire even the most apathetic individual.

He also touches on the future of the movement and the future of food. It’s a promising future and I hope to do what I can to help make that happen. You really need to read this book, I can’t tell you that enough.

Mercy For Animals Links
Website: https://www.mercyforanimals.org/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mercyforanimals
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mercyforanimals/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MercyForAnimals
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/mercyforanimals

Book Review: No Meat Athlete Cookbook

This is the long-awaited follow-up to the EXTREMELY successful “No Meat Athlete: Run on Plants and Discover Your Fittest, Fastest, Happiest Self” (which I had the opportunity to review here). Since then the whole NMA (No Meat Athlete) movement has exploded. There are chapters of folks who get together weekly for runs, workouts and vegan potluck meetups. You can open up Instagram and search the #nomeatathlete tag and see all sorts of folks rocking NMA gear with smiling faces and sweaty brows; it’s a good group of folks to follow. NMA is global!

The cookbook is one of the most beautiful I have seen. I appreciate good print jobs and layout/ graphic work, having worked in that industry for years before being a cable guy. I think going the extra mile sets one cookbook apart from the other. I appreciate a good recipe, I do; but I also like to see what the dish is supposed to look like so I can compare and see if my skill is on par with what I think it might be. Most of the time it is because I love cooking, other times it’s a complete wreck and I can’t toss it in the garbage quick enough.

There’s a quick foreword written by Rich Roll, an intro written by Matt and an introduction to his co-author, Stepfanie. You get tips from the both authors, as well as a daily recommendation of certain foods (similar to Dr Gregers daily dozen). One thing that is really pushed here, that I have yet to really transition away from, is the need to drop oils. It seems most people use them to preserve color and appearance, but I’m a practical eater so maybe it’s time to care less about look and more about taste and nutritional value?

I appreciate the simplicity of most of the recipes. They do not seem to difficult to make. One thing that is sticking out for me that I cannot wait to make is the recipe for “Caribbean Coconut Collard & Sweet Potatoes”. If you’ve seen some of the recipes I’ve posted, especially the mason jar creations, this dish seems like it would work great in a jar; or four!

There a re tips sprinkled throughout the book that are very helpful. Maybe it’s just you or you and your partner. Maybe the meal you made is too much and you dread having the same thing over and over. Add it to a bowl. Make it into a wrap. These tips are simple yet genius.

I’m looking forward to incorporating some of the meals from chapter 7 into my life, “Fuel & recovery: Real Food for Before, During and After Workouts.” I’ve really ramped up some training lately and have to be more creative with my meals in order to force myself to hit some of the macros I need. Whether it’s a drink before, a bar or energy ball during or a protein packed smoothie afterward it is here.

Have I sold you yet? There is nothing super outlandish here folks. If you are new to veganism or plant-based eating this is not crazy stuff that’ll make you shake your head and want to stay away from. These recipes are all for good food to treat your body good. I while back I talked to Matt about why he does what he does, you can read more about him here.

Book Review: China Study Family Cookbook

Continuing on in the series of cookbooks based on the acclaimed, and essential book, The China Study; this one focuses on families. Rather than just be a cookbook though that is loaded with recipes and no tips, Del Sroufe makes the transition easy for all. There are not only cooking tips, but recommendations on items to stock your pantry with in advance so you aren’t pulling your hair out looking for an ingredient.

One section of the book that I loudly applaud is the inclusion of cooking with your kids. My wife loves to bake with my sons. Being more of the savory cook, I always thought it would be hard to cook with these guys but I feel ready to try and approach the idea.

The book is a marvel to look at. The pictures are as simple as the recipes and let the food show itself and not get swallowed up in a busy backdrop. The layout is clean and recipes are as straightforward as you get. What I really appreciate is all the tips on each page. Even if you are a novice cook, the tips will break down certain techniques to help you get the result you want with the dish. Some of the recipes have less than 5 ingredients, hows that for easy?

I’ve spoken with some folks lately that talk about how involved vegan/ plant based cooking is; this book shatters that belief. Most of the recipes can be made with ingredients you have in your home, or can go down to the local grocer to get. Most of them are not niche items and can be made by those of any skill level, such as the homemade corn chips, potato wedges, sweet potato hummus or sloppy joes. Heck, you can make the corn and black bean salsa for those chips nearly as easy as the chips themselves.

There are some that are more adventurous recipes though such as the Mediterranean Loaf which I can’t wait to try. I’m really looking forward to making some of these dressings and sauces though. I’ve been getting really bored with the usual and these will give me a little liberty when trying to create flavors I used to enjoy. I appreciate that companies try to make vegan version of things like thousand island dressing, but they are processed and have preservatives in them to make them shelf stable. The recipes don’t have that and are much more fresh because you make them. The plant based mayo sounds like it’ll be fantastic.

The things I’m really looking forward to try and make is the chorizo. I’ve been trying to perfect my own jambalaya and again, have been trying to do it with less processed foods. Having some roots down in Louisiana, spicy foods and heat are most certainly my thing, The ingredients here are all whole foods and this recipe is mouth watering.

You can find more info out about this book and order it at http://www.benbellavegan.com/book/the-china-study-family-cookbook/

Book Review: YumUniverse Pantry To Plate

Heather Crosby, the founder and author behind YumUniverse.com, has created a follow-up to her first book which is appropriately titled “Yum Universe.” This second one is less about the “how to” and more about “doing” when it comes to living plant-based.

The recipes are concise and as straightforward as you can get. If you are just coming into this way of eating, it can seem daunting. It’s easier than you think though, and Heather lays out a path to create recipes from the ingredients you already have at home. The recipes all include a template in which you can manipulate it to fit your needs or palate, or you can follow some of the one’s she has built off of the same template.

The recipes are all plant-based, or like she prefers to call them, “plant-inspired.”  While those are witty phrases, they are not all completely vegan. No, there is not meat or dairy; there are a couple that include honey though. Semantics aside, like all the other templates you can ad-lib ingredients. For the recipes that call for honey you can use things like agave or my favorite sweetener Bee Free Honee.

Last week I was able to share the recipe for Sriracha Mac with you, I hope you’ll check it out and let me know if you ever end up making it. I’ve got a busy few weeks ahead and look forward to making this, as well as some of the other recipes from the book. My family is pretty picky and a fair amount of these recipes will be right up their alley.

The book is very well put together and the pics are absolutely stunning. Having worked in the print industry for years (before cable), I appreciate books that are laid out well and are fluid from page to page. Amateur cooks and skilled pro’s will surely enjoy checking this book out.

You can find YumUniverse Pantry To Plate at The Expirement Publishing site or you can certainly search for it on Amazon.

Book Review: How Not To Die

One of the quickest growing, and largest, resources available online is Nutrition Facts. It is a resource site based on the research of Dr. Michael Greger as well as an aggregate of compiled research of other medical field professionals. What makes Nutrition Facts different from a lot of the other sites is the frequency of the information that is posted and how it is presented.

We can all clamor about how much we know, or are learning about how beneficial the vegetables, fruits, legumes, herbs, etc are for us; but if we don’t have evidence to back that up its hard to quantify. What’s also difficult to pass on  and translate to others is simplified and cohesive information. It would be fantastic to have that all in one place right? It is, and it can be found in Dr Greger’s book, “How Not To Die.”

Published in 2015,  “How Not To Die” is a guide to helping prevent, and possibly reverse, some of the most common medical killers. Wouldn’t it be great to not have to deal with heart disease anymore? Wouldn’t it be absolutely amazing to not have to see family members suffer from maladies such as hypertension or diabetes? Infections? How about depression?

I’ve been listening to the audio-book version of “How Not To Die” for a couple of weeks now. I had to drive up to Vermont to check out some apartments for my daughter and wanted some good material to accompany me on the trip. I was surprised to hear Dr. Greger’s voice reading me his book. That’s a touch I appreciate though, it means he is passionate about his work and wants to present it himself. Bonus is the fact he is somewhat witty in his delivery and makes even the most complicated medical term seem understandable.

That understanding is carried through in the print version. I’ve read a bunch of books, studies, etc on plant-based research and more than most of them are written like a tech paper would be; perplexing and at times over my head.  I think that approach does not help the consumer/ reader and can make things very confusing. While still using proper medical terminology when needed, Dr. Greger breaks it down and explains the point he is trying to get across. If you want to get into that chaos, the citation that he does in this book is immense and you can spend hours upon hours reading papers he researched for the book.

Each chapter is a discourse on particular ailments and diseases and how you might go about helping yourself to either prevent or combat them. Keep in mind, this book is not a prescription and the advice of your doctor should supersede anything as he or she knows you and your overall health. That said, I know a bunch of people who are skeptical of advice they might get and it doesn’t harm anyone to arm yourself with knowledge before an appointment and ask questions. “How Not To Die” certainly gives you that insight.

There are a limited amount of recipes, but where he helps the readers most in that instance is with his “Daily Dozen.” He recommends 12 daily plant-based foods that will help assist in all general health areas. I would highly recommend “How Not To Die” to anyone who wants to gain knowledge and take control of their health. Dr. Greger shows us all that it is easy to do that and to do so without complicated foods that are laden unnecessary processed ingredients.

Have you read the book yet? How has it helped you?