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Book Review: What The Health

Yes, this is the book version of the film. If you ever watched it and said to yourself that you should probably pay attention so you can retain as much as you can for future conversations, well you don’t need to do that. This is the printed form of the film serving as a compendium to all the info you saw and wished you had at your disposal. There is quite a bit more here in the book than in the movie and you will find all sorts of useful info as well as some of the filmmakers/ authors favorite recipes. There are more in depth interviews as well as commentary from the filmmakers themselves with added personal stories.

One thing I like to do after reading a book and before reviewing it is to look at other reviews. I get curious if the thoughts I have about a book are the same, or close to the same, as other writers. Not surprising, there are tons of reviews where folks are appreciative that the book was published. Many great stories of people making the conversion to a healthier way of eating.

Then you got the naysayers, and unfortunately there is a plethora of them. What’s amazing though is one in particular and it says, “Most (of) the sources are biased to veganism. The back of the book contains hundreds of references though that you can look up.” So the claim is that the book is biased yet there are sources cited in the back that are valid? I think some people don’t truly understand the word “bias” as they clearly have some of their own. There are even some “doctors” that claim the film is incorrect yet they do not offer their name, credentials or anything concrete to dispel any of the science based facts from the film. 

I don’t know, I mean some of the most well known doctors in the country are interviewed including Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. Neil Barnard, Dr. Garth Davis, Dr. Milton Mills, Dr. Michael Klaper and so many more. As mentioned above, there is nearly 50 pages of notes referring the reader to scientific papers, studies and more. There can be no denying the fact that these guys have done their homework and leave no doubt; animal products is bad for your health. 

For instance, there’s a story about a boy names Justin and his mom, Joyce. Justin is a 7 year old boy who weighs 250lbs. Yes, you read that right! The poor boy struggles to breathe and move, his poor body cannot handle all that weight. His mother talks about his diet and how doctors told her to rein it in but never gave her any real advice. A typical day, from a spied piece of paper points out that just for breakfast the boys eats 4 scrambled egg, 1 slice of cheese, teaspoon of ketchup and 1 3/4 cups of diet sprite. That is a disgusting way to start the day and it doesn’t get any better. Lunch consists if multiple sausages, popped popcorn, diet tea and a snack bar.

If you are familiar with the movie than the fact they point out differences between true carnivores and humans is in here. For instance, how about our canines? I mean, those things are dangerous they must have been given to us to eat meat right? Have you looked at a real carnivores mouth; all of their teeth are for ripping and their canines are true canines, not some dulled down teeth that can barely “tear an envelope.

The stories here are real and they are horrifying. They blow the lid of factory farms spraying literal shit all over people’s properties and houses causing sickness and disease. The story of René Miller is atrocious and should anger anyone who learns of what she and her townspeople have had to deal with in the small town of Warsaw, North Carolina.

You get the idea.

It is a game changer.

If you watched the film you need to read the book. Your friends need the book. Your family needs the book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spekin

Book Review: Back To The Cutting Board

What separates a cookbook from a book just filled with recipes is passion. Passionate cooks feel what they are cooking, they value the full immersion of technique and usage of all the senses. Christina Pirello is a professional chef and Emmy Award winning host of Christina Cooks on PBS. Her passion for cooking is evident from the first page. “I come from a family of true food lovers. It seemed to me that every moment we celebrated, mourned, discussed or marked was centered around a feast,” she quips.

Similar to a fair share of cookbooks, Christina shares some of the core items she keep in her fridge and pantry. The only other thing she has in common with other cookbooks is yes, she shares her personal recipes. What makes “Back To The Cutting Board” different though is she shares some of her knife techniques. While most folks know these techniques, it helps to remind people of the terminology as well.

What I found really interesting is Christina’s take on food and how cooking grounds us with Nature. Finding myself getting more and more into a mindfulness based lifestyle again, I appreciate her take on yin and yang in relation to food. She speaks of the “Five Transformations Of Energy.” Christina brings a different approach to cooking in that she appreciates the innate qualities of food and the energies that they provide. With each recipe she highlights the energies provided by each meal.

It seems that most of the recipes inside are either Fall or Winter inspired, which is perfect as we are settling into Fall here on the East Coast and Winter is knocking. Last week I shared a recipe for her Chickpea Farro Soup which I am looking forward to making very soon. There is also a recipe for Ginger-Poached Pears. I absolutely love pears and this sounds amazing, and somewhat easy to make.

If you are looking for a cookbook that’s a step up from the basic recipe book, or maybe you are looking to refine your skill in the kitchen, I recommend “Back To The Cutting Board.” You can find more info about Christina at https://www.christinacooks.com or order the book at https://www.benbellabooks.com/shop/back-cutting-board/

Book Review: A Plea For The Animals

I’ve harped on the fact the most Buddhists still eat the flesh of other sentient beings. I’ve spoken ad nauseam of how hypocritical it is to practice compassion and kindness when animals are killed to be eaten. One of the things I’ve pointed out that burns my a** most is that a fair share of Buddhists (even teachers such as HHDL) make excuses to kill sentient beings as long as the person eating the animal didn’t kill the animal directly. Turning a blind eye somehow makes it alright I guess…

So, it was refreshing to have the opportunity to read and comment on “A Plea For The Animals” by Matthieu Ricard. Matthieu is an author but more so, a Buddhist monk in the Tibetan tradition. He is a leading voice for animals in the Buddhist realm and this book not only outlines those reasons but should be the catalyst for most (If not all) of the community to go vegan.

One of my favorite chapters of the book is the chapter titled, “Sorry Excuses.” We’ve all heard the same excuses a hundred times. Whether it’s “top of the food chain” or “we need it for our health” the fact of the matter is, they are just sad reasons to hold on to an outdated mindset. Animals are not here for us. Your ancestors were in the past, we are living in the present and at this moment in time, there is no reason to eat animals. We have grocery stores, farm stand, open air farm markets, etc.

One excuse that is really belligerent is the excuse “there are so many much more serious problems that humanity has to deal with.” Such as what? Hunger in third world countries? Climate change? The spread of disease such as swine or avian flu? You’re right, these have nothing to do with going vegan and stopping the animals as products machine from rolling on. ::eyeroll::

Seriously?! Every single one of those things could be remedied if we all stopped commodifying animals and went vegan.

Matthieu also goes into animal experimentation, illegal trade of wildlife (and their body parts), zoos and other relevant topics. “A Plea For The Animals” should be one of the most important books in the AR movement, It should also be required reading for anyone who is new to Buddhist thought so they could understand from the jump that animals are not for eating, wearing or killing. The fact that Matthieu’s resume is as solid as they come should lend some credence to the words he writes in his book.

If you have not read it, it’s time. If you are looking for a compassionate book for a friend or family member that is not as confrontational as others, this is the one. “A Plea For The Animals” is full of kindness, compassion and legit reason. I will continue to read and re-read this book as I feel it has given me a perspective that is positive and can be helpful when debating the ethics and reasons to go vegan.

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: 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: The Mindful Vegan

You know how sometimes you need something to appear in your life and it shows? I’m pretty sure I’ve been inadvertently manifesting this book for the past few months. I used to be super into mindfulness and meditation but for whatever reason got away from it. I’ve been feeling it more and more lately; enter “The Mindful Vegan.”

“The Mindful Vegan” is Lani Muelrath’s new book and it’s truly a treasure.  I’m not normally one for “how to guides” or “x-amount of days” solutions type of books. I’ve read many of those that feel like a manual rather than advice. That’s not Lani and it’s certainly not “The Mindful Vegan.” It’s more of a pathway to freedom beyond just being a vegan or a mindfulness practitioner.

Lani goes through each chapter as days and makes recommendations for practice and introspection on each. Some of them are longer than others as the topic may need more attention. Of course there a few recipes in the back of the book as well, but this is not being billed as a cook book.

There are instructions on a variety of meditation techniques such as loving-kindness and walking meditation. I remember my first encounter with walking meditation and I didn’t understand it all. I was at a retreat at IMS and I remember my first night. I was drinking tea and watching zombies walk around the courtyard. By the end of the weekend I was joining them and understood walking meditation. It’s a beneficial practice and I think Lani offers it up in an understandable and approachable way.

Day Nineteen “higher ground and mind fully navigating conversations” spoke clearly and loudly for me. Her advice on how to approach veganism in a world that is averse to it (although it’s becoming less so) is an approach I wish I had witnessed before; it may have helped me embrace veganism earlier. For instance she speaks of being present in a manner I have never read before. It’s not just about being vegan, it’s about being a vegan in a kind and gracious way. Emotions carry a lot of weight when it comes to being vegan. We want to do our best to cause the least harm possible to animals and at times that can cloud the way we engage people. Lani explains how not only should you speak in a kind way but how to pay attention to your body and it’s movements. Just as your words can be harsh, so can your movements. That blew me away and will help me in the future when I speak to others about the benefits of veganism.

On a side note, I really appreciate this book as I feel the practice of mindfulness and veganism are synonymous. Even before going vegan, when I was practicing Buddhism and mindfulness, I felt like a walking contradiction and questioned many within the world of that practice. A lot of them ate meat, consumed dairy and even wore clothing made from animals. I never understood it and I think it was a big part of the reason I walked away from that world. I’m glad to know that it’s not quite the case with most, now, though. It didn’t make sense that a practice of compassion encompassed so much cruelty.

I highly recommend you taking the time to check out this book if you are open and able to try to make changes for the better. I believe with some of the practices outlined here we can all become better vegans teach the world what veganism is. It’s not about being combative; it’s about combating cruelty with kindness and compassion.

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.