Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Soy to the World
I'm not sure how, but there must have been about seven or eight instances in which I stood before an aisle in the grocery store and thought "I don't think I have any beans..." I must have returned home, tote filled with assorted legumes, only to discover bags and cans of the stuff already on my shelves. My brain must have then quickly repressed the entire incident before the next grocery store trip, where I then repeated the whole process over again. This is the only logical explanation that I have for owning 10 lbs of assorted beans. It doesn't even end with the dried beans, or the cans, either. In my freezer I have six bags of edamame (soy beans) and three bags of frozen peas to boot.If there are any of you who may have concerns about my protein intake during the Lent(il) Project, what with my being a vegetarian and all, I sincerely hope this minor revelation has put you at ease.
Looking at all those beans, I remember my early days as a vegetarian. Giving up meat was the first and only of my New Year's resolutions that has ever actually stuck. My old standby of "losing weight" has always pretty much been obliterated by Groundhog's Day and by Valentine's, I usually make it a point to lose myself in a Jane Austen-induced chocolate coma. So when I made the decision to become vegetarian, I made sure to load up on my mother's standard New Year's Eve fare of meatballs, shrimp cocktail, and chicken cutlets. I didn't know how long I'd go on not eating meat and I sincerely doubt my 23 year-old self ever expected it to last as long as it has.
In those early days I basically replaced every meat dish that I dearly loved with its soy alternative. I moved to Portland, Oregon three months after becoming a vegetarian and in that city I found a meat-free utopia of restaurants and markets. I was given a whole dictionary's worth of new food terms such as: soy curls, tempeh, seitan, textured vegetable protein, vital wheat gluten, Bragg's Liquid Aminos, nutritional yeast, quinoa, wheatberries, kombucha, seaweed snacks...the list goes on.
After nearly a year of soy-in' it up in Stumptown, however, I made a very important discovery: Soy mimics estrogen. Not a lot if consumed in its whole form and in moderation. But let's say you're eating cereal soaked in soy milk for breakfast, baked tofu for lunch, and meatless meatballs for dinner. And you do this, with a few variations in the menu, every day for about a year. If you're like me, you will find yourself looking down one day and realizing that you can't see your feet, or even your loathed stomach rolls. All you see is boobs. Genetically modified soy boobs that are two cup sizes and a decade late to be welcomed with open arms (no pun intended). The processed soy in MY body wasn't just mimicing estrogen, but apparently Dolly Parton as well.
After that, I changed things up a bit and took great pains to have a more balanced diet. Enter the beans, the nuts, and eggs raised by a ridiculously good-looking Egg farmer who put an end to my veganism with one flash of his wolfish smile. My vegetarianism matured and varied as I did. I became obsessed with the local farmer's markets, to the point where I knew almost every vendor by name and they knew mine. And what began as a simple, holiday-timed decision blossomed into a greater awareness of how my decisions affected my life, my health, and my world. In additon to all the aforementioned, trippy new foods I ate, I also learned about terms such as "locally grown", "sustainable", "fair trade", and "seasonal".
When I look at my cupboard now with all its assortment of beans and the obvious imprints of my life back in PDX, I wonder what this, my Lent(il) Project, my simple, holiday-timed decision will mature into. Will I become a person who understands that with every bean I buy I am casting a vote for a way of life that is sustainable not just for myself, but for everyone that, as a follower of Christ, I am bound to love? When I look at my cupboard, I am thankful to God for the following:
-That I can cook. This is a skill that I cannot ever take for granted, especially when it comes to the art of making bread, yogurt, and cheese
-That I am fortunate enough to live in a county that has an abundance of farms and local produce. It is because of people like the Buzbys that I will be able to enjoy frozen strawberries, corn, and tomato sauce during the Lent(il) project
-My amazing community of supportive family and friends. They are with me every step of the way and for that I am eternally grateful.