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Dad tries vegan!

28 Jan counterfullofgoods

I’m half-italian and most people can guess that. I’ve got dark eyes, a set of hands that are ever-moving while I’m talking, and I really, really like to feed people. I mean I really like to feed people. It’s a bit of a problem. But in my house growing up, that was how we showed love. My Mom explained that this was part of their ‘peasant ancestry’. Her family never had money, so food became the medium through which her family could express their love for one another.

DSC01849In case you missed the post, last week my Dad confirmed he has either had his eyes opened or his body snatched by aliens who have replaced him with Robo-Dad Version 1.0 (non-judgmental, curious about veganism, acknowledges a diet void of meat and dairy won’t cause you to wither and die). He asked me for a favour. He asked me to cook vegan food for him, for a week.

Always the obliging, obedient daughter (hah!) I accepted this task willingly. Thanks in large part to helpful meal suggestions by readers, my Dad will be chowing down on these dishes:

  • Smoky Split Pea Soup from Appetite for Reduction (I also sent him home with Field Roast frankfurters to sub out his childhood favourite: lentil soup which was unfortunately made with dairy and chicken, and German weiners.)
  • Rainbow Chili (I call it this because I can’t think of a single colour not represented in this. Used Sol Cuisine Veggie Crumbles for additional protein and to mimic that typical chili texture)
  • Sweet Potato Black-Bean Quesadillas with Daiya (I’ll post the recipe for this soon. Let’s just say this dish is my security blanket, I think I could make it with my eyes closed. It’s always a hit.)
  • Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar (Cookies are a dish, right? They are in our house.)
  • Succulent Shepherd’s Pie courtesy of my dear friend Vanessa (He better eat this barefoot, because her pie will knock his socks off)

In addition to cooking and baking, I tried to give him some pantry basics, including: a single serving of Spiced Carrot Cake from Sweets From the Earth, 2 Ginger Snappers cookies from New Moon Kitchen, Tofurky Roast Beef Style slices, vegan margarine, Zen Chocolate Pudding, various Gardein products, vegan parmesan, Daiya, So Nice soy milk and strawberry soy milk from Natura.

In the midst of all this excitement, I noticed the dogs were jealous of all my kitchen activity, and how could I resist? I made up a batch of vegan doggy biscuits too!

sophandtreats

{Quick directions here: 1/4 cup dried fruit (not grapes or raisins as they are toxic to dogs!), 1/4 cup pumpkin puree, 1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour, 1/4 cup of oats. Preheat oven to 350F, and line sheet with parchment. Mix all ingredients together well. Roll into 1 inch balls about 2.5 inches apart, press down on tops to flatten. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool and refrigerate. Fight urge to not feed them all to your dog[s] at once. Feed within one week!}

Dad picked up his goodies tonight.  He is genuinely excited. No lamenting what he’s “giving up” and not a single comment about animal foods being “good for you”. He’s a stoic dude, so seeing him calmly accepting the kindness of another person (especially one of his children) was really touching. He was really adorable too, asking about what needs to be refrigerated, and what the Daiya can be used in (answer: ALL THE THINGS). He did not turn up his nose at the thought of meatless ‘chicken strips’ or vegan cheese.  This is a guy who a few months ago told me soy makes men grow boobs.

I’ll be sharing his progress throughout, and while I am guardedly optimistic (we do live in a non-vegan world), I think this is a huge step for Dad, for me, and for our relationship. I am so thankful that I get to do what my Nonna, my Mom and my Aunts all do to share their love: they feed each other. While what I feed my loved ones is different, I do it with every bit as much passion, excitement and humility. Aw, dang. Now I’ve got a hankering for my Mom’s tomato sauce…

My Dad may be a robot (and a note about my great uncle)

22 Jan

Last week something strange happened. My Dad asked me for help. This likely does not seem worth mentioning, but that’s only because you don’t know my father. Let me paint a picture: he’s a stoic, stubborn German dude who emigrated to Canada and brought along with him many of the stereotypical aphorisms about life being relentlessly hard, and thankless work being the cornerstone of any financially secure life. I love my Dad, even if we don’t agree on– well, almost anything.

Take for example, not eating animals. My father has in his arsenal at all times, unsolicited advice about: protein, calcium, how good meat is for you, eating like our ancestors, how meat staves off illness, etc. He’s not rude, it’s just that food, like all other subjects, happens to be something he has a strong opinion on (even/especially if that opinion is based on folk nutrition, overvaluing tradition, cognitive dissonance, etc).

So you can imagine my surprise when last week on the phone, out of the blue, he starts telling me about what stops him from eating vegan (or at least mainly vegan). Had I been sipping a beverage, I would have spit it out. Had I been chewing gum, I’d have bitten off my tongue. Had I been with him in person, I’d have been looking for visible signs of circuitry. Who was this honest, vulnerable robot imposter and what did he do with my generally pessimistic, dismissive father?

{As an aside, I have three main theories about what happened: 1) He finally watched the copy of ‘Forks Over Knives’ I gave him two Christmases ago; 2) One of the vegans he works with rubbed off on him or 3) Aliens. As it stands, I haven’t asked him, and I could care less.}

We talked for quite a while. I dropped all the usual sound bites: the inherent violence of slaughter, cholesterol and saturated fats, environmental problems, and all the great alternatives that now exist. He told me the single greatest barrier to him eating vegan is: he cannot picture what he’d eat.

He told me when we took him to Hogtown Vegan (an AMAZING vegan restaurant in Toronto) he was super happy seeing that so many of his favourite foods could be veganized. He wants to see more of it, and frankly, I can’t really blame him. I want him to see all the great alternatives that exist because although we’d eventually like to see people eating a wide array of whole plant foods, you can’t ask someone who goes from eating a burger and fries to chow down on a quinoa salad with tempeh. They’ll give up before they even start. That’s not human nature, and such a rapid shift is simply not going to jive with the powerful pull of the human palette.

So my Dad asked me {*drum roll please*} if I would prepare enough dishes for his lunch and dinner for the week for him, and he’d come pick them up. That’s right. The guy who once told me fish is practically a vegetable is asking me for my culinary charity. He said he’ll gladly pay for it all, he just wants to experience what eating vegan could really be like, because he “knows” it’s better. I’M AS SHOCKED AS YOU.

So here’s where I ask you folks to help me, help my Dad. Please offer up your most delicious recipes in the comments section focused on these 3 main criteria:

  1. Taste! Give me the salt, the fat, the sweet. I don’t mean give me excessive amounts of it, but no fat-phobic recipes allowed!
  2. Familiarity! This is for a man in his 60’s who thinks iceberg lettuce is a superfood.
  3. Ease! Nothing too complicated as I’ll ultimately be teaching him to replicate the recipes himself, and apart from some OJ and a few bananas, his kitchen looks like a movie set, and his soup cupboard looks like a disorganized Andy Warhol exhibit.

I thank you in advance for this, and encourage you to keep checking back! I’ll be charting my Dad’s progress, and what worked/didn’t work.

One last aside: several months ago, my Dad told me that his uncle bought some cattle for his farm out in the prairies. His intention was, like all other farmers, to make money (to feed the cows until they were big enough to slaughter). But something happened to him. My great uncle became very attached to the cows and couldn’t send them to slaughter. So he kept them. He kept them and let them live out their natural lives, despite being laughed at by the rest of his Mennonite community. My Dad told this story with a sparkle in his eye, a sparkle that was just barely discernible at the time. I’m not one to overvalue genes, but between you and me: I love knowing that the blood that ran through my uncle’s veins in that more oppressive time, is running through mine, and that my decision to love animals instead of eating them is the next logical step in the refusal to send them to their death. I realized today that the same blood is also running through my father’s veins. And this makes me hopeful. For him, and for us all, and ultimately for the animals.

This post is full of shit (pun intended): My hate-hate relationship with IBS

28 Mar

If you want to hold my hand, you have to buy me dinner first. Likewise, if you want to hear about my bowels, you’ll have to endure some back story… 

OK, fine. The word ‘irritable’ is sometimes used in reference to me, particularly when it comes to: getting up early, going to bed too late, sharing food, and listening to people tell me why they could never give up eating animals. My mother once told me “I don’t suffer fools gladly”, and I reluctantly confess this to be the case. Heaven forbid you’re a foolish person, because you’ll already know this about me. 

So what does being a bit irritable have to do with irritable bowel syndrome? Absolutely squat. An irritable disposition does not an irritable bowel sufferer maketh. I wish it were only a matter of putting on a happy face. I would have freaking tap danced down Yonge Street in an oversized top hat shooting fireworks out of my mouth- if it would have improved my IBS.

A couple of years ago, my life topsy turveyed for a while. A really, really bad break up (the quality stuff made for a  Monday night teen drama series) resulted in me losing ‘custody’ of my two amazing dogs, as well as being essentially run out of my community, and dealing with the good times of selling a house co-owned with a person who hated my guts.

Oh, my poor guts! That’s exactly where my stress went. For some people, it’s their back, others suffer from chronic migraines. Some people just cry constantly, or turn to the drink (which I did one night, and half-assedly). For me, I went from being a pretty regular gal, to being a total wreck down there. Every morning became hellish, my bathroom a kind of prison, as I was held at the mercy of my very stressed body. The worst part was that there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to what would having me going to the bathroom with a frequency I more commonly attribute to my guinea pigs, who poop 10-20 times per hour.

“My bowels have organized a full scale mutiny…”

It got so bad that vegan brunch with friends was completely out of the question (my stomach never really ‘settled’ enough that I could leave the house until the late afternoon). Plans to go home and visit friends and family (and reclaim some of that territory stolen from me during the breakup) were back-burnered (I became terrified of long bus rides, having to eat food at other people’s houses, etc.). Had I been less fortunate, and not been able to work from home, I undoubtedly would have lost my job, a very real concern for IBS sufferers, and the second most common cause of worker absenteeism (next to the common cold).

The pain of the abdominal spasms would be so bad I’d nearly faint, and often be crying. I felt like I must be dying, my organs failing me, it was so awful. But I was given this vague diagnosis of IBS along with a considerable amount of emphasis on my mental state as being the underlying cause. I was essentially written off as overly sensitive and weak, with a problem that was entirely “in my head”. If only I could control my stress, I could control my IBS.  

My dear partner fancies himself a bit of an explorer, especially as it pertains to health and medical issues. He’s the guy who gets the obscure phone calls from loved ones about weird symptoms and sleuths  things out. If you’re like me, the thought of sharing your most personal details about poop (and the always glamorous act of pooping too much) with the person you’d like to also find you ‘sexy’ is horrifying. In fact, I was so private that for the first couple of months, I’d cloak my pain in vaguish explanations like “My stomach is just really hurting”. Ever the stalwart for accurate medicalspeak, after months of relentless nagging, he dragged out of me that it was not my “stomach” that was hurting, it was my “bowels” and they are “really fucking upset”. To this day, I cringe with the power of a thousand shy people when I say it. [And for the record-- bowels is an exceptionally crude moniker for a body part that is already responsible for dealing with the 3rd most disgusting human-made creation. It goes 1) animal agriculture 2) nuclear weaponry and 3) poop.] 

So after I admitted my “bowels have organized a full scale mutiny against the rest of my body and they want justice”, it got much easier. He did a lot of reading, and we initially thought, like my doctor, that the majority of work to be done was on reprocessing the way I deal with stress. So there I was, working on managing my stress while eating my 12 grain sprouted bread in the morning, totally confuzzled when I’d end up in the bathroom 15 minutes later. I didn’t even feel stressed! It was a noggin-scratcher, to say the least.

And then Joseph found the website of Heather Van Vorous, particularly her book ‘IBS: The First Year’. And this was the first step on the path to putting my IBS into remission. What was most magical about her book, was that it confirmed my physical intuitions. For example, during a flare up, I would want nothing more than a white bagel for breakfast, and Joseph would look at me quizzically and say “But that is so bad for you! And there is no way that is good for your belly! It makes no sense!”

Friends don’t let friends [with IBS] eat [insoluble fibre] alone:

Thanks to Heather’s book, I learned it actually made perfect sense that my body would crave bagels, white bread, rice, bananas, quinoa, and pasta (soluble fibre) while simultaneously intuiting that a green smoothie, or kale salad, or gorgeous raw red pepper, or soy latte, would only make things worse.  

This is because people with IBS have a hard time with fat, caffeine, coffee, carbonation, alcohol and this mysterious little thing called ‘insoluble fibre’. What’s that, you ask? Insoluble fibre is, simply put, found in the stuff that is the healthiest for us and a HUGE part of the vegan diet! Leafy greens, whole wheat flour, seeds, nuts, beans and lentils, peaches, pineapple, apples, oranges, dates, green beans, celery, onion, broccoli, cucumber, sprouts, you get the idea. Pretty much anything with a tough skin, hull, peel, pod or seed, is likely insoluble fibre. And before you start flipping out, don’t worry! There is no diet in the world that would tell you to stop eating these foods, though depending on the severity of your IBS, you may have to restrict yourself for a short time. The rule of thumb is simply that you NEVER eat insoluble fibre on an empty stomach. You always start with soluble fibre. Heather’s book explains all this in detail, and she will empower you with all the knowledge you need to get going in managing this physical condition.  Yes, say it with me: it’s a physical problem.

IBS is not “in your head”, though as with any other physical problem, stress can aggravate it greatly. It’s even thought that the actual onset of IBS can be brought on by food poisoning, a bug, or a traumatic event, but that does not mean that IBS is a brain-based problem. Any doctor (unfortunately, most of them) who tells you otherwise should be dropped like dairy. I know personally it can be a hereditary issue, and I also know it is more common for women than men, and common for people who were abused as children to suffer from it. Heather sees it as a brain-gut dysfunction, and through dietary management and some alternative therapy, I really believe most people can have their IBS put into remission. And because IBS is a functional disorder, when the symptoms disappear, so does the actual diagnosis. 

I’ve thought long and hard about what to say next. I want so badly to share everything I’ve learned in this bizarre, frustrating journey. But ultimately, it’s too important to have it oversimplified and summarized here. If you have IBS, chances are it’s taken enough of your time away from you, I don’t want to waste more of it here. The following is a brief step by step to what I recommend you do next. And please, even if you don’t have IBS, pass this on to a loved one who does.

Step 1) Get a copy of “IBS: The First Year” and read it right away– Book a day off work, plunk the kids in front of the TV, do what you’ve gotta do. (Note: the IBS management diet is mainly vegan, and easily made entirely vegan, as almost all animal products are discouraged from the get go.)

Step 2) Start to rule other illnesses out right away– You’ll want to ensure you actually have IBS, and the only way to confirm this is to rule out all other possibilities. Be sure to read Heather’s book for a detailed overview of what you should rule out.

Step 3) Get angry– Immediately after reading the book, I became angry. Angry with healthcare professionals, who made me feel like IBS was “in my head”, when the reality is that there is an underlying physical condition, and stress can exacerbate it. You’ll feel angry, and you’ll be justified. The amount of pain endured by IBS sufferers simply because the medical community refuses to prioritize the issue is infuriating.

 Step 4) Tell your loved ones– I should have done it sooner. But I was embarrassed. Having to cancel get togethers, meetings, etc. I wish so badly I’d just rounded up my loved ones, and told them. When I finally did, not only did I feel liberated, I got some much deserved empathy for living with such chronic suffering! And even better than that was that many people confessed that they too struggled with IBS, so I felt much less lonely too. 

Step 5) Stock your pantry– Become obsessed with the difference between soluble and insoluble fibre and memorize what foods are which. Soluble fibre will become your dear friend.

Step 6) Get angry again– Damn right you should be angry! Why is your body different from other people’s? Why can’t you just eat what normal people eat?! Take a deep breath and remember, that your bowels need time to recover from the torture they’ve been consistently enduring. Stick to the diet, and if you’re like me, in no time, your body will feel ‘normal’ again. 

Step 7) Buy a hot water bottle and a lifetime supply of strong peppermint tea-- Drink it constantly. Don’t stop drinking until your pee smells minty fresh. Just kidding. But seriously…thank me later.

Step 8) Here’s the part where I tell you to try hypnotherapy– If you haven’t garnered from the site thus far, I believe in science. I don’t believe in fairies, or crystals or supplements that come in bottles without a DIN. When I read in Heather’s book (and on various sites and blogs) that hypnotherapy was associated with a huge success rate at resolving IBS, I was so desperate I was willing to try anything, including what I considered to be the wackiest of all quack-pot quickfixes– hypnotherapy.

Heather recommended Michael Mahoney’s work, and because of how valuable her book had been in managing my IBS from a dietary perspective, I decided to trust her that this may actually work at putting my IBS into remission. The purpose of the therapy is to unconsciously rework negative thought patterns associated with IBS. For example, many people with IBS are terrified of using transit or having someone else drive them places, in case they need to stop suddenly to go to the bathroom. The fear generated by these situations is enough to create a palpable fear of ever having to do it again, even if the outcome wasn’t negative (read: even if the person didn’t crap their pants/embarrass themselves/etc.). The very fear of it being a possibility is enough to create a strong negative connection in the brain. Simply put, hypnotherapy works on an unconscious level to disconnect those connections. And the best part is, you get to just fall asleep while you listen. Please don’t delay in giving it a try. I’d give anything to have found it earlier.

 
To be honest, I was reluctant to even write this piece, because IBS stole so much of my time away from me. It stole me from the people, animals, places and activities I adore, and I didn’t want to give it any more of my time writing a piece like this. But I couldn’t stop thinking about how many people are likely suffering just like me, not knowing what to do, eating a healthy vegan diet and yet being constantly unwell. I never want anyone with IBS to suffer longer than they need to.

I’ve been symptom free for long enough now that I’m almost starting to forget the fear, the pain and the panic. I wanted to get this out there before I’ve been back to normal for so long that my time with IBS is starting to feel like nothing more than the memory of a bad nightmare I once had. It’s still scary, but there is a vagueness too. My life is so full of hope and peace again, now that I’m symptom free. So if you’re reading this, thinking “What the hell is wrong with me? What if I never get better?”, I hope this post offers you the hope you so deserve. I welcome all comments and will do my best to answer questions. Please, please, please consider sharing this with loved ones living with IBS. 

 

An Open Apology to Chickpeas Everywhere:

24 Nov

Autumn Chickpea Salad by norwichnuts, click on photo to visit their flickr!

Dear Chickpeas (garbanzo bean, Indian pea, ceci bean, Bengal gram),

I’m not writing this today because I think you need to hear it. Nor am I writing it simply to assuage some of the guilt I’ve carried around for all these years. I’m writing this to set the record straight about you, about me and what you do for people around the world.

As embarrassing as it is, as a child, your easily peelable skin left me a bit uncomfortable and your subdued flavour (compared to all that processed food!) left me wanting. You were the stuff of boring grown up soups, so often added as a half-hearted afterthought. Your spherical shape made for many a shootout at the dinner table, giving a whole new meaning to the term ‘beaning’ someone in the eye.

And no offense, but ‘garbanzo’? You were really setting yourself up there.
“Hey, did you want a second helping of garbanzo beans?”
“No, I think I’ll pass. One serving of garbage beans is enough for me.”

But Chickpeas I do believe I owe you an apology. But it was ignorance, not malice that formed the basis of my childhood indifference to you. For example, they don’t teach you in school that you are one of the earliest cultivated legumes, or that the Middle East is home to your 7500 year-old remains. I didn’t know that ‘chickpea’ has been in the dictionary since the 18th century.

I was a stranger to the fact that you have been carbon dated in southern France to 6790BCE, or that by the Bronze Age you were quite popular in Italy and Greece in dessert form, as a meal staple, or roasted as a snack. I had no idea that some of your biggest fans included Charlemagne and Nicholas Culpeper, or that people have attributed medicinal benefits to you (including increasing sperm and treating kidney stones). And (coffee-drinkers beware), I had absolutely no idea that you were used as a coffee substitute in Europe (especially during the First World War) and sometimes still are.

One thing that was never debated in my house, is that chickpeas are damn good for you. That much I never doubted. In fact, as a child, your muted flavour was almost proof in and of itself that you must be healthy, as most of the bland foods we were force fed, were. However, as an adult (and a personal purveyor to all who will eat you) the extent of my understanding about your general nutritional goodness astounds me.

For example in one cup (164 grams) of chickpeas:

  • 269 calories (36 from fat; 0 saturated fat)
  • 45 grams of carbohydrates (15% of DRI)
  • 12 grams of dietary fibre (50% of DRI)
  • 15 grams of protein
  • 71% of folate
  • 11% of vitamin B6
  • 6% of riboflavin
  • 4% of niacin
  • 13% of thiamin
  • 8% of vitamin K
  • 70.5 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids
  • 1825 mg of Omega-6 fatty acids
  • 80 mg of calcium (8% of DRI)
  • 4.74 mg of iron (26% of DRI)
  • 79 mg of magnesium
  • 276 mg of phosphorous
  • 477 mg of potassium
  • 2.51 mg of zinc
  • good source of copper, folate and manganese
  • low in saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium

Your nutrient profile is quite impressive, Chickpeas.

Nothing will make up for the time I wasted. All that time I could have been reaping the benefits of the above-mentioned nutrient profile and instead I was trying desperately to swallow you without your taste corrupting my mouth, or if that failed, smashing you into an indistinguishable paste I’d allow to cake to the side of my plate, hoping it’d pass Mom’s inspection without issue.

I understand now, that is was me, not you. My exposure to you had been limited to cold salads, or floating dismally in soups. I had no idea that I could enjoy you simmering in a pot of chana masala, or as creamy hummus with toasted pita. I didn’t know just how delectable your fleshy texture is in chili or winter stews.

All I can do is promise to spend the rest of my days clearing your fine name.
Clearing your fine name and eating lots and lots of you.

soyspicious origins and transparent tofu!

21 Aug

As promised, I’ve sat down and bitten into the monster sandwich that is tracking down the dirty details of the soy beans that so many of us rely on. I’ve done this for several reasons, including:

a) to understand the extent to which it is possible for me to get my soy products while supporting localized, sustainable food production at a reasonable scale
b) to put to rest once and for all the often generalized and misguided dismissal of vegetarian diets as “destroying Brazilian rainforests in the name of soy”, etc.
c) to pay homage to all the companies offering these products (at least the ones produced with integrity) and use my identity as a food activist to shine light into the darker corners of a diet that includes that contested soy (whose true origins are often shrouded in a clandestine kind of mystery)

For the sake of order (and my own sanity), I’m dividing this entry into food categories, beginning with tofu (and tempeh!), then soy milk, imitation products, a note about ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ in the Soya world, and the issue surrounding hexane. I hope you find it all useful! Please keep in mind that I live in Toronto, Ontario, and therefore some of the soy products I refer to may not be available in your area, and in that case, you may find the particulars less intriguing. Use it as inspiration to check out soy sources in your neck of the woods!

Gourmet Tofu Label

Tofu:
Ying Ying Soy Food is based out of St. Lawrence Market in Toronto and is a company worth celebrating! There are several reasons for this, including:

  • the tofu is all prepared in Ontario, handmade using the traditional coagulant Nigari, derived from sea water
  • all soy products are made with non-GMO, organic, Ontario-grown whole soybeans
  • their products are available all over the city, including St. Lawrence Market (they have a retail outlet there), Wychwood Farmers’ Market and Evergreen Brickworks Farmers’ Market! You can also find their products in most of the popular health food stores around the city!

Sol Cuisine‘s tofu and tofu products are AMAZING for several reasons. I’ll give you a few:

  • it is certified organic (it is also kosher, halal and wheat-free) and non-GMO
  • they offer a wide variety of products (including veggie ground round that BLOWS Yves out of the water, which you’ll care about if you read all the way to the end)
  • only soybeans grown in Ontario are used
  • the head office is in Mississauga
  • they profile their producers
  • owned by Soyaworld
  • use identity preserved (IP) non-GMO soybeans
  • makers of Soyganic tofu as well, which is sourced from organic, non-GMO North American grown beans
  • beans supplied by Thompsons Limited and primarily from Southern Ontario and the US
Soyarie is based out of Gatineau, Quebec:
  • uses organic, GMO-free whole Canadian soybeans (doesn’t say which province)
  • offers a wide range of prepared soy products
  • Henry’s Tempeh is based out of Kitchener, Ontario
  • all his products are organic, non-GMO, gluten-free and vegan
  • no preservatives are added
  • his website is very, very comprehensiveand addresses many questions you may have about eating tempeh!
  • his business is small-scale, so support local!
  • he does not state where his beans are grown, however I will inquire via email and update this post to reflect that
Soy Milk:
So Nice (soy milk and soy yogurts):
  • uses only organic, non-GMO soybeans “grown in Canada and the US”
  • have manufacturing facilities in both Eastern (Brampton and Ottawa) and Western Canada (Vancouver) which reduces transportation emissions
  • the soy extract plant is located next to manufacturing facilities, thereby reducing transportation additionally
  • explains why they use only organic and North American grown soy
  • they use whole soybeans versus soy isolates (which are stripped of isoflavones)
  • owned by Soyaworld based out of Burnaby, BC which also owns So Good and Sunrise

  • also owned by Soyaworld, which owns So Nice and Sunrise
  • non-GMO whole soybeans and soy protein isolate is used versus whole soybeans from So Nice
  • non-organic
  • 4th ingredient is canola oil, while there is no canola oil in So Nice
  • it appears this product is the lesser quality soy milk product offered by Soyaworld
  • Natur-a Soy is owned by aNutrisoya and based out of Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec
  • All Natur-a products are certified organic, non-GMO and soybeans are grown on certified organic farms in Quebec and Ontario
  • made with whole soybeans
  • website contains a comprehensive FAQsection that answers all questions pertaining to the product
  • all soybeans (and all Eden beans) are organically grown on USA family farms and milk is manufactured in Michigan
  • there are 355 family farms, growing on 79 000 acres
  • soybeans are not genetically engineered
  • Edensoy explains that their use of aseptic cartons deliver food to people with minimum materials and energy as they are recyclable and require no refrigeration in transport or storage
  • Eden Foods has been voluntarily avoiding GMO’s since 1993 and is part of the Non-GMO project which provides consumers and producers with a 3rd party verification program through all levels of the supply chain; today all Eden enrolled foods are considered compliant
  • Eden’s supply network is entirely transparent, and shared with any curious eaters

Imitation Products:
Turtle Island Foods(producers of Tofurky products):

  • believes in minimal processing and using high quality ingredients (i.e.: they do not use hexane-extracted soy powers, isolates and concentrates) (see the end of this post for more on hexane)
  • uses only North American grown, certified organic tofu and soybeans; organic grains and other ingredients are sourced organically whenever possible (including: cane juice, apple cider vinegar, sesame seeds, etc.)
  • soy tempeh and 5-grain tempeh is 100% certified organic
  • independent and family owned
  • has a huge list of unacceptable ingredients that speak to their politics (i.e.: they do not use GMI crops, nitrites or nitrates, hydrogenated oils, corn syrup, etc.)
  • requires documentation from suppliers for any ingredient that may be grown from GMO seed and additionally undergoes a ‘strip test’ on their organic soybeans every day when they’re received in Oregon
  • encourages questions and asks for customers to contact them
  • partners with the Humane Society of the United States
  • based on what I learned (and discuss below) they are the ONLY company I buy imitation products from

The Charlatans of the Soya World:

The Cornucopia Institute conducted their own independent assessment of soy products in the form of a scorecard to better understand the process involved in creating all of the various soy products offered across North America. Frankly, a few companies stuck out like sore thumbs. I mention them because as a food activist, transparency, traceability and accountability are of the utmost importance to me. Based on their comprehensive findings, these are not companies I am comfortable supporting:

  • Pacific Natural Foods (sources soy from China and refuses to disclose names of certified producers; refused to respond to questions about certification)
  • Vitasoy USA (sources soy from China)
  • SoyDream (owned by Hain Celestial Group, a company whose products is said to contain hexane) (refused to share sources)
  • Silk (refused to participate and Cornucopia explains that “Silk is manufactured by WhiteWave, which is part of Dean Foods, the largest dairy agribusiness corporation in the country
  • Dean Foods also owns Horizon Organic, which produces milk on organic factory farms that allegedly violate the organic standards by denying adequate outdoor access to their cows, among other alleged improprieties. There have been long-standing reports of Silk purchasing organic soybeans from international sources, including China. They have recently announced that they will no longer purchase soybeans from abroad, but would not participate in this project and are unwilling to share their sourcing information so there is no way to confirm this information.”)

Don’t mess with the Hex:

So what exactly is hexane? Well-known Toronto eco-holic Adria Vasil explains that

“Soy oil is generally separated from flaked soybeans – leaving defatted meal that’s ground into flour – using a chemical called hexane, one of the volatile organic compounds that constitute natural gas, crude oil and gasoline. It’s an air pollutant and neurotoxin that might sound familiar to you if you’ve read recent stories about hexane poisoning dozens of workers at an iPhone factory in China.The stuff is great for degreasing and dissolving – it’ll even remove Crazy Glue – and is widely used to extract oils from all kinds of seeds and veggies. The problem is that not all the hexane evaporates during processing. A small residue is left in food.”

If you want to avoid the neuro-toxin hexane, which I suggest you do, then stay away from non-organic soy products. In fact, Cornucopia Institute Senior Research Charlotte Vallaeys says that “[i]f a non-organic product contains a soy protein isolate, soy protein concentrate, or texturized vegetable protein, you can be pretty sure it was made using soy beans that were made with hexane”. Some of the major companies whose products contain hexane include:

  • Yves Veggie Cuisine products
  • Amy’s Kitchen (who has recently replaced any soy protein concentrate in their foods with organic tofu as a result of the public response to the use of hexane)
  • Garden Burger
  • It’s All Good
  • Boca Burger
  • President’s Choice

So there we have it, folks. It is not impossible to find soya products produced locally, organically and without the use of genetic engineering. It does not mean it is easy, but eating consciously and supporting sustainable food systems is, by its very nature, challenging because of the industrialized food systems we’re up against! To me, any additional effort I put into sourcing my food is worth the time because it minimizes the suffering of farmed animals.

As a food activist, I am not afraid to conclude that there are many vegan products on the market that I won’t support because they do not meet my ethical or environmental requirements. The best part of this whole process for me has been proving to myself once and for all that I can be comfortable with where my soy comes from! (And as a disclaimer I have to point out that my diet is not based primarily on soy, nor am I suggesting anyone’s should be). And for those of you soy-skeptics who remain unconvinced that vegetarian/vegan diets are more sustainable, remember that most of the soy produced in the world is produced to feed farmed animals.

I did my best to cover most of the major tofu/soy companies you’d be familiar with in grocery stores, but if there are big ones missing– let me know! I’m happy to add them to the entry!

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