Category Archives: vegan

Why I’m Vegan

Here’s a little video about why I’m a vegan. Should have shared something like this eons ago… oh well. Also some fitness action to show that cruelty is not required for health and performance.

ONE MORE THING! Check out gothamparks.nycMost new content (in the form of creative writing) from us will appear there, with some strange posts to check out already. Go take a look!

Sixty-Dollar Finger Food

This blog really isn’t about restaurant reviews, but I’m gonna throw this out there anyway, since I recently went with a friend who, like me, just wants to get out the low-down on this joint. Pure Food and Wine, an all-raw vegan gourmet restaurant on Irving Place near Union Square in Manhattan, is a joke. Don’t go there, raw vegans, if you don’t want to get robbed. They charge an insane premium for presentation, prestige and pop marketing, and they don’t even really feed you. Both of us recognized that the food tasted good, but they have you paying around $25 for a plate of grub no bigger in volume than a fist, maybe a fist and a half.

I had the “Zucchini, Local Heirloom Tomato Lasagna” off their menu. Delicious. Cost $24 and it was one small little plate. My friend had the “Sweet Corn and Cashew Tamales with Chili Spiced Portabella” dish. Also delectable and scrumptious. Cost $26 for a single modest serving. And we were told that these were the largest dishes they served. We were far from full after chomping those. Already the money spent would have paid for like seven bags of produce – fruits and veggies – to fill me for days, not minutes. This was the first blow.

Meanwhile, as we ate, we were bumped from our seats so they could combine our old table with others to accommodate a larger party. My friend wondered if they felt comfortable doing that since we were the only Africans at the time in the establishment, but then the house promised us a single desert dish for the inconvenience, and we held them to that. We decided to share the “Pumpkin Cheesecake” dish, worth $15. And we were astounded when they presented this dish to us, a single slice of this mock cheesecake literally two square inches in size. Not making that up – it was a little square like a Rubik’s cube. And a spoon – one spoon – of the faux “brown ale ice cream” that goes with it. Worth fifteen freaking dollars! This was the second blow, the one that truly knocked our heads sideways. Thank goodness that little morsel was on the house!

My friend had some insightful comments about the food culture this represented, a French or European one that valued presentation over everything, over actually being fed. It’s artisanal food. We as Africans, she remarked, could perhaps do a better job of presenting our food, in the broader culinary world. But as a general rule, we serve food to feed each other, to get full. At African households the world over, people are making food and then hollering “come eat!” in whatever language they may be speaking over the sweet or savory aromas of food prepared with a purpose.

I added that this is a result of successful marketing and the brilliant manufacture of taste that is also a part of culture and commerce. Those who have real money to burn – not us, who did this as a one-time excursion with the mindset of culinary students – seem not to mind paying such a great cost to have the experience of “beautiful food” over which only to socialize and make aesthetic remarks. The rest of us just need to eat and sooth our hunger.

I’m not a calorie-counting, portion-size worrying eater. As a raw vegan and a person who lives a physically active lifestyle, I don’t much need to be. I eat when I’m hungry and until I no longer am. So I need to be fed well and good. And the sorts of portions you’ll find at Pure Food and Wine will not do the trick, nor is it worth the money to take a gamble and see if it will work for you – if you’re anything like us, it won’t.

Furthermore, the sort of premiums a place like Pure Food and Wine present are perhaps what can make veganism, particularly raw veganism, unappealing to the everywoman and the everyman out there struggling to get paid by whatever means. An aloof, wealthy, overwhelmingly white crowd hobnobbing over expensive nibble-food turns my comrades and I the hell off, and every other person from the world I know of working-class folk of color. Veganism should look good, taste good, be practical to prepare, be abundant, and most of all be affordable. Fresh fruits and veggies and other healthy plant-based items are still largely unavailable in all the hoods I know around the NYC area. How much of an extreme is it then to take a stroll out of a food desert to downtown to see what veganism looks like as this fancy highfalutin finger-food experience.

So we learned something through the whole affair, and socialized with one another, and made a pleasant evening out of the wallet-vacuuming experience. The flavors presented to us were excellent and unique, inspiring more curiosity about how to combine spices to match or surpass those wonderful tastes.

But we were also reminded that we’re just fine doing things practically, the African way, in which we eat to eat. Any place you go out for food where they charge Fort Knox money for finger food, walk away, walk to the farmer’s market or grocery store nearest you, get whatever healthy stuff you can get, and do something funky-fresh and dope with it in your own kitchen.

Gender Equality, Ubuntu, and Critical Thinking

March is women’s history month. But women make history all year, year after year. Women’s history is no joke. Women are no joke. Women are the harder-working half of humanity, hands down. They do the reproductive labor of our species, as well as productive labor. And because of patriarchal accounting systems, economies and cultures the world over, a woman’s reproductive labor is not fully accounted for; sometimes it is called leisure. But the very reproduction of the species is a far more significant task than leisure. We cannot monetize it. We cannot, or refuse to, dignify it the way our acquisitive culture dignifies the whole predominantly white male lot of Wall Street bankers who helped dramatically deepen the long crisis that capitalism is. The World Bank and IMF will not categorize and catalogue the full worth of women’s labor. But our patriarchal, consumer society has been far more successful at monetizing women’s bodies, at the gross objectification of sisters, daughters, and mothers for their body parts. In this way women are reduced to mannequins and sex dolls, display pieces in downtown boutiques, or rated, graded, and sold as if on the meat market of human flesh, as when dowries are paid. So any thoughtful vegan should be quick to recognize that the liberation of women furthers the cause. More monumental is the task of having men recognize that when women are liberated from gendercide, subordination, and second-class status as humans and as male property, we men will be liberated to become more fully human ourselves. Women’s liberation is its own worthy and urgent cause, but it is also to our own immediate advantage to participate in and share solidarity with full gender equality in our planetary civilization. For us to become more prosperous, more intelligent, and wiser, uniting with feminism is in the selfish interest of men – keeping it real. Reject male privilege. For women are no joke.

This is because an honest appraisal of who we are as individuals suggests the basic logic of the African philosophy of Ubuntu – that “I am because we are,” that we are fundamentally and immutably interdependent beings. It is informed by a basic ecological principle that whatever our material embodiment consists of, it automatically invokes and forms from the contributions of our parents, their parents, the food they ate, the sunshine that shone on it, the minerals/stardust that fed it, and ultimately, the entire universe itself. By this understanding, the American notion of “rugged individualism” is illogical and misleading, perhaps deliberately so as it aims to divide us, isolate us and atomize us. All of us constitute the community, and the full participation of each of us, realizing our full potential, permits collective prosperity. If women are denied an education, the community suffers the loss of her more fully realized participation and contribution to the intellectual and material well-being of the group. The direct consequence of the unjust enforcement of ignorance upon females is collective poverty. This can be proven by looking at any society that has strong evidence of ongoing work toward equalizing the statuses, opportunities and life chances of men and women, and then looking at a society that treats women like livestock, like household appliances. The more just society is always more prosperous, healthy, educated, safe, clean, and so on, by many multiples across any human development measure.

Active critical thinking informs an honest assessment, for men, of the problem with oppressing women, or even passively acquiescing to their oppression. Think, for example, about how women in urban communities around the United States (really worldwide) must deal with street harassment, with the catcalling and worse, which exacerbate the oppression of black women. The street harassment paradigm posits the threat of violence over all of us. Street harassment is motivated by false and problematic beliefs in males of inherent domination, unearned privilege, the machismo quest for superficial and immediate validation, and the pursuit of easy sexual gratification. These are among the same exact prerequisites for deadly beefs on the street between us black men, the same ingredients for the horizontal violence perpetrated between us. While it is objectively true that the external factors of poverty and social debasement have often left us little option but to get over at the expense of one another, we destroy ourselves when we conform to the external anti-black expectation of our manifest, mass failure to thrive in any sustainable way. The motives of street harassment are one and the same as the motives for fatal internecine hostility. This in turn helps, in part, to enable mass incarceration of black men. Thus, the macho atmosphere of street harassment, which makes the lives of our sisters, mothers and daughters unbearable and dangerous, also makes our lives as men perilous. Street harassment is emblematic of a violent community towards all of its members. The streets with the most street harassment are also the streets where the most black brothers die at one another’s hands. Street harassment, rape and bloodshed all live on the same block.

Critical thinking, aggressively centered on a defense of the dignity and full value of human beings, should also inform how we draw conclusions about how we relate to one another and whether or not what we call “tradition” is worth any respect by any intelligent person in this day and age. If you value your own humanity, we can safely and logically assume that other humans value their own essence and identity as well, and consider themselves worth a fair chance in society. Grounded in this logic, a logic that is more immediate to us as humans than almost any other, we should be able to safely regard any tradition, religion, book, philosophy, politic, ethic, or other source of culture and thought that denies the humanity and dignity of people who are different from the majority, or from those with power, as highly suspect, at best. Thus, those who see difference in others and thus deny that others’ humanity, are behaving illogically, and hatefully besides.

The debate around homosexuality in Africa is centered, for the homophobes, in strange defenses of “tradition” or “religion” that claim the alienness of homosexuality to Africa, the “unnaturalness” of gay sex, and so on. These conclusions are fundamentally antihuman, and thus are to be fundamentally rejected; they are unscientific, dishonest and illogical besides. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community is no joke. They are human beings. They are part of the community. They are worthy of respect and of every opportunity to fully contribute to and participate in the growth and empowerment in community; this is no less true in Africa or in black communities anywhere than it is in the West or any other part of the planet. The homophobes in power in Nigeria, in Uganda and elsewhere are using politics to disenfranchise, terrorize, scapegoat and dehumanize a part of the community that should be given every right to enjoy their human lives and be the sisters and brothers to our family that they truly are. By thinking critically and imagining ourselves the target of these laws and antihuman paradigms, we cannot but help draw conclusions that lead us to recognize the inhumanity and fundamental stupidity of homophobia and patriarchy. In this vein, heterosexual people should stand in full solidarity and advocate for the full inclusion and enfranchisement of our homosexual kin. This is the mature stance which will allow all of us to contribute our utmost to grow as a collective. Reject your heterosexual privilege and arrogance. Lives are at stake – and by the logic, critical thinking and Ubuntu understanding we have applied here thus far, it is unacceptable to deny the humanity of anyone in our community, no matter what gender or sexual identities they are born with or adopt. When we begin to take what private parts people have, or what they do with them in private, as justification for branding certain people unworthy of human dignity, we are being utterly childish, and any religion, tradition, or person that has that tendency is also ignorant, childish, dangerous and stuck in the stone-ages.

As a heterosexual male, I hope I have made a reasonable case that we, over-privileged straight men, will be far better off when we reject the convenient privileges of our status which permit us to dominate women and dehumanize gays. Equality of opportunity, for women to be born, to be educated, to enjoy equal participation in the maintenance of a family and household, and to be able to contribute their fullest potential to our collective excellence, will always lead to a superior quality of life for our community. The same equality of opportunity and recognition of humanity for non-heterosexual members of our community will also enable everyone to contribute fully and without fear of denigration.

Machismo is deadly to women and to men. Patriarchy and male supremacy are harming the planet and keeping millions of women from even being born, let alone contributing their full worth to the excellence of humanity. Only equality – an equality that enables us, especially as men, to see women as at our level in all productive, cognitive and creative capacities – can move us forward.

Gender inequality is a hallmark of underdevelopment, a cornerstone of neocolonialism and a function of ignorance. All sorts of indicators of social well-being in different societies show this. And when men, straight men at that, reject the insults of patriarchy, chauvinism, and homophobia, we truly begin to become revolutionary. For we begin to honor the basic nature of human beings that the Ubuntu principle reminds us of – that I am because we are, that all of us deserve to participate to the fullest might we can muster as free people towards our collective greatness.

Dinner – Nori Rolls

Look at this nice dark-skinned food. Fair and Lovely can’t touch this!

In recent weeks I’ve been making a lot of nori rolls for dinner for my evening savory dish in the latter part of a week. The sauce base is like six tomatoes, an onion, a bell pepper, ginger, celery, and sometimes fresh basil or cilantro, all blended. The “meat” that goes into each roll is a handful of shredded or julienne-sliced zucchini (where rice would be in a cooked California roll), and then a stick or two of asparagus, a slice of bell pepper and a few slices of tomato (make sure the bell pepper and tomato filling is sliced slenderly lengthwise so it fits nicely in the roll). But it can be done however with whatever – there are plenty of other tasty veggies under the sun.

You take a sheet of raw untoasted nori paper (I order these online in bulk so it’s affordable), slap it on the bamboo nori roller, dap a big spoonful or two of the sauce and spread it around the bottom two thirds of the sheet, put the zucchini down on the bottom third and the other veggies on the middle third, and then cover the naked top third of the nori paper with more sauce (and throw some sauce atop the zucchini) and roll it up quickly before the paper wilts and deforms as it hydrates. Don’t over-fill each individual roll or it will be too fat and won’t close up nicely and securely. I make like fifteen or more of these at a time, because I’m a hungry man and I eats ’til satisfaction (that’s out of the shreddings of four to six good-sized zucchinis). I don’t bother slicing the rolls up into little sushi-like buns or sections. I prefer to eat them burrito-style, plus why go through all that extra time and trouble getting fancy when I already done spent all that time with all the other dang steps?

So that’s a zucchini-based raw nori roll done the Precision Afrikan way, handled and eaten burrito-style, long-wise. Some good savory nice filling nutritious food for the low fat raw vegans out there that be hungry.

Finally, all praises and respect due to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I leave it to the ancestor Charles Mingus and his jazz to contemplate the ongoing struggle.

The Problem with XX#-Day Diets, Exercise Programs

Combat-ready fruitarianism.

Always hungry for carbs and iron.

I think 30-day vegan diets, 28-day raw cleanses, 90-day workout routines, and other time-compartmentalized agendas for radical lifestyle change are atrocious. If you want to stay lean and green, plan to be vegan for the rest of your life; if you aim for fitness, plan to work out, well, forever. Raw veganism, power-lifting, calisthenics and kung-fu are among the manifestations of my commitment to health and discipline – and each one of them requires proper eating and vigorous exercise every day until I’m dead. Flat out. That’s my take on the matter. I’ve been vegan for over 12 years, almost half my life. I was a young teenager when I started and I think there were times when my moms thought it would be a passing phase, and folks casually asked when I would resume eating garbage and trashing the planet (not in such colorful language though). So if I came into any of this with the mentality or within the conveniently escapable constraint of it being a 30 or 60 or 90-day “program” or “cleanse,” I doubt I would have been so motivated and committed to remain in the game all these years later. I question why there are folks out there even promoting these sorts of programs, but I have a strong inkling as to the reasons – money and marketing.

When some fitness “expert” or health “guru” out there thinks they’ve arrived upon some new holy grail of fitness or diet, and they want to sell it to others and monetize their system, it is highly convenient to package it as a special, esoteric but fast-gratifying XX-day program of some sort. If they were to be honest and straightforward about it, they fear, people might not be interested in paying for their idea or consultancy. But this is underestimating the people. Why not be real? Tell cats that health is a life-long commitment from which there is no vacation or retreat. I’m into just freely sharing what works, what is practical, and what is sensible to the instincts of most people. I trust that people will get it, even if it somehow makes the enormity of the task that much bigger. But that’s the beauty of it – it’s a lifelong mission, an endless adventure, and it only rewards you day by day, with unparalleled health, resilience, lightness, compassion, wisdom, and so on. If you want health, do healthy things, from right now this day until your very last. Fitness and health are for life – there’s no 30-day shortcut into it, nor any vacation out of it.

It’s very basic. And if this sort of honesty is too brutal, then so be it. But if you’re gonna do P90X, as beautiful as its workouts are, ditch the “90” part and do it forever, until well past your 90th birthday. If you want some sort of “cleansing” by becoming a raw vegan, don’t fool yourself thinking like it’s a 30-day vacation from meat, junk and drugs. Raw veganism is for long-haul truckers only. Good health is only for long-haul flight captains. Massive vitality is only for life-long and storied generals. There are no shortcuts or breaks; you just do it and don’t stop, period.

I also don’t think you can get much out of doing something new, something you want to get really into, for just a few days. It takes years to master something, and then decades to master that mastery. So start now, today, this instant. And never, ever stop. Don’t even think about it.

Veganism is forever. Physical fitness is forever. There’s no way around it. Discipline is the only way. And any vacation from healthy eating and healthy living you think you want because you crave garbage and a lazy day, just ain’t worth it. I’m not talking about periodized exercise programs – of course, there are times to slow down, particularly during the off-season when you might take a short break from the rep-max power-lifting and stick to the basics, lighten the weights, do shorter runs instead of half-marathoning every time, etc., preventing physical burn-out. But the off-season is no excuse to revisit poisonous, cruel foods, drugs, or shameless sloth – veganism continues; ample sleep and stress-minimized living are not interrupted. The off-season, a month or a few weeks’ duration in a year-long periodization program for all athletes of the sport of life, corresponds with the life-cycle of hard work followed by moderate work and taking off a load; it does not correspond with partying hard and forgetting ones principles. Even in general, you don’t lift heavy every day – alternating days you lift moderate or light, or don’t lift at all; the light or off days are not to be days of backsliding, irresponsibility and excuses. So, even the “off-season” excuse doesn’t count. Matter of fact, forget I even mentioned the “off-season.” I’ll be in-season until I stop breathing. All of life is the in-season.

When you figure on going vegan, incorporating vigorous consistent exercise into your life, and all around assuming the healthiest lifestyles there are, look at it like you’re entering the point of no return, all doors behind you locked shut for good, and don’t look back. Then you can only move forward into success after success, mastery after mastery, in the endless, joyful, glorious pursuit of unrealized human potential.

We live but once. Live victoriously.

African Raw Vegan in the Wild

This rare video features a most uncommon creature, an African raw vegan fruitarian man, the Precision Afrikan himself, working the bars at Columbus Park in Chinatown, Manhattan, as spotted by our observant cameraman on December 28, 2011. Notice the multiple-joint muscular contractions this being is able to execute, without the assistance of meat, drugs or supplements. When asked where he acquired the protein and other nutrients necessary to crawl and walk, let alone do pull-ups, the African simply replied “fruits and greens.” Many were perplexed by that sparse declaration but he offered no other. It is ample exercise, ample sleep, ample carbs, ample discipline, ample determination, and ample willpower that permit and amplify fitness for all, including vegans, the black man suggested.

We will continue to observe this frugivorous mammal in his travels and exploits. His example may provide more ballast to the growing and increasingly irrefutable body of evidence suggesting that the plant-based, cruelty-free, abundant, vegan lifestyle is an ideal one for humans in all environments, including the urban jungle.

Breakfast.

Good Food.

For all the indomitable fruit-mavens.

Being a busy grad student may have slowed down the blogging, but never interrupts the good eating, the good breathing, the good life. We’re still repping the fruitarian way, the low-fat raw vegan lifestyle, all day and forever. Gonna bring way more content down the pike going forward. Here’s to today’s breakfast – papaya, oranges, apples, grapefruit, and hella bananas not pictured – that might be more fruit-porn than most can handle. Staying fresh, clean, hydrated, active, fit, positive, in the sun (no matter the season), proper and nice. Ona move.