Monday, January 23, 2012

A fresh perspective...

What a week it was. There were definitely some firsts for this lactose lovin' dairy kid. I learned to tolerate tofu, feast on fiber and soak up spaghetti squash. Although the smells of more traditional foods seemed more appetizing at times, I was never tempted to cheat. The audience we had along for the ride encouraged accountability, and I'm so glad to have had everyone following this adventure.

I know there will always be folks that disagree with my love of dairy products and meat, there's not much I can do to change that. What I can do is continue to share my story and at least respect the opinions I cannot change. Being an agriculturalist is more than just looking the part and following the motions. It takes true passion to rise up out of bed every morning and care for the crops and animals which comprise our livelihoods. I care so much for the animals I work with every day, and I know I'm not the only one. Agriculture always sounded to me like a term you'd see in an anthropology book. It's not that I don't like the word, but I think that this path we've chosen for ourselves is more than just culture. It's a passion. It's a love. It's a lifestyle. That's where the name of my blog comes from.

Perhaps one of the greatest things I walked away with this week is the realization that the voice which barks the loudest is not necessarily the voice of the group. It's refreshing to realize not everyone who doesn't understand you is out to get you. My humble blog posts stretched further than I imagined they could this week. To herbivores and carnivores alike. Thanks for joining, thanks for your input, thanks for your comments and thanks for your support. This is my last blog for Vegan Week, but certainly not my last blog post. Continue to follow along and share in the triumphs and tragedies of this wonderful industry and way of life.

Until Next Time,

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Our last video...

Thanks for sharing in our journey! Check out our last video below and stay tuned tomorrow for my last Vegan Week post.

Our last video blog

The final countdown.

I meant to post last night, but after returning from a lovely dinner with some family, I had another baby calf to take care of. I think I will nickname this one Goliath, because I just about threw out my back trying to pick him up. By my estimate, he weighed over 150 pounds and was the size of a Toyota Corolla. This monumental bundle of joy was fun to take care of, even though it was raining and cold. I didn't mind the sheeting rain so much, mostly because we've had a bit of a dry spell and any level of rain is indeed welcome.

Back to dinner with the family... I never thought I would ever visit the Natural Cafe in San Luis Obispo, and as a matter of fact, I've often scoffed at the idea. Last night, however, we decided this was the one place where we could all get something to eat. Everyone else ordered things that looked quite tasty: pesto pizza, fish, quesadillas... I ordered grilled vegetables with sauteed tofu and brown rice and a side of Moroccan Vegetable soup. While I would much rather have ordered something different, the vegetables were grilled to perfection and tasted great. The soup was the best part. I'm not sure I even took a breath while trying to shovel the entire cup into my mouth. Had I not been taught proper table etiquette as a child, I would have licked the entire bowl clean. My aunt was especially proud of my food choices, noting that as a kid I had the blandest taste buds on the face of the planet. Even cheese pizza was often too much for me. Luckily, my willingness to try new things has evolved, otherwise I would likely have perished this week.

I would by lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to a piece of meat and glass of milk. I have considered ordering a pizza at 12:01 Sunday morning, but we'll just see if a) I'm up at that hour, and b) my craving is so strong that I can't find something in my house. Stay tuned for the last remarks of this adventure. Carrie and I plan to cook dinner tonight as a last hurrah.

Vegan Week Food Diary Day 6
Vitamin water
Kettle Chips
Mike n' Ikes (the chips and candy were a gas station purchase, and my lunch)
Jelly sandwich
Grilled veggies with tofu and rice
Moroccan Vegetable Soup

By the way, gave us a shout on her blog today, take a look!

Friday, January 20, 2012

We're in the home stretch

Today should be an interesting day in the life of a temporary vegan. Today for a dairy class, I'm going on a field trip to a dairy in the Fresno area. This means I will probably have to bring my lunch with me just in case. When I return this evening, I plan to go to dinner with some family in town and I'm positive this will be a challenging experience. I don't know where we're going, but I'm definitely not going to make them eat vegan along with me or go to a vegan restaurant. I may just have to have a green salad.

After having a wonderful Jamba Juice for dinner last night, I wasn't really in the mood for anything sweet, but Carrie had made an attempt at a vegan chocolate cake, and I felt as though I needed to taste this phenomenon. I'm not a huge fan of chocolate on chocolate anyhow, but the lack of eggs and/or butter just didn't work for me. Poor Carrie is developing a complex. Two failed cooking attempts have made her feel like she's a bad cook. She's not, but let's not tell her I said that. I want to poke fun some more.

This week hasn't been too hard. Albeit yesterday was the first day I really began craving chicken and beef. For lunch I went to retrieve some vegan chili, and the smells of campus dining made my mouth crave something with some meat in it. Don't worry folks, I don't give up that easily. I may be ordering a pizza at 12:01 a.m. Sunday morning, but we're in the final stretch. There's 39 hours left. I'll live.

Thanks for coming along with the adventure, and since I didn't post last night, here's what I ate yesterday.

Vegan Food Diary Day 5
Vegan chili
Ritz crackers
Odwalla Berry GoMega
Kettle chips
Jamba Juice
Sweet potato

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The first flop...

Well, we had our first flop of the week. I had class until late tonight, so by the time I came over to Carrie's house, the tofu stir fry was cold. God bless Carrie. She tried very hard to doctor up this dish and make it worth eating, but if given the choice between that stir fry and sushi from a gas station, I'd probably be yodeling in the porcelain canyon by now. I did try some of the noodles and tofu smothered in soy sauce, and quickly decided it was time to make a run to Jamba Juice. This posed a problem however, because the Jamba Juice in San Luis Obispo clearly fails to recognize that smoothies are a viable dinner option, and thus had decided to close its doors before my arrival. I think I'm going to write a letter.

I felt slightly defeated until I realized I had some zesty vegan black bean burgers in the freezer. Since is was well past 8 p.m. at this point, I made myself a bean burger and made some sweet potato fries. The burgers weren't that great in my opinion, but the sweet potato fries made up for it. Delicious!

After fiddling around the house for a while and getting a few loose odds and ends tied up, I went to go push up feed to the cows on the Cal Poly Dairy. I had been on campus for ten hours and after eating this dinner, all I wanted to do was sleep. A Jersey cow had a different idea. You see, she had chosen this moment to go into labor. It seems that the less appropriate my clothes are for dealing with animals in the middle of the night, the more likely they are to need my help. I looked down at my red basketball shorts and rubber boots and realized I had made some more sound decisions in the past with regard to my work wardrobe. The cow needed assistance, so I jumped in and helper her deliver her calf. By the time I returned to the house, it was already a quarter to midnight. Despite my exhaustion and initial frustration, this delivery turned out to be great. I've done a lot of cool things in my life, but delivering a live baby calf has got to be one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment there is.

It's pretty late now, and I didn't get nearly the amount of work accomplished that I wanted to this evening, but delivering and caring for that calf was probably the highlight of my day. This is why I'm involved in the agriculture industry, because I get to experience mini triumphs like this every single day.

Vegan Food Diary Day #4
Leftover black bean quinoa
Ritz crackers and salsa/hummus
All fruit smoothie from Lucy's on campus
A couple bites of Carrie's failed stir fry
Vegan black bean burgers
sweet potato fries.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Where I come from...

Perhaps I should take a step back for a moment and talk a little bit about my agricultural background. This will only take a moment, and I feel it’s necessary.

As a kid, life was never boring. Not only did we have tons of area to run free and play, I also had lots of pets. It was phenomenal. I’ve had pet cows, horses and dogs in my life, and I can’t think of a greater way to gain respect and compassion for these awesome four-legged critters.

Up until I was about three years old, breeding turkeys was our main business. We’d harvest fertile eggs from the hens and then send them to a hatchery where the chicks would eventually break out of their shells. I never had a pet turkey because I had a frightening run-in with a tom (male turkey) once, and that was enough to admire the birds merely for their nutritional contributions to society from that point forward. 

Wanting to grow the business, my dad decided it was time to break into dairy. He’s always had a knack for raising animals, and dairy cows have always been his true passion. We decided to remodel some of our older turkey houses into cattle barns, complete with large exercise pens and clean, dry stalls for the animals to rest. Looking back, not only was it an economical way for us to expand the business, but it was an pretty green building project—retrofitting barns, rather than building them from scratch.
In addition to the dairy, we’ve raised some grass-fed beef cattle and grown most of the feed for our dairy cows on site.

I grew up in a household with fresh, great tasting meat, milk and eggs and I saw first-hand how these products were brought to the table. The idea that someone could hate me because I’m a farmer, or because of my nutritional choices seemed so foreign to me. I don’t think I even knew vegetarians or vegans existed until I was a teenager. I am so happy we live in a country where we are free to speak freely and eat the kind of diet we most desire. I do my best to be respectful of everyone’s choices and lifestyles, and all I ask in return is the same.

It might seem as though I’m biased to the dairy, poultry and beef industries. But this week has been about more than just abstaining from meat and milk and gaining a fresh perspective, it’s also been about experiencing a newfound respect for the fruit and vegetable industry. I mean I’ve always loved the stuff from the dirt, but this week I’ve been isolated to just those ingredients. So here’s some love to my produce growin’ friends. Thanks for what you do, and for helping to deliver a safe, delicious, nutritious and affordable product to my table. I’m not going to be a vegan past this week, but I promise to include more delicious fruits and veggies into my diet after this week!

Vegan Food Diary, Day 3
Steel cut oats
Salsa and Ritz crackers
Black eye (coffee with shot of espresso) and dash of soy milk
Black bean quinoa dish (provided by Morgan Perry—thanks!)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Day 2... Success.

Today was a great day. Not only was I quite productive on this MLK day off of school, but I survived another day as a vegan. You know what, it's not that bad. I'm actually enjoying a change of scenery on my plate... That wasn't meant to be a bad pun, even though most of what is on my plate was scenery at one time. 

Here's a photo of what we ate tonight: Mashed potato patties seasoned with salt, pepper and basil, topped with salsa, a side of black beans, and sauteed squash, zucchini, tomatoes, fresh garlic and onions. It was delicious! We went rogue in the kitchen tonight, and it worked out! Albeit, I did try to fry the potato patties, but that didn't work out as well as I had planned.

Carrie and I also made a short video about our adventures thus far. Feel free to check it out! Here.

If you have any ideas for fun and filling recipes feel free to submit them in the comments, Carrie and I plan to make a meal on Thursday night solely from your suggestions! Stay tuned for more vegan adventures!

Food Diary for the Day
Steel cut oats
vegan thai food leftovers
potato patties with salsa
black beans
various sauteed veggies

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ripping off the band-aid...

Had this been like any other morning, I would have simply climbed out of bed, rifled through the refrigerator as I impatiently waited for the coffee to drip faster and eventually picked out a yogurt and some eggs. This was clearly not just another day. In fact, as I looked through my refrigerator and pantry, I realized I could not be sure that a single food item I owned was vegan. Great start. 

We have a chicken coop behind our house, and since Ben (my roommate) was not home this weekend, it was my task to feed the hens and collect the eggs. The chickens must have caught wind of my adventure into veganism, because they chose this weekend to be hyper-productive, out of what I assume to be their attempt at a cruel joke. I collected a total of twelve eggs in two days (we have 6 hens who lay somewhat irregularly), and proceeded to smack my forehead with a frying pan, trying to forget what eggs tasted like.

By the time I picked up Carrie this morning, it was already 11:30. Both of us starving from the lack of vegan variety in our households, we decidedly went straight to Jamba Juice. After officially confirming with one of the associates that the “all fruit smoothies” were in fact made in accordance to vegan standards, I ordered the “Five Fruit Frenzy” and an apple cinnamon pretzel (who knew their apple cinnamon pretzels were vegan?!?!!).

It was now time to get down to business and shop. Having a solid meal in my stomach, and a shopping list in hand, we were prepared to tackle this whole ‘buying vegan’ thing. Our adventure started at New Frontiers grocery store. I felt as I imagine Jasmine felt on that magic carpet ride because this was indeed a ‘whole new world.’ The store was full of new sights. Vegan cupcakes, organic soaps and detergents, an artisan cheese counter….. Yeah, I said it. Cheese counter. Like a whole section of the store with its own attendants slicing and helping you locate the cheese you want/need/desire. I looked longingly at the counter we passed, realizing this would likely be the first week of my life my digestive system had ever been devoid of dairy products. I almost felt guilty leaving the store without any milk, as I felt I should be supporting my industry. Despite my efforts, Carrie would not let me purchase any dairy products. Even if it was just to support my fellow man. 

I almost lost it in the 'milk alternatives' section. 

After visiting two stores, and frantically searching labels to determine their food classification, we had our groceries. Boy, did they look pathetic. I’m sure I’ll be shocked with the amount of food this prepares, but it just didn’t seem like there was enough food to sustain two people for one week.

“Don’t worry David, we’ll be just fine,” Carrie crooned softly as we paid for the groceries. 

Once outside she adjusted her tone to snarky one by stating, “Clearly you’re the weaker link here.”

This comment coming from the girl who after seeing the vegan menu at the Thai Elephant (where we ate tonight) whined, “I don’t want to be a vegan anymore.”

Truth is, it wasn’t just Carrie who was skeptical about the food we were about to eat. I was slightly concerned, as this evening contained two ‘firsts’ for me: 1) eating vegan food at a restaurant, 2) eating Thai food. After a day full of firsts, however, I threw caution to the wind and decided to try the vegan Pad Thai with soy chicken. That’s right. Vegan soy, flavored like chicken. For all my lack of certainty when ordering, I was not disappointed! It was delicious! Thankfully I have some left over which I’m positive I will consume for breakfast tomorrow morning. Or maybe I’ll have some steel cut oats with a banana…. Who cares? Now I know I have options!

Food Diary for the Day:
Five fruit frenzy, Jamba Juice smoothie
Apple cinnamon pretzel
Vegan salsa and vegan pita chips for a snack
Vegan Pad Thai with soy chicken  

Remember to follow along with Carrie’s blog at And follow us on Twitter: @david_jones_ and @carrie_isaacson. 

Annnnnnd...... I'm vegan.

It’s here. Vegan week.

I woke up in a daze this morning and started up the coffee pot. It wasn’t until after I had poured myself a cup, I realized there would be no milk in this coffee. Even non-dairy creamer isn’t necessarily vegan. Strike one. This isn’t going to be easy.

My brain must have made the transition to veganism last night, because I definitely dreamt about it. My friends and I were at a cocktail party laughing and carrying on when I reached for a glass of wine. I was reminded that this item was not necessarily vegan, so just to be sure I should refrain. This continued to happen with party appetizers. I didn’t mind the fact that I couldn’t eat anything at the party until the hostess called us to the table for dinner. Each plate had a big, juicy filet mignon (my absolute favorite cut of beef) on their plate. The hostess stopped at my seat and apologized, saying she forgot to prepare something vegan, so I’d have to eat raw carrots instead. This is where I woke up in a cold sweat. It was 12:05 a.m.  

I’ve grown up on a dairy my entire life. In fact, I can’t recall a single day in my life where I did not consume some sort of dairy product. I’m fairly positive that Paula Dean and I share some sort of lineage because my answer to any culinary dilemma is always, “more butter.” Growing up Catholic, meatless Fridays during Lent were always a challenge, but I would thank God for the revelation of cheese and other dairy products.

I’m sure it sounds an awful lot like I’m complaining—I’m going to be a bit whiny this week as I continue to unearth the things I cannot eat—but in all actuality I’m intrigued and excited to try something new. I’m especially happy to have some vegan folks following along with this adventure, and thanks so much for the encouragement! The truth of the matter is, on Sunday I’m going to return to my omnivore status. Hopefully with a different perspective, and a greater affinity for fruits and vegetables.

Today we go shopping for our vegan week. We figured we’d have to go shopping twice this week since we’re buying a lot of fresh produce, and want to make sure we get the freshest stuff. We’ve made a tentative menu for the week, but let us know if there’s something really tasty we should try! We’re certainly open to suggestions!

And for those of you who want to know what our last meal was, yesterday we went to Firestone Grill in San Luis Obispo for one of their famous tri-tip sandwiches. 

Remember to follow along with Carrie’s blog at And follow us on Twitter: @david_jones_ and @carrie_isaacson. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Well... Here goes nothing. We're going vegan.

By now I’m sure you’ve heard. Carrie Isaacson and I are going vegan for a week. As I sit here over my extremely non-vegan breakfast of two eggs, a sausage patty and key lime pie yogurt (my favorite), it’s beginning to dawn on me how difficult this whole “going vegan” thing is actually going to be. My only hope is that my digestive system does not decide to go on strike for the duration of this challenge.

When one decides to go vegan, it is a difficult (and emotionally challenging) time, full of research, substitutions and the horrible realization that the few items you thought might fit this lifestyle and make your life worth living are probably not vegan. Let’s perform an exercise, shall we? Pull out a pen and piece of paper. Now make a list of all the tasty things in your life you assume to be vegan. Now throw it away. Because you’re probably wrong.

Here is a very short list of the things I once assumed were vegan, but are not:

Starburst, heart-healthy orange juice (contains Omega-3s from animal sources), general anesthesia, non-dairy creamer, some refined sugar, many wines and beers (stemming from the filtration process)…. The depressing list goes on and on. And on.  

As far as the “vegan lifestyle” is concerned, it’s pretty much impossible to pull off. Did you brush your teeth this morning? Do you wash your clothes? Do you enjoy those scented candles? Does your house contain sheet rock? If the answer was yes to any of these questions, you should thank Bessie the cow for her contributions to society (especially hygiene, no one likes that one guy on the bus who seemingly hates deodorant and shampoo). I guess the biggest question is, why shouldn’t animals be utilized to their fullest? It would be a waste to throw away parts we can get use out of, that’s just silly. This chart may be a bit extreme, but I’ve seen it floating around a lot lately. It highlights all the things in our lives that are not vegan:

Certainly you may argue that a lot of these products have vegan substitutes. That is true. But you’d go broke trying to replace everything in your life with things that are not vegan. Even your car is not vegan. Think about it folks, where did oil come from? How about all those plastic parts?

So why did Carrie and I decide to go vegan? Well I wish I could say this was a spur of the moment decision stemming from recent animal rights actions, but this idea has been in the works for months now. We’re not saying veganism is bad, certainly there are herbivores out there who support production agriculture practices and merely choose this diet as an attempt at a healthier lifestyle. It seems, however, a lot of vegans hold the thought that raising and eating animals is the cruelest thing in the world. As a dairyman myself, I can tell you that I care more about those girls on the dairy (and their comfort and health) than I do about just about anything else. I just happen to also care that their meat and milk are exceptionally tasty and full of nutrition, so sue me.

Probably, the biggest inspiration for our adventure into veganism is that so often we try to ask consumers to understand our perspectives as agriculturalists, when we don’t attempt to understand their choices. This week will be an exercise in “walking in someone else’s shoes,” if you will.  So join us if you want, make your attempt at veganism. Try to understand why someone would want to engage in this lifestyle. If we can do this, maybe, just maybe, we can be a little closer to gaining some common ground with consumers, understanding perspectives and communicating our positive messages as agriculturalists.