Protest Kitchen is an empowering guide to the food and lifestyle choices anyone can make for positive change in the face of the profound challenges of our time.
Our food choices have much more of an impact than most people image. They not only affect our personal health and the environment, but are also tied to issues of justice, misogyny, national security, and human rights. Protest Kitchen is the first book to explore the ways in which a more plant-based diet challenges regressive politics and fuels the resistance.
A provocative and practical resource for hope and healing, Protest Kitchen, features over 50 vegan recipes (with alternatives for “aspiring vegans”) along with practical daily actions such as:
- Substitute cow’s milk in your coffee and cereal for any of a variety of delicious non-dairy milks. This will help lower the release of methane gas that contributes to global warming
- Use a smartphone app when buying chocolate to avoid supporting African farmers who use child-labor, even child slavery, to supply cacao beans to the food industry
- Make your own cleanings supplies and wood polish; it’s frugal and avoids reliance on products that may be tested on animals
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About the Author
Virginia Messina is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in public health nutrition from the University of Michigan. She is a longtime vegan who writes about vegetarian and vegan diets for the public and health professionals. Her articles have appeared in a variety of popular publications including Family Circle Magazine, Self Magazine, and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Read an Excerpt
HOW WE GOT HERE
NOSTALGIA, KITCHENS, AND REGRESSIVE POLITICS
Shortly before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, polling revealed that two-thirds of Republicans and a slim majority of independents wanted to return to the 1950s. They believed that U.S. society and its way of life had only gotten worse since then. But two-thirds of Democrats said that things had changed for the better since the 1950s.
The word nostalgia combines two Greek roots, nostos and algos that mean "return home" and "pain." But, nostalgia applies to more than travelers who are homesick. Something now evokes nostalgia for then.
The voters who longed for the 1950s were against the social change that had ushered in new freedoms for many disenfranchised people. They were for conservative norms for women. Many believed that it was white people who were the oppressed. To them, the 1950s offered a picture of family and political stability, accompanied by economic growth and prosperity.
According to those who idealize the fifties, it was a time when one lived in a home surrounded by friendly neighbors and with a mother who provided stability and great meals. But the mother in this nostalgic vision is white, and she might have preferred to be working in the plant she was forced out of after World War II. Many forms of birth control taken for granted in the 21st century, like the pill, were not available. Perhaps she didn't want those three or four children to whom she is serving hamburgers and glasses of milk at dinnertime. Blacks were prevented from being in the suburbs by friendly neighbors turned violent. Migrant laborers of Mesoamerican descent labored in fields planting and harvesting crops. They had no health insurance and lived in substandard housing provided by the farmers. And the meat and dairy that filled the 1950s kitchen came increasingly from factory farms. Information from the federal government and advertising — and even school promotions — claimed these were the foods essential to health.
But depending on animal foods for protein, calcium, and other nutrients is a relatively modern concept. This meat- and dairy-focused menu reflects an aberration in, not a continuation of, the world's foodways. It's also a menu that evolved through decades of oppression that brought us to the less-than-ideal 1950s and beyond.
MEAT AND DAIRY IN THE AMERICAS
Before the 19th century the only people consuming any substantial amount of meat were the royalty and aristocracy of Europe. There were no cows on the land we know as North and South America until the Spanish colonists arrived. Dairy foods were unknown among Mesoamericans or Native Americans or First Nations individuals. The pre-Conquest Mesoamericans hunted for meat, but their diets also made generous use of plant foods. Staples, depending on the region, were beans, corn, squash, potatoes, wild greens, nopals (prickly pear cactus), fresh fruit, nuts, and seeds.
When they hauled captured Africans across the ocean in what is known as the Middle Passage, European slavers stocked African crops aboard their ship, believing that familiar food would reduce mortality. Among the foods that Africans contributed to the world food supplies are millet, sorghum, coffee, watermelon, black-eyed peas, okra, palm oil, the kola nut, tamarind, and hibiscus. While the African crops brought onboard had no material value for the slave ship captains once they arrived in the Americas, Middle Passage survivors managed to do something extraordinary. They protected their foodways.
Stories passed down through the generations tell how African women, pressed into kitchen duty on the slave ships, hid rice in their own and their children's hair and thus helped in the diffusion throughout the Americas of African foods and dietary practices. The foods that provided the cornerstone for West African foodways were plantains, rice, yams, and millet. Cultivating crops, and preparing foods during slavery, Africans and then African Americans created, as historian James McWilliams calls them, "cuisines of survival."
What these groups didn't bring to the table was beef, and this was viewed as part of their downfall. Nineteenth-century writers attributed the success of the colonizers to their meat diet, rather than their use of advanced technologies of violence, lies and deception, and the introduction of diseases like smallpox to populations lacking inherited resistance to these diseases. For instance, 19th-century medical writer George Beard wrote, "Savages who feed on poor food are poor savages [sic], and intellectually far inferior to the beef-eaters of any race."
Europeans brought cows with them when they came to North America. Jeremy Rifkin, author of Beyond Beef, calls cows "hooved locusts" because of the destruction done to the land by these quadrupeds. In order to graze their cows, New England colonists enclosed the land for pasture, supplanting food practices of indigenous people. In the Midwest, open prairie land where buffaloes had roamed became pasture. Traditional patterns of indigenous people prized plant foods and used small amounts of meat for fat and flavor, but they were pushed aside in favor of a meat- centric diet. But it wasn't until the middle of the 20th century that these efforts accelerated to produce the factory farming that is the norm in many countries, including the United States and Great Britain (and increasingly so in China).
During World Wars I and II in many Western countries, abstaining from meat consumption was a patriotic duty, albeit a mandated one. Meat was rationed and restaurants were required to observe meatless days. In the United States, the burger chain White Castle investigated meatless hamburgers, including a soy burger in the 1940s (an enterprise they revisited more than seventy years later when vegan sliders appeared on their menu in 2015). Newspapers offered recipes for soy burgers and bean burgers.
The end of the war brought prosperity and plenty, which for citizens of the United States meant putting meat and eggs back on the menus in kitchens and restaurants. In the 1950s, the hamburger franchise took off. The "drive-in" with its meat and dairy-centered meals became iconic.
Fueling the demand for meat was a new industrial model for raising animals who become food. It reduced the amount of land needed to grow animals and eventually required less labor as automated systems were introduced. Animals were brought in from the pasture and crowded together in warehouse-like buildings.
Chickens were the first animals to enter the factory farm. At first laying hens, those bred to produce eggs, were housed one per cage. Then they were crowded together within a cage, and then the cages were stacked one on top of another. Now the largest producers grow tens of thousands in one place.
As farms turned into factories, animals were turned into machines. A 1976 article in Hog Management magazine advised, "Forget the pig is an animal. Treat him just like a machine in a factory." The manager of Wall's Meat Company defended the use of steel-barred cells called "farrowing crates," which enclose nursing sows in a space so small that they can't turn around. He said, "The breeding sow should be thought of as, and treated as, a valuable piece of machinery, whose function is to pump out baby pigs like a sausage machine."
Chickens, too, are stripped of any moral concern and turned into machines. "The modern layer is, after all, only a very efficient converting machine, changing the raw material — feedstuffs — into the finished product — the egg, less, of course, maintenance requirements," was the observation of one farm magazine.
Before factory farming, cows at least got a break from milking while they were pregnant. But, with a focus on production, expectations for cows changed. Now for seven months each year, they are both pregnant and lactating. They are forcibly impregnated every year because cows don't produce milk unless they have been pregnant. On dairy farms, cows' milk is for profit, not for baby calves. Newborn calves are removed from their mothers soon after birth.
While this is all business as usual for the farmers, it's not quite so easy on the cows. Cows miss their calves and they cry and bellow for them. In one town, their calls for their calves so disturbed the residents that many called the sheriff to report "strange noises." The sheriff assured them this was normal for the dairy farm from which the sounds came, but also identified these sounds as cows "lamenting" the loss of their calves. "It happens every year at the same time," one police officer reported.
The end of the 1950s saw animals crowded onto factory farms. It also featured racial segregation in cities and suburbs and assumptions about the "family" and a woman's place being in the kitchen (even though many women were working as servants in someone else's kitchen). During World War II, federal policies and day care programs had supported women entering the workforce to replace the men fighting the war. After the war, coercive policies, including the closing of day care programs, sent women workers home. All those Rosie the Riveters were purged from auto plants after World War II. Meanwhile women's rights to function as independent individuals were severely limited: women could not serve on juries in many states, convey property, make contracts, take out credit cards in their own name, or establish residence. African American women were involuntarily sterilized.
The promise of home ownership in the 1950s was really only fulfilled for white upper-middle-class, and, increasingly in that decade, working-class men. Racially explicit laws, regulations, and government practices created a nationwide system of urban ghettos, surrounded by white suburbs. African Americans seeking to integrate predominantly white neighborhoods were met with phone threats, rocks thrown through their windows, and cross burnings. Through laws reinforced by white violence in the South, African Americans experienced the force of segregation. Rigid Jim Crow laws segregated public spaces and created nearly insurmountable barriers to voting while civil rights activists were killed and their murders went unavenged. In the North, redlining (failure to provide mortgages for people of color wanting to buy houses in white neighborhoods) and restrictive covenants prevented African Americans from joining whites in the suburbs.
The Cold War, the "Red Scare," and McCarthyism created anxiety and justified attacks on and suppressions of speech. Gays and lesbians were persecuted, fired from federal and state jobs because they were viewed as more of a "security risk" than Communists and vulnerable to blackmail by Russians. Women died from self-inflicted and illegal abortions. By the end of the 1950s, a third of U.S. children were poor and medical insurance for older people was absent.
It is true that job security, especially for white men, was greater in the 1950s. Real wages rose, not only for the top earners but also for the bottom 70 percent. At the same time, however, various forms of coercion deprived many women of the opportunity to work. Stephanie Coontz points out in The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap, "When commentators lament the collapse of traditional family commitments and values, they almost invariably mean the uniquely female duties associated with the doctrine of separate spheres for men and women."
The fifties don't resemble the just society we are working for, and in fact the comforting notion of "the fifties" doesn't resemble the fifties, either. If you lived through the 1950s (or are familiar with more accurate accounts than those provided by TV sitcoms), you know that underneath the veneer of stability and happiness lies the sordid truth of what U.S. democracy was like in that decade. As Coontz wryly puts it, Leave It to Beaver was not a documentary.
ANIMAL ACTIVISM AND 21ST-CENTURY REGRESSIVE POLITICS
When we think about regressive politics in the 21st century, three common practices impede positive social change:
1. relabeling information and renaming activism
2. repressing speech
3. targeting activists as terrorists and thereby suppressing activism
It may not seem very obvious to turn our attention to meat and dairy when we are concerned about regressive politics, but believe us when we say vegans have been there and experienced this. Over the past thirty years in working to expose the cruelty of the factory farm, the slaughterhouse, the laboratories that experiment on animals, fur farms, and other businesses, we have been countered by all three of these measures. For example, as animal activists expose the cruelty of factory farms, farmers revise language to describe those practices. Slaughterhouses are "processing plants." Chickens that are crammed into warehouses are "free-range." Pigs confined in gestation crates are kept there for their own "safety."
The success of animal rights activism, accompanied by more radical acts of going undercover in factory farms and sometimes liberating animals, brought this activism to the attention of the federal authorities, especially because they were affecting the bottom line of huge industries. From the corporate viewpoint, something was needed to impede activism's success. The response was passage of Ag Gag laws, some of the earliest repressive legislation of our time.
"Ag-Gag" laws are designed to repress speech. These laws have moved beyond preventing property damage by animal activists to quashing the recording of what is happening on industrial farms and in slaughterhouses. More recent laws simply make it illegal to record animals on farms, even from a distance.
Congress passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) in 2006. It was drafted by the conservative and corporate-influenced American Legislative Exchange Council to expand "the definition of terrorism to include not only property destruction, but any action intended to 'deter' animal enterprises." These included civil disobedience and documenting corporate misconduct. Those involved in drafting the bill included the National Association for Biomedical Research, Fur Commission USA, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Wyeth, United Egg Producers, and National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich spoke against the bill, pointing out that existing federal laws were adequate and that "the bill created a special class of crimes for a specific type of protest, and such a broad terrorist label would chill free speech." Traditional acts of nonviolent civil disobedience, among other activities, were now labeled "terrorist."
As author Will Potter points out in his groundbreaking book Green is the New Red, some definitions of terrorism have added property violence. (Animals are also viewed as "property.") But if property violence is terrorism, the British suffragettes of the 1910s who destroyed shop windows in London were terrorists. African Americans who freed themselves from bondage were terrorists, sabotaging the slave industry by removing their bodies from it.
The questions of who are terrorists and what terrorism is have gained new relevance as we hit the streets to challenge inhumane policies. Potter warns that "the strategies and tactics used against animal activists aren't going to stop there. They are expanding to Black Lives Matter, to people protesting the Trump Inauguration, the Dakota Pipeline protestors. They are expanding this framing of who is subversive and who is dangerous, and as well, there is an attempt to narrow that discussion in terms of people in power. So that by definition whatever you are doing as a person in power is not part of the debate."
NO TIME FOR NOSTALGIA IN PROTEST KITCHENS
The "traditional" family of the 1950s was a new phenomenon, and the decade was a departure from earlier ones rather than a culmination of trends. For example, in the 19th century, a commitment to domesticity took middle-class women outside the house, improving social conditions for impoverished families. In the 1950s this emphasis on domesticity restricted middle-class women to their home. The amount of time women spent doing housework actually increased during the 1950s. People married at a younger age and women bore children earlier and closer together.
Turn-of-the-20th-century feminists challenged the idea of a private kitchen with proposals for communal kitchens, food deliveries, and cafeterias. They recognized the need to reduce the domestic labors of women, especially for those who worked outside the home. Private kitchens were viewed as inefficient ways of preparing food. These proposals for communal food preparation that would relieve individual women of these tasks were forgotten by the 1950s. Husbands typically did any cooking that took place out-of-doors. A man's domain in the suburbs was the backyard barbecue where he grilled meat for a Saturday cookout. Cookbooks maintained this hierarchy of food preparation, reinforcing the idea that men want meat and are the ones who should oversee its cooking on the grill, while women could be happy at a luncheon of salads and preparing food inside.
The kitchen, already domesticated, became thoroughly privatized, feminized — and depoliticized. How could protest come from that kitchen? We're going to see that it's not only a logical place, but an essential one for protest against regressive politics.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Protest Kitchen"
Copyright © 2018 Carol J. Adams.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Why a Protest Kitchen?,
CHAPTER 1: HOW WE GOT HERE.,
CHAPTER 2: EATING TO COMBAT CLIMATE CHANGE,
CHAPTER 3: FOOD JUSTICE,
CHAPTER 4: TAKE OUT MISOGYNY,
CHAPTER 5: DREAMING OF AN INCLUSIVE DEMOCRACY,
CHAPTER 6: CULTIVATING COMPASSION,
CHAPTER 7: THE DIET YOU NEED NOW,
CHAPTER 8: FEEDING YOUR RESISTANCE,
BONUS DAILY ACTION: HOST A COMMUNAL RESISTANCE DINNER,