Breaking news: I broke out my dehydrator today! Oh yes I did. With a bag of sundried tomatoes in my pantry, and a container of organic plum tomatoes in my fridge, I took to making my own version of raw tomato bread, and the results were fabulous.
Before I get to all of that, though, I wanted to call some attention to a recent article in Vegan Mainstream’s excellent and provocative “Vegan Uncensored” series. The article, entitled “The Problem with Veganism for Weight Loss,” addresses some of the difficulties that can arise from treating veganism as a weight loss plan, and it’s written by my very thoughtful, intelligent, and tough-minded friend, Sarah E. Brown. (To offer a full disclosure, Sarah mentions Choosing Raw in the article, but I didn’t know she intended to!)
When I recently wrote on the ethics of veganism for my friend JL, I touched on the fact that people explore veganism for all sorts of reasons. “A lot of you are reading because you’ve gotten interested in veganism for its health benefits,” I said. “That’s great. All paths into the vegan lifestyle lead to good things: if you’re exclusively interested in health—in optimizing your own life—you’ll still save countless other lives, too. Not to mention the life of our planet. Going vegan is a win-win decision.”
I stand by that sentiment: plant based diets save lives, no matter what the impetus. But if there’s any motive for eating vegan that concerns me, it’s the pursuit of weight loss. First of all, it’s important for new vegans to remember that, while it’s likely that eating a plant-based diet will result in weight loss (when weight loss is needed), it’s not a guarantee. Veganism, like any way of eating, varies with the habits of the person eating. Any vegan can eat vegan cookies, pies, cakes, and ice cream to an excess and gain weight (just as an omnivore would by eating those foods to excess). And there are more subtle reasons why a new vegan may retain or even gain a few pounds—too many refined carbs, too many fats or desserts, too much sugar. In any of these cases, veganism isn’t to blame: rather, the new vegan simply needs to refine how they approach the diet.
I worry that, when people try and fail to lose weight with veganism, they may think that something is “wrong” with them, or blame veganism for the failure. Sarah, however, brings up an even more urgent concern, which is that treating veganism like a diet is highly problematic from an animal rights perspective. I’m sympathetic to those who opt to eat vegan for health reasons, since the health advantages are clear, but approaching veganism like a “diet plan” seems—at least to me–to unfairly limit what veganism is capable of offering. Not all vegans are animal rights sympathizers, but most vegans see veganism as a lifestyle, rather than a diet. And as someone who originally explored veganism for health reasons only, I can attest that, when the light of compassion is flipped on, the world is illuminated in new and wonderful ways.
If veganism is to be treated like a diet, what happens after the weight is lost? Most people, as Sarah points out, see diets as a set of food “rules,” and are happy to bend the rules when the diet’s over. So after a weight loss goal is reached, does the person eating vegan go back to dairy, fish, or meat?
Of course veganism can yield weight loss. But at its core, veganism is a lifestyle that’s animated by a sense of respect for life. It seems like a shame to frame veganism solely as a “diet,” because most diets are temporary. If people can improve their lives and sense of self confidence through vegan weight loss, great: I’m thrilled to see anyone’s life enriched through plant-based eating! But it’s not so great if animals suffer once again when a personal goal is reached. (Of course, we can be grateful that animals were saved, even for a month or a two.) If you’re interested, check Sarah’s article out. I’d love to know what my readers—vegan and non—think.
And now, food!!
It’s always a big day here at CR when I decided to dust off my dehydrator. But when my semester started, I vowed to start using the darn thing more often, and I am dutifully making good on that vow. What better way than with raw bread, which is delicious, versatile, and a wonderful option for GF or grain adverse diners. Or for people like me, who get really bored of the same Ezekiel bread week in and week out.
I really enjoy raw bread—I went through a big raw bread bonanza last summer, as you may recall:
…but it’s very rare that I make it myself, either because I’m lazy, or because I’m afraid of messing it up (and since we’re all about honest food failures lately, let me tell you: I have had some tremendous flops with raw bread!). That’s why I’m so happy that I put my tomatoes to use this week, and made this bread, which is as easy as it is tasty.
Raw Tomato Bread (raw, vegan, gluten and soy free)
Makes 8 large pieces
5 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 cup sundried tomatoes, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes
3/4 cup flax meal
1 tbsp tamari or nama shoyu (substitute sea salt to taste if you’re allergic to soy)
1 tsp oregano (dried)
2 tsps basil (dried
1 clove garlic
Black pepper to taste
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1) Blend all ingredients but sunflower seeds together in a high speed blender till thick. Add sunflower seeds and blend till mixture is thick and uniform, but the seeds lend a tiny bit of texture.
2) Turn mixture out onto a teflex dehydrator sheet and use a spatula or inverted knife to spread it out evenly on the sheet:
3) Dehydrate at 115 degrees for 8 hours. Flip the bread, score it into 8 pieces on the wet side, and dehydrate for another 4-6 hours, till totally dry.
I served mine with some of my hemp hummus, tomato, avocado, and cucumber. I also purposefully cut the bread into larger slices: typically I make my raw bread slices too tiny, which makes for sandwiches that fail to quell the Gena appetite
Not this guy. With kale salad, it was an awesome and filling, high-raw dinner.
If you don’t own a food dehydrator:
Don’t fret. I almost never use mine. I tend to find that baking at 175 with the oven door ajar is wasteful and takes too long, so I suggest baking raw breads at 300 or 325 degrees (depending on how hot your oven is) for about 25-30 minutes on each side. You will not destroy all of the health properties of the bread! Far better to enjoy than avoid for lack of a dehydrator.
Hope you’re inspired to give this bread—which is really a cross between flatbread and giant cracker—a try. For another option, you can use this as raw, vegan pizza crust by leaving your sandwich open-faced or cutting the dough into a large circle.
Back tomorrow with a special CR business profile and interview!