Tag Archives: philosophy

One Year (plus a few days)

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I realised a few days late that I’ve been working on this blog for a year and nearly six days. When I started this blog I simply intended to write about the experience of eating and the communal implications that accompany the meal. After finishing my Theology degree with a nine month long project on the theology of food and eating, the communal meal has become so much more than a bite to eat with friends or, as incredible as it is, a time to build relationships with others. The ethos of the communal meal, and I mean a community that extends beyond the immediate table members as well and particularly, has become a way of life for me that is ever expanding, holistic, and encompasses all areas of life.

I have eaten at many delicious restaurants this year, cooked many incredible foods, made lots of culinary mistakes and many successes as well. I’ve gone vegan, decided to pursue the tiny house lifestyle with Kaitlyn, and have set many goals for ourselves that emphasise a communal bonding that, for me personally, simply started at the table.

Thinking before you chew can be quite the dangerous exercise.

Thanks to anyone who actually read this blog this year! It is greatly appreciated. More posts soon to come!

~Cooper

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Going Vegan?!

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I can’t say this with complete certainty, but I think that I may have been secretly intrigued by the vegetarian, or more ‘radically,’ the vegan diet for a long time. Whenever someone drops the word ‘vegan’ in particular, a cloud of mysticism-induced wonder passes over my eyes as I simultaneously venerate such a ‘radical’ lifestyle while wondering how the heck anyone could ever possibly live that way.

My brother has been a vegetarian for a few years now and has never passed up the opportunity to distribute subtle pejorative hints regarding America’s pervasive omnivorous diet. Or, let’s face it, carnivorous diet. My brother began cooking his own meals when I was still in high school and has eaten Tofurky for Thanksgiving the last few years. His involvement in vegetarianism always got me thinking more about adopting a similar diet, but I always had numerous ways to justify still eating meat:

1. I freaking love bacon.
2. I freaking love charcuterie.
3. The animal is already dead – If I don’t eat it, its life would have ended in vain.
4. Vegetarian food is not readily available in America.
5. Follow up to no. 4, I’m secretly just too lazy to put time into finding delicious vegetarian food.
6. What about going out to dinner with friends? What if the restaurant doesn’t have vegetarian options (or only a lame risotto)?
8. MY FAVOURITE FOOD IS SUSHI!

I am sure there are other reasons not to be vegetarian, but there are even more reasons not to be vegan:

1. chocolate.
2. cheese.
3.  ice cream.
4. cookies.
5. cake.
6. bagels with cream cheese.
7. gelato.
8. semifreddo.
9. basically any baked good.
10. And for good measure, think of anything that has milk or eggs in it and immediately rule it out of your diet.

So I imagine that given these numerous (and incredibly convincing) reasons to maintain my self-indulgent (though honestly sophisticated and finely-tuned) omnivorous diet one would be rather surprised to hear my official announcement that I have decided to adopt a vegan diet.

That’s right. I’m ‘going vegan.’

Now before you scream about ice cream, cookies, and sushi, I would like to make what I believe is a truly convincing attempt at justifying this decision.

I first considered extending my gastrocentric lifestyle to veganism a few days after I graduated college (around May 5 or 6). I had been working on my senior theological studies thesis project about theology of food and sacramental eating. A large part of my research investigated how ‘healthy’ eating habits (particularly eating locally-sourced, organic, and free-range foods) can help promote the development of healthy community between humans, nature, and God. However, destructive eating habits (particularly eating processed foods, cheaply produced foods, or anything produced by factory farms or agribusinesses) destroys community between humans, nature, and God. Eating is a fundamentally spiritual yet significantly socio-political exercise, so destructive eating destroys the overall well-being of people, animals, and all nature.

This got me thinking more about my diet. Since I started the project in August of 2012 I had been more conscious of what I was eating. My wife and I ditched Aldi and started buying more organic and fresh stuff from Woodman’s Market. I even decided to try eating only free-range organic meats.

At the same time my Bible and Theology friends Nate and Josiah along with their roommate Lukasz were considering vegetarianism/veganism as well, having come out of a recent Environmental Theology class.

Regrettably, this attempt was primarily in vain. Anywhere I ate meat I knew for sure it was not going to be local or free-range or organic.

So my research and problems with food sourcing were on my mind a whole heck of a lot. I was considering vegetarianism when my friend Kaia told me that dairy contributes to many negative health effects but primarily has quite negative implications for allergies. I did some more research and discovered that the milk protein Casein causes the body to create more allergen-trapping mucous while contributing to tissue inflammation. I decided then to cut dairy out of my diet because my seasonal allergies could be a helpful tool for the Spanish Inquisition’s torture strategies.

Well, if I am going to cut dairy out of my diet, to me it logically follows that this would be a great time to cut meat out as well.

A few days later my wife Kaitlyn and I moved in with Kaia and her husband Josh for a few weeks. Kaia is a vegan-leaning vegetarian, so staying at her house made the transition a bit easier. She also introduced Kaitlyn and I to a wonderful documentary called Forks over Knives that demonstrated the problems with eating animal products while describing how a plant-based, whole foods diet provides a quick solution to these meaty problems. It turns out humans weren’t really designed physiologically to process animal products. This biological aversion to meat has serious implications on human health, not to mention the environment. By eating a vegan diet, you can reduce your risk of cancer and actually reverse the effects of lots of different health problems (high blood pressure, cholesterol, digestive problems, energy problems, etc. You should just watch the doc – it’s on Netflix!)

I ate my last meat meal at a Chicago restaurant called The Purple Pig. I had been planning this restaurant-outing with my dad for a while and figured it would be a wonderful ‘Last Supper,’ so to speak. Purple Pig is famous and highly rated in Chicago, and it was fantastic. The charcuterie was fresh, the ingredients balanced, and everything was delicious and rich. Might as well eat the best possible if I’m not going back to it. Since I’ve been eating vegan, I honestly don’t really miss meat.

The bigger struggle for me is actually not eating dairy. I consider(ed) myself a connoisseur of fine chocolates and cheeses AND ICE CREAM!, but now I can’t really eat that stuff. Thankfully I’ve found alternatives to not only chocolate and cheese but desserts in general. Plus, it is really easy to keep making your favourite baking recipes but simply use coconut oil instead of butter and almond milk instead of milk. It actually tastes better and has an excellent texture. Plus, ’tis a lot healthier.

Anyway, I’ve been straight vegan for a good three weeks now. I still eat organic honey and organic cage-free eggs because neither ingredient is super bad for you and neither ingredient really destroys the livelihood of the creatures that produce them (including human workers and the environment). Thankfully I’ve been a cooking addict for the past four years. Kaitlyn and I have found some great vegetarian recipes since being married is closely associated with being poor. I find vegan cooking so much more interesting and exciting than cooking meat because it takes a different level of creativity, knowledge of flavours, and ingenuity to make a fun and delicious dish. Plus, I’m pretty sure seitan is the best thing ever. Unless you’re allergic to gluten, then sucks to be you 😉 If you love cooking, eating vegan is not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be at first. Restaurants are also much more vegan friendly than you might expect. Overall, this a lifestyle change that I definitely do not regret making and will certainly stick with it indefinitely. Amen and amen.

Photo: black bean patty with spinach, sprouts, tomato, avocado, dijon mustard on a whole wheat bun. By Kaitlyn Newberry

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Communio Sanctorum: The Theology of Food

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Hello everyone. It is my distinct pleasure to announce that my senior research project, the culmination of my four years of higher education, is complete. I started this blog almost a year ago with the intent to write not only about my adventures with food, experiments with recipes, and the overall wonder that cuisine incites in me, but also to describe the theological, philosophical, and spiritual implications of eating. I began my research project with the desire to write about “the Theology of Food” in relationship to the church sacrament of the Eucharist (or the Last Supper). Over the course of nearly nine months of work it evolved into an intensive study on sacramental eating, church practise, and agrarianism.

It is therefore my distinct honour to present to you for your intellectual pleasure my theological studies thesis dissertation entitled “Communio Sanctorum: Sacramental Eating for the Body of Christ in an Industrial Age.” In this dissertation I place theologians Norman Wirzba and John Howard Yoder in dialoge to assert that churches must adopt ‘sacramental’ eating habits in order to embody the mission established by Jesus in his exemplary life.

Note: this is quite long. If you like reading long stuff, eat this up. But if not, don’t start reading it. Also, ©2013 Cooper Flatoff. Yeah. You’ve been warned. One more thing: special thanks to Norman Wirzba (who actually emailed me!) and, rest his soul, John Howard Yoder. You guys wrock theology hardcore.

Here we go.

ATTENTION: I HAVE REMOVED THE CONTENT OF MY PAPER FROM THE INTERNET DUE TO MY OWN PARANOIA THAT SOMEONE IS GOING TO JACK IT AND COME UP WITH A BETTER IDEA, THEREBY BEING EVIL. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO READ IT, PLEASE VISIT THE CONTACT PAGE AND SEND ME AN EMAIL. THANKS!

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Food is just so commonplace. Everyone eats, everyone has an opinion about food. But taste is not exclusively a matter of individual perception, and food is never ‘just food.’ Whether we like it or not, what we eat affects how the world looks. And that affects the way we understand it. When we look at a plate of food, we should see the greater ecosystem too. If we find out where the food comes from and where it goes to, maybe this knowledge can be made into a kind of flavour-enhancer. It matters whether the potatoes came from New Zealand or from the Lammefjord area of Denmark, and I can see great potential in not dividing knowledge and flavour (just as in art, we should not separate form and content.) They can be part of one and the same food experience. In the same way , cooking and eating and taste are assocaited with many other things. Food can be political. Food can be about responsibility, sustainability, geography and culture.

I finally got my hands on a copy of Rene Redzepi’s NOMA: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine (review soon to come). As I read the introduction by artist Olafur Eliasson, I was amazed when I discovered that his essay, and particularly this quote (if not the entire message of the ‘cookbook’), essentially summed up the concept of my blog. I’m glad we agree, Olafur and Rene.

A Word from Olafur Eliasson

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Campus Cooking

There comes a time each fall when students all over America rue the day they were conceived (and rue the fact that they thought of their conception). As do the bus drivers. But thankfully, the back-to-school rush is nothing but utter pleasure for the dedicated, intellectually starving eccentric types such as myself who enjoy gorging our grey matter with wonderful information that will most assuredly escape our brains in a few months.

Enough with the self-indulgent introduction – time for the food. My wife Kaitlyn and I have been comfortably settled in our on-campus apartment for less than a week, but the flames are bright and the boiling hot tempura oil is flying (into my face) in the kitchen. Yes, the oil was a bit hot; yes, it exploded, spraying bajillion-degree olive oil into my face; yes, I cussed out the tempura. But then I ate it aggressively and maliciously, which made me feel quite happy, inside and out.

Anyway, I figured I would share some of my recent kitchen exploits from the past three days. Here’s some homemade mac and cheese I casually threw together (note the sarcasm here). I wasn’t super excited about the recipe since the 2 cups of heavy cream that was essentially the sauce caused the dish to maintain a very dense and heavy feel (particularly for early fall). Plus, I used sharp cheddar instead of the requested aged gouda. However, it was creamy and had a tasty albiet rich flavour. Garnished with a little parmesan cracker thing I baked in the oven, fried onions, and basil from our window herb garden (visible in the background).

I also tried my hand at creating risotto for the first time. I resolved to learn this classic, fundamental dish after watching Masterchef contestants flounder during a risotto challange earlier this season. I made my risotto with vegetable stock, arborio rice, olive oil, butter, onion, parmesan cheese, lemon juice and zest, salt, pepper, and a bit of parsley to garnish. I don’t have any photos of that because we ate it all without taking a picture. Plus, it was dark. No natural light = no food photography.

I previously mentioned my tempura attempt, and this is something I should address in full. I have previously created this delicious Japanese dish of fried fresh vegetables (in this case zucchini and onion), but this time I was limited by a small fondue pot and minimal amounts of olive oil. Yes, you’re probably thinking, “This dude displays ludicrous inferiority in the realm of tempura fabrication – who makes tempura in a fondue pot?” and I completely agree with your musings. For my batter I used 1 cup of flour and 7 oz of Pellegrino sparkling water. However, I am beginning to realise that Pellegrino may not contain enough CO2 for a light and crispy batter, so I recommend purchasing some super sparkly seltzer if you want to make a light and crispy tempura.

So that’s all. I just wanted to do a quick post (since it’s been five thousand years since my last one) and show off Kaitlyn’s food photography (once again, click HERE to see more of her work). Happy eating, and for all you college and grad students out there, I promise you’ll get a job someday. The economy isn’t as bad as they say 😉

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