Day 12: L is for Loo

(I was thinking about doing “L is for London” at first, but since this is how they stereotypically say “bathroom” in Mother England, it sort of works out.)

World Toilet Day is November 19, so L is for Loo.

But first…I found myself answering the “why are you a vegetarian?” question once again last weekend, over tasty Nonna’s with some improv friends. (While my two dining companions ate meals with meat. I always feel a little awkward at that moment. But someone asked, so I answered.)

I went through my list of reasons (cholesterol lowered, weight lost, I feel better, non-meat food is yummy and nice to the planet, fair treatment for humans and animals, too…), and then I got to the “and also I like knowing this one choice that I make helps me, in some small way, to not participate in cruelty or injustice in the world.”

And I thought to myself, YEAH. That is RIGHT. I DO feel that way…
(Sometimes I need to remind me.)

Not eating bacon doesn’t save the world, but it sort of helps save me, see.

So. All of that to tell you I got similarly worked up today when thinking about World Toilet Day and

About the fact that billions of people in this world lack simple sanitation.
And millions die from water-borne diseases as a result.
And women and children are the primary victims.

But you GUYS! There is something
we can DO about it!

Underground, London (credit: Amanda Jane)

A $30 donation to goes toward providing a toilet to someone who needs one, because “everyone deserves a safe place to poo.” And this isn’t about imposing our social conventions on other cultures. (Often these toilets aren’t “Western” anyway. Squat much?) It’s about safety, health and dignity.
Those are human values, not uniquely ‘Merican ones.

So think about it.

Think about giving to via the link above.
Think about being grateful for your toilet this Thanksgiving.
Think about joining the #talkshit conversation on Twitter or Facebook.
Think about if you had grown up in a place with no running water or public sanitation.

Think about it all, because it won’t just go away if you don’t.



No, this post is not about alternative personal ads. Here “MFM” stands for Meat Free Monday, a new holiday I invite you to observe. But first, Chicago.

I had an absolutely fabulous time in CHI this Easter weekend. Between Arcade Fire (“good luck being that awesome, anything I ever see again ever.”) and Northwestern University (“I want to go to there!”) and  iO improv 3 nights in a row (“it was so good, it was like watching a movie!”), it’s enough to make a girl *consider* relocating. (“Yes! Move here!” says Dan Clair, nodding vigorously in approval.)

It was good to get away and explore new parts of the city and see a good friend.
But perhaps the best part of all was the food, glorious FOOD!

Yes. Please.

In the span of just over two days, I tried Ethiopian food (two sauce-covered thumbs up!), had a Chicago dog (meat[?] and all), late night pizza (with S’MORES on top!!), and most definitely the best breakfast burrito of my life at this adorable diner called Tweet (with a bellini, of course). And you’d better believe I asked Dan to take iPhone pics of each & every meal. (“She did!” says Dan Clair, nodding vigorously in agreement.) Above I’m posing with a veggie burger from the aptly named Burger Bar, and please note the sweet potato tots!

(I feel like I’m using a lot of exclamation points in this post. Just too much excitement for plain punctuation!)

We had dinner Saturday night at The Chicago Diner — an entirely vegetarian / vegan joint serving traditional diner fare. Think bacon cheeseburgers, mac & cheese, milk shakes — entirely yummy but minus the meat & dairy. Y’all it was a trip. And Dan was brave enough to forego his carnivorous ways for a meal, and he admitted it was good. Burger Bar was the following day (Easter Dinner, I suppose) and while I had my pick of all things beef and a “when in Chicago” laissez-faire vacation attitude (hence the hot dog), I chose the veggie burger because I really don’t like meat all that much anymore.

I think that’s what’s missing whenever people ask about my veggie ways. They imagine what a huge sacrifice it would be for themselves and can’t really understand why I’d make such a choice. No reason seems noble enough for them to give up ground beef. From my side of the table, it’s not a sacrifice at all.

(Plus, sorry to break it to you meat-eaters, but your cholesterol is higher and your poop smells worse. Empirical fact.)

However, I acknowledge all those meaty misgivings. I had some myself, after all. I saw Food Inc. a full year before I got around to committing. With that in mind, I propose a compromise to my carnivorous compadres:

Meat Free Monday.

I’ve heard this idea before, but read most recently about it on Gwyneth Paltrow’s blog, GOOP. The MFM movement is all about health: yours and the earth’s, and it’s about the power of simple change. Just one day a week you can choose to eat meat-free meals (and, yes, that means more than bread and lettuce).

Turns out Paul McCartney is one of MFM’s biggest advocates. Seriously.
Paul McCartney would like you to try Meat Free Mondays. Are you going to say “no! no! no!” to a Beatle? Didn’t think so.

Think about it. Just one day a week you’ll sing, I Wanna Hold Your Yams. And if somebody asks you “where’s the beef?” you’ll say, “Nowhere, Man!” and scold them, saying, “Hey! You’ve Got to Hide Your Ham Away!”

Yes. I am satisfied with this idea. And with Beatles-meat puns.

Shut me up & check it out:

Where’s the Beef?

Today, March 16, is my veggie-versary. One year since I DTR’d with my diet and decided to break up with meat. Many times over the past 12 months I’ve bemused, with a gleam in my eye, that if I made it a year I might let myself eat a burger (pause for lusty sigh) …with bacon.

Now it’s been a year, and I’m content to report that I don’t want a burger today. Not even a little bit. (Full disclosure: I cheated in September on my trip to Europe. Fish & chips. A bite of boeuf bourguignon. Got chicken-drunk in Paris. I’ve also had Sushi a handful of times stateside. So there’s that.)

I had BBQ in Memphis after my half-marathon, and I found the idea of it more enjoyable than the experience. It’s about being in Memphis with my friends. Celebrating a physical victory. Pork is just an accessory.

When people ask me why I decided to become vegetarian, and it’s often during a meal in which the asker is eating meat themselves, I usually pause to pick the right reason for the moment. (Because there are lots of reasons, and they are all good ones.) I never want to be That Guy, pulling out the gross stories or the guilt-trip statistics over somebody’s chicken nuggets.

I explain politely that it was an easy choice for me to make, ultimately. One I’d toyed with many times in the past. My boyfriend at the time went veggie, so it was all the more easy for me. Vegetarian food is awesome, too. I don’t just nibble celery and feel deprived of flavor. I’ve discovered I feel lighter, healthier.
Finally, my cholesterol lowered 30 points in just 3 months.

That’s the real selling point, I think. The numbers. The facts. People go, “ooh!” Cholesterol is something people get. Start talking cruelty and corruption, and people get antsy. So I don’t.

But if I had to choose just one reason why I no longer eat meat, it’s this book:

Eating Animals

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer simply changed my life.
(My Google search for the book cover taught me that Natalie Portman is also vegetarian and a JSF disciple. She wrote an articulate little Huff Post article that you might enjoy.)

My Memphis BBQ moment was about the story. Foer argues that food is about the story for all of us. What we eat is part of what determines who we are–in our families, in our cultures, and as individuals.

If you find yourself toying with the idea of vegetarianism, even a little bit like me, read this book. JSF is a genius. The writing is delectable. The ideas are, too.

(And someday, it’s possible, even you will surprise yourself, saying, “I don’t miss bacon.”)