Photos: Courtesy of The Tiny Mess / Maddie Gordon / Trevor Gordon
Following our call with British-born, California-based illustrator Maddie Gordon, also co-author of the cookbook project entitled The Tiny Mess, we wanted to deepen the discussion on a subject that feels important to us: what would be the solution for a more sustainable and healthy food system?
A few years ago, Maddie decided to cut out animal foods for a month “Just to see if I could do it,” she explains. After three years on a plant-based diet, she gave up being vegan, coming to new conclusions. “I could talk about this for days. There is so much data, so many numbers, so many supporting studies but I’ll just talk from my heart on this one.” Inspired by her personal experience, Maddie goes back on her transformation story for us. Coming from a strict vegan diet, Maddie switched to the local meat-based food movement. Today, the Santa Barbara based artist strives to build her diet around local and organic meat. “These animal foods not only contain powerfully important and life-giving nutrients that our ancestors have been eating for thousands of years, but, when raised using bio-dynamic practices like many of our local meat providers use, actually promote healthy soils. Happy to discuss further if anyone has beef with me.”
Words: Maddie Gordon
Like everyone else, I watched some stupid movies online and decided that I was going to cut out animal foods for a month, “Just to see if I could do it.”
I love being in control of something, and diet was always a way for me to feel in control in a time when everything else felt so out of control. So I went vegan for a month, and didn’t stop for about three years. I replaced dairy with things like nut milks, vegan creamers, and fake cheese and margarine (branded as vegan butter). I replaced meat with tofu, tempeh, legumes and pulses, and eggs with flax and chia.
“Diet was always a way for me to feel in control in a time when everything else felt so out of control.”
At about year two, my skin was horrific. I had never suffered with acne and suddenly my entire face was so inflamed. At about three years, along with intense anxiety, my teeth started to crumble. I would wake up with chunks of tooth in my mouth and throbbing tooth ache. I started researching how I could eat to make my teeth stronger and all of research led me to animal products and fat soluble vitamins. That day I washed and dried out egg shells and ground them to a powder. I started drinking the eggshell slurry and eating eggs for lunch.
Nearly all avenues of research led to the work of Weston A. Price, a doctor who discovered a link between our native and ancestral diets and optimal dental health. This was so interesting to me. I realized that the foods I was eating, although containing lots of vitamins, also contained anti-nutrients like Phytic acid. I was eating such a high amount of plant food that wasn’t being prepared in a way that would optimize the nutrients that they contained (sprouting and fermenting). I was pairing these troublesome foods with horrific vegan oils like canola/soy/corn and cottonseeds and wasn’t eating ANY source of nutrient-dense, fat-soluble, or vitamin-rich animal foods.
I did a 180 and began consuming raw milk, whole-fat dairy, raw egg yolks, grass-fed butter and meat. Lots of pastured meat, wild fish, and organ meats. I had my infected tooth fixed by a dentist but avoided the “necessary” root canal.
“I believe that the vegan agenda that is so prevalent right now is well-meaning but so misinformed.”
I believe that the vegan agenda that is so prevalent right now is well-meaning but so misinformed. A diet rich in well-sourced, locally-raised, pastured and grass-fed animal proteins can in no way be more detrimental to the environment and our health than a GMO, lab-made, big-ag-funded Impossible/Beyond Meat burger. These animal foods not only contain powerfully important and life-giving nutrients that our ancestors have been eating for thousands of years, but, when raised using bio-dynamic practices like many of our local meat providers use, actually promote healthy soils. All meat is not created equal, and unfortunately many vegans like to put all meat in the same category. Big-ag is revolting in all ways, and we can all agree on that. I could go on and on about this, there are so many factors to consider, but can you imagine Europe without the small family farms? Imagine hundred of miles of soybeans and grapeseed in place of the free-roaming livestock. Pretty sad if you ask me.
My husband Trevor works for a small, local family farm here in Santa Barbara. They raise heritage breed pigs, turkeys, geese, and chickens. Their animals get fed leftover veggies that get dropped off by local, organic farms once a week after the farmers market. They also munch on spent organic grain from local breweries and eat all of the fallen persimmons, olives, avocados and cherimoyas from the orchards they roam. That is the meat we eat, supplemented with local, pastured beef from another family farm.
I understand this is privilege but it is a choice we make by sacrificing many other things. We understand that these foods are so important to our health and that these farms are so important for our local economy, that we spend a good chunk of our earnings on these foods.
These farms are within 30 miles of our home, they provide us with not only deep nutrition but help us put down roots here in this community.
“I’d like to see the case for better meat being discussed, instead of demonizing the life-giving food that has made us humans.”
Yes, animals die. Animals die everyday. They get killed by us and have been for thousands of years, they get killed by each other because that’s how nature works, and they just die because they are animals.
Of course I oppose the abuse and torture of animals in confinement, but I’d like to see the case for better meat being discussed, instead of demonizing the life-giving food that has made us humans. We didn’t become who we are today on soybeans and margarine, and if my decline in health on a vegan diet says anything, we most certainly won’t thrive on a vegan diet.