Takoma Park Veg Week: Senator Jamie Raskin’s Daily Veg Blog

On Friday, April 24, 2009, Senator Raskin joined Compassion Over Killing at the first-ever Takoma Park Veg Week Kick-Off Party—and he signed our pledge to go veg for one week! 

Check out his daily veg blog below, and learn more about this week-long celebration at

Fri., April 24: Day One of My Veg Pledge

I'm very psyched about this week-long experiment but doubly so after the great kick-off organized this evening by Erica Meier and Compassion Over Killing at the Takoma Business Center lobby.  There, dozens of healthy-looking, incredibly friendly and overwhelmingly thin vegetarians, most of them citizens of District 20, gathered to celebrate our first and (I hope annual) Mayoral and Council Veg Week Proclamation and to cheer on carnivores and omnivores like me who are seeing if we have what it takes to join the ranks of Aristotle, Epicurus, Rousseau, Voltaire, Albert Einstein (at the end of his life) and Charles Darwin (the same). This list of exemplary vegetarians was sent to me by a constituent excited by our experiment and its "cross-over" potential to lifelong meat-eaters.

In general, I have been overwhelmed by the sweetness of the "vegetarian community" (if such a thing exists outside of my mind) but people have been authentically nice and encouraging ever since Compassion Over Killing went public with the idea. My wife Sarah, who signed on the dotted line too, also remarked upon the warmth and compassion of the people who came to the COK kick-off.  One Buddhist vegetarian told me that animals experience fear and terror before being slaughtered and we "eat their fear" and carry it around with us. This unnerving and indelible image rocked me a bit, but I don't know if it's anything more than a disturbing metaphor. In truth, what has brought me to my week-long experiment has been an intense exposure to the dreadful environmental costs of livestock production, specifically the Bay-killing agricultural waste runoff from the poultry processors on the Eastern Shore and the ceaseless stream of earth-warming greenhouse gases produced by our social meat addiction.  Moreover, I just saw something about how eating red meat every day radically increases your chances of heart disease and I see in various public health studies how meat eating is associated with a lot of "adverse health outcomes," as they say.

Also, I don't know if this makes my motives impure and narcissistic but I also feel as if eating a lot of chicken and hamburgers is making me grow, um, horizontally in ways I would prefer not to as middle age comes over me. And the appalling, revolting images from Fast Food Nation and Super-Size Me have never receded.  I suppose I have been intellectually convinced for a long time of the social virtues of non-meat eating, but just needed a practical and fun way to give it a try.  So far so good.  The hummus, grape leaves etc. donated by Middle Eastern Market, and delivered directly by Sonya, who hung out through the party, were delicious and filling (though Sarah, I admit, was still hungry afterwards). 

After the party ended—and we saw Delegate Tom Hucker, who came to take the week-long pledge (apparently he had been a vegetarian once upon a time for a decade)—Sarah and I went to the TPSS co-op to stock up on fruits and lentil soup.  Then I took our three kids and their chums out to dinner to Asian Bistro in downtown Silver Spring. We spent the whole dinner talking about food, nutrition and the environment and the kids actually have a surprising number of friends in the vegetarian camp.  So far I am feeling very virtuous in being aligned with this process. 

Thanks to Erica, Paul Shapiro (who started COK), Josh Balk, Miranda Schneider (who was super-friendly and helpful tonight) and everybody else who has given me so much encouragement. What an adventure!

Sat., April 25: Day Two of My Veg Pledge

So far I have had no throwback cravings and subsisted quite well on my usual stuff: grape nuts for breakfast, peanut butter and apple for lunch. I grazed on hummus and pita bread at the Azalea Awards in Takoma Park where I also praised the Mayor and Council for their Veg Week Proclamation and signed up 2 or 3 new veg-pledgers.  I ate a new midnight meal of lentil soup and toast. In two days I have gone from being a complacent ravenous carnivore to almost self-righteous vegetarian, which reminds me that the biggest religious zealots are the converts. Please scold me if you catch me lecturing people this week.  What’s interesting, though, is that I am feeling really good, especially after meals—when I feel a kind of lightness.  Meantime, Erica told me that other cities and towns across America are interested in doing a Veg Week like Takoma Park.

Sun., April 26: Day Three of My Veg Pledge

Still having fun and still have not been tempted to backslide.  (I did see Sarah approach some salmon tonight but am not sure what came of that; might she be headed in the pesco-vegetarian direction?) I definitely need to improve upon my menu, which will get boring fast if I don’t learn how to move beyond pasta and soup. But I went to a memorial service this afternoon for an honored recently deceased constituent, John Hyde, a great journalist, author with former Iowa Senator John Culver of an extraordinary biography of Henry Wallace (American Dreamer), and a champion of healthy nutrition.  There were excellent remembrances, soaring music and then—what I found to be most moving—a huge table full of delicious and beautiful healthy food donated by farmers from the Takoma Park Farmer’s Market. Meantime, our family has been invited to have dinner with two different vegetarian families in Silver Spring this week!  Are all vegetarians really nice or is it just the nice ones who welcome people to their way of food?  Suddenly I’m meeting them everywhere I go, and my friend Professor Angela Davis at the Washington College of Law told me that she’s been a vegetarian since 1974—35 years!  I guess three days isn’t such a big deal. . .
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