Monday, June 10, 2013

Me, a Fruitarian? Maybe...

My backyard is filled with blackberries, and they're just beginning to ripen. I have a feeling that most of them will ripen all at once, and then you better believe I'll be making blackberry smoothies. Fruit and I are great friends.

I learned something kind of important. The berries on the top left are not yet ripe but the ones on the bottom right are. They need to be COMPLETELY black before you pick them, and then they're delicious. Live and learn. Also, what my housemate and I thought was an avocado tree is actually, I believe, a peach tree. The peaches are all still green, though, definitely not ripe. Also, there is a fig tree! I ate one fig off of it and am excited for many more! California is so rad. The lemon tree just gives and gives of her fruit.

And, on that front, I'm moving over toward a fruitarian diet. No, I'm not going to eat only fruit, and I'm not likely to become 100% raw, but I am getting a lot of my calories these days from huge fruit smoothies. I'm doing this for two major reasons. One, for type 1 diabetes, fruit is really easy to predict and counteract with insulin. Fat and protein is difficult to predict but simple fruit carbs are easy. It helps me keep my blood sugars in great control. But, more importantly, I'm doing it as something of a moral exercise. See, people are always asking vegans why we think it's wrong to harm other beings that are animals, but have no qualms about hurting plants. Of course, this is a somewhat silly idea that I don't think they're entirely serious about. "No one move, or I'll snap this carrot in half, I swear it!" But just as an experiment, I think it's worth eating only the parts of a plant that it does not harm the plant to eat. It's also less labor-intensive. There is no need to keep replanting brand new plants. Fruit trees just continue to give fruit, and fruit is delicious because the more delicious it is, the more animals eat it and spread the seeds, so it's an evolutionary strategy to be yummy for animals' consumption. Also, eating fruit decreases the need for water filtration and distribution, as it is very water dense and you need not drink much water if you're eating lots of fruit. So I'm trying it out and have been for a few weeks and it makes me feel really good and happy and it's easy and I really enjoy the smoothies.

Still, let me catch you up on some of the non-fruit items I've been cooking and eating for the past few months. Like, check out the Pumpkin French Toast from Vegan Brunch I made because a friend of mine really wanted some and I had the ingredients on hand.

Ooh, and I also made this Pasta with Chard and Bell Peppers from The Blooming Platter Cookbook, which actually called for angel hair pasta, but I used what I had. Doesn't it look so clean and nice?

Plus, after I was given one of those tubes of soy chorizo from Trader Joe's, a bag of potatoes, and some tofu, I made this tofu chorizo potato hash without a recipe and ate it with sriracha and avocado. I also used a pepper and an onion and some chilis in adobo sauce from a can that I'd opened and frozen for later use. Yummy!

So, as you can see, I'm not eating only fruit. At least not yet! I also have been putting plenty of leafy greens into my smoothies.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Eating Out in the East Bay

I'm so excited to have changed the colors and themes of my blog and also replaced the commenting system with Disqus, which allows more people to comment!  Also, if anyone is interested in my newer Tumblr blog, Type1Vegan, I encourage you to check it out. At first, it felt kind of lonely for me on Tumblr. I'd create original material and no one would notice it. Then suddenly someone with a lot of followers reblogged this image I created, and before I knew it, people were following me right and left and reblogging other original posts I created, like this image and text I made. I know it's just the internet but still, what fun! I really enjoy trying to influence the youngsters of Tumblr. It's a very good medium for that. I also purchased the domain name, so eventually the plan is to move this blog there. I'm still dissatisfied by being stuck with the whole "loathing" thing.

So, I'd like to tell you about some more of the amazing eats to be had in San Francisco's East Bay. There is a lot to cover, but let me start by bragging that, here in Oakland, there is a vegan bar. That's right. A. VEGAN. BAR. Are the people there extra attractive? You betcha! Vegan men are so hot, and we ladies are looking excellent as well.  The bar is called Olde Depot, and it's located right next to Souley Vegan, a vegan soul food restaurant that everyone else seems to like a lot more than I do, although I do like it. And, OK, unfortunately, the only alcohol Olde Depot has is beer, which is not my favorite thing, but hey! All vegan beers! Plus food. Swooooooon.

That there is the Herbed Chick'n Sliders. Seriously, hands down, Olde Depot has the best veg chick'n I've ever had. So far, I've only tried their chick'n, and not any of their other veg meats, but it's hard to pick something different when what I've had is so good. This was delish. There were some mushrooms on those sammiches and a very enjoyable house dressing on the salad. The menu at Olde Depot changes on the daily, but so far, each thing my friends and I have ordered has been a delight. Check out what my friend got, also.

That there is the beer-battered chick'n and chips. You know, my younger sister says her favorite food is "bar food." This here just goes to show you that no one needs to give up their favorite food by going vegan. Bar food extraordinaire!

You know what else is cool? There's this catering company called Hella Vegan Eats that has these pop-up kitchen events all over the Bay. They're based in Oakland, but they also have pop-ups in San Francisco, and I wrote about one when I was just visiting this area back in October. I finally made it out to another such event, but this time right near to where I'm living in Oakland at the Commonwealth Cafe and Pub. I don't have much in the way of money, and I prefer to eat healthy, but I'm not going to lie, I lusted after Meen Deen Doughnut Burger Supreme, which is a brown rice beet patty, special sauces, and burger fixin's, all on two friggin' doughnuts. But I was like, "No, I'll get a salad," and ordered the Organic Farmers Market Salad.
It had this really tasty maple-glazed rhizocali (whatever THAT is) tempeh on it that made this salad rule. But I was still just a bit sad, wanting that damn doughnut burger. Then, like magic, one suddenly was brought to me by my friend Joe, who was working the kitchen with Hella Vegan Eats! HOLY SH*T, HOW DID HE KNOW? I am so freaking blessed. And let me tell you, it may not have been a picture of health, but it is outrageously delicious. I want another one right now! We vegans can go all Paula Deen without hurting anyone!

Also, did you know that the East Bay has its own all-vegan Mexican place? Everyone knows about Gracias Madre in San Francisco, but in Berkeley, there is a cool little place called Flaccos, which is oddly hidden from view despite it having its own little parking lot.
This is the view from the parking lot, but I think you can imagine how not visible this place is from the sidewalk on the other side.
Flaccos is not as outrageously-priced as Gracias Madre in in the city, which is cool, though it is still a tiny bit pricey for something that, in my experience, is fairly easy to make. I'm always thinking that about food that I buy out. "Why am I eating out, I cook better at home and it's cheaper!" I say. So it's probably best to kinda not listen to me. I got tacos because they have a daily special where a different platter plate is a buck off, and it repeats every week. I have to remember to go in on the taquito day because that's something I'm too lazy to make. These tacos were tops, though, I do not regret buying them. I'm happy all-vegan places exist!

Yay for food and for the friends with whom I went to eat and for the interesting people I met at each of these places and for the East Bay! I love my life, and this post is making me hungry.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Oakland Veg Week

The last week of April was Oakland Veg Week.  This event, or, more accurately, series of events, was aimed at getting people to pledge a week, at least, of being veg.  I don't know if many meat-eaters did it, but this sort of thing is pretty terrific for those of us who are already veg and want to take advantage of discounted meals at local restaurants, and go to veg events.  Hopefully some meat-eaters did, indeed, pledge to go vegetarian or vegan for the week.

My only problem with it was that I do not feel it was vegan-focused enough.  It seemed to treat vegetarianism as a morally equal choice to veganism.  I don't think the organizers really feel that way, or at least I hope they do not.  But many of the discounts offered were for non-vegan meals, and at one event I attended, in particular, it was actually difficult to get vegan food!  Dairy cheese all over everything.  Honestly, I don't even understand the point of having vegetarian desserts at a veg event instead of all vegan ones.  I mean, desserts are always vegetarian, with only the rarest of exception.

That said, quit complaining, me!  I finally got to meet Colleen Patrick-Goudreau!
I mean, I guess it was just a matter of time until I got to meet her.  We live in the same town and of course I'm going to go to every vegan event I know about.  Still, it was a real pleasure to go see her talk at the Oakland-Temescal Library, eat the free vegan food, tell her about how her podcasts have helped me enormously, and get a picture taken with her, you know, "for my blog" (who am I kidding, to me she's a total celebrity).  If it were almost anywhere else on the planet that I saw her speak, the room would be full, people would pay money to hear her, and it might be difficult to get the chance to chat with her.  But in Oakland, California, we vegans are so spoiled rotten that I'm sure lots of people were just like, "Ehh, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, huh?  Well, maybe I'll catch her next time," so it was an easy project for me to talk with the Compassionate Cook herself.

The speech, as you might expect, covered much of the same ground as her podcasts and was not really new to this roomful of vegans.  But, you know, it's still good to hear her talk.  If the converted didn't enjoy being preached to, no one would go to church.

Even though I really cannot afford to eat out,  I did get the chance to go to one of the restaurants that had Oakland Veg Week deals.  A Vietnamese restaurant called Vo's was offering 10% off any of their vegetarian (vegan) dishes.  My companion and I got some veg dishes, and although they were quite good, I would not call them Vietnamese.  They seemed more like Thai or just a pan-Asian mix of styles.  Maybe I'm spoiled by the authentic Vietnamese at Tram's Kitchen in Pittsburgh, which was once a favorite walk-two-blocks-and-eat-inexpensive-but-delicious-food destination for me.

I wish I had made it out to some other Oakland Veg Week events, especially their Grand Finale Celebration, which looks like it had a lot of great food for the tasting, but I could not make it due to a prior engagement.  I went to their Vegetarian/Vegan Pop-Up Market but, ummm, they were sure right to have put "Vegetarian" first.  There was barely any vegan food at it, and what there was quickly ran out.  Also, when I asked if the wine they had was vegan, the person serving it looked really confused.  I ended up buying this tamale-like thing for $4.
Unfortunately, it was really small and quite flavorless.  I mean, not terrible or anything, but I would certainly not pay for it again.

All kidding aside, I really hate complaining about events that have such good intentions.  But the Pop-Up Market thing really rubbed me the wrong way.  It was probably just poor planning that there was so little vegan food, but it also quite upsets me that, at a veg event, they felt the need to have anything non-vegan.  I mean, it's not like being vegetarian means you HAVE to eat cheese with every meal.  To promote veganism, they should have only the best possible vegan food, and not do any of this one foot in, one foot out business.  That's my personal opinion.  Maybe I'll be able to get involved with planning it for next year.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Vegan Advocacy: The 10 Billion Lives Tour

When I lived in Pittsburgh, my friend Kate told me once about how she'd heard that there was a truck fitted with TVs that travels around, paying people a dollar to watch a short video about standard practices on factory farms.  She told me that she'd heard it was incredibly effective, both in getting people to pledge to reduce their animal consumption, and in getting people to convert to fully vegan eventually.

I remember how this idea absolutely blew my mind.  It was just the most brilliant thing I'd ever heard!  It is so incredibly difficult to get people to engage with this topic at all.  People's hands are planted firmly over their eyes when it comes to thinking about how their food choices affect animals and the planet.  People will not watch a video, at all.  But trick them a bit, offer them a buck, and suddenly they're forced to take their blinders off for a moment.  What a difference this could make, I thought.

Recently, I was incredibly lucky to be able to offer three days of my time volunteering with Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM)'s 10 Billion Lives Tour.  This may sound extreme, but I do believe it is one of the best things with which I've ever been involved.  If you're ever looking to donate money to something that is really effective in making vegans, you should donate to FARM.  Failing that, if they're in your area doing their thing and you're a passionate vegan who is skilled at communicating about it and who has a response to every objection, and can respond with consistent kindness, definitely volunteer to help!

Here's how it works.  We don't indicate in any way what the video is about.  We wear ordinary clothes that do not give away that we're vegans.  As people walk by, we call out things like, "Can we pay you a dollar to watch a 4-minute video?"  Many people stop to watch.

Next is the hardest part.  There can be 4 people to a screen, and we have to get them to enter their first name and an email address.  I had a little speech I gave here: "We're going to ask you for your first name and email, and all we're going to do with the email is send you a survey in one month about the video.  We're not going to add you to any lists."  Then I'd add, "The screens are a little crazy sometimes, so make sure that when you press a letter that it actually appears on the screen."  It could take longer to get people to correctly enter their emails on the touch screen than it took to actually watch the video, unfortunately.

They each got a pair of headphones, and then this video would play.

Right after viewing it, the screen would ask each person how many days a week they would pledge to eat animal-free meals.  They could pick 0, 1 to 2, 3 to 4, 5 to 6, or 7.  Looking in on what people picked, I'd say the vast majority picked 1 to 2.  Many picked 3 to 4 or even 5 to 6.  Almost no one picked 7 unless they were already vegan.  Almost no one picked zero, but sometimes people did.

You'd think that the people who picked zero were hopeless, but that is not actually the case at all.  After people took the pledge, a volunteer would go up and ask the group what they thought of the video.  Most people expressed sadness.  The response was almost never hostile.  Some people said they'd had no idea about any of this, others said they knew but "What can you do?  We have to eat meat."  Occasionally, someone would be really angry.  Not at us, usually, but about the animals.  One man in Berkeley was fuming.  "Did you see them just throwing those baby chicks into a grinder?  Can you believe that bullsh*t!?  That is f*cked!"

No matter what their reaction was, I was ready with responses.  One of my favorite points that I would return to again and again was to remind people that when you witness injustice, you must do whatever you can to not participate in it.  If the video was disgusting and painful to them, there is a completely viable alternative: to become vegan.  I'd encourage them to take to the internet for recipes and support, or to get vegan cookbooks out of the library.  One of the instructions from FARM was to praise any positive steps people seemed willing to take, but to also treat it as only the beginning.  "Try eating vegan one or two days a week, and then when you get used to cooking or ordering food that way, it will become easier and easier to expand that to three or four days a week, and so on, until this is the only way you'd ever want to eat."

With many people, I discussed the idea that I think most people know in their hearts, that all injustice is linked.  That injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.  That the quality of our character is determined not by how we treat our peers, but how we treat those with the least ability to fight back.
Here I am laughing after this young woman asked me if I was a vegan and I said "Yes," and she said that I had "that vegan glow."  I think she's a vegan in the making, for sure!

I had so many amazing conversations with people over the three 8-hour days I did this, and it was exhilarating.  Often, those who pledge zero days were the people with whom it was most interesting to speak.  Those who picked zero were usually this certain type of young men who love to argue.  Those kind of guys love me.  First, because I'm adorable!  But also because I'm willing to really talk things through, and they love that.  I'm sure that I moved some of those in the "zero" camp to at least the "one to two days" camp.  Even if I did NOT do that, I'm positive -- absolutely positive! -- that each conversation I had with people hostile toward veganism caused them for the first time to actually understand where vegans are coming from, and to not have such a knee-jerk reaction against it.  We're not crazy, we don't hate people, we don't think cows should vote.  We're super-nice and we have a whole lot of information and a response to everything you can throw at us!  Every time I had a conversation with a zero-pledger, he or she would shake my hand at the end and tell me it was a real pleasure to meet me.

I know that doing this will not change the world to vegan overnight, but I feel that with every view and every conversation, we turned the attitude toward veganism from outright hostility to understanding.  As Colleen Patrick-Goudreau would say, we planted seeds of compassion and some of them will grow.  That is all that is in our power to do, really.

At the end of the conversations, we'd hand the viewers a pamphlet that had answers to some frequently asked questions, a $1 off Tofurkey coupon, and a nice crisp dollar bill placed inside.  Best dollar ever spent, in my opinion!

I have to give such high praise to the people who traveled with the truck.  On the first day in Berkeley, I worked with both Andy and Monica, who were both so skilled at communicating on this topic.  The next two days, at a community college in San Francisco, Monica was on vacation, but Andy was there with his constant patience for responding to every objection.  I realized that I was rusty on how to respond to religious arguments about God having given people animals to use.  I've read up on the Christian vegan movement, but I forgot a lot of it.  Andy's standard response, I think, is really perfect: "No religion requires you to eat animals, so if you see that there's something wrong with it, it is still consistent with your religion to stop."

Doing this, I also met some new friends!  I'm making friends with all the East Bay vegans!  Oh my gawd I love it here.  My new friends bring me to interesting places, like to the top of the hills of Berkeley.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Carrot-Ginger Soup Recipe, or, How Shangri-La Vegan Revolutionized My Kitchen

My friend Stephen, who used to live out here in the SF Bay but now lives in Pittsburgh, where I met him, came here recently to attend some sex-positive meditation talks and workshops and so forth, and he took a little time out of his busy schedule to visit with me, which was awesome because I think he's rad and I have something of a persistent crush on him (hi, Stephen!).

He's a vegan, and he suggested we go to his favorite East Bay vegan restaurant, Shangri-La Vegan, here in Oakland.  Now it's my favorite East Bay vegan restaurant as well, although Encuentro is a close second.  I'll post about Encuentro soon, but for now, let's talk about Shangri-La.

This is a unique place.  It only has two menu options every day, a more-flavorful dish (pictured above) and a simple, spice and oil-free dish (we didn't get that).  You can order large or moderate, and the large comes with soup as well.  This is simple, great food done right.  Beans, greens, grains, and veggies.  It tastes crazy good.  Stephen explained to me that Shangri-La cooks in a Buddhist style, and that part of this is that yesterday's food gets combined to make today's soup.

Not surprisingly, seeing as how everything on the today dish was so tasty, the soup, made from yesterday's dish, was, like, the best soup ever.

This has inspired me enormously!  I think it may have revolutionized my cooking style.

So, in my last entry, I posted a picture of a delicious sandwich I invented, and there was also a salad in that picture.  Here it is again.

The dressing on that salad was a messed-up version of Appetite For Reduction's Carrot-Ginger Dressing.  Messed up how?  Glad you asked.  OK, so first of all, the recipe calls for 3/4 pound carrots, and the truth is, I have no clue how much carrots I actually used.  I'd guess it was about 1.25 pounds.  And I changed a few other things, also, because it didn't taste very good, so I added extra of this and that to make it more palatable.  Still, it wasn't really a great dressing and I was having trouble using up the leftovers.  But after my visit to Shangri-La, I knew it had to be made into soup.  Success!

Buddhist-Style Carrot-Ginger Soup

-1 pound of carrots, sliced to be 1/2 inch thick
-1/2 of a small white onion
-1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped roughly
-1 clove garlic
-juice of 1 lime
-1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
-3 tablespoons sesame oil
-1 tablespoon agave
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 cup water (give or take)
-1 can coconut milk
-sliced green onions

1.  Steam your carrots.  Boil water and put the carrots into a steamer basket or a metal colander you place in the boiling pot.  Toss them around a bit as you steam, maybe keep them partially covered in order to quicken the cooking.  It'll take about 15 minutes, but just test them for tenderness.  When they're done, run them under cold water to cool.
2. Place all the other ingredients except the water and coconut milk in the food processor and get them chopped good.  Then add the carrots and blend until very smooth, scraping the sides down every so often to get it all good and blended.  Feel free to add a bit of water to make it blend easier if you want to.  Taste and adjust as you like.
3.  Throw it all into a medium saucepan and add the coconut and water.  Add only as much water as to give it the thickness you like.  Cook over medium heat until thoroughly heated.  Taste and adjust as you like.
4.  Serve topped with green onions sprinkled atop.

I'm not going to lie, I totally winged this recipe.  There are really no rules.  You like things saltier, add salt. You like things less salty, add less.  You want more agave, that's your right.  More or less red wine vinegar, I'm not going to judge you.  Want to cut the oil, go ahead.  Don't think that's enough ginger, add ginger.  The truth is, I'm not completely sure how I made this.  I know what ingredients I used, but not exactly how much.  I'm just estimating.  You can estimate also. Live free or die!  Or whatever.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Better Than Grilled Cheese: An Easy Vegan Whole-Food Solution

Before I was vegan, I loved grilled cheese.  But even then, I didn't eat it with just bread and cheese and butter spread on the outside.  As soon as I learned how easy it was to make pesto, I always had grilled cheese with pesto.

After becoming vegan, I still loved grilled cheese with pesto, except I switched, quite successfully, to making tofu-based cheeses which really are totally delicious.  I've covered my making this before on Food and Loathing, both here and here.  It goes over well with omnis, and I love it too.

Still, I kinda wanted to satisfy my desire for a smooshy grilled sandwich in a way that didn't involve making a tofu cheese.  One day, after I saw a recipe wherein someone mixed pesto from a jar with refried beans from a can, it hit me. Maybe I could make refried beans, pesto, and also some salsa, put that on bread with the outside sprayed heavily with olive oil, and grill that up childhood style.  Of course, you can also use Earth Balance, but I've been avoiding EB because it contains palm oil, opting instead for olive oil whenever possible.  This ingenious idea was exactly what I was looking for!

I am so not used to writing recipes.  Pesto is something I eyeball, pretty much.  I more or less just fill my food processor with greens, kinda measure the rest, and go!  But I'm trying to grow and actually post recipes, even if I write them with my own casual flair, so here goes nothing.


Grilled Refried Beans, Pesto, and Salsa Sandwich


- 3 oz container of basil leaves
- about twice as much baby spinach as the basil (eyeball it)
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 cup of pine nuts and/or walnuts
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
- 1/4 cup of olive oil

1.  Go through your basil removing stems and putting the rest into the food processor.  Once you see how much is in there, put about twice as much spinach in as well.
2.  Throw them garlic cloves in!  Salt, too.
3.  Toast your pine nuts and/or walnuts.  Put them in a pan over medium-low heat and move them constantly.  Pine nuts start to brown and glisten with a yummy-smelling oily sweat when they're done. Walnuts are harder to tell, but it's also not as important that they be as toasted.  Put your toasted nuts into the food processor.
4.  Process!  Add the oil through the shoot as you go.  Open it up and use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and get it processed all smooth.  Take it out and put it into a container to refrigerate.  Don't wash your food processor yet.

Refried Beans (adapted from Viva Vegan recipe):

- olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 medium onion
- a jalapeno pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 2 14.5oz cans of beans (I used black), drained and rinsed
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups of water
- teaspoon salt
- plenty of fresh ground black pepper

1.  Mince your garlic and roughly chop the onion.  Also, remove the seeds from the jalapeno and dice it.
2.  In a large skillet, heat just a bit of olive oil (1/2 to 1 tablespoon -- maybe use water instead of or in addition to oil to reduce fat) and fry your garlic, onion, and jalapeno until the onion is clear.  Just, you know, use a spatula or something to keep moving this stuff around in the pan.
3.  Add your spices, which hopefully you already measured and put into one bowl so you can just add it -- the cumin, oregano, and chili powder.
4.  Add the beans, water, bay leaf, salt,and pepper and raise the heat to get it boiling.  Reduce the heat to simmer and let it hang out on your stove until about half the water is gone.  It's gonna take like 15-20 minutes.
5.  Put the whole shebangbang into your food processor and process until it's pretty smooth but still has chunks.

The Rest

-a container of your favorite chunky salsa or use your favorite recipe to make your own.
-your favorite healthy vegan bread, preferably whole grain/wheat
-spray olive oil or Earth Balance

1.  Heat up your pan now, especially if, like me, you use a cast iron skillet.  Heat it on medium high.
2.  Spray the outside of your bread with a good layer of olive oil, or spread with Earth Balance.
3.  Spread pesto on the inside of one slice of bread, put the beans on top of it and push it down a bit, and throw some salsa on.  Place the other slice of bread on top with the oil/Earth Balance side facing out.
4.  Put your sammy on the pre-warmed skillet and immediately reduce heat to medium.
5.  Seriously, be patient.  If, like me, you've kept these things in the fridge so you can make a sandwich like this when you're hungry, it may take a little time for it to heat thoroughly.  Eventually, turn it and do the other side, again demonstrating your zen-like patience.
6.  After it's done cooking, forget your zen-like patience and scarf down!

I think this is a really easy recipe and great for beginners to vegan or whole foods cooking.  Plus, to make matters easier, I won't tell on you for using refried beans out of a can.  Pesto from a jar, though, unless it is specially marked "vegan," is never vegan, in my experience.  It's so worth it to make your own.  You can freeze leftovers.  And, of course, I took the lazy way out on salsa and so can you.

Is it better than grilled cheese?  Hell yeah!  I mean, it's different from grilled cheese, but it satisfies the same craving for me.

In my next entry, I shall share with you about the salad dressing that appears in the above picture, and about inspiration I received from an amazing vegan restaurant here in Oakland, California to transform my way of eating forever.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Berkeley Vegan Earth Day -- A Review

Last Saturday, April 20, I volunteered with the third annual Berkeley Vegan Earth Day, where there were speakers, vendors, and a showing of the film Peaceable Kingdom.  Even though most of what I did was before the event, writing blog entries about the awesome vendors that were showcasing their vegan wares, I was still busy enough during it that I didn't get to see as much as I would have liked to have seen.  However, I did get to see Will Tuttle, because I'd bought my little sister a ticket and I wanted to make sure she really saw at least one speaker.

Will Tuttle, as many readers may know, is the author of The World Peace Diet, which, although I've never read it, I first heard of because Robin Quivers, the former Howard Stern co-host, cited it as her inspiration for becoming a vegan.  Then I heard him on Our Hen House and his name would come up in other ways, because you know how that goes -- once you've heard of something, it seems to pop up all over the place.

His speech was just as good as I could have hoped, and no doubt something that it was important for my sister to hear.  I want everyone to go vegan, I'm not shy about saying so, and nothing would make me happier than if my family would be among the forefront.  I have no doubt that this movement is growing, and that veganism and all its associated concerns are the key to, as Will Tuttle puts it, world peace.  I'm convinced that getting people to shift their thinking into a place where they understand that it is not acceptable to use any other being for our own purposes as though they belonged to us is the vital ingredient to all social justice movement.  This is not to mention that it would almost solve our global warming and other environmental problems, and it would no doubt solve our health care issues.

I was really glad that Will Tuttle's speech gave fair space to the issue of overfishing.  Although many vegans are beginning to talk more about the empty ocean, I get the feeling often that even vegans do not quite understand the severity of this crisis.  I'm glad that vegans are talking more about the fact that fish feel pain, and that is also important.  But just as many vegans will not use palm oil for sustainability reasons (I'm doing my very best to be one of those vegans, checking my soap, not getting Earth Balance, everything), I want fellow vegans to be a major part of spreading the word about fish and not only encouraging others to not eat them any longer, but getting it to be common knowledge that we need more marine protected areas, and we need them now.

The vendors were rad.  I wrote a blog post about Gnosis Chocolate (although, weirdly, they didn't actually show up, which is sad because I think they sound AMAZING and I want to support them!), Simplecare Products (Stephanie, the woman behind these products, secretly slipped me a free sample of the Daily Conditioning Oil at the event and, truly, it is so great and you should get some), Ellovi (you need, like, a tiny dab of Butter to moisturize e'rything), and The Factory Farming Awareness Coalition (activists like them are vital!).  I also wrote this blog post about what can be expected at The Berkeley Vegan Earth Day.  If you want to read all that stuff I wrote, wow, thanks, you folks are the best.  There were so many other amazing vendors too.  Beyond Eggs was there, and WTF, their mayo tastes like mayo.  They had some chocolate chip cookies that I ate 1/4 of because I knew they'd go fast and they were the best ones I've tasted in, well, ever. 

I mean, what's really fun about these types of events is being out and open and celebratory about being vegan.  I'm not sure it does a lot in the way of converting people, but nevertheless, it's definitely fun to go to.  There was some of the best food there, I wanted to eat it all, but, actually, the volunteers were fed for free by Nature's Express and it was such good food that was free and I didn't get the chance to spend any money because, damn, free seitan wraps and some of the richest chocolate mousse I ever did eat.

Also, we got some free samples.  What?  Samples?  I KNOW.  SAMPLES ARE GREAT.  Everyone who attended got a bag of bean chips of some sort and also a large delicious unhealthy cookie.  I heard some sadness expressed about the calories but, know what?  Everyone ate them anyway because they were so freaking good.  I hear they're even better heated up, but I don't even want to think about that.  I wish I could remember the names of the companies who provided these, but it was a tad overwhelming, all the goodies.  The best goodie had to be the Sister Rivers Foods Parma.  We volunteers got to take a whole full-sized sample of this vegan parmesan. 

Because I had the Parma, I rushed to make this easy lasagna from Fat Free Vegan that I'd pinned on Pinterest!  When I was younger, I ate Kraft-brand parm cheese piled on top of any type of marinara sauce.  In fact, it was unimaginable without it to me.  When I began to eat vegan, at first, I bought some dairy-free parm (which I later realized is not actually vegan), but then I just stopped doing marinara recipes.  Eventually, though, I simply got over it.  Turns out, parm is really not necessary.  Still, it was super fun and tasty to put this delicious (better than cheese, in my opinion) vegan parm on the lasagna, which, according to my sister, was impressive in how much it tasted like "normal" lasagna.
I didn't cut this into a nice square because I'm freewheelin'
All in all, the Berkeley Vegan Earth Day was a good time, though next year, I think I may volunteer in a slightly different way so that I can take a greater part in hearing the speakers!  Boy oh boy would I have loved to have been able to hear Gene Baur (the founder of Farm Sanctuary) and see Peaceable Kingdom.  But it's OK, it was totally worth it just to have made acquaintance with fellow vegans who cared enough to volunteer.  In fact, one young woman had also moved from Pittsburgh and we knew some people in common, and one young man and I knew people in common from Phoenixville!  I mean WHOA, the world is small.  Sadly, especially the vegan world (all the people we knew in common are vegans), but we're going to grow this world, right folks?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Anarchist Dinner

I met an anarchist vegan here in Oakland who let me know about a pop-up "restaurant" that he was in the process of dumpster-diving and otherwise gathering food for which to cook.  Of course, I had to check this out.

The event took place in the basement-like outside structure of a house folks call "The Free House" because, apparently, it is free to live there, although contribution to building and changing the house itself is very much appreciated.  I got the impression that if someone is handy, helpful, an anarchist or pretty close, and wants to live in Oakland for free, it would not be very difficult to find acceptance there.

The basement-like area (it has an outdoor entrance -- actually, two, one on either side) is an art space.  Here's one wall.

This was early, so the place wasn't packed.  Actually, it would seem that no anarchist was quite organized enough this time (lol) to get the word out about the dinner, so it was unusually poorly-attended.  They had a menu with prices, but it was really by donation, and there was so much food leftover afterward that everyone remaining ate what they wanted.

I brought my new friend Christopher along with me, and we ordered a few things.  I got the Corned "Beef" Hash and also some vegan donuts.  Christopher, who tries to eat what he calls a "high raw vegan diet," and does not eat gluten, settled for some Palak Paneer, which isn't raw, but it's still good food that was not bound to contain any vital wheat gluten, like mine did.
The plating is not gourmet, but that's not the kind of dinner these folks do.  The hash was really good and flavorful, although I personally would have used less seitan and also shredded it into the hash rather than having large pieces.  Later on, when I ate more of it mixed in with other stuff, the amount a seitan was far less overwhelming.  Also, best vegan donuts I've had to date!  I mean, the trick is to actually deep fry them, which is simply not something I'm willing to do at home, and it's also incredibly bad for health, but I didn't care, I wanted to eat them, and I did, and they were great.
Sadly, I never ended up getting to try any of the Palak Paneer, but I think it looks like it tastes really good.  I mean, the thing with the casual style of cooking these people were doing is that it is really real, honest, make-do-with-what-you've-got, prepare, taste, alter, taste, serve.  Food Not Bombs style. 

Later, I went up to their kitchen to check it out and steal some pictures and also to eat some more grub.  This house is particularly concerned with issues of gender equality and rejecting hetero-normative culture.
So, that is their sink.  See the cardboard sign above it?  It says "Consent Is Sexy."  Cannot say I disagree. I think it's interesting that this is the message that appeared in their kitchen.  It shows where their activism is primarily focused.  I dig it.

I really liked how their compost bag looked, although I kinda wanted to tell them that they could take those ends and put them in water and grow more veggies!
Here was one of the people doing most of the cooking.  In the front, I think that was the only non-vegan item, still vegetarian.  Unfortunately, it seemed to me that very, very few people in this group were vegan, or even vegetarians.  Most described themselves as "ex-vegans," and when I'd ask them why they turned back, no one had a very clear answer on this.  Then I'd ask why they were vegan in the first place, and their answers were all along the lines of it being the anarchist thing to do at the time.  What I get from this was that they never actually got down and dirty with the philosophical ideas that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere, that non-human animals' lives are worth no more or less than human lives, and that it is not OK to participate in an oppressive system that harms everyone -- environmentally, psychologically, and systemically.  Nevertheless, they're still keeping these dinners pretty damn vegan, so, cool.

Everything in the next picture was vegan, and the bread, in particular, was ahhhhhmazing.  It was all really good, though.  I ate a bit of each thing on this counter.

OK, one more of the food.

...And one to show you the cool chaos of the place.

Interesting stuff.  Oakland has a lot of different people who are engaged in various forms of advocacy, and this house is only one example.  I love how easy it is here to meet new people and make friends and be a part of the expansive scenes with all their various sub-sectors. 

To close this post, allow me to show you this picture I took of this weird and beautiful, dirty and lovely graffiti art space at the Marina in Oakland that the anarchist fellow I referred to at the start of this post brought me to see.
I love it.  Art out of dirt and debris.  I think about how this marina must have once been filled with non-human animal life.  There are still some interesting birds there to see if you sit and watch, but mostly, it's a human playground of junk now.  How did the piano get here?  In a way, this space feels like it rebels against the human debris, but in another, it embraces it, owns it.  I don't think that the many people who had a part in creating this space had any focused idea behind its intentions.  It makes me feel both full and empty, both hopeful and hopeless.  It's hard to describe.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Conscious Eating Conference

It's terrible to fall behind on blogging when there are so many exciting things to write about, but I suppose that exciting things will often cause one to not blog and instead concentrate upon what's exciting!

Where to start?  Well, for today's post, I'm going to start to tell you about how amazing San Francisco's East Bay is for vegans.  I have attended and participated in conferences, events, pop-up restaurants held in anarchist basements, and one-on-one effective vegan outreach.  It has been incredible.  I will try to post every day for a few days until I catch up.  And, of course, I'll have some posts about cooking and eating out!
On April 6, 2013, I attended the Conscious Eating Conference in Berkeley, where I had the immense pleasure to see Dr. Michael Gregor speak, as well as Melanie Joy, author of Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows. Sure, it was preaching to the converted, but it was still pretty damn rad.  Hella Vegan Eats catered, and there were also mini cinnamon rolls from Cinnaholic.  I didn't take any pictures at the event, but I did take a pic of the maple pecan roll I bought from Cinnaholic a few days before.  It is a very popular all-vegan, cinnamon-roll-only bake shop in Berkeley that omnis usually are not aware is vegan and just love.  It's fun to tell people it's been vegan all along and let them realize that vegans just do it better!  Baketism (that is, vegan activism through our mad baking skillz)!

Dr. Gregor, of, is so enlightening to listen to, more so than the other speakers in the context of a people who are already vegan.  He's so funny, and he seems like a pretty good dude, for a doctor (ha!).  He did pretty much this speech here, which I highly recommend watching, because it's entertaining, educational, interesting, and important.  Also, in the question and answer period at the end, I spoke up to say that when he refers to diabetes, he's talking about type 2 diabetes, but can he address how veganism relates with type 1 diabetes?  I totally already knew the answer to this, but I wanted some reputable confirmation: he said it would have the same health effects as on a non-diabetic, although it's possible one can reduce the amount of insulin that needs to be injected every day if one is eating whole veg foods.  And that, YES, type 1s will need to continue injecting insulin no matter what we eat.  I just think it's important to increase people's understanding about it, as I am certainly not the only type 1 who is a bit annoyed by this.

Melanie Joy was good, but if you're as engaged with veganism as I am, I don't think that anything she says is much of a surprise.  However, when I used Melanie Joy's definition to explain what "carnism" is to my sister, who was highly offended by the word without actually understanding it, she seemed to get for the first time that the belief wherein it is a given that non-human animals are less important than humans is not so different from any other "ism." It is taught to us in our culture without our knowledge or consent.  We're indoctrinated from childhood to think these things, just as we're indoctrinated to feel disdain for homeless people or have subtle racist beliefs.  One must consider and analyze these beliefs in order to begin changing them.  Still, I kinda prefer the word "speciesist."  It's all good, though, I'm not sure it's worth an argument at this point, but I do think that for some reason "carnist" raises omni hackles much more than "speciesist."

I thought that Karen Davis from United Poultry Concerns was excellent as well.  You don't need to convince me that chickens (or any other birds) have personalities and emotionally complex lives.  I've had some pet birds.  That's something I'd never do now, and I regret my uninformed decision to do so before, but at least by knowing them, I learned how curious and playful and loving and excitable and sometimes spiteful birds can be.  Their personalities really vary, and I feel a strong connection with them.  The speech was somewhat about whether or not the backyard chicken movement is ethical, but it also was a bunch of stories about the lives of chickens on their sanctuary, which were tender and fascinating.

How lucky am I in the San Francisco East Bay?  So damn lucky!  Guess how much this conference cost, with its awesome speakers and catered lunch?  $10.  I kid you not.  I mean, a person could easily spend $10 on just the tamales that Hella Vegan Eats made.  But to also see these talks?  Wow!  Plus, I bicycled to get there and back?  I love this place.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

My New Digs Where I Can Get Digging

Before moving on to the real post, I'd first like to invite you folks who read this blog to check out a guest post I had on the popular Vegansaurus! blog recently called Vegan Pierogie Night in PittsburghIt's exciting for me to have written something maybe people actually read!  I know that Pittsburgh vegans were right pleased with it, at least.

I moved out of my sister's apartment and into a small house in Oakland,California that's owned by a punk rock vegetarian librarian.  At first, only he and I lived here, but a little over a week after my arrival, his girlfriend moved in as well.  They both seem like cool, progressive people.  The best part, though, is the backyard, where there is plenty of room to garden, plus a fully-grown lemon tree and a baby avocado tree!
The avocado tree is flowering in the front, lovely lemons in the back.
A lemon tree is an amazing thing to be able to access at all hours!  You have no idea how often I've thought I had everything I needed to make hummus, then while I was making it I realized I didn't have a lemon and had to walk or bicycle somewhere to grab one.  Now I can stay more-or-less stationary and just go to the fenced-in yard, possibly while wearing pajamas.  The lemons are all huge and weird-shaped, but they are still great.
It's hard to tell from this angle that this lemon is round, not the shape you find in stores.
It's spring now, and here on the west coast of the US, it's warm enough to start putting down seeds, but the garden area needs a lot of work and investment, and although I want very badly to do this, I just cannot afford the things I'd need to get started.  Right now, the backyard is basically a playground for local cats.
She's winking at me!
The cats are scared of people and I can't decide whether to discourage them from hanging around my future garden or befriend them with food and sitting still in a non-threatening way.  I guess I'll do the sitting still but not the food, especially since cats are carnivores and I don't have anything to feed them.  By the way, check out the large compost area that's behind her.  Awesome, right?

That's the backyard in full.  Truly, lots of room for growing plants.  It gets a lot of sunlight and I can see birds in the morning that are different from any of the ones I ever spotted on the east coast.  So cool.  I love it.  Birds sing all day as though I was in the middle of nature instead of in the middle of a bad neighborhood, like I really am.

I don't know what all my neighbors are growing, but just over the fence by the avocado tree, check out this view.
 Whoa.  What all is in there?  I don't know, but I think it's awesome.  And here's another part of the neighbor's yard that's visible over the fence:
So lovely it hurts!  All container gardening, though, that's kind of unusual, I guess.

The most important thing, as always, is the kitchen.  The good: it's light and fairly large.  The bad: the freezer does not work (I cannot live like that for long), there is no microwave (I can get used to that), and the stove is very old (but so far seems fine).
Yes, the sign above the stove does say "THERE IS NO GOD."
I'm not totally comfortable here yet, but I've done a little cooking.  I lived alone for a long time and I'm not completely sure of the right way to interact with a housemate.  It's weird to enter into someone's already-full home.  I am relieved that at least it's an animal meat-free zone.  My housemate tells me he used to be vegan, but reverted to cheese-eating.  That seems to happen with a lot of people who, like him, do not cook.  It's what I'm going to call, "the pizza siren" from now on.  Dude just couldn't resist the call of the easily-accessible dairy cheese pizza.  He also has chicken's eggs in the fridge, but I've never seen him use one.  I don't feel judgy about it because at least he's a vegetarian and eats fairly plant-strong most of the time.  Our fridge is filled with fruit and veggies.

From Viva Vegan!, I made the Quinoa-Oyster Mushroom Risotto (recipe is here).  I don't have any ají amarillo or ají panca paste but I added some achiote paste and it was delicious.  I also sautéed some kale in my favorite way:  a few cloves of garlic minced and cooked in oil, then kale, tamari (maybe just under a tablespoon for the 20oz of kale I was cooking), and water as needed for moisture.  I just mixed my greens into the Quinoa Risotto, and also threw pinto beans into it.  Yum!  Plus, I roasted some cauliflower just with olive oil, lemon juice (fresh from the backyard), salt, and pepper.
Even though I feel a bit lost and rootless and jobless in California (though simultaneously happy and grateful to be here), I always feel better when I eat good healthy, varied food like this.  Also, I've been eating great big salads every day and I feel and look great, even if my mind is suffering from a bit of worried chaos. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Weekend in Nevada City, California

I have a car here in San Francisco and I'm not working currently and my dear friend Marah from back in Phoenixville (she's actually pictured in an old entry of my blog here) now lives under three hours drive away, in Nevada City, California, so I went to visit her a few weekends back.

She kindly went out of her way to shop for some vegan items for me.  I told her I didn't require anything special -- vegetables, that's it.  Some fruit.  I also brought hummus and carrots and some pita pizza I'd made and frozen.  She got some stuff for me that I never buy but are such a treat, like cherry soy yogurt and this weird veggie meat that comes in a tube and you cut it open and shape the meat into patties and fry it.  I'd say it mostly resembles veggie sausage.  Greasy, but really quite tasty and it hit the old grubbing-during-a-night-of-drinking spot.  Also, Marah seems to gravitate toward veg foods naturally, although perhaps my being there was influencing her.  She made a seriously killer kale salad.  It was soooo good.  I keep meaning to email her to ask what she put into her dressing.
I know it looks like a lot of quinoa, but this picture was taken before it was mixed in, so there was actually just a nice sprinkling of it.  She threw this together to take with us to the worst kind of gathering: a barbeque.

Really, I think I may not voluntarily attend a barbeque again if it's not one that is specifically veg-friendly or all veg.  As soon as Marah told me we were going to one, I was pretty let-down about it.  The average barbeque, to me, is a worshipful, gluttonous orgy of corpse-eating.  This one did not even have one thing besides animal meat itself.  It had no condiments, no bread, just dead chickens and I'm not sure what else because I wasn't too hot on looking.  I'm not going to lie, the whole "fuck our health and being decent and the environment and our usual disdain for corporate influences, we're eating MEAT!" attitude is pretty offensive to me, and it gives me pain in my heart, and makes me feel like finding the nearest kitty cat and hanging out with her instead.

Of course, my veganism came up quite a bit.  You know something I've observed recently?  I think that "Plants have feelings too" has surpassed "There's nothing wrong with 'ethically raised' meat" as the most popular response to vegans.  I seriously cannot believe how often I hear this bit of confused thinking.  They all apparently read an article about how when you pull a carrot from the ground, an electromagnetic response can be detected in nearby carrots, which, to them, indicates fear on the part of the carrot.  I cannot seem to locate this article or study, but I'd like to see it.  In any case, if it were a well-known and duplicated study, I would be able to find it.  Plus, even if there is an electromagnetic response, what is that supposed to mean?  You know what else causes electromagnetic responses?  Practically everything!  For instance, when you rub the two blades of scissors together to cut something and it magnetizes the blades.  To claim that this indicates that scissors have feelings would mean that you were either very daft or just a troll, trolling it up.
definitely watch this video to see these women's simple response to "plants have feelings too"

Anyway, I gave my standard response to this stupidly-common objection, which tends to be affective: plants don't have a nervous system or brains and do not feel pain.  It is part of their reproductive strategy to be delicious so animals will spread their seeds.  You have to kill an animal but you can eat plants while they're still alive, and why would you want to eat dead corpses instead of living, nutrient-rich leafy greens?  Then I make a little joke about how I only want to eat things that are still alive when I eat them.  Har har har, vegan vampire, blah blah.

Actually, though, there were really nice, friendly, accepting people in Nevada City and I do not mean to paint them in a broad stroke.  I just don't want to go to any more non-veg barbeques, that's all.

So, OK, now let's get to the best part -- eating out at restaurants!   We went to two.  One is a little macrobiotic/raw place called The Fix (or maybe it's called The Fix for Foodies, it's confusing) which, in my opinion, has a lot of problems, but has potential.  It was not vegan, as they had dairy cheese and milk for coffee (as well as non-dairy milks).  They also had terrible coffee that I actually sent back, something I never, ever do.  The little cup of raw sugar had ants in it, which I wouldn't mind too much, I'd just make sure I don't drop any ants into the coffee and live and let live about it, but their French press brew was just weak.  We ordered a few things that were good, but nothing very special.  Like, here's The Tuscan Flatbread Pizza.

Not seeing a flatbread pizza in there?  Look harder.  It's on the right with the arugula on top.  Tiny!  With a pretty salad.  That's cool, it would make a nice light lunch, for, like $8-$9.  But it cost $13.  And it wasn't one of the greatest raw pizzas I ever had.  I'm so sorry to be mean to this place, I'm sure there are people who love it and to each his or her own.  We also ordered their "macrobiotic special" which was really kind of a "macrobiotic typical," in that it's salad with quinoa and avocado.  Now, look, that's cool!  I love to eat that.  But I guess I was expecting a little something stand-out and, well, special.  I think it cost $10.  I dunno, I guess I just think it needs work. 
I'm so sorry to be harsh to this chilled out place, though.  They're just trying to eat healthy whole foods.  I do wish they'd go vegan.  I wonder if my whole perception would have been different if it had been a vegan place.

You know what place was awesome, though?  Ike's Quarter Cafe, a Creole-styled diner with a bunch of good veg options.  They had vegan biscuits and gravy and it was appropriately inexpensive, but I could not allow myself to get something I can make at home so easily, even though I won't because it's not healthy.  When I eat out, I love to get things I am unlikely to do for myself.  Like friggin' Vegan French Toast.
I have not had French toast, vegan or otherwise, since I was a kid.  If I remember correctly, my older sister had a phase where she'd make them in the typical style, dredged in chicken's eggs and fried up with cinnamon  (I think that's how it's done?).  At first I really liked it, but then I started to hate it.  I think my parents just bought crappy thin white bread and that's not ideal for French toast.  I remember finding them to be soggy and too sickeningly filling.

But when I saw on Ike's menu that you could get just one slice of Vegan French Toast for $5, it sounded like just the thing.  And it was.  It was so amazingly delicious.  I think it had some almond flour going on on the outside.  They had Earth Balance but I didn't use it because in my family, it was just unheard of to add butter to pancakes or French toast.  There was maple syrup, why the need for butter?  That familial tendency sticks (no pun intended) with me to this day (OK, the pun was intended).

I also ordered the Vegan Creole BLT because I love a good BLT but I rarely make any of the many, many options for vegan bacon except the Bacos-style TVP bacon bits to sprinkle onto stuff.  Plus, it had this vegan creole remoulade on it and a side of vegan potato salad, as well as all kinds of bread choices.  I think I chose, like, bulgur wheat bread or something?  Anyway, it was all to die for. Or maybe to live for.  I guess it depends on your current emotional well-being.  In any case, buenissimo!

Ike's is small and packed.  There's a large area to wait outside.  It's completely worth the wait.
Marah chooses food off the large menu
Another highlight of the weekend?  Marah's tiny little rescue dog!  She's a nervous little baby who barks at anything and does not much care for visitors, but I managed to convince her that we were buds after I slipped her some of those pita pizzas I'd brought and maintained my non-aggressive physical stance, allowing her to come to me at her leisure.  Within an hour, she was in my lap and we were best of friends for the rest of my time there.
Cuteness, right?
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