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 type1vegan.com, 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.
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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.

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Grilled Refried Beans, Pesto, and Salsa Sandwich


Pesto:

- 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!
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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.
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