Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tattoo video!

Shame on me for not hunting for it sooner, but I've finally found the video shot by the Towson University (go Tigers!) TV station during the Rescue Ink tattoo-fest in October. In my defense, the reporter, Valerie Bragg, did say she would email me when it was edited and ready to air. No matter: she blogged about the day here. Video follows the story, for those who want to see me half-naked and getting inked with Lucy's pawprint. Or, you know, see me talk about the importance of animal rights and making a public commitment to compassion.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Putting my English degree to good use.

Since the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation is holding a press conference today here in Baltimore to announce the recipients of this year's Courage Award, I thought I'd post the letter I sent to their CEO and manager.

Dear _______:

As an animal-rights activist and caretaker of a rescued pit bull, I’m writing to express my dismay at the decision of the Philadelphia Eagles to honor Michael Vick with the Ed Block Courage Award. While I understand that the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation has nothing to do with the selection of recipients, I urge you to question Mr. Vick’s merit for this honor.

I don’t need to remind you of Mr. Vick’s history of dogfighting and subsequent incarceration. I acknowledge that he has served his time and complied with the terms of his parole, yet I have seen no indication that he regrets his past cruelty and truly wishes to make a difference. During his appearances with the Humane Society of the United States, he has expressed remorse, but for getting caught, not for mistreating and murdering the dogs in his care. His hubris in suggesting that he has “overcome a lot, more than probably one single individual can handle or bear,” and that “nobody had to endure what [he has] been through” bespeaks someone who has not yet taken responsibility for his actions, let alone shown the courage befitting a Courage Award recipient. If, as your website states, a deserving player “symbolizes professionalism, great strength and dedication” and “is also a community role model,” then Mr. Vick is a staggeringly poor choice. How can he be “an Ambassador of Courage for victims of abuse, violence and neglect,” when he committed these same crimes against similarly vulnerable beings, the only difference being that they weren’t human? His selection cheapens the Ed Block Courage Award and makes a mockery of the virtues extolled by your organization.

I applaud the work of the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation and will be following the award process with interest. As Ed Block himself said, “Compassion is the noble way of life, a great guide for the truly noble of heart.” I encourage you to continue your compassionate work on behalf of victims of child abuse, but also to extend that compassion to other abused beings and to realize that we are all interconnected.

Sincerely,
Vegan Burnout
Make no mistake, the Block Foundation has already gotten an earful and is trying to distance itself from the clusterfuck. At a meeting called to discuss the outcry that the Eagles’ selection of Vick generated, a board member admitted to being “surprised” and “taken aback,” adding that “[w]e are innocent in all of this.” I know that, but I expect the Block Foundation to step up and do something about it. They may have never had reason to reconsider a team’s chosen recipient before, but there’s a first time for everything. They hold the purse strings, so if they decide that Vick isn’t deserving of their award, they don’t have to give it to him. As Red would say (oh! He's blogging again!), it’s a basic application of the Golden Rule: Those who have the gold make the rules.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Michael Vick wins award; world yawns.

You know how I hate wasting ink (well, pixels) on Michael Vick, so let’s recap: he’s been convicted for heinous violence against the dogs in his “care,” served two years, been allowed to play pro football again, sucked up to the HSUS, wished he could have dogs again, repeated that he’s sorry he got caught, and now been chosen by his teammates to receive the Ed Block Courage Award. The mind, it boggles.

Because I’m totally unwilling, out of sheer disdain for Vick, to spend more than 20 minutes on this post, the award is named for a former Colts (that’s Baltimore, not Indianapolis) trainer who worked to prevent child abuse. It also professes a “commitment to celebrating players of inspiration in the NFL.” I can’t but think he’d be less than pleased.

Guilty by Ian Kim.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Badass blog alert!

Stephanie of Change.org is now Stephanie Formerly of Change.org. This saddened me for about half a minute, because her Change.org posts really galvanized me to explore my veganism in a broader sense and eventually launch this here blog. Then I realized that she has started her own superblog with some of my other favorite bloggers! It’s a happy day for mouthy vegans everywhere!

Animal Rights & AntiOppression (which Microsoft Word ironically wants to change to “Ant Oppression”) promises to be a large creative space where crazy lefty thinking can bubble over and infuriate those who still believe that animals are ours to use however we like. I’m especially thrilled by the broader focus on other oppressions as well—everything is interconnected! I think that animal rights advocates sometimes feels constrained because there’s not always room for them in other activist clubhouses, even though they may share overlapping goals. For example, I’d feel uncomfortable going to a feminist meeting where meat and cheese were served, because female animals are brutalized and exploited for their bodies and secretions. Try and unpack that, though, and you get chastised for even daring to compare women and animals, or suggesting that advocating for the rights of one does not require trampling the dignity of the other. (There is an interesting post about this on, I think, Feministing, and it led to quite the lengthy comment string, but damn if I haven’t just spent the last half-hour trying to find it.) The same goes for suggesting to environmentalists that eating fewer animal products (or none at all) would go a long way towards solving our energy and climate crises. Al Gore, sack up and go vegan already!

Ahem. So, yes, I am very excited about Animal Rights & AntiOppression. Blog long and prosper, Stephanie and Co.!

Mr. Spock is excited, too.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Nothing doing.

I think I'm in a blogging rut. That, or nothing of sufficient vegan note has come to my attention lately. Perhaps the holidays are slowly swallowing me. As long as they wait until after Solstice, I'm good with it. Or perhaps I'm succumbing to the hibernation instinct.

Oh, here's something: Red and I took Silk Soy Nog to my parents' house this weekend for (local, organic, family-farmed) tree decorating. It was a sweet, cozy afternoon, with snacks and pretty lights and Christmas tunes on the CD player. I can't remember if anyone else drank the soy nog, but my mom had originally offered to buy it for us, so that's a plus. That, and it's delicious with rum. I'm told it's good in coffee, too, but I haven't tried that yet.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Walking the line.

Just to be clear, I do not intend to make this an abolitionism vs. welfarism debate. I think that dichotomy often needlessly divides the animal-activist community, which is made up of so many wonderful and dedicated people who all have intense passions and many different areas of focus. (Google will take you straight to all the infighting.) As far as I’m concerned, every step forward is in the right direction. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to help pay for each of them.

Last week, I received a Facebook invitation to a fundraiser for Maryland Votes for Animals, a newish political action committee. I was psyched, because it was being held at a just-opened vegan café, Emily’s, and Dan Piraro would be there. Action for animals, yummy food, and guaranteed vegan hilarity—what more could I ask for?

As it turns out, a stronger message. While excitedly telling Red about this party, I realized that I hadn’t really checked out Maryland Votes for Animals. I was pretty sure they weren’t going to promote killing kittens, but I’m not made of money, so I thought it best to see what the goals of this PAC were. (I already had apocalyptic visions of my contribution helping wine and dine high-powered members of our state government.)

I learned something about myself as well as about MVFA: I’m only comfortable financially supporting animal-advocacy groups that take an abolitionist stance. If anyone’s just joining the party, this means that the ultimate goal is animal liberation: They’re not ours to eat, enslave, experiment on, use for entertainment, or anything else. MVFA takes a welfarist position, meaning that they advocate for the humane treatment of animals, but still see nothing wrong with using them for human purposes and desires. (Think “happy meat.”) Under their Farm Animal Issues section, they state the following: “We produce food on an industrial scale, [sic] that means farm animals too. Does that fact that an animal is being raise [sic] for slaughter mean that it can be raised by torture?”

Umm…I don’t want animals to be either tortured or slaughtered? I can has vegan?

I was also discouraged by the number of “link coming soon” messages next to issue topics. If you’re gonna launch an animal-welfare site encouraging people to join and donate, don’t you think you should post your positions on the issues first? Then, I searched “vegan” just to make sure I wasn’t discriminating against a less-than-professional website with grammatical errors. You guessed it: zero hits.

So, that’s how MVFA lost me. Again, I applaud the work of any group that organizes for the benefit of animals. I realize that not all these groups will be my cup o’ java, and that not all of them will promote veganism as a way to lessen animal suffering. But damn, I was hoping that MVFA would.

I wish you luck, MVFA, and I’m sorry I can’t stand with you.

Copyright Dan Piraro. Lousy crop job by me and Photoshop.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Vegan Sanibel.

As you know, the mister and I spent the post-Thanksgiving days lounging on a tropical beach, waking at noon to a breakfast of fresh fruit and vegan pastries served with fair-trade coffee and organic soymilk. When we weren’t licking sustainable melted chocolate off each other, we pored over the room service menu, bemoaning the fact that only three tofu dishes and one flavor of non-dairy ice cream were on offer. I tell you, the privations we endured.

I JEST. The beach part is true. The rest is not. Certainly not the melted-chocolate part, but even if it was, I’m not telling you, random Internet people. While we did spend a happy mini-moon down in warm, sunny Sanibel Island, it was not the effortless vegan paradise of our dreams. With some planning, it definitely exceeded vegan purgatory, though, so read on.

The view from our room.

I didn’t become vegan yesterday, so my first order of business upon planning any trip is to ferret out where I will eat. Seriously, sleeping can come second. Like most vegans, I am well-versed in the joys of scouring the local 7-Eleven knockoff for something edible. It’s not a pretty experience. It smells like desperation and feels like you need a shower. I would not have that experience during my first vacation with my new husband.

This website saved my tempeh bacon: Cuisine-scene.com. I had already checked HappyCow and VegDining, to no avail. You’d think Sanibel didn’t even exist. Then, Google prevailed. I really lucked out with Cuisine-scene.com, whose menu PDFs proved highly reliable. Menu PDFs for the win! They made my job a million times easier. If I didn’t see anything vegan-friendly at first glance—salads didn’t count—I moved on to the next restaurant. At the end of an afternoon, I had a master list of 14 places where Red and I could either order or buy food. Considering we were only staying for three nights, we were in excellent shape. Bonus: the Sanibel/Captiva Dining Guide, a printed version of Cuisine-scene.com’s restaurant listings and menus, was handed to us at our hotel. It was our constant companion as we planned our meals.

We did a lot of this.

We’ll start with lunch, as that’s the meal we were jonesing for when we got to the resort and were told it would be another two hours before our room was ready. The lady who checked us in helpfully pointed us to a nearby restaurant, declaring that if we’d never had alligator, then that was the place to go. I tried to demur, but she pressed it and I had to play the V-card. “Well, that’s okay,” she said, rather bafflingly. Once we established that I didn’t eat fish or dairy either, and that Red didn’t eat anything that had a face, I assured her that I had done my research and was pretty sure we’d be able to score some lunch for ourselves. The island is 12 miles long and three miles wide. Our options may not have been legion, but they were all close by.

We hit the jackpot at the Twilight Café, a scant mile or two from the hotel. At that point, we were so hungry the tablecloth probably would have tasted good, but our lunch seriously did not disappoint. Red chowed down on a Caprese sandwich, while I had a portabella wrap with sweet potato fries. A dedicated vegetarian section of the menu was a nice bonus, and the funky, sunlit décor was relaxing. We ended up at the Twilight again on our last day, when we ordered the exact same things for lunch. We were hungry and not inclined to be adventurous before sitting for hours at the Ft. Myers airport.

After much deliberation—pizza? pasta?—we went to the Great White Grill for dinner. This was a surprise indeed, as we realized that we had traveled 1,100 miles to end up in a Steelers bar. Steelers! In Florida! I could care less about football, but I was excited to take pictures for a friend. We loved the Great White. It had the chill feel of a neighborhood bar, with a million beers, laidback staff, and awesome pizza. Red had a massive garden salad and, I think, a cheese pizza. I ordered the Jean’s Garden Pizza (no cheese), and it was a veggie delight. We boxed up the leftovers and ate them for breakfast the next morning.

Steelers fans, behold your tropical outpost! Ravens fans, I know you're coming for me.

After a morning of sightseeing, we hit up The Sanibel Bean around brunch time. I wasn’t hungry, but enjoyed a soy latté. Red had a bagel. Exciting, I know. I tell you what, though—the place is popular. Being one of only two coffee shops on the island is a pretty good place to be. We visited twice more before we left. I never ordered anything more thrilling than a whole-wheat bagel with peanut butter, but the fact that they had soy milk was reason enough for me to love them. Carry on, Sanibel Bean. Next time I’ll get the tabouli and hummus platter.

Hey there, Hungry Heron. The fresh vegetable penne was bursting with artichoke-y goodness, and was hearty enough for two meals. A ton of pasta, I tell you. The leftovers were thoroughly enjoyed. I forget what Red ordered, but I think it was a salad. We returned another evening before we left, and we both had the teriyaki stirfry skillet. A small misstep, that. The vegetables were good and the sauce tasty, but it just didn’t work with the noodles, which were basically thin spaghetti. Soba or rice noodles would have been better, or even rice, but it wasn’t a dealbreaker.

[I must digress here to call out the worst example of customer behavior I’ve ever had the misfortune to witness. The Internet is cluttered with “You’ve Got Good Customer Service When…” lists, but rarely have I seen a similar guide for customers themselves. So listen up, lady on vacation with her extended family. You fucked up good. It looked like all of you ordered seafood specials, which run about $20 a pop. $20 x eight of you = $160. Add drinks and it’s a little more. The Hungry Heron’s menu states explicitly, as do most restaurants, that the gratuity—in this case 18%—will be added to the bill for groups of six or more. Most diners appreciate this, as it saves them the trouble of figuring out the tip and dividing it amongst the group. Eighteen percent of $160 is $28.80. And yet you had to go and ask the waitress if you could write in the tip amount yourself, because she did a nice job and everything, but…but…your utter contempt for everyone who’s not you prevented you from even deigning to tell her what you really thought of her, which is that she wasn’t worth 18%. Of course she told you that was fine, because she had to. When you left, I saw her glance at the amount you’d written in. She was pissed, and justifiably so. It sounded like she muttered something about 15% to the busboy, telling him that it wasn’t even the point. She’s right. It wasn’t the point. The point was that you are a tightass bitch with an equally tightass family who couldn’t be bothered to politely follow restaurant policy and tip your waitress what she’d earned. You are why customer service employees burn out. I hope a bird shit on your car. Red and I could do little more than gape at each other as we tried to comprehend your disdain for common decency, which actually does extend to service industry professionals. To hopefully make her night a little better, we left her a massive tip. Fuck you very much.]

Then we went back to the Great White and had a drink because I was so very grossed out. We left before the football game started, though, because the regulars (we remembered them from our last visit) started trickling in, and we didn’t want to suffer the fate of Baltimorons in a Steelers bar.

Red was very excited about the prospect of ice cream, so we made time during our stay to head to Pinocchio’s. I was excited about the prospect of mango sorbet. I can’t remember what he got, but it was some fancy sundae and he reported that it was very delicious. Alas, my mango sorbet did not fulfill its promise. Their website says it’s made from fresh mango puree, but it tasted like it was made from fresh Fla-Vor-Ice syrup. Y’all know what I’m talking about. After a few bites, I accepted that the mango goodness just wasn’t going to kick in. Red was sad that he had a good dessert and I didn’t, but now I appreciate Trader Joe’s and Haagen-Dasz’s mango sorbets that much more.

Our last dining adventure was at Doc Ford’s, famed Sanibel rum bar. After a day of lounging on the beach, fruity rum drinks sounded like the way to go, and we were not disappointed. We each had a Sanibel Sunset (think orange juice, grapefruit juice, and some boozy awesomeness) and a mojito. The menu was a tough sell, but Red had the veggie burger and said that it was definitely better than the average restaurant’s frozen-hockey-puck offering. We split some fries, and I had the Tropical Salad (sans fromage). Greens, oranges, dried cherries, sugary-spicy pecans—it was really good. I don’t even like onions, but the fried ones that topped the salad may change my mind.

My mojito, with boozy gummy alligator.

Our resort had no room service, not that I’ve ever stayed in a hotel that did. Continental breakfast was included, of course, but it was just…sad. Bagels, muffins, coffee, and orange juice. Not a piece of fresh fruit to be had. I was bummed, but I had stashed some apples and Clif bars in my backpack before we left for just such an occurrence. They, plus leftovers, made sure I started the day off right.

Well, there you have our culinary tour of Sanibel Island. If you made it all the way through this massive post, you deserve a vacation of your own!

My buddy the gopher tortoise. He just cruised around the resort, snacking.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thanksgiving with the Turkeys…and company.

I know I’m a week late, but when you’re talking baby animals, better late than never. (Full disclosure: there are only two baby animals. The rest are adults.) I refer, of course, to Poplar Spring’s Thanksgiving with the Turkeys, that annual celebration of cruelty-free food and interspecies companionship. The weather was perfect, the food plentiful, and the animals (mostly) happy to see us. Because I am a lazy vegan, I made cornbread. Other people made insanely intricate dishes, rigging up crock pots and even a microwave, but Red and I mostly went for the cold stuff. Even after we split up and scavenged different tables, we still weren’t able to taste everything. And desserts? Please. I had no room left. Except for the rich chocolate-mint pie. If you made that or know who did, please please please send me the recipe. I’ll bake you biscotti as a thank-you.

The goats and sheep were pretty meh about human company. The pasture was closed this year—maybe they were given too many treats last year? Too many nosy humans? Either way, they seemed happy to keep to themselves.

Eh, I guess you can scratch my ears.

Several enterprising roosters went after the food before it was put down for them. Way to look out for #1, guys.

There was nothing on that table I wouldn't have eaten myself.

The turkeys were in fine form, strutting and preening. Opal, as usual, accepted all the love and pets people were willing to give her. I doubt she was without company all day.


Top: Opal holding court. Bottom: small human, large turkey.

This handsome fellow is Morty. He and his brother Izzie have lived at Poplar Spring since they were a day old (he’s about eight weeks here). They crashed the potluck and, as you can see, Morty made the most of his opportunity. Invisible Voices has chronicled Morty’s and Izzie’s lives at Poplar Spring, and the videos are enough to make you die of cute. If you’d like anyone in any of these photos identified, she’s the one to do it. I feel bad not knowing all their names, but I’m sure they probably don’t mind. You should just go look at her photos anyway, since she takes really good ones. We were using Red’s camera (aka our good one) but…yeah, hers are way better.

Om nom nom.

A sika deer came to join the party. We saw two or three—either they were born inside the sanctuary fence, or they hopped over. If they were born there, I suppose they’ll jump the fence when they’re big enough and/or so inclined. Being a deer in a farm animal sanctuary seems like a pretty sweet life to me.

Camouflage.

I found myself weirdly fascinated by geese feet.

There was a swan.

Before we left, I walked out to the far pasture where the mules and horses and a few cows were hanging out. I made friends with Darcy, a sweet blind horse. A woman about my age was trying to feed him an apple, but she was so nervous she asked me to do it. I showed her how, and in three bites the apple was no more. Red didn’t come with me, so there are no photos, but I loved meeting Darcy and nuzzling his soft nose. His friend Tally wears a bell so Darcy knows where he is and can get his bearings.

Red took many more photos—check them out here. I can’t wait until next year’s celebration!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I have been busy, darlings.

Please forgive my absence this past week. You see, my lazy ass went on a post-Thanksgiving honeymoon. A lovely one, to Sanibel Island, Florida. I did my best to ignore reality while we were there; hence, no bloggy goodness. I’ll do my best to make it up to you.

Oh, we had a wonderful time, thanks. It was warm and sunny and we lay on the beach and collected shells and found what is probably the only Steelers bar in Florida. I met a gopher tortoise, too. As usual, I am in one place and my camera is in another, so I’ll post those pictures soon. I also plan to do a “Vegan Sanibel” rundown, since I had a hell of a time figuring out where we might eat when we got there. If I can save another vegan the trouble of scrolling through dozens of websites and squinting at menu PDFs, it will all have been worth it.

I know, I owe you a Thanksgiving with the Turkeys post, too. For now, content yourselves with Deb’s awesome recap. Her photos are better and she’s a regular sanctuary volunteer who knows all the animals, so she’s pretty much cooler and more authoritative than I am in every way.

Thanksgiving? We did that too. It was surprisingly not fraught with angst and sadness over the murdered turkeys. I noshed on steamed asparagus and roasted butternut squash with shallots with Red’s family, washed down with plenty of Asti and a nameless drink that involved green apple rum and Sprite. (I might start calling it an “Uncle John,” since he mixed it for me.) At my parents’, my garlic mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie were well received. My mom made the stuffing with vegetable broth and I brought Sweet & Sara’s marshmallows for the sweet potatoes. I even introduced my family to the joys of Earth Balance! Two menu omissions yielded unintentional hilarity: my sister made a fabulous gourmet bisque, including vegan servings, and we forgot all about it until we were halfway through dinner. It has since been frozen, to be thawed and enjoyed this weekend. Shortly after that, my mom realized that we’d also forgotten to prepare the portabella caps I’d brought for Red and me. They were to be broiled with stuffing, but we didn’t miss them at all. Enjoy the free shrooms, Mom.

As I may have mentioned, Thanksgiving also marked Red’s first day as a vegetarian. Go, husband! I’m proud of him, so if you want to say hi, hit him up. I’m going to try to persuade him to post his thoughts on Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals.

On the Go Max Go front: We have since devoured both the Buccaneer and Mahalo bars. I was never a big Three Musketeers fan, so the Buccaneer was fine. I did love Almond Joys, though, and found the Mahalo a bit sticky and gummy. I mean, I’m not going to turn my nose up at almonds and coconut, but I won’t be longingly pining for one anytime soon. Look at that, I’ve gone and given myself a chocolate craving.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Manic Monday.

There will be a Thanksgiving with the Turkeys post, I promise. Once Red has the photos uploaded, I’ll give you a snout-by-snout rundown of the animal-loving awesomeness that thrives at Poplar Spring. It’s worth the wait! In the meantime, enjoy this picture of Opal, one of Poplar Spring’s turkey residents:

Photo by Deb Durant of Invisible Voices.

Vegan Drinks was hella fun. To our surprise, it was not as vegan as we thought it would be. We spent the evening chatting with an omni and her vegetarian partner, as well as a vegan whose omni husband had begged off, fearing persecution. The soy White Russians were dangerously tasty—more than one and we would have been cabbing it home (and that’s a $50 ride at least). Good vodka makes all the difference, people! The vegan Bailey’s was also good. I got hints of coconut, so I wonder if they used coconut milk or creamer or something. Either way. Yum. I would have enjoyed meeting more people, but we were in a loungey basement-esque area, which made working the room tough. It was a plus, though, because Paul (the organizer) is looking for a larger space to host the next happy hour. Baltimore vegans, unite!

The New York Times won back a tiny bit of my heart by running an op-ed by Gary Steiner, a philosopher and professor at Bucknell. While he’s already gotten flack for coming off as grouchy and portraying veganism as a huge pain in the ass, I appreciate that he doesn’t try to placate the happy-meat crowd (ahem, Jonathan Safran Foer). “You just haven’t lived until you’ve tried to function as a strict vegan in a meat-crazed society,” he writes, and it’s true. It’s not always true—sometimes I find it very easy, and other times I just want to throw up my hands and say, “Yes! Please! Feed me a salad! Leaves! Twigs! Anything!”—but it’s refreshing to hear it put so bluntly. His approach might not make instant converts of anyone, but I’m glad it’s out there.

Red and I are pleased to report that Go Max Go’s Twilight bar is a worthy successor to the misbegotten Milky Way! We split it, and Red declared that half the bar was all he needed to feel satisfied. His opinion probably means more than mine, as he is a connoisseur of the American candy bar. I didn’t grill him on the full range of his Twilight experience (note: I’m obviously trying to up my Google ranking with Twilight fangirls), but the rice milk chocolate must have done the job or he would have let me know. Carry on, Go Max Go. We’ve got your other three flavors to try, and if you’d like us to test any products you may have in beta, we’re all yours.

Photo ripped from Go Max Go.

Friday, November 20, 2009

In which the Burnout drinks non-vegan beer.

Well, how do you like this shit. I went out to lunch at an Irish pub with my family last week, had a smashing time, and just now realized that the Smithwick's I enjoyed was not vegan. Face, meet palm.

The only reason I ordered a damn Smithwick's was because the Smithwick's sign outside the pub caught my eye as we walked in. Hmm, sounds good, I thought. I 100% believed that it was vegan. Today, Barnivore disabused me of that notion. It's filtered with isinglass.

You know, I don't even like Smithwick's that much. What a boner.

What did we learn from this, kids? Don't let me order for you, don't be influenced by advertising, and drink extra hard at Vegan Drinks tonight.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why I’m sad this week.

I’ve been in a funk lately. I think that, while there’s certainly not more cruelty than usual, I’m hearing more about it, or it’s affecting me more deeply, or I’m just going off the deep end.

You may have heard about Oreo. She was an abused pittie girl whom the ASPCA nursed back to health after she was thrown from a sixth-floor roof this summer. When she demonstrated aggression that didn’t abate after several months, they put her down on Friday despite a massive public outcry and a sanctuary willing to give her a permanent home. I emailed Ed Sayres, President of the ASPCA, asking him to reconsider and give Oreo to Pets Alive so she could have a chance at a happy life. I know that thousands of other people also emailed and called and blogged and tweeted and mobilized their resources to save Oreo. I frantically monitored Pets Alive’s Twitter feed, hoping for a definitive answer until word came that she had been put down. That a dog who had never known safety or comfort was killed by the very people who had promised to advocate for her saddens me so deeply.

Oreo during her recovery. ASPCA photo.

Mercy for Animals keeps tearing it up on the undercover front, and I’m so grateful for their work. You might remember their hatchery video. This time, they infiltrated a so-called family farm that raises pigs for slaughter. No new atrocities were brought to light, but that’s the most telling part: These things happen every day, in huge feedlot operations and on the small, cozy “family farms” that aim to make us feel better about the animals killed for food. I haven’t watched the video, so I may be a hypocrite in suggesting that you do. I did, however, read excerpts from the investigator’s journal:

“There was another dying pig lying in the hall today, gasping for air. My coworkers stepped around him and went into a room to continue working. When we finished and went back into the hall, a worker kicked the dying pig hard in the chest, and he flew back into the wall, leaving a trail of blood from his mouth. He continued to breathe as the workers walked away.”

“I saw firsthand how clever and empathic pigs can be. A sow and her entire litter had escaped their crate and gathered in the hallway. I examined how they'd escaped and discovered that the sow had loosened steel pegs in two different places. I told a co-worker this story and she said that when a sow figures out how to unlock her crate, she often goes around unlocking all of the other crates as well.”

“The gas cart was filled to the brim with pigs today, a total of 39, including 9 large pigs that were at weaning age. They were left in the cart all day to trample each other, before being gassed all at once.”

Now, you know how much I love my dog. Lucy is crazy-ass smart, so smart that sometimes I think she’s just waiting for us to leave, convinced in our silly human way that she’s just going to curl up and nap on her futon, so that she can concoct elaborate plans for world domination. She’s got nothing on a pig. They’re smarter than dogs and arguably cleaner (I doubt they lick their own butts). Hell, they’re smarter than three-year-old children. They can learn to play simple video games. They love to be scratched and petted. They’re not bacon receptacles just waiting for you to get hungry.

Harry and Bobby are best friends and live at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary.

And then there was this. That, my pretties, is a HuffPo video of a deep-fried fish being eaten while he is still alive. I have not watched it. Braver people than I on the PPK have, but the thought of it makes my eyes close and my stomach hurt. The knowledge that this sort of base cruelty exists and is being distributed as entertainment just…I just ache. That’s all.

On a happier note, Red and I will be attending Vegan Drinks tomorrow, and Poplar Spring’s Thanksgiving with the Turkeys on Saturday. If there’s anything I need after all this misery, it’s good vegan alcohol, then snuggles with a chicken or sheep or a few dozen. In case you’re too lazy to clink on that first link, Baltimorons, there will be vegan Bailey’s. And soy White Russians. The Dude abides.

Thankfully, he does. Photo ripped from TFC Journal, who ripped it from somewhere else.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Things that taste nice.

Okay, so that’s a really random and uninformative title, but it’s what came to me. And Veganomicon’s Pumpkin Baked Ziti with Caramelized Onions and Sage Crumb Topping definitely tastes nice. I was a little intimidated by it at first—the title alone is exhausting—but then Voracious Vegan made it, and hers looked so lovely and she raved so fervently about its deliciousness that I had to try it. I am sketchy about recipes that involve two whole onions, but I bravely tossed them into a skillet and caramelized the hell out of them anyway. After Red sliced them, of course. After a false start with the cashew ricotta (needed to switch from the immersion blender to the mini-chopper because oily, lemony cashew bits sprayed me in the face), the rest of it was a bit time-consuming, but not hard.

The verdict? More work than I normally like to do in the kitchen, but worth it. The pumpkin mixes nicely with the cashew ricotta, and anything involving pasta is halfway to a keeper already. The onions didn’t bother me at all. My only gripe is with the breadcrumbs: sweet fancy Moses, that was a shit-ton of crumbs. I just kept spooning them onto the pasta, wondering why they weren’t gone yet. And they are yummy breadcrumbs, believe it. They just overpower the awesomeness of the pasta and make it seem drier than it is. Next time, I’ll make half the amount, or maybe a third.

Oh, and we joined a new gym. It’s more expensive than our old gym, but it has classes and a pool and a rock wall and other things that actually make us want to work out. Plus a nifty café that offers soy milk. I’m sore as hell from my first two classes, but I feel great.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Popcorn.

Let’s talk about popcorn today, shall we? I know you love it. I certainly do. During a certain despairing period of my life, I fairly lived on microwave popcorn, apples, and orange juice. It didn’t last long, happily. Now I wonder if I would have recovered more quickly had I known how to make my own popcorn, rather than rely on the microwavable crap. People in my dorm used to burn that shit on purpose to cover up the smell of weed. It was a waste of popcorn, it didn’t work, and it smelled like death. FAIL.

Strange segue aside, popcorn is a hella popular snack food, and one that vegans should be able to obtain with minimal drama. It’s a buzzkill to be tempted by the sweet smell of hot popcorn only to realize that it’s from a sketchy microwave package. The odds of there being “real” butter in there may be slim, but who cares? It’s expensive, creates a bunch of trash, and isn’t nearly as healthy as making your own is.

“But Burnout,” you complain, “I don’t have one of those air poppers. I don’t even think they make them anymore. Well, maybe I could get one at a thrift store. But the last time I bought a kitchen gadget at the thrift store, it broke/exploded/electrocuted me/turned my food into meat.”

Never fear, sweet child o’ mine. I don’t have an air popper either. For the longest time, I too eyed all those loose, unpopped kernels with suspicion. Then my mom gave me two fancy jars of multicolored popcorn for Christmas, and I had to figure out what to do with them. Here is what I did:

I heated a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. When the oil grew shimmery, I added half a cup of popcorn, covered the pot, and shook it to spread the kernels out. I waited a minute or two, then that blissful popping started. I shook the pot a few times each minute, occasionally lifting the lid a little (lift it away from you, for the love of your face) to let the steam escape. When the popping stopped, I removed the lid and moved the pot off the burner. I melted one or two tablespoons of Earth Balance in the microwave, then drizzled it over the popcorn as I stirred it with a spatula. (Note: for this amount of popcorn, I usually empty half into a large bowl, then coat and stir each batch before combining them.) I finished with a liberal sprinkling of salt, then settled down on the couch with Red and a beer to savor my success.

This was not hard. I did not burn my popcorn. In fact, I’ve burned far more popcorn in the microwave than I have on the stove. Sure, you can’t sit on your ass while it’s popping, but we all sit too much anyway. Five minutes in front of the stove is good for you. Plus, you get to control what goes onto your popcorn. Are you, like me, in the position of sharing your popcorn with someone who prefers a popcorn-unsuitable seasoning? Does the thought of nutritional yeast or sugar or Old Bay (hi, honey!) on your popcorn make you gag? Maybe your significant other likes a ton of melted butter and you don’t. Well, I have your solution. Simply divvy up that popcorn into two bowls, season to your satisfaction, and let your unenlightened squeeze do the same. Then you can jealously snuggle your individual bowls and munch happily.

“Okay,” you sigh. “I’ll try it. But how much do I use?”

Glad you asked. Half a cup makes a lot of popcorn, almost too much for Red and me. I use our big pasta pot, and half a cup of kernels pops enough to fill it. (No, I don’t know how many quarts it holds. It’s big. It has two handles. There.) If you’re popping for one, try a third or even a quarter-cup instead until you get the hang of it.

Go forth and pop, my darlings. Nevermore will you be slaves to your microwaves.

And floss, too. You’ll need it.

I won this Rachael Ray Garbage Bowl at a bridal shower. It is the perfect popcorn bowl.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Random nibbles.

Apologies, dear ones. I have been a very lazy blogger. I have no excuse, save the usual cop-outs of lack of energy and/or inspiration.

Red and I are now the proud owners of each variety of Go Max Go’s vegan candy bars! I splurged a little, because I’m very curious and Red needs convincing that vegan chocolate can approximate his beloved milk chocolate. We’re planning to sit down and do a formal taste test. Rest assured, you’ll get to hear all about it!

I can't tell you when I last ate four candy bars in a row. Photo courtesy of Go Max Go Foods.

Because I am awesome, I also bought him Sweet & Sara’s strawberry marshmallows. This boy loves him some strawberry, so you know he was happy when he saw those. He smiled blissfully as he chewed, so I intuited that Sweet & Sara has created another winner. Strawberry s’mores…mmm.

You should eat these. Photo courtesy of Sweet & Sara.

I haven’t done much in the way of vegan activism lately. A coworker at a meeting this morning urged me to have a doughnut. I politely declined. “You don’t do doughnuts?” she asked. I told her that I was vegan, explaining that the doughnuts most likely had eggs in them. “You don’t eat eggs?” she asked, clearly surprised. I explained about the eggs. Her response? “But eggs are good for you!” I sighed. The meeting was starting, so I decided not to get into it with her.

Red and I made a tasty chickpea casserole from a New York Times recipe. Their recipes can be hit-or-miss. (Go to hell, sweet and sour squash.) This was pretty hit, although I felt like I did a lot of work for what basically turned out to be hummus with chickpeas on top, baked on toasted pita. The yogurt topping was tasty, but it started going green in tiny spots after a day or two in the fridge. I ate it anyway until Red pointed out that it was probably mold. In my defense, it had a lot of mint on top, and I thought it had just dyed the yogurt. Shut up. I was flexing my immune system.

Ooh, and we also followed through on experimenting with less-Indian dosadillas. These were just potatoes, mushrooms, and peas with some sage, salt, and pepper. We used apple-cranberry chutney instead of mango-ginger. I was not too thrilled, I think because the chutney had too much clove in it. The yumminess of the vegetable filling was overpowered, and I was sad.

Tragically, that’s all I have today. I’ve ordered Carol J. Adams’ The Pornography of Meat, and I’m sure I’ll have lots to say when that gets here. Brace yourselves!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fish out of water.

This will be ranty. Hie thee to Cute Overload if you wish to avoid excessive rantiness.

OH MY GOD WHAT KIND OF DUMBSHIT PUTS GOLDFISH IN A SWIMMING POOL?!?!?!

Ahem. Deep breath. Let me count to 10.

It has come to my attention that as part of an end-of-summer celebration (so, around Labor Day), a public pool near us is in the practice of dumping goldfish into the water and allowing kids to go in after them.

I’ll give you a minute to process the extreme cruelty of this situation.

Keep in mind, I heard this story from someone who realized how much it would upset me, though she giggled the entire time she told it. She tried to gloss it over, assuring me that they were told to bring containers of fresh water for the fish once they were scooped out of the poisonous chlorinated water.

Even without the benefit of Google, I knew that fish and chlorine don’t mix. Chlorine is basically bleach. It is toxic. It stings. Ever been in the pool too long and had that nice chlorine afterburn in your eyes? Delightful, no? Do you want to know what it does to our fishy friends? It burns and erodes their gills. Without their gills, they can’t breathe. Without breathing, they die. If by some miracle they survive to be plopped into that container of clean water (and even tap water is chlorinated; I highly doubt these parents tested and adjusted the chemistry of their water before this little science experiment), they will still have suffered injuries and may very well die later.

In doing research to bolster my outrage, I learned a little bit about chlorine. Most tap water has a chlorine concentration of about 0.5 ppm (parts per million) at most—the EPA requires a minimum of 0.2 ppm to kill bacteria that could otherwise be harmful to humans. Swimming pools, on the other hand, frequently clock in between 1.0 and 3.0 ppm (any higher can be unsafe for swimming). Water with as little chlorine as 0.2 ppm can kill fish rapidly. Basically, even the least-chlorinated tap water is gonna poison your fish, and you’re a fucking idiot for not knowing better.

I’ve been entertaining horrifying visions of shrieking children splashing around in a frenzy, grabbing roughly at terrified fish. Meanwhile, the fish are suffocating while they desperately try to escape. Fish are exquisitely sensitive animals. They feel sound vibrations. Of course they feel pain, though some people still don’t seem to be on board with this. We all learned that they only have a three-second memory span, but it’s actually more like three months. They exhibit learning behaviors. Being pursued by screaming, flailing anything is a nightmare for any kind of fish (and mammal, and bird, and reptile….). They think they’re about to be killed, and they are.

So, that fish that my friend’s kids managed to “rescue” and bring home? He (she?) died, along with the fish that they brought home from a carnival. She told me that, when she was removing the dead fish with a paper towel, some of the orange from their scales rubbed off. Her four-year-old was dismayed, thinking it was blood. When her mother corrected her and told her it was just color from the fishes’ skin, it was all better for her.

Pity it wasn’t for the fish.

Goldfish photo ripped from Wikipedia.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dead Bird Day.

This is not intended as a bitter vegan rant. It may end up that way, of course, but I come in peace. Sort of.

It’s three weeks until Thanksgiving. I am not excited about this. I haven’t been excited about it for a long time. This morning, I’ve been thinking about my awkwardly-spent youth and my love of erstwhile alternative radio station WHFS. (A moment of silence, please, Baltimorons.) HFS had a DJ—Kathryn Lauren, I think—who was a vegetarian. She staunchly referred to Thanksgiving as “Dead Bird Day,” I’m sure in spite of plenty of ribbing from her co-hosts. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but clearly it’s stayed with me. Maybe the image of a popular vegetarian (perhaps she was even vegan) DJ who wasn’t afraid to trumpet her convictions over the airwaves resonated with something nascent deep inside me. So, thanks, Kathryn.

I can’t muster any enthusiasm for Thanksgiving, a holiday that isn’t really a holiday. What are we celebrating, exactly? Another creation myth that serves the interests of the conqueror while glossing over the treatment of the conquered. Yawn. As Twisty at I Blame the Patriarchy describes it, “Like all holidays, it is riddled with horrors. Smallpox blankets. The spurious Squanto mythology. Genocide. The expectation that one manifest a hearty, convivial mood in the bosom of the fam despite the fact that the whole binge is (a) quasi-godbagious, (b) a shitload of extra work for the womenfolk, and (c) poultry-based.” Um, yeah. That’s pretty much how I feel about the whole thing. And why I love Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary’s Thanksgiving WITH the Turkeys so, so very much.

Before you wrestle me to the ground and gag me with Tofurky, I’m not precisely dreading Thanksgiving. I love my family and I appreciate the two days off work. (Actually, I have a third, non-consensual day off this year. To whoever invented the concept of furlough days, you can join the state of Maine in kissing my ass.) I enjoy Thanksgiving and other family-centric holidays far more than I used to now that we’ve downsized them. Before, every holiday was spent with The Entire Family in an overwhelming spectacle of…something. So many aunts and uncles and cousins and current lovers and out-of-towners and hangers-on. In college, I started spending the entire evening—Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, you name it—getting as surreptitiously drunk as possible to avoid thorny social interactions. My logic was that if all my energy was directed towards acting sober, I wouldn’t have any left to start fights with my conservative relatives. It worked quite well, but left me soggy and depressed.

Recently, holidays have tended towards the more private. My family is doing more solo, which is a blessed relief. Now I have Red’s clan to deal with, and he has mine, but we stick together. Celebration-hopping is not an ideal solution—who do we have dinner with? what about dessert? do I even care since I’m bringing my own food anyway?—but it’s manageable. I am not eagerly anticipating the traffic and the attempted force-feeding that seems inevitable, but those are annoyances I can deal with. Regardless of how small the celebration, though, the sight of a dead turkey in the middle of the table, carved open and parceled out, distresses me. I’ve met turkeys: they’re sensitive and intelligent. Mother turkeys gather their chicks under their wings before settling down for the night and guard them fiercely. Benjamin Franklin lobbied for the wild turkey to be the national bird! The whole orgy of food seems wrong, in a country that has 5% of the world’s population yet uses 25% of its resources. And to celebrate animal murder, then add insult to injury by saying a prayer of thanks over its violated corpse, is unconscionable to me.

This, by the way, is why I never gain weight during the holidays.

Photo of Toulouse and her turkey friend courtesy of The Gentle Barn via United Poultry Concerns.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Justice for Phoenix?

In cautiously hopeful news: the twins who set Phoenix the pit bull on fire in May (excuse me, are accused of setting her on fire) are to be tried as adults. They're 17, so it's not much of a stretch. And they're looking at three years, which is not enough. I have no pity.

Oh, Phoenix. Sweet girl. You wagged your tail at your rescuers even as you suffered horrible burns over your entire body. You tried your hardest to live. Our city is so broken, and it's too late for you. But I look at your picture every day and thank whoever watches over us that you are finally at peace.

My father taught me that animals are God's gift to people. Maybe one day our culture will start treating all such gifts with the love and respect they deserve.

Photo of Phoenix courtesy of The Sun.

Monday, November 2, 2009

More baby steps.

I totally forgot about World Vegan Day yesterday. I’m a terrible vegan, I know. Please read Stephanie’s piece here, because she is not a terrible vegan. Anyway, I already told you my vegan story.

Last night, Red and I had dinner with my parents, my sister and her boyfriend, and an old family friend. It was lovely—we had wine, pumpkin martinis, and a delicious vegan pistou soup. We caught up, shared Halloween stories, and played with the kitties. Then they had dessert.

I did not.

As you may recall, I sometimes have difficulty saying no. When my sister unveiled the adorable Halloween cupcakes she had brought, I knew I had to be strong. I wasn’t even tempted, really, which surprised me. “Can you eat these? I know sometimes you’ll eat them when I make them,” she said. She really wanted me to enjoy them. I took a deep breath, then explained that while they looked great, I wouldn’t be doing anyone any favors by eating one and giving the impression that my principles are negotiable. She pouted. “You had that rehearsed,” she said. Indeed I did, because I don’t do well on the spur of the moment. I wanted so much to make my sister happy, but I couldn’t do it. The cupcakes were beautiful, but they just weren’t food to me. They were chicks tossed into a grinder and calves wailing for their mothers. I hugged her, and I hope she understood. Once I get a cupcake pan, I’ll bake her some vegan cupcakes.

Many thanks and blessings to Marla at Vegan Feminist Agitator, who challenged me to think more deeply about my accommodating behaviors and how they prevent me from living as truthfully as I want to. It gets a little bit easier every time.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Off into the sunset….

This is my final Vegan MoFo post, since I usually don’t have time to blog on the weekends. As such, I wish I had something more interesting to write about! We’re not planning any culinary fanciness tonight, because tomorrow will be taken over by a massive backyard apple butter-making party. A friend’s family has been doing this for decades, and over the years Red and I have been brought into the fold. It’s a good time. The apple butter is made in a very old-school way, in a massive copper kettle over a fire. The stirring implement is only the second of its kind and is made from wood, PVC, and welded metal. I should really take pictures so you stop thinking I’ve lost my mind. It is not usually on Halloween, so I have no right to complain about that, though I certainly have done so. Also, as Red points out, I’ll be able to stir a cauldron this year.

So, we’ll be doing that. I’m making a pot of minestrone tonight. Ostensibly I’m bringing it to share, but we all know it’s just so I have something to eat! Last year, my friend’s grandmother harrumphed over the lack of meat in my minestrone when there were two or three other soups that were clearly meat-tastic. I love old people, but she once tried to force lentil soup on me after plucking out the hot dog slices that had been sitting in it. BACK OFF, LADY.

In a shameless act of ungratefulness, we’re also taking that ill-fated challah bread. I know it’s shitty to unload lovingly-baked desserts on other people, like the culinary version of regifting. To that, I say it’s better to let the omnis eat it than allow it to take up valuable tofu space in my freezer. Enjoy the cholesterol-laden goodness, my pretties! If I get my act together, I’ll thaw a loaf of zucchini bread and take that too, though I sort of want to keep that for us. Maybe I’ll make pumpkin bread instead. All this in preparation for several dozen people asking me why I’m not eating the turkey wraps or oozy, sticky meatballs.

Tonight, Red and I are going to rest up for Apple Butter-palooza. We’ll probably build a fire in the back yard and make s’mores. Just hang out and commune with each other and the season. We so need some time to just step off the crazy train and get back in the rhythm of not being constantly busy. Our plan for November is to actively avoid any unnecessary events or obligations, so we can have a little breathing room as the holidays draw near. I’m pagan, and in my tradition, Halloween (Samhain) is the New Year. I can’t think of a better approach than Vegan MoFo to help me focus my attention as the year closes and new demands press upon me. And, despite my whining over the lack of a more traditional Samhain celebration, I can’t think of a better way to welcome the New Year than by stirring a cauldron of apple butter.

Image ripped from Oestara Publishing.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fall milestone #2: Risotto.

As you know, it’s officially autumn here in the Eastern United States. And while it’s no secret that the discovery of Sweet & Sara marshmallows and the delicious s’mores that followed really signaled autumn to me, last night Red and I enjoyed another fall favorite. Yes, my darlings, it's risotto season.

Like crêpes, risotto is another dish that used to make me nervous. That fancy rice! All that constant stirring! My wrist hurt! With regular rice (brown basmati for us), you turn it on, give it a stir, and leave it alone for 40 minutes. Bingo, you’ve got rice. Risotto is a much more demanding dish, but it’s 1) worth it and 2) not as hard as I once thought. You do have to stir, though.

Owing to my risotto anxiety was the fact that the first time I made it was during August. In my non-air-conditioned apartment. It was madness, I tell you. I had the upright fan pointed at me, the stove fan on high, and the back sliding door open, and I still succeeded in sweating into my risotto. Epically gross. I determined then that risotto would be reserved for fall and winter only. I’ve stuck to this decision, and I have no regrets.

Last night, I made a tried-and-true winter squash risotto that always leaves us happy. The recipe is here, though of course I veganize it. I’ve also learned to steam the squash before adding it to the rice, because it’s easier that way. Our magical Titan Peeler handily stripped the lovely butternut squash I’d scored at the grocery store on Monday, then Red helped me chop it. Well, first I chopped half, and he complained that the pieces were too big. I handed over the knife and that was that. We had way more than the cup and a half the recipe calls for, but so what? You can never have too much squash. It took about 15 minutes to steam it all in the microwave, and then it just chilled out on the counter while I stirred the risotto. It was kind of meditative to stand there stirring a big steamy pot of risotto, ladling in more broth every few minutes and doing it all over again. At least it was until my wrist got tired. Then my stirring may have suffered, but it worked out. I added the squash close to the end, because it was already cooked, but it spent enough time being stirred with the rice to meld flavors and thicken the risotto a little.

It turned out beautifully. Here, see for yourself:

Our next challenge is figuring out what to do with the rest of it. I’m happy to eat leftover risotto all week, but Kittens Gone Lentil’s baked risotto balls gave me another idea. Baking risotto sounds tricky, but if the worst that happens is that they fall apart, we’re in no worse shape than we were before. Wish me luck!

In totally non-risotto news:

  • My new tattoo is healing well. It itches like no one’s business. And I can’t scratch it.
  • Read this now. You won’t like it, but it’s important. It could just as easily be my dog, or yours. Train your dogs, people! Punish the deed (and the owner), not the breed!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Comfort food.

As promised, I did make dinner last night! Quinoa Kitchari with Boca burgers and Mushroom-Onion Gravy. I think Red would have helped, but I was snappish and frazzled and thought he was making fun of me when he said the gravy looked good. *hangs head shamefacedly* I apologized and he got me a Blue Moon and I felt better.

Kitchari simply means mixture, and that’s what it is. It’s quinoa and red lentils simmered to a mush—a very tasty mush that is reminiscent of mashed potatoes. It probably won’t win any beauty prizes, but neither will anything else I make, so it’s all good. It would probably taste fine with other lentils, but the red ones really bring the mushiness to the party. I know that shouldn’t sound appetizing, but it works. It really does. It’s warm and filling, even though despite the spices and tamari, it’s pretty bland and can be dry. (See: quinoa and lentils.) Then again, so can mashed potatoes until you dress them up. If I eat it plain, I add extra salt and pepper and finish it off with some soy butter.

Last night, of course, we were in the gravy groove. It was fairly basic: onions, garlic, and mushrooms with herbs, broth, and a spelt flour-vegetable oil roux. Easy and tasty. It added a nice touch to the kitchari and acquitted itself admirably when we poured it over Boca burgers. I foresee it also being ladled lovingly over biscuits in the near future.

I can’t say too much about the Boca burgers, other than that I splashed them with a little tamari as they cooked. They always taste blah to me, even with all the delicious toppings in the world. Yet, for some reason, they are an integral part of Dog Food Surprise. Maybe I OD’d on them during my early vegetarian days, when the worlds of soy and vegetables seemed so alien. They must have offered a familiar, processed comfort. Now I don’t even want to take them to a cookout because they look so sad sitting there on the grill.

Anyway, dinner was a success. An ugly, monochromatic success, because when you have brown food and pale golden food and you cover it all with light brown gravy, you get the opposite of food porn. Hence, there is no picture because even if there was, you would have had to squint to tell that it wasn’t cat puke.

I digress. Can anybody really tell the difference between soy sauce and tamari? Am I wasting my money on the latter?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I WILL cook tonight!

That's all, really. Tonight I think we're making 30-Minute Vegan's Mushroom-Onion Gravy and Quinoa Kitchari, with the gravy smothering Ye Olde Boca Burgers. The kitchari is like a very strange yet delicious version of mashed potatoes. Homey and comforting, perfect for a cold and rainy day.

I'm also very excited about Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Vegan Brunch! It's not here yet, but it will be. Oh, yes. And when it is, I will go crazy all over Guacamole and Potato Tofu Omelets, Chocolate Beer Waffles (hell yes to beer for breakfast!), and Samosa Mashed Potato Pancakes. And then there is the whole baked-goods section. Hurry up, Amazon.

Today in epic douchebaggery.

Well, okay, last month. For some reason, I've been slow to respond to Jay Leno's epic fail of an interview with Chris Rock wherein they decry the harshness of Michael Vick's "punishment." Video is widely available, but here's the gist:

Jay Leno: "It's amazing to me that you mistreat a dog and you lose your career and go to jail for two years."

Chris Rock: "What the hell did Michael Vick do, man? A dog, a pit bull ain't even a real dog. A pit bull, that's the white stuff. Dogs are white man's best friend—dogs have never been good to black people."

I don't even know where to begin, so I'll just let this staggering insensitivity speak for itself.

Other people have addressed this far more eloquently than I have. Go read them.

Oh, Chris Rock. You're so fucking funny I just threw up a little.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Spaghetti!

Oh, hey. I just realized that I owe y’all a Vegan MoFo post. This isn’t gonna be much of one, because the weekend was overtaken with activist awesomeness and tons of sloppy doggie kisses. We basically subsisted on leftovers, but really needed to make something last night. We were too tired to bother with the grocery store (I tried to be domestic and at least get some laundry done, but what do you know, we’re out of laundry detergent too!), so I whipped up the one thing that everyone knows how to make: spaghetti.

I lie. It was rotini.

Whatever. I’m trying to be a good blogger. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but this is my foolproof anti-recipe for spaghetti.

Cook a package of noodles. I don’t care what shape, or if they’re white or whole wheat or rice noodles. Just make them. Drain them, too.

Chop some garlic and onion, if you have them. Normally I just toss ‘em in the chopper. We were onion-less, so I blended maybe 5 cloves of garlic and a few fire-roasted red peppers that were languishing in a jar at the back of the fridge. Whatever, they smelled fine. Sauté those for a few minutes in a little olive oil.

Throw in a bag of frozen pepper strips. Trader Joe’s makes good ones, though we used some other brand last night. When the peppers are softened, or at least less frozen, pour in a jar of pasta sauce. Ours was basil something-or-other. You know what I mean—as long as it’s vegan, it’s gonna be tasty. Mix everything up, add some salt and pepper and Italian seasoning if that’s your thing, maybe a little red wine if you’re already drinking some, and let it simmer for 5 or 10 minutes. I had a bag of my mom’s basil in the fridge, so I snipped some of that into the sauce as well. You may want to add a tablespoon of sugar if your sauce is bitter. Taste it. If you like it, it’s done. Pour it over your pasta and dig in.

This blog post is brought to you by the letters V and B and the number 6, which is approximately how many loads of laundry are waiting for me at home.

Baltimore gets Rescue Inked!

So, um, apparently this weekend was all about climate change actions. I had no idea, because my weekend was filled with burly men, tattoos, and pit bulls. In short, my weekend rocked.

As I told you here, New York-based animal rescue group Rescue Ink responded to our call (via a tattoo pledge) to bring their brand of in-your-face activism to Baltimore. This weekend, it happened. On Saturday, the Baltimore Tattoo Museum donated their time and services to ink everyone who wanted a pawprint tattoo. For $100 (split between Rescue Ink and the Baltimore Humane Society), each person chose either a pre-drawn dog or cat print. Red and I got there early, expecting a crowd. We weren’t the first in line, but we definitely made a good call in not sleeping in that morning. Because I’m difficult and had been planning to get Lucy’s pawprint for a while, I made the donation, then paid for my artist, Laura Rachel, to tattoo me with the print I made of Lu’s foot. Laura is a crazy-talented tattoo artist with an amazing spirit. After she tattooed me last year, I knew I’d be going back to her again. She was a great sport, letting a camera crew from a local university film us while she worked. It was the most badass fundraiser ever, I tell you! My parents even came to support us!

And did I mention how beautiful my new tattoo is? It truly looks like Lucy stepped in ink and then jumped on me. Oh, my sweet girl. She’s with me forever now. I can’t explain how happy I am to have been a part of this amazing day. Who says activism can’t be fun?!

On Sunday, Red and I headed to the Baltimore Humane Society for Pit Bull Awareness Day. The incredible people behind B-More Dog, a newer pit bull-advocacy group, put on a great program filled with pittie agility and drug-sniffing demonstrations, information sessions, and plenty of wonderful adoptable dogs to meet. Oh, and Rescue Ink showed up, too. They’d taken the train down from New York the night before, and after bemoaning Baltimore’s lack of nightlife (sorry, fellas), they graciously talked with everyone and posed for pictures. They signed my copy of their book, too, and complimented both my new tattoo and Lucy’s photos. It was a little weird pulling up my shirt in public for a bunch of strange dudes, but what the hell, it was for the pitties. They told us how bummed they were that they couldn’t make it for the tattoo fest, but they’d had a prior commitment. Oh, well. Next time, guys! We had a great crowd, too—enough people to generate a lot of positive energy and raise plenty of money, but not so many as to make the whole thing feel like a circus. Today, the guys are going to stick around and help with active animal-abuse cases and do a presentation at a local school before heading back home. As always, Jill at Unleashed is on top of it.

Johnny O, Joe Panz, Red, me, Big Ant, Batso, and Junior. Eric and G are off to the left somewhere.

I’ve been so overwhelmed with love all weekend. A lot of positive momentum was created, and I’m hopeful that all the dog advocates and responsible pit bull owners in Baltimore will continue to show the rest of the world that our dogs aren’t snarling monsters waiting to maul your toddler or have your kitten for dinner. If anyone has any doubts about that, Lucy will lick them silly. And, to quote Mr. T, I pity the fool who crosses Rescue Ink!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Crêpe-tastic.

Until we bought 30-Minute Vegan, making crêpes had never crossed my mind. I mean, why? They had milk and eggs in them, right? And they’re thin and flimsy and easy to burn and I would just tear a hole in one trying to flip it and it would suck and I would have nothing to eat except self-pity and a big bowl of crêpe batter.

Ahem. You see my dilemma.

Luckily, I have Red to encourage me in my more adventurous culinary pursuits. Plus, 30-Minute Vegan has been pretty reliable during the two months we’ve had it, so we finally took the plunge and made crêpes.

Dudes. SO not hard. I have no clue what I was so afraid of.

Crêpes are weird, to be sure, but the terrifying ultra-thin-pancake-of-doom scenario I had anticipated failed to materialize. Basically, you mix up a thin batter. Preheat two skillets on medium, add a few drops of oil if you’re nervous, then tilt each skillet as you pour in a ladle of batter and it spreads out in a nice circle. Give it three or four minutes, and when the edges start to peel up and the center is firm-ish, you get to flip it. (I’m told that bubbles will form, like with pancakes, but my crêpes must like to misbehave.) This is the kind-of-tricky part.

My flipping method is totally amateur, so use it at your own risk. I try pulling up one edge of the crêpe with tongs, and if doesn’t fall apart, I slip a wide spatula under there (this is where holding up the crêpe with the tongs helps) and flip the whole thing over. If it’s ready to be flipped, it won’t fall apart. If it does, oops.

I have also experimented with lifting the pan like I’m trying to flip the crêpe in midair, like fancy-ass French chefs do on TV. You know what I mean, right? Act like something’s in the pan and you want to fling it out of there. If you do this and the crêpe starts to come free of the pan (you’ll feel it), it’s ready to flip.

Give ‘em another couple minutes on the flipped side, then slide them onto a plate and into a warm oven while you do the rest. Monitoring two pans at a time can be tricky, but I haven’t burned anything yet. If you need to do one at a time, no worries. It will just take longer. I did tear an epic hole in my first crêpe last night, but I have a theory on this: 1) I was impatient. 2) The gluten hadn’t relaxed yet. I know, whaaaaa? Stay with me. In Vegan with a Vengeance, Isa suggests letting your pancake batter sit for about 10 minutes before starting to cook. This allows the gluten to relax, giving you a fluffier pancake. I have a hunch that something similar is in play with crêpes, because the first two are always tougher than the rest. Maybe they also need time to chill out before meeting their delicious destinies.

Now comes the fun part: filling your crêpes! So many wondrous possibilities. For our first crêpe experience, since we were having them for dinner, Red and I whipped up 30-Minute Vegan’s savory mushroom-spinach crêpe filling. Highly recommended. I like sweet things, even for dinner, so last night I re-heated some diced apples I had cooked with cinnamon and brown sugar and wrapped them up snugly in my crêpes. I drizzled a little maple syrup over them, which sort of tied everything together. For breakfast, I like to spread my crêpes with Tofutti cream cheese, sprinkle with brown sugar, then top with maple syrup. I’m thinking that cream cheese + jam would also be a good combination. The crêpes keep well in the fridge, so don’t worry about resurrecting a soggy, falling-apart crêpe for breakfast the next day.

Bon appétit!

Photo ripped from Finest Chef.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dosadillas: This is not a recipe.

Well, I guess maybe it is. There’s not much to it. It’s more like the lazy vegan’s version of a very good recipe published in VegNews. The Internet tells me that Robin Robertson’s Quick-Fix Vegetarian also has an excellent recipe.

Dosas, you have my heart.

What’s a dosa, you ask? A dosa is basically the Indian version of a taco or crêpe. It’s samosa filling folded inside flatbread, and if you don’t know what a samosa is, then God help you. It is heavenly. What I make are more accurately called “dosadillas” (not my word) since I just use tortillas instead of making my own fancy flatbread. What can I say? When I’m hungry, all pretense goes down the drain.

Here’s what I did last night. You’re supposed to use baked potatoes, but we didn’t have any. I parboiled 4 red potatoes instead. This was a decent substitute, but red potatoes don’t mash nearly as well, so the filling was lumpy. No matter. I sautéed some garlic (Red used the last onion, but that’s okay because he used it to make fried potatoes), then added a 10-oz. bag of frozen peas and carrots. I stirred in the potatoes, which still refused to be mashed, and added a teaspoon each of turmeric and curry. And a few shakes of salt, too. (Here I feel the need to clarify that I am normally much more elaborate with my spices, but as I said, we were hungry and short on time.) When everything is hot, move it to the other side of the stove and preheat a little (just a little) oil in a skillet.

This is the fun part. Once your filling has cooled a little, scoop some (1/4 cup? 1/3? I don’t know, people) into a tortilla and fold it over. Try not to use so much that your filling squeezes out of your dosadilla. Plus, you want to have extra room for chutney.

Place 2 dosadillas in the skillet over medium heat. Watch them so they don’t burn! After a few minutes, check the bottoms. If they’re brown to your liking, flip them over carefully. When they’re done, remove them from the heat (duh).

Red likes to spread chutney along one flat side of the dosadilla, then eat it with a knife and fork. I prefer to eat mine with my hands, dipping it into a small bowl of chutney as I go. I love mango-ginger chutney, but we recently picked up apple-cranberry as well. Red suggested that our next batch of dosas be more savory, with less Indian spice and more sage, which would go well with the apple-cranberry chutney. I’ll keep you posted!

Tonight I’m feeling like crêpes. This will be my second crêpe attempt, so I’m less nervous than I was before. Breakfast for dinner!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What a crock.

It’s fall, so that means it’s officially crock-pot season. My mother is a fine crock-pot cook, and I enjoyed many delicious pre-vegan meals ladled from her sturdy old crock. (It’s probably not that old. It might be older than I am, though.) So while I haven’t done a lot of crocking, I’m not a complete newbie.

I love my crock pot for the sheer fact of how I got it. Secondhand things are so much better, because they come with stories. “I just popped down to Bed Bath & Beyond and scored this sweet crock pot” is nowhere near as interesting as “The theater where I work cleaned out the kitchen and had a massive liquor sale, and my friend the bar manager threw in this crock pot for $10.” Which is exactly what happened, with the side notes that 1) I don’t work there anymore and 2) I also bought a lot of booze. I think I did, anyway. They were having liquor sales every other week for a while there.

Ahem. The crock pot. Red and I are in the middle of a psychotically busy week, the kind that makes you want to call in dead. We couldn’t do that, but we could adapt 30-Minute Vegan’s Homey Vegetable Stew with Dumplings to be crock pot-friendly. We had it with crusty bread, because we couldn’t find a way to work the dumplings into the crock-pot revision. Basically, we chopped a bunch of onions, garlic, potatoes, and carrots (with greens!), dumped them in the crock with some spices and broth, and left it in the fridge overnight. The next morning, I turned that baby on low before I left for work. When we got home, the whole house smelled like Thanksgiving without the animal murder.

It was tasty. Not the most transcendently awesome vegetable stew I have ever had, but I think we should give the original version a try and see how it compares. Something was mildly overpowering the vegetables, but I can’t figure out what it was. Maybe it needed less pepper, or thyme, or more soy sauce. Maybe the vegetables gain something from being sautéed first instead of just simmered all day. Beats me. What I do know is that it was easy, filled us up, tasted good with bread, and saved us from a dinnerless evening.

Crock pot, I love you. Now if only you were self-cleaning.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blueberry-pomegranate nibbles.

I think we can all agree that homemade is better, right? But what's a hungry vegan to do when she's on the go and can't always get to the kitchen, or wants to keep healthy snacks in her desk at work? I submit to you my solution: Mareblu Naturals Blueberry Pomegranate Trail Mix Crunch.

Now, that is a hella long name for a snack that is, when we get right down to it, granola bites. And don't worry, I'm not selling out to Mareblu and showering them with praise in exchange for kickbacks. (Though, if they're reading....) The stuff is just that good. Red and I were wandering around Costco one day, and I found these in the impulse aisle. You know the one I mean—it's right near the front, and it's got all the candy and chocolate and pretzels. Usually, nothing good lurks there. But the Mareblu Trail Mix Crunch must have been new, so they were pushing it hard.

I may have kicked up my heels a little when I read "100% Vegan" on the back of the bag. They're also gluten-free, wheat-free, and peanut-free (though certainly not tree-nut free). They don't have too much sugar or salt. Best of all, I can eat a handful—and my hands are small—and quiet my stomach's desperate whining. A coworker tried some, and immediately ordered me back to Costco to pick up a bag for her as well. (I did. She paid me.)

They are tasty little cubes of nomniness (Kelly @ easyVegan, I told you I was going to steal that!). That's all.

Photo ripped from Mareblu Naturals. Don't sue me after all the sunshine I just blew up your ass.