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 cafĂ© that offers soy milk. I’m sore as hell from my first two classes, but I feel great.

Friday, November 13, 2009


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.


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.