Tuesday, January 24, 2012

On decisions and Paula Deen

From my comment on care2.com.

I am never happy to hear of anyone getting bad news, especially about their health.  I truly am sorry for Ms. Deen.  I'm also sorry about her choices as a very public figure.

As far as I know there is no drug that doesn't have some degree of toxicity.  If that's her choice, to take drugs for her diabetes, it's her choice.  I personally think it's lazy if she hadn't tried to cure her disease with diet.  There are several doctors, which at her income level for sure, that she would have had unfettered access to, who have success with reversing diabetes and heart disease.  Ornish, MacDougal, Essylsten, Fuhrman, to name a few.  All have cookbooks and plans to take care of yourself with food.  Ms. Deen could have made a fortune tweaking recipes of that ilk.  If it doesn't work, well, drugs are your last resort, not a first choice.  (Just my opinion of course).

Ms. Deen lost a tremendous opportunity to take care of her country, its people, and one of it's major ills.  Instead she proved it's all about the money and not doing what's right.  The undermining of America comes in many forms. Encouraging personal choices which are not good for anyone except big agriculture and big food manufacturing companies.  Something should have clicked after one comes down with the very disease those on the health side of the equation have been shouting warnings about from the mountain tops for years.  When it didn't it just goes to bolster a claim of narcissism and denial.

To say it's not possible to change I point to Tyler Florence who although doesn't cook in a healthy manner, seems to be fit and trim and Alton Brown who redesigned his entire diet and made life changes to bring his weight under control.  ( http://www.foodnetwork.com/good-eats/its-not-a-diet/index.html ).  No, sorry Ms. Dean, this is a big swing and a miss.

I met Ms. Deen at a NYC book signing.  In our brief exchange I told her although I don't cook like her or eat like her I did enjoy her spirit.  She said it wasn't about the food but about bringing family together around the table.  Unfortunately, with a diagnosis of this magnitude, Ms. Deen's time at her family table will in all likelihood be cut short.

Marty from Marty's Flying Vegan Review

Monday, January 23, 2012

Not bad, Chinese Food in Elkhart, IN

You can only eat so many boca burgers and salad and microwave only so many Amy's in a hotel room before you need a nice cooked meal.  I had nothing to base my decision on since there were not all that many vegan options, i.e., one "vegan friendly" place.  That actually means nothing as any steakhouse can be "vegan friendly" by offering a salad, so any omission foods, (meat dishes without the meat), do not vegan friendly make.

So, Jade Garden.  It's a tiny place with 4 tables and on this frigid January night, a small space heater.  The place was freezing and a couple, (turned out waiting for their take out food), had that little heater pointing right at their table in the corner.   It took a few cups of tea to warm up my fingers.  There's no vestibule so every time someone came in or left, (and there were about 8 people coming and going with their take out orders), the temperature dropped 30 degrees.

The front door, plastic on the windows, and the heater at my right elbow which you can't see pointing away from me.
I thought the menu had some vegetable soong but apparently there are two restaurants.  The other restaurant, I was told,  had more tables, a sushi bar, and a regular bar in addition to what appears to be the menu found online.  I found out about this after I paid my bill but hopefully among that list of amenities one would have included heat.

Yes, of course I switched tables.  So I could study.
I saw one vegetable dish and the waitress couldn't really tell me what was in the sauce but when I asked about chicken stock she said there wasn't any.  She then pointed out a dish with tofu and veggies and suggested that so I ordered it very spicy and I confirmed there was no animal products used in its preparation.  I asked about brown rice and she asked if I wanted fried rice.  I'm not in New York.  (I know that was a snobby thing to say but sometimes I think like a snobby New Yorker.)  I asked for veggie fried rice and she said there was only scallions in it.  It became apparent I wasn't going to get my custom made meal so I just said, "sure," and asked for no egg.  I'm surprised I remembered that.

The fried rice was good although not super flavorful and as promised, just had brown and scallions.  The tofu dish was nicely spicy but although the waitress later said it was only chili oil it had a tomato-ey, at first thought ketchup-y, taste.  Not bad but predicable flavor.  The dish had no bok choy but did have fresh and crunchy cooked broccoli and snow peas with a mix of the standard canned water chestnuts and mushrooms.  It was a very colorful dish as well.  The tofu was deep fried and had a bit of a chewy texture.  Not in a bad way but not just pressed and added to soak up the sauce.  It wasn't a "healthy" meal although it was vegan as far as I could tell and definitely satisfying and warming when the temp outside, (and inside), plummets.

Next time I'm definitely going to give the other Jade Garden a try.  About this one, don't go in the winter if you are going to enjoy a sit down meal.

My mom used to spend this much on dinner ... in 1965.  It was a ton of food for 8 bucks.

 OK, so of course, at the end of the meal the waitress puts down the requisite fortune cookie and I with typical dopamine infused mindlessness open it up and down it in 2 chomps.  The out of curiosity I look at the wrapper.  Egg.  Egg?  Oh yes, apparently the fortune cookie would have just sucked without that uber special ingredient.  It's a good thing I truly believe that being vegan is not about perfection.  I mentioned it to the waitress in passing and reminded myself that apparently the word "vegan" is from the latin word, "veganeyeballis" which means read the damn labels.  If you want to be 100% sure about ingredients never ever eat out or only choose 100% vegan restaurants.  Uhm, yeah, that's not going to happen.

Jade Gardens on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It's Getting Better All The Time

I keep saying that being vegan isn't "hard" it just takes a bit more work.  That being said its hard enough being vegan let along traveling as a vegan so I am overjoyed, (well, a little less joyed than "over"), when I see that food businesses in the airports the traveling public uses actually make an effort to fill our needs.  I do look forward to the day when 85% of the food available is vegan but with 1% of the population, (3%), we're getting more than 1% of the food choices.

Here's what was available at LaGuardia, B terminal.  Its all pre made and I didn't have a chance to hunt for anything that was made fresh on the menus of the restaurants but this is what I came across:

OK, well, that's not it but will someone puhleeease let me know when V-Spot opens up again.  Thanks you.

Here is what I see as I walk onto the B concourse in LaGuardia.  All clearly marked with the word, "VEGAN."  Now why is it easier to shop in LaGuardia Airport for a vegan meal than in Fairway?  Insane.

Couscous, Pad Thai, and Orzo.  What's so hard about this?!
Then I get to Midway Airport in Chicago.  I have about an hour to wait for the other pilot to arrive so I slowly stroll down the concourse looking for anything hopefully vegan.  Then I am hit over the head by "Sprigs."  Now if the name isn't enough to make a vegan look twice I don't know what is.  Of course there's the usual dead animal fare but those bins on the wall are FULL of greens.

Yelp reviews were mixed and I didn't try anything for lunch but wouldn't it be so nice if the dressings were labeled with things such as "VEGAN"??  So close and yet, here you'd be, playing the 20 questions game.

At least there are more options and at least they're disguised as being more healthy.  With a little bit of digging I'm sure there was a vegan option or two.

Safe travels.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Veg News Bahn Mi Recipe

Bahn Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich on French Bread.  VegNews just published a recipe from Robin Robertson.  I've had really good results from her books and recipes and here are the steps in living color.  

The recommendation is to freeze, thaw, and then press the tofu.  I don't have time for such nonsense.  (Well, ok, there is a rock solid frozen tub of tofu defrosting in my fridge right now but I really really am motivated to just pick up a recipe and cook.  I hate when the first thing a recipe says is, "Three days ago you should have started to ... "

The only thing I didn't have in my pantry, (as it were), was a Daikon radish.  No problem, 4 blocks away is Fairway market.  They had it.  Hey, this is New York.  I could probably buy a howitzer if I wanted ... at 3 in the morning, so picking up a radish is really no sweat.

As in anything you pickle or marinate it should be done in advance.  I gave it about an hour, mixing the carrot and radish, after julienning on a mandolin, about an hour.  It was good enough.

Here's the pressed, (unfrozen) tofu just sautéing in peanut oil.  (Dr. Fuhrman, avert your eyes).  It crisps up slightly to a light light brown.

You sauté the tofu and while this is sizzling away I mixed up the sauce.

Basic asian sauce: soy, hoisin, and sriracha.

Adding the sauce to the tofu.  The tofu was cooked in 2 batches.

Now to build the sandwich.  Vegan mayo, tofu, scallions, (my touch), and sriracha on the top half of the bread.

Keep building by adding the carrot/daikon layer and throw on some jalapeños for laughs.  Actually, these were Roland brand and weren't all that hot.

The finished sandwich.  It had to really be held together to keep everything from squirting out.  I have to work on the bread resistance factor to the interior smash ration but the taste was phenomenal, sweet, tangy, spicy heat, and fat from the mayo.  As you can see I'm terrible with recipes sometimes.  I added mayo to both halves and added the forgotten cilantro to the second half of the sandwich.  Even better.

Thanks Robin.

Second half with mayo under the sriracha and cilantro.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

No vegan pizza near you? No problem!

Inspired by a tweet pic 

Vegan pizza with seitan pepperoni, veggie sausage, and cashew ricotta. Because my bf is the best.twitpic.com/81vg48  I can't figure out why the pic isn't appearing but the link <--- works.

I had a craving for some real good vegan pizza.  I live on the Upper East Side of friggin' Manhattan and not ONE pizzeria has Daiya Cheese or vegan toppings.  Unless you want a plain ole veggie pie with just sauce.  What's that?  Someone called it a Bruschetta!  (www.cadryskitchen.com) Perhaps it was in one of her black and white vignettes.  

So I ordered a whole wheat pie with veggies.  I think I asked for mushrooms, peppers and onions but they also threw on a ton of broccoli and tomatoes.  That's ok but if you load up a pizza it starts to steam the stuff on top instead of cooking it with dry heat, especially if it's wet stuff like tomato.

Next it was time to raid the fridge.  I had some cheese from Scotland that I wanted to finish up.  I got it from Vegan-essentials.com.  I wasn't thrilled with it, at almost $6 a pop but wanted to give it a try.  It's easier to just walk down to the 3 places within 5 blocks that have Daiya cheese. (OK, so there just MIGHT be an advantage or two to living in Manhattan).  I had two kinds of Daiya, the Bute Island Foods Mozzarella and some Smart Deli Pepperoni.  I was, so to speak, culinarily armed to the hilt.

Weapons of choice.
 I have a stone in the oven and I crank up the broiler and let it run for about 15 minutes.  Since this was going to be gloppy and drippy with melted cheese I put it on aluminum foil and tossed that on the stone, hoping to crisp up the bottom.  It didn't work.  And the Scot cheese didn't melt as well as the Daiya.  All that being said, it's not the worst way to get a vegan pizza on New Years Day Eve.

I still am not sure that Kayla's doesn't look better.

Vegan, what's your job?

I have so much to catch up on from the California trip but this has been on my mind lately and perhaps a bit more important than restaurant reviews.  (I know, I know, ya gotta eat.)

I was at a Vegan Drinks in NY the other week and was having a conversation with someone who basically said that, as far as talking to other people about veganism, he didn't do it.  His being vegan was, "enough."  I told him that I had to somewhat disagree with him.

From my pics and writings you know that if I'm not working and in a uniform I ALWAYS wear something with a vegan-ish message.  My tee shirts or buttons are the easiest way to strike up a conversation with someone who either will say, "Harrumph," give me a thumbs up, or just make some comment or other.  It doesn't matter what the comment is, they've just opened up the door for me to talk about veganism with a complete stranger.  It's rare that someone says, "Hey, I'm a vegan too," but even that will give me the opportunity to talk about what they do and how they participate in the vegan community.  Most of the time I hear all of those standard comments that, if you're vegan, you're all too familiar with.

If they tell me about how much steak they hardly eat anymore I'll start talking about how much I eat and asking questions about why they cut down.

If they tell me how they couldn't ever be a vegan I'll tell them about how my grandfather was a butcher and as a kid I worked on the fishing boats in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn and thought the same thing at one point in time.

If they tell me about how they have a rescue dog, (I do wear a spay/neuter button on one of my knapsacks ... one of my few single issue buttons), I'll ask them if they ever rescued a pig.

I will start to talk about diet and health, environmental issues and compassion and wherever I get a glimmer or a "Hmmm," I know that that is the direction the conversation will take.  I figure I only have a minute or two in random encounters whilst out and about.  What's my goal?  What's my job?

Well, I figure that the most important thing I can do is the equivalent of moving that first grain of sand under a ship that's run aground.  I want to plant, minimally, the smallest of doubt, the first formation of questioning the status quo of food and how we treat animals.  I know that the odds of the lightbulb going off in the short time I interact with this stranger are slim to none.  (Although recently someone pointed to my "My Food Didn't Scream" button and said in that moment they "got it" ... so it can happen ... like love at first sight).  The odds are much greater that I can implant a thought to change the mindlessness of food consumption in that persons life.  If I do that and you do that and the next vegan does that who knows if, (not when), the news of the next animal flesh recall or mad cow outbreak headline  will finally push this person over the vegan line.  I don't know.  Perhaps you'll have been the person to move that grain and I'll be the one to add the final push.

I just heard a lecture by Dr. Steven Best.  He raises some interesting points that shifted my thought process, (and caused me to get off my butt and write this), about our vegan movement.  How much time do we have left if scientists say that by 2050 there will be no fish left in the sea?  And there will be 8.9 billion people* to feed.  And the polar ice caps will have melted?

His statement that we're not in the 6th century, acting like we have all the time in the world, but the 21st and time is literally working against us, really struck home.  China's middle class is about the same size as the entire U.S. population ... and they all want meat.  300 million new meat eaters.  If we don't work at making people come over to the vegan side we are definitely going to be losing this war, and this world!

It's in English, subtitled in German.

I think it's a good use of a half hour of your time.  I think I'm better able to serve this movement working my job and making a salary and blogging and being an activist than I am sitting in jail for some direct action at this point in my life but you'll have to make your own decisions about what he suggests we ought to be doing.

Our job is to make more vegans.  Make a lot more vegans.  And do it soon.

Start conversations with anyone the least bit interested in hearing what you have to say.  Talk about their health, talk about the environment, talk about compassion and speciesism.  One of those will strike a chord.  Do it every day.  Do it twice a day.  We need a groundswell and we need it now.