Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What Vegans Eat

With the holidays just a few days and a nearly two-week long internet hiatus looming for me, I figured that now would be as good a time as any to take that periodic peek at what's been happening on some of my favourite vegan food blogs.

Nathan Kozuskanich shared a recipe for Green Potato Soup on his Vegan Dad blog a little less than a week ago. With heaps of leeks, chard and spinach, it looks as good as I've no doubt it tastes. It sounds like the perfect thing to ladle into a big bowl and curl up on the sofa with to watch holiday claymation specials.

Mike K at Vegan for the People posted a couple of recipes over the past few weeks that caught my attention and that I hope to try out soon. One is for Sesame Long Beans with Five Spice Tofu and the other for Somali Sambusas. The sambusas are filled with lentils , scallions and cilantro and seasoned with spices like cardamom, cumin and coriander. They sound wonderful --and I'm not just sayin' that because I'm a huge fan of filled things and finger foods.

Speaking of filled things, check out the Baked Whole Wheat Empanadas recipe Alicia shared with her readers on the Vegan Epicurean blog. This blog is relatively new to me and I'm already sold on it after looking over the dozen or so most recent recipes and their photos. I also appreciate that she includes nutritional information on the recipes she posts. I'll be lurking over there a fair bit in the New Year, I'm sure.

Just in time for holiday entertaining for those who like to cater to their guests sweet tooths, Claire at Chez Cayenne offered up a recipe last Saturday for Orange-Chocolate-Chocolate Chip cookies. She also provided a recipe for those who like to cater to those guests who like to indulge a little to engage in their holiday merrymaking: Vegan Irish Cream! (By the way, for some great info on chocolate and what is or isn't vegan, check out this 2006 blog post by cookbook author Dreena Burton!)

Cookbook author Bryanna Clark Grogan featured a recipe for a simple Rustic Apple-Almond Cake on her blog a few days ago that does indeed sound like a yummy treat to have on hand for family or friends who might come calling.

Finally, the six vegans over at Cooking from 1,000 Vegan Recipes have been busy! As of last Saturday, they'd prepared 155 out of the 1000 recipes in Robin Robertson's book. Go have a look at the gorgeous photos of the dishes they've reproduced from it. Better yet, buy the book and cook along with them, using their notes as pointers.

So there you have it--the last instalment of "What Vegans Eat" for 2009. If you think that going vegan is hard because your food options somehow become limited, or, if you're just stuck in a food rut and can't think of what to make for dinner, read the food blogs mentioned above (as well as those whose links I've listed off to the right) and let yourself be convinced otherwise.

Go vegan and stay vegan and enjoy the good healthy eats that come with it!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Why Erik Marcus Really Needs a New Domain Name - Part 2

Jonathan Safran Foer mentions 'suffering' over and over throughout his interview with Erik Marcus, making it clear, in case any of his readers or the podcast's more distracted listeners were still somehow left wondering, that his concern is with the treatment--not with the use--of nonhuman animals. His views on those who do take issue with the use of animals altogether get revealed as the interview takes a less-than-interesting turn and vegan advocacy suddenly gets kicked around like a crumpled soda pop can on a dirty beach. That old familiar shaming game begins and Marcus and Foer play off of each other to display how they have a heap more in common than merely having written books about factory farming.

It's sad enough when those who are either unsupportive of or outright opposed to veganism and vegan advocacy (and who themselves choose to exploit animals) can't articulate their stances any better than to ridicule vegans and equate consistency with fanaticism; it makes me wonder about what truly motivates people to say the things they do, however, when someone who is purportedly a vegan decides to turn on other vegans for having the (gasp!) audacity to talk to people other than vegans about veganism. Considering that as early as p. 6 of his book, Foer brings up the term "proselytizer" in his first mention of someone's having talked to him about the ethics of eating animals, the remainder of the interview, although horribly disappointing, is not particularly full of surprises.

Marcus' voice takes on an almost gleeful quality as he suggests that in writing his book, Foer left himself open to criticism "from hardcore level 5 vegans in our movement". Foer insists that he's all for criticism and then indulges in a fair bit of it himself, dancing a little jig around the ethics of eating animals while talking about "steps". Foer questions whether we should really be asking people to take the "first" step (i.e. any lessening at all of animal consumption) or the "last" step (i.e. veganism); he then suggests that it is altogether unreasonable to ask people to start by taking the "last" step. He insists that asking people to take the "first" step introduces the issue in a way that is "cast less militantly" and "opens a conversation".

For someone who asserts in this interview and elsewhere that he is no animal activist, Foer certainly seems to have rather strong opinions about how advocacy and activism
should be carried out. The thing is that I can understand to a certain extent why an on-again, off-again vegetarian of many years who has yet--even after researching a book about the horrors of factory farming-- to make the decision to go vegan would perpetuate the myth that going vegan is extreme or that going vegan is difficult. We all have baggage when it comes to personal weakness; it seems somewhat disingenous, however, for Foer to project his weakness on to the public and to so grossly underestimate the average person's ability to hear and respond to a clear vegan message. And that Marcus, a vegan, should not see fit to point that out to Foer was what was perhaps the most shameful part of the interview.

But it doesn't stop there...

Foer insists that taking a first step (e.g. skipping meat for one day a week) always leads to a second and further step. Prof. Gary L. Francione, though, has successfully argued here and here both how and why this isn't the case. Foer then backtracks by asserting that even if those small steps "are the only steps made" that it still "makes a tremendous difference". The truth is that coddling anyone into thinking that any level of animal exploitation is OK since they've made a "tremendous difference" in dropping this or that animal product does a disservice to them and merely confuses them about what it is that we in fact owe animals. Marcus, however, states explicitly that he condones small changes that never lead to veganism. He describes what he calls his "two track activism", by which on one hand he a) purports to want to convince anyone and everyone that veganism is simple, but that b) if they're "absolutely unwilling", he still thinks that it's "a big win" to convince them to eat less meat or at least buy "more expensive" meat from animals that are not factory farmed. It's patronizing at best and dishonest at worst to communicate this sort of wishy-washy message in lieu of a clear and honest message. Furthermore, it would be an understatement to express the disservice that holding this mindset, and consuming accordingly, does to the nonhuman animals who do happen to be the unlucky ones who continue to be used by humans who've received this message from purported animal advocates. Is focusing on that first step and following it up with a pat on the back not really more akin, then, to taking two steps back while losing an opportunity to get someone to consider veganism?

Foer and Marcus bring up abolitionism and eventually switch the term out to opt for 'absolutist'. Foer describes abolitionism as drawing a line in the sand and then focusing on how to get others to draw their lines in the same place, rather than getting them to work "toward" that line as a "goal". In saying so, Foer shows a complete lack of understanding of the abolitionist approach to animal rights and the way in which vegan education is often conducted. Prof. Francione has repeatedly said in interviews, himself, that incremental change is encouraged as long as it involves moving forward towards the ultimate goal of going vegan. What's not condoned by abolitionists is the sort of incremental change that goes nowhere and merely serves to reinforce someone's views that in giving up this or that animal product, he or she has done enough and should not feel concerned or guilty about continuing to exploit nonhuman animals.

Where abolitionists believe that people have the ability to hear, process and react to a clear vegan message, Marcus takes an altogether different view. He describes assessing which message should be communicated to non-vegans as an issue of "trust", where someone like Foer feels that getting someone to the first step and then letting that person suss things out (whether or not this entails a progression to the logical conclusion of going vegan) shows that Foer "trusts" the recipient of the message. On the other hand, according to Marcus, others who are adamant about delivering an unequivocal vegan message don't, in fact, trust the message's recipients:

I think a lot of the absolutist position really has to do with distrusting your listener. [...] I am going to proscribe for you exactly what kind of behaviour you should be carrying out and if you come up anywhere short of that, or god forbid you advocate lesser steps to others, then you don't get to be in the camp of good people who care about animals.
Not only is this a total mischaracterization, but it is completely mean-spirited (and that's as generous a term as I could come up with). Marcus knows better than this, which is why I have to ask why he would deliberately try to deceive his listeners about abolitionists who are unequivocal about the need for nonviolent creative vegan education, and who instead put a great deal of faith into the ability of others to be able to connect the dots when presented with a clear message concerning the immorality of using nonhuman animals.

Furthermore, Marcus rants that the most "objectionable term" he's heard is the expression "moral baseline" and that using it suggests to people "that if they don't go vegan, automatically they're immoral people" and Marcus says that the more you "judge other people's integrity or quality as a person" the more opportunity you have to "alienate" those people. The irony in all of this is that on top of completely misrepresenting advocacy or education that has an unequivocal vegan message, Marcus is pretty much doing exactly what he accuses abolitionists of doing--finger-pointing, judging, questioning integrity and alienating.

Insisting that not consuming or exploiting animals should be a starting point--a moral baseline--for expressing that one is taking their interests seriously is logical. If one were advocating against rape, would Marcus tell us that it's objectionable to insist that if one is to take the interests or rights of rape victims seriously that one should start by themselves not raping others? It would be speciesist of Marcus to agree with one scenario and not the other. (For more information on why veganism needs to be the moral baseline of the animal rights movement, please read this essay on the Abolitionist Approach website by Prof. Francione.)

Erik Marcus ends his interview with Jonathan Safran Foer by stating that if you want to consider yourself an activist or if you're truly seriously interested in animal protection that you absolutely "have to" read Foer's book. I disagree and assert that if you want to consider yourself an animal rights activist and are truly seriously interested in animal protection that you should start by going vegan. In his write-up for his podcast interview with Foer, he claims that Eating Animals "will become the default title recommended by vegetarian activists for the next decade". Perhaps that is so, but I am fairly confident that, contrary to what Marcus in all of his confusion may also believe, Foer's book will never become the default title recommended by vegan activists for the next decade. I am also fairly confident that vegan Erik Marcus will never become the default animal advocate whose name gets recommended by vegan activists for the next decade. At least one can hope.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Why Erik Marcus Really Needs a New Domain Name - Part I

I've been reading Jonathan Safran Foer's book, Eating Animals, for the past couple of weeks now, squeezing in a paragraph here or there during lunch breaks and usually scribbling as many words down--shaking my head in disbelief--as actual words I've read. Around a month ago, I had a conversation with a vegan writer on Twitter about Foer's recent media darling status. She asked if I'd read the book and I told her 'no', and that the idea of actually spending money on such a thing was disconcerting to me, given all that I'd read about it. She suggested I contact the publisher to obtain a sample copy to review for my blog, and so began my slow trudge through what I'm starting to suspect may end up being the most beautifully written piece of absolute garbage I've ever read. (I'll reassess that once I get to the end, of course, when I plan to write a review of it--an autopsy, more or less.)

So Foer has been all over the news on the internet, in magazines and in newspapers. Kathy Freston, vegan cleanse diet guru (who enjoyed her own fifteen minutes of being a media darling a few months ago thanks to PETA-approved Oprah), recently called him
"the Michael Pollan of a younger generation". Now, the last time I checked, Michael Pollan wasn't trying to talk anyone into going vegan. Neither is Jonathan Safran Foer, for that matter. In fact, from interviews, it seems that Foer isn't even necessarily bent on talking anyone into becoming a vegetarian, so it made enough sense that someone who made her name talking a famous talk-show host into adopting a vegan "diet"either for a month for health reasons should compare him to a guy like Pollan, who is known for promoting a trend known as "ethical" omnivorism. They're all people who seem to be cashing in on various food-related trends that, on some level or another, either directly involve or lead to the excusing away of varioius types of animal exploitation. What amazed me, however, was to hear fellow-vegans pick up on the Foer-mania and start lauding him for supposedly promoting veganism.

One such vegan is Erik Marcus, who's apparently written a couple of books about factory farming (neither of which I've read) and who happens to own the domain Vegan.com where he serves up what he refers to on Twitter as his "snark" (often just links to news stories about meat consumption, with a line or two of commentary) and where he features episodes of his podcast which is listed on iTunes as VegTalk (which, given the number of times Paul Shapiro has been a guest during the past several months might be more appropriately called HSUSTalk).

Marcus recently announced on Twitter that he'd be interviewing the non-vegan Foer and asked his followers what they'd like him to ask Foer. No surprise that many of the responses included asking Foer 1) why he doesn't promote veganism and 2) why after having done all of the research into factory farming that he did for the book, Foer is not vegan (he's on the record as being an on-again, off-again vegetarian at best). Marcus blew a gasket after Adam Kochanowicz, host of the Vegan News, offered his suggestion:

AbVegan @VeganDotCom Ask yourself why you're interviewing him. Ask Foer why he's not a vegan.
To which Marcus responded, tweeting:
VeganDotCom I should ask Foer how he's already managed to accomplish a million times more for farmed animals than what you've done. @AbVegan
Numerous tweets from various animal advocates imploring Marcus to elaborate upon what it was, exactly, that Foer had supposedly accomplished that was a million-fold better than Kochanowicz for "farmed animals" more or less went unanswered (albeit with Marcus' repeated insistence that Foer's having merely appeared on "Martha and Ellen" was somehow concrete evidence of his having made a difference in the lives of the animals we enslave to slaughter and eat). Other ignored tweets pointed out that on his own website's main page, Foer directs people to where they can buy locally raised turkeys to eat. Why indeed, as Kochanowicz asked, would a vegan who claims to be pro-veganism get excited over interviewing someone who exploits animals and enables and assists others in exploiting them?

So on with the interview...

Marcus starts the interview off gushing over how much he and Foer have in common, particularly since they've both written about factory farming (Marcus returns to this gushing state several times in his interview, but in the interest of not overstating what was already embarrassingly overstated, I'll refrain from revisiting it myself). They talk about the wrongful vilification of farmers, described by Foer as being mostly people who "care" about the animals they raise for food, but who are somewhat helpless when it comes to whatever technology they use to confine and kill and who are ultimately driven by consumer demand. Where demand driving exploitation is concerned, they get it right. Unfortunately the portrayal of helpless and caring farmers gets carried a bit far by Foer as he goes on about all of the farmers he met who were bona fide members (or former members) of PETA. He then goes to talk about what he calls "values" these farmers apparently share with
"animal rights activists", citing this as the reason there is a need for animal activists to move "away from obsession with the divisive questions which, frankly, right now, in America, are not the relevant questions".

At this point, I wondered how much coaching Marcus did before this interview. I don't recall Foer ever using the term 'divisive' before, but it's been volleyed at abolitionists (and particularly at Prof. Gary L. Francione) innumerable times to silence differing opinions (usually when those abolitionists' opinions involve rejecting regulationist welfarism--which
perpetuates the continued exploitation of nonhuman animals--and insisting on vegan advocacy that has as its goal the end of the exploitation of nonhuman animals). It's no wonder that Foer would conflate animal advocates with farmers, or confuse animal rights advocates with animal welfare advocates, given that throughout the interview, Marcus himself refers to the animal movement as the "vegetarian movement" and sometimes seems to use 'vegan' and 'vegetarian' interchangeably. But I'm getting sidetracked when there's so much more to cover...

I'll be doing that in Part II of my Marcus/Foer love-in review tomorrow.

THE WORLD IS VEGAN! If you want it.

Yesterday, Prof. Gary L. Francione wrote on his Abolitionist Approach website about setting up a virtual billboard to "spread the message that nonviolence against our nonhuman brothers and sisters is possible—if we want it". To do so:

Send this message on all your social message boards and ask your friends to send it on theirs. Text your friends and ask them to text their friends. Add this message to your signature line on your emails. Let’s start a friendly wave of creative, nonviolent vegan education.
Today, the remarkably multi-talented Vincent Guihan (who writes the We Other Animals blog and maintains the abolitionist Animal Emancipation discussion forum) created some banners that can be used for this very purpose. You can find them here (along with their HTML code) and re-post or distribute them freely.

Take the opportunity to share your vegan story when you do, or to talk to people about how easy--and right--it is to go vegan!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Veganism (?) in the Media

I read several months ago how singer Alanis Morissette ended up getting a good little chunk of media attention after having shed 20 lbs. The press, of course, is eternally obsessed with publishing reports about women entertainers losing and / or gaining weight. In this case, Alanis made the rounds attributing her weight loss to her switch to a vegan "diet". Back in January, the "green gossip" site Ecorazzi was proclaiming:

Alanis Morissette has joined the ranks of compassionate celebrities by making public her commitment to the vegan lifestyle! HELL, YEAH!!
Of course, the size of the grain of salt with which I took that statement can be surmised just by reading the last sentence of the Ecorazzi blurb, which encourages readers to "join" Alanis by making "the resolution to go meat-free in 2009". Later in October, I'd blogged about another Ecorazzi story applauding more examples of (meaninglessness) supposed celebrity veganism.

Of course, when you actually step back and look at the big picture, adopting a vegan "diet" as an end in and of itself for weight loss purposes (i.e. while continuing to use animal products in every other facet of your day-to-day life) is really just another variation on the same sort of piecemeal eschewing of animal exploitation that going meat-free ultimately is, no? Welfarists will insist that "every little bit counts" and that somehow, whether the people picking and choosing which animal products to consume (or not consume) know it or not, "every little bit" is a potential step forward towards complete veganism.

Today, I read a story that served as a good reminder of how as long as our own self-interest is the motivation to stop consuming this or that animal product, there's no guarantee of any forward motion at all. In fact, in the January 2010 issue of Runner's World, Alanis proclaims that she's taken a few steps back and is now a "semivegan" and that she's "about 90 percent vegan". She said she thinks that veganism is "good for training"; it's a shame she doesn't think that veganism is good for nonhuman animals.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

So Says Twitter About Dear Peter Singer

Recent news making the rounds on Twitter is that utilitarian ethicist and animal lover Peter Singer, has agreed to participate in a debate with abolitionists Gary L. Francione and Gary Steiner. That is, he's "agreed" to do so for a $10,000 fee, and only after being permitted to discuss the proposed topics beforehand because of issues he has with them. Oh, and the $10,000 fee would be forwarded to welfarist organization "Vegan" Outreach. General consensus amongst many whose eyes got sore rolling at the news on Twitter is that Peter Singer seems to have become more interested in posturing and self-promotion than in actually engaging in dialogue or debate to earnestly further animal interests. It's a shame that given an opportunity to articulate his beliefs to educate others that he would choose, instead, to make what seems to be some sort of thumb-nosing gesture. Could it be that the purported father of animal liberation has become a deadbeat-dad of sorts?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Why Veganism Needs to be the Moral Baseline

Here's a short 2008 interview on Animal World with Prof. Gary L. Francione discussing why veganism needs to be the moral baseline of the animal rights movement.

A Closer Look at Animal Rights from Gary L. Francione on Vimeo.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Not 'How', but 'Why'

I read an article this morning by columnist Anne Else of New Zealand's Independent News Media ("A fair adjectival cow: Why cubicle farming is a really bad idea") that got me thinking again of how crucial it is that abolitionists continue to educate people--whether inside or outside of the animal advocacy movement--about the immorality of using nonhuman animals. When welfarists focus on regulating the treatment of animals, they miss the whole point; this focus implies that one some level, it's moral to continue enslaving nonhuman animals and depriving them of the very basic right to live out their own lives without existing solely to satisfy the selfish pleasures of those who exploit them and the others who provide the demand for this exploitation. There are so many people talking about treatment right now for any number of reasons; reading their morally confused arguments and assertions just adds so much more weight to my conviction that to do anything other than focus on use detracts from the problem at hand. Focusing on treatment is in fact detrimental when attempting to educate others about taking the interests of nonhuman animals seriously.

So, Anne Else wrote an article expressing a fair amount of outrage over a recent plan in New Zealand to house 18,000 cows being used for their milk in cubicles. In all fairness, Else makes it clear that she is not an animal activist. She writes:

I'm not a vegetarian, let alone a vegan, and I don't stick to organically produced food. But I do care about how the animals that produce my food are treated. And I'm convinced that ensuring our already rather battered claims to be clean, green and 100% pure become a reality is the only way our economy can survive, let alone prosper.
So Else is not someone who thinks that it's wrong to consume animals or their products. She consumes them quite happily herself, whether or not they have the sort of meaningless so-called humane stamp of approval they would have if certified as having been produced according to organic standards. Nope, Else is concerned about appearances. It would look bad to consumers if New Zealand farmers were to start adopting means of raising cows since the "clean green" image [they] depend on so heavily will be completely down the tubes" and the "reputation of [the] entire dairy production will be tainted". She even quotes a member of New Zealand's Green Party as saying: "British consumers literally taste freedom when they eat New Zealand butter."

Freedom, huh?

Else goes on to shift her focus somewhat to how the cows in question will be fed and the environmental impact this will have. She writes that the cows will likely be fed the recent subject of much media controversy--palm kernel expeller, and that New Zealanders will become complicit in the destruction of "fragile rainforest environments". For insight into the palm kernel expeller controversy in New Zealand, please read Elizabeth Collins' Independent Media Centre piece from this past September ("Why are we blaming the farmers?") and listen to Episode 38 of her New Zealand Vegan Podcast. There's not much else that I can say about it, except to agree wholeheartedly with Elizabeth that if there was no consumer demand for cow's milk, this palm kernel expeller fiasco wouldn't be an issue in the first place. (But I digress, since Else's article isn't about use, but about how they are used--their treatment.)

Else raises other concerns about the cubicles that deal with the cows' health and the discharge of their effluent into the surrounding area and the ensuing environmental toll. With this, she brings the article's focus back to her initial concern--that of appearances:
Even if they do manage to meet all the requirements and keep damage to cows' health, and to the environment, to a minimum, what is the point of farming this way in grassy, temperate New Zealand? There can be only one answer: because it enables inhospitable, fragile, and otherwise "unprofitable" landscapes, such as the stunning Mackenzie Basin, to be turned into a conglomeration of giant factory farms. We will indeed be catching up with the rest of the world.
So throughout this article, which takes issue with a new method introduced in New Zealand to confine cows used for their milk, it's made clear that this treatment of them will harm New Zealand's reputation as a provider of happy grass-fed cow produced milk. Hell, it will also harm the appearance of the landscape surrounding the area where the cows will be confined! This really big knot of superficial concerns revolves around the 18,000 or so cows at the center of the story who will, indeed, continue to be used as things to produce the milk products the industry wants to sell to the consumers who are demanding them.

Else managed to write an entire article loosely focused on the treatment of these 18,000 cows, and nowhere in it is the use of these cows ever questioned, since it's a given to Else (and others who in any way ever discuss the treatment of nonhuman animals) that these cows will indeed continue to be used, however it happens. It's also a given for welfarist groups like HSUS, which uses millions in donations to mount campaigns that concern themselves with how animals are used instead of questioning why they are used. This is why it's crucial, if the actual interests of nonhuman animals are to be taken seriously, that someone deliver a clear and consistent abolitionist message; this is why it's crucial that nonviolent and creative vegan education be a strong main focus of animal rights campaigns. Otherwise, we're not leaving people asking why nonhuman animals are being used or considering the morality of their continuing to use them. If we truly want to strive toward abolishing the exploitation of nonhuman animals, we need to get others asking the right questions--not 'how', but 'why'.

Talk to someone about veganism today.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Makin' Tempeh!

My friend Mark makes his own tempeh and recently documented his latest attempt for me so that I could blog about it. I'm including his instructions and the photos he kindly took to accompany them.

Homemade Tempeh
(makes about 2 lbs)


1 lb (2.5 cups) dried, cracked, dehulled soybeans

2 tsp tempeh starter
vinegar (lowers the pH, discouraging growth of competing bacteria)


Method 1 (my way): If you have a grain mill that can be adjusted to crack soybeans to dehull them, then this is the way to go. Once they are cracked (in around two pieces--not much more than that), take them outside on a dry and very windy day and pour the cracked beans back and forth between two large containers. The wind carries away most of the hulls leaving only the cracked soybeans for the next step. (I’ve seen suggestions to use a strong fan or hairdryer if the weather is not cooperating.) Soak these (at least overnight), covering them in water with a tablespoon of vinegar. Proceed to recipe.

Method 2: Buy the soybeans already cracked & dehulled. These are sometimes called ‘full-fat soy grits’. Soak these (at least overnight) covered in water with a tablespoon of vinegar. Proceed to recipe.

Method 3: Cover whole soybeans with boiling water with 1 Tbs of vinegar, and let soak at room temperature at least overnight. Next, pour off the water and rub the beans in the pot vigorously between your hands to slide off the hulls and split the beans into halves manually. Fill the pot with water and stir to allow the hulls to rise to the surface. Skim off the hulls and repeat the process till most of the hulls are gone. (Ugh!) Proceed to recipe


1) Rinse the soaked soybeans, place in large pot with 10 cups of water and 1-1/2 Tbs vinegar. Bring to a rolling boil and cook, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes. Keep an eye on them, as hulls and foam will rise to the surface in the beginning and can overflow. Skim off the hulls/foam as they rise to the top (it gets less touchy after the first 15 minutes or so).

2) Drain beans into colander and then transfer into large clean bowl. Let beans cool uniformly by pressing the beans into the concave shape of the bowl till about room temperature.

3) Sprinkle 1-1/2 Tbs of vinegar and mix thoroughly using a clean wire whisk. Now sprinkle 1 tsp of tempeh starter over the beans and whisk in thoroughly. Add the other 1 tsp of tempeh starter and mix thoroughly again.

4) Press inoculated beans into clean containers or Ziploc bags. Avoid touching the beans with your hands (even though you washed them very well, with soap, before you started all this, right?). Beans can be anywhere from 1/2" to 1-1/2” thick. If pressed into a container for incubation, cover lightly with plastic wrap so top does not dry out before it gets a chance to colonize.

Note: I have made myself plastic tempeh moulds out of old margarine containers. Any clear plastic containers would do (so you can see the progress). Drill small (around 1/8”) holes spaced about an inch apart and in a grid pattern into the container. Perforated Ziploc bags can be used too.

5) Tempeh needs an ideal temperature of 86-88 F. (30-31 C) to incubate. Slightly cooler (down to 80 F / 27 C) will still work, though much slower increasing chance for contamination, and too hot can kill/end the process. The easiest method without building/buying some contraption is to use the oven with just the light on inside, but you have to use an accurate thermometer to figure out how to have the oven temp ‘hover’ around that ideal temperature range. An outdoor thermometer will work fine. Variables include room temperature, which rack inside the oven you're using, how close to the bulb your have your stuff, whether the oven door is closed or propped open more (or less). Do all of this temperature experimenting BEFORE your first batch goes in and you should succeed the very first time!

Incubation takes about 20-24 hours at the proper temp. About 2/3 of the way through, the tempeh starts generating it’s own heat (a lot of it--you can really feel it). At about this time you should a) move the tempeh to a lower rack, or b) prop the oven door open a bit more wider, or c) turn off the oven light altogether to avoid overheating. Sometimes you’ll see the corner of the tempeh closest to the heat source seem more advanced; rotate the tray so that the other side can ‘catch up’.

6) When the tempeh looks all white and firm (pretty much like the store-bought stuff) you can cut it up and use it, refrigerate it, or freeze it. If you let it continue to grow it will begin to produce surface spores (grey to black). This is no problem and is still edible. Ammonia overtones will increase and tempeh will get stronger if allowed to over-ripen and is still safe, within reason (some people even prefer it this way). If it starts smelling foul or turning odd colours or textures, maybe you’ve gone too far and it’s time to toss it and make a new batch.

Note: If unavailable at your local health food store, you can order tempeh starter online from a place like GEM Cultures.

Monday, December 07, 2009

What Other Abolitionists Have Been Saying

I've been too busy over the past couple of weeks to keep up with the sort of posting I'd ordinarily like to be doing. That being said, expect a nice lengthy abolitionist's review of on-again, off-again vegetarian Jonathan Safran Foer's now famous animal welfare tome Eating Animals sometime over the next week and a half. Fellow-abolitionists, on the other hand, have been keeping busy and I figured that I'd take the opportunity to spotlight what a few have been up to:

Just a short while after Bucknell University's Gary Steiner ended up on the receiving of criticism from meat lovers and animal welfarists alike for his op-ed piece on veganism in the New York Times ("Animal, Vegetable, Miserable", Nov. 21), Prof. Gary L. Francione invited him to participate in his Aboltionist Approach Commentary podcast. In it, they discuss Steiner's guest editorial and the reactions to it, as well as discuss the abysmal failure of welfare reform in general. Dan Cudahy recently posted on his Unpopular Vegan Essays blog in response to welfarist Erik Marcus' short attack of the Steiner piece.

Adam Kochanowicz of The Vegan News also recently finished tweaking and uploading all seven parts of his recent interview with Prof. Francione at Rutgers University. You can watch the entire thing here at the Vegan FM website.

The word on Twitter from Bob Torres (aka @veganfreak) is that the updated version of Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World (co-written by Bob and his wife Jenna Torres) has finally left the printers and is on its way to stores at this very moment. You can also order it here (it is apparently shipping out on December 15).

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Vegan, you look like HELL!

Here's a favourite video of mine from YouTube covering some of the things that well-meaning friends and acquaintances may say without thinking to you if you're vegan. Visit porolita22's channel there for more videos about veganism.