Saturday, January 29, 2011

This Past Month's Fixins

Now that I have a working digital camera again, I hope to get into the habit of taking more and more photos of some of the things I slap together in my kitchen and post them here at the end of each month. I posted about making Noodle Soup on Xmas and about making Oven Roasted Seitan on New Year's Eve. Here are a few other odds and ends I made:

Rolled oats, kamut, spelt, wheat and barley with chopped dates, walnuts, a dollop of organic peanut butter, sugar, cinnamon and ground flax seed:

Pizza: Mushrooms, mozza Daiya and sauce on a homemade crust:

Pizza: Mushroom in the foreground and then mushroom, black olives and hot banana peppers. Both are with mozza Daiya and with homemade sauce and crust:

Strangolapretti o Gnocchi di Patate ("Priest Stranglers" or Potato Dumplings) with pesto from Bryanna Clark Grogan's Nonna's Vegetarian Kitchen):

Chili (white kidney & black beans, red lentils, canned diced/crushed tomatoes, lots of garlic and various seasonings):

Homemade seitan, bell peppers, mushrooms & a slice of soy cheddar, grilled on half a whole grain roll:

Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, straight out of the oven:

Pita pizza before covering it with shredded "cheese" and shoving it into the oven. (Homemade sauce, onions, crushed garlic, mushrooms, asparagus, black and green olives and pickled hot banana peppers.)

The final product after a spell in the oven:

Gardein chunks sautéed w/onions & green bell peppers, hot banana peppers and a sprinkle of Daiya (underneath) on garlic rubbed baguette -- broiled in the oven.

Whole wheat cinnamon sugar cookies:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What Vegans Eat: Ask the Bloggers!

I thought I'd try something different with January's monthly "What Vegans Eat" post. Instead of sifting through some of the recipes my favourite vegan food bloggers' have shared most recently, I thought I'd ask them to chime in to tell me of the recipes they've posted on their blogs are favourites -- either their own, or their readers'. I figured, who best to talk up these great recipes than the people who shared them in the first place? Since I wanted to get this out today, rather than email each blogger individually, I just asked on Twitter and Facebook and ended up thrilled at the positive response to my request. In fact, I'm so thrilled with it that I hope to have a second round next month to highlight others' blogs, as well.
My first respondent was veganf who writes Disposable Aardvarks Inc. She said: "My hummus and AJ's pumpkin muffins are very popular, and my two series on winter soups too. Our personal family favourite is the Yummiest of Yummy Tofu Dinners. And the zucchini brownies are always wipes out at potlucks. The kale sunflower burgers, and purple crunchy cabbage (pictured above) are probably the most popular healthiest dishes". While you're visiting her blog, check out the convenient recipe index she has and the gorgeous photos of all of the bento meals she prepares for her family and the stories she weaves in about them.Claire from Chez Cayenne told me that her recipe for Black Bean Chili has been a hit, receiving over 3400 Stumbles on StumbleUpon. Her delicious looking recipe for Grilled Corn Salsa (pictured above) is the one for which she's received most hits via Google. Her Veggie Loaf and Sangria Verde recipes are ones which have received very positive feedback, as well. Many of the recipes at Chez Cayenne meander into spicy territory, so if you're not afraid to treat your taste buds accordingly, do bookmark it for its wonderful recipes. And even if you are spice-aversive, there's plenty there to please every palate.

A recipe for Cashew Ricotta Lasagna was one of the more popular ones from rants & recipes suggested to me by blogger trktos. Some of her own personal favourites which she makes the most, herself, include her recipes for: Chili, Spinach Soup, Pumpkin Soup, Butter 'Milk' Biscuits, Brown Sauce, Bulgur Wheat 'Sausage' and Banana Bread. After my own failed attempt to make banana bread over the holidays, I look forward to trying her recipe. Check out the many other recipes she has featured when you're done looking through the ones posted here!

I'm always glad when my friend Anna updates
her Carrot and Potato Time blog. One of her favourite recipes from it is one for Tortilla Soup she'd posted two years ago. Topped with a drizzle of lime, some avocado slices and some cilantro, I suspect that this could become a favourite of mine, as well.
A blog I've discovered recently through the big ol' world of Twitter is The Vegan Version. Lee Khatchadourian-Reese, its writer, shared with me that her own personal favourite is her recipe for Butternut Squash Ravioli with Mushroom Walnut Sauce (pictured above). A close runner-up is her Porcini Mushroom Stroganoff; in her original blog post, she wrote that "once this dish begins to simmer the aroma is just wonderful".

Abby Bean divulged two of the most popular recipes from A Soy Bean: Her colourful Rainbow Cookies and her Fluffernutter. Her personal favourites, however, include her Daiya-laden White Pizza and her sushi-inspired Peanut Avocado Unroll. If you live in the Pennsylvania/New York area, you'll also want to read through the numerous useful restaurant and bakery reviews she features on her blog.

Although not a food blogger as much as an animal advocacy multitasker, Barbara DeGrande's beautiful website does in
deed offer up a fair share of recipes. She picked her Orange Chocolate Chip Scones as her favourite to pass on for my post. I've tried these and they were absolutely delicious!
Meg (from the aptly named Meg's Cooking Addiction) shared three of her favourite recipes with me. The most recent is one which caught my eye a few days ago and which I intend to try out this weekend -- Garlic Naan. Another she passed on is for her Garlicky White Bean Soup w/Basil, which she says is "probably the best soup I've ever made". Always a sucker for a new soup recipe (albeit unable to find cannelini beans at my own somewhat lame local grocery store), I tried an adaptation of this recipe using baby lima beans instead and it was indeed very, very tasty! The third of her three favourite recipes? Coconut Cupcakes (pictured above)!

Speaking of coconut, the two recipes I was told have received the most rave reviews over on the Quantum Vegan site are the
Potato Leek Soup w/Coconut Milk, as well as one for Vegan Peanut Blossoms (which without even having tried them, I think should be considered as an altogether separate food group).

Leinana Two Moons told me that Vegan Good Things' most popular post by far was one for Coconut Bacon. Yep, you heard me right -- coconut bacon. I am so very intrigued by this and hope to swing by the local health food store when it's open tomorrow to pick up some flaked organic coconut to try this out.

More? Do I have more? You bet...

The three recipes suggested to me by
Daily Vegan Eats were Lumpia, Cheesy Herb-Garlic Lava Potatoes (you'll definitely get your habanero fix with them!) and the very red Blood Salad.

Amanda from Amanda Eats shared her two favourites: First you have Baby Vanilla French Toast w/Agave Nectar (drool!) and her incredibly simple to make Chorizo Lasagna.
Last, but certainly not least, Jenn from Cookin' Vegan sent me some links this morning to some of her favourite recipes from her blog. Let your jaw drop now. Seriously. She suggested her Fuji Apple and Fresh Fennel Bisque followed by Grilled Vegetable, Orzo and Kale Salad (pictured above) and Better Than Cheddar Bay Biscuits.

I've no doubt that the recipes which have been passed on to me to share with you by these 13 fabulous food bloggers will prove how wide a diversity of vegan dishes are available to tantalize you and the lucky folks you may end up feeding on your travels. Some of them are quick and simple to throw together, while others are more complex and require some extra care. They range from the fresh and healthy to absolutely decadent, sometimes touching upon a bit of both. What's amazing is that this is just a tiny sample of the innumerable vegan recipes available on the internet via food blogs alone. They're sometimes brought to you by people who are either like most of us and who stumble across perfect combinations through the limited trial-and-error experimentation allowed when on a busy schedule; other times, they're offered up by those who've made playing in their kitchens a real hobby -- or who've even managed to eke out a living from it.

The bottom line, however, is that you need not go hungry as a vegan for lack of ideas. The right recipe for you is out there: Go find it!

(Please note that My Face Is on Fire does not necessarily condone or endorse any views which may be held by the above-mentioned bloggers.)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Meaninglessness of "Welfare" and Uselessness of Single-Issue Campaigns

A reader sent me a link yesterday morning to an article from The Vancouver Sun ("Animal rights group targets humane society's meaty menu") about the Ottawa Animal Rights Defence League and their protest of the Ottawa Humane Society's upcoming $300-a-plate FurBall fundraiser. It seems that the fundraiser, being held at the National Gallery of Canada on March 26, will feature a menu which will include meat (albeit with a token "vegetarian" option). Arguing that the Ottawa Humane Society is an animal welfare group and not an animal rights group, the Society issued a statement adding the following:

"Like most humane societies, the OHS does not have a position against the raising of animals for food, so long as the animals are raised and slaughtered in a humane manner. We are confident that . . . (the menu) has not compromised our position."

While the society offers a vegetarian option at all its events, "fewer than five per cent of our guests have opted for this menu."

"Fewer than five percent" of the well-heeled guests who will be attending this high-priced affair have opted for the token gesture offered up by the society. Given its endorsement of animal use, however, it's not a surprise that it would shrug off having a menu devoid of animal products. Also, given that it holds this position, it's easy to understand why its eager donors might also very well be laissez-faire about what's served at this event. I mean, why would you not want to eat animals when forking over money to a group that condones the exploitation of animals?

According to the article, the Animal Rights Defence League staged "a small protest" outside last year's FurBall event and although on one level, I can understand why the Animal Rights Defence League would view the feeding of animal products at any self-proclaimed animal advocacy event sort of wrongheaded, I'm not certain that I see the relevance of their protesting the Ottawa Humane Society's doing so at this event any more than they would protest any non-vegan group's serving animal products -- or any ordinary store or restaurant's doing so, for that matter unless it was to address the more basic fact that the Society condones the use of non-human animals in general.

I guess that one could say that the League's members' hearts are in the right place, but the larger issue of the Ottawa Humane Society's overall endorsement of the raising of animals for human use and slaughter would seem to me to be the more logical and appropriate focus, particularly since this very policy is why they deem it fit to serve animal flesh and secretions at their fundraiser in the first place. As long as the Ottawa Humane Society limits its scope of concern and chooses to nurture the illusion of there being such a thing as "humane" treatment when non-human animals are raised for food, why would it hold a vegan fundraiser? And how does protesting this fundraiser affect in any way how the Society will go on to condone the exploitation of non-human animals? The answer is that it won't: They're not an animal rights group.

Reading the article led me to an earlier article concerning the Animal Rights Defence League's supposed recent victory in convincing the organizers of Ottawa's annual Winterlude to ask a famous chef, someone who has "built up an exalted reputation in part for his celebration of engorged duck liver -- foie gras" from including foie gras on the menu of Winterlude's opening gala. The article soon reveals, however, what a victory this wasn't: "Several Ottawa restaurants have decided to add foie gras to their festival menus in support of Mr. Picard." Never mind the fact that animal ingredients of all sorts will still be part of the Winterlude menu. Where's the victory here?

As someone who champions vegan education, I sometimes hear animal advocates who don't view veganism as a moral baseline say that I (and others who also champion vegan education and who support an abolitionist approach to animal rights advocacy) am not seeing the "big picture", and that I need to step back and weigh the good that comes from a wide variety of types of animal advocacy, ranging from causes like "Meatless Monday" (i.e. shuffling animal products around on one day of the week) to HSUS' ongoing tweaking of the regulations concerning how we raise this or that animal for our consumption (i.e. rather than their educating the public that we do not need to -- and should not -- treat them as things in the first place). I often get told by welfarists or by those who engage in protesting the more easily marketable and higher profile animal issues (e.g. the use of fur, the seal hunt, et al.) and who sometimes choose to pay lip service to educating the public about going vegan that pitching going vegan as the least we can do for non-human animals is futile and/or extremist. I get told that I have tunnel vision for focusing on educating others about about veganism and that my focus is both too narrow and asking too much.

But in talking to others about going vegan, I am talking to them about not using or exploiting non-human animals and of not providing a demand for their exploitation. As an abolitionist vegan, I am asking them to examine their own speciesism.
And is not speciesism which underlies what most of society views as the perfectly normal practice of treating non-human animals as things existing for human use? So how is getting to the very root of the problem rather than picking at this or that easy-sell single-issue campaign focusing too narrowly? How can we, when purporting to fight for what's best for animals, write off asking others to stop using them as asking "too much"?

Now, as for the animal rights group I referenced above whose two stories got me thinking about the ineffectiveness of cherry-picking compartmentalized issues regarding animal use or treatment, they may very well engage in educating the public about veganism on some level at other times. Unfortunately, the aforementioned stories are the ones which received press attention and the ones which will leave the public continuing to conflate animal welfare groups with animals rights groups, and which will leave them thinking that eating one type of animal product is significantly ethically worse than eating a different body part or secretion of the same (or of a different) non-human animal.

Are these really the kinds of messages that we want the public to keep receiving? Rather than suggest to me, an animal rights advocate, that I should somehow embrace a wide variety of goals, methods, isolated causes and single-issue campaigns to be a better advocate, wouldn't it make more sense to look at what lies behind each and every problem inherent in the use of non-human animals and for us to focus our time and energy on fighting speciesism and on educating the public to go vegan? Wouldn't it make more sense that instead of sending out so many mixed messages to the public, we would instead come together and focus on one clear message and ask them consider the rights and interests of all sentient non-human animals and to stop treating them as things?

I have good friends -- loved ones -- who think absolutely nothing of chewing into a piece of some cow's body because they "love" the taste, and who garb themselves in the skin that would have covered that cow's body because they "love" the look. Some of them express their outrage to me, perhaps trying to bond over what they view as what must surely be some sort of shared emotion or common point in our respective ethical frameworks. But to them, giving up their ordinary day-to-day consumption and use of animals would seem absurd and unreasonable. To them, it would be taking things too far.

If single-issue campaigns were effective in making people go vegan, these people I know who would never be caught wearing fur or eating foie gras would be vegan. But as long as they're led to feel that they're doing enough in signing a petition to end the seal hunt or in sending money to help a welfarist group lobby the government to make the size of a cage a few inches larger, why would they take things further? And as long as they don't take things further, nothing will ever really change.

Please talk to someone today about going vegan.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Glorifying Killing

Canada's National Post featured a rather inappropriately titled article today ("Living by the gun") which caught my eye and managed to turn my stomach a little. The article includes a large photo of a smiling man holding the head of a dead deer up by the deer's antlers and it examines -- glorifies, even -- the recent interest in which city-dwellers have apparently been indulging themselves: Single-handedly killing other animals.

In the article, killing isn't killing -- it's "harvesting". Free-roaming non-domesticated animals are "wild meat". An individual sentient non-human animal is an "it". The article describes the practice as having been spurred by the "local food movement". And the humans engaging in this hands-on slaughter?

This group of ethical meat eaters are emerging from urban centres to take up the hunt, an age-old practice that has been on the decline for decades as young people have left rural communities and the traditions of their parents and grandparents.
These so-called ethical meat eaters are seeking escapism, the article tells us, but are purportedly proceeding from a
backlash against factory-farmed beef, pork and poultry, a food production practice that has faced intense scrutiny for being inhumane and environmentally damaging.
Jonathan Safran Foer and his lot would be proud, no? One would think so, as the article goes on to use familiar expressions used by yon happy meat advocates. Hunting down and killing animals is "being in touch with where your food comes from" and "caring about the ethics of the food you're eating". It's about "connection with nature" and "sustainability".

More telling, however, is when the actual bloodthirsty lure of hunting is revealed in various quotes in the article, couched in the aforementioned proclamations of wanting to be environmentally-friendly and of their wanting to disentangle themselves from what's portrayed as the unethical slaughter of animals we deem suitable to raise for slaughter:

"Part of it is the local food thing [... b]ut the other side is purely primal[.]"

"Having a freezer full of meat, it's empowering."

"I took the hunting class because I wanted to have [the] feeling of taking responsibility for [a non-human animal's] life and its death[.]"

"I thought I'd feel a little remorse when I did it, [...b]ut I actually felt very excited. I thanked the animal when I essentially slit its throat."
That terms like "humane" and "ethical eater" get woven around these statements leaves me asking: Why are some animal advocates still viewing animal welfare groups and promoters of "happy meat" as part of a process which will lead to the end of our using non-human animals? Why are some animal advocates endorsing the sort of mindset that leaves the general public viewing some forms of animal use better than others? Why aren't we putting more time and energy into educating others that animals aren't ours to use and that so-called ethical eating doesn't involve killing sentient beings, whether their bodies end up in slaughterhouses or the backs of pickup trucks?

Why not, indeed.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Veganism in the Media

Sports Writers Should Stick to Covering Sports

The University of New Brunswick's
The Brunswickan publication left me shaking my head a little last week. I was sitting in a local coffee shop with my Pennsylvanian friend, who was examining the spoils of our recent trip to the library. Sipping on some organic coconut water and leafing through "The Bruns" (as it's known in these parts), I hadn't counted on finding fodder for a blog post on the term veganism's being misinterpreted or misrepresented in the media, but there it was in the form of an article called "Weighing in on being vegetarian: pros and cons". In fact, its very opening paragraph contained the typical "veganism is a diet" assumption:

Vegetarian, Vegan, Ovo-lacto, Semi-Veg, all these terms are used to describe varying levels of commitment to a similar cause; the removal (to some degree) of animals or animal by-products from the diet.
Of course, veganism is not just a diet, but involves abstaining from the exploitation of animals over and above merely refraining from consuming their flesh, milk and eggs (or other secretions). And it's not one of "varying levels of commitment to a similar cause" to be lumped in with the occasional or customary consumption of animals.

Personal Choices as Personal Bubbles

The sports writer goes on to make a wrongheaded statement concerning ethics, proclaiming that "[a]nimal rights or animal cruelty is in a bit of a grey area depending on personal belief and the source of a person’s animal by-products". In conflating considerations of the treatment and the use of animals and injecting this consideration with relativism, the writer is basically asserting that the concept of "rights" is subject to each individual's personal interpretation. His statement also seems to presume that the violation of one's rights can become a non-issue depending on how one has been treated. It's no surprise to read such misunderstanding wrapped around the notion of rights given how adamantly so-called animal advocates like Jonathan Safran Foer insist that there are some who raise animals for slaughter who should be regarded as heroes for the manner in which they enslave and kill other sentient creatures.

On Health and Experts

The piece's writer then jumps to a discussion of the nutritional pros and cons of being vegetarian or vegan and of not eating animals or their products. He quotes a dietitian who lumps vegetarians and vegans in together, saying that vegetarians tend to weigh less, have "lower cholesterol, lower incidents of heart disease and lower blood pressure levels" and benefits to their kidneys in consuming non-animal sources of protein. She then dismisses the consumption of animal flesh as being a significant factor in terms of obesity and brings up the supposed prevalence of iron and B12 deficiency in her vegetarian clients. The writer of the piece reemphasizes this, stating:
This is a common theme for many vegetarians or vegans; removing meat from the diet adds certain challenges to insuring that the body receives enough protein, iron and B12.
He then paraphrases his token expert as calling B12 "the real challenge" and as stating that "[t]he only source of B12 that humans can naturally absorb is found in [animal-derived products]". This makes it sound as if humans have difficulty absorbing B12 in supplement form or in fortified foods, although he paraphrases the dietitian he interviewed as in fact recommending a B12 vitamin supplement, albeit as also expressing that there are "absorption issues in fortified foods". However, the UK's Vegan Society's Vegan Society -- in a statement on vegans and B12 endorsed by over a dozen internationally renowned medical experts -- asserts that "[v]egans using adequate amounts of fortified foods or B12 supplements are much less likely to suffer from B12 deficiency than the typical meat eater".

Reasons and Justifications and Learning to Look Beyond Ourselves

The sports writer's conclusion, based on his misunderstanding and dismissal of animal rights issues and on what are either incorrect or incorrectly interpreted statements of the dietitian quoted in his article, is that "deciding to become a vegetarian or vegan to simply 'improve your health' is not a justified reason". I
sort of agree with this statement in the sense that going vegan to purportedly improve one's health doesn't seem to make much sense, particularly since (going back to the first paragraph of this post) veganism involves eschewing the exploitation of animals beyond those whose flesh or secretions one chooses (not) to eat. Personal health reasons would never, in and of themselves, really compel one to not ride a horse, visit the circus or to not wear a leather belt or wool sweater, would they?

What the writer is actually getting at, though, has nothing to do with this. His conclusion is that if the reason you cite for going vegan is that you'll be healthier, that not eating animal products will not necessarily lead to this. I agree with his final sentence that animal products in moderation can be a healthy part of a diet. However, just because something can does not mean that it should. Additionally, as demonstrated in Dr. T. Colin Campbell's
The China Study, most omnivores in the West don't consume animal products in moderation and instead do so in a manner which leads directly to increased incidence of completely preventable diseases and that even slight increases in the consumption of various animal products can lead to a direct increase in the incidence of those preventable diseases.

Regardless of this, going vegan and not exploiting animals wherever and whenever possible -- including those we raise for human consumption -- should not be dismissed because not exploiting them may not lead to amazing personal benefits in terms of health and wellness. Going vegan should be weighed in terms of the rights and interests of the non-humans whose lives we affect when we opt to remove ourselves from the cycle of exploitation. Going vegan isn't about you or me -- it's about them.

Visit Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach to learn more.