Monday, 29 December 2008

Grease is the word

Finally got around to making vegan fried eggs as demonstrated on video by z-list nude model Count Vincent Von Vegan.

For the benefit of anyone who doesn't have sound or video on their computer (me when at work, basically), the recipe goes something like this:
-Tofu, cut into very thin, wide squares.
-Margarine - Vince uses Pure, I use M&S own brand, we may come to blows over this at some point
-Bread, veggie bacon, mushrooms, ketchup and other accessories of your choice.

-Melt the margarine in a frying pan. Turn the heat down when it starts making crackly noises - there is a reason Vincent has his clothes on in that video, and it is less to do with decency (believe me) than with the little grease fountains that spring up when margarine gets overheated.
-Put the tofu slices in the crackling, spitting margarine - if you're thick enough to leave it on the heat like I did, use a long-handled spatula and keep your damn glasses on.
-Fry the tofu - turning over when one side gets brown, binning if either side gets black - until the edges go frilly and it bears a superficial resemblence to a fried egg.

-Toast two slices of bread. Put one on a plate. Cover it in the fried tofu and other stuff. (tip: if using mushrooms, fry them as well. raw mushrooms, eek) Stick the other piece of bread on top.

Also, please comment here or at KMA if you figure out a vegan way to replace the gloopy yellow bit in the middle of a fried egg. I used Plamil mayo this morning, but it wasn't the same. If you can smear it around your mouth, kiss Vincent and get a picture of the event, all the better.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

In blogger terms, these guys are my neighbours

Kiss My Asparagus

Eva is really lovely, Alex is a bit deranged but basically ok, the main thing is they both have some great ideas about what to do in the kitchen. Mostly to do with cooking.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Delightful domestic disasters

Just to demonstrate that this blog isn't unrelentingly positive(!)...

Firstly, my sprouting lentils are completely defunct. I think I may just have left them too long. The chickpeas are ok, although I guess I'll have to eat them fairly soon to stop them getting in the same state. I need to be a bit more organised about learning how long it takes each thing to sprout and planning my lunches around that.

Secondly, my stock turned out GREY. My mental troubleshooting guide came up with a couple of suggestions for why.
1: It had burnt lentils in. Not the best idea, but I thought I'd try. Never again.
2: I left it, with the veg peelings still in and the heat turned off, for about seven hours while I went out. Hence, it went grey and started to taste and smell of the least pleasant component (cabbage, or more specifically the sulphur it contains) rather than smelling rather nicely of spring onions as it had when I left the house.
I didn't eat it. There is very little vegetable matter I won't eat, so this is saying something. It won't stop me trying again though!

Actually, given that I know what went wrong and how to fix it, maybe that is still a little bit too positive for a Monday morning...

Friday, 3 October 2008

Hot foods for coldy vegans

So, in my department teaching assistants have to go to the lecture for their module. This is partly so the students get to know who we are, and partly so we know exactly what was said in each lecture. Enter freshers' flu. Half the first years coughed their way through the lecture yesterday. So by the afternoon, be it real or psychological, I felt a cold coming on. My strategy for colds is pretty much always to go home and eat spicy food to chase them away.

A few individual ingredients that are useful here:
-Garlic. Raw if you can take it.
-Ginger. Raw or minced in vinegar is better than powder.
-Horseradish or wasabi (different nationalities of the same plant)
-Chilli, of any sort. Hot peppers will unblock your nose and probably a few other parts of your anatomy. (None of which you should wipe straight after cutting up the peppers - wash your hands or get a nasty shock...)
-Any normal curry ingredients. The hotter the better. On this occasion, it is a good thing if your eyes and nose run!

Last night's dinner ended up being miso soup with pasta and a whole load of heat-producing ingredients. I don't have a cold this morning, so either it did the trick or the whole thing was a psychosomatic reaction to being cooped up with sneezy freshers for an hour!

-A tablespoon miso buillion (Marigold, for those reading in the UK)
-Two mugs of water (didn't measure it this time, but I do know how much my smallest pan holds)
-About half a coffee mug of pasta
-1 teaspoon each of horseradish relish and minced ginger
-Half a teaspoon of wasabi powder
-A splash each of soy sauce and rice vinegar (I am putting this in everything right now because I only just bought the bottle)
Boil for about five minutes to give the pasta a head start on cooking. Then add veg. Last night I used:
-Two spring onions
-Two mushrooms, chopped v. small
-Two cloves of garlic. These should be as raw as you can stand, so put them in fairly near the end.

I have put broccoli and carrot in this in the past, but didn't have any broccoli and had been eating carrots in absolutely everything lately so wanted a change.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Some packed lunches

I think I've finally managed to incorporate making a packed lunch into my evening routine. So, here's a peek at what this vegan eats in a working week (in no particular order, as I can remember the lunches themselves better than which day I had them):

* White rice with soy sauce; steamed broccoli; sticks of raw carrot and cucumber; little pot of wasabi paste and Plamil garlic mayo. By 'steamed' I mean I scattered the bits of broccoli over the top of the rice for the last two minutes or so it was cooking. Dinner the evening before also involved rice, to avoid using an extra saucepan. I made rather too much rice - this is the only day where I ended up throwing anything away.
*Chopped cucumber, red pepper and tomato, butter beans, grated carrot and pine nuts, in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a small amount of Provamel cream cheese. (this is basically vegan goat cheese, although you wouldn't know it wasn't margarine from the fairly basic packaging) This was the only time I have had to go and buy a snack, as the salad itself didn't fill me up. The butter beans were boiled from scratch over the weekend - I have some more in the freezer. Should have kept more out.
*2 lentil burgers (homemade, see a few posts down for the recipe); couscous salad with spring onion and olive oil; shredded lettuce; hummous
*Brown rice and chickpeas topped with shredded lettuce and grated carrot. I ate the salad and half the rice mix and was full. Resurrected it with extra salad dressing and mayo the next day.
*2 lentil burgers with quinoa, grated carrot and watercress. This meal was put together at midnight after a few glasses of red wine.
*Couscous salad with cucumber, tomato, spring onions and pine nuts, in olive oil and balsamic vinegar; topped with shredded lettuce.

For the sake of maintaining harmony in a shared office, I've steered clear of ingredients such as raw garlic in packed lunches. I may try to introduce small amounts of onion and see if anyone reacts. At any rate, what I can make is usually healthier than what the canteen has, and is certainly cheaper. It normally takes about half an hour to put something together - maybe longer if waiting for rice or couscous to cool down, but you can always go off and do something else during this period. I think there are a couple of lunches where 'special' products like vegan cream cheese or mayo are used, but this is largely based on what I had in the fridge at that point. They aren't essential.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Vegan MoFo introduction

Hi to anyone who finds this via the Post-Punk Kitchen's Vegan Month of Food page.

Who am I? I have one or two different names on the internet, so stick with the one you know. I'm currently in the last year of a PhD in political theory, subsidising my vegan food habit by teaching first years. I'm 28 and live in England. I love PPK and hate Skinny Bitch. I went vegan for animal rights reasons, but am coincidentally getting interested in eating more healthily due to having spent the last two winters being constantly ill. I also tend to like ducks better than humans: if you are a non-duck reading this, don't take that personally. My hobbies are knitting, cooking, reading murder mysteries and watching anime.

What will you find here?
*Quite a lot of food-diary type stuff, I have to admit. If you're new to veganism or to working in a place that has all of sod in terms of vegan options in the canteen you may find it useful. I've made it a sort of policy to bring in a packed lunch every day, and as this is still a fairly exciting development for me I tend to blog about it.
*Stuff about the difficulties of being vegan and how to get around them. I don't always find it easy in termtime, and am open about that in the hope that anyone reading this will see that 1) you aren't a failure if you have these issues and 2) they aren't insurmountable.
*Commentary on vegan products. Be warned, this is fairly UK-centric as it is nearly a decade since I've been in another country long enough to seek out specialist vegan stuff rather than just finding some nice bread and non-cheesy salad to eke out over a few days. Incidentally, I don't rely on these products even at home - they are somewhat overpriced, overprocessed and over here - but they have their uses.
*Veganism for people with very little money and less time. This is me and also most of the people I first learned veganism from.
*The gory details of my sprouting experiments - my windowsill is currently occupied by a sieve of lentils and a tray of chickpeas. In particular, expect to hear trumpets when I actually manage to produce something edible.
*What happens when I get around to making stock from the various bits of vegetable matter I've been collecting for the purpose. (Hopefully what happens is I have vegetable stock that tastes nice and is a lot cheaper than the buillion powder I normally buy. I have a feeling this may take more than one attempt though. Any tips are welcome!)
*And a whole lot of other stuff that I can't think of right now but may think of when my department's induction period is over and life is vaguely normal!

Food-centric posts made during October will be tagged 'vegan mofo', so they are easy to find. All the tags for this blog are displayed at the bottom of the sidebar, so feel free to explore.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Vegan MoFo

Because I don't have enough to do in October, I've signed up to participate in the Post Punk Kitchen's Vegan Month of Food. So I have a great excuse for all those 'what I ate for lunch' posts... :)

Dirty weekend

In the sense of getting my hands coated in lentil-burger mix, of course! The basic mix is about 50/50 lentils (soaked overnight and then boiled until they turn into a thick paste) and beans (from the freezer, given another boil to soften them up, then pounded with a potato masher. You could also do this with tinned beans.). I started out using just chickpeas, added white kidney beans at one stage because I had more of those in the freezer than I would use any time soon, and made a last batch of spicy burgers using red kidney beans. I think the chickpeas worked best in terms of holding the burgers together. I added various other ingredients - one batch of burgers had finely-chopped broccoli in, another grated carrot and the last lot just some paprika and tomato puree. This is one of those things that it is best to make in bulk - a lot of faff, not worth it for two burgers but certainly worth it for twenty. I now have two burgers for lunch today (with salad), four (burnt ones) in the fridge for use sometime this week and the rest frozen in packs of four for some other time when I feel like varying my diet a bit. I finished the burgers off by frying them, although if you were worried about fat content (lentils do absorb a lot of oil) you could try baking them. I may try egg replacer next time, due to falling-apart issues at various stages.

I have YET MORE LENTILS sitting in a sieve on my kitchen windowsill, allegedly sprouting although this is very much an experiment. I will not be devastated if I don't get to eat sprouted lentil salad at some point this week, really. I promise. (If this experiment does work, phase 2 will involve chickpeas. Everything in my life involves chickpeas at some point.)

I also did a batch of butter beans (all over the un-vegan names, d00d) and put some chickpeas on to soak until this evening. My bean saucepan is getting a lot of action. This might be because I've been eating Alpro yoghurts for breakfast most days since returning to work, meaning a whole new supply of yoghurt pots to freeze beans in.

Talking of the big saucepan... I've started collecting veg peelings and the like to make into stock. I don't have much idea if or how this will work yet, but if it gets a bit more use out of vegetable matter eventually destined for the trash (I live upstairs - no garden, hence no compost heap) it may be worth the faff. So far I have mostly carrot peelings and spring onion stalks.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

The mind boggles

A special dose of weirdness courtesy of Suicide Food, with a combination of a scary product and some brilliant satirical writing. Livestock transporters are fucking creepy, and as for chicken trucks... totally something you'd want a minature version of for your kids. Gawd, so much talk about how raising kids vegan messes them up, but so little about how normalising the taking of life in an imaginative range of ways and locations might do the job of warping the little dears a whole lot more efficiently.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Mind the beans

Dried beans have many good points. They're cheaper and easier to transport than tinned ones, and they take up less space in the freezer than tins do in the cupboard. And you know how long they were cooked for - I often find myself boiling tinned ones, particularly red, before use, having been reduced to a puking mess once before. Here, however, is what can happen if you don't cook them properly. If you do cook them properly - putting them on to soak one evening and boiling the next, changing the water at each step - you're fine.
A vegan diet is a normal diet - complete with normal risks!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Vitamin watch #1

A more 'serious' post is brewing in my brain and drafts folder. For now - apologies to anyone who objects to supermarkets or taking nutritional supplements - I just thought I'd share the news that Tesco are labelling which of their vitamins are vegan. (Vitamin C in particular is difficult to figure out without a label, since the orange flavour is often carried in beta-carotene which involves gelatin derived from fish. Nice.) I have what feels like the start of a cold, and which I am determined not to let evolve into the start of a constant stream of illness (and of snot) like it did last year when colds were just the respite periods between worse things. This will not be made any easier when term starts next week, as first-year lectures are like germ hypermarkets. So, although my diet does naturally contain a whole lot of vitamin C, I felt it necessary to buy a huge bottle of tablets for the weeks ahead and also a smaller one of echinacea pills. And avoiding animal derived stearates, gelatin, bone meal, etc is a major pain in the arse, so I'm always happy to see a manufacturer using vegan labels. I'll keep posting on this when my supply needs restocking.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Salad days are upon us again

So after the weekend of indulgence described in the last post (hey, forgot to mention scrambled tofu - might save that recipe until I'm short of stuff to post...), I'm back to the healthier end of things for a while. (Not that the moussaka was especially unhealthy, but I have no illusions that vegan cupcakes are any different from non-vegan ones in that regard!) I was, however, getting a little bit bored of lunches that always seemed to be focussed on raw (usually chopped) carrots - tasty and healthy though they might be, a wider range of tastes and textures is always good. So today I had a salad that did NOT involve carrots, or for that matter garden peas since these had also featured heavily over the past week.

Half an avocado, chopped
Half a tin of butter beans (200g)
One tomato, chopped
Two cloves of raw garlic

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
A few sprinkles of black pepper

Time off for bad behaviour

My moderately long-distance partner visited this past weekend, this being the first time we'd seen each other in a while for various reasons. It was a good weekend in many ways, some of which I don't feel like sharing on the internet. (For anyone who is still holding out for rude stuff on this blog, get a life or a new search engine...) A couple of things are worth noting, though, from a vegan point of view.

On Friday, I made moussaka for the first time ever.

Ingredients (Four servings - two for Friday night, one for my dinner after Gothling went home on Sunday, one to experiment with freezing stuff that has cheese sauce on):
-One aubergine (this is maybe the one thing that can't be substituted! Except maybe with sheets of lasagna, but that would still be a completely different meal)
-One packet of Redwood's cheating mince (would have been cheaper to use Realeat frozen mince or any brand of dried soy*, but this meal was meant to be a bit special.)
-One onion (red, but a white one would work just as well), chopped
-Two large carrots, chopped (could grate them if you have more than one grater or fancy washing the thing before doing the cheese sauce)
-About half a dozen mushrooms, chopped
-Enough sunflower oil to cook the above ingredients in
-Two tablespoons olive oil for the aubergines
-Black pepper, paprika and some dried mixed herbs.
-Quarter of a large tube of tomato puree (about 50g) (you may like to use less, I suspect I may generally go overboard with this, not least because it looks like pretty red knitting yarn when spurted around the pan)
-Half a block of Redwood's mozarella (any vegan cheese would do though - probably any brand, be it hard or cream or powder - but this happened to be what was in my fridge approaching its use-by date)
-One tablespoon each of margarine and cornflour
-Enough soymilk to make a fairly thick sauce

Equipment used
-Wok (or large saucepan you don't mind cooking stuff in oil in)
-Small saucepan
-Baking tray
-Cheese grater
-Two wooden spoons and a spatula
-Roll of greasproof paper (no, I did not use the whole thing! Jeez!)
-Large, fairly shallow ovenproof dish

-Slice the aubergine (slices about a centimetre thick)
-Place the slices on a baking tray or the grill pan (I was using an oven where the grill doesn't have a separate compartment), drizzled with olive oil. Grill until both sides of each slice are streaked with brown.
-Heat some oil in the wok. Add the mince and vegetables, and stir these together for a bit.
-Add the tomato puree, then pour in some warm water until the presence of liquid becomes obvious. Stir well and allow to simmer.
-While it is doing so, you will probably have time to get on with some other things around the house. (I didn't have much choice since they needed doing!) But what you absolutely NEED to do at this point is make the cheese sauce. To do this,
-Grate the cheese, if you're using the hard variety.
-Melt the margarine. Start it off at the highest notch on your stove, then turn the heat down when it starts to melt.
-Mix in the cornflour until all the margarine is absorbed.
-Add soymilk. Sauce should be fairly runny at this stage.
-Turn up the heat, stir the sauce CONSTANTLY. DON'T EVEN LOOK AWAY FOR A SECOND. EVEN IF YOUR NEIGHBOURS ARE SCRAMBLING AROUND ON THEIR ROOF. (Oh, is that just me?) Keep stirring until it starts to thicken.
-Add the cheese. Stir some more until it melts. If it gets too thick to be stirred easily, add more soymilk. (or water if you've run out of milk. It happens.) At this point, take it off the heat.
-Turn the oven on to 180 degrees centigrade/celsius.
-By this point, the liquid in the mince/vegetable component should be absorbed or evaporated and the aubergine slices should be nice and brown. Now is the time to put it all together!
-Take a large but fairly shallow ceramic dish. Spoon in a layer of filling, then place a layer of aubergine slices over the top. Repeat once. (but don't rinse yet) Top the whole thing with the cheese sauce, making sure some goes down the sides.
-Place the dish on a baking tray (makes it easier to handle later). Put it in the by now preheated oven, and leave it there for about half an hour. It's ready when the top is brown.

On Saturday we went for a very long walk involving dipping into the many and varied alternative/vintage/goth/totally random tat shops on Mansfield Road, and then doing some duck-spotting along the canal towpath. Between these two installments of walking, we stopped off at Dotty's cafe to fill up on sugar and caffiene. Dotty's doesn't have a website (yet?), but a map can be found here and the details are on Vegan Nottingham. It is basically a 50's-themed vegetarian cafe with the normal sort of food you'd expect plus a varying range of vegan cupcakes. In the evening we went to Sumac for some more food and vegan beer.

*Also, I hate using dry/rehydrated soy mince in the oven, as it re-dehydrates rather easily unless you drown it in liquid. I had a nasty experience with that when suffering from a throat infection and penicillin-induced vomiting, meaning that it scratched my throat on the way down and the way up. Delightful.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Just a quickie

If you have time or money to contribute to an animal sanctuary, Tower Hill Stables could really do with it.

Also, the term 'veganicity' exists elsewhere. Please note, I am not connected to them or they to me. (Although I've given them a link because a source of vegan vitamin supplements is always useful!) I don't sell or have any intention of selling vitamin pills or similar products, although I do buy them occasionally and sometimes offer high dose Vitamin C around my office in much the same manner as one might offer crisps, since dealing with large numbers of new students tends to be a great way of picking up all sorts of new coldy-things that then do the rounds several times before giving way to the next one... but that's sort of beside the point. And my namesakes, from what I see on their website, don't base their public personae on knitting, fun recipes or a fixation with ducks, so we're quite easy to tell apart. :) Also, in case anyone from there is reading, I do not use the name 'veganicity' in any commercial context. (Names I have used in semi-commercial contexts that haven't really got off the ground, and may use again: Purple Duck and Knitting Duck. Pretty distinctive really...)

Tuesday, 9 September 2008


I made this today. Would describe it as raw pesto, but purists might dislike the fact that I ate it with cooked (albeit subsequently cooled down for the benefit of the hemp oil) pasta.

Half a coffee mug of hemp oil (use sunflower - or olive if you prefer the taste - if you don't like the idea of eating lukewarm pasta)
Quarter of a coffee mug of chopped basil (fresh, not dried)
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons cashew nuts
2 cloves garlic, chopped (you can leave this out if you or the person you're most likely to snog hate it)

Place the basil in the oil
Crush the pine nuts and cashew nuts with a mortar and pestle if you have one, otherwise stick them in a plastic bag and bash repeatedly with the rolling pin or similar object
Chop the garlic fairly small
Mix the nuts and garlic in with the oil and basil

Friday, 5 September 2008

MyJuice, Buttermarket, Ipswich


I went to meet a friend in Ipswich today. Since her working hours are more fixed than mine, this had to happen over lunch. Now, Ipswich isn't bristling with obvious places to get vegan food: my other lunches with this friend have been in, iirc, a (pretty decent) curry house and a pub. The Veggie Suffolk website lists one place, another curry house. There isn't a purely vegetarian cafe to hand, so until someone opens one there is an element of taking what you can get. MyJuice, while it doesn't have a huge range of vegan or any other food, certainly goes for quality in what it does have. I had 'My Vegan Delight' in panini form - this is basically falafel, hummus, avocado and some salad. You can also get it as a normal sandwich or a wrap, which I guess you'd end up doing if you got your lunch there every day just to vary things a bit. (Fyi, I think there were one or two vegetarian choices beyond this, plus one fish and two meat, so I didn't feel too discriminated against overall!) Drinks, however, are something this place has a huge range of - I think the various combinations of fruit and vegetable juices (and wheatgrass etc) took up three chalkboard menus, to the one small one occupied by food choices. Most of these seemed to be vegan. (I didn't ask whether you could get the milky ones with soy milk - might be worth a try) Prices are about what you'd expect - a panini and a drink came to about £7. (I think the panini might have been slightly cheaper!) The full address can be found on the website linked above, but basically it is right opposite Waterstones so that's the landmark if you need to ask directions.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Semi-raw satay salad dressing

'Semi' because I'm not sure if peanut butter counts. Since I'm not claiming to be a raw foodist anyway, that doesn't bother me. What matters in this instance is that the hemp oil didn't get messed up by heat. (I don't know whether it really goes toxic or how serious this is, but it certainly tastes vile when absentmindedly drizzled onto warm quinoa. You've been warned!)

Btw, if you are a raw vegan reading this and shaking your head over the peanut butter, is there anything that would work instead? I'd be interested to try it out, if so.

Ingredients (for one main meal serving of salad):
3 tablespoons of hemp oil
Juice of quarter of a lime (this made the sauce very lime-y, use less if that isn't your thing)
2 teaspoons peanut butter
A pinch each of chilli, cumin and ginger. (or use fresh versions grated)

Mix it all together in a cup. For some reason I find it easier to do this with two teaspoons held together. Then pour it on the salad of your choice.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Talking veganicity - forums

Readers who are especially sharp-eyed or looking for that sort of thing might have noticed that my sidebar contains a section called 'places to talk veganism'. The links basically do what it says on the tin. They are all places, broadly speaking, for vegans to talk about veganism. This does not mean they are all the same! So, for the benefit of anyone new to veganism in general or online veganism in particular, here's the lowdown...

Vegan Forum is the most active board I've found so far. Discussion tends to be at a civil and friendly level, with very little deliberate sh*t-stirring. Has a specific section for people who aren't quite vegan (although the expectation is that you'll get there sometime, preferably soon). This is generally my favourite online vegan hangout as it a) encompasses a wide range of discussion topics and b) seems to be about constructive discussion rather than points-scoring. If you're a new vegan finding your canvas-booted feet, this is the place I'd recommend.

Vegan Fitness, as the name suggests, is focussed on fitness, sports and exercise, with a vegan slant on things. My sometimes-enthusiastic and mostly half-arsed attitude to such things means that I welcome the encouragement you can get from such a place. It also has ethics, activism and general discussion sections. The best place to go to talk about nutrition, training diets and so on.

Vegan Freaks: abolitionist message board with probably the strictest screening process out of all the ones listed here. Can be fun and interesting, but not for the faint-hearted or anyone who isn't 100% sure of their commitment to veganism. Best place to go if you want tough love.

Vegan Represent: I don't hang out here as much, partly because it's quieter and partly because I signed up for it after becoming vaguely established in a couple of other places. Seems like a pretty good atmosphere, though.

Vegan Buddies: kind of quiet, but a good place to go if you're a new vegan wanting advice on certain matters, especially if you're scared your question will look 'stupid' on other forums. NOT the place to go if you like trashing less experienced vegans. (actually, neither is this - *sticks out tounge*)

There are also a number of yahoogroups. I haven't been on any of them long enough to review them, but expect a post at some point.

Salad for lunch!

Sort of a chunky coleslaw, I guess, except that I'd run out of mayo. (Plamil mayo is fairly easy to get - however, when I get some I tend to run through it fairly quickly, and not want to spend money replacing it right away. And I don't have easy access to a shop - even this one is a bit of a faff on the bus.) Anyway, the dressing ingredients I did have were just as good! Quantities here are for one person.

1 large carrot, chopped
Small piece of raw cabbage, shredded
A tablespoon each of sunflower seeds and pine nuts
Two cloves raw garlic, chopped VERY SMALL unless you are used to it or a masochist. (If you have never eaten raw garlic before in your life, try using one clove to start with.)

Hemp oil - about a quarter of a standard coffee mug. Less if you prefer your salad on the dry side or hate dealing with that little slick of oil in the bottom of a bowl.
A teaspoon of ginger
Two or three drops of soy sauce, added on impulse but it tasted ok.

Mix it all together in a bowl. Then eat it.

Monday, 1 September 2008

More additions to the sidebar

A post brought to you by the part of my brain that doesn't necessarily read other people's blogrolls all the way through, with a dash of diligence and an ounce of egoism (ie the idea that anyone might actually find these links interesting! If you do, feel free to suggest more...)

Firstly, recipes and food-related resources has a couple of new entries. Veg Out and Veggie Heaven are guides to finding vegetarian and vegan resturants. Each one covers a wide range of countries. I have also added Vegan Village, a noticeboard for all things vegan; and Lembas, a wholesale supplier of vegetarian and vegan wholefoods. Lembas will deliver bulk orders within a certain radius of Sheffield, and are worth contacting if a few people are up for clubbing together to buy this sort of thing in. (Feel free to comment or email if you know of a similar company anywhere else in the country!)

The sidebar also now contains a section called 'global veganicity'. (Currently between 'other resources' and the picture of an eyeshadow, fairly far down the sidebar) Between the various sites linked, you should find something relevant to where you live or are travelling to.

The other new section is 'local resources', currently occupying the space between 'recipes' and 'other resources'. Right now it only contains local websites dealing with the areas I know about: in other words, I can vouch for their usefulness because I've either used them or been a vegan in the area before they were a glint in their webmaster's eye. Again, feel free to recommend more sites like this.

Under 'places to talk veganism' I have added Vegan Buddies, a messageboard set up largely so new vegans can get support from more experienced ones. This is the place to go if you're new to veganism, don't know many vegans, or worry about looking 'silly' because you don't know certain things. It is categorically NOT the place to go if you enjoy lambasting less experienced vegans for not being perfect!

Last but not least, VegCom has been accommodated (see what I did there?) under 'other resources'. If you need accommodation or a flatmate/lodger/tenant/(here my imagination runs dry, which is probably for the best) then this is the place to advertise.

Rarebitting on

Welsh Rarebit!

Grated hard vegan cheese (In the UK that's Scheese or Cheezely - on this occasion the latter)
Margarine (in this instance Marks and Spencer dairy free - not the low-fat one, that goes weird when heated)
Cornflour (I have no cute little note to add to this)
Beer (optional - I used Co-op wheat beer, which says 'vegan' on the label. You only need a little bit, so make sure it is one where you can tolerate drinking the rest of the bottle/can!)
Soy milk (just a little) (You could probably use rice or oat milk instead - I've never tried)
Chilli powder, mustard, paprika, etc to taste
Bread (hey, nearly forgot that!)

- Put the bread under the grill, let the first side toast while you do everything else
- Grate the cheese
-Melt the margarine: use enough that it fills the bottom of the pan. Start off on full heat to get it going, but turn the heat down as soon as it starts to melt. Otherwise it goes manky.
- SLOWLY mix the cornflour into the margarine, until it is all absorbed.
- Add grated cheese - there should be as much of this as there is of the existing flour/marg mixture.
- Stir until cheese starts to melt
- Add beer until the mixture turns into a smooth paste
- Add a bit of milk, but not too much. Just enough to make the mixture creamy.
- Add spices if you like that sort of thing
- Spread it on the un-toasted side of the bread and put back under the grill for a couple of minutes

You could also add a dash of worcester sauce - Life and Biona both do vegetarian ones that are available in most health food stores and Tesco if you go there. (A lot of worcester sauce, including Lea and Perrins, has anchovies in. Fishy business...)

Thursday, 14 August 2008


If you're the sort who reads people's link sections all the way down, you may have noticed that the section on knitting has grown a bit lately. This is because, while I have had a bit of knitter's block for a while now, I am slowly getting back into it, with added veganicity.

Let me explain here. I was perfectly aquainted with the principles of veganism (in the form it tends to take in the part of the world where I grew up) by the time I took up knitting. Hence, I have never bought sheep wool or anything of that sort new. Neither have I ever bought a ball or hank of sheep-based yarn secondhand. What I have done occasionally is get a jumper or something out of the recycling bin at a charity shop, unravel it, take out any skanky bits and turn it into something else. Now, I don't plan to do this any more. There is nothing of the sort left in my (rather immense nonetheless) yarn stockpile.

What do you knit with if not with wool? Quite a few things actually. Currently on my needles is a scarf made mostly from a yarn that is 100% bamboo fibre. That sounds rather rough and scratchy, but actually it feels like linen or maybe a silk blend. I have two colours of this bamboo yarn, a rather expensive one that I managed to get at less than half price. It is interspersed with a lacy ribbon yarn called Firefly, which is difficult to explain without a photo. There will be photos eventually.

I also have a whole load of acrylic to use up somehow. I can make a pair of wristwarmers during (for example) an episode of SFU, so I might make a lot of those to sell and donate to charity.

There will be a post on the different types of vegan yarn, when I have a bit more time.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Feeling the Pulse

I hadn't really heard many good comments about Pulse (vegetarian resturant) in Norwich, but I went in there today and was quite impressed. Lunches are generally around a fiver per head (maybe more if you have a more expensive drink) and most things can be veganisied. I had the Mexican panini - you have to ask for the vegan option for this. It kept my blood sugar reasonable for the last couple of shops and the journey home, and my (omni) mother liked it.

Edited to add: for more information about eating out as a vegan in Norfolk, see the VegFolk guide.
Essex (I haven't spent as much time in Essex so don't know how useful this is, but the site looks good)
Cambridge (My favourite of the cafes on here is CB2. They have another branch called CB1, on Mill Road, which is not listed but you can certainly get soy milk there. And books.)

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Hey, folks?

Try not to feel sorry for me if I'm not eating anything in a cafe, ok? Believe me, I would not go somewhere I can't eat *anything* if it was my only chance of food that day. I'm more likely to suffer from the embarassment of being the centre of attention - especially when it quite frankly makes me look and feel like a freak - than from having to make do with a packet of crisps until I get home.
What is helpful, however, is taking your resident vegan's suggestions seriously when it comes to where to eat. Especially if s/he knows a place that buys vegan cakes from his/her friend's company (ok, that just got a bit more specific! But they are great cakes!) or indeed if they know a whole list of places (yes, I have been to nearly all the ones in the town centre) to get great food.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Travel menu

I am currently on something that is part health kick, part not-getting-ill kick and part sheer terror of starting to dislike crisps due to consuming too many while travelling. Commuting for me has always meant a day or so of eating crap. That's ok if it doesn't turn into four days a week of eating crap, for several months. So, this week i'm bucking the trend a bit. I boiled up a triple-load of quinoa, chopped a few different vegetables, made dressing and divided the lot between a Swedish Glace container and a margarine pot. And put some on a plate for today's lunch, of course.

Lunch today: quinoa, chopped carrot, yellow pepper, raw garlic and ginger (chopped VERY SMALL to save mouth-burning!) with green salad, hemp oil and balsamic vinegar
Dinner tonight: quinoa, spring onions, peppers, sunflower seeds, green salad, hemp oil and balsamic vinegar.
Lunch tomorrow: quinoa, carrot and celery with hemp oil and balsamic vinegar, also any leftover green stuff
Snack (the whole time): 1 jar of brazil nuts.

How to transport green leaf salad: get a sealable freezer bag. Place leaves etc inside, not packing them tightly. Seal bag with as much air as possible. Place in plastic tub, large enough to put it in without squeezing air out.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

In the raw

Again, sorry, no nudie stuff in this post. One person gets to see that, and he doesn't do blogs. :)

Ahem, that aside...

This post is about what I see as a major difference between health vegans and those who are in it for animal rights reasons. (Or maybe between 'raw veganism' and any other form of veganism I can think of offhand) There has been a lot of fuss recently, sparked by a person who posted about the damage her raw vegan diet (which wasn't even vegan, but she doesn't mention *that* to the newspapers!) did to her children. (Incidentally, I made another post about this case but consigned it to my draft folder as it was based rather on personal anger and meanness - while I still agree with the overall sentiment, I felt the actual message was rather undermined by the medium of snarkiness. Suffice it to say, the resulting attention has led one of the vegan world's best-known raw-foodists to speak out about the amount of health problems in vegan children she knows.

Now, part of me thinks it was brave of this woman - a first-time parent of a child in the last stages of breastfeeding, so somebody for whom it is an issue like RIGHT NOW - to raise the issue. Because, while veganism (raw or not) is not automatically a bad diet, it is not automatically healthy either. Too many people assume that it is (and incidentally assume that a vegan with a cold or period pain or a broken bone must have been sneaking off to McDonalds, blah). And people who disagree with this will at some point be lambasted for it.

The factor that distinguishes raw, health-minded vegans from certain others among us (maybe the majority?) lies in the solution this person suggests. Now, she isn't doing so blithely or without some kind of conflict, but she is nonetheless raising the possibility of introducing raw goat milk and similar items into her daughter's diet. It is explicitly *veganism* she feels the need to compromise on, rather than *rawness*. Now, reading this as an animal-rights-minded (and so far non-breeding) vegan, this struck me as being the opposite of what I would expect. Maybe this is because my experience is of families where the children are raised vegan but not raw. (And, generally, had roughly the same or a lower level of ill-health than their classmates) Maybe because I can see a whole lot more scope for a varied diet including cooked food than I can for one involving raw animal products. (unless one goes for raw meat, but the salmonella content might be a little *too* varied there!) Or maybe because my beanburger-and-chips fed self had a perfectly normal puberty and came out of it at above average height with teeth that can crack nuts! At any rate, when avoiding animal products for reasons pertaining to the animals themselves is the key motivation for being vegan, then veganism itself is the last principle to be sacrificed, rather than the first.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Good thing being vegan keeps blood pressure down

The pro-GM crop scientist on the Today programme really annoyed me. Now, I have a fairly open mind about the wider GM issue. Much of my suspicion comes from the sort of companies that are involved, rather than the science itself. I have a hard time seeing why Monsanto would want to solve a global food crisis, for example. I don't buy GM food, but that's more along the lines of a boycott and an avoidance of actively supporting it rather than some idea that my body is particularly pure. I eat soy (albeit organic), drink coffee, use deodorant with aluminium in and am not particularly fussed about ingesting the odd artificial something-or-other (except sweeteners, they make me ill), so GM can join the queue on that score. I am, however, prepared to listen to the arguments on this issue.

So why did this particular scientist piss me off? Well, it was his brief exposition of one particular health benefit of GM food - the potential for adding essential fatty acids to plant matter which can currently only be found in fish oil. And, he says, this would help to conserve fish stocks. Now, I know that it is difficult to find a vegetarian source of these acids, but I also know that they can be found in flax. That may be known as linseed where you live or buy food. You can get the seeds themselves, or a powder. (some of my friends swear by the powder as a cooking ingredient - I'm not keen but will occasionally go on a health kick and buy some). These can be bought in health food shops, including Horrid and Bastard if you don't have anything else to hand, and also in Teh Evil Teh Sco. And, guess what? Eating these instead of fish will also help to stop said fish going extinct. See, that didn't take much gene-fiddling, did it?

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Increasing veganicity in the bathroom

Nah, sorry, you don't get webcam shots of me showering or worse.

Anyway, I've been kind of inspired by this post by the rather cool TP.

If you're the sort of person who regularly checks out the links in other people's blogs (I am!) you may have noticed a new-ish and rapidly growing section captioned 'shinies'. In particular, there have been rather a lot of cosmetic companies added lately. This is because, having established my ability to check the unlikliest foods for whey powder and resist the allure of a limp cheese sandwich in my work canteen - not to mention picking up the habit of carrying snack food around with me to avoid the sort of near-fainting experiences that tended to happen in the past, and realising it is probably ok to eat two bowlfulls in an evening if that's the only significant thing I eat all day - I am now turning my attention to veganising my bathroom and makeup bag.

Now, this isn't a massive issue. (That's kind of why it got left for last...) I can say with certainty that everything I have is vegetarian, because this I never stopped checking. I've been avoiding animal tested stuff the whole time - think I may have slipped up on that one two or three times in the last decade, mostly due to discrepancies between the different lists. (These will go up in the links shortly - you can decide for yourself whose standard to use, or give me advice on which is better) I've tended to avoid things that are obviously not vegan (eg Superdrug, who are normally my favourite source of bathroom stuff, make a shampoo with cashmere extract in. Fuck that shit.), and started to weed stuff out in the bathroom when I first committed to becoming vegan again.

That bit is easy. What gets slightly harder is doing the same thing in my makeup bag. I am a bit of a hoarder and collector with makeup - I don't wear it very often, and the range I have may seem a bit limited to some people, but it has been collected over a few years. I am also going to use up what I have (or wait until the yuk factor hits, as it did eventually about eating dairy and wearing my leather DMs), while seeking replacements. There are some things I would like to replace with as close a copy as possible. The big sticking point seems to be lipstick, particularly red lipstick. One of the companies listed in my sidebar - think it was Urban Decay - seem to have one on their vegan list, but I have yet to see it in a British shop. I may have to get it by mail order when my current one (contains beeswax, although apparently not carmine) runs out. I guess eventually I may just have to streamline the makeup I have (which is probably no bad thing) and quit impulse buying (also no bad thing, but I have kind of got into the habit of getting new makeup for particular events and need to get out of it). This is a bigger change of habits than the diet ever was!

A couple of tips on the bathroom front:
- Superdrug, despite the pooheaded decision to put cashmere extract in shampoo, are in general pretty good on vegan issues. They've started to reaffirm their animal testing policy (which has apparently always been there, although they did consider changing to a rolling rule a few years back) but kind of not mentioned for some reason. And they label the vegetarian and vegan products in an increasing number of their ranges. And their stuff tends to be pretty cheap, too. My favourite right now is the Vitamin E range.
- The Co-op have probably the best animal testing policy (and the longest fixed cut-off date) on the high street, and have also consistently advertised this fact in a way that certain other places (see above) have been somewhat shy about doing. They also highlight whether or not things contain animal ingredients. This is where I generally get my shampoo (see above for why I can't get that in the same place as every-sodding-thing else) and household cleaning stuff. Also toothpaste, since S'drug haven't been forthcoming about the veganicity of theirs yet.
- For going beyond the basics, of course I'm going to recommend Lush. They are slightly pricier than the above, but I find myself streamlining what I buy and making stuff last. (NOT by not washing!) So my Lush habit costs maybe ten quid every few months, give or take the odd emergency birthday purchase. One of their bath melts lasts about a dozen baths - you really only need a small piece. And I've been rotating two small bottles of their shower gel with a cheaper S'drug one for the last few months, washing once or twice a day, and it is only just coming to the time to replace them.
- If you aren't sure about hippy-type deodorants (I can see the appeal, but have never found one that worked on me) then Mitchums is a possibly surprising favourite. The ingredients are vegan, and Revlon (whatever other schiesserei you may accuse them of) quit testing on animals in the 80s or early 90s. It is the only deo I've used that doesn't commit me to having to wash twice a day and spend lunchtime ducking into the toilet with wet wipes at the ready, plus *having* to change clothes to go to the pub after work. (I quite often do this for the fun of it, but kind of like the choice that comes with not having your work clothes reduced to stinking rags by 4pm) So this, like the above comments on shower gel, is a pretty serious endorsement!

Monday, 30 June 2008

What I ate today

I don't know how interesting or useful food posts are to anyone reading this, but today's lunch bears mentioning because it contained one of the staple foods I wrote about last week, another ingredient which some new vegans find scary, and also used up some perishables.

This is a pretty cool grain. It costs a little more than rice and pasta, but way better nutritionally and about the effort/time level of the white versions of these ingredients. Allow 50-100 g per person (depending on how much other stuff you have) - 75g half-filled one of my coffee mugs, if that's any sort of guide. Cook in double its quantity of boiling water (in my case a whole coffee mug full) with a little salt. (The salt does improve things - i'd recommend it, unless you have really severe high blood pressure) Wait until the little curly sprouts start to show and detatch - this takes about 10 minutes. In the meantime, there are a few other things you could do...

I had half a block of smoked tofu left over that needed using up before I go away. Smoked tofu is good, as it saves on having to flavour the stuff from scratch. I used about 100g for one serving. I pressed it (but didn't bother with dry-frying this time) and cut it into thin strips, then cooked it under the grill. It didn't take long - I'd cut and grilled the tofu by the time the quinoa was properly cooked.

In this case half a red pepper and three mushrooms that needed using, and some fennel which didn't but was available. These went under the other half of the grill (mushrooms first, as I have a slight horror of biting into a raw mushroom and would have to be literally starving to do it on purpose) for slightly less time than the tofu.

What else?
Everything under the grill got turned over or around at least once.

The last step...
I mixed everything together in the quinoa saucepan, stirring in a bit of olive oil. It was pretty much warm salad writ large, but more filling than the word 'salad' suggests.

Muck factor
One saucepan, bowl, spoon, chopping board and knife dirtied. The bowl i'd stored the tofu in overnight (needs to be stored in water, preferably in the fridge) also needed washing. This meal also involved two bits of tinfoil over the grill (one on each side, not double-layered) - this is always a useful thing to do if sharing a kitchen with omnis.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Tofu is your friend - or at least, not your enemy

So, yesterday's food post was about basic ingredients. My lunch today was one of those meals that branches beyond the basics - tofu in a pink sauce made with soy cream and tomato puree. The sauce is easy to make - just mix the two ingredients to the appropriate thickness, which is basically whatever thickness you want it at. The tofu, however...

I had a problem with tofu for ages. I loved marinated tofu, bought ready-prepared or served up in a cafe. But I could *never* get plain tofu to absorb flavour at home. Then someone (forget who, sorry) linked to this page, and it was the best bit of cooking advice I've had in ages. Since tofu is something which non-vegetarians in the western world get almost unanimously freaked out by, I thought the advice warrants sharing in case you're a new vegan feeling nervous about getting your white wings. (or an old one who wonders why their tofu doesn't taste of much)

Basically, tofu is sold packed in water. It is the resulting waterloggedness that stops it absorbing flavours. To combat this, press and dry-fry. Pressing means wrapping it in a dry cloth and pushing down until the worst of the water is squeezed out. You may need more than one cloth. Avoid new cloths in any colour other than white, as the dye will come out on your tofu. This is not as much fun as it sounds. ;-/ It takes a bit of practice to do this without your tofu breaking up, but it can be done.

Dry-frying refers to cooking in a frying pan without oil. Cut your pressed tofu into fairly flat squares or triangles and spread out on the bottom of the pan. Press down on each piece in turn with a spatula to squeeze out moisture. You will hear squeaks and bubbling noises as this happens, and see little bits of water coming out. This can be very satisfying. Your tofu pieces should turn a nice goldy-brown on the side that was against the bottom of the pan, at which point turn it over and do the same to the other side.

When no more water can be squeezed out, your tofu pieces are ready for whatever the next step is. Marinate it, cook it in sauce, whatever, your tofu should now absorb what you want it to.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Cheating at veganism

Haha, caught you with that title didn't I! You thought you were getting a full confession of my slip-ups and misdemeanours. Well, sorry, if you're the sort of person who likes that kind of thing you will be disappointed. If, however, you're after ideas for making veganism easy, you should probably retain some level of hope and keep reading.

Here are some basic things that are vegan (usually - check labels before buying in case you've found the one brand with milk in, as happened to me with gnocchi yesterday. The bloody soddingness of Sainsbury's on that issue is something on which I currently agree with Jay Rayner.), value for money, and versatile in their uses. Most also have an impressive level of longevity.
- Pasta. Brown is healthier, white is quicker to cook and digest. Personally I think it is ok to eat white pasta when accompanied by vegetables - while it doesn't have much nutritional value in itself, neither does it contain anything harmful.
- Rice. I tend to apply the same rule re brown vs white, with the proviso that brown rice tastes a shedload better than brown pasta.
- Marigold bouillon powder. Get the red or purple tins - the green one has lactose in. Can be used as a base for sauces, flavouring for curry, risotto or just pasta, or as a drink on its own or with soy milk. Costs a couple of quid, lasts for ages.
- Miso soup. Marigold makes a good one. You can drink it, flavour stuff with it, cook vegetables with it or just eat a bowl of it with random veg or croutons floating in.
- Oatcakes. A quick snack to keep in the desk drawer. Nuts are also good for this, if you're not allergic.
- Soy sauce. A quick way to add flavour.
- TVP mince. Dried is cheaper and keeps longer, frozen is generally more user-friendly. The dried stuff should be soaked for as long as possible - preferably pour some warm water on it before you go to work in the morning. (Not difficult for those of us whose morning routine involves a cup of tea) A good source of protein, can go in anything that you'd use minced meat for, although for the authentic fatty texture you will need to add extra oil or margarine.
- Margarine. Pure (from supermarkets and health food shops) and Suma (normally only in health food shops) are the most popular, according to my admittedly limited survey. Sainsbury's and Mark's & Spencer also do own-brand vegan spreads. Health food shops have a fairly wide range, although quality varies. And, you never know, maybe one day Vitalite will pull their finger out and veganise like they said they would a year ago.
- Couscous. Same purposes as pasta and rice, but quicker.
- Beans. These can be tinned, freshly-boiled or frozen, depending on your time/energy vs money ratio and whether you have freezer space. Red kidney and chickpeas are the most versatile.
- Passata. This is basically liquidised tomatoes. Comes in cartons or glass bottles - the latter is best if you want it to last for a while. Use with mince and veg for a pasta sauce, or mince and beans for chilli.
- Sunflower oil, for cooking things in.
- Cornflour, to thicken sauces. Or you could use bread flour for this - a bit more faff, but also has more uses in general. (like bread, or pizza, or cake)
- Tomato puree, as a thickener and a flavouring
- Quinoa. Same purpose as pasta, rice and couscous, but with far more nutritional value.
- Peanut butter. Yes, for cooking. Can be turned into pasta sauce, satay for a stir-fry or curry, soup base, spread, dip, sex aid and much more. (one of these suggestions does not come from my experience! A spoonful of peanut butter to the person who guesses which.) Contains protein, unsaturated fat, calcium and probably more that i can't think of right now.

These are the nuts and bolts of my diet. Of course they aren't the limit of what I eat - I do sometimes splash out on fake bacon, soy cheese and so on, and also try to introduce fresh veg whenever possible. And this list doesn't include dessert. In general, though, if you have most of the items on the list, you can always throw something together - this doesn't rule out dressing it up if you have time, energy, money or all three. The better food you can make for yourself at home, the less likely you are to send out for a pizza.

If only it were true

Hey, Alicia? I have no problem with you. Or with PETA, however fashionable it may be to hate them. (I have actually worked there, so that gives me a bit of an idea of when to call bullshit on certain allegations) But, really, what's with getting people's hopes up? I'm very glad for you that your dogs no longer fart since being on a vegetarian diet. Sadly, and I say this as someone who has spent long hours in a car with a vegetarian dog, this is not true for every canine in existence.
Having said that, if done properly, a vegetarian diet is probably healthier for dogs than a lot of the tinned reject organ crap you can get. And it does make a dog's poo marginally less vile.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Misplaced blame

Girl admitted to hospital - vegan diet blamed. Now, while I'm willing to believe that the parents in this case are messing up somewhere, I don't see why the default assumption has to be that the vegan diet is to blame. In every similar case so far, there has been some other factor - usually that the parents are cranks in some other way. (Hey, I'm not denying that veganism does attract this sort of person - but they don't represent the majority of us, ok?) For example, the family (maybe more than one - sadly, plenty exist) who rely on the 'power of prayer' to fix illnesses rather than taking their kids to the doctor. Or the mother who thought breastfeeding wasn't vegan - come on, you think a demographic containing a large number of crunchy granola types would really accept that as a norm?

Why am I so dubious? You may be thinking at this point that it is a knee-jerk response (rather like that of the doctor blaming veganism rather than looking any further?) from someone who will defend veganism at all costs. And you may worry about the future of my potential children. That is entirely your problem, since I'm unlikely to have any in the near future anyway.

But you know what? Although I don't have children, I do have a fair bit of knowledge here. I know enough people who have raised healthy vegetarian or vegan children to know that the diet isn't intrinsically a problem. (Some of their parents aren't even people I like, let alone carry a torch for - the point is that their kids are physically healthy.) I even know a smattering of life veg/ans of various stripes who have, amazingly if the press is to be believed, actually reached adulthood with no more than the average number of health problems.

Then there is my own experience. While not a life veg/an, I have been either vegetarian or vegan since well before puberty. If you ask me whether the change in diet affects a girl's periods, I won't be able to answer. (Yes, I do have them. And sometimes take iron supplements during them. Just like my omni friends, in fact.) I went pescatarian at age nine (being a child with no vegetarian relatives might be construed as one of the few good excuses for this), vegetarian at maybe 10 or 11, was vegan consistently from 14-20, slipped up and went back to being vegetarian for a bit, went vegan again in my early 20s. I do not have the spine of an 80-year old. I get back pain when doing heavy lifting, for sure, but am fairly confident that this isn't a specifically vegan trait. I am above average height for a female in England (5'8") and possibly slightly overweight. I have obviously female breasts for the first time in my life, probably because the soy content in my diet has gone up. I get more than my fair share of throat and chest infections - brought on by stress and living in a polluted city - but no other health problems. I take no daily vitamin supplement - just massive doses of vitamin c to ward off freshers' flu each year and iron for maybe one period in five. (Btw, I have heard from certain quarters that 'real vegans don't have periods' - this is neither typical nor healthy, and the people in question can jam it up their non-bleeding parts and get a sodding life.) I get my ID checked for alcohol purchases way more often than my 'young persons' railcard (I'm a mature student) gets checked closely on the train. I sometimes have the mouth of a thirteen-year old. I have spent my entire life listening to doom-laden predictions about my future health, none of which have come true.

Finally, there is the question of why exactly the press doesn't seem as keen to cover the health problems of children raised on junk food. Or if they do they blame it on external factors, never parental choice. There does seem to be a concerted anti-vegan trend in the media, and it does rather make life difficult for the majority of us who aren't like that.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Kim Stallwood vs George Monbiot

Monbiot wrote a cop-out article suggesting people eat less meat - he admits that veganism might be even better for the environment, but apparently can't advocate a diet that he couldn't personally follow. Here, Kim Stallwood vents some prime grumpy veganicity in response.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

My first real rant

And guess what, it involves weight.

See this article? I don't even know where to start.
Oh yeah - with the idea that going vegetarian is something you do to get thin. And that anything other than thin is ugly. And if you aren't thin you deserve to have shots of your fat ugly legs in a national newspaper and on its website. Being fat is of course purely down to gluttony. (Yeah, in Nigella's case that may be true - but, jeez, her USP for years was her pride in this fact)
Next, the fact that this article was promoted as a good thing on a vegan website. The fact that Nigella's husband went on an all-egg diet is about as far from any vegan's ideals as you can get. Plus, ew, who exactly would want to sleep with someone who was on a diet seemingly designed to produce body odour, bad breath and stinky farts? I'll stick to being fat and vegan, thanks.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Veganism and (in)convenience

Yes, first update in ages. But, hey, it isn't a food post!

So, I've mentioned that I don't find a vegan diet the easiest. I'm aware that this is an unpopular thing to say, and that quite a few people will throw their hands up and shout me down with cries of 'but it's EEEEAAAASY!!! You just aren't TRYING!' or just mutter about the crazy fat girl trying to put people off veganism as if she didn't do this enough by merely admitting to being vegan with *that* figure. (Assuming they acknowledge me as a vegan in the first place - my not-especially-tiny figure puts me under suspicion in certain folk's eyes - that's a whole other post though!) But, the fact is, it isn't easy. And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who's found that. Not everybody has cooking facilities at work or a canteen that serves vegan food beyond plain crisps and overpriced apples and bananas. Not everybody has vegan or even vegetarian workmates or ones who are willing to try two or three different food outlets, even with the promise of finding something eventually, for the benefit of the weird girl who won't eat normal food. Not everybody has colleagues and friends who factor veganism in when organising group meals, let alone who are willing to actually go to a vegetarian resturant. (Before going any further, the people I work with *are* usually pretty good about stuff like this, but there are often limits to what is possible when accommodating a wide range of expectations.)

There are ways around the inconvenience angle. Most of the food posts on this blog have reflected/will reflect this. I am not going to deny, though, that it involves a change of routine, some level of thought for the first few weeks (in my case, the first few weeks of each university term) beyond merely choosing a different option in the canteen. (If your work canteen has a vegan option, lolz d00d ur lucky. I want to work where you do. Unless of course I hate the sound of your job...) It may need to be done gradually, dropping a few things at a time until you realise that you can in fact live perfectly happily without *any* of this stuff. You are very likely to eventually just stop thinking of animal material as food, but it won't be instant. The habit of a lifetime is hard to break, and (this is one thing where i agree with the Skinny Bitch authors, crack out the bunting folks) cheese contains addictive substances.

But, believe me, it does get to be less difficult over time. Your mileage may vary with what 'time' actually means. So, hmm, I suppose I should try to quantify how exactly to make it easier? Ok, well, in no particular order:
  • Don't freak out if you can't go the whole way from the start. It might help to set an official starting-point in the future, and work towards veganism gradually until then. (Tip: it's fine to say 'I'm going to be vegan after I've moved into the new house/finished the stuff in the fridge/come off the medication/overcome whatever your main stumbling-block is, but don't expect anyone (yourself included) to take you seriously if you play the unrepentant carnivore until that point.)
  • Don't be demoralised by other people's pronouncements that being vegan is easy. They are either in a very lucky situation (don't like non-vegan food on taste grounds, have easier access than you to decent vegan food, have more supportive friends/family, etc) or have been vegan for so long that it seems easy to them. As I said, it gets a whole lot easier with practice.
  • Don't give up on the whole thing because you mess up a couple of times. You won't be struck down if you forget to check for whey powder until you've eaten half the packet of crisps. But it doesn't mean you might as well go back to your old eating habits! A new vegan who makes a few mistakes is still on track to do a whole lot more good than someone who doesn't even try. Just remember to check the label next time, huh?
  • Make sure you are doing this for reasons you believe in. That's the only way to truly commit to something. It is those reasons which you will call up in your mind as a counterbalance for your desire for pizza or whatever. They will also form the basis of the arguments you use if/when people give you grief.
  • Approach going vegan with a positive frame of mind. If you see yourself as a martyr it won't work.
  • Learn to cook. It doesn't have to involve anything complicated (if it does, make enough for leftovers or freezing - three days' worth of food is worth a whole lot more faff than one evening's dinner) but it is worth developing a rota of staple meals that you can make quickly. Something which is quite restricted for vegans is access to convenience foods as the term is traditionally understood. (Are supermarket readymeals that much of a sacrifice??) If you already cook, you just need to use a bit of imagination to replace the non-vegan stuff. Get a decent cookbook (eg Vegan with a Vengance) or look on teh interwebz.
Those are all the tips I can think of for now, and I think they are the most vital ones for vegans having teething problems. (absolutely no pun intended there, yeahright) Think of it this way: you don't give up on everything that takes some practice, do you? No? Well, this is the same.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Where I stand

Well, since I'm giving advice, I should probably explain where it comes from. Just to fend off anyone who reads this and thinks 'hey, that doesn't apply to me!' So, a few things:

- I am in a medium-distance relationship (with a vegan) and don't have children.
- I have been vegetarian since well before puberty.
- My first inroads into veganism happened as a teenager. (My parents were and are omnis)
- I've never been thin and probably never will be

As such
- Most of the significant relationships in my life have been developed as a vegetarian or a vegan. Hence, I have zero insight into how becoming a vegetarian or vegan affects existing friendships.
- I don't know if cutting out animal products has an effect on periods, skin condition or anything else related to physical maturation. I have never had a period as a meat-eater.
- I learned to cook as a very young vegan living with my parents. The main change in my life was having to make more of my own meals rather than eating what was put in front of me. So I don't know what it is like to cook for yourself as an omnivore for several years and then veganise. (I do, however, quite enjoy taking meat recipes and adapting them - so if you send me one i'll have a go with it. That's a serious offer, although it may take a while for me to get round to doing anything.)
- If you're after using veganism only or mainly as a method for weight loss, please go somewhere else for your sake and mine. And please find a healthy somewhere else, and take Skinny Bitch with a pinch of (pun completely intended) salt if you must insist on using it at all.

Having said that, I certainly do know about being and staying vegan in a whole range of circumstances. And I know about the joy of carrying food around for lunch and having salad dressing and curry sauce leaking over one's teaching materials and a whole lot of other fun stuff like that. So, y'know, swings and roundabouts...

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Another food post

Excuse the proliferation of food posts. This is my first week back at work and I don't have time to make 'proper' posts for the time being. Anyway, there is a post in the pipeline about the difficulties of being vegan, so think of these posts as the antidote to that, in terms of containing practical tips on making it easier.

Cooking beans from dried...
This is a bit of a faff, but the upside is the beans keep reasonably well in the fridge and can also be frozen.
Tip 1: If you haven't done this before, start with white beans rather than black or red. They have fewer toxins so you're less likely to mess up to the extent of getting sick. I've got sick from red beans that weren't cooked properly - including ones I've bought ready-cooked in a tin! - but never from chickpeas or similar.
Tip 2: Make loads, like half the packet at once - this is what makes it worth the effort. Freeze any you aren't going to use in the next week.
Tip 3: When refrigerating, the best thing is to put the beans in cold salt water in a glass jar (with the lid screwed on to avoid leakage!).
Soak the beans for a day - stick them in a pan of water before leaving for work, and they're ready to boil by the time you get back. Change the water before cooking. Boil for about an hour, more if beans are still hard, but they shouldn't be.

What I did with the first part of this batch...
I made lentil and chickpea dhal for dinner last night. Basically this entails boiling lentils until they become nearly liquid, in water seasoned with miso soup (no, this isn't culturally accurate!), lime juice, cardomom and cumin. Tastes better than it sounds. I added some of the chickpeas that had just come off the boil, when the lentils had just reached the boil.
Again, things like this take a bit of messing around, so always make enough to freeze a portion and keep some leftovers for the next day. I have a small amount left today, so will pour it over stirfried vegetables.

And some packed lunches...
My biggest problem with being vegan has always been eating during the day, while at work. Our canteen is not the best on that front. So my new year's resolution - the one i'm admitting to here! - was to bring a packed lunch every day. I always make this the night before - I can NEVER be relied upon to get up in time to do anything beyond putting clothes on (to the relief of the people i work with) and catching a bus.
Monday: brown rice, edamame (green baby soybeans), green salad. The brown rice was left over from dinner on Sunday night (Tesco readymade curry which i adorned with brown rice and another salad - effect similar to icing on a turd...) and the edamame had been lurking in my parents' freezer for several months so i decided to bring it back with me. It tastes more like broad beans than the normal white soybeans. I added some soy sauce for flavour. Might cook the rice in miso another time.
Tuesday: Salad made with chickpeas (see above), couscous (i made some to go with the dhal and did a bit extra, see below), tomato, cucumber and spring onions (chopped while doing a green salad for dinner then night before).

Couscous is the ideal convenience food, in my experience. (Unless you're allergic to wheat, which i'm not - 'addicted' would be a more accurate term!) You just pour it in a bowl and put boiling water on it, and leave it until the water is soaked up. You can buy flavoured ones with dried veg and so on in - Sammy's make a wide range of these, most of which are vegan and available in health food shops and supermarkets. Can be used instead of rice or pasta if you only own one saucepan and that has vegetables in (ie, my situation for five years or so) or if you don't want to cook. Can be a bit dry on its own - add oil or some kind of sauce if nothing else.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Vitalite NOT vegan

Message received from the Vegan Society, in my case via facebook:

" Subject: Vitalite is not currently suitable for vegans.

Vitalite is not currently suitable for vegans. Vitalite was due to be changed to a vegan friendly product, however the launch was delayed, as it failed to meet the manufacturer's quality standards.

Dairy Crest, the manufacturer of Vitalite, apologise for any confusion caused and The Vegan Society also regrets that the situation has arisen. Dairy Crest and The Vegan Society hope to offer Vitalite suitable for vegans as soon as possible.

Please contact The Vegan Society if you have further questions:

Thank you,

Amanda at The Vegan Society

Background: Vitalite was recently registered for the Vegan Society's trademark. It was featured in the 'Shoparound' section of the Vegan magazine in either the last issue or the one before.
Personally, I find it hard to be surprised that a dairy company is having problems veganising a product. It is, however, a pity that this is taking time, because a cheap mainstream margarine would be a very useful thing to point newbies and sceptics to.

Surprise, a vegan talking about food!

Now, vegans talking about food is a bit of a cliche - particularly among vegetarians, for some reason. So I guess I *should* make a massive effort to avoid the subject here. Unfortunately, however, what you eat is as big a part of veganism as what you *don't* eat - since we have to eat something and all - so I am going to talk about it and sucks if you don't like that. I promise that food posts will only be made if I've either made something particularly impressive or am lacking something else to blog about.

Anyway, my lunch today (taking advantage of my last few days off work, where I can cook proper food in the middle of the day) was vegetables and tofu in tempura batter with a green salad.
Salad: 'ordinary' lettuce, watercress, spinach and a couple of spring onions. Dressed with a mix of hemp oil (I had olive oil overload during my last attempt to eat healthily, then bought some that had gone off, so now try to avoid it where I can), wine vinegar and agave syrup. (That's the vegan stuff that is like honey. It comes from a cactus, which I guess is the true vegan equivalent of eating the secretions of a stinging insect!) The salad, particularly the vinegar element, was useful in mopping up the grease content of the rest of the meal.
Batter - from a packet mix. These are fairly easily available and most of them seem to be vegan. I'm afraid I don't have a recipe for making it from scratch, but I can tell you that it works better after spending a day in the fridge than it does before. The batter has to be really cold and the oil really hot to get the full benefit of it. I don't own a deep fryer, so used a centimetre or so of oil in the bottom of the wok. (You will hear more about my wok habit!) I left the oil to heat up while making salad, going to the loo (tmi? Gives you an idea about timing though. And I swear I washed my hands...) and getting the bowl of batter and veg out of the fridge. To get individual pieces rather than a massive pancake, use a spoon to scoop out bits of veg/tofu one at a time and drop them in the oil. Try to leave space between them. The oil really hurts if you get it on your skin, so try not to. (I did.) Vegetables used in this instance: cauliflower, baby sweetcorn, carrot, mushrooms (pre-fried in garlic oil - I have a horror of biting into raw mushroom!). Also tofu because I had some left over from something else. Vegetables I want to try doing this with: broccoli, peppers, patra leaves. Vegetables I am curious about using but not convinced it will work: tomato, courgette, aubergine.

The leftover battered vegetables are going in the fridge - I want to see how well they'd work as a cold packed lunch.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Why vegan?

I'll be open about this from the start - my reason for being vegan is 100% linked to animal rights. No other factor is capable of motivating me to stick to a decision which, lets face it, makes my day-to-day life that tiny bit more complicated. (I know it may violate some kind of party line to admit that, but there you go) Moral status for me is all about sentience - that's people, animals, birds, fish, hell I even extend it to molluscs, but not plants. I see preserving the environment as something which is done for the benefit of people, animals, birds, fish, etc, and future generations thereof, rather than for its own sake. Arguments that a vegan diet is *healthier* than either eating meat (which it wouldn't occur to me to do anyway, I've been vegetarian for sixteen years. That's since before puberty. And being lacto-veg is convenient as anything in England.) or just being vegetarian have very little impact. The authors of Skinny Bitch would most likely faint (especially when fasting, nu?) if they could see either my figure or some of what goes down my throat. Anyway, in my current circumstances, a *healthy* vegan diet depends a lot on making time to cook a proper dinner, make packed lunch and eat a proper breakfast before leaving the house in the morning. This doesn't always happen. The one health factor in the whole thing is a slight milk allergy - ie I won't die from ingesting dairy, but my throat will swell and get incredibly painful - and that only happened because I stopped eating the stuff in the first place.

Not killing animals, however, strikes me as a pretty damn good reason to put in the necessary effort. The baseline here is that, short of a pure survival situation probably involving roadkill rather than a live animal (because that is *totally* likely to happen), I'm a vegetarian and will stay that way for a whole lot more than the foreseeable future. That doesn't feel like a bold statement. Furthermore, I wouldn't (hypothetically) feel able to protest with any level of credibility about any other instances of animal abuse were I going home from the demo and eating beef or chicken. And, because milk and eggs are inextricably linked to the beef and chicken industries, being vegan strikes me as the logical conclusion of vegetarianism. (I do, however, eat bacteria. The sort of bacteria that inhabit Alpro probiotic soy yogurt are likely to be the sort which are at their happiest in human intestines. The sad thing is that *someone* is likely to ask this question if not pre-empted...) Being vegan is harder than being vegetarian, because I don't have the same 'yuk' reaction to milk as to meat. The pus factor can produce that reaction *if* I think about it hard enough, but it isn't automatic. It's the difference between a video being set to record a programme versus having to hit the record button in response to the first bar of the theme tune and remember to turn it off later. I can look at a block of cheese without feeling sick and smell it without having to leave the room (the effect bacon often has). So it is something which involves a bit of effort, the need to remind myself what happened to the calf the milk in that cheese sandwich in the canteen was meant for.

So, that's my rationale for being vegan. Now, about the other potential reasons. I may appear disparaging of these, but to be perfectly blunt, if someone is vegan I don't care why. I'm happy. Unless you leave me loads of comments to the effect that animal rights is a pile of shit, in which case there are ducks I can bribe to leave just that in your shoes, keyboard and saucepan. In normal circumstances, I don't see it as particuarly constructive to fight about this particular issue.


Firstly, lest anyone think different, it is *my* veganicity being increased - I was a vegan for ages, have gone back to being a vegetarian a few times, and have been slowly re-veganising for about a year. I slip up sometimes, but make the effort not to. I don't intend to use this blog to 'preach' at anyone, although if anyone *does* go vegetarian or vegan as a result of reading something I've written or linked to then I will obviously be delighted. I don't, however, kid myself that I am one of those cool people whose example automatically gets followed.
Beyond that, I don't know quite how much of a personal introduction I need to make since for the time being the existence of this blog will only be revealed to people who kind of know me. At any rate, my (screen) name is Nella - if you know my real name, that's cool unless you're some kind of stalker type, but keep it to yourself in cyberspace or my ducks will come and shit in your computer. I live in England, but the duckshit proviso also applies to my exact location. I'm 26 and in the later stages of a PhD in political theory. It doesn't relate to animal rights or veganism, fyi. I also teach first year undergraduates a fairly standard theory curriculum -Plato to Rawls via folks like Hobbes, Locke and Burke. I like knitting - a post on vegan yarn will appear here at some point - and ducks. I'm sort of a semi-retired goth, although I don't usually wear elaborate eyeliner to teach seminars. I have ten piercings. I make a pretty ace scrambled tofu and vegan cheese sauce. I've had a few health issues over the past year and have reduced my involvement in activism as a result, so online promotion of veganism and an improvement in my own practice of it seem like a happy medium.
So, shalom and welcome to what may or may not be the 'fun kind' of veganism!