Thursday, 26 November 2009

S.O.P.H.I.E. video

Sophie Lancaster was murdered just for looking 'different'. S.O.P.H.I.E. stands for Stamp Out Prejudice, Hatred and Intolerance Everywhere. This video is an attempt to raise awareness of the need to speak out against all hate crime, including that directed at subcultures.

And yes, this is slightly off-topic for a blog on veganism, but if our reasons for being vegan coincide at all then you'll understand.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


An online acquaintance posted this, and it made me wonder: why do flexitarians need special resources? I wouldn't be feeling quite so spiky about the idea if I hadn't run across a number of blog and message board posts and even *gasp* offline conversations regarding the idea of 'accommodating' flexitarians. That is, vegetarians/vegans needing in some form or other to do so. Now, I thought the point of being a flexitarian (rather than vegan, vegetarian, ova-or-lacto-veg, pescatarian, or other label that refers in the dietary sense to eating or not eating a specific range of foods) was that you didn't need to be accommodated. That you ate the 'right' thing for any specific context. Surely the right thing for a context in which you are surrounded by vegetarians/vegans is to eat what they do? Be truly 'flex'-ible and refrain from whinging about the lack of animal products? Wow, anyone would think you were an average omnivore trying to gain a trendy label - oh, wait...

Note 1: yeah, I know 'vegan' goes beyond diet, and that this is the key to why some are vegans and some are flexitarians in the first place, but since these conversations have tended to involve food I have stuck to that angle for now.

Note 2: I have nothing against people who are trying to reduce animal product consumption but aren't (yet) ready to go all the way. These are not the people being slated here, especially the ones who may be vegan in the future! But if anyone complains about the lack of meat/dairy in vegan/vegetarian spaces or contexts, I really doubt the sincerity of any attempts to cut down on these substances...


I've added a few more links in General Vegan and Shinies. Nb: I use 'non-animal-tested' rather than 'cruelty-free' when the product ranges in question aren't exclusively vegan. If I post a link it indicates that the company has a decent range of vegan products, but that you may need to check the ingredients online or in the shop before buying.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

My top 10 favourite foods right now

Just to demonstrate how wide a range of vegan food is available! Some of these involve 'scary' vegan ingredients, others don't. Some are easier to cook than others. The order varies with my mood!

1: Chilli, particularly with tacos/nachos. The deluxe version of this involves Cheezly (Redwoods) and Sour Supreme (Tofutti), but these can be done without. The tomatoes, beans and spices are what does it...
2: Gigantes, with either rice or couscous depending on whether the nearest clean container is a saucepan or a bowl
3: Peanut curry with veg and/or tofu - the basic sauce can be made out of creamed coconut and peanut butter
4: Welsh Rarebit, especially if I can find somewhere that sells vegan worcester sauce! That is in short supply in my city for some reason...
5: Leek and potato soup
6: Corn chowder (actually I want this today, but need to actually buy a tin of sweetcorn first...)
7: Dhal with chickpeas. Preferably with rice, but couscous will do.
8: A beanburger with lots of salad. I don't always want to cook from scratch!
9: Lasagna/Moussaka (these would be a lot higher if they weren't such a faff to cook!) - being a philistine I prefer these with salad and chips rather than anything more culturally appropriate, but rice and bread are also good...
10: Pizza! (with or without cheezly depending on whether I have any in... sometimes just dumping a load of veg on it works fine!)

Thursday, 12 November 2009


Gigantes are spicy oversized baked beans which tend to be eaten as part of a Greek meze. This is rather an improvised recipe but tastes good anyway! I have some in the oven right now, which is what prompted me to post this here...

-1 small tin butter beans per person (so large tin for 2 i guess)
-tomato puree
-olive oil
-garlic (about 2 cloves per person)…
-a red pepper (or green or whatever)
-dried mixed herbs

Pour beans into an oven-safe dish, keeping the brine they are sold in. Stir in tomato puree until the liquid thickens. Pour in a fair bit of olive oil - enough to cover the beans. Chop the garlic and the pepper and stir them in along with the herbs. Bake at 220C for an hour. Eat with couscous or rice.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Product rave: Blue Dragon stirfry sauce

Specifically the sweet chilli and soy variety. There are other vegan sauces in the range, but that one is my favourite. It isn't hot, but it adds that bit extra flavour to a stir-fry that is just vegetables. (I know there are plenty of flavours in there already, but sometimes I do feel like decorating it...) A pouch contains about enough to go over two helpings of veg without making things excessively runny. It also managed to avoid getting burned onto the bottom of my wok today! And of course extra kudos to Blue Dragon for labelling their vegan products...

Leek and potato soup

1 leek and 2 decent sized potatoes per person
Water (duh)
Soy milk/cream (optional)

Cut the potatoes up fairly small, boil in the water until they get to the slightly overcooked stage.
While the potatoes are boiling, fry the chopped leeks in the margarine. Add the seasoning - if you're being really basic just use pepper, garlic also works.
Mash the potatoes a bit - they don't have to be completely mashed, more a lumpy puree. (you will notice that I don't own a blender. They can be useful, but are not essential to life!)
Add the leaks and any residual margarine. Simmer everything until tastes merge.

And of course I came to work with no lunch so am feeling hungry after writing this!

Thursday, 22 October 2009


My attitudes, to be exact! In case anyone was speculating about the posting gap, I have neither vanished nor quit veganism. I am less of an activist than I was, although I was going that way when I set this blog up.

My commitment to veganism hasn't changed, but my circumstances have and hence the ways in which I relate to veganism have adapted.

Until a little over a year ago, I was in a relationship with a person who was what might be called a professional vegan, as in he was employed by an organisation which exists to promote veganism. So in addition to my own vegan friends I also spent a lot of time with the vegans he worked with. As a person who was just re-stablising as a vegan, this was a mixed blessing. On the one hand I had it affirmed to me time and again that I was right to be vegan, and this was good in that it strengthened my resolve, especially at times when I did have to argue my case. It also meant that most of the cafes I ended up in would at least be vegetarian and have some sort of vegan selection, that if we went to the pub someone would always know which beers were ok, and generally that the people around me had some level of vegan intuition without being prompted. On the other hand, it meant being around people whose definitions of what a vegan did beyond the very basics and what got prioritised varied wildly. There was also a bit of point-scoring from some (although by no means all! or even most...) quarters. At any rate, 'vegan' was part of my identity there as a sort of default setting, and sometimes the grounds on which people communicated with me.

For a few months after that relationship ended, I was single and became a bit of a health fanatic. I don't mean in any way to make this sound like a bad thing - I needed something to focus on, and had been very ill for a long time that time the year before, so trying to up the percentage of raw food and learn about proper nutrition was useful. This was the best time for promoting veganism, due to a combination of factors. I was affirming my own belief, unrelated to who I may have been going out with, which meant that people took me a bit more seriously. I was working long days, which mean *always* taking at least one meal to work with me. As a result I was often whipping tasty food out of my bag in a crowded break room, which obviously led to questions about what I was eating. I would discuss the 'whys' of my veganism if it came up, but the 'hows' (ie the practicality of having a tasty, healthy varied and yet reasonably cheap diet while working long hours at multiple jobs!) tended to be seen by most people as the main issue.

For a little under a year I've been in my current relationship. The person in question may well be 'the one'. However, he is 'just' a vegetarian and not with any moral basis to his decision, so I have had to explain veganism. He has one vegan friend other than me, and that person lives in America. My personal life involves a lot more outreach than it used to, just to make sure he and I can eat together! So far it seems to be working. He respects me for sticking to my principles even though he doesn't share them. It does mean, however, that the outward face of my veganism is a lot more orientated to showing how a vegan can live a 'normal' life, whatever the baseline might be there. Again, I will give the whys if anyone asks, but often people are more interested in the 'hows'.

My life is not a constant round of vegan advocacy as it may have been a few years ago. My time and energy is limited - I am finishing a PhD and working multiple part-time jobs at any given time, and am too knackered to do much some days. But I think that merely being vegan - and doing it 'properly' rather than giving in and eating something non-vegan to avoid being an 'inconvenience', preferring to make suggestions about what you can eat, how you will make up for it later and alternative places to go for food next time - leads to some extent to a certain base level of advocacy being necessary.

Dark chocolate is good for you!

I has chocolate cravings! My best friend initially triggered this last night by blogging about her cravings - after all the shops I can see from my window had shut! Then a glance at Activeg compounded this, with a link to a news story that dark chocolate is good for you! So I may yet stop at the newsagents on my way to work...

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Product review - Amy's non-dairy burritos

I've been feeling a bit less than great lately, so thought that since I was in Holland and Barrett I would get something quick for an early dinner. I seem to remember that the vegan Amy's products were only recently released in the UK (correct me if I got that wrong!), so this seemed like a good moment to try it.

I have to say that if I hadn't got these on special offer I would have been a bit disappointed. The wrapping is somewhere between tortilla and very heavy pastry, and it was difficult to hack into even though I soaked it in salsa and tofutti sour supreme. The filling was ok, although basically it was just jazzed up refried beans. There is nothing in this that I couldn't make from scratch (well, if using pre-bought wraps counts as scratch...) in a way that I would prefer. Having said that, there is nothing really *wrong* with these and I may get more at some point (while H&B are still selling everything at buy one get one half price) as they'd be a useful thing for a packed lunch on a long day at work.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Curried carrot soup

3 carrots per person
2 cloves garlic per person
Enough margarine to coat the bottom of a saucepan
Spices - I used nutmeg, tumeric and cumin
About a (British, if there's a difference) tablespoon of tomato puree
About two tablespoons (same proviso) of grated creamed coconut
Warm water

Putting it together:
Grate the carrots
Melt the margarine in the pan
Cook the garlic and grated carrot in the margarine for a few minutes
Stir in the spices followed by the coconut
Add the tomato puree
Add water (stirring it in) and simmer until the water takes on a carrot-y flavour!

I am eating a *lot* of garlic right now, to try to stop freshers' flu taking any more of my time than it has over the past week!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

On a less fun note...

Something really weird happened the other day. I found myself being grossed out by fake meat. That does not normally happen. I've been a vegetarian for about 18 years now and a vegan on and off for what adds up to about half of that. I've eaten fake meat whenever I could afford it in any context where I'm confident no-one will try to sneak the real thing into my food.

But the other day, my boyfriend was visiting and I made us a cooked breakfast, involving tofu scrambler, Wicken Fen sausages and Redwoods rashers. The sausages and scrambler went down fine, as the latter should have since it was the only part of the whole meal to take any effort on my part. The rashers? Not so much. The boy had never tasted them before. He avoids eating meat due to being grossed out by it. I knew he may not like them. That isn't the issue. The problem came when he gave me his rasher, minus the bit cut off the end that he'd tasted. I took a bit and for some reason started thinking about pigs, pig farms, pig shit - all the most off-putting things to have on your mind when eating, even if the food contains no actual pig! And by that point, I was feeling too bad to even finish the last of my baked beans or toast.

I don't mind so much going off fake meat (provided I don't have the same reaction to the tempeh burgers at the Alley Cafe!). It isn't a huge part of my diet. I've been without actual meat for so long that I don't intrinsically need a direct replacement. There are no nutrients in these products that can't be found anywhere else, often in more natural foods. The problem is that it happened so suddenly, in the space of one Saturday breakfast! On the Thursday I was happily picking the wretched things up in the shop and feeling excited about making cooked breakfast, which I really cannot stir myself to do on the full scale when alone, and two days later I was pondering throwing up the two bites I had managed from one of them.

What sucks even more is that I have the rest of the pack in my fridge! I would offer to put it in the post to one of you, but I doubt the things would keep...

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Sweetcorn chowder!

Yes, in true vegan style I am apologising for a long absence by giving you the know-how to make one of my favourite meals! This is actually pretty quick to make, and also useful if you have a cupboard full of tins and no time to shop for fresh stuff. (Obviously only if at least one tin contains sweetcorn, haha)

1 small tin sweetcorn per person (large tin if you're hungry!)
2 cloves garlic per person
Enough margarine to melt over the base of a saucepan
Enough cornflour to absorb all the margarine
Spices - last night I used nutmeg, cinnamon, paprika and cayenne pepper; another version involves mustard powder.
Enough soymilk to turn the paste into soup

Putting the ingredients together:
Melt the margarine in a saucepan. It should cover the bottom but doesn't need to be too deep. If using Marks and Spencer margarine, get the non-dairy one that *isn't* low-fat as the other is crap for cooking and smells a bit like wax when melted.
Add the sweetcorn and garlic to the margarine, stir frequently, get the corn warmed through
Add spices to taste
Remove the pan from the heat, add the cornflour and stir in well to avoid lumps.
SLOWLY add soymilk, stirring often. Note that the mixture will thicken when back on the heat, so make it a bit more liquidy than you will eventually want.
Put the pan back on the heat (this isn't one to eat cold!). Keep stirring until the mixture warms up and thickens.
Serve with bread, croutons, or if you're me this week crumbled tortilla chips. Don't ask.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Irony on rye to go

Mary Martin posts this heartwarming tale of Subway franchisees fighting the approval given for plans to open an abbatoir in the same building as their sandwich shop. On the grounds, lest it not be obvious, that having such a thing out the back would stop people coming in and buying bits of dead animal for lunch. Wouldn't that be a shame...

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Er, possibly not...

So, I hear about this blog called 'This is why you're fat'. At last, I thought, an explanation! Then I looked at the blog. Every.fucking.thing on there is meat-based. So I'm left still wondering...

Friday, 30 January 2009

'Uncontroversial' vegan food

I'm not, I must admit, 100% happy with generating a discussion - on a regular basis - just by eating. Fair enough, it can act as a form of outreach, and g_d knows I've been doing little else along those lines lately. And of course it gives me, in principle at least, a chance to make other people think about what they're eating. On the other hand, sometimes I want to be able to feed myself and others without having to discuss, justify, judge or explicitly change the subject. You know, like a 'normal' person. On that score, I'm still trying to walk the line of what exactly to feed non-vegans/non-vegetarians should one or (in this case) more wind up in my house of an evening. Obviously buying *non*-vegan food is out of the question. And asking people to bring food would lead to having non-vegan leftovers around the house, not being much use, or else I'd have to pressure vegetarian overnight guest to take stuff home on the train. So anyway, I've been putting a bit of thought into what exactly to provide.

The first question was what to rule out. Actual chunks of vegan cheese might have been going a bit far. Really obvious fake meat didn't seem like a great idea either. I figured Redwood's deli sausages might be ok, though - out of all vegetarian sausages, they are the best to have cold. Anyway, I'll try putting them out.

So what else is there?
-Crisps - three large bags of the things, can't remember which brand but it was on special offer at Tescos and is in the Animal Free Shopper, so that should narrow it down.
-Hummous - home-made in a large quantity. I soaked, boiled and froze the chickpeas a couple of weeks ago, so last night I just had to take them out of the freezer, defrost them in boiling water and bash them up with a potato masher. (This being a zero-blender household until I earn a whole lot more...) I then added a bit of cold water (for texture), the juice of three quarters of a lime, a few cloves of garlic grated on the small-hole bit of the cheese grater that I normally don't use because vegan cheese gets stuck in it, and a small amount of olive oil.
-Pizza. This gets made tonight barring any disasters. Of course there's the vegan cheese vs no cheese question - think I'll make some of each.
-Bread - haven't got this yet, but I'm figuring a baguette and a packet of pittas will do.
-Couscous - probably won't do it this time, but if I get a rush of last-minute rsvps I can make some salad fairly quickly. Avoiding it for now because it would involve giving people plates, which would then involve washing the plates... yeah, being lazy!

Then, I'd rather like to have an evening that doesn't focus on talking about food!