Friday, 30 December 2011

Veganism in Glamour

Why is everyone going vegan?

I wish 'everyone' was! Even if, as the article seems to think, the primary motivation is a health one. The overall effect would still be to reduce the demand for animal products. Sadly, I don't think that's the case.

Now, I like that veganism is getting mainstream coverage, Glamour is probably seen by more people than my entire blogroll put together (sorry folks). Unfortunately, the article doesn't really do much to promote veganism.

Firstly, my views on celebrity veganism are no secret - there's always the risk that they're doing it for attention and will backslide pretty sharpish. Or that they'll stick around long enough to be taken seriously then decide that non-vegan cake is the only sensible source of B12 once they get pregnant, NATALIE. So while I can see that such an opener is likely to appeal to Glamour readers, it isn't the best basis on which to promote veganism.

Secondly, yet again veganism is equated with weight loss. I honestly believe this (like the Skinny Bitch craze) does more harm than good - there's a fine line between weight loss diets and eating disorders, and many people already think vegans automatically cross that line. I've no objection to people cutting down on animal products for health reasons, see above, but the weight loss angle is as dodgy as the celebrity angle in terms of encouraging people to go fully vegan and stay that way. It needs to not be a miracle diet that gets dumped if you haven't lost a stone after a week!

Thirdly, the health section at the end contains a level of scaremongering that looks likely to put people off going vegan. I'm all for appropriate nutrition, and for most people (vegan or not) this probably will involve supplements at some point in your life, purely because of lack of time to create a perfect diet. I'm not convinced that all vegans need B12 tablets, but at this point in time I feel healthier when I take them, and I have too much to think about without worrying about finding more natural vegan sources. I call it my insurance. But the 'you won't get enough protein oh and soy kills oh and B12 oh and you'll die without a multivitamin so you might as well just forget this vegan nonsense and cut down on eating animals and by the way let's apply that to other moral issues so you might like to only shoplift once a week rather than three times' approach is chronically unhelpful and likely to put people off veganism altogether rather than encouraging them to find out more.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Placeholder for more interesting things

I may remain on hiatus here until early January, due to various factors. Rest assured I am alive and vegan and appreciating some downtime, and will be back in the new year with a couple of new projects to bore you all silly blogging about.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Stuffing and stuff

So I'm still busy, but it's manageable. Anyway, we had an early 'Christmas' dinner this evening - a tradition from before we lived together - and the centrepiece was stuffed butternut squash. This was the first time I'd made my own stuffing, so I figured it was worth blogging!

You will need: one butternut squash with a large-ish round bit, olive oil, a large chunk of bread, three onions, four tablespoons of dried sage (more or less to taste), a splash of soy sauce (optional)and some yeast extract.

Heat the olive oil in a pan - preferably a frying pan with high-ish sides - and add the onions. Cook until translucent. Add the sage and breadcrumbs and cook until the latter go a bit crispy. Stir in the soy sauce and yeast extract. Add hot water, simmer until this is absorbed.

While this is simmering, cut off the long bit of the butternut squash and put it aside for something else. (something culinary, grow up...) Then cut a 'lid' off the round bit, so you can access the hollow area. Scrape out the seeds and stringy bits. (anyone want to share a foolproof recipe for roasting the seeds? I have a long train journey coming up and could do with snacks!)

When the stuffing has absorbed most of the water and cooled down a bit, pour it into the squash. Put the 'lid' on. It will need to cook in the oven for about two hours, and you may need to remove a shelf to get it in. (I didn't - it just fit, with zero clearance and a bit of tinfoil over the top to negate the hygiene issues of touching the next shelf up) I had it in on its own at 180C for an hour, then on 220C for 15-20 mins while getting the roast potatoes started, then 200C for the next 40-45 mins. This is not a hard and fast rule, it was dictated by what I had to do to get a whole meal together.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Festive Veganicity #9 - Vegan gifts for Omnis

FV #8 contained some advice, courtesy of Vegansaurus, on buying gifts for your not-so-vegan nearest and dearest.* The main thrust of it involved 'secretly' or accidentally vegan gifts. That's my usual tactic - go neutral, avoid animal products/animal tested products, but since leaving puberty I've felt less inclined to deploy gory leaflets as wrapping paper for some reason.

If you're going to buy an omni or unrepentent vegetarian (nearly typed 'vagitarian', which is something completely different and less suitable for family viewing) something overtly vegan, go for a nice cookbook with the sort of recipes they'll eat rather than a Meat is Murder/Milk is Rape poster. Many such books have a little 'why I'm vegan' section which will hopefully implant in your loved one's mind. If not, then at least they will have more vegan meals. Worst case scenario, they'll have ideas for what to make when you visit. ;) Sanctuary or animal rights group Christmas cards can also be a subtle way of conveying a message, without making your holiday a battlefield.

If you do have aspiring vegans in your circle, that's when to get more obvious. If they're already convinced of the whys of veganism, help them out with the hows by supplying recipes, edible treats or cruelty-free toiletries. If they need a bit more convincing to go the whole way, I'd suggest Vegan Freak or Generation V (both from Tofu Hound press - which one is appropriate depends on the age of the recipient).

My life is getting a bit more hectic, so I may slow the posts down after this one - hoping to be back later in the month or early in the new year!

*This is not the place for a debate on whether vegans should have these. Most of us don't ditch our families when we go vegan, unless there are other issues going on, and this really isn't the place to discuss that. If you have taken this path, fine and I can respect that, but please respect that not every vegan will do the same and we are no less vegan for that.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Festive Veganicity #8 - some links

Vegansaurus - great vegan gifts for omnis. I especially like the following advice: What I’m getting at is your gifts for the omnis in your life shouldn’t be all about your veganism. Trust me, your fam knows you’re vegan (and if they don’t, they’ll get a clue when you bust out the soy nog), you don’t have to remind them again when it’s present time. But at the same time, you can’t be buying them leather jackets! So what to do? Buy secretly vegan gifts! I tend to agree with this, although would add 'or make' in the last sentence.

Kristen H at Rage Against the Minivan suggests Occupy Christmas. Although she's not vegan, her manifesto on the subject of holiday gifts is pretty similar to mine: don't get into debt, give homemade gifts, support local craftspeople, find gifts that give twice (e.g. to charity) - you get the idea.

Finally, a post at Happy Herbivore with advice on having a frugal (and plant-based) festive season. She and I disagree on many points, not least the fact that one of us loves the term vegan and the other prefers not to use it, but I agree all the way with that post.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Festive Veganicity #7 - What not to do

Normally, I'm a great fan of gifts that give twice or more - charity shops can be little goldmines of just what you needed for the fussy person in your family, especially if you've had a bit of practice, are flexible about what to get and when and have been scoping the place out since August.

One increasingly popular form of charity gift, however, is sending animals to developing countries. That's a bad idea. Or a baaaaaaaaaaaa-d idea, if you ask a sheep. Andrew Tyler of Animal Aid lays out the main arguments here. TL:DR version: not good for the animals, and not as helpful as the glossy literature suggests for the people who receive them.

Now, if environmental factors play any part in your veganism/potential veganism or the arguments you make to others about veganism, then you'll be aware that farmed mammals are pretty resource-heavy in many circumstances - hill-grazing sheep being the only convincing exception that I've come across. This may not seem like much in parts of the world that, for the time being, have the necessary resources. These critters are going to countries that don't. Countries where, if anything can grow, it would likely be better to grow crops to feed direct to humans.* If next year's hot gift is a typhoid blanket, I'll know where the idea came from...

If you want an alternative, try HIPPO or VegFam.

*This isn't meant to be a damning critique of world hunger overall, just of this one small aspect of the problem. For a more detailed discussion see Vegan Freak by Bob and Jenna Torres.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Festive Veganicity #6: get baking

Biscuits make great presents if you haven't got a lot of time or can't face the shops.

VegNews give a good vegan gingerbread recipe, as does Isa at PPK. Meanwhile, My Real Food Life has a vegan AND gluten-free version, so friends with gluten intolerance need'nt get left out. For a bit of a change, try this shortbread recipe from the Vegan Society.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Festive Veganicity #5 - getting crafty

Mothering4Money suggests an idea that is quick, cheap, pretty and useful to the recipient. Obviously vegans won't be using silk flowers, but other sorts of fake flower are available.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Festive Veganicity #4 - vegan businesses

I can personally recommend K Scott Crafts and Chocolate Wendy House - both are run by vegans who happen to be my friends. But that's not the only reason ;) Wendy makes obscenely tasty chocolates, including vegan creme eggs. (Yes I know that's more Easter than Christmas, but they're tasty any time of year!) Kris produces adorable fimo animals as well as custom items such as wedding cake toppers.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Festive Veganicity #3 - making smellies

No, I don't mean the effect of brussels sprouts on your digestive system! These are NICE smellies.

Bath melts (recipe for 12 small ones):
Six tablespoons of coconut oil, melted at a low temperature
10-15 drops of your chosen essential oil (can mix more than one)
Allow the mixture to cool a bit but not enough to solidify. Shape using ice cube trays or chocolate moulds. When fully cooled, place in the fridge and leave there for a few hours. Store in the fridge until wrapping, warn recipients not to leave them near heat sources.

Bath salts (recipe for 2-3 jars containing about 3 baths worth)
Mix a large-ish quantity of white rock salt, a slightly smaller quantity of coarse pink salt and an even smaller amount of fine pink salt. (Or of course you could use all rock salt - make sure you get some of the finely ground stuff too though)
Drip in 10-15 drops of essential oil (fine if it's a bit strong at first, it runs the risk of fading)
Divide into the clippy jars. They aren't the most visually appealing packaging but can be repurposed in their new home once the salts have been used. Or you could do your own repurposing and use jam jars.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Festive Veganicity #2: Online vegan shopping

Last year's post still stands! This is not a definitive list, so please post your favourites in comments. ;)

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Festive veganicity #1: Edible gifts

Stone Soup* jogged my memory this morning to the effect that I'd planned to share some ideas for a vegan festive season. Her post was about edible gifts, and includes a recipe for chilli-infused olive oil that I hope to try sometime.

In general, food items - especially of the homemade variety - are a pretty good bet for vegan gifts. You might like to check your friends'/family members' allergy situation first though - sometimes people have bad reactions to ingredients you wouldn't have thought of, not to mention that if your kitchen isn't permanently nut-free some more severe allergies might be set off by a small amount of cross-contamination that defies normal washing procedures. Don't let this put you off - just ask if you're not sure.

I'm not doing much by way of food-based gifts this year, due to logistics of when I have time to make stuff vs when gifts will be received. Also, most of what I make will either need to go in the post or be fitted into my already overfull rucksack for a trip home. However, my students are getting mince pies in their last seminars of the term!

Stay tuned for what I have been making...

*Not a vegan blog, but she does give vegan versions of every recipe she posts. Your mileage may vary with how ok you are with that.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Sometimes a vegan just wants to eat toads!

For some reason I had massive sausage cravings this morning. (Not like that - really, you are a dirty-minded lot sometimes) Since it was Sunday, I thought I'd google around for a vegan Yorkshire pudding recipe and make some toad in the hole. Thankfully such recipes weren't too hard to find, although finding one that fitted the ingredients I had to hand was a little more faff. This is what I ended up using, although I replaced the gram flour with potato flour. That may account for the puddingy quality of the resulting dish - I don't mind that but my other half apparently thinks Yorkies should be like 'air'. (No, they are puddings, the clue is in the name. Neither of us is from the relevant geographical location to have a valid opinion on the subject though. We're East Anglians in Central Scotland, bypassing Yorkshire entirely except as a place to go through on the train.)

How to make the recipe into toad in the hole:
Place some Linda McCartney sausages (or other vegan sausages of your choice) in the oiled-up dish while heating it up in the oven. They'll defrost and brown while you're mixing the batter.
Mix the batter
Fish the sausages out of the dish and put them aside. Don't use your fingers unless you enjoy being burned.
Pour the batter in the dish and drop the sausages in it.
It needs a longer baking time if you double the quantity!

I got up just before ten, and managed to have made this, a batch of bread and the more standard bits of a roast meal by 1, and also have done my teaching prep for the coming week. Not bad!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

How not to encourage a new vegan

This list is based on my experiences and those of others I've spoken to/read pieces by. It's basically a digest of what not to do if you want your friend/colleague/acquaintance to remain vegan - and what you can do instead if you find yourself in that situation.

-Nitpick. Politely pointing out things that you know for sure have honey/whey powder in is one thing. Grabbing and inspecting someone's packet of plain crisps (which are usually vegan) is another.
-Refuse to accept that people move at different paces. You might've gone from omni to vegan overnight (or at least that's how you remember it with the benefit of hindsight), but not everyone is going to. If someone tells you they're phasing animal products out, don't assume that's an excuse for never going vegan. At the end of the day, if someone takes a bit of time to become fully vegan then stays that way, it's better than making an overnight transition that they then have trouble sticking with - that's how ex-vegans are born!
-Get into a position where they're doing it for you. Not constructive. It's about the animals, then about themselves, not you - 'go vegan if you want to be my friend' just makes them question whether they want to be either!
-Berate them for not finding veganism easy. If you found it a complete doddle, fine, you're blessed with extreme willpower or luck or both. That's not the case for everyone. If they're asking you for help, bleating 'It's EASY' at them will not have the desired effect. Constructive suggestions for how to deal with problems such as lunch at work, being drunk around pizza and so on are however a good idea.
-Make veganism look harder than it is by introducing extraneous variables. A person does not have to be gluten-free, caffiene-free, raw, unsupplemented or anti-science* in order to be vegan. And a person certainly does not have to share your musical preferences or fashion sense in order to be vegan. Oh and by the way, wearing a shirt with a collar does not mean someone is an infiltrator.**
-Imply that the best way to help the animals is to kill yourself. (as a not-so-new vegan I was shocked to see that, but am a bit more able to deflect it. If it had been my first impression of veganism all those years ago, I would now be either dead or not a vegan. Neither would be great outcomes.)

*'Science' and 'vivisection' not being synonymous, but hopefully you knew that already...
**I never saw Mark Stone wearing such a garment during the years we were both in Nottingham. I, however, wore one on a regular basis because animal rights meetings were on the same day I taught class.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Making it look too easy?

I've heard a lot of complaints lately that vegans (of the variety who define veganism by not consciously consuming animal products when there is a reasonable alternative*) make veganism look too damn hard. Because, seriously, all that 'not eating animal products on purpose when avoidable' business? So difficult. So I was interested to see an article claiming that vegan celebrities make veganism look too easy.

I get their point to an extent. I'm always a bit wary of relying on celebrities to effectively promote veganism without a) doing/saying something stupid that gets attributed to all of us (Morrissey, dude, zipit) or b) going back to eating animal products with a massive fanfare. (Natalie, you really think cake is the best source of iron and b12? And impossible to make at home?) And yes, the fact that these people are rich and can afford to pay a private nutritionist to generate an optimum diet plan and a life coach to help them stick to it. Not the most inspiring to the average person going vegan!

On the other hand, more vegans = a good thing, particularly if their primary motivation is helping animals. And that's true however people go about it, whatever help they might have and whatever inspiration they use. (Even Skinny Bitch, provided they get the hell over the 'love the empty feeling' bollocks and focus on the why-you-shouldn't-eat-animals sections. And don't bring it near me if they don't want to be boaked on.) So the last thing I'm going to do is condemn anyone for going vegan or for promoting veganism, even if they go about it in a way that might not be realistic for everyone.

This seems to create a bit of a tightrope to walk. We can't make it look too hard, for example by being clear about omitting all animal products. And we can't make it look easy by effortlessly gliding into a resturant and asking for a pizza with loads of veg and no cheese or posting pictures of pretty cupcakes (and taking an electric prod to one's friends to comment on how tasty those were). So what can we do?

How about portraying veganism as realistic? No, we don't use animal products. No, it isn't easy at first. Yes, it gets easier with practice. No, veganism doesn't cure all ills or magically make your life better, assuming your problems aren't down to your consumption of animal products to start with. You will make mistakes, and you'll learn from them. Some days will be filled with cupcakes and cute sanctuary bunnies, others will be grim. Most will be somewhere in between. That's just life.

*Starving to death is not a reasonable alternative. Going through huge amounts of pain and suffering and possibly death without medication may not be - I can respect anyone who will hold out, but it's hardly the vegan minimum standard. Eating white bread instead of wholemeal because the store where you choose to live has no wholemeal without honey, or walking a bit more to find another cafe, or tiding yourself over with crisps and an apple until you get home are reasonable alternatives. So is politely saying 'sorry, I don't eat [whatever animal product is being offered].

Friday, 28 October 2011

Eating your own

James McWilliams believes that the locavore's mistake is to advocate home slaughter. (No gory pics in this one) Needless to say I have some sympathy with that idea. I'm no fan of people killing chickens in their back yard. Where I part company with McWilliams is on how to approach this. He worries about the psychological effects in a neighbourhood where such things are normal, and aregues that killing should be kept at a 'graceful distance' in an automated slaughterhouse. Uh, no. I can tell you that having a chicken 'factory' in the neighbourhood isn't a brilliant thing either.

What's my take on this? I'm no fan of killing any animal anywhere. You may have guessed that. But remember what I said about nose-to-tail eating? It involved a lot of rather big ifs, and this is the same. IF people are going to eat meat, then maybe they should get up close and personal with where it comes from. IF people want to take the animal welfare line then maybe they should own the process from start to finish. IF people choose locavore over vegan when they want to eat in an eco-friendly way, maybe it's best that they don't get to sugar-coat the process and pretend that slaughter is anything other than bloody and nasty. And the botched kills? Believe me, they happen in the industrial killing process too. And many of the people responsible find it funny. So yes, IF chickens are going to die for people to eat them, bringing it closer to home could be a good thing.

But as I said before, those are big IFs. My view is that if people experience the slightest unease at the prospect of killing an animal, maybe they should think twice about doing it. And if you can't wield the knife yourself or watch your friend or family member do it, then you should have a big old think about whether you should be eating animals at all.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Branding (warning: post contains language fitting to the subject matter)

Apparently Russell Brand is now vegan, and for ethical reasons rather than weight loss or personal purity or (on the surface) attention-seeking.

'Vegan' celebrities can often be a liability more than an asset. I've seen a few come and go. Alicia Silverstone came to the conclusion that she should eat animal products in social situations so as not to appear 'rigid and unfriendly', and Natalie Portman had apparently no way of obtaining vegan versions of the baked goods she so desperately needed to get sufficient iron and B12 during her pregnancy. Sadly that is a mixture of direct quoting and paraphrasing, without any need for added satire.

Also, when a celebrity has a tendency towards offensiveness, this can have a certain type of impact on veganism and animal rights more widely. It's similar to the 'because you're vegan' phenomenon that occurs whenever one of us catches a cold, breaks a bone, gets the almighty scours (because *that* never happens to people who eat chicken, oh no) or gets hit by a rock thrown by some twit who must have been secretly monitoring the dietary habits of every passer-by in order to know the right one to aim at. Any and every illness is blamed on being vegetarian or vegan, and every vegetarian and vegan is tarred with the same brush. If the footballer John Terry makes racist remarks it's because he's a dick. If Morrissey does it (even in contexts that are fuck all to do with animals), it goes hand in hand with 'Meat is Murder' and we must all be behind him all the way. To which I say, no, he's a dick. A musically talented dick with one or two opinions that are right, but nonetheless a dick. And Brand has done one or two things that would make me mentally add 'twat' and 'arse' to 'dick' when describing his behaviour.

So Russell and Katy, if you're reading this, I'm very happy you have taken the plunge and wish you all the best for it. Seriously, we're all here for you, if you need recipes, advice on vitamins or toiletries or any of the minutae of vegan life, just ask. If you promote veganism, let people know why - fans going vegan purely because you do it probably won't stay that way, people who are clued up on the issues are more likely to keep it up. If you yourself can't keep it up for whatever reason, don't be a dick about it. And if you do or say anything twatty, I'm the first to say 'not in my name', right? If however you are happily vegan this time next year, you might like to submit your story here* to help other newbies.

Oh, and you might need this...

*In fact, so might other vegans reading this ;)

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Giving it 95%

Up until now I've resisted the temptation to weigh into the debate surrounding Carpe Vegan and their approach to vegan advocacy. This is partly because I wanted to avoid a kneejerk judgement and partly because whatever I say on this issue is going to offend someone. But I have a period right now, so I'm allowed to be offensive.*

I do like the idea of 'decultifiying' veganism. I don't personally feel that it is a cult, although I do sometimes feel that certain individuals I've encountered would quite like it to be. I know, however, that some people do feel that veganism is overly cultlike, and that they are put off by it. So the idea of making it less exclusive, eroding crap such as 'you aren't vegan because you like the wrong music' or 'you aren't vegan because you eat cooked food/gluten/caffiene', strikes me as a good one. The glitch is that their approach seems to also want veganism to become inclusive of people who knowingly, consciously, with other choices available that don't involve pain or death, consume animal products. This is the 95% vegan.

Speciesist Vegan has come up with a scientific nutritional breakdown of exactly what being 95% vegan might entail. (He clearly has more time on his hands even than me :P) A commenter then raised the issue of how to account for animal products that are consumed by genuine accident or unavoidably. SV suggested raising the bar to 97%.

Let's look at what accidental and unavoidable means here. There's quite a wide range. Trace elements of dairy from cross-contamination in the factory. The crisps you eat before realising they taste different from the last hundred times and checking the packet to see the recipe now contains milk. The time early on in your vegan path when you forgot to pack a protein bar and are now on the verge of fainting so you decide to go back to being vegetarian to take advantage of what's available. The medication you have to take to be functional that has lactose in. The vegetarian meal in an omni resturant that has no obvious dairy ingredients that you wrongly give the benefit of the doubt to. The leather and wool in your wardrobe that you decide to use until you can replace those items. The small traces of nasty stuff that are in all sorts of products, probably more than you'll ever know about. Your mum's or friend's toothpaste that you use on an overnight visit because you forgot yours. You get the idea. Depending on circumstances, you're probably 95-99% vegan in any given year.

Now, some take that as an incentive not to make more effort - if you can't be totally vegan, why try? I take the opposite line. I aim for 100% in situations where I have control. I don't consciously or knowingly consume animal products when the alternative options are all tolerable. If the worst thing that will happen is I have to eat white bread because the wholemeal has honey in (admittedly I live in a country where that isn't usually a risk) or not get a piece of someone's birthday cake then yes, I'm going to take the 'worst' option and stay vegan. That's what 'as far as reasonably practical' means to me.

*This isn't sexist. Men are also allowed to be offensive if it feels like the carpet is being taken up in their innards. Or maybe if they get kicked in the balls while suffering food poisoning, which I guess would be an analogue. Although you'd have to be either very mean or heavily provoked to do that to someone who was already ill.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The vegan normal (?!) life and some housekeeping

As you may notice, I've been tidying my sidebar a bit. I've had a tendency to add blogs and websites, occasionally notice that one has stopped updating or vanished altogether. However, I tend not to be logged in when I notice this, so haven't done more about it.

The short of it is:
-Blogs have been removed from the main link lists and put in specific blog lists. I may seperate these out at some point, but for now they work as they are.
-If you want to see the blogs that updated less frequently, click 'see all'. I figured that was better than removing any, since this way I and anyone who uses my blogroll will see if there are any updates.
-The sceptics - these are vegans/plant-based people who take a more or less critical perspective. Sorry to segregate you guys - hope you feel speshul rather than insulted. ;) I have not included any full-on 'antis'. I don't altogether agree with these blogs (hey I don't agree with all the blogs on the original list) but do find it interesting exercise for my brain to engage with their arguments.
-The only links I've completely removed are those which no longer work or where the author has started eating animals again.

And on that note, I came across the following at The Vegan Good Life:
I simply can't relate to the blogs of people kissing their cupcakes or non-stop joyous attitudes. That's just not real life, that's an image you're trying to sell. There is a real disconnect to how veganism is being marketed to people, and how difficult people find doing it completely when they try it (so then not doing it at all, a great failure for animals).
I'm sorry to hear that Catherine found it this way. (Before y'all give her any grief, I don't know her well and having found time to read her new blog - so no idea how not-vegan she is. Doesn't seem that she's turned militantly anti though.) But seriously, my aim for a long time now has been to try to make the vegan journey easier for people. I do highlight when something is a pain in the arse (milk in cashew nuts anyone?). But is it so bad to also highlight the good bits, the cupcakes and cute sanctuary pics (not me so much, but others I read) and cool places to go and eat? This blog mirrors the part of my real life that pertains to veganism and a few bits that don't - not 100% of my life, sure, but you don't come here for that. Rest assured that while you get cupcakes here there is no other form of sugar coating...

Monday, 17 October 2011

Product review: Redwoods Soy-free cheddar

I should start by saying I've got no personal animosity towards soy. I wouldn't be thrilled if my diet depended on it for the good stuff, but in recent times my intake tends to be mostly milk in tea with the odd bit of mince or cheese or bowl of milky cereal. The fortified soy milk I usually get has the advantage of introducing vitamin B12 into a cup of tea, which feels like a bit of a triumph for some reason. So, not having any health issues with soy, I'm never likely to adopt a soy-free diet - on the other hand, I don't want it to become the mainstay, any more than any other one foodstuff. So I was slightly intrigued to hear of a soy-free vegan cheddar made by one of the relatively mainstream brands.

I don't rate this cheese very highly to eat on it's own - the normal Redwoods white cheddar is much better for that! The soy-free cheddar is however far meltier than the cheddar with soy. The consistency is similar to the melting mozzarella - ie while it doesn't do the 'stringy' thing dairy cheese does it does melt passably rather than staying solid and burning (Sheese I am looking at you...). Being a little on the orange side in colour, it worked brilliantly on a tray of nachos.

I'm told the soy-free cheddar is better than it's counterparts for baking - it has a stronger flavour than the mozzarella and melts better than white cheddar, let alone pretty much any other brand. I didn't personally get to taste any of my friend Kiwi's cheese scones, but I'll take people's word that they worked out. I feel the need to try this out sometime, but suspect the pile of marking about to land on my head won't allow for a lot of baking time this week or next. Or maybe I'll need to console myself by stuffing various types of fat and carbs down my throat...

I can, however, testify that it works well in cheese sauce - specifically cauliflower cheese for today's lunch. As with the mozzarella, it is a bit annoying and messy to grate, but it made up for that by melting without me having to do anything special.

Saturday, 15 October 2011


This seems to be the week for celebrity carnists of one sort or another to come out of the woodwork and be annoying. Hugh F-W can kind of be forgiven, because he's currently big on eating your veg and his comments about pigs and puppies had the potential to provoke meat-eaters as much as vegans. Anthony Bourdain, however, does not get off so lightly, having announced in Playboy (of all places) that he thinks vegans are self-indulgent.

Ok, I'll throw my hands up and admit it. I am just the teensiest bit self-indulgent in my tendencies towards espresso, dark chocolate, olive oil, nachos, alcohol and overeating in general. I'm surprised if Bourdain thinks that's something to criticise though.

But 'bad guests and bad travellers'? Not so much. I realise that if I go to certain parts of the world I will probably have to take my own supply of nuts and Trek bars. Sometimes I have to do that for a day at work though. And being a bad guest in my view would be rocking up on the day and saying 'I'm vegan, what are you going to do about it' - I always declare my hand in advance, and prefer if people who visit me do the same regarding what they can't or won't eat.

As far as I'm concerned, Bourdain (much as I admit to rather liking his writing style - bet that would scare him) is one of the more self-indulgent people I can think of. Absolutely fine with taking other beings' lives for the sake of dietary whims, then writing huge swathes on how awful it is that some people don't like that.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Help a Grasshopper out!

Those of you who read Vegan Grasshopper might have noticed that things are a bit slow there. To an extent I'm fine with that - the information that's already up (including the blogroll) is useful to newbie vegans regardless of whether I add anything else, so there's no point adding extra froth unless I think of something good. However, I'm also aware that the blog is largely reliant on my perspective on going vegan. So I'm opening up the floor a bit and asking readers to share their new vegan stories - anyone up for it?

It doesn't matter if you are a current grasshopper or a seasoned old lag - your vegan wisdom can still be useful to a newcomer. One of my favourite vegan/animal rights role models has personal memories of the vegetarian rationing provisions in World War 2! Don't worry if you didn't have the smoothest transition to veganism - you could be helping other people in a similar position.

Some questions that might help (not a prescriptive list/structure!):
What inspired you to go vegetarian? What inspired you to go vegan? Was there a gap between the two?
What was the hardest part of going vegan? How did you get around it?
What stage of life were you at when you went vegan?
How did the people around you react?
What are the main features of your life, other than veganism?
What are your favourite foods as a vegan?

Stories can be emailed to I'll come up with a posting schedule when I see how many I get. I reserve the right to edit for spelling and so on if necessary, because I'm a pedantic git. Longer stories may be divided into more than one installment. I'm happy to link to your own blog if you include the URL. I can't currently upload photos - I'll let you know when that changes. Stories shouldn't advocate illegal activity - I take no issue with what you do elsewhere, but this isn't the space for it. Insulting people who are less far along the vegan path than you is also a no-no.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Quick snack

I have a cold, which for some reason seems to be making me extra-hungry as well as tired and bunged up. I've also struggled through a few days where I couldn't just give in to it, and am feeling the effects now. Also, my partner is at work late, so dinner will be late. I generally deal with this by snacking. This particular snack involves tomato and mushroom - two of the main vegan umami foods, in case anyone was wondering - and chilli-flavoured olive oil, because it tastes nice and spicy stuff is good for counteracting bunged-upness. It doesn't have magical powers of resurrection or anything, but I feel a little less out of it than I did earlier this afternoon!

-1 large tomato
-4 closed cup mushrooms
-Chilli oil (enough to cook the veg and still have a bit left over)
-Two slices of bread

Heat the chilli oil (not too hot, olive oil reacts badly to overheating). Chop the tomato and mushrooms small and cook them in the oil.
Toast the bread.
Pour the mess from the frying pan over the bread. Preferably on a plate rather than straight onto the worktop/table.

And yes, I'm a vegan, admitting publicly to having the same annoying but ultimately minor illness that many of my colleagues and students have had/will have in the course of a semester. Such is life. Detractors will be coughed on.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Fearnley-WTF? Pigs, puppies and (potential) prats

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall advocating vegetarianism? I knew it was too good to be true. When I saw his initial article on the subject a few weeks ago, my first thought was to double check that I hadn't somehow gone into a coma and woken up on April 1 (in a fit state to go out and buy a newspaper). This is, after all, 'Hugh Fearlessly-EatsItAll', known for butchering wildlife on TV and advocating the 'nose-to-tail' style of eating animals. Carnism with integrity, certainly, but not a natural ally for anyone who might object to eating animals at all.

The upshot is, he isn't going fully vegetarian - at least not permanently, he seems now to have done so for the sake of his new show - but he is drastically cutting his meat consumption and advocating that others do the same. My feelings on that subject are similar (i.e. mixed) to my response to Meat-Free Mondays a while back - great if it encourages people to think about the issues involved and possibly go further than eating a bit less meat, but a bit crap if it is pushed too heavily as an end goal.

His latest foray into the world of the thinking carnist is to make a point that many - vegetarians, vegans and omnis - have made before: the arbitrary nature of the distinction between those animals we see as our adored companions and those 'we' (in the loosest possible sense) regard as food.

This is far from a new point. One of my earliest memories of the Vegetarian Society involves a picture of a puppy sitting on a plate, and the legend 'you eat other animals don't you?' More recently animal rights campaigners set up fake 'dog meat' stalls at farmers' markets to highlight the hypocrisy of eating some animals rather than others. In between, there was a mild shitstorm when Nigel Slater printed a dog recipe in the Observer food magazine. (In his 'apology' he again referred to the disjuncture of eating some species but recoiling at the idea of eating others, and also iirc said the recipe would work just as well with a 'nice fluffy bunny'. Charmer.)

Part of me is utterly delighted that this point is being made in a way that nets it the widest possible audience. Another part, however, worries that carnists will get ideas from HFW's words, and investigate the possibilities for dog-eating in the Western world. (They'd have trouble getting it too far, purely because the UK at least has more stringent animal welfare regulations for dogs than for pigs...) Although I agree that there is no difference, I can't see that adding more species to the butchers' counter can be in any way a good plan.

I am, however, curious to see how some of Hugh's more hardcore fans - the ones who are attracted to the ferretting, butchery and nose-to-tail - will take to a series that seemingly requires him to renounce meat for several months...

Monday, 10 October 2011

Hanging out with the omnis

This is one of those subjects that occasionally generates controversy, I'm not always 100% clear why because only at very low moments has it been an issue with me. Nonetheless, because it is subject to much discussion, it probably warrants some coverage here.

I have some very nice vegan friends. Some of them comment here. I also have some very nice friends who aren't vegan, some of whom also comment here, although not to the same extent. I don't use veganism as the sole criteria for whether someone is a decent person or whether I like them. Maybe that's the controversial bit. I have encountered vegans doing the whole grandstanding 'I don't want to hang out with *those people*' thing, and in most cases if you probe a bit it turns out to be just that - grandstanding. They don't like what their friends eat, certainly won't facilitate it (guess what, neither will I), but don't actually boycott 'those people' to the extent they'd have you believe. Then there's the quieter sort of vegan who is unahappy about seeing people eat meat, would prefer if all their friends were vegan, and sometimes avoids events where meat is front and centre. I have a lot of sympathy with that view. However, if you try to tell me to cut off half my friends on that basis - well, I'll respect your opinion and your right to choose your friends on whatever criteria you like, but I'm unlikely to go along with your (obviously equally respectful) suggestion.

The nature of my friendships, vegan and otherwise, aside, the way I see it is that a vegan bubble isn't necessarily the best way to go about things. Sure we can insulate ourselves, only form meaningful relations with other vegans, avoid facing any criticism of our beliefs from anyone we care about, forget that the rest of the world exists. I'm not sure how that helps the animals though. (I'm assuming that if you avoid hanging out with non-vegans you must be vegan for moral reasons, otherwise it would be like me refusing to sit next to someone who was drinking diet soda) Promoting a vegan diet and lifestyle is a pretty good way of helping the animals, and promoting these things to other vegans is a wee bit pointless.

Let's try a quick thought experiment. I'm a philosophy tutor so I rather like those. Say you're a meat-eater (we could push it a bit and say vegetarian, but let's go with what the majority do) and you're on the verge of hearing about veganism for the first time. How keen would you be to adopt a lifestyle exemplified by the work colleague who eats alone in a corner every day and never joins in social activities? With the promise of that person as your only friend? Or would you find it more convincing from someone who is like you in every way other than the whole animal use thing?

The non-vegans in my life get to know a real-life vegan. They get to see that a vegan is as healthy as they are (not making any grand claims there, think I'm about average among my friends), eats tasty food and does, for the most part, the same things they do. (not triathlons or rock-climbing, but you get my point) I'm not kidding myself that all or even most of these people will go vegan. But I like to think they'll get a little less anti-vegan, less likely to be hostile to the next of their friends to go vegan, and less likely to freak out if one if their children starts to link sausages to pigs and act on the knowledge. I think I benefit from the interactions as well - my vegan beliefs are a whole lot stronger now than they were when not dealing with any serious considered criticism.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Making soup in the oven

This is currently one of my favourite things to have when I'm home alone at lunchtime!

-One tin of cannelini or borlotti beans (borlottis have more of their own flavour, cannelinis go mushy which helps the texture)
-One onion, four medium garlic cloves (or both)
-Olive oil - more than you think you'll need
-Two teaspoons of yeast extract dissolved in a coffee mug of hot water (just off the boil is best)

Tip the beans into a roasting tray. Add the chopped onion and/or crushed garlic and stir it in. Cover everything with olive oil and put in a hot-ish oven (200C or thereabouts). Take out after 20 mins or so and add the yeast extract liquid. Put back in the oven for another 20-odd mins. Take out and eat.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Veganism, skinniness, rawness etc

I've managed to get this far with life and veganism without encountering JL goes Vegan, but a brief exploration of the blog suggests I might have been missing out. I found JL's blog via somebody's link roundup on weight and body image, specifically a post titled Veganism is not a crash diet. Of course I agree totally with that idea. Long-term readers of this blog may remember my feelings on the subject of Skinny Bitch - a book which equates vegan with skinny and skinny with healthy, and in my opinion verges on pro-ana in places.

JL has started a new blog called Stop Chasing Skinny, and the post that reasonates with me there (having not had much time to explore either of her sites) was this one - dealing with the flipside of the Skinny Bitch phenomenon, the person who gives up veganism because they are losing too much weight and, quite frankly, because their interpretation of the vegan diet is no fun at all and seems to be based on deliberate self-denial. Fine if you like that sort of thing, personally I don't care if you live on bread and water and put upturned nails on your chair at mealtimes, but it isn't a great representation of veganism - especially if you are suffering rather than thriving.

Veganism doesn't have to be raw or low-fat or gluten-free, and I am living evidence that it doesn't have to involve cutting out caffiene. It doesn't have to be healthy - you can live on chips and doughnuts and still avoid animal products. It just has to be vegan, and people of all shapes and sizes can do it.

Friday, 23 September 2011

No actual dragons were harmed in the making of this meal

Sorry for disappearing for so long, especially on the tail of a post about suicide - I hope nobody jumped to the wrong conclusion there! It's been a bit of a stressful time, and to be honest might remain so for a while yet. Posts are going to be a bit sporadic, but for the sake of making life as normal as possible I'm going to try to post when I have the time and energy.

Today's recipe is known chez Duck as green dragon pie. I have no idea if it has any other official existence. The original inspiration was a 'red dragon pie' - made with red lentils, kidney beans, carrots and tomatoes - that I had in a pub a long time ago and must have reproduced thousands of times over the years. I can't remember how green dragon pie came about, except as a way of having a bit of variety. I do remember dishing it up for some friends, along with a red dragon pie, when cookware constraints meant we had to do two seperate pies rather than one that was big enough for everyone.

This dish can be a bit of a faff if you do everything from scratch, although (as with most recipes I post here) well worth it if you do enough to last for two meals. I've had convenience versions before, involving various combinations of tinned green lentils, mushy peas and instant mash - one of the better things I can do in a rush!

4 medium potatoes
Green split peas - start with half a margarine tub of peas, fill to the top with water, leave in fridge overnight. (Or use mushy peas from a tin)
250 grams of green lentils (dried weight)
Mint (fresh or dried, optional)
Seasoning to taste (I use celery salt and black pepper)
2-3 onions

Cut up, boil and mash the potatoes
Boil the dried lentils and soaked split peas for half an hour or so with the mint and seasoning - the peas will go mushy.
Fry the onions (can also add some fresh or frozen spinach if you have it) and stir into the mixture
Spread the mashed potato over the top and bake in the oven at 200 for half an hour or so - basically until the top of the mash is crispy and brown. You can stick some tofutti slices on top of the mash.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

You might as well live*

I'm all for diversity in how we approach animal rights/vegan advocacy - to a great extent each person or group of people can be most effective doing what works for them. It isn't a one size fits all thing. Also, I can accept that it isn't all bunny-hugging and flowers and unicorns farting rainbows and crapping candyfloss** - if you let yourself dwell on the animal cruelty angle, even to the extent of motivating yourself to act or informing yourself so you can inform others, it can get downright depressing, and dealing with certain people's reactions can be demoralising and make you wonder whether you will EVER get anywhere. Trust me, I've been there, I'm not glossing over that. I feel that these are necessary disclaimers, because the other day, via a question on my Formspring,*** I came across an approach that in my view takes that latter point too far and is beyond what I can remotely get behind. The basic premise was that veganism isn't a zero-harm lifestyle, nothing is in fact, and that animal rights will never be accepted by most of the population - and hence, the best thing animal rights advocates can do is commit suicide.

That's right, commit suicide in the name of human extinction, as this is the only viable way to help animals. Now, human extinction isn't a new concept - but for the most part it's limited to not creating more humans. Controversial, sure, but at the end of the day breeding or not breeding is not such a drastic decision as deciding to no longer live.

Now, I suspect there may be other issues at play here. Certainly I have known of animal rights activists who have committed suicide, for reasons related to the ones listed above. But they weren't killing themselves 'for the animals'. Being depressed at the state of the world in general and people's treatment of animals in particular, to the point of wanting to leave the world, is not the same as dying for the animals, and I'd suspect the friends of the people concerned would realise that. I'm not going to criticise those people. At the end of the day, taking your own life is a personal decision - certainly it can have negative effects on those around you, but at the end of the day it is your business. Advocating suicide TO OTHERS as the ONLY way to help animals, however - that, I feel I can have an opinion on. And that opinion, quite frankly, is that it sucks. Pushing these ideas to a movement with a high proportion of young people (including teenagers going through the normal adolescent crap and often having to defend veganism to hostile family members and friends) and fragile people is quite frankly irresponsible. To get a bit personal for a minute, if I'd seen the website in question at 17 Veganicity might not have come to exist because I'd have been dead for a decade and not doing a whole lot for animals in that time.

And that's another thing. How does removing the animal rights advocates from the world make said world better for animals? I will admit that the vegan lifestyle isn't zero-harm, because such a thing is pretty much impossible. All you can do is minimise the harm you do. Even if we're being strictly instrumentalist, isn't it better to hang on and promote animal rights than to leave? Then there's the question of whether we should be instrumentalist about our lives - I'd argue not. If someone genuinely believes that the lives of their own species, including or especially those members who are actively trying to improve things, have no value whatsoever - there is a lot going on there and none of it pleasant.

Also, having this sort of thing around as anything other than really obvious satire does absolutely nothing for the public's perception of veganism and animal rights. Seriously - 'changing your lifestyle and promoting change to others is pointless so DIE!!!' - such a great message to send out. I can see how that would convince people to do, well, anything other than just keep on eating meat and dairy, using animal tested products, etcetera ad nauseum, because cutting these things out will have no effect. Can you read the sarcasm in that sentence? And it promotes the idea that veganism is either a sign or a cause of being unbalanced - there's enough of that anyway without animal rights advocates joining in.

I would like to believe the website I saw was satire, but unfortunately I have encountered a few people in real life promoting that sort of attitude - and was lucky not to get too far caught up in it. All I can say is, if you are having suicidal thoughts and someone tells you you should go through with it because that will do more good for animals/the environment/other people than staying alive - please get as far away from that person as soon as possible.

Fluffy-bunny posting will be resumed shortly...

*Dorothy Parker
**Probably just as well given the subsequent dilemma about whether vegans can eat the candyfloss a unicorn happily deposited on the living room floor
***Currently underused, feel free to change that

Monday, 25 July 2011


I'm guessing that some folk out there like to imagine that, as an outreach-y sort of vegan, I make a habit of inviting non-vegan friends over and berating them about their choices over three courses of raw tofu and twigs. And some of these folk will encounter just such a setup for the first half hour or so of being in the house, because there is a lot of fun to be had in confirming prejudices.* For the less judgemental type, i.e. most of my friends and pretty much anyone I would voluntarily opt to spend the evening with, I'm more likely to dish up some tasty food, answer questions on veganism if they come up, and defer heavier conversations on the topic to an arena where there isn't alcohol.**

Anyway, this brings me to last night's dinner. This is a pretty massive quantity of tagine - dinner for three last night, lunch for two later today, and two margarine tubs full just went in the freezer.

Olive oil
2 medium red onions, chopped small
5 medium garlic cloves, crushed
3 large sweet potatoes, chopped large
1 large carrot, chopped large
450g pre-soaked dried apricots
2 x 240g tins of chickpeas, drained
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 x 500g carton passata (the tomatoes and passata are probably interchangeable, your mileage may vary about whether you like chunks of tomato or not)
1 x medium aubergine, roasted in segements with salt and olive oil then chopped a bit smaller. (optional)
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
1tsp tumeric

Heat the olive oil in a pan. Turn the heat down to medium before it gets too crackly. Cook the onions and garlic for a bit, then add sweet potatoes, carrot, apricots, chickpeas, aubergine and spices. Stir around for a bit until the spices are evenly distributed. Turn the heat up and add the passata and tomatoes. You may also need to add some water. When it starts bubbling, turn the heat down and stick the pan lid on. Simmer for an hour or so. (Perfect if you're having guests and want something you can leave while getting yourself ready!) Serve with couscous and flatbreads, or pittas if you want bread without washing a mixing bowl.

*I should come clean and admit to never having done this. And sadly I've now exposed it as a prank so can't do it to anyone who might have read my blog.
**And probably not lunchtime in the canteen. Environments where food is a major factor aren't the best place to have vegan/non-vegan dialogue, as when people are eating they tend to be easily put on the defensive about what they are eating.

Sunday, 24 July 2011


Yesterday I made a bit of a snap decision to go to a Scottish Vegans potluck hosted by this lady. That left me with the morning to make something. Once I'd decided that, choosing what to make was the easy part - we have a colleague coming to dinner this evening and I was going to make tagine and flatbreads, so I ended up doing the flatbreads a day early. (Which also makes today more relaxed since I've already got a stack of bread and no mixing bowl to wash today - that's my least favourite part of making bread, it ruins my nails and almost always means throwing out a kitchen sponge afterwards! Anyone fancy a bit of washing up in exchange for bread?)

Since this is something I haven't made before, I had to do a bit of 'net searching to find an initial recipe. Luckily they all seem to be basically vegan, so no need for substitutions. Here's the basic recipe - one of Allegra McEvedy's for the food geeks out there. I had wanted spicy bread, so adapted the recipe a bit by adding a heaped tablespoon of tumeric, the same of dried coriander leaves and a couple of sprinklings of cinnamon. I should also admit that I used a sachet of fast action yeast - I've never got the hang of the other sort, which is sad and something I want to remedy when I have the time and energy. But the recipe does work if you 'cheat'!.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Grasshopper has Landed

New post up at Vegan Grasshopper - The Joy of Pot! On the uses of a decent-sized stockpot in making veganism easy.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Chocolate/cherry/chilli cupcakes

I wasn't sure these qualified as bloggable, but since they went down pretty well at last night's potluck (apart from inadvertantly poisoning a friend with a chilli allergy I didn't know he had - sorry again!) here's the story.

I used this recipe as a base, but since it is for a large cake with none of the ingredients listed in the post title some adapting had to be done.

First change: I used double quantity, because I wanted enough cakes for the potluck and to have some to eat at home.
Second change: adding chocolate. I replaced an ounce of flour per quantity with cocoa powder, i.e. 16oz flour and 2oz cocoa.
Third change: adding chilli. I put in two teaspoons of cayenne pepper, one per quantity. Halve this if you want a milder kick. Leave it out if you just want chocolate and cherries. Anyway, the chilli went in with the dry ingredients.
Fourth change: adding cherries. I put six tablespoons of cherry conserve (posh jam) in with the custard.
Fifth change: baking time. Cupcakes would be incinerated in the time the recipe suggests - I got them out of the oven after 20 minutes.

The recipe in question is one of my favourites, precisely because it is so plain - it can be adapted all sorts of ways and still work, or it can be dished up plain with icing, which is what I did for my boy's last birthday. (Making it was easy enough, getting it from one county to another was more perilous...)

Friday, 24 June 2011

Big basic balti

It's all go chez Duck at the moment, we both have stinking colds and, just to make it more fun, an appointment that means going out around the time I'd normally start to cook and coming home just after we normally start to eat. So I decided that a nice balti (literal translation - bucket, refers to slinging anything to hand in a cooking pot with random spices, or any curry that doesn't have a proper name) would be the thing. It can sit around while we're out, so the vegetables can absorb the spices - curry generally is the one thing I've found that benefits from being left hanging around.

So here goes;
-Sunflower oil
-Two large onions
-Cumin seeds
-Half a dozen garlic cloves
-Six medium potatoes
-Four large carrots
-A handful of green fine beans
-A tin of chickpeas
-Dashes of coriander powder, tumeric, ginger, cayenne pepper (SMALL dash) and paprika

Cook the onion and garlic in the oil until they soften
Add the cumin seeds and cook until they crackle
Chop and stir in all the veg, then the chickpeas, then add the spices
Add water until everything is covered, simmer until the veg is soft. Then leave standing for ages if the need takes you! I'm hoping this will do for tomorrow's lunch as well...

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Meat-free Mondays

Meat-free Monday didn't really have much impact on me, as my days had all been meat-free days for quite some time when it was invented. It was most recently brought into my consciousness by Vegansaurus' Meatless Monday Unicorn, a sarky character who demonstrates that booze, narcotics and a slightly evil sense of humour can be vegan. I like. My feelings about meat-free Mondays are a bit more complicated, and I waver between thinking it is a pretty ace idea to wondering whether it can achieve more than making people eat cheese and eggs for one day and meat the other six.

The good:
-It brings veg*n issues to people's attention
-It reduces overall meat consumption
-It can be made vegan rather than just meatless, depending on who takes the initiative and supplies the recipes. So if nothing else it is a useful thing for vegans to get involved with.
-It can showcase how great vegan food is, inspiring those who already have niggling doubts about eating animals to go vegan
-It can be used as a forum to promote veganism, if done in the right way

The bad:
-Many workplaces and so on will just go with the cheese omlette option, so from an animal rights perspective it isn't a whole lot better than the usual fare
-If the food provided is bad, it will skew people's perceptions and put them further off being vegetarian or vegan
-It diverts energy away from vegan campaigning
-It is often promoted in a way that posits it as an end-point, so people will see it as 'enough' and not feel inspired to go further

So I guess the answer here is that it depends on how meat-free Monday is gone about, who takes the initiative and how much leeway that person has if they're starting from the right point. But it's still a bit of a thorny one.

What do you think?

Monday, 20 June 2011

Too Vegan To Function

No, not me, although I would find that description amusing if it came from someone I wasn't too annoyed with otherwise. I was randomly flicking through people's links (because just occasionally I take a night off from kicking arse and do aimless web-surfing for a bit) and came across Too Vegan To Function, a gem of a blog with detailed advice on being vegan in a variety of situations. It hasn't been updated for a while, but that doesn't diminish what is there.

Chilli beanburgers

We often end up having burger-based meals, just out of convenience, so today I thought I'd have a(nother) go at making my own - mainly for variety but also because I feel that they are healthier because I can monitor what goes in them. So here goes:

Half a mug of white rice, boiled in a lot of water for half an hour or so.
1 standard tin red kidney beans
2 small onions, chopped finely
Half a red pepper, chopped finely
2 teaspoons potato flour - probably optional but I think it helps a lot with the binding.
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 a teaspoon each of cayenne pepper and cumin

Saute the onions and pepper in a small sunflower oil until they soften.
Mix the rice, beans and spices together and mash with the potato masher. (all high-tech around here!)
Stir the pepper and onions in, make sure it is thoroughly mixed.
Leave it all to cool (unless you'd already left the rice for a bit!) then shape into six patties. Bake for 30-40 minutes, turning at least once.

I like this recipe because it uses cheap, basic ingredients that can be bought and stored easily. (At a pinch the onions and peppers could be left out, but they do make it a lot nicer) It does involve a lot more prep than whipping store-bought burgers from freezer to oven, but the beauty of it is you can make extra burgers to freeze for another time.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Spicy lentil and vegetable bake

This was part of the Sunday roast we just had, and I thought it up to finish the dhal that was left over from our lunchtime curry extravaganza. (Three curries that I'd made extra quantities of last night, plus dhal and rice, plus samosas, bhajis and poppadums - I don't fill up easily but this meal managed it!) I should warn you that it makes last week's cupcakes look like miracles of structural integrity - not a good one to make if you want something to tip out onto a plate and slice neatly! It is, however, a good thing if you like lentils and vegetables and want some protein as part of a roast dinner. ;)

-Half a milk pan* of some 'plain' dhal - ie without any added veg, just lentils and spices - the instructions for which can be found here.
-Two red onions, chopped
-Half a large courgette, chopped
-Two sticks of celery, chopped
-Two cloves of garlic, smashed up with the back of a spoon

Saute the veg and garlic on medium heat in sunflower oil. When cooked, mix with the lentils. Pour into a loaf tin - I used a silicone one that matches my cupcake trays, but whatever floats your boat. Bake in the oven at 200C for about half an hour. I put some Tofutti cheese slices on top for the last five minutes it was in the oven. This is totally optional but it did take things one more degree of seperation from the curry we had before.

This made decent portions for two people, when served with roast potatoes and mashed root veg.

*I'm well aware of the irony, but that's what the smallest saucepans tend to be sold as, and it's a useful guide since I didn't weigh or measure the dhal in any other way. Sorry, too busy getting dinner in the oven. :P

Saturday, 18 June 2011

On noses and tails

Thanks (I think) to a member of my uni's vegan/vegetarian group, my attention was brought to this article on an environmentalist website. (Warning: gross dead animal pics and slaughter talk) The subject is nose-to-tail eating, the uber-carnist practice of making 'use' of the whole dead animal instead of the more culturally acceptable bits.

You know what? I think that IF people are going to eat meat, they should do it this way. IF you're going to eat an animal's arse cheek, maybe the rectum shouldn't squick you out as much. IF you want to eat a dead animal, then maybe you should be up for doing the killing and butchering rather than paying for someone else to do it. The ifs are all there. My issue with this article and others like it is that I don't give these ifs much credence.

This article in particular glosses over a lot. If we leave aside the dubious comment about hunter-gatherer societies - who may, according to some scientists, have been more about the foraging than the hunting when it comes to day-to-day eating - there's still a fair bit to go on. For example, 'many of us environmentally conscious consumers need or crave animal protein'. 'Need' is a bit strong, for a start. And let's conflate need with cravings, while we're about it, and elevate the latter to the level of the former. This means we don't have to be even vaguely critical about giving in to these cravings - because, after all, they're a need. And that, ducklings and grasshoppers, is the only justification given by the article for eating meat in the first place.

Let's switch focus here. The problem isn't that meat-eaters are being too fussy about which bits they eat - the problem is that animals and animal derivatives are still considered part of a normal diet at all. Finding newer and possibly yuckier loopholes is not a solution.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Mylene, Miss Manners and vegan visitors

After making my post on helping out your vegan friends, I've started to notice other vegan bloggers commenting on this issue.

Mylene at My Face Is On Fire has made several good posts on the topic:
What Would Miss Manners Say?
Reinforcing Misconceptions: When Non-Vegans Weigh In On Being Vegan

Each post is a little goldmine of suggestions for vegans and non-vegans alike on handling potentially awkward situations!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Erzatsz lunch

We're at the stage of kind of needing to go grocery shopping, but having enough food in the house to make it not worth the effort. What we lack, however, is ingredients which obviously fit together and provide an equally obvious meal. Instead, today's meal came from a selection of somewhat random items, all of which need to be used up. It tasted good, anyway!

Cauliflower cheese
Half a cauliflower - cut into smallish pieces, place in a greased dish, bake for the time it takes to make the sauce.
The sauce is the slightly faffy bit. Melt a couple of tablespoons of margarine - start on a high temperature but turn down when it actually starts to melt, otherwise it'll separate instead. Take the melted margarine off the heat and stir in three or four tbsp of cornflour until you have a smooth paste. Slowly stir in soy milk until you have a liquid with no lumps. Put back on a high heat and stir constantly until it thickens. Add grated cheezly - I think I had a little under half a block. Stir until that melts.
Pour the sauce over the cauliflower, sprinkle peppers and tomato on top if you feel like it. Bake for half an hour or so, until brown on top.

Tapas potatoes
Cut three or four smallish potatoes into little chunks. Mix in a couple of crushed garlic cloves, large sprinkling of paprika, small sprinkling of cayenne pepper. Douse in olive oil, place in oven at 200C for 50 mins.

Flavored couscous
Half-fill a bowl with couscous. Add coriander and mint, squeeze on the juice of half a lemon or lime. Fill the bowl with boiling water and leave to stand for 10mins or so.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Cupcaking and scale fail

Today I used my friend Chrissy's carrot cake recipe - linked from here as 'Carrot cake large', which downloads as a word document - to make cupcakes. It makes 48, in case anyone was wondering. The recipe can be halved or quartered, but I needed that many cakes!

It made me miss Chrissy. She and I worked more events together than I can count, ran a bakery together at the Big Green Gathering one year, and worked together on the school dinner project. (I still have nightmares about the WISP nutritional analysis software, but the food prep bit was fun)

I also realised very quickly that I am out of the habit of doing an inventory before I start - meaning I'm low on nice sugar (you'll see the really aggravating bit about that in a minute!) and sunflower oil. Nevermind. I have plenty of cake and that's a good thing.

The most annoying, aggravating, want-to-throw-the-whole-lot-through-a-window bit of the process involved the needle getting stuck on my rather cheap and crappy scales. (It's only quite recently that I've owned scales, and I rarely use them even now, so these will usually do) I put in waaaay more sugar than intended and had to scoop some out and segregate it from the main supply - no way to I want to risk getting flour in my tea! I probably didn't get quite enough out, sorry if you're at the potluck tomorrow and go home with toothache. Blame the scales...

What the cupcakes have in sugar, they lack in structural integrity - several have disintegrated in the process of getting them out of the tray. Of course I HAVE to eat those ones rather than inflicting them on anyone else!

A quick note: the recipe is for a large cake cooked in an ex-army mess tin, so the listed baking time is loooong. Cupcakes will be incinerated if left for that long - I think mine got 25-30 minutes. Maybe a few minutes longer would have stopped them falling apart, but they certainly don't need an hour.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Milk in strange places

Today when I went to the supermarket I thought I'd get a treat for my rescue calf.* He's been such a good boy putting up with life in an upper floor flat while we try to find another home for him - he's even learned to use the toilet like a big boy so we don't have to deal with cow pies all over the floor. I'm not convinced that his music tastes are entirely healthy - Cows With Guns has been playing on continuous loop all day, but hey, he's nearly a teenager and he has some demons to exorcise from his early life.**

So back to my shopping trip. I was browsing the aisles wondering what I could get for Che,*** when my eyes lit upon a packet of salt-and-pepper cashew nuts. Yes, I thought, that'll make a nice change. How lovely that they have his natural staple food in...

You guessed it - for some reason, beyond my comprehension since nobody is likely to feed the product to a baby calf, Tesco have decided it is a great idea to put milk powder and milk sugar in all their flavoured cashew nuts. Annoying...

*In case anyone out there doesn't get satire, I am neither keeping a calf in my flat nor advocating that others do so.
**The point behind this satire is that calves, especially those of the male variety, are treated like crap by the dairy industry. That's one of many reasons to be vegan rather than vegetarian.
***Listen to the song already

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Vegans, oppression, food and whine

It doesn't seem unusual these days to hear 'vegans say they're an oppressed group but they aren't' repeated as part of some anti-vegan mantra. Maybe it's just that the vegans I hang out with these days are sensible types, but I haven't *actually* heard that many vegans pleading oppression - but then I suspect that the critics either know whiner vegans than I do, or have more overactive imaginations on the subject, or maybe both. I can accept that whiny vegans exist. Anyone can be vegan, anyone can be whiny, accepting that there can be some crossover doesn't mean admitting to any causal element or even a widespread correlation. I can also imagine that some people's attitudes might induce whininess in any vegans in the surrounding area!

Let's get one thing clear, I don't see vegans in general as an oppressed group. This is not to deny that many vegans are on the receiving end of oppressive behaviour at an individual level - intolerance, food sabotage, even physical threat and assault, connected to their veganism, I've been there a number of times. Of course the stakes are raised if you're also an activist. However, not being able to get a decent choice of food when eating out is not being oppressed. Your colleague or roommate forgetting you don't take milk in your coffee isn't oppression, unless s/he persistently puts milk in there on purpose - and you have the option of not accepting that person's offer of a drink if that's the case! Being followed around by the police outside of a protest situation, getting your emails read and your phone tapped *is* oppressive - but a risk you take when getting involved in certain types of activism. (getting that response for merely being a vegan would certainly be oppression, but it is also highly unlikely - although some in the government might like it to happen, I doubt they could afford to put it into practice!)

On the other hand, I don't think vegans in general *are* more focussed on their own 'oppression' (in the form of not having enough choice in a cafe, people forgetting they take their coffee black, etc) than on that of the animals.

However, there is a 'third' hand there, because vegans are just so damn badass that we can grow extra limbs when necessary.* ;) And on that hand, vegans tend to want there to be more vegans - from an animal rights perspective, that has to be a good thing. One way to ensure that more people become vegan is to make veganism easier to do, and lobbying for more and better choices of food - especially in work and college canteens, but also in resturants and cafes - is one way to do that. As a fairly seasoned vegan, if I go in a cafe and can't eat anything I will be put off that cafe. A newer and less sure vegan might be put off veganism.

There's nothing wrong, then, with making an issue of the lack of vegan choices in a cafe. It's best to do this in a polite, friendly way, especially if the people concerned seem interested. (sometimes there's no point and all you can do is drink your black coffee, eat your apple and plain crisps and write it off to experience) Offering recipes is good, especially if we're talking cake. (Veggies have a selection of vegan recipes, including cakes, designed for mass catering.) On the other hand, acting like a whiny martyr suffering for a cause** is likely to put people off veganism before they investigate the wider world. At least find existing vegan friends to complain to rather than the newbie you're supposed to be helping to make the change! If you genuinely feel like that, you may be an ex-vegan in the making, which is *not* a good way to be for you or for the animals - get some new recipes and a bit of perspective before you put yourself off...

*I wish I had this ability, it would make straining a large pan of pasta or stirring multiple curries so much easier...
**I've probably done my fair share of this, the excuse being that I was a teenager the first time I went vegan and didn't know better. Now is probably a good time to apologise to anyone who was on the receiving end!

Monday, 30 May 2011

Impure puttanesca

Since the name 'puttanesca' has certain interesting connotations, I don't feel too bad about messing with its purity. The traditional recipe involves anchovies, so a true purist would throw their hands up in horror at what I just made. That's their problem. ;) If you want a vegan puttanesca that hasn't been messed with quite so much, try this. It was the recipe I had in mind when buying the olives and capers the other day, but when I came to make it tonight I couldn't resist the allure of vegetables that need using up. And impurity turned out to taste good...

-Three mushrooms
-Two smallish red peppers
-A few green (French?) beans
-Two or three cloves of garlic, crushed
-A dozen or so olives, cut in half
-Two teaspoons of capers
-A standard tin of tomatoes
-Olive oil
-Chilli flakes
-Cayenne pepper

Heat the olive oil on high (it should cover the bottom of the pan) and add the chilli flakes. Turn it down.
Cook the mushrooms in olive oil over a medium heat. (I NEVER EVER want to bite into a raw mushroom in any situation that has an alternative other than starvation - hence the mushrooms always go in first!) Mushrooms can be a bit absorbent, add extra oil if necessary.
Add the peppers and green beans, then the garlic, olives and capers. It's fine, nay great, if some of the liquid from these things gets in.
Stir in the tomatoes, a small amount of cayenne pepper (half a teaspoon or so) and a larger (maybe a teaspoon) amount of paprika. Rinse out the tomato can with clean cold water and add that to the contents of the pan.
Simmer for 40 minutes or so. If it seems a bit too runny add tomato puree to thicken.

This made four servings (two each for two people) with a decent quantity of fusilli.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011


Increasing Veganicity

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Monday, 23 May 2011

Garlicky bean sauce

We had this with pasta, I guess it could go with other things too though. I'm getting quite into making pasta sauces from scratch rather than using a jar. This is because I realised that pasta used to be one of my favourite foods, whereas now it just seems like a make-do meal if there's nothing else to hand. So this is me reclaiming my pasta!

Take one tin of haricot, cannelini or blackeyed beans, tip into a roasting tin.
Squash three or four cloves of garlic and scatter the bits around the roasting tin. Splash the whole lot with olive oil. Put the tin and its contents in the oven on 200C for 20 minutes or so.

Chop a couple of handfuls of green beans and an onion (I usually use red ones) and cook in olive oil for about 10 mins at medium heat. (Olive oil can go yucky at higher temperatures, although NOT poisonous as some have claimed) Add the contents of the roasting tin. Add a tablespoon or two of tomato paste (your mileage may vary on this one) then enough hot water to cover everything. Bring to the boil then simmer for about half an hour. Add more water if necessary.

Because I've recently become a fan of aioli, I added some vegan mayo - maybe two tablespoons - during the last five minutes before serving. I think this improved the texture and taste a bit, but it is a completely optional part of the recipe!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Blending in smoothly

This weekend I've finally started to make use of the smoothie blender I've had since October. It would probably have been useful to get the extra vitamin C in the winter, but sadly I didn't have a lot of time or energy to fiddle with a new piece of kit until now. Also, there's more fruit around at this time of year!

Smoothies so far;
-Peach and banana (this was the maiden voyage, based on what was most easily available)
-Banana and peanut butter with some cocoa powder

Smoothies to try:
-Pineapple and banana, maybe with a bit of coconut
-Peach and raspberry
-Strawberry and banana

I've been mostly making these smoothies with soy milk, although it could be done with orange juice. I've also had a go at making almond milk:

-Bash up 100g of almonds with a rolling pin. (this blender is probably not strong enough to deal with whole nuts)
-Soak them in 500ml water (and in this case a couple of splashes of vanilla extract) for half an hour or so
-Add a dollop or two of maple syrup or agave nectar, and blend
-Filter with a narrow mesh sieve.

This left me with 500ml of liquid and a cup full of almond mush to enhance future smoothies or maybe go in biscuits. Personally I felt the need to add extra maple syrup to the milk before drinking a glass of it, but your mileage may vary.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

For the vegan in your life and the life in your vegan

I have no idea whether anyone reading this blog fits the demographic I have in mind - those who aren't vegan, may or may not be interested in veganism for themselves, but have one or more vegan friends they want to do stuff with without hassle. (Of course if you're vegan and agree with this list it could be something to refer your friends to!)

Anyway, here are a few hints for being a friend to a vegan:
-Give their favourite cafe a try - if someone has been vegan for any length of time they will have some good ideas of where to go.
-If you're going for a meal, be prepared to check the menus of a few different places - there are some really good vegan options out there, but sometimes they need looking for.
-Vegan food is food everyone can eat, vegetarian food is food *almost* anyone can eat, so don't get too scared by the prospect of going in a vegan or vegetarian cafe.
-Likewise, don't be scared if your vegan friend invites you over to dinner. You can guess that at least we don't bite. Of course I can't guarantee that they are a good cook, but veganism certainly doesn't guarantee that they are not!
-You may have questions about the whys and hows of veganism, especially if this friend is the first vegan you've got to know well. It is fine to ask questions. Try to do it constructively and not get upset at the answers. Mealtimes aren't the best place for these discussions. Dialogue is cool, a fight isn't.
-If you're cooking at home, you don't have to make everything vegan (although you may like to) - however your friend might feel singled out if they are limited to a plate of lettuce. The 'net is full of vegan recipe sites - you can find a few in the sidebar here. There are a fair few recipe ideas on this blog, just click the tag marked 'food'. You may also find Activeg's Special Guests useful. The Co-op is the best UK supermarket for labelling of vegan alcohol, followed by Sainsbury's - Tesco is ok but you have to make do by spotting vegetarian wines that don't list egg or milk as allergens. (NB if you aren't the one who cooks in your house, let your significant other/roommate/parent know ahead of time that there will be a vegan there, I have a dear friend who sprung this on his wife a couple of hours before I was due...)
-New vegans can sometimes be a bit like newborn vampires in their enthusiasm for vegangelising, this is generally motivated by genuine compassion for animals and a desire for a better world, so try not to let it get to you. Although if you do feel inspired to go vegan, that's a very good thing indeed. ;)

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Parsnip curry, a nice surprise

We bought a large bag of short-dated parsnips the other day, too many to roast for one Sunday dinner, so they needed using up. I'm not quite sure whose idea parsnip curry was initially, I'm happier about claiming it having happily eaten a couple of helpings, on the other hand I should probably give the significant other credit if it is due. I've never made or seen a recipe for parsnip curry before, so it took a bit of thinking about - I figured mild and creamy would work best. This was a relatively small meal - we stretched it out to two helpings each but that was with extra rice and poppadums (and a naan bread for the one of us who isn't vegan - the Co-op do vegan ones but I hadn't had time to go there, they aren't my favourite thing anyway though).

Start with what appears (from checking the label and what is left in the bag) to be three quarters of a kilo of parsnips. You might like to do more if you don't have any extras around. Peel and chop the parsnips and boil for 20 mins or so.

Strain the parsnips in a colander. Heat some margarine (or veg ghee if you can get it) in the bottom of the saucepan, briefly cook a sprinkling of coriander and cardomom seeds in this, add two or three crushed garlic cloves (less if you aren't keen, more if you love it or have a vampire infestation in your house). Stir the parsnips back in after a few seconds. Add a tablespoon or two of ground cumin.

Crush or grate a sachet or so of creamed coconut (you could probably use a tin of coconut milk if you have it, the creamed stuff keeps better and is cheaper though) over the parsnips and stir in. Add warm water (obviously not if you used coconut milk!) and stir in until the coconut dissolves and everything is covered. Simmer for half an hour or so.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Why You Don't Need Meat and other stories

I will own up and say that I was the teensiest bit wrong in the last post, when I stated that Vegan Freak was the first book I'd come across that combined the why and the how of not eating animals. Only the teensiest bit though. Peter Cox's Why You Don't Need Meat rocks the whole combination of why and how, of goriness with nutrition info, of tips on coexistence with the omnis in your life and exhortations to stand your ground... You get the idea. What it does not rock, iirc (my copy is in a different country from me so I can't check for sure) is the vegan angle. I think it hints that veganism would be an ideal, but it also stops short of recommending it and includes dairy, eggs and so on in the nutrition bit. It may also be a bit dated by now, I got the original edition in paperback nearly twenty years ago. It did the job for what I needed back then though!

There were a few books that got me through as a newbie vegetarian and vegan. The first, which appears to be out of print but available secondhand through Amazon, is the Teenage Vegetarian Survival Guide by Anouchka Grose (went for a while by Grose Forrester). This contains tips about veganism, but mostly is about the wrongs of eating meat. The case for veganism was largely put to me firstly by current events - this was during the heyday of live calf exports following on the tail of controversy about battery farming kicked off by one Mrs Currie - and by fiction. I was rather solitary as a young person and books were my connection with the outside world. The most impressive of these in my opinion was Jean Ure's Who Says Animals Don't Have Rights which also goes into ideas such as direct action and how far to go in the name of a cause.

The best books I've had on animal rights have been Campaign Against Cruelty by Alex Bourke and Ronny Worsey and (the original UK paperback of) Ingrid Newkirk's Save the Animals! The former deals with starting campaigns and forming groups, the latter with tips for what you can do in your everyday life. When I left PETA they sent me a copy of the new, improved edition, personally I didn't find it quite so inspiring as the older one for some reason. That could just be me though. When I review makeup and skincare I often point out that your skin chemistry and colouring is likely to be different, the same goes for your reaction to any given book.

And the worst, hmm. There was a book called Commonsense Vegetarianism that appeared in my parents' house at some stage, which may have had some sensible advice in but largely seemed to be scaremongering about how careful you have to be. It was seriously anti-vegan. Nice and all that my folks were making the effort to read up on it, but I wish they'd found a more positive source - suffice it to say it would have been less hassle for everyone. Then there was another teenage fiction book, Burning Issues, can't be bothered to look up the author here but the gist of it is that animal activists are all psychos or dupes. It was also incredibly frustrating that the main character didn't show a sign of being vegetarian, let alone vegan. Then there's Skinny Bitch, I've talked about that before right at the start of this blog. Suffice it to say here that conflating ethical veganism with dieting doesn't strike me as a good idea and I will never be down with 'lov[ing] the empty feeling in your stomach'.

What were your most (and least) inspiring reads when going vegan?

Monday, 9 May 2011

Thoughts on Vegan Freak

Vegan Freak by Bob and Jenna Torres is the first 'new' vegan book I've read in quite a while, the combination of very little money, regular access to the internet and already knowing the basic facts has meant I haven't really made much effort to seek such things out. But - several years late - I decided I'd see what the fuss was about.

I have to admit I wasn't expecting to like this one as much as I did. I used to hang out on the Vegan Freak forums (there's a link in my sidebar) and didn't have a hugely happy experience there. There were a lot of cool people, but also quite a few who, well, I'm sure they're good people and their hearts are in the right place but we did not take the same approach to vegan advocacy or practice. In any other forum people get dissed for getting drunk, eating cheese and needing hand-holding. In that one admitting to making and feeling repentant about a mistake got the same reaction. Many new vegans need advice on getting their significant other on side, if they asked for that there you could guarantee multiple 'dump him/her' type responses. (Disclaimer, I was either single or dating a vegan at that point, so I'm not being sore from getting this response myself) I'd recommend it to an existing vegan or a new one with a thick skin, not to anyone easily offended. Personally I have my doubts about that sort of approach, even in terms of its effectiveness as a means to encourage people to go vegan. (Ok, being entirely fair, I also stopped hanging out there as much because a regular had an avatar that referenced one of my few phobias, that's nobody's issue but mine.)

In the light of this, the book was a pleasant surprise. Sure it pushed the hard line on veganism, but that's a good thing when done in a constructive way. The Torres' gave a lot of measured advice on how to talk about veganism in what contexts - don't preach or get gory over dinner with omni family, talk about it calmly another time, stick to your guns *without* creating a major row. (I know, and Bob and Jenna may also know, that not everyone can do this - there will be some contexts where no approach will entirely avoid aggro - I'm afraid the only solution there is probably to stick it out until the problem starts to fade. Eventually it will. Or if the aggressor isn't in your immediate family or your favourite person evah apart from this they might fade out instead.) There is a bit of goriness, just to fill the reader in (or provide a reminder of) why to go vegan, but the focus is generally on how/why it is wrong to *use* animals rather than why particularly egregious abuses are wrong. (We all know the latter anyway, you can eat meat four times a day and still think some things are wrong, so it isn't always the best hook to use for veganism specifically) There's a lot on why people become ex-vegans, which I found useful in trying to understand the most recent crop, and also how to avoid becoming one yourself.

There are a lot of books out there on either why or how to go vegan. This is probably the best I've seen at combining the two.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Finding other vegans

Going and staying vegan can be rather daunting if you don't know any other vegans, if the vegetarians in your social group (assuming there are any) are already seen as scary militants (particularly if they don't like that position being challenged by someone doing more!), if you mostly know 'vegans' who cheat regularly using tenuous excuses, if you love your friends dearly but feel the absence of that particular common factor... you get the idea. It can be positively isolating if the people you hang out with are openly hostile and threatened by the prospect of eating anywhere that even has a vegan option - I hope that's the case for waaaay fewer people than it was in the past, but I hear enough stories that suggest the phenomenon hasn't died out quite yet. Anyway, more friends is always a good thing right? And I can say from experience that having more vegan friends makes it a whole lot easier to be vegan yourself. So here's some places to start looking!

There are vegan Meetup groups across the world, just type in your post/zip code to see where your nearest one is. I'd never used Meetup until my last big move, it's been a great way to get to know people.

If you don't quite feel like turning up to a cafe to meet a bunch of people you don't (yet) know - or don't have a local group - you can gear yourself up by getting to know other vegans online. My favourite places are Vegan Lounge and Vegan Forum.

The Vegan Society and ActiVeg both maintain databases of local groups and contacts. The Veggies Directory, meanwhile, is a treasure trove for all things vegan, animal rights, etc that you might want or need to look up.

And of course you can comment here, click through to other blogs, and maybe start your own... ;)