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].