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.