Sunday, 28 October 2012

Confusing the issues

NB: Old post that I started writing in an office hour a few weeks ago and didn't have a chance to get back to. 

Former chef Richard Sandford is 'gardening for survival'. (sorry about the Torygraph link) As in, he believes a home grown plant-based diet will help his remission from cancer. Now, I wish Sandford all the best in his recovery. I know that the effects of chemo can make alternatives seem tempting. I can also testify that, if you are going to recover from any illness, a healthy diet can't hurt. Junk-food-vegan me would have caught freshers' flu and run with it and probably hung onto it all term, while largely-plant-based me has mild sniffles. And of course decisions about medication are personal ones - if Sandford is up for taking the risk that diet alone might not have the desired effect, that's up to him. If it doesn't work, at least the later stages of his life will have been happy. So in short, I have no problem with what he is doing.

I do however have a couple of problems with the article. Come on, you knew it was coming. The first one, the big one, is the use of the word 'vegan'. Dude uses horse muck to grow his veg. Now, I know none of us are 100% pure because that just isn't possible. I know that much commercial veg is grown in manure. But the thing about growing your own is that you have a choice and can avoid these things.

Secondly, Sandford's diet and lifestyle aren't typical of vegans, and I worry that the article could put people off veganism. All veganism requires is abstension from animal products as far as reasonably practical - not being pure plant-based or growing your own. We don't all have the resources Sandford does, which he needs for his lifestyle but which are (I promise) not needed merely to be vegan.

Thirdly, there is a big assumption on Sandford's part that the diet will cure him. Now, I wish him the best, but am suspicious of any major health claims on veganism's behalf. Not because I think it's unhealthy, but because the vegans I know have similar ranges of health - from never ill to some fairly serious conditions - to the non-vegans I know. Most are pretty average. Be a vegan and maintain normal health may not sound like the best slogan, but neither does it play into the hands of anti-vegan types who will throw up examples of extremely unhealthy vegans to try to prove us wrong. The sad fact is, vegans do get ill, not because of dooin it rong but because interaction with humans and other animals and our environment in general sometimes leads to the transfer of illnesses. Painting it as a miracle cure won't help anyone!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Halloween cupcakes

Hello, sorry for the long absence, I've been feeling a lack of blogging mojo for various reasons. Anyway, for halloween this year I thought I'd try making some pumpkin cupcakes. I adapted the following recipe from the PETA cookbook The Compassionate Cook. The main changes were Britishing the measurements, using self-raising flour (anyone know why this isn't used Stateside? *curious*), making cupcakes rather than a whole cake and of course introducing pumpkin into an applesauce cake recipe. I haven't tasted one yet but they seem to have turned out ok. This made 18 cakes - made as a whole cake it's meant to serve 9 to 12.

4oz/110g margarine
5oz apple sauce (I made mine by putting cooked apple through the smoothie blender)
4oz pumpkin puree (same method but the pumpkin needed to cook for way longer, maybe 40mins)
[I don't know how to divide up the gram weight, but the apple and pumpkin together should add up to 252g]
10oz self-raising flour
8oz sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg (original recipe called for half this)
1/2 teaspoon ginger (not in original)

Preheat oven to 180C/350F
Melt margarine on the stove or in the microwave
Mix together the flour, sugar and spices
Mix the apple and pumpkin in with the melted margarine and add to the dry ingredients
Pour into cupcake trays and bake for 15-20 minutes.

I used this conversion guide for everything apart from the apple and pumpkin, can't remember where I looked that up.