Friday, October 31, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 31

Over this month, I've done a fair bit of self-righteous hating (or whining) on my month of veganism. That's pretty out of line, considering it's just an ideological difference and can't we all just get along? So for my final MoFo post, I'll round up some of the benefits I reaped from this and conclude with a plug for my favorite vegan cookbook.

My intake of fats - saturated, un-, trans- and otherwise - decreased drastically. With the exception of EB and cooking oil, meals I cooked for myself were largely fat free. Naturally, I wouldn't want to waste away, so I found ways to augment this situation. A girl's got to do what a girl's got to do to maintain her boyish figure. Further, the amount of fiber I was eating increased drastically. Without being too verbose about my fiber intake, I will say that I think part of the "boy, do I feel great!" element of veganism is due to my fiber consumption.

I successfully broke my cheese addiction, too. Meg posted about casein's addictive properties a while back (can't find the post - sorry, internet), and though I was decidedly omni at the time, that thought stuck with me. In fact, I started throwing the term "cheegan" around for vegans who "just can't give up cheese." Bad cheese - non-vegetarian, factory-processed stuff - is pretty prevalent, and I quickly became very discerning once cheese was off the menu. The shreds in a bag? Kind of off-putting. The stuff from the farmer's market? Spendy. Diminished cheese consumption will definitely be a habit now that I know that the Earth won't shatter if I don't chow down on some cheese for a spell. Very helpful in breaking said cheese addiction was soy cheese. That stuff is not AT ALL to my liking, so I bypassed (ha!) the cheese methadone route.

PB and Js excepted, I was largely gluten-free this month. Go figure.

I ate lentils by the metric fuckload and feel no remorse. In fact, I'm making lentil soup tonight. Just you try to stop me.

There was a good deal of freeganing this month as well, as I'm trying to save my pennies. I found some dumpstery scores on free produce and made friends with the free section on Craig's list. Sometimes people give away food! It's amazing.

My vegetarianism, I think, is here to stay. It was also something I got into without much thought ("eating meat hurts, so I'm not going to do it"), but I've come around to the environmental and ethical notions. Meat sort of disgusts me now, even though I rationally know that I'll probably enjoy the taste of some dishes.

Anyway, enough disjointedness. I'll still post vegetarian recipes (with veganization directions) and such, but I don't think that veganism is my bag. Moving right along, my favorite vegan cookbook is a little something I've had since the omni days. The Hot Damn and Hell Yeah/Dirty South double play is amazing. Hot Damn has some excellent introduction to veganism tips (explanation of TVP, how to drain tofu, etc.) and doesn't shy away from the spice, as the name suggests. Plus, the noot yeast cheese sauce recipe is BOMB. The Dirty South veganizes or reinvents all the southern comfort food that my Virginian-born-in-Texas-raised-in-Louisiana grandma makes. Successfully. I'm a particular fan of her hush puppies. Mmm. Plus, the two together - distributed by a rad Portlandy distro - are $7. It's on sale for $5 right now. Support your vegan zinesters and order a copy.

in totally unrelated news, book club got drunk and I hit my face on my handlebars. things are swollen.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Vegan Mofo Day 29 and things I've made

Look tasty? You betcha. Mosetta Stone got me thinking about foods that are naturally vegan - like produce - hence the raw, no recipe, totally vegan post. Fresh picked by yours truly courtesy of some neighbors and the Portland Fruit Tree Project, a non-profit that solicits fruit from fruit tree owners who can't or won't fully harvest their goods. Half of each picking goes to the food bank and half goes to the volunteers. Hence, ten pounds of pears and four of apples. (Full disclosure: This went down a while ago and most of this fruit is long gone.) A fun morning, free fruit for myself and others, and the chance to play with a really cute two year old? Sweet.

Since I actually have access to my pictures, let's see what non-edible projects I've been up to, shall we? I wish I had a picture of the table I painted before I painted it. The camera has been sick lately. Anyway, the table:

Leg detail. Rock!

Plane detail.

Different plane detail.

The whole thing! Picture taken while the clear coat dried. I'm pretty damn proud of it.

Knitting has taken over my brain lately. I made myself a helmet liner as a maiden voyage project (pic below with my washed-out face). For the record, the difference between a helmet liner and a hat in my world is just a matter of thickness and when I wear the thing. For all intents and purposes, they're the same thing.

Finally, the cabled (!) scarf I'm making my brother for Christmas. My first attempt at cables, fyi. Not too shabby!

Shout out to Vegan Knitting for her tips on finding cruelty-free yarn. Word!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Alaska's Sugar Daddy Goes Down

Stevens got the book thrown at him today - guilty on seven counts, sentence TBA. Although his hard work and efforts to get Alaskans seven federal dollars for every tax dollar we spend paid for a fair bit of my (out of state) education, I'm still more than pleased to see the guy get his. Rampant corruption is the political norm in many Alaska political circles, and this is a sweet victory for honest folks. (Not to get all Joe the Plumber on you or anything...) Another fun fact: googling "Ted Stevens" still brings up his "series of tubes" remark as one of the top five hits. The internet is a funny, funny place.

Totally unrelated, but hilarious. Everyone loves disco, right?

Token Veganism Comments: Larabars are the shit. I have yet to find any other food in bar form that has fewer than six ingredients. And the ingredients are recognizable! Figs! Dates! Cashews!

Anyway, I'm starting to come to a conclusion on veganism as it relates to my life. It doesn't always jibe with trying to eat close to home when any number of grains and beans don't grow anywhere near the West Coast or trying to eat less processed, packaged food (Tofurkey, anyone?) I'd rather keep my eating ideology flexible to accommodate and balance as many of my values as possible than tie myself to one that - sadly - means less to me than reducing my overall footprint. I realize I'm opening myself up for some flak from the animal rights angle. In my defense, I've realized that I definitely don't need animal products to eat well and live happily and have already started eliminating them from the diet, closet and medicine cabinet. But I doubt I'll call myself vegan anytime soon. So while I ditch the leather belt and ice cream (and grill up veggies like no one's business), my goal will be to live within my means in all senses of the word.

I'm finishing out the month strong, though. Cornbread pear muffins were not a huge success the first time, so I'm trying again. Also, lentil burgers. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Now HERE'S some Alaska pride!

Did I mention that I used to work for this newspaper? I'm so stoked that, for once, ADN is taking a solid, reasoned, liberal stand. Usually one of those is missing.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Day 23: Not feeling creative

So I resort to thievery. From Meg.

1. What was the most recent tea you drank?
I'm a dyed-in-the-natural-fibers coffee drinker, but I believe good old Throat Coat was my most recent tea. It's getting chilly up in here. I'm also a fan of Yogi Teas - a Eugene company!

2. What vegan forums do you post/lurk on? If so, what is your username? Spill!
PPKers may know me as foodiedyke. I'm not on too much these days, though.

3. You have to have tofu for dinner, and it has be an Italian dish. What comes to mind first?

A silken tofu creamy sauce concoction that involves basil, thyme, rosemary, garlic and a food processor. Better than it sounds.

4. How many vegan blogs do you read on an average day?
A handful. Five or six at most, since my workplace is set up to keep my putzing around to a minimum. It's been a stretch to even post this much.

5. Besides your own, what is the most recent one you’ve read?
Yeah, that Vegan Sh*t

6. If you could hang out with a vegan blogger that you haven’t met, who would it be, and what would you do?
A Portland blogger party sounds about right to me. Every PDX blogger I've read sounds pretty rad.

7. If you had to base your dinners for a week around one of the holy trilogy – tofu, seitan or tempeh, which would it be?
Tempeh. It goes best with BBQ sauce. Also, that is NOT the trinity.

8. If you had to use one in a fight, which would it be?

Those sheets of frozen tempeh could work both as a weapon and a shield. Then it's all conveniently broken up for stir-frying.

9. Name 3 meals you’d realistically make with that tough protein of choice!

Tempeh reubens, BBQ tempeh (last night's dinner) and any variation on the theme of stir-fry.

10. What’s a recipe in vegan blogland that you’ve been eyeing?
The pear and pecan stuffing up on PPK and the carmelized sweet potatoes Meg mentioned.

11. Do you own any clothing with vegan messages/brands on them?

12. Have you made your pilgrimage to the 'vegan mecca' yet? (Portland, duh)
I live there. Here. Portland. It's delightful

13. What age did you first go vegan? Did it stick?
I started this month and there has been a noted backsliding incident. We'll see how it works out.

14. What is the worst vegan meal you’ve had? Who cooked it?
See also: the first vegan meal I ever had. Probably 8 years ago - some absolutely dreadful vegan pizza at a friend's house. His mom probably slaved for hours over it, so I didn't want to visibly wretch. Still, it made me sick for a solid 24 hours. Since then I have been intensely shy of soy cheese.

15. What made you decide to blog?

This blog has been around in some incarnation or another since my freshman year of college. It was originally designed to keep me in touch with others while avoiding the indignity that is Livejournal (sorry, friends, but I just can't hack that shit). I also kept an opendiary while those were thing in junior high and high school.

16. What are three of your favorite meals to make?
Any soup (esp. with homemade stock), the shockingly healthy mess I've lovingly come to call "Vegan Frito Pie", or dal. (Daal? Dhal?)

17. What dish would you bring to a vegan Thanksgiving-themed potluck?
My grandma's "nippy carrots" - no idea about the name. Steamed, sliced carrots in a sauce that's equal parts dijon mustard, brown sugar and butter substitute. (Melt the not-butter, stir in other ingredients over low heat. Serve warm with mashed potatoes.)

18. Where is your favorite vegan meal at a restaurant? How many times have you ordered it?
Red and Black's tempeh reuben. Also, anything from Paradox.

16. What do you think the best chain to dine as a vegan is?
I'm with Meg - Cafe Yumm is the shit. When I'm feeling down, a little jar of Yumm sauce will lift my spirits like no other.

17. My kitchen needs a...
Toaster. Breakfast is hard.

18. This vegetable is not allowed in my kitchen...!
Okra. I tried to like it, out of a contrarian nature (my mom has always hated it) and utterly failed.

19. What's for dinner tonight?
One Pot Lentil Mass. I think I posted the recipe back in the day. It's what I eat when I have no dough.

20.Add a question here!
Fun vegan fact of the day? Both Carl Lewis and Martina Navratilova are or have been vegan. Neat!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Day 22: On Food Security

As Michael Pollan so clearly points out in this article published in the New York Times earlier this month, the US is rapidly approaching a food crisis. The days not only of big oil and big meat, but of big corn and big soy are rapidly spiraling into the same deregulated chaos that the financial markets now find themselves in. We are so removed from our food, Pollan states, that we have created economical sinks across our country; farmers can no longer afford to grow anything but cash crops, and those cash crops don't always pay anyway. The days of local agriculture in our most fertile areas are nearly dead, and this is often at the hands of legislators.

I'm likely preaching to the wrong crowd here, but the most revolutionary acts at this point are the ones that make us more independent in sourcing our food and aid others in doing the same. I tried my hand at gardening this year and found that it doesn't take nearly as much time as I thought it would, and yields a surprising amount of munchables. Victory gardens are returning to fashion, and I'm so down with that.

Check this article on volunteerism and food security while you're reading up.

via sophie

My pal Ness. She works for the Turquoise Mountain Foundation in Kabul, which you should check out right now. Every morning, I cut to news from Afghanistan and sigh with relief when I don't see her name.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 21: How the mighty...

My first - and likely only - transgression in my Million Seconds of Veganitude went a little something like this: One of the clients at work had a cake and offered me some. This was a cake that his girlfriend had brought him celebrating his 90th day clean. For those not as familiar with the AA/NA culture (as I was and still am - needless to say, I would never make uninformed remarks about it being "churchy" now), racking up 90 meetings in 90 days while fighting an intense physical and psychological addiction is (pardon) fucking hard. These men, these clients, struggle daily for their very selves with good humor and dignity. So when this client, who actually rubs me the wrong way more often than not, approaches me with a grin as wide as his face and a piece of cake from Safeway, I'm going to eat it.

Any thoughts on food values vs. social values?

Vegan Mofo Day 20: Posted today for your pleasure

Posting at work is risky business, and not just on account of the "hey, you shouldn't be doing that" factor. My computer sucks on ice, so posting by email is actually not a bad way to go, minus the formatting disasters and inability to create links. So I've been saving mad drafts. Case in point.

Portland's small business friendliness enables tons of crafty, homegrown, quirky, kitschy, or just plain strange entrepreneurial ventures. If you could afford it, you could eat, wear, listen to, and ride entirely local. Pretty rad, no?

As such, PDX, being the super-liberal, local-pride type town that it is, hosts a host of vegan bakeries. My two favorites are the two heavy-hitters in town. Both Black Sheep and Sweetpea have storefronts and wholesaling enterprises, and are utterly, utterly bomb. Black Sheep's blueberry cornmeal muffins are truly inspirational, as are their peanut butter brownie bars. Slabs of heaven. Sweetpea, also often gluten-free, does these g-free brownies that are to die for. I don't know what kind of mad genius makes them so rad, but they are, friends. They are.

Sift is also gluten-free on top of being vegan, and distributes their cookies widely, notably through grocery stores like People's and New Seasons. New Seasons, by the way, carries a fair selection of vegan goodies and even makes some of their own.

Monkey Wrench owns my heart in terms of cookies. I have yet to try the lemon poppy seed or the espresso chocolate chip because I usually breakdown and reliably go for peanut butter chocolate chip. These cookies are my solution to a bad day and have been since I moved to Portland - well before Operation: Vegan Month.

Cherry Bomb Bakery appears to be an all-order type operation that does wedding cakes and other things of that nature. Her pictures are gorgeous. Check it!

Piece of Cake in Sellwood has a decent range of vegan cakes and cookies. Their storefront is truly strange, if you're ever in the neighborhood. The owner is quite friendly, but don't get her started on politics.

Word is that Sweet Masterpiece in the super-yuppie Pearl District has many vegan options. I have yet to confirm this. anyone have the scoop?

Close encounter of the fratty kind

So I was running last night, headphones on, and a subaru wagon rolls up next to me with three or four dude-bros in it. They didn't seem drunk (it was maybe 7:30), but they were certainly yelling gleefully and having a merry old time. The dude sitting shotty sees me and yells out the window, "YEAH! Running for OBAMA!" Not knowing what else to do, I grinned at them and pumped my fist in the air in time with my stride. They all cheered and drove off. Ahh, Portland: Where even the dude-bros lean left.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 19: Update on Project Vegan

Number of pounds lost since Oct 1: 5ish
Average number of meals per day: 5ish
My level of appreciation for the difficulties hardcore vegans face: Through the goddamn roof.
Number of Monkey Wrench cookies devoured: Actually, no more than usual.
Presently eating: An apple.
Amount of noot yeast consumed since Oct 1: A pound or so. Seriously.

The new incarnation of Erica-as-Vegan now involves avoiding soy products where ever possible. There's a lot of soy in my life at the moment, and that's kind of lame considering (a) soy is generally comparable to corn in terms of agroindustry and (b) soy makes me quite gassy. Unfortunately, that's very, very hard. If anyone has new found or old stand-bys on the snacks without soy front, I'd appreciate a holler. (Fruit leather, ps, is the shit. My neighbor made some in her dehydrator and I'm pretty well in love with the stuff.)

Look forward to polenta pear muffins, my favorite vegan cookbook, and a round-up of Portland's vegan bakeries. This week I was lame, but next week I'll be better.

Friday, October 17, 2008

words from the potential First Fornicator

Levi Johnston speaks.

misc. wtfs

ITunes went nuts! Chances are, I'm way late to this news, but what on earth is the genius bar? The only bars I want to do with that have no liquor involve either salads or attorneys. (Pause for requisite dirty joke.) I suppose I've been ignoring those "update iTunes?" pop-ups for too long.

Portlanders: Ignore the Mercury's voter guide and vote NO on 60. NONONO. Imposing "quality" based standards on teachers ensures only one thing: that teachers will teach to standardized tests out of fear of losing their jobs or their schools' funding. It's as bad an idea as 58, Sizemore's other idiotic education reform brainchild.

Recovering or former sex offenders in Maryland are being asked to not celebrate Halloween (via Feministing). It's this sort of mentality, this "criminals are a different breed" mode of thought that keeps offenders and ex-offenders segregated from greater society, and thus inhibits reintegration after prison. Don't get me started - this is foolish in the extreme. Why not just tattoo "child molester" on their foreheads and get it over with? Why not just send them to Australia? Honestly, if we don't start treating our offenders better as a nation, we'll never find our way off the Amnesty International watch lists.

Go Phillies!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 16: Spelt Buns


These were actually a little disappointing, and not just because I discovered that my loaf pan has gone amiss. Grainy and dry, this recipe was the first failure of my "hey, let's try..." method of recipe procurement. That method consists of googling relevant ingredients and using the recipe with the fewest ingredients. Generally, that method is shockingly successful. Not so much for the spelt bread.

On the plus side, it converted nicely to muffin/bun form. The dough was awfully wet - I don't know if that was a function of the spelt or the recipe or what. Does anyone know what I can do to make spelt bread not so sandy and blah?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 15: In which I fail, sorta.

The ethical grounds of veganism seem pretty cut-and-dried: no animal products. So what does it mean for my trial-period vegan self when vegan products made in the presence of dairy (for example) are on the line? I'm not asking to be absolved of that Clif bar - that was an informed decision, justified by the notion that not consuming animal products negates supporting companies that do use animal products.

In my understanding of capitalism, that doesn't jive.

So what consequences come of the occasional snarfing of a vegan item made by a non-vegan company? Ultimately, it's a political decision that - implicitly or explicitly - expresses approval for that business.

This month, I've supported decidedly non-vegan food sources. Even in Portland, it happens. Because the stand I've taken this month is more or less dietary, I don't think that veganism burns in me like it does for others. Not to say I condone the mistreatment of animals. Of course I don't. I suppose all of this is to say that I'm not sure how thorough I'm willing to be about this. After all, veganism is a type of extremism - a dogma carried to a logical conclusion. Extremism gets a bad name these days; it can be a very noble and brave thing. (See also: folks from Malcolm X to Julia Butterfly to Gertrude Stein to Peter Singer.) And although I feel better physically (to say nothing of the sense of righteousness), this form of extremism might not be my path. Keeping my footprint small and the lives taken so I can enjoy my meal to a minimum was my guiding principle before, and I'm still exploring the perimeters of that.

In the end, I'll feel like I failed myself in this month's vegan session because I didn't do it with the thoroughness that I bring to my obsessions.

Next time: pictures of spelt rolls!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 10: Grow Your Own

Gather 'round, my friends*, and I'll spin you a tale of euphoria, tragedy and unspeakable loss. A story that will inspire, titillate and horrify you. Yes, it is the story of my first garden.

Loyal readers (all two of you) may recall a small photospam from the days of yore that included proud pics of scraggly but recognizable vegetable plants. Damn right, I grew those suckers, but I'll begin at the beginning. Most of my personal epics like this begin with a related failure. In this case, it would be the garden bed in our side yard. It stands, clay soil and all, overrun with thistles and scilla - totally devoid of all useful or tasty plant life. My grand plans involved runner beans, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots - you name it. First, though, I needed to clear the bed of bulbs. Armed with a borrowed pitchfork, I tackled that shit Sunday after rainy Sunday through the winter. Then I gave up, mixed a bit of my burgeoning compost heap into the mix and called the whole thing off. The scilla bloomed and died, and the thistles took hold. The side yard mocks me daily.

All was not lost, though, thanks to my miserly ways (read: I'm a cheap bitch I am I am). Folks offered me starts, and I took them. Crookneck squash, tomatoes, broccoli and a very battered snap pea plant. By this time, it was late May - on the late side in a strange growing year - but I hardened them off and put 'em in the ground. The pea plant probably needed a little more TLC before getting a-planted; live and learn, I suppose. The broccoli has not exactly been all that hardy either, which surprises me. My dad grew the hell out of mad broccoli back home in Anchorage, so I figured climate was on my side in Stumptown. The Oregon climate, it turns out, is also quite hospitable to bugs that like to prey on nascent gardening endeavors. The broc survives to this day, but just barely.

But enough sorrow! My tomatoes went gonzo - I've been enjoying fresh 'maters for more than a month now. One plant well outgrew the stakes I used to prop it up - when it was but a wee sprout, I jerry-rigged it with BBQ tools and twine. The rains are here, so the fruit is definitely at an end, but there was nothing finer than parking my bike after work and snacking on a handful of earthy-smelling tomatoes before tackling the dishes from the night before.

I also managed to grow some squash. It was delicious, but a small yield. Something tells me I should have planted this much earlier, perhaps in fresher, more pliable soil. The sprawling, uncontrolled growth I've seen on some squash eluded me. The squash took up the majority of my garden trouble-shooting time. Once I finally resolved the slug issue, powdery mildew set in, and plagues my remaining squash plant yet no matter how much cajoling and home remediation I dole out.

Despite the emotional rollercoastery nature of my first vegetable garden, I'm addicted. Keeping the number of plants modest prevented the need to invest oodles of time, but still yielded a reasonable crop (I seriously had more cherry tomatoes than I could handle). Next year will bring salad greens, beans and more of the same, but with the wisdom that can only come from a very haphazard Round One.

Not sure what about the specific type of tomato, but these orange cherry tomatoes are most certainly the bomb:

*apologies to anyone else who saw or listened to McCain destroy this phrase. Honestly, fella. Give it a rest.

Vegan MoFo Day 9: My Co-op Owns My Heart. Collectively.

The vegan food emporium closest to my house is People's. I adore this place. It's like the best candy store in the world, but instead of jawbreakers, there are three different kinds of lentil. In bulk. One lovely thing about supporting a grocery store that shops as locally as possible is the freshness of the produce. My potatoes smell like dirt and taste rich and buttery. It's almost impossible not to eat with the seasons, as the surplus produce goes on sale with the harvest cycles. Oh, did I mention the weekly farmer's market that runs all year long? Yep, ALL YEAR LONG. Hells yes, I eat fresh in February. Hells yes, that's possible.

All of that is fantastic in and of itself, but I also own a share of this beauteous creation. The collective ownership notion appeals to me in a big way. The sense of locale, the sense of community is very strong there; the faces are becoming familiar as my neighbors and I bump into each other while foraging for damaged avocados and agave nectar. I'll see the gal who works at the video rental place, a friend from Eugene, or just someone whose face I recognize from shopping regularly. It's not quite the neighborhood bar, but it's just as warm and fuzzy.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 8: Two things

A Dialogue

Me: (whistling nonchalantly and innocently as I enter my boss' office to deposit some paperwork)
M&Ms Dispenser on Boss' Desk: 'Sup.
Me: EGAD! M&Ms dispenser! You startled me!
Dispenser: Heard you went vegan.
Me: That's quite true, M&Ms dispenser. I guess I won't be giving you any business anymore. What with the milk chocolate and all.
Dispenser: Uh-huh. I've seen this before. Diets don't last. You'll crack, and you'll come crawling back for some of this sweet, sweet candy, if I may borrow a creepy-ass phrase from Family Guy.
Me: (pause) Yep. Creepy. But nonetheless, I'm trying veganism out for the month not only to see if I can hack it, but to gain a little insight on other eating habits. I've been playing with the idea of going raw, too. It's more a matter of learning about food and food politics than any particular ideology. My ideology revolves more around the footprint of my meal than --
Dispenser: Sweet, sweet candy.
[uncomfortable silence]
Dispenser: Come on, you don't miss chocolate?
Me: There's plenty of vegan chocolate in this world. I don't want for chocolate. To be honest, M&Ms dispenser, ours was a relationship of convenience. You were there, the peanut M&Ms were there... things happen. And now I'm moving on. Chances are decent that this veganism kick may not last beyond the month, but I doubt I'll come back to you.
[another uncomfortable silence]
Dispenser: Baby, I can change! Dark chocolate M&Ms are a distinct possibility. Talk to the Bossman. He'll hook you up. He'll hook us up.
Me: Sorry, M&Ms dispenser that sits on my boss' desk. It's over between us. Compulsively eating sub-par chocolate just isn't for me anymore. Goodbye.
Dispenser: You'll be back! Someone has to sign off on the purchase orders! And when you come around, I'll be right here.

Also: I have not stopped being hungry for three days. Is veganism really just a ploy to make folks constantly (albeit healthily) graze?

Vegan MoFo Day 7: Discount veganism

Hello there, half-price Holy Cow burritos. You're a little taste of Eugene right here in, uh, Portland, and you're damn cheap. I think I will live off of you (and that enchilada situation I was so proud of) for the next few days.

Also: It's time for yams. Cheap, healthy and excellent when roasted, I'm ready for a long winter if yams are involved.

Enchilada Situation:

(Serves one over and over)

Half a bag of torilla chips
A can of lard-free refried beans
Nutritional yeast
A jar of enchilada sauce
Veggies of your choosing (I used rainbow chard, onion, spinach and bell peppers)

Put a layer of chips down. Cover with beans and yeast. Add veggies. And more yeast. Smother with sauce and throw in the oven for 40-45 minutes at 350. Serve with tons of avocado. Devour and don't take any pictures.

Apologies for a short entry, but frankly, I'm exhausted on this damp Tuesday and should probably get real work done. Alas.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Birds and Cubs

The Cubs went down to the Dodgers, and you probably don't care too much. Maybe you do. In any case, I let nine men (plus pinches) break my heart. Again. I am growing equipped to deal with life's disappointments. By the time I'm 30, I should be able to roll with any punches. Having perennial hopes squashed year after year is pretty damn harsh.

Having traded my old trumpet for an old sewing machine (thank you, Craig's list!), I've gone on an alteration rampage. All of my rad-but-gigantic shirts WILL fit, and thus my rather limited wardrobe will get a boost. AND I'm knitting my first hat ever! It looks small, but I think it'll stretch out. There was much craftiness this weekend, although that table I've been meaning to refinish is still unfinished. Or rather, it's half-finished and the project is unfinished.

Flickers have been following me this week. They're one of my favorite birds to watch because they're so sassy and beautiful. I've seen both males and females lately - distinguished by the red shafts on the cheeks, which the females lack. For a while, they were teasing me; I think they know that their call is one of the few I can identify, and therefore decided to hide in trees and let those little "wiki-wikis" loose. They sound a bit like a flinchy turn-tablist scratching an oboe track. Oh, it turns out that the little songbird I saw while hiking Larch Mountain last week was a Townsend's Warbler. The sweet thing was that I was looking down from the peak and got a (sorry...) bird's eye view of the little thing flitting around above the treeline of this colossal old growth forest. So awe-inspiring.

Vegan MoFo Days 4-6: I heart cruelty-free lists

Cravings for cheese: Abundant. But I'm still not whining.
Weekly food budget: $7 tops. This is not a good month to get all crazy creative with the culinaria.
The number of soy products in my life has: Drastically increased. I'm not sure how okay I am with this. More on this later.

10. Living off of chips and salsa, oatmeal, and/or PB&J gets the job done. Not that I'd want to or have been, but those two items have saved me in a pinch more than once already. And I'm sure they will again. Guac, too. Mmm.
9. I don't really feel like I'm better, smarter or more ethical than anyone else. I just think about food constantly. So much for the "smug vegan" trope.
8. Earth Balance is damn expensive! Granted that I'm on a serious budget* but come on!
7. Soy yogurt should never, EVER be eaten at any temperature other than straight-outta-the-fridge cold. The tapioca associations are too much for this girl.
6. Rennet. Why don't people tell me these things when I am eating cheese? That's filthy!
5. Evidently it's common for most vegans to graze all day AND eat major meals.
4. Veganism isn't always a sure-fire weight loss plan, but the golden triad of veganism, biking as a sole form of transportation, and having no money seem to do the trick. Explains why Portland is full of skinny-skinnies (in skinny jeans).
3. Gluten-free vegans who opt not to eat soy are the most hardcore people alive, dietarily speaking.
2. Animal rights is really not an issue that politicians ever talk about, unless it's the city counsel going on about pit bulls. And that's crap.
1. Absolutely NO ONE told me that - how to put this? - my GI tract would kick into high gear. I kept a pretty high fiber diet before, but now!

10. Nutritional yeast makes damn near everything taste better.
9. It's just a dietary choice. It's only an identity if you make it one.
8. Soup is the simplest thing ever to make vegan. I have big plans to alter a matzoh ball soup recipe. Mmmm. Seitan dumplings.
7. Coffee is universal, amazing and essential no matter what your breakfast looks like.
6. Being more attentive about what and how you eat is immensely rewarding. Why would anyone want something unidentifiable in their meals? That's silly and gross.
5. Vegans are not necessarily picky eaters. There are worlds of foods omnis would never touch that vegans embrace. Most omnis in my circle are tofu-tolerant or even pro-, but other synthetic proteins scare the hell out of 'em. To say nothing of exploring the full extent of the bulk section or anything with "sprouted" in it's name. Really, there are more edible plants, grains and legumes on this planet than are dreamt of in omnivory.
4. Portland is a ridiculously easy place to go vegan.
3. It's not horrendously rude or out of line to ask what the french fries were fried in.
2. Tofu scrambles are best served frequently.
1. Nutritional yeast. Again. Seriously.

*I'm saving money pretty aggressively so I can move out. My rent is too damn high, and I don't want to pay to heat this big, under-used house (our landlord won't let us add more people despite the extra room, so we're locked into way too much rent mo-nay) all winter. Plus, everyone I know lives in a different part of town. Granted that I'd be further from the vegan mini-mall, but closer to just about everything else. So that's that news. I haven't informed my roommates, but this will likely go down around January.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 3: I haven't messed up yet.

Number of dairy items substituted since yesterday: 4
Number of dairy items (including eggs) omitted since yesterday: 3
Number of times I got up to grab some peanut M&Ms from my boss' desk, remembered this project and turned back around: 37 or so
Amount of whining: Surprisingly low.
And I feel: About the same.

This veganism trial period draws my thoughts back to my little bro's lactose intolerance (I know there's more to it than that, but dairy is my biggest hurdle for this project), which was severe and tragic. My family loves the cheese and the ice cream, and my brother was and is a huge fan of cold cereal. Figuring out that he had a hardcore dairy sensitivity - and "sensitivity" doesn't do it justice; major, agonizing reactions sounds more like it - was awful, but watching him adjust to "weird" soy foods and substitutes that have since come a long way was almost worse. Although I probably gloated over a cream cheese smeared bagel at some point, I recall more pity and sympathy than anything else. He just looked so damn sad. Anyway, he grew out of it when he started high school,and has since been a consumer of dairy (although never straight milk) since. He doesn't appear crazy about it though. I think some trauma may remain, and I mean that without sarcasm.

All that to say: If he can do it, so can I. Baby Brother and I are equally tough, and if we aren't, I'll never admit it.

Surprisingly, I nearly forgot to order the egg out of my noodles at the Thai food cart near work. For reasons beyond me (but not my dad, as he pointed this out to me) I'm hyper-aware of eggs and extremely fussy about them. Still. Score one more point for the vegan hordes.

I've also decided that, while I'm blogging the hell out of this escapade, I'm not going to talk about it much. My coworkers already think I'm a freak for being a vegetarian and appearing to subsist on fruit and seeds (it's apple season and I like trail mix...wanna fight about it?) so I may as well roll with it. An ever-increasing number of my friends are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or are otherwise dietarily restricted, so no one would likely notice that I'm eating more nutritional yeast than usual. I'm doing this, as the kids say, for me. And because I like to write about food.

Totally unrelated: The VP debate. WHY oh WHY did Palin not answer any question without trying (and often failing) to tie in four other totally irrelevant talking points? Biden may be long-winded at times, but at least his statements follow some kind of logical path. Her answers and rebuttals were patchworks of soundbites. To her credit, she sounded more prepared, but I couldn't help but think the questions went in one way and out the other. When she mentioned women's rights, my listening party and I all just laughed. It was a joke wasn't it?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

I've got nothing to lose but dairy. And eggs. And honey.

And probably a couple other things I'm not considering. But in honor of the Vegan Month of Food (holla Vegan MoFo!), I'm going for-realsies vegan until the end of the month. Prepare yourself for whining of the "damn it, soy yogurt is nasty" variety. In the meantime, I'm planning a small shopping frenzy, including a heaping vat of nutritional yeast and all the local apples I can carry. Any advice or tips for a dairy detox is welcome. Am less concerned about eggs and honey. Agave charmed me a long time ago, and eggs are just a baking thing. If living in Portland (aka Land of a Thousand Vegan Bakeries) has taught me anything, it's taught me that one doesn't need eggs to bake. Also that rain can be an acceptable shower substitute and that the hipsters will always lose, Mister Lebowski, but they will still make you self-conscious although you have the less pretentious hairdo.

That said, I'ma pontificate briefly on how extremely lucky those of us in the Pacific Northwest truly are in terms of apples. If I may channel Meg and her rad Gravenstein post* for just a moment: Walking into my grocery store and seeing upwards of eight different varieties of apple throughout the fall and into winter is a wonder to me. A fresh apple is not easily found in Alaska, as is the case for most produce of any quality. So discovering that the apple not only has a complex genealogy (insert family tree joke) with a wide range of tastes, colors, textures and personalities amazed me. Trying new apples has become a bit of an obsession now, and while I trend toward the Pink Ladies (natch) and Jonagolds for their balanced, sweet-n-tart flavor, I'll try most anything. I'd never had a Spartan until recently, and I noshed through those like lightning - they were so crisp! Gingergolds and Honeycrisps don't do it for me; they're a little too sweet, and the skin doesn't have enough resistance for me. I like to taste that rind. The Arkansas Black Spur apple made an appearance last year, but I didn't get a chance to grab any. According to the internet, they're late season so apple freaks like me get something to look forward to. My neighbor brought me a ton of Jonafrees from the gorge; she clearly knows the way to my heart.

*Meg and Kelly: We need to start a band called the Rad Gravensteins.

(ETA links and extra love.)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

What's a vegan mofo? and some self-defense

Other than a less-than-supportive invective? This is the wherein, at the suggestion of a fantastic and rather cute Portland vegan chef, all vegan blogger types blog about vegan things every weekday or with some similar frequency. It sounds pretty loose, but I can manage a few words a day about food specifically.

That said, I'm not a vegan. I come close fairly often, but am generally too enamored of/addicted to dairy cheese and yogurt to truly let go of them entirely. This choice doesn't trouble me too much. I'm a vegetarian who eats local (as local as my backyard when it comes to tomatoes, squash, blueberries and a few herbs this year), and am extremely scrupulous about the politics of my food dollars. Although the ecological footprint of my dinner is about 30% of that of the average American* when I eat in, and still less if this Jane Average is eating beef. Self-righteousness aside, I -do- see the hypocrisy of going vegetarian and citing ethics among my reasons while noshing on cheese, and I accept it. Feel free to correct my perhaps naive belief that dairy production at smallish, local farms is not cruel or not as cruel.

Then there's the can of metaphorical worms that is seafood. Many in vegan circles would likely view my occasional indulgence in these critters deplorable, or at least super gross. Again, I recognize this and the hypocrisy I carry with it. Clams may make a bomb chowder, but they're most certainly fauna, even when chowder-fied. Still, I don't believe that it's a cop-out to claim my Alaskan childhood, my whitey cultural heritage from an eclectic, proud, frigid postcolonial outpost where salmon and crab are king. Good seafood - which I can never afford anyway, and therefore only have in Alaska on someone else's dime (twice a year tops) - is a weakness of mine. Salmon farming politics are near and dear to my heart - let's not go there. I again recognize this as something some would call a moral failing, but salmon or dungeoness crab are still tastes too nostalgic. Self-denial, at least for me, becomes an act of martyrdom at that point. Crabs are cool critters! They're like underwater spiders. Don't think that I have no respect for their lives.

I guess I'm just not ready to dive into veganism whole hog-alternative because my reasons for eating the way I do are a confluence of the environmental, ethical, financial, and physical (that's what we'd call health reasons, right?) - were I to make this an entirely moral issue for myself, that would be one thing. But I see many facets to the politics of food, and I think vegan extremism is not for me at this point. Veganism is a brave and admirable thing, but as I've seen it, it is also a decision that often walks hand-in-hand with a certain level of privilege. Not everyone has access to Peter Singer, or the conditions to allow them to read it without judgment. Nor does everyone have a sweet food co-op or natural foods store in their area where flax seeds and hemp milk flow like... okay, bad comparison. But try finding a pair of dress shoes for an interview at a thrift store that aren't leather or some other animal derivative. Not everyone is going to be that dedicated because not everyone can. I'm not defending the cheapskates who buy $1/dozen eggs; I'm trying to gently remind the vegans in my sphere of influence that omnis and vegetarians (and vegetarian-buts like me - "I'm a vegetarian, but I do/don't eat...") aren't all ignorant or all wrong. Most folks I know are trying to live ethical, healthy lives, and all of us go about it in completely different ways.

Okay. Self-righteous novel over. Recipes and pictures and stuff start tomorrow.

*this is a guestimate and you should only check my math if you're really mean and/or like decimals. I'm pretty confident in this figure, so don't burst my bubble.