Archives for posts with tag: food

It’s Vegan MoFo, the Vegan Month of Food. While I’m not participating because I just can’t get into the idea of being a food blogger, I figured I should be a good veg citizen and contribute something to the collective endeavor. On the other hand, I don’t feel like writing recipes and taking fancy pictures and all that. So instead, I’m going to share my nine favorite ways to eat toast.

  1. With butter* and zatar.
  2. With butter and nutritional yeast.
  3. With butter, honey**, and cinnamon.
  4. With butter, honey, and masala chai spice mix.
  5. With butter and marmalade.
  6. With butter and apple butter.
  7. With almond butter.
  8. With almond butter and banana slices.
  9. Surrounding a sandwich. The kind is unimportant, so long as it includes sauerkraut.

Of course, I’m all for new ideas. Tell me about your favorite ways to eat toast!

*By butter, I mean of course whatever your favorite buttery spread happens to be. I like Earth Balance, but I’m no snob. Eat what you like.

**Generic term for your favorite liquidy sweet stuff. I just like the texture better than sugar. But sugar works too.

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Jef and I spend Christmas with my dad’s side of the family, because nobody does Christmas better than the Jews.

No presents except small silly ones. Traditions include listening to the Queen’s address, jam sessions, a walk through the cemetery, and food. Lots and lots of food, from turkey to bagelech to mince meat pie. If it’s Hanukkah, we do that too. On Boxing Day we go to the movies and get carry-out sushi so nobody has to cook.

New Year is with my mom’s family, which means one fancy dinner out and one pizza delivery night in. Euchre gets more competitive as the holiday wears on. Devoted Democrats and Republicans tease one another about how ridiculous everybody’s politicians seem to be. Some are wealthy, some are struggling, and some are in between, but nobody feels embarrassed about how much or how little they have. Everybody recites their annual poems. We laugh until the end of the year.

Thanksgiving is spent with Jef’s stepfamily. The vegans (there are several) and the omnivores label their potluck dishes carefully, and everyone serves themselves, buffet style. People talk politics and ask riddles and play with the dogs and the little kids. Independence Day is the same, only with more of the family. The Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Pagans, agnostics, and Baha’is sing and play games. Those who drink alcohol drink. Those who don’t, don’t. Blond rugby player Osama hangs out with his Tanzanian aunt. It’s hard to tell the Alabamans from the Ohioans, the liberals from the libertarians, or even who’s biologically related and who’s not.

So when people get upset because others don’t celebrate their holidays, call it selfish or unnatural or a cultural attack, it’s hard for me to understand. In our families, we love each other for all our differences. Shouldn’t the holidays be the time it’s easier than ever to treat everyone with the same kindness as we offer to those we hold dear?

 

To the Do-Or-Die Vegans/Vegan Police/Vegangelicals:

I’m going to confess outright: I didn’t become a vegan because I love animals. I did it for the totally selfish reason of my own personal health, and because of environmental and economic justice second. Animal welfare was a happy byproduct. I didn’t think this was that unusual. My former housemates were health vegans (they’re mostly raw now too, totally hardcore), as are several of my in-laws. Like them, I saw pretty dramatic results in the quality of my life. I was happy with my choice, and this could have continued uneventfully except for one thing: I started hanging out with other vegans.

I was happy to find community. (And the potlucks! So delicious.) But then they started telling me things like people who became vegans for health reasons can’t be trusted because they’ll go back to meat as soon as they get bored with their new diet. Or that I should throw out the leather shoes I already owned and had been wearing for years, as though prematurely adding an animal’s remains to a landfill somehow avenged its death. Or that it was wrong to encourage people to eat less meat, because only strict veganism was acceptable. In my mind, eight people practicing Meatless Monday saves more animals than one new vegan. But to these folks, it was all or nothing.

I call them the vegangelicals. And they made me hate veganism, even though I was eating a vegan diet myself.

Luckily, I found other friends. Some were vegetarian. Some vegan. Some pescetarians. Some locavores. And while we partied and cooked and sampled pizza with Daiya and veenies with locally made sauerkraut, there was a small shift in me.

I bought a vegan wallet.

I started checking labels to make sure I had cruelty-free lotion.

I started reading editorials from PETA and occasionally (not always) thinking, “Yeah, exactly. Good for you.”

So, vegangelicals, what’s the lesson here?

Sometimes people become vegans for ethical reasons. But sometimes, our ethics change in response to our diets. It’s a place from which to view the treatment of animals without being completely turned off one’s own entanglement in it. Some people don’t do their best thinking from a place of guilt.

So I get it. I get the way you feel about animals. Because I give a crap too.

But give us the time to get there. Love us for our little steps. Feed us tempeh tacos and snobby Joes and maybe show us the best place to order a vegan belt. There are seven billion people on this planet, and each one is different. Remember that, the next time you turn your nose up at another’s first efforts at change. We could be the best allies you’ve got, if you let us.

All you have to do is quit chasing us away.

During our business class in massage school, we had to write down the five things we most wanted to do before we died.

One of mine was to grow an amazing food garden.

I’ve been an apartment dweller my entire adult life, and a busy one at that. How on earth would I ever end up with the time, space, and energy for proper gardening?

No guarantees on the “proper” part, but I finally have a garden.

Four of us, all apartment dwellers, are growing food in my brother-in-law’s back yard. It’s just a little patch, mostly tomatoes, chili peppers, and herbs, with a cobbled-together compost bin in the back. We take turns watering and weeding and squealing about it online.

None of us have ever done this before. It might not be much of a harvest. But we have so much fun in the meantime, gathering to cook meals together or play cards or finish putting up a woodchuck fence.

Although it’s on private land, my garden is a “community” garden, in the truest sense of the word. It was only because of the community that any of us could build the garden. And it’s only because of the garden that this community came to be.

I’ve never had an alcoholic drink in my life.

Okay, I’ve had a couple of sips accidentally. But never an entire drink, and never on purpose. And yet:

  • I can dance my butt off at weddings.
  • I can sing karaoke, despite the fact that I stink at it.
  • I can go to bars with friends.
  • I can enjoy a nice Italian meal.
  • I can talk to members of the opposite sex.
  • I can go camping.
  • I can hang out with my in-laws (who are actually very cool).

These are all things people have told me they can’t do without drinking.

Know what else I can do for fun?

  • Play on playgrounds
  • Practice my ukulele
  • Grab a random book from a shelf at my local library
  • Take walks around my neighborhood
  • Volunteer
  • Write
  • Play Boggle (which I usually win), Scrabble (which I always lose), and Bananagrams (50/50) with my husband.
  • Go contradancing.
  • Climb on the giant rocks in and around the Rocky River

Aside from being some of my favorite activities, what do these have in common? They’re better without booze.

For some reason, people find the fact that I don’t drink alcohol stranger than the fact that I don’t eat any meat, eggs, or dairy. I’ve never understood this. It’s not like I need to take B12 supplements to make up for my lack of beer. Vegan is strange, but also trendy, in a hippie sort of way. Dry is just not on the list of hot lifestyle choices.

I love how much less money I spend at restaurants. I love how, when I’m feeling socially awkward at a party, I just leave. Because I can, you know, drive. I love being able to feel proud of the new things I try, knowing that it was my own courage, and not dulled judgment that allowed them to happen. I love being able to trust myself, whether I’m feeling spontaneous or responsible.

Being a teetotaller gives me more choices, not fewer. I don’t expect the whole world to follow me, but I would  like the world to know that when you feel disgruntled about drinking around me when I’m sober, it’s not my sobriety that’s the problem. I’m having a great time on the dance floor, and I know how I’m getting home tonight.

You might give it a try sometime. I’ll be here with my board games when you’re ready to have a go.

I’ve written about my girls before, but I haven’t said much about the fact that the most of the young animators I work with are boys. Young men, really. They’re thoughtful, inquisitive, creative, and caring. I couldn’t ask to work with a better collection of people.

But sometimes it does occur to me that it would be nice to have more men involved in their training. Gabriela and I are the women who accompany them through their studies. Another woman hosts the group in her home. Another woman prepares dinner for group each week. Now that one of the boys is a licensed driver, he’s thrilled to give people lifts. But before then, transportation issues were handled by women, primarily mothers.

Which is why it was so nice when Haigo came to our animator gathering from Indiana.

There are lots of things young men can learn from their more experienced brothers. How to sort through all the mixed messages about what it means to be male in a culture that constantly contradicts itself. How to be a good son, brother, husband, father. How to do the secret man-handshake. (Okay, so there isn’t really a secret man-handshake. But there should be!)

So what useful man-skill did these guys learn while hanging out with a male mentor this Saturday?

How to bake a pie from scratch.

And they loved it. Every minute of it.

Yum.

The most empowering book I’ve ever read was a cookbook.

Specifically, Vegan With a Vengeance, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.

When Jef and I first went vegan, he was a homemaker while I worked during the day and went to school at night. I’d wake up at 5:15, go for a walk, get dressed, make myself breakfast, fix a salad or leftovers for lunch, and wake Jef up just in time so he could find his glasses and drive me to work at 6:40. At 4:00 he’d pick me up, drive me home, and fix a quick dinner while I changed into my scrubs and passed out on the sofa. I’d wake, eat lunch, then take the 45 minute trip north to school in rush-hour traffic. Study from 6:00-10:00, then arrive home around 10:35. Wake up the next morning. Start over.

And this worked, partly because Jef is an amazing cook. We played with all kinds of crazy recipes. He knows how to improvise with spices, makes the best spaghetti sauce known to humankind, and chops vegetables so well you’d think they were bred to fall apart in perfect little cubes.

Then we moved.

And suddenly, I’m the one with time to spare. I’m an okay cook. I can stir-fry with the best of them, and my salad dressings are great. But I’m not a wonderful cook. Not innovative. Not confident. I burned some things. Undercooked others. We found ourselves eating out just a little too often. And it was starting to show, in our bodies and our bank accounts.

Enter Vegan With a Vengeance.

Here was a cookbook that spoke to me. Literally. Isa chatted to me like she was sitting backwards on my kitchen chair, telling me her theories of pizza crust making, the trick to getting flavors to stick to tofu, and laughing about the trans-fatty days of being vegan before Earth Balance was in every grocery store in America.

She didn’t take her recipes too seriously. She gave multiple variants on dozens of dishes (wasabi mashed potatoes, anyone?) and encouraged you to try your own. So when she laid down the law about something (prunes are great in chocolate cake, but not in chocolate chip cookies), you trusted it wasn’t because of some kind of celebrity chef ego trip, but because she really did know best.

We talk a lot about empowerment, getting people from a place of passivity and fear to one of leadership and personal responsibility. But we don’t always look around and identify empowerment when we see it, and learn from what works.

Vegan With a Vengeance turned me from “Oh no, it’s really sizzling a lot, I hope I don’t burn it, why don’t I turn down the heat?” to “I know it’s unconventional, but I really think this sauce could use some maple syrup.” I’m still not the best cook on the planet, not even half as good as my husband, but now I’m in a posture of learning, not paralysis.

Who or what has empowered you?

What can you learn from it?

How can you do the same?

P.S- yes, I have Veganomicon now too. Trying out a new soup this weekend!

I made a librarian’s day yesterday!

The librarians and staff at my local public library do a lot of empowering. I would have half the education I have now were it not for the library system, and I know I’m not the only one. I learned to love science at the library, even though I hated it in school. Much of the history I know, I learned in the library. The library was there when I needed help with a school assignment, when I was seeking a place to hold a neighborhood children’s class, when I wanted to learn how to cook, and when I needed a distraction for a 10 hour trip.

So I wanted to thank them.

And while I love getting verbal thanks, I’ll be honest with you: I love sweets more. So my offering? I like to pretend chocolate-covered strawberries are good for you. It’s fruit! And, um, chocolate.

(Instructions at the bottom if you’ve never made these before. It’s so much easier than baking cookies.)

When I brought the bowl of strawberries up to the front desk, I was a little nervous. I was carrying food into the library, after all. A huge no-no! What if I got caught? But when I explained to the woman at the checkout desk what I was there for, her eyes lit up. “You’re going to be somebody’s ‘good thing’ at our next staff meeting!”

I really want the people who serve our community to have more “good things,” every day.

Sometimes it’s so easy to focus on the people who aren’t involved. How can we empower and inspire them? How can I accompany them on a path of service? But it’s equally important to remember the people who are already working hard, either as volunteers or through their work. Sometimes, all it takes to brighten a servant’s day is a word of thanks.

And sometimes chocolate.

*

If you’ve never made chocolate-covered strawberries before, it’s incredibly easy.

Get a double boiler (or if you’re like me and don’t have one, boil some water in a pot and find a smaller pot that you can hold so that the bottom of it is touching the water), and melt a couple of tablespoons of margarine.

Pour in a bag and a half (10 oz bags) of bittersweet chocolate chips. Pretend you didn’t already eat the other half a bag.

Stir until gooey (it won’t turn liquid like you see in those fountains, but the lumps will go away).

Take it off the heat, and dip in strawberries (this made enough chocolate for two pounds of strawberries, with a little left over).

Let the berries cool on aluminum foil or wax paper.

And you’re done! 

Okay, so that whole “blogging everyday” goal was a total disaster. It’s just too much work to find time to DO the work of building community while simultaneously WRITING about it.

I decided the action was probably more important than the blogging.

It’s been busy and fun and I’m loving it. I might play catch-up with a lot of the highlights, but I wanted to share one particular story, because it was a case of actually seeing the results of my actions.

There’s a cafe near my apartment called The Root, where I spend a lot of time and probably too much money. If you ever get the chance to try their vegan maple pecan scones, do so, for the love of all things tasty.

One of the things I love about The Root is that they’re as obsessed with community as I am. For example, they turn off their wifi one evening a week (when they offer a special raw food dinner menu) in order to encourage people to enjoy their meal mindfully and socialize with the people around them rather than their machines.

Of course, it’s a popular place, and it can get crowded at times. Sometimes the only table with a convenient outlet is a large one, which is a pretty big waste of space.

This sort of situation has always made me feel guilty, so for a bit over a year now, I’ve put up a sign that I’ve made at various times from scrap paper, used envelopes, or index cards, which states the following.

I don’t need this whole table. It’s okay to sit with me! 🙂

I’ve used this at a number of coffeeshops. The difference is, people have only ever taken me up on the offer at The Root. People who eat here get “community.” They like sharing. I love that.

Anyhow, a few days ago I was at The Root with Jef when one of the staff walked up to our table with a card. He said, “I just wanted to let you know that we noticed your sign a few times, and we decided we should encourage this sort of thing, so we made our own for people to use.”

Here’s the official Table Share sign. While it lacks the “ratty envelope” charm of the original, it’s certainly easier to read!

It’s so easy to believe that your actions don’t have any effect on the world. But the world is watching, whether you know it or not, and sometimes it lets you peek.

Today Jef and I went to the West Side Market, the most gorgeous, century-old market on W. 25th in Cleveland. We bought lunch at our favorite falafel stand. Not only did we feel great about supporting a business we know and love, they have the best falafel in northeast Ohio. So delicious!

We weren’t the only people grabbing falafel on a Saturday afternoon. A local politician ordered just after we did. When I was a teenager, he taught me everything I know about writing a press release, how to speak effectively in a circle of people, and nurtured my interest in civic engagement. He co-signed a proclamation that I wrote on behalf of the youth of my city, along with our mayor. More recently, he helped my dad move up the date of his naturalization ceremony so that he could become a citizen in time to register to vote.

As a rule, I am very skeptical of politics, and politicians as they function within it. But outside of politics, politicians are people. I haven’t met many of them in person, and I’ve known even fewer on a level that I’d call personal. But this man, as an individual, I trust. I like him. And I imagine it’s tough remaining the kind of person I like, while entrenched in a system that offers so many incentives to become otherwise.

So after grabbing our falafel (mine with hummus, Jef’s with baba and hot sauce), I shook his hand and thanked him for all he does.

Because even though we have different views about the best methods of creating better communities, I do believe that we’re both doing what we can for that end. And sometimes a little bit of encouragement is just what a community builder needs.