Tuesday, December 15, 2009

holiday treats

look what my parents sent me! Winter is cold. Heat is good. Deliciousness is good. These are truths about the world. For your pleasure I have done the difficult work of trying many holiday beverages to save you the trouble. Because I like you.

Celestial Seasonings Sugarplum Spice: Delicious! Festive and warming, a little sweet, a little spicy, but not overwhelming in either respect. Just a happy medium of everything your heart desires in a winter tea, including dancing ballerinas enticing you to drink it.
(The peppermint I haven't had yet - some jerk stole my mug, or some friend is borrowing it for an abnormally long period of time - but it's on my winter break to-do list and it comes highly recommended. The hot cocoa I also haven't had, but vegan cocoa mix at Target? I can haz plz.)

Celestial Seasonings Gingerbread: I tried this last night, not as good as Sugarplum Spice. A little too spicy. It does taste exactly like a gingerbread cookie if that's what you're into, but drinking a watery gingerbread cookie wasn't exactly my cup of tea. Har. I wouldn't call it bad.

Silk Nog: Nom. Rich with a good flavor. Delicious. However it does such a good job of being noggy - and thus almost unbearably rich - that I don't remember ever finishing a container as the only vegan in a household. But nog! It is essential to have nog at the holidays and it doesn't have any weird soy flavor. Yum.

Vitasoy chocolate peppermint: The best for last! Oh my god. If you haven't had this you have never truly celebrated the wintertime. It is so, so good. It has a good chocolate flavor and the mint is neither overpowering nor wimpy. Delicious. Please drink this. Six stars of five.

vegan in college

I am alive! The last month has been ridiculous. Papers, finals, I won’t bore you. If I could get academic credit for cuddling and blogging and eating fried pies (Whiffies. Nom. Come to Portland.) I would have graduated by now. But I made it through the first semester of college alive! I’m surprised it took me a whole semester, but I do believe a vegan college student is required to post about her experience of things. I am lucky enough to go to a college with a really vegan-friendly dining hall (hint: liberal arts colleges on the coasts). The dining hall has different stations and there’s always at least one that has a good vegan option, marked by a big green circle.
There’s a salad bar, fresh fruit, a soymilk dispenser, cereal, and even nutritional yeast for your cheesy B12 delight. It’s so nice never ever having to worry about being provided for. I get asked surprisingly often if I would go to a school that didn’t have vegan options. I can’t imagine going to a school and not even being able to eat – or at least not being able to go to the dining hall with my friends like everyone else. My school has vegan theme day sometimes! Last one was macaroni with cashew cheese, housemade seitan “ribs”, corn salad, berry cobbler, and deliciousness.
Yes, I do love my school. If you’re going or thinking about going to a larger/public/less liberal school, they might not have cashew cheese but you can still survive. Peta2 does a yearly contest for the most vegetarian-friendly college, and while I’m sure it’s not exhaustive, a lot of the winners are state schools, so you never know.

Beyond the dining hall, though, I still eat well. I have been called ‘the hall Mormon’ before because of how much damn food I keep stocked. Sometimes I’m out on weekends and get back after dinner has been served, wake up too late for breakfast, plus I just like to cook and eat. I am on the floor of my dorm that has the biggest kitchen in the building, which is nice. It’s amazing how much stuff you really need to have a fully stocked kitchen…I read recipes and think “Wow, I don’t have a casserole dish or curry powder or aluminum foil or cream of tartar. Um.”

Here’s what I’ve got (bear in mind that this is the end of the semester and my mother has been plying me with care packages, so the ratio of junk to actual nutrients is a little distorted):

Apple sauce, dried cranberries, popcorn, noodle bowls/coconut rice, ramen (naturally), oatmeal, graham crackers, cashew crunch, chips, recently veganized Skittles hiding by the cookies and Dandies marshmallows hiding next to the granola bars.
Earth Balance in the fridge, peanut butter, chickpeas, rice, pasta and baking supplies in the kitchen cupboard. I try to have ingredients for a few simple, satisfying, not horribly unhealthy meals – e.g. rice with a simple peanut sauce, pasta with Earth Balance, nutritional yeast, and garlic, a Boca patty with green beans, peanut butter sandwich, etc. I feel like I’m going to be cooking a LOT during winter break. “You mean we have turmeric? And I didn’t have to pay for it? MULTIPLE SPOONS?!?”
I know I’m in college because last week I ate ice cream with a knife.

Friday, November 13, 2009

vegan coat patrol

The vegan winter coat is one of the most elusive things in the world. Oh, you can find coats that are vegan, sure. But ones that will actually keep you warm while being at last somewhat fashionable? Oy, not so much. It's that time of year again. It seems like every vegan I know, regardless of how long they've been vegan, goes into "Shit I need a good coat!" mode as soon as the first leaf falls. There's very little effort to make or market coats specifically to vegans, and looking through tag after tag for the absence of wool and down can be a neverending chore. Why can we buy vegan haggis (and Tofurky soda), but no decent coats? Having just moved to a much colder, wetter climate, I needed a new coat in so many ways. When I first went vegan I got this one from the Vegan Store. A vegan peacoat you say? Peacoats are warm and cute, yes? Um, no. I would recommend this one if you are a man living in a relatively warm climate. It says they have unisex sizing, but by that they mean "Hi females. Here is a fleece rectangle." It's cut like a refrigerator box, not flattering at all for us ladyfolk. And as for warmth: it's not bad, but not terribly good. Meh. If it ever dances towards freezing where you live, look elsewhere. And the Polartec fleece would not hack it at all if you live, like me, somewhere with a wet winter. When it gets wet, it gets wet and kind of...filmy. If you're a man who doesn't see much snow, you'd probably be very happy with this, if not, not.

This year, however, I have this one from Columbia and I love it!

Don't I look happy and warm? (That's not me.) It does keep me happy and warm though. It has a nice thick Polartec layer on the inside that can zip in and out, making it work as both a winter coat and something of a heavy-duty windbreaker. It hasn't gotten too cold here yet, but so far I've been nothing but toasty. I have it in a light/dark blue & white combo that isn't on the website, and it's cute. The outer layer is waterproof and it has a detachable hood, musts for the Pacific NW. There are also stealth pockets on the inside for being sneaky. I am really happy with this coat and think that I'm finally out of the endless vegan coat search. It is a little pricey, but I think it's worth it to have a high quality coat, and I'm sure it will last me several years at least. Columbia also has a lot of outlet stores, so if you can find one near you, do it, I got this for about half the price.

As for other vegan coats, sportswear brands like Columbia, North Face, etc. are, though pricey, promising. While a lot of their coats do have wool and down, they are designed for being X-TREEM in the winter and thus aren't 100% wool like peacoats, because that doesn't protect you from the spray you get as you schoop down a black diamond ski slope. Or so I would imagine. My home state of Kansas is not notorious for its skiing. Anyway, they like to use manmade materials with names like Opti-Warm and Microtemp to show they are approved by Science.
Here are a few other vegan ones I've found:
the Zurich Parka from Columbia

the High Jump Parka from Columbia

the Bugaboo from Columbia

Boulevard Jacket from North Face

Ava Insulated from Merrell

Amber Road Coat from ModCloth - a friend just got this one and describes it as "not that warm, lighter than I expected", but it's so cute!

The interwebs are your friends. All of them. Stay warm, vegans!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

4 years vegan!

On November 12, 2005, I went vegan. Best decision ever! My tastebuds, critical thinking skills, complexion, social life, and wallet are happy. That sounds ambitious, but it's true. I can't imagine not enjoying the foods I was introduced to only after going vegan, not being able to understand oppression, having to worry about much acne, not having the vegan friends I do...a good, good thing, one I smile to think of. That's all I've got tonight, but here are some of my favorite quotes:

“How good it is to be well-fed, healthy, and kind all at the same time.”
Henry J. Heimlich

"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident."- Arthur Schopenhauer

“Wild animals never kill for sport. Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow creatures is amusing in itself.” – James A. Froud

“If one person is unkind to an animal it is considered to be cruelty, but where a lot of people are unkind to animals, especially in the name of commerce, the cruelty is condoned and, once large sums of money are at stake, will be defended to the last by otherwise intelligent people.” – Ruth Harrison

“The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking.” – John Kenneth Galbraith

“Veganism is an ethic that is committed to reverence and respect for all life and the planet that sustains it. Veganism brings with it the joy of living with peace of spirit, and the comfort of knowing that one’s thoughts, feelings, words, and actions have a strongly benevolent effect on the world.” – Stanley Sapon

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tofurky soda

If you've ever had Jones soda, you know they like quirky flavors and gimmicky packaging, e.g. Blue Bubblegum flavor and a Cthulu-themed series. I like quirky flavors and fun things. To a degree, that is. Just in time for the holiday season, Jones is rolling out a completely vegan Tofurky and Gravy flavor.
Of soda.
Part of me is really glad that they're marketing to vegans. Last I heard there are more Americans who think they have been abducted by aliens than who are vegan. So it's exciting to see such a random, nothing-to-do-with-veganism/health/the environment company loudly proclaiming from the main page of their website that a new product is '100% Vegan' 'Turkey approved' (har) etc., etc. Would they be selling it/making it/advertising it if it weren't at least okay?
But on the other hand....really? I'm trying to imagine what on earth this would taste like. Soda is supposed to be sweet. Tofurky and gravy are not. So either it's a cold fizzy turkey soup with no sweetness or....gravy and HFCS. Yum.
However, we must remember the union of sweet and savory that can be good, like vegan bacon and syrup. But that in a drink? Curiouser and curiouser. And if they had to pick a fake meat to make anything out of, Tofurky is not the one to have chosen. Tofurky is turkey-flavored tofu. Meh. What about field roast? It has been my and many of my vegan friends' experience that Tofurky is what you have for your first vegetarian/vegan holiday because you've heard of it. Never again do you have it, because the next year you have discovered Field Roast, which is something you actually want a second bite of and don't feel embarrassed offering to omnis.

I'm not sure where or how you can find this Tofurky soda. The Jones Soda website will sell you a six-pack: three Tofurky & Gravy sodas, three other diet sodas they're trying to promote, all in a commemorative lunchbox for the low low price of $11.99. In all honesty I am eager to at least try this soda. But not twelve dollars and three bottles worth.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"You're so brave!"

Today, boys and girls, we will examine something that is both well-intentioned misconception and carefully crafted excuse, the “You’re so brave for being vegan!” So often do I tell someone I am vegan only to hear people ooze with amazement at my stores of courage, bravery, and strength. After all, to someone who has never had to wrap their brains around the idea of giving up convenience for ethical principles, it would seem like a lot, and it seems like it would be a nice thing to say to a vegan friend. It hardly needs to be said that veganism is a big change from the normal omnivorous lifestyle (at first, but that’s another post). But really, it’s not hard. I don’t wake up in the morning biting my lip, getting ready for another difficult day of ethical challenges, glad I was blessed with the heart of a lion.

Are you strong for not enslaving another human being even though it would be easier for you to have someone else do all your work?

Does it take courage and grit for you to not throw around gender epithets (e.g. slut, skank) with abandon even though other people around you may do so?

Is the bravest thing you do all day refrain from narrowing your eyes at a homeless person because it’s their fault for being lazy and stupid?

No, no, and no. You just wake up and do those things because it’s second nature to you. Veganism is no different. I wake up and live my life in line with my ethics, square against the things I think are wrong and cruel and shameful, celebrating the things I think are good and true and beneficial for the world. That's all I do. That's what veganism (and other things, like feminism) means to me, and it's not hard at all. To an omnivore it may seem as ridiculous or unnecessary as not wearing the color purple for ethical reasons, but for vegans it’s something that goes far beyond simply not eating x, y, or z. It’s believing that all creatures – animals, humans, men, women, the poor, the rich, all who share this earth – deserve, at the very least, to belong to themselves and no other, to be in control of their lives and happiness. No matter who you are or what you eat or care about, it takes far greater strength and effort to silence one’s conscience than it ever would to live it.

So in other ways the “You’re so brave” is just an excuse, a justification, however subconscious, for inaction. After all, if being vegan takes extraordinary courage, then it’s automatically beyond the call for “normal” people. If it’s something only the truly strong can hack, then no one should feel bad for not being able to handle it, right? In the post of mine in another blog on which this one based, Gary Francione summed nicely, “As we know, however, a better way to avoid cognitive dissonance - in this scenario, at least - is to not engage in the morally troubling activities that cause the dissonance.” Wait, you mean, not do things that are ethically wrong? Crazy talk…

And to round out the overall tone of this post, here is Gus the bulldog having a snack. I love you, internets!

Monday, October 12, 2009

oh, Portland

Everything you have heard about Portland being a vegan Mecca is entirely true. I grew up in Kansas City, and although we did have one vegetarian and one vegan restaurant, it was still the Midwest and one of the barbeque capitals of the nation. That was about it. And although any city of decent size – especially those on the coasts – is going to have a lot of vegan options and vegans, period, just because they have large populations…Portland is different. I moved here at the end of August for college and I'm falling more in love with it by the day. It’s not weird to be vegan here. Did you read that? It’s not weird to be vegan here. We have a vegan minimall, multiple vegan bakeries, a vegan grocery, a vegan bike shop, vegan salons, vegan tattoo parlors, a few farm sanctuaries close by, vegan doughnuts, vegan everything. It’s so nice not worrying about going to a random restaurant, just knowing that they will know what vegan is and, other than chain restaurants, are going to be able to provide for you.
My favorite things I’ve done in Portland so far:

Met Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Yes, of Vegan with a Vengeance, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, Veganomicon, and Vegan Brunch fame. She was at VegFest a few weeks ago and made a total fangirl out of me. Now I want chocolate beer waffles…

Speaking of food, we have that, too. Things I have eaten here: a club sandwich with housemade fake turkey, guacamole, and two layers of sandwich (Vita), a doughnut shaped like a penis (Voodoo), a salad with perfectly-cooked tempeh and just-spicy-enough Thai peanut dressing (Paradox), a fried coconut crème pie (Whiffies), cheese made of sunflower seeds – not mindblowing, but something I’d never seen before (Papa G’s). Come prepared to either ride your bike or get fat.

Veganism is just normal here. At home whenever I would see someone in a ‘VEGAN’ t-shirt, I already knew them, and if the v-word was on a menu, it was only at the vegetarian restaurant. Here I have gotten used to seeing random people with vegan-message clothing/stickers/etc. and banners that say ‘VEGANS WELCOME’ around. This can’t be unique to Portland, but still. It’s nice.

Another thing about Portland is that so many people here are transplants who heard of our city’s glory and migrated, so everyone is welcoming because they know what it’s like to be new. And we have public transportation that works, and trees and mountains and waterfalls, and a great literary community, and naked bike rides, and lots of pretty people doing cool things, and a bookstore that takes up an entire city block, and....
If you want to come here, you should. It’s amazing.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

sometimes you just have to laugh

Highlights from the first few weeks of college:

"You tell Japanese people not to whale-hunt and they're like, ha ha, what? They don't get it. It would be like someone telling us that killing cows is wrong!"

"Eating vegan desserts gives you irregular bowel movements. Unless you're already vegan."

"*speech about how you need to eat meat to survive*"
Me: "I haven't eaten meat or any other animal product in four years and I'm alive.."
"Do you take a vitamin?"
"Well, yes, but -"
"That's why you're alive."

No matter where you are or how long you've been veg*n, you're going to come into contact with stupid people. Sometimes you need to educate them, but sometimes it just won't be worth your trouble. Laugh. Loudly. And be glad you have a brain.