Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Using up some of the million carrots that are always lurking at the bottom of the veg box

I never used to eat carrots all that often before starting the veg box delivery thing, but they are very good for you so making me eat the things isn't such a bad idea. If you chuck them in a pan with some red lentils and curry paste, the result almost passes for a vegetable dhansak. Well, it's slightly more complicated than that, but it did turn out to be surprisingly tasty.

200g red lentils
700ml water
4 tbsp madras curry paste
1 onion
many carrots
half a butternut squash
pineapple chunks
pineapple juice
frozen peas
green beans
creamed coconut

Fry the onion and curry paste, add the water, lentils, carrots, squash and green beans and simmer until almost cooked. Add spinach and peas and simmer until everything is cooked. Add pineapple chunks and juice and coconut. Done! Eat some with rice or chapattis and freeze the rest for some day in the future when you can't be bothered to cook but want something warm and nice to eat.

How to use up lots of spring greens in one go

Veg boxes. Great idea, but when you look inside your latest delivery, all excited to see what the lovely fruit and veg shop people have brought you this week, and see one lettuce, one cabbage and millions of carrots, sometimes you do wonder why you bother. I seem to be ending up with stuff left over out of the box, usually cucumbers, lettuces or one or two of the aforementioned million carrots, so I'm trying to think how to use it all up, given that throwing food away is the new air travel these days. Yes, even eco-vegans get sick of all the trendy climate change babble that goes on in the media. I'm just glad I don't have a telly...

Anyway, today's veg box challenge was "what the **** can I do with a whole head of spring greens, preferably today because they're about to go off and we've just had this week's box delivered and I've still not used the celery from the last one". Solution: pretend it's spinach.
- Wash spring greens leaves, chop off biggest bits of stalk, place in food processor and blitz until finely chopped.
- Place in frying pan for a few minutes with a small amount of olive oil and fry gently until wilted. By this time you should have about three tablespoons of spring greens left - hopefully at least some of the nutrients are still in there!
- Add balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, nutmeg, straight to wok noodles and a handful of pumpkin/sesame/sunflower seeds, and fry for another couple of minutes until it's all cooked and warm and ready to eat.
- Eat!

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Interesting-looking new vegan book

Found an interesting-looking book today. "The Complete Book of Vegan Cooking: Everything You Need to Know About Going Vegan, from Choosing Ingredients to Advice on Health and Nutrition" by Tony Bishop-Weston and Yvonne Bishop-Weston. Here it is. It hasn't been published yet, it's out in November and looks like it contains recipes, info about various ingredients and nutrition and health information too. And lots of photos. I like photos in recipe books.

Monday, 18 August 2008

I wish killing was not acceptable

Sometimes I just get disheartened that it's acceptable to kill animals. Like it's a desireable thing to do to create living beings, then take their lives, then cut their bodies into pieces and eat them. Why would anyone want to eat a dead body? Why do they not realise that it's killing, taking a life? Why is killing accepted without another thought?

Two phrases which really annoy me: "humane slaughter" and "locally-reared meat" (or indeed "humanely-slaughtered meat"). Right, first of all: "Humane: having or showing compassion or benevolence" (Oxford English dictionary). There is nothing compassionate or benevolent about killing a healthy animal. Maybe if we're talking about an animal who is suffering and is not going to get better then sometimes euthanasing it could be considered humane, but not just killing a healthy animal, no matter what method is used. Why do people believe that animals 'don't suffer' when they're killed? Apart from the fact I don't accept they don't notice what's happening to them, you're still KILLING THEM. They do not exist any more, their world is gone for ever. In what way is killing them part of good treatment? Ethical meat my arse. Like it's ok to kill as long as you cuddle first? So as long as the animals are 'treated kindly' during life it's ok to inflict death? Surely bringing about an animal's death counts towards its welfare or its treatment. People seem to think that animals don't mind being killed, that it's just part of the meat harvesting process. Would it be ok if your neighbour shot his dog through the head after a couple of years, as long as the dog had had a happy life up to that point? Course it bloody wouldn't, your neighbour would be all over the local papers held up as a savage and the RSPCA would most likely be on to him pretty sharpish. And rightly so.

"Locally-reared meat". "Locally-slaughtered meat". Can you spell D-I-S-C-O-N-N-E-C-T? MEAT is not reared, MEAT is not slaughtered, ANIMALS are reared and slaugtered. Stop looking at a cow in a field and seeing walking beefburgers. It's a living creature, at least give it a bit of respect and acknowledgement for what it is while it's still alive.

So much violence, so acceptable, even so encouraged. But so unnecessary. What started me off this time was some omnivore on a vegetarian food discussion board saying that if people are vegetarian for ethical/animal welfare reasons they should eat "locally-reared, humanely-butchered meat". The thought of vegetarians or vegans going back to eating meat is quite honestly disgusting to me, so being told to do so on a vegetarian food forum didn't go down well. I tried to explain why it wasn't an option for a lot of us (killing is not separate from the animal's welfare or treatment) and that 'humane slaughter' was a contradiction in terms, and I got a load of patronising bull**** back about how they'd seen animals being killed, it's not as bad as people try and make you think it is, they don't know anything about it, blah blah blah and talking to me as if I knew nothing and was stupid. Yep, delusional omni. I woke up last night thinking about it, about animals being shot in the head and their bodies chopped up into pieces and people gorging themselves on the dead body. Why do people want to kill living beings and eat their bodies? I just don't get it.

I need to take a break from forums and posts like that. Anything where omnivores are likely to be saying stupid, provocative and/or ignorant things. It's depressing me too much. I'll stick to support forums and I might answer questions where someone genuinely wants help with becoming/being veg*n, but if they're just debating stuff I'm not going to try and put anyone right, even if they're talking the biggest pile of offensive, ignorant bollocks. I'm going to concentrate my energy on positive action, doing my website, cooking food for other people, and don't get into debates.

Something both vegan and folkie

We played for a 40th birthday party near Doncaster last Saturday. Now, normally at gigs in South Yorkshire it's meat, meat and cheese (although Sheffield is sometimes slightly better), but when we got there it went like this:

Party organiser: We're still eating but there's plenty of food, please help yourselves before you get going
Us: Which things are vegetarian?
Her: Everything's vegetarian
Us: Is anything vegan?
Her: What's vegan?
Us: No dairy products or eggs
Her: Well... that dip has yoghurt in it, but everything else is vegan

It turns out the person organising the party (sister-in-law of the birthday girl) was Indian and had made all the food and she, birthday girl and husband were all vegetarian, so there were loads of vegan samosas and some other fried things I don't know the name of but were very nice, and salad and crackers and dips. Usually when they say "help yourselves to the buffet" it's like "ooh, I'll have some tomato and cucumber off the side of the sandwich plate, and oh look, a plain piece of bread! How exciting" so it was nice to be able to take a full plate of nice food! Although for this gig we were two vegans, one vegetarian and one omni, so we weren't in the minority. I like those sorts of gigs too - when they're giving us food and instead of saying "who's the veg*n" it's "who's the meat eater?".

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Vegan travelling in France

We recently spent a couple of weeks driving round France in our van – taking in St Malo, Bordeaux, Arcachon, Strasbourg and various points in between, plus Luxembourg and Brussels afterwards for good measure. While I was there I took the opportunity to have a look at what vegan food was on offer in supermarkets and restaurants, to see how easy or difficult it would be to survive as a vegan on holiday in France without the two ring camping stove, crates full of food and vehicle to transport them in that we brought with us.

=== Supermarkets ===

If you’ve got any sort of cooking facilities and can get to a supermarket you’ll be fine, even if your cooking facilities consist of a one-ring camping stove. Supermarkets tend to be situated on the outskirts of towns or on road leading into and out of towns, and they go in for big supermarkets, even bigger than Britain, so there’s a good range of products. As well as basic ingredients such as fruit and veg, pasta, bread, tinned beans and so on, they have organic sections which include quite a few vegan products (none of which require refridgeration) such as pâté, tofu, vegeburgers, ravioli, vegan mayonnaise, snack bars and munchy seeds, a few vegan vegeburgers and pre-prepared dishes in the chillers, a very good selection of non-dairy milks, yoghurts and soya desserts (and sometimes non-dairy ice cream or sorbet) and international sections (usually Mexican, British, Japanese and Indian-style foods) for ingredients such as tortillia wraps or peanut butter.

The main specialist vegan product brands to look for are Sojasun (entirely vegan), CéréalBio and Bjorg (who both make some vegan products but not all of them are, although I think all their products are vegetarian). Apart from some of these, hardly any products were labelled as suitable for vegetarians.

Other useful vegan products I spotted were: breakfast cereals, cereal bars, quick-cook wholegrain rice, gnocchi (little potato dumplings that only take one minute to cook – great camping food!), flavoured couscous, lots of varieties of pasta (forgot to check for sauces but there were quite a lot of Sacla ones, some of which are vegan), bags of nuts

Products I didn’t find (or didn’t find vegan versions of) which I find useful for camping/road trips: instant mashed potato (it all contained milk), straight-to-wok noodles, dried soya mince, houmous, vegan margarine (which I didn’t look for as we didn’t have a fridge).

See below for foods which don’t require cooking.

=== Finding food in towns or cities ===

Small towns didn’t seem to have much in the way of food shops actually in the towns themselves (presumably because they have massive supermarkets every few miles), some had Spar shops or similar small shops which didn’t seem to be hugely promising for interesting food. There’s always bread from the boulangerie (every little town has one of those!) but not a lot else to go with your bread as far as I could tell…

In the cities we visited (Bordeaux and Strasbourg) there weren’t many supermarkets or similar food shops in the city centre. In both cases there was a good supermarket section in the Monoprix department stores, which just looked like clothes shops from the outside but had a supermarket on the lower level.

=== Restaurants ===

As for buying food in restaurants or takeaways, I found very little in the way of vegan food. If you know where you’re going, have a look on or similar before you go. Indian, Chinese and Thai restaurants categorised the dishes on their menus by type of meat, rather than by type of dish like they do in Britain, so you can see at a glance that there’s likely to be bugger all vegan, even in Indian restaurants which was quite surprising, although they may offer one or two vegetable dishes which may or may not be vegan. Not the choice we’re used to here! Vegetarian dishes in Italian restaurants seemed to be entirely cheese-based, and don’t even bother looking for vegan food in traditional French cafes, they’ll probably have you kicked out of the country if they find out what you’re doing… Maybe I was just looking in the wrong places, but I have to say I didn’t find very much at all. Strasbourg has a couple of vegetarian restaurants (one of which I walked past several times without even realising it was vegetarian) and we had an evening meal at a Lebanese restaurant called La Cascade, where the nice waiter/guy in charge brought us vegetarian mezze with no milk or eggs (and didn’t make too much of a fuss when we asked if it would be possible). Looking at the restaurant guides, it looks like there are lots of vegetarian restaurants in Paris, but anywhere else requires serious research beforehand. I was surprised not to find more Middle Eastern takeaways (and hence falafel), maybe they are more common in other cities.

=== Travelling with no cooking facilites ===

This is what I was really interested to find out – is it possible to manage as a vegan with no cooking facilities, for example Interrailing, staying in a youth hostel or in a hotel? I think the answer is it’s possible, but if you’re there for any length of time you will get bored. In big cities there will probably be a Monoprix supermarket or similar somewhere, so you should be able to get what I call ‘picnic food’. This generally involves:
- bread (fresh baguettes, mmm), most supermarket bread had the ingredients printed on the wrapper and the plain white or wholemeal baguettes were usually vegan
- pâté – look for the nice Bjorg ones in the ‘bio’ section
- marinated olives of various kinds
- ‘champignons a la grecque’ – mushrooms in tomato sauce, which seemed to be fairly widespread (watch out though as one brand I spotted had lactose in)
- tabbouleh (they seem to have a whole chillers full of the stuff)
- fresh fruit, when we went in June the supermarkets were full of strawberries, raspberries, cherries, nectarines… also bananas and avocados work as sandwich fillings and are good, portable, energy-giving foods
- cereal bars, some were vegan and some weren’t, just have to read the labels
- bags of nuts and dried fruit
- crisps (they’re not big on crisps but you can find them if you look hard enough)
- vegan yoghurts and soya desserts
- smoothies and fruit juice

I found carrying cutlery came in useful, take a knife, fork and spoon with you if you can (though carrying around a sharp knife is probably not a good plan, stick with an inoffensive table knife, or better still a plastic cutlery set from a camping shop). The other thing that occurred to me is that being vegan and gluten- or wheat-free would be more of a challenge, given that a lot of the bulk we were eating was bread and tabbouleh, although I suspect that gluten-free and wheat-free people may have their own strategies for coping with such situations.

=== Useful vocabulary ===

végétalien(ne): vegan (person – add the –ne on the end if you’re female)
100% végétal(e): 100% plant-based, i.e. vegan
convient aux végétariens et végétaliens: suitable for vegetarians and vegans

contient: contains
peut contenir: may contain
traces éventuels de: may contain traces of
fabriqué dans un atelier qui utilise: made in a factory which handles
arachides: peanuts (vegan, but appears on allergy advice and impossible to guess what it means)

produits bio (or biologiques)/produits dietetiques = organic products/special diets products & vitamins (the section where a lot of the vegan products are)

sans: without, e.g. sans lactose = lactose-free

Non-vegan ingredients:

beurre: butter
crème: cream
fromage: cheese
miel: honey
lactose: lactose
lait: milk
oeuf: egg
petit-lait: whey

Non-vegan and non-vegetarian ingredients:

agneau: lamb
anchois: anchovies
boeuf: beef
canard: duck
crevettes: prawns
dinde: turkey
foie: liver
fruits de mer: seafood
gélatine: gelatine
jambon: ham
lardons: diced bacon
poisson: fish
porc: pork
poulet: chicken
veau: veal
volaille: poultry

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Vegan eating out in Sheffield

We tried out a couple of new restaurants in Sheff recently and found some decent vegan food, at Las Iguanas (West One) and Wagamama (Leopold Square).

At Las Iguanas we had olives and bread for starter and Moqueca with sweet potato, palm hearts and sugar snap peas and Butternut, asparagus and mushroom paella for main dishes. They were both tasty but the moqueca was the more interesting of the two, it was a kind of stew/curry in a tomato and coconut sauce which came with rice and little pots of toasted coconut and salsa. There was sorbet on the dessert menu but we never got as far as dessert (too full of food by then!) so didn't ask if it was vegan. Nice atmosphere, and we went fairly early so it wasn't too busy.

Wagamama opened in Sheffield in April this year so we went along to check it out. We were lucky enough to get a vegetarian waitress, she brought us their standard vegan list to look at and also gave us her own recommendations (and didn't look at me weird for asking about vegan dishes, which is always nice). We had yasai yaki soba (noodle and vegetable dish) on rice noodles instead of egg noodles and without the added bits of egg, and yasai itame (coconut-based noodle soup with tofu, mushrooms and mixed vegetables) with a marinated asparagus side dish. All tasty and quite artistically presented, the portion sizes were adequate but not enough to be overly filling (or maybe that's just because we're used to East One portions!). The result of which being that we did get onto dessert, they had a mango and lychee sorbet and fruit ice lollies which were vegan, so we had one of each. A minor point, but I did think they could make a bit more effort with the decor, the inside was just brick walls painted white, which did give the impression of eating in someone's garage, although we were sitting next to a window with a vase of flowers on the window sill. Not that I tend to look around much anyway when I'm eating out, but a picture or two on the walls might be nice. The poshness of the new Leopold Square on the way in and out does kind of make up for it though. Feels almost European in there!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

More ironic vegan/non-vegan food items

Why is it...

...that Worcester Sauce flavour crisps are suitable for vegans but Henderson's Relish ones aren't? I spotted some Henderson's Relish flavoured crisps in Beanies the other day, got all excited about it, looked at the ingredients in that cynical, vegan way of mine which expects anything tasty-looking to have unnecessary animal products shoved into the ingredients somewhere and yes, they contain lactose. Coincidentally, I got some Walkers Worcester Sauce flavour crisps at the weekend and they were suitable for vegans as they used 'worcester sauce flavouring' which didn't contain fish and they hadn't used milk in the ingredients.

On its own, Henderson's Relish is vegan and Worcester Sauce isn't vegan or vegetarian as it contains fish, and I normally promote Hendo's to friends, family and random strangers on the internet as a vegan alternative to Worcester Sauce, so it's kind of ironic that the Worcester Sauce crisps are vegan and the Henderson's ones aren't. Hmm, maybe I should just make some potato wedges and coat them in Hendo's instead...

Cheese and ice cream (though not at the same time)

Right, now I've finished my coursework, been on my holidays and got a couple of days off per week (or that's the theory anyway) I can start doing this blog thing properly. We've just spent a couple of weeks driving round France being strange foreigners, having a look at what vegan food you can actually get there (in a country where 'vegetarian' means "you only want small pieces of ham, then?") whilst having the comfort and safety of our van, a camping stove and a few crates of food we stocked up on before we set off. Not that we needed to take that much food, as we found out, but more on that later.

There's a couple of products I've discovered lately, the first is B'Nice rice cream, a vegan ice cream made from rice milk which comes in chocolate, strawberry and vanilla flavours. For the sake of research I made a point of sampling a bit of each at the Bristol Vegan Fayre last May (and have since bought more to eat at home!) and I have to say this is good stuff. The chocolate and strawberry flavours in particular taste just like 'normal' ice cream, that is to say rather nice soft scoop ice cream. The vanilla one had a bit of a taste to it that you wouldn't get with 'normal' ice cream, although it was very nice in itself, so if I was feeding this to non-vegans I'd go for the chocolate or the strawberry flavours first.

The other thing I discovered at the Vegan Fayre was the Sheese range of vegan cheese. I know Sheese have been around for quite a while but I'd never tried it before, partly because I only occasionally buy vegan cheese (usually for stuffed crust pizza) and partly because a vegan friend had told me it wasn't very nice, so on the rare occasions I did buy any I didn't bother looking at the Sheese as I didn't want to risk wasting my money buying something I wouldn't like. I have now seen the error of my ways! They had lots of free samples out on their stall, and every time we walked past the stall I'd have to wander over and try another one! My favourite one so far is the smoked cheddar, and I quite liked some of the samples of cream Sheese, I think there was a spicy one I particularly liked.

A lot of people seem to be put off by the concept of vegan cheese and think it can't possibly taste any good, but the Sheese stuff was pretty realistic and just tasted good regardless of how closely it resembled dairy cheese. The only thing with vegan cheese is that it doesn't melt in the same way as dairy cheese, it tends to go soft but not spread out like dairy cheese does, although Cheezly (the other main brand of vegan cheese) do some 'super melting' cheeses which do a reasonable job in a stuffed crust pizza. The best test of it so far: my mum, who has eaten cheese sandwiches for lunch practically every day for the last 40-odd years, had some toast with sliced smoked cheddar Sheese for her lunch today when she came to visit, ate it all up and said it was pretty good. That's a good test for a vegan product (or vegan cake for that matter), when you can feed it to an omnivore and they don't notice there's anything 'wrong' with it. I had a slice of grated Sheese and fig relish on toast, yum!

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Why is killing considered positive?

Shooting humans is wrong, but shooting non-human animals is considered a noble sport by some. Shooting a dog through the head is a shocking act would probably get you in court, but shooting a cow or a pig through the head is humane and perfectly acceptable. Taking a mother's day-old baby away from her would be awful and unimaginably distressing, unless the mother is a cow. Dogs and cats have characters, experience enjoyment, fear, contentment, anger, communicate with each other and with humans, are individuals. But we can't acknowledge that chickens, rabbits, cows, sheep or pigs do the same, unless we have kept one as a pet and therefore are not in a position to deny it.

Killing animals and eating their bodies isn't instinctive. We are desensitized at a young age and taught that it is right and normal and acceptable. A three year old who realises that the meat on his plate might be the same thing as the cow in the field outside doesn't want to eat the cow, he doesn't want to cause pain to animals, even if he is too young to understand death and killing. But Mummy tells him "no, dear, it's beef", and all is well. By the time children are old enough to know for definite that meat is part of an animal's dead body, most are no longer sensitive to it. They have lost the immediate connection between living animals and meat, their brain has successfully acquired the disconnect which allows them, and adults, to look excitedly at photos of their friend's pet chickens and then enjoy eating their yummy chicken nuggets or roast chicken without another thought.

I've heard so many stories from people who have seen their young relatives question, become upset and refuse as best they can to eat animals, but Mummy and Daddy make them stop thinking, lie to them to tell them that the dead animal they're eating isn't a dead animal, give it another name, and those who aren't the parents have to keep their mouths shut because it's not their place to give a truthful answer to their nephew or niece's question. There was the story on the BBC a while ago about an infant school who visited a city farm, and as the lunchtime ham sandwiches were handed round someone made a remark about ham being made from pigs, and the children became upset and refused to eat the sandwiches. That is a normal, natural reaction. In general, children like animals, they don't want to hurt them. Inflicting hurt is wrong. Isn't it?

Killing. Inflicting violence. Inflicting suffering. Is it wrong?

I don't want to kill. I don't want to take away the day-old calf of a cow. I don't want to force cows and chickens to produce ten times the amount of milk or eggs that their bodies would if left free of our interference. I don't want to force chickens with a natural seven-year lifespan to grow to the size of an adult bird in the space of six weeks, while their bones and hearts cannot cope with the size of their bodies and they become unable to walk or die of heart failure. I don't want pigs and cows to spend most of their lives in a shed, stressed because they can't carry out their instinctive behaviour, get so bored that all they can do is chew the bars of their cages, feel unnerved by being too close to the dominant animals in the herd, become lame from standing on hard, wet flooring. I don't want free-range chickens to live in massive sheds, crammed in with thousands of others, losing space by the day as they all become fatter, never finding the openings to the outside space because they can't reach them, can't get past the aggressive birds blocking them, and would most likely get agoraphobic if they did manage to make it outside. I don't want cows to be pregnant and lactating at the same time for nine months every year. I don't want animals to be pushed beyond their physical limits so that they can 'give' us their products and then be killed when they are no longer profitable, living only a fifth or a seventh of their natural lifespan. And regardless of how they lived their lives, I don't want animals to be killed just so that I can eat.

If that makes me 'strange', I'd rather be strange than normal.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

About bloody time someone said it

The Green Party has acknowledged that producing animal products is harmful to the environment, with this article in the latest issue of its online magazine. I just love the way they describe the fact that no major charities are prepared to mention to their supporters that animal products are bad for the environment, probably because they don't want to risk alienating (i.e. losing money from) their supporters: "The battle to save the global environment is beginning to feel a bit like the old TV comedy Fawlty Towers - an episode called Don’t Mention the Meat."

And why is it that "reduce your animal product consumption" never makes it into the Government/media 'top 10 ways to save the planet' articles that spring up everywhere these days, now that carbon footprints and whatever are in fashion? Presumably telling people to cut down on meat/dairy is not a popular newspaper-selling/vote-winning message. I also imagine that most of the people who write such articles eat meat themselves and are reluctant to acknowledge the facts in their own minds, never mind promoting them in a published article. And there's also the question of how much pressure the meat and dairy industries are putting on the Government not to say anything. I only suspect such pressure exists in a big way and I've not yet been able to find any information about how much influence these industries have over the UK Government (call yourself an information professional? Bah!) but I'd be very interested to know...

I just wish that "cut down on animal products" would make it into the list of 'green' stuff we can all recite off the top of our heads thanks to popular media articles and Government education, you know, use low-energy lightbulbs, use the car less often, buy locally-produced food, cut down on plane journeys, insulate your loft, and so on. Not everyone can insulate their loft, not everyone has time or money to donate to environmental charities, not everyone can afford a brand-new low-emission car, but pretty much everyone can cut down on animal products. It's just such an easy thing to do in your everyday life, it will probably save you money rather than costing you money, and it's even good for your health! Plus you get to eat all sorts of delicious food, it's not exactly a sacrifice! Ok, maybe non-vegans who've never considered the idea think they 'couldn't give up meat/cheese/whatever', but seriously, it's not hard once you get your head round the concept and discover lots of alternative foods to enjoy. Trust me, I enjoy food, I have a whole website about food, vegan food is not inferior! I don't feel like I'm sacrificing anything, if anything how I eat is better for my health than it would be if I was still an omnivore. OK, so before I went vegan I had some thoughts along the lines of "but if I go vegan it means I won't be able to eat stuffed pasta any more, and I really really like stuffed pasta", but then I thought, the positive reasons for becoming vegan far outweigh the negative ones against. And later I discovered that you can buy vegan stuffed pasta after all :-).

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

A positive vegan news story (almost)

Switching to a vegan diet can reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes for arthritis sufferers:

But I see they still have to put a token anti-vegan comment in at the end (although not from the people who carried out the research). In what way is it "difficult to get enough of some important nutrients on a vegan diet"? What nutrients can you not get from plants, exactly? Do they mean that it's a good idea to think about what you eat and maybe even incorporate some foods into your diet because they are rich in certain nutrients, rather than just because they taste nice? Because everyone who doesn't actively avoid any foods (except the ones they don't like the taste of) is automatically consuming enough of all the right nutrients...

We're allowed to be told that we should eat more fruit and vegetables, less saturated fat, less cholesterol, more fibre, less salt and sugar, more 'good fats'... yet we must discourage people from being vegan. Perhaps they think that some people might not pay enough attention to their nutrition if they tried being vegan, like just leaving the meat out of their meat and two veg meal, but the thing is, if you make changes like that to your diet you have to think of alternative things to eat (else you wouldn't have anything to eat!), which does lead you to learn a bit about nutrients and what foods they're found in, so it's hardly going to be dangerous for most people. But then again, most of the world probably thinks that being vegan is just too 'extreme' simply because it's unfamiliar and so far from what most people in this country eat by default because that's what they were brought up with. Although if you'd asked me what I thought of veganism when I was a meat eater, I may well have said the same thing.

Well, I shall be something of a living experiment. You can get away with a fair amount of unhealthiness when you're younger, but when you're older it catches up with you - the more unhealthy your lifestyle is, the younger it gets you. That's my theory, anyway. So when I'm 60 and everyone else my age is suffering from various health problems, I'm hoping that I'll be doing better than most!

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Banana curry

Niiice... Last night's tea: Different to the sort of stuff I usually make, even though I make a fair amount of curry of various types. Bananas, sweet potato, coconut milk, tamarind paste and curry leaves are the main flavours. Sweet and creamy. Tonight's tea was chestnut, mushroom and tofu pie made with puff pastry.

Friday, 8 February 2008

Very easy vegan pancakes

Surely making pancakes shouldn't be this simple?

250g plain flour
650ml soya milk

Sieve flour into a bowl. Add soya milk gradually and whisk until the batter is smooth. Heat frying pan, fry mixture. Eat. Easy! And they didn't fall apart like eggy pancakes sometimes do when you try and lift them out of the pan. And they tasted just as good :-).

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Encouragement to vegans and vegetarians

From Peter Singer's book 'Animal Liberation'.

"Of course, it is possible that you will encounter people who consider you a crank. This is much less likely now that it was a few years ago, because there are so many more vegetarians. But if it should happen, remember that you are in good company. All the best reformers - those who first opposed the slave trade, nationalistic wars, and the exploitation of children working a fourteen-hour day in the factories of the Industrial Revolution - were first derided as cranks by those who had an interest in the abuses they were opposing."

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Pot Noodles and Fat Cats

Why is it that the Beef and Tomato flavour Pot Noodles are vegan but the generic Curry flavour ones aren't? I discovered this highly interesting fact in the interval at last Saturday's gig, where the entire band spent about 20 minutes driving round in search of a chippy, finding at least two closed ones and eventually going back to the local Co-op for some junk food for tea. Not that chips aren't junk food.

Went to the Fat Cat pub for lunch (well, breakfast for us, lunch for them) with the FIL and SMIL last Sunday. Think they might have been having an off day as they appeared to have run out of food by 1pm, there had been a beer festival on Thursday-Saturday, which might explain it. They had three vegan options and four meat options on the menu, plus three desserts which didn't look like they would be vegan. We were going to go for the potato and spinach pie and the leek and mushroom dumplings, but apparently they'd run out so we had bean casserole. It was acceptable as bean casseroles go, but personally when I go out for food I like to have something that wouldn't take me less than 20 minutes to make at home, or ideally something I wouldn't normally bother making at home. Annoyingly enough, after we'd got our food they put the dumplings back on the menu. I did get my bottle of Kriek though, so it wasn't all bad.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Recently I have been mostly eating...

Tofu, spinach, ginger and coconut curry. It's a Thai-style curry: paste of red onions, garlic, fresh ginger, red chillies, lemongrass and tomatoes all fried in sesame oil, then add tofu, coconut milk, a bit of water and spinach and simmer for a few minutes then serve with rice. So tasty! I got it from a recipe book I was supposed to be covering at work but it was Friday afternoon and nearly hometime so was pretending not to read it instead (see, there are some advantages to working in a library!).

Stuffed crust "ham" and pineapple pizza. Underestimated the amount of Cheezly required to make it Pizza Hut style (should have used two blocks instead of one) but still, proper vegan junk food :-). Kind of put an end to my healthy day, after I'd had 10 hours' sleep, gone swimming and in the sauna and had a massive vegetable, cashew nut and pumpkin seed stir fry for lunch, but it's all in the name of research. Recipe appearing on the website any day now!

More world corrupting (well, corrupting my colleagues, anyway)

Made some progess in work just before Christmas. I'd made a cheesecake for a Christmas party but then ended up not being able to go to the party because it was the day before my coursework was due in and hadn't finished it, and after staring at the huge cheesecake sitting in the fridge for a day or so I took it to work for my colleagues to dispose of it for me. It helps that they like food at our place and there's lots of people to eat it, we even have a specific food table in the staffroom for when anyone brings food in to share.

So they helped themselves to cheesecake at various points during lunch/tea breaks, I came in a bit late for my tea break and a group of colleagues were just finishing off the last bits, told me how delicious it was and asked what was in it... "silken what? Tofu? What's that then? What do you mean dairy-free cream cheese?" and so on. But they'd already eaten it and told me how great it was, so no backtracking on their opinions :-).

Then they all started firing questions at me about vegetarianism/veganism, but in a good way, because they were curious and wanted to know stuff. Fortunately another vegetarian colleague was there and she helped field some of the questions. A couple of days after, one of them asked where I got my vegetarian shoes from because her daughter was interested in getting some.

The other one was that we were asked to bring food in for Christmas eve, I brought in a recent invention, savoury tartlets with red onions, red and yellow peppers and cashew nut sauce, and I had lots of positive comments about how nice they were. We'd all brought way too much food and there was loads left over, but mine all disappeared :-). A lot of my colleagues probably freak out at the concept of veganism, but if I can introduce them to the food first and then the concept afterwards they might not be quite so shocked, given that most people's first reaction is to assume you must live on twigs and stuff... More cheesecake anyone?

Survived Christmas!

Well, we had a mostly vegan Christmas and didn't fall out with any relatives, or get interrogated about when we're going to buy a house/have children/get a proper job (answer: not for as long as possible/probably never/f**k knows, but I've got until I'm 70 to work it out so what's the hurry?, in that order).

Christmas eve we had a cottage pie with chestnuts as the main ingredient. Christmas day I was glad to find that FIL's family had got their carcass-eating over with the previous day so we had a vegan Christmas dinner - although a little disappointed when we walked in and FIL announced "we had our Christmas Dinner yesterday", as if it's not the big meal on Christmas day with all your family that counts, it's the one with the dead body as the centrepiece of the meal. But at least they didn't make us look at it, which was considerate of them. Boxing day we had pasta and lentil bolognese and warm baguettes and ate far too much of it. Day after at the MIL's was mushroom stroganoff and chocolate cake - both recipes from my website, so interesting to see how they turn out when someone other than me makes them.