Don’t Kid Yourself About ‘Pasture-Raised, ‘Grass-fed’ Animals

Aren’t human beings amazing?

Only humans can convince themselves that slaughtering fully-sentient beings at around a tenth of their natural lifespan, is a humane and ‘normal’ thing to do.

Only humans can be self aggrandising and deluded enough that they purchase carved-up dead animals, but because it has a label slapped on it saying ‘pasture-raised’ or ‘grass-fed’ – it makes them feel all fuzzy and like they are doing something good for themselves the planet and the animal.

In terms of health, of course pasture-raised cows, pigs and sheep are better than intensively-raised animals whose bodies are probably full of pesticides and antibiotics. But all animal flesh contains cholesterol, saturated fat, and hormones (think hormone-free meat is safe? This only means no added hormones; you cannot get away from the fact that you will always being ingesting the hormones of any being you consume).

Pasture-raised and grass-fed animals are just as bad (if not worse) for the planet as intensively-farmed, and if everyone in the world decided they wanted to eat this way there wouldn’t be anywhere near enough land to accommodate this. So it’s very much an entitled, elitist way to eat. Not to mention that if it gets more popular, how many forests will be razed to the ground to make way for pasture? God knows the world has lost enough forest already.

As mentioned – you aren’t really doing a whole lot for the animal either. Pasture-raised and grass-fed animals still want to live out their lives, just as (I assume) you do. Pasture-raised and grass-fed animals still go to abattoirs. No-one sprinkles sleepy dust on them so they just drift off to sleep and die for you.

It’s funny that ‘pasture-raised’ and grass-fed’ are such hipster (that have spilled over into middle-class) trends. People seem to be convincing themselves that they are eating in a more ‘natural’ ‘real’ or ‘spiritual’ way when their food sports these labels.

There is nothing natural or spiritual about unnecessary slaughter.  Your body not only doesn’t need meat, it thrives without it. You can bleat about being ‘high-vibe’ and natural and primal all you want, but there is nothing high-vibe about unnecessarily brutalising an innocent being who is as sentient as you.

You think these animals are humanely killed?

The phrase ‘humane slaughter’ always makes me laugh. Is there such a thing as humane rape? I mean, there MUST be if there is such a thing as humane slaughter. We only use this term when we are talking about animals. We’d never use it about people. ‘You murdered that woman?’ ‘Yes, but I did it humanely.’ ‘Oh, ok then…er…cool.’

To see if something is truly humane, ask yourself if you’d like it to happen to you. If we assume that you’ll live until 90, then unless at the age of 9 you’d appreciate a bolt to your head to stun you (which is likely not to work) then have your throat slit and be hung upside down by your leg to be drained of blood, then it ain’t really humane to treat animals this way.

I just went on to a UK website for a pasture-raised cow company. I clicked on the section about animal welfare, and there was lots of talk about how the animal is raised, but I was specifically looking for how the animal was killed. You’d think they’d want to make the abattoir sound as fluffy as possible. But you know what? There was zero information on this. Turns out you can’t make an abbatoir sound fluffy.

It talked about how the animals are ‘free to express their normal behaviours’ – but how are they free to do this? If they naturally and instinctively want to live, they are not being allowed to fulfil this desire. It should maybe end the sentence with ‘…free to express their normal behaviours -up to the point where we kill them at a tenth of their normal lifespan.’

Look, I’m not here to force anyone to be vegan. I just don’t want anyone to be deluded by marketing bullshit. If you eat this stuff – please know what it is. It is not better ethically, environmentally, and health-wise only marginally (but if you are genuinely interested in health – go plant-based!).

The people selling ‘pasture-raised’ this and ‘grass-fed’ that will OF COURSE try and make you feel good about buying it – they want your dough! And people that fell for this already will tell you it’s a great thing to do because they want to justify their own habits and feel good about their choices.

But you are more than capable of thinking  for yourself.

A tenth. Of a fully-sentient beings natural lifespan. Start by thinking about that.

And, um, go vegan anyway, lol! 🙂

Is It OK To Ride Horses If You Don’t Race Them?

Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash

We all know (don’t we?) that racing horses is cruel. I mean the very fact of using living beings for commercial purposes, not to mention the cruelty, the whipping, the shooting of the horses if they get injured – because it’s cheaper to kill them than fix them – I mean, come on. If you don’t get that that shit’s wrong, then may I politely suggest that your moral compass may be busted.

Don’t even get me started on dressage. When I see majestic horses made to prance around like idiots just to prove the riders can ‘control’ them, it makes me sick to my stomach. Way to strip a living being of its dignity.

These things may be obvious, but I wanted to address a question where the answer may not be so obvious:

Is it OK to ride horses if you don’t race them or use them commercially?

I remember the one and only time I rode a horse (I wasn’t yet vegan). When I say ‘rode’ I actually mean ‘clung on for dear life.’

It was in the south of France, and under pressure from my then partner, we went horse-trekking in the Dordogne.

From the get-go I was uncomfortable. I had mentioned I was nervous to the organiser, so he said he had given me a very gentle, docile horse.

This didn’t make me feel any less nervous. During the trek the horse behind kept head-butting mine up the bum, so my horse kept running away from it. I ended up getting off the horse (THAT was a scary enough manoeuvre!), and telling the organiser I couldn’t go on. He shamed me and said NO-ONE had ever got off the horse in the middle of a trek before. I shrugged and just led the horse by hand back to the stables.

I think I can now verbalise how I felt that day.

I think I was aware at an unconscious level that I was sitting astride a living being, who had the full agency and right to do whatever they wanted at any given time – like ALL living beings do. I would not blame the horse if she wanted to throw me off her back. I was not confident, like the other trekkers seemed to be, that the horse was a thing that would do whatever they commanded. I didn’t see how they could be that confident, horses aren’t machines.

It’s not something I could have expressed that day. I hadn’t given much thought to whether animals were fully-sentient beings or not, and I’d already lived in France for two years at that point and was used to seeing horse butchers everywhere.

Yet it just didn’t feel right.

And while part of this was because I was scared AF that I would fall (not gonna pretend I was a saint thinking purely about the horse), I think I also knew that a horse is a living being, and ultimately, living beings have their own mind – even if humans break their spirits when they are ‘broken in.’ Therefore, the horse could do anything at any time – and why wouldn’t she? This didn’t help my fear of falling any, lol!

Now we know animals are the same as us in every significant way – they suffer, feel pain and fear in the same way we do (some countries have even declared that into law); so regarding the above question there is just one thing to ask yourself:

Would you like a big ol’ lummox riding on your back? Controlling you? Pulling at reins that pulled at your head and mouth? Having metal continually banged into your feet, because your hooves can wear down with all the unnatural weight you carry when people ride you?

I’m gonna hazard a guess that the answer to this is no.

So how can we justify riding horses for pleasure whether it’s for commercial purposes or not? The minute we get on their back we are stepping on their agency.

Yes, they may let you do that – probably because they have been previously ‘broken in’ (ugh, I hate that term), and they know that you are their food source.

This doesn’t mean it’s right.

I’ve found that we get the answer to pretty much any question regarding the treatment of animals if we ask – would we like it done to us?

Would you climb on the back of any of your other pets? Ha! I like to see someone try and climb on the back of their cat – the cat would soon let them know how they felt about that!

Wild horses in Nevada

I’ve been lucky enough to see truly wild mustangs and burros in the west of America. We don’t get wild horses here in the UK (the Welsh/New Forest/Dartmoor horses and ponies are actually privately owned and semi domesticated), so it was pretty amazing to see these horse families living wild and free.

I get that due to domestication horses need to be fed a majority of their diet by humans, and to generally be looked after; but isn’t that the same with cats and dogs? Why do the horses have to be ridden to merit their upkeep?

Isn’t it possible to have a horse companion (just like a dog companion) and take them out for walks every day, let them run some, pet them, and just generally enjoy the company of these beings without climbing on their backs and making them do stuff?

 

Ethiopian Food, & Review of Orit Ethiopian Restaurant in London

 

Rahel’s, Los Angeles

If you are vegan, ESPECIALLY if you have just gone vegan, you need to get to know Ethiopian food.

Why am I ordering you around like this?

Because it’s the tastiest food on the planet, period. No meat or cheese alternatives needed, no ‘nooch’ needed (not that there’s anything wrong with these things, I eat them myself, but it’s important to know that there is tasty food out there that is vegan by default and mind-blowingly tasty, and it’s the plants and herbs and spices that make it so).

Once you’ve tasted Ethiopian food, trust me, you will have choice words for the next person who dares to tell you ‘ vegan food is tasteless.’

If you’ve never tried it before, Ethiopian meals come on a base of a flatbread known as injera. It looks like a pancake with air holes. This bread is made (or should be!) from a highly nutritious grain called teff, native to East Africa. The bread is slightly fermented – which means it is excellent for gut-health. There is oftentimes (where that knowledge hasn’t been lost) a fermented food in most traditional national cuisines, and in Ethiopia it’s the injera.

The injera is topped with a selection of stews of your choice.

In most Ethiopian restaurants, not only is there a large number of vegetarian stews (which are also vegan), but they will make it easy by offering a vegetarian selection, so you can try all (or a good selection) of the veggie stews for a set price.

Not pretty I grant you, but the taste more than makes up for the lack of photogeneity!

My favourites are shimbra ‘asa (a berbere stew with fried chick pea balls), misir wot (a lentil stew), and gomen (spiced collard greens). But you don’t need to remember these names, the wait staff will know exactly what to give you.

Call me fussy (though I prefer to call it ‘discerning’) but one of my pet peeves is restaurants that don’t use 100% teff for the injera. In one sense, this is understandable – it is not a cheap grain, but there are ways around it that still give people the option of having an authentic, healthy experience if they prefer.

In the US, lots of Ethiopian places offer authentic 100% teff injera, so no problem there. Otherwise, a restaurant may offer a ‘regular’ injera which may be made from a mix of teff flour and white wheat flour, but they will also offer an authentic injera (which they may also cannily label as the ‘gluten-free’ option, as teff contains no gluten) for an extra dollar or so. I have absolutely no problem with this – teff is expensive, I get that, and this gives us health-seekers the option to avoid white flour and get all the benefits from the teff.

You can read about my issue with white flour here, but bottom line – it ain’t real food, and I like my food real AF.

At this point I should also add that 100% teff injera is, in my opinion, the tastiest version.

So, your stews come on a bed of injera, and you get several rolls of injera alongside, with which to eat your food.

Yes, you understood right! NO knives and forks required! Second to the taste, this is my favourite aspect of eating Ethiopian meals. You just tear off some injera, grab some food with it and slap it in the ol’ cakehole.

But don’t worry, you will not be judged if you get nervous and ask for a fork – I’ve never seen an Ethiopian restaurant that didn’t have cutlery for if customers prefer this.

The taste and texture of the injera perfectly complements the berbere and other spice mixes of the stews.

When you’ve finished the stews, you can then – if you have any room left – eat the injera on the base of the platter, which will have soaked up all the sumptuous juices of the stews.

If you are a coffee nut, there is traditional Ethiopian coffee to be enjoyed which I believe comes with a coffee ceremony. I don’t drink coffee, but kinda wish I did every time I see the intriguing coffee paraphernalia in the restaurants.

For the longest time, I couldn’t find an Ethiopian restaurant in London that made 100% teff injera, they all cut it with white flour.

But then, one day while casually looking for a restaurant to celebrate our anniversary that night, I stumbled upon Orit, which promised injera made with 100% teff!

I called just to make sure, and was assured this was correct.

Even more good news was that Orit was pretty local to us, so we went that evening to give it a try.

I could barely contain my excitement – an authentic Ethiopian restaurant near my home and not 3000+ miles away seemed too good to be true.

I feared we’d get there and they’d say ‘oh we usually have 100% teff injera, but tonight we’re out.’ You have no idea how many times I’ve heard this.

My fears were completely unfounded.

When we arrived we chatted with the friendly owner, who has his teff imported wholesale from Ethiopia, and he supplies other London Ethiopian restaurants with it.

The injera was as dark brown as could be (a sign that it’s made from teff), and had that deliciously sour taste that authentic injera has.

Orit has a decent selection of vegan stews – not the full compliment – but enough to have ample variety and to make it interesting.

We had the Yetsome Beyeayenatue, which is their selection of vegan stews.

The stews were misir wot (berbere spiced lentils), gomen (collards) and shiro – and I’m not sure what the others are called, but if you are familiar with Ethiopian food, they are the ones you get at most restaurants.

All were perfect, and induced a feeling I only ever get when eating Ethiopian food. It’s hard to articulate (as you will see!) I can only describe it as feeling so satisfied with the tastes and textures you’ve just experienced that it feels like your soul has been fed.

I defy you to eat great Ethiopian food and try to describe that feeling more eloquently (if you do, please know I will plagiarise you 🙂 )

We will be visiting Orit as often as we can. Life is sweet when you have grub this good so close by.

 

Love Of Animals Or Moral Baselines?

 

Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash

OK, here’s some philosophical shiznit.

It’s something that’s been on my mind.

I should be writing commercial posts urging you to buy my services like other good entrepreneurs, but I’m not really one of those.  If it’s on my mind – it’s coming out. To YOU, bwahahahahaaa! 🙂

 

For me, it’s not about loving animals.

It’s not that I don’t love some individual animals, but it’s not why I say I’m vegan. Saying ‘I love animals’ as your reason for being vegan, in my opinion, is not helpful to the greater discourse on why it’s not cool to eat animals.

There are two reasons for this.

  1. It robs animals of their individual differences and makes them sound even more ‘other’ than people see them as already.
  2. It obscures the moral baseline argument, which I believe holds stronger sway than ‘I love animals’ as it doesn’t rely on whether the person you’re talking too also feels they love animals. Lots of people DON’T have a connection to any animals, so the ‘moral baseline’ reasoning is arguably the one that can be best and most universally understood.

What the HELL are you talking about Karen?

Let me explain!

Take any other oppressed group. Choose from, say; women, black people, gay people, Jews etc. Try saying ‘I love (fill in this space with any of the aforementioned oppressed groups).’

Can you hear how dehumanising it sounds? Like you’ve lumped them all together? Just as you wouldn’t say ‘I love men/white people/straight people/non-Jews’ because it sounds ridiculous.

For example, saying something like ‘all women are lovely’ or ‘I love women’ is dehumanising to women and robs them of the fact that they are all made up of the full complement of human characteristics that men are – some good, some bad, some dull, some ugly, some charming etc, and they are ALL DIFFERENT. Women can be as unlovely and unlovable as some men. Because they are just as human. Because they are a living being. To say ‘I love women’ or women are all delicate/sweet/lovely is benevolent sexism and will always be as dehumanising as malevolent sexism.

Similarly, all non-human animals are different. I’m sure you’ve known a cat that was gentle, sweet and loving; and I’m sure you’ve known another that was a complete c**t.

To say all animals are lovely (which I’ve often heard people say) is to deprive them of their individual differences, and the full range of characteristics that any human or non-human animal can have, and does whatever the animal equivalent to dehumanising is, to them (de-animating?)

The reason I wouldn’t have an animal killed for me to eat – even if it was the most bastardly creature on the face of the planet – is the same reason I wouldn’t have another human (even a really nasty one!) killed for me to eat. I believe the moral baseline is that if it is not necessary (i.e. if you are not an obligate carnivore like lions and tigers, and if it is not in self-defence) then you do not kill anyone. Whoever they are.

Why am I bringing up this point? Even if I’m right in what I’m saying, does it really matter?

Yes! I think so.

Here’s why.

If you do whatever the animal equivalent is to dehumanising animals, then others (who are in the habit of seeing animals as existing for them to eat), will always see them as lesser beings, and that could always be their justification for continuing to eat them. But the more they see the animal as being the same as them; with the full range of emotions, characteristics, personality traits etc – which we all know animals HAVE – the harder it becomes to harm them, or have them harmed for their consumption.

The short version of that paragraph is – the more you see yourself in the other, the less possible it is to harm them. And if you are going around saying animals are all so sweet and innocent, then even though you think you’re saying something nice, you’re still making them sound ‘other.’ You’re making them sound like they are one homogenous gloop of beings that aren’t as fully-rounded as we are. This is not helpful.

The documentary Earthlings does a great job talking about all the ‘samenesses’ there are between humans and non-human animals, and looks aside (though we can also argue that you get humans that look VERY different from each other) we’re the same as animals in every significant way.

We often argue that animals feel pain in exactly the same way that we do. So to then go and make them sound like they are some kind of benign, docile ‘other,’ in my opinion, does not further the ‘sameness’ discourse.

The more we can get across the message that animals and human animals are pretty damn much the same (the clue is in the fact that we are both animals!!), the more others will realise it is not right to harm them.

To aid this end, I feel rather than trying to advocate for veganism by saying that you ‘love animals’ to people who may not have the same frames of reference as you do (they may not have had pets, or been around animals much); better in the long run to argue the point that animals are not ‘other’ they are pretty much the same as us, and ask them to consider the moral baseline of not having any other living being killed unnecessarily.

There is nothing I love more that debate, so let me know if you disagree. I have a comment section – use it!

Next week…how to make vegan jam roly-polys. Haha.

 

Review: Vegan Gelato at Amorino

Amorino; 60 University Place, NYC

At the end of May we were in New York.

One day while walking in the West  Village, I spotted a place called Amorino, and recognised the name. A friend of mine in Bordeaux had raved about a place with exactly the same name, that supposedly made the most amazing vegan gelato and sorbets.

As I got nearer to this Amorino, I realised that it, too, was an ice-cream joint, and the penny dropped that Amorino was probably an international chain of ice-cream joints.

After a quick flurry of messaging back and forth with my French friend (who confirmed that this New York Amorino was indeed a branch of the shop that she had visited in Bordeaux), a little further research taught me there were actually lots of branches in London. DOH! It always seems I learn about the vegan options in my own city in totally backwards-azz ways!

We decided to come back and try Amorino properly the next day. Which turned out maybe not quite the right day to do it – Memorial Day. As you can imagine, it was packed to the rafters. This was our stupid oversight though, so I wasn’t gonna judge the whole experience on that.

While Amorino isn’t 100% vegan, there are around, I’m gonna say, 10 vegan flavours – which is pretty impressive. Usually in these kinds of places there might be a sad-looking lemon sorbet as the sole vegan option. So to have this much choice in a commercial gelato house is fantastic.

The vegan flavours are all clearly labelled ‘vegan,’ and they are all placed together, so there is no chance of making a mistake, and I’d imagine there is negligible chance of cross-contamination with the non-vegan gelato.

I’ve had conflicting info on whether the cones are vegan or not. Our most recent Amorino server said they were, but I just read somewhere online that they’re not. But no matter – just get a cup, you’re not 7. Unless you are.

The queuing system (it’s the same system in every branch I’ve since learned) is a little bizarre. You queue at the till and pay for your gelato size (it comes in several different size cups or cones), and you are given a receipt. You then move down to the gelato counters, give your receipt to the dude behind the counter, who takes the appropriate size cup/cone and you tell them what flavours you’d like.

Now that sounds practical enough, but in reality, it would be better if you could see the gelato first and make up your mind what you wanted, then pay, and then grab the goods. The way it’s set up now, you pay, then (if you’re like most people) you stand there for ages holding up the queue while selecting from the abundance in front of you.

Maybe if you could see all the flavours first, so you’d already decided in advance? I don’t know, it just feels there could be a better and quicker way.

I learned on my last visit that the vegan flavours are actually sorbets, and not gelato – and all the gelato are non-vegan. Which COULD be disappointing. But it’s not.

The saving grace, and the reason why I will keep revisiting Amorino, is (SPOILER ALERT!!!) for the pistachio, hazelnut and chocolate flavours. Even though they are technically sorbet, they taste as creamy as ice-cream and are all absolutely OR-GAS-MIC. Mighty flavourful and not too sweet, the sweetness is masterfully apportioned to enhance the flavour, and doesn’t at all overwhelm it, as can be the case with inferior ice-cream.

Yuuuuuum!

The other flavours can change, but they seem to always have chocolate, strawberry, raspberry, mango, lime & basil, passion fruit, banana, and coconut.

On this first visit in NY, on the advice of my friend I tried a cup of the pistachio, and paired it with almond (you can have as many flavours as you like but it’s probably best not to go for more than three to avoid overkill and everything running into each other – and you’d have trouble fitting more than three scoops into a small cup anyway!).

They helpfully offered a taste of the flavours we were interested in to help us decide (but don’t expect this in the UK – service is different here. They will rarely offer a taste, but if you asked nicely you could probably try one or two of them).

The pistachio recommendation was, as, um, you already now know, spot-on. I could have gone back for seconds and thirds. The almond was great too – but I slightly preferred the pistachio.

There are high stools and tables to eat at, and a few regular tables. The decor is best described as nouveau fake..um..old Italian (gold and cherubs everywhere) but it’s pleasant enough. If you come at a busy time you’ll be hard pressed to find a table, so plan your visit carefully, or, weather permitting, go eat your gelato in a nearby park.

Amorino isn’t cheap, but it’s the price you’d expect for a quality, artisanal product.  A couple of large cups (which aren’t really that large) will set you back almost 12 quid, but honestly, if it tastes like 12 quid, I’m happy to pay it. London can be extortionate and it’s easy to find yourself paying through the nose for mediocrity, but this is not the case in Amorino.

Once back in London, I decided to try the branch in Fulham Broadway with a friend.

The set-up was exactly the same as the NY branch. This time I had hazelnut and chocolate flavours. OMG – the chocolate is also incredible. Rich; dark; earthy; just the right amount of sweetness, not at all bitter. The hazelnut flavour rivalled the pistachio, and may be my new favourite. It has crunchy bits of sugared hazelnut in there for extra texture and is just divine.

Amori-YES!

I had another visit to this branch last week – this time with my partner. We went around 9pm. This Amorino is open until 11pm, and it’s nice to be out later in the evening somewhere that isn’t drinky – which is usually your only choice for late evening outings here. We decided to go all out, get large cups and have three flavours each. I got the hazelnut (OBVS), some strawberry, and some lime and basil.

 

I’ve noticed the hazelnut and pistachio are like Clarke Kent and Superman, they never seem to be around at the same time!

The strawberry was great; I’d definitely get it again. The lime and basil I thought would be interesting because of the basil but….not so much. It just tasted of lime, which is nice enough for one or two mouthfuls, then you get kinda all citrussed out and you’re DONE WITH THE CITRUS.

On my expert advice my partner got the hazelnut and chocolate, and then went rogue with some raspberry. He gushed over the hazelnut and chocolate flavours OF COURSE, and said the raspberry sorbet was good but is better at La Gelatiera.

I reckon on future visits (and there will be MANY) I’ll stick with the hazelnut, pistachio and chocolate – but I could be tempted to try the passion fruit and mango flavours at some point too.

Conclusion

Amori -YES!

Go at a non-peak time, grab a cup of the pistachio or hazelnut or chocolate flavours (or all damn three), and take your time relishing and savouring this artisanal frozen gustatory delight.

 

Review: 20+ Recipes To Become A Cruelty-Free Kitchen Badass, a new e-Cookbook by Plant Power Couple

 

You know what is a joy?

Writing a review of a friends’ e-Cookbook that you already know is tip-top quality from the outset.

Plant Power Couple’s Greatest Hits: 20+ Recipes To Become A Cruelty-Free Kitchen Badass is full of inspired veganised versions of traditional US favourites (T’s TVP Sloppy Joes, Red Lentil Cheez Fries to name but two); some Mexican (T’s Hearty Vegan Chili & Jalapeno Cheddar Corn Muffins, Jackfruit Carnitas); Italian (Creamy Mushroom Lasagne); and quite frankly I could eat the picture of their Thai-inspired Veggie Dumplings. There’s even a Seitan Bangers and Mash recipe that looks tastier than any B&M I’ve ever seen here in the UK (where it originated!), and some gorgeous desserts that I’d say transcend continents!

If you are a new (or wannabe) vegan and nervous about potentially missing out on your favourite meals, you need this book. If you want to cook for your family or friends to show them you don’t need to forgo tasty traditional faves as a vegan, you need this book. If you’re a ‘vegan vet’ and think you know it all you STILL need this book. That kinda described ME, but I got blown away by the recipe I just tried. Read on….

The B and the T. They are standing in the right order!

I’ve known Brittany and Terrence Roche, aka B & T, aka Plant Power Couple, for around two years. We met in the early, heady days of Periscope, when a few of us vegans were trying to get information and recipes out to the world on the newest, hottest, livestreaming platform.

I very quickly became aware of this vegan couple in Philly through their interaction on my broadcasts, and I became a regular viewer and interacter with theirs.

If you weren’t familiar with it, the fun thing about Periscope was that it really wasn’t *content provider talks at audience,* it was more that if it was your broadcast you kinda sorta hosted it – but everyone else that hopped on shared, commented, critiqued, joked, chatted with other viewers; so much so that it was more like a group discussion/party/shambles (and I absolutely mean the most fun shambles ever!)

Myself and B&T shared lots of followers and so for a while there it was like we had several parties a day. One of us would broadcast first (depending in whose timezone morning came first, so, generally me), then someone else; then in the evening (in the UK) Plant Power Couple would hop on, usually cooking something scrumptious.

Another sweet, cool thing was that we all had each others backs when the dastardly Periscope trolls appeared. ‘Open bobs’ anyone? That phrase will forever remind me of the second half of 2015. You will only understand that particular charming request if you were ever a female Periscope broadcaster (or viewer of). It seemed to be broken English for ‘you are a female on a public platform so why are you even talking, just get your boobs out already.’ Anyway, I distinctly remember Brittany taking NO prisoners and chasing off a few of my trolls VERY decisively!

Then Facebook went and pretty much monopolised the world of livestream, and we all realised that we’d have to keep up and move platform. But ya know, we had a thing, and the people we met on Periscope (from all over the planet!) have remained friends, and it felt like we shared something special and sweet.

Luckily, before Periscope died B & T had the foresight to create a Facebook group, Plant Power People where we all convened, and the group has grown immensely ever since. We chat; share info and pics, and ask questions on all things vegan. The group was set up to provide community – as it can sometimes be isolating being vegan in this oh so bacon-enamoured world. The group is great for vintage vegans like myself, but if you are a newer vegan you especially need to join us there. You’ll get support, recipe ideas, make friends and just generally feel part of a community, and less like a Vaygan from planet Vayga.

OK OK, I’ll get to the book!

The whole reason I mentioned the Periscope days was because most of the recipes in this new e-Cookbook I have personally SEEN Brittany and Terrence make. I know what these recipes consist of. I know that they contain quality ingredients, I’ve seen Brittany’s foodgasm face when she’d taste test a recipe at the end of a broadcast; and I’ve seen endless people raving about these recipes in the Facebook group.

But for this review to be totes legit, I gotta make something myself right?

I also roped in my mum – more on her creation later.

My first instinct was to make T’s Hearty Vegan Chili, but that would’ve been too easy. I love all chili and know I’d have adored this one.

I needed to make something I wouldn’t ordinarily eat to REALLY test the mettle of the recipe.

I opted for Smoky Carrot Dogs, which are, you guessed it – hot dogs made from carrots.

Seriously? You wouldn’t believe just how stinkin’ easy these are to make. You marinade your ‘dogs’ (the lush, smoky marinade takes around 10 minutes to put together):

After the requisite 24 hours, they look like this:

Who knew carrots were sponges?

They have TOTALLY absorbed the marinade!!

Then you cook them in the marinade for 15 minutes. Serve in hot dog buns, with as many or as few trimmings as you like (fried onions, mustard, salad, ketchup etc).

No pig suffered for these gorge dawgs!

Verdict? Utter deliciousness. SOOOO damn yummy. I feel they are MUCH tastier than I remember non-vegan hotdogs to be.

It’s a little difficult to get Liquid Smoke here in the UK (I believe you can get it online), but a 1/2 tspn of ground chipotle flakes does the same job, so DO NOT let that put you off.

My mum went for T’s TVP Sloppy Joes, and after I’d explained what TVP was and that she could get some quite easily from her local Holland and Barratt, she gamely had a go at making this dish she’d never heard of before (Sloppy Joes are an American concept!).

Her opinion?

‘VERY tasty and VERY easy to make’

No mincing words there (geddit?)

And get her and her rustic plates!

T’s TVP Sloppy Joes, by my mother

These recipes really are solid. Like, Isa Chandra Moskowitz solid. Yes, THAT solid.

Terrence has a background in catering, and since becoming vegan 3 years ago Brittany has cooked her ass off – learning, experimenting, recipe-inventing etc; so these dishes have been thoroughly tried and tested.

Do yourselves a sweet one and grab a copy here.

If you want to get to know B&T more (which you absolutely DO), follow them on Instagram and Facebook too.

 

Meat Does NOT = Energy

This subject keeps coming up again and again in my professional life.

I do feel we are (VERY) slowly but surely getting the message across that we don’t need meat for protein.

But there’s another, very much related, almost AS pervasive myth that seems to be sticking around and is not in any hurry to dissipate. And that is  – we need meat for energy.

I am guilty of making the mistake of thinking we are WAY past believing that we need meat for energy. But unlike so many people, I have not been exposed to the whole Paleo/Atkins/ketogenic deal; and I guess it’s true that not everyone has their eyes glued to the peer-reviewed science-filled websites of Dr’s McDougal/Greger/Barnard/Klaper all day! (For those that may not know, independent ‘peer-reviewed’ science is the most objective, credible way of doing science that there is. It is the closest to the truth that you can get). There is precisely NO peer-reviewed science on Paleo/Atkins/ketogenic/any other high-fat, low-carb diet you care to mention that concludes that these diets are healthy long-term.

Of course it didn’t help when ex-vegan bloggers declared very loudly that they’d stopped being vegan because they felt they ‘needed’ meat, and that when they took their first bite of meat they felt like the energy was flowing back into their bodies again.

I can’t comment on what may or may not have happened to make them feel unwell on a vegan diet – there could be lots of potential reasons; just as there could be lots of potential reasons for someone feeling unwell on a meat and dairy-centric diet. But, I can say that it is NOT the meat that gave them their energy back.

Science says:

Energy comes mainly from carbohydrates.

Meat contains little in the way of carbohydrates. If you used meat for carbohydrates, you’d have to eat SO much of it to get the carbs your body needed it really wouldn’t be healthy in terms of the amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol you’d also be consuming (not to mention hormones and antibiotics).

So which carbohydrates specifically should energy come from?

Whole carbohydrates.

These are:

  • Any whole grains/cereals (brown/black rice, wholewheat bread/pasta/couscous etc, quinoa, oats, buckwheat, barley, millet, corn)
  • Any legumes/pulses (beans, lentils and peas)
  • Any tubers, root veg and starchy veg (potatoes, sweet potatoes, squashes of all description)

I implore you to memorise this list if you suffer from fatigue; the dreaded 11 or 3 o’clock slump; or just generally feel you don’t have enough energy.

These are the foods you should look to for your everyday energy. Not meat or any animal protein. Not even nuts, or fruit and veg.

Just to be clear; nuts and seeds contain little carbohydrate, and you’d have to eat a ton to get any decent levels – which would mean you’d be consuming way too much fat.

And fruit and veg, although they contain more carbohydrates than the previous items mentioned, it’s still too small an amount per calorie to give you substantial fuel for the day – unless you eat a bucket of them – but who really wants do that?

If anything, many people report meat making them feel lethargic and ‘weighed down,’ not full of energy. But thanks to paleo et al, carbophobia is an epidemic right now of proportions it is hard to comprehend. Lots of us seem to have lost the innate knowledge that previous civilisations held – that it is grains, cereals, beans and starchy veg that give us fuel.

In case you were wondering; whole carbohydrates will not make you put on weight. They are FULL of fibre, and will fill you up before you can overeat.

Meat, on the other hand, does not fill you up and contains zero fibre. If you are concerned at all about weight – it’s the meat you should be ditching.

The reality is that we should all be clamouring for whole carbs to power us optimally through our busy lives.

 

Review: Zizzi (UK pizza and pasta chain)

This is actually the Strand branch, I forgot to take a photo at Victoria, doh!

I was looking for a decent place to meet a friend on a Saturday – a lovely friend who, though not vegan, is totally on board with eating at vegan restaurants with me.

She told me to choose the venue.

My criteria were location (I couldn’t be bothered travelling that far on a Saturday, and it needed to be easy for us both to get to), and price. I remembered it was my turn to treat us to a meal and I wanted amazing food at a good price.

I remembered a friend had emailed me a £10 Zizzi voucher, and I’d heard that Zizzi now have a separate vegan menu.

They also had a branch in London’s Victoria, which was a perfect location for us.

Done, done and DONE!

I was quite optimistic about what the experience would be like. I’d visited Zizzi about 10 years previously and had a super-yummy pizza with tomato sauce and a few veggies on top (no cheese) that they’d had no problem sorting out for me.

Once at the restaurant I asked for the vegan menu which was brought to me immediately – it definitely seemed like they were used to people asking for it. I say that because I’ve been in other restaurants where you ask to see the vegan menu and they look at you like ‘oh jeez, I have to remember where I put that thing?’

The vegan menu was of course much more diminutive in size than the carnist one – but there was a small selection of dishes that, if each dish was good, would constitute a fair selection.

There was a margherita pizza where you can add your own topping; a couple of great-looking pasta dishes; salads; bruschetta; and several nibbles and sides that were exactly the same as on the carnist menu.

OMG that torte!

The main dessert option – sticky chocolate praline torte with coconut and chocolate swirl gelato called my name loud and clear, and I kinda couldn’t wait to get to it!

It’s not many places that do vegan pizza with ACTUAL vegan cheese in the UK as of yet, so I wasn’t gonna hesitate in ordering pizza.

Normally a basic margherita wouldn’t hold enough interest for me (I like a TON of shit on my shit!), but you could add three toppings for the same price, so I plumped for artichokes, field mushrooms and red chillies.

I also chose the gluten-free crust (made of rice-flour) as I try and avoid white wheat flour. If you want to know why, read this post.

While waiting for the pizza I ordered some green tea, and was thrilled to find out they serve Teapigs super quality fancy muslin teabag tea! Not being a millionaire, I can’t afford to buy boxes of Teapigs tea in the supermarket, so it’s great that I can sample it at places like this.

Fancy tea

It was served in a glass (I LOVE tea served in a glass!), on a very artsy saucer, with a block of honeycomb (not ACTUAL honeycomb, but the stuff that we Brits call ‘honeycomb’ but which is actually caramelised sugar).

Everything boded well for the food…

The pizza came, and while a nice size, I was struck by the thin-ness of the crust. To be fair, I think it was described as thin on the menu, and I’m probably comparing it to American pizzas – which are the only other vegan pizzas I’ve experienced.

Great pizza, but cheese not working visually! 😁

It looked fine, but not super-pretty. I can’t help but be blunt here – visually the melted cheese had a jizzy appearance, like someone had just serviced themself over the pizza (if that needed explaining!) I’ve noticed that lots of the UK vegan cheeses have that kind of an appearance when melted. As opposed to the amazing Daiya cheese in the US, which when melted, looks, like…well….melted cheese. We clearly still have a way to go on the visual side of things!

I could have done with slightly more of each topping too. Though I can accept that this might be me being Greedy Gertie.

Now I’ve had a moan – I’ll tell you what it tasted like.

It tasted pretty great. It was a perfectly fine pizza.

The cheese tasted a lot better than it looked! It tasted of cheese, not rubbery or weird – definitely cheesy. I think a non-vegan would tell it wasn’t dairy cheese by the look of it, but perhaps not by the taste.

I gave some pizza to my non-vegan friend and she was surprised at how nice it was. I’m pretty sure the vegetable toppings were fresh as fresh, and the crust was not too hard – as crusts sometimes can be.

Even though I love my American pizzas, I’m pretty sure that this is a more authentic Italian experience.

I’m definitely coming back for this pizza, and I’m going to encourage my local vegan (and non-vegan) community to try it too.

Now for my favourite bit.

The dessert choices other than the above-mentioned chocolate praline torte were just your classic lemon or strawberry sorbets. But why in the name of all that’s holy would you not go for the torte???

I wasn’t ready for just how delicious the torte was.

Chocgasm alert!

I was expecting a nice chocolatey, gooey vibe; but this was beyond Beyond.

You know when you involuntarily make a sex face while you’re eating something extraordinarily delicious? Well, that happened.

The coconut and chocolate swirl gelato made for a perfect pairing, and more flakes of ‘honeycomb’ were sprinkled on top.

It was rich and creamy, not bitter and not too sweet.

I don’t know what else to say about the torte except that when you eat it time stops and it becomes all about what is going on in your mouth. I can normally eat and yak and do fifty other things at once, but this torte demanded my absolute attention. It violently stole my attention in fact (um, in a good way!),  and I become a slave to the taste and texture sensations I was experiencing. Hehe – yes, I know I’ll never be a food writer, but I don’t know how else to explain it.

The portion size was spot on. When I’d finished – I was definitely done, but didn’t feel like I’d eaten too much.

Another wonderful thing – I don’t think this torte is particularly unhealthy either, since the base is made from dates, hazelnuts and walnuts. And we all know dark chocolate is good for you, so…

Without exaggeration, I’ve spent a large proportion of my time since that Saturday dreaming about the torte, trying to conjure up the taste and checking over and over again online to see which branch of Zizzi I could get to this weekend to grab some more (they do take away, so I knew this was possible).

The space was large and with all different types of seating, so you can sit in a cosy booth; on the banquette seating; or at the tables for two in the middle. And unlike lots of UK restaurants, the tables weren’t too crowded together. It felt like there was enough space for everyone, even when it got busy.

Service was efficient and friendly, and the staff were all knowledgeable about the food.

To conclude: I highly recommend Zizzi for vegans. If my pizza and the standard of the food I tasted was anything to go by, then all the vegan dishes are totally solid.

It’s a great lunch spot, but personally I’d even go there for a long dinner with friends or family. But possibly that’s just me; I prefer hustly-bustly places full of a cross-section of the community rather than your swanky-wanky gaffes.

Hustly-bustly, swanky-wanky. Hee.

And when you go, for the love of Pete – get the torte!!

 

Please No More #furhag

Something I’ve seen recently makes me feel sad.

I’m really not into the phenomenon of ‘fur shaming.’

Fur shaming often takes the form of animal activists waiting for a celebrity known to wear fur (9 times out of 10 this is a female) at an ‘appearance’ type of event, then yelling in her face about wearing fur while holding up graphic images and/or throwing flour or some other messy crap all over her.

Just writing that made me feel yucky.

Am I against animal fur being worn as clothing? Hell yes.

Do I think we should speak out against animal fur and skins being worn as clothing? Hell yes.

Am I a fan of any of the celebrities this has happened to, is that what’s sparking my outrage? Hell no.

Do I think there’s a much more intelligent (and more effective) way of educating about the cruelty inherent in the fur industry? Heeellll yes!

The thing that made me sad was a Facebook post I saw recently where someone had been a part of one such ‘fur shaming’ event. Underneath this post were comments like ‘dumb bitch, she deserved it,’ ‘what a fur hag,’ ‘fur hags always deserve what they get’ etc.

I felt sick.

What is the term for men who wear fur by the way? Don’t some male hip-hop artists and rappers wear fur? Is it more terrible if women do it?

Of course I am able to conjure up pictures of animals being skinned alive for their fur, I’ve seen Earthlings and The Ghost In Our Machine. I want this barbaric shit to stop instantly.

But how does being aggressive and sexist help educate on speciesism?

It’s like the PETA campaigns when they objectify one group of beings (women), to attempt to teach us not to objectify another group of beings (animals).

This may work for some people, but I feel there are way more effective ways of educating about this.

And has anyone noticed that there’s a glut of men on social media who have clearly learned to identify their privilege over animals and have therefore become vegan – but have no idea about their privilege over women, which manifests in their sexist language? I wonder if they didn’t learn about veganism from PETA and all the naked women campaigns?

We need to combat all oppressions and put the spotlight on all privilege.

Using terms like bitch and hag, which are so gendered and so ugly (‘hag’ as far as I can make out means a woman who is no longer sexually attractive to the patriarchy, yet STILL deigns to have a few opinions, and is therefore hated) just perpetuates and re-normalises the use of sexist language. And we know that the language around an entity informs our ideas and behaviours towards that entity. So using these terms is, like, the least clever thing you can do if you are of the opinion that women are humans too.

Hate isn’t single issue. And it’s possible to live in a state of raising awareness of all of it and trying to combat all forms of it. You don’t have to fight speciesism at the expense of women.

My other point on this is:

Leather is just as cruel as fur. In Earthlings, we see cows in the leather industry being skinned alive. Why don’t activists flour bomb male celebrities for wearing leather shoes and jackets?

My other point (that I just thought of!) is:

Would you walk into a restaurant and yell at someone eating chicken? Would you walk into a McDonalds and scream into the faces of the people eating their egg Mcmuffins? After all, the chickens will have been strung upside down and dipped in scalding water, lots of them while alive. And the eggs will have come from an industry where baby male chicks are ground up alive. Is the cruelty in the chicken and egg industries worse than in the fur industry? How the hell do you quantify that?

So why not walk into these restaurants, surprise the women (only the women of course) eating their chicken and eggs by yelling in their faces, then afterwards brag about it on social media using terms like #eggslut or #chickenbitch ?

 

If you want to protest fur-farming intelligently, what CAN you do?

The only thing that has EVER worked effectively is informing and educating people peacefully.

The more we share information about how cruel fur is, the less ‘cool’ it will be. The more people that think it’s not cool; the less likely celebrities are to wear it.  So advocating at grass-roots level is a great place to start. Host a stand at a vegan or animal-related festival. Write letters to relevant publications explaining what goes on in the fur industry. Write blog posts (for your own website or to send to others) about fur-farming. Protest (peacefully) outside fur shops. There’s a ton of different ways we can inform on this subject without being an arse.

If you must contact a celebrity directly, tweet them with a link to Earthlings or The Ghosts In Our Machine, or with a pithy comment that may give them pause for thought (you never know!) You want to make them think, not make them hate you. If someone hates you they won’t listen to you.

Whatever you do, just please PLEASE refrain from yelling at women, then bragging about it on social media using terms like furhag and bitch.

There are too many levels on which this behaviour is problematic, not to mention ineffective.

 

Eat In A Truly ‘Mindful’ Way – Be Vegan

Please note:

This post is not intended to throw shade (as the kids say) at anyone who isn’t vegan or vegetarian. That would not be nice and that is not my purpose.

It IS however, intended to throw a whole shit-ton of poop at the peddlers of nonsense, who know they can gain followers/make money by making people feel fuzzy and comfortable, even though this is not the best thing for anybody in this particular context.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You’d have to live somewhere pretty remote and without access to any media to not have heard about the whole ‘mindfulness’ shebang that is currently pervading all wellness websites and ‘mind body and spirit’ sections of commercial bookstores everywhere in (and influenced by) the western hemisphere.

I have no problem with the concept of mindfulness per se. Of course, in essence it can only be a positive thing. But, like the words ‘moderation,’ ‘flexitarian,’ or ‘clean’ (in relation to eating), it has no real definition and there are only seemingly very ambiguous suggestions on how to achieve it.

Of course, eating is one of the more popular things to be mindful about.

It is not clear however to what extent you should be mindful about eating, and if it’s ok to just be mindful or whether you should then take action?

I thought it would only be logical that ‘mindful’ books and websites would promote veganism as the optimal mindful lifestyle.

But when I googled ‘mindful eating,’ none of the entries I saw suggested a vegan diet as the optimal ‘mindful’ diet – or even vegetarianism. They just bleated vaguely about being grateful for every bite you eat, chewing your food slowly and being mindful of the process of how the animal got to your plate.

To be fair, they did promote eating lots of organic fruits and vegetables and whole foods, but it seemed to be enough that when you ate animals and their products to just be mindful and…um, respect the animals’ life and chew them slowly.

If I were cynical I would think that the purveyors of books, courses, retreats and programs on ‘mindfulness’ were trying to cash the hell IN on the whole fashion for all things wellness and woo.

Because meat-eaters are a bigger market than vegans, it’s obviously more lucrative to make them feel warm and fuzzy about themselves by suggesting they just…think a little…while continuing to live the lives they’ve always led, not by actually encouraging them to change.

But…

  • We know that NOBODY NEEDS to eat animal products.
  • We know that animal product production DESTROYS the planet.
  • We know that consuming animal products is TERRIBLE for your health.
  • We know that non-human animals are as sentient and suffer in the same way as human animals, so how can we possibly call eating slaughtered  animals ‘mindful’?
  • We know if we really think about it and we have even just one brain cell, that ‘humane slaughter’ is just as much of an oxymoron as ‘humane rape’ or ‘humane torture.’

So..

If you aren’t promoting veganism – you are not promoting mindful eating, however much it benefits you to think that you are.

If you aren’t vegan, (and absolutely not intending going vegan any time soon), you aren’t eating mindfully, the end. Because if it has truly entered your mind how the cheese, chicken or fish came to be on your plate but you still don’t want to change your lifestyle; then your mind wasn’t properly engaged.

The animal doesn’t care whether it is ‘respected’ before someone chomps down on it. It would much rather have led a long happy life and not have suffered to be on a plate. It would probably rather have not been bred as a commodity at all in fact.

The planet doesn’t care that we respect the process of how an animal got to a plate. It would rather stay healthy and not be choking in methane.

Heck, our own bodies would rather we didn’t eat animal products. They were designed to be lithe, active, alert and vibrant. Consuming animal products is markedly less conducive to all those states than is food from plants.

I think some would-be entrepreneurs want to jump on the wellness wagon, but because they feel they couldn’t go vegan themselves, they can’t exactly encourage anyone else to be. But when you know the truth about physical, mental and emotional health and wellness, and what affects it the most – it’s impossible to encourage any other lifestyle than a whole foods, vegan one.

Carry on eating animal products if that’s where you’re at right now. You are on your own path and it certainly isn’t for me to judge you – but please, please, please don’t let these woo merchants persuade you that it’s a ‘mindful’ thing to do.