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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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!!

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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Review: Riverside Vegetaria In South London

South Londoners and North Surreyites – you need to know about this little gem of a restaurant on the River Thames called Riverside Vegetaria.

I paid my second visit there last week, and for the second time had a great evening.

It’s in Kingston-Upon-Thames, and a 25 minute drive from my home in South West London. Although I’d say it’s totally worth up to an hour’s travel!

The restaurant has been there for almost 30 years, and has won a ton of awards. The owner has a spiritual philosophy of ‘love all, serve all’ and this definitely shines through in the high quality of the service.

You: ‘What about the food already???’

Ok, ok, I just wanted to set the scene.

The menu is approximately 80% vegan, and 20% vegetarian, and everything is clearly marked. If you are gluten-free there are a large number of items marked ‘wheat-free;’ and if, like me, you are health-conscious, all rice is brown rice, and all grains served are whole grains. Very little oil is used.

There is a huge variety of dishes available, from Indian dishes, to Mexican, Italian and Jamaican.

Now when I say that from my experience the food is hit and miss, you need to know that it’s 80% hit, and 20% miss, and even the misses are still good – they’re just not exceptional like the ‘hits’ are.

Organic Spicy Vegetable Balls with Coriander Sauce

Our stand-out starter is the vegetable balls with coriander sauce. These balls are fried but not at all greasy, and they are brilliantly set off by the intense coriander flavour in the dip.

Now as a health freak, I wouldn’t normally entertain the notion of a dosa for a main course. They can be greasy and often contain white wheat flour – which I’m not a fan of.

Masala Dosai

Riverside Vegetaria’s dosa is not only To.Freakin.Die.For taste-wise, but it’s made with lentil flour, is not at all oily, and comes with the most delicious coconut sambal and vegetable sambar for dipping.

I’ve also tried the Jamaican stew and a special – green lentil curry, which were both excellent.

Organic Spicy Jamaican Stew

 

Green Lentil Curry

The dosa really is top class though, and my absolute first recommendation.

I’ve found that the Italian dishes are not quite as good as the Indian dishes, so my advice would be to stick to spicy Indian, African and Jamaican dishes.

I love that the garlic bread is wholemeal – you hardly ever get this in restaurants! And a soup we tried this time was full of fresh okra and herbs, a perfect dunking receptacle for the bread 🙂

Okra & Chickpea Soup; Garlic Bread

Most dishes come with a colourful salad – not as a sloppy garnish but as a thoughtful, well-presented accompaniment. You’ll want to take a pic for Instagram before you tuck in!

You must also consult the ‘specials’ board as there seem to be a huge amount every day.

As for dessert, my partner says the chocolate fudge cake was great – moist, rich and as decadent as it should be. I had an orange sorbet which was decent.

Chocolate Fudge Cake

I can’t offer much info about the drinks as I just have tea and my partner has beer. Sorry – we’re just not wine aficionados!

Riverside Vegetaria is in a beautiful setting next to the river, with a small outside terrace for spring and summer dining.

The decor is cozy and cute; prices are absolutely fair; and the vibe is friendly, casual, local and inviting.

The only downsides are that the space is very small, and fills up quickly as the restaurant is so popular. You can find yourself squeezed in tight with the neighbouring table practically joining yours. Not too cool if you wanted a more intimate meal with a friend/partner. I guess this is worse in winter because the outside space is closed, so they have to maximise covers inside. My advice is to visit on a Monday or close to the beginning of the week, or wait until later in the evening when the restaurant has emptied out a bit, to have your meal.

I haven’t yet visited on a summer evening but I can only imagine that if you go on a warm night, and are lucky enough to snag one of the riverside tables, you’ll find yourself in heaven for a couple of hours…

 

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Is Your Sparkly Stuff Vegan?

Hey guys!

Steven from vegan jewellers MADE Diamonds is taking over my post this week.

Yes, that’s right, there’s such a thing as vegan diamonds!

Now I’ll be honest, diamonds are not THIS girl’s best friend. I didn’t bother with an engagement ring, and my partner and I just used very modest rings we’d previously bought each other, as wedding rings. But guess what, it’s not all about me.

I KNOW! I was shocked to learn that! 🙂

So for those of you who like a little sparkle and are considering tying the proverbial knot, this is for you.

Or pass this on to someone you know who fits that description!

I have to admit this post enlightened me. I knew that there were conflict-free diamonds, but had no idea how much diamond-mining affected wildlife habitats.

As vegans, we are concerned with the welfare of both farmed and wild animals alike so it’s great that there is now the option to purchase jewellery that is in alignment with our values of causing the least harm to any wildlife.

If I were ever to desire a ‘retroactive’ engagement or wedding ring, MADE Diamonds would certainly be my first stop. They are featured on Viva’s website, and that’s good enough for me!

OK, over to Steven….

 

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We all know that finding products that align perfectly with our values can sometimes be challenging, and when it comes to certain one-off purchases like an engagement ring, the romance and excitement of the situation can cause many people to overlook some rather inconvenient truths.

It’s well known that natural diamonds are fraught with ethical concerns on many levels, yet so many people who would otherwise make a point of only shopping from sustainable and cruelty-free sources inevitably end up wearing a natural diamond engagement ring. It could be said that this is attributable to the fact that an engagement ring is a gift and so it was not the wearer’s choice, but let’s be completely honest here, if the person asking for your hand in marriage isn’t aware of your deeply held values then something is clearly wrong.

Another reason otherwise ethically-minded vegans often end up wearing a natural diamond engagement ring is lack of awareness of both the key issues or a viable alternative. It’s this lack of awareness that this post aims to address.

First up there is the more commonly understood concept of conflict diamonds and blood diamonds. Whilst most natural diamonds today are marketed as “conflict-free” there is a limit to the certainty of these claims which always completely ignore the historical aspects of the situation. It was often the blood spilt over many preceding decades which has ultimately led to the ownership of land on which today’s “conflict-free” stones are mined.

Besides the human suffering though is the so often overlooked devastation to some of the planet’s oldest and most precious habitats, and of course their animal inhabitants. Thousands of tonnes of earth have to be moved to find even a tiny amount of rough diamonds from the earth and zero consideration is given to the obliteration of ancient ecosystems which are irreparably damaged. The process leaves many animals without a home, and that is if the animals manage to survive the indiscriminate clearing of land required for diamond mining. When this is considered it is abundantly clear that the natural diamond market should not be supported by people who otherwise care for animals, but because the harm caused is less direct than that of other directly animal based products, the cruelty can often be unrecognised. In fact it is specifically because diamonds are not viewed directly as an animal product that most people, including most vegans, overlook the abhorrent animal cruelty caused by diamond mining and willingly opt for natural stones.

Even when aware of the issues though, many people often still end up opting for a natural diamond because they are unaware of a viable alternative. These days however the wonders of modern technology have created many far better options, so there really is no excuse to endorse such a terrible industry in order to obtain that beautiful shiny rock on your finger.

MADE Diamonds are a UK based company with experience in the jewellery trade spanning over many decades. We create engagement rings which combine traditional jewellery production methods with a more technologically advanced natural diamond alternative that offers a host of benefits over natural stones. First and foremost MADE Diamonds stones are cruelty and conflict-free making them a far more suitable choice for people following a vegan lifestyle. Being owned and operated by two generations of a family, all of whom are vegans, MADE Diamonds have attracted support from numerous vegan organisations like Viva and celebrity vegans including Leona Lewis.

Here’s the science bit… MADE Diamonds stones are created in a laboratory rather than in the ground, through a process of building real man-made diamond onto a purpose built core. Ethical diamond alternatives currently available range in their nature, price and overall value. Whilst the technology exists to create pure man-made diamonds, the technology is not yet there to create high quality stones of any decent size, nor any reasonable price. Many such technologies involve growing a diamond using a natural diamond, which clearly somewhat misses the point! The technology used by MADE Diamonds where real man-made diamond is built into a non-diamond core, creates an outer layer of diamond with all the visual characteristics of a natural stone.

This technology also allows the quality of the stone (in terms of the four C’s of colour, clarity, cut and carat) to be far more easily regulated in order to create top quality stones every time, and at a price point that represents real value.

MADE Diamonds have become the go-to place for ethically-minded individuals looking for an engagement ring which is in-keeping with their values. If you’re thinking of popping the question this year, or if you’re hoping a certain someone in your life might soon get down on one knee, make sure it’s with a ring that represents your lifestyle and values as a vegan. After all, an engagement ring is such a meaningful treasure intended to be worn for the rest of your life, so it really should be something you can feel truly proud of.

 

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Beware The BBC Bullshit

BBC from Flickr via Wylio
© 2006 Tim Loudon, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

Hoo-boy was this a week for the bullshitz.

The bulls must be completely free of shit right now because it seems it has all been dumped this week.

Actually some of the BS that I’m about to address was from last week, but whatever.

Remember the fiasco that was the BBC programme ‘Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets,’ in which veganism was, in a very transparent agenda, smooshed together with eating disorders, clean-eating and just general food faddiness in order to make it look a little crazy?

I ranted wrote about that utter shitfest here.

Guess what? The BBC has done it again.

This time, ‘clean eating’ was the subject of the BBC documentary programme ‘Horizon’ (a long-running British television series that covers science and philosophy).

I belong to a Facebook group called London Vegans. A few weeks ago someone from the BBC posted, asking for people to talk to them about their eating habits for a new show they were making about ‘clean eating.’

Myself and others chased them off, saying that if it was anything like the last shitshow, to forget it.

I believe it was for this very programme they were looking for content – and knowing what I know now – we were utterly justified in giving them short shrift.

I heard that this programme was on last week, but didn’t have any interest in watching it.

A (non-vegan) friend told me it was quite interesting and that she’d liked the doctor who wrote the book about China.

Hang on a minute, I thought. Dr T Colin Campbell? They interviewed him? Maybe the BBC had done a complete 180 on their previous anti-vegan agenda and bothered their arses to talk to actual experienced doctors in the plant-based field? Miracles can happen, can’t they?

Then a couple of days ago, this article appeared on Dr Campbell’s website.

Then today, Dr Caldwell Essylstyn released this one.

Dr Campbell and Dr Esselstyn are both extremely disappointed at how their segments were used, and at the fact that important information and interviews were seemingly purposely omitted.

Alarmingly, they realised it was because the guy who made the programme (Dr Giles Yeo) was promoting the goals of a pharmaceutical company, and therefore had a definite agenda to make plant-based diets appear to not be as optimal for health as we know they are.

I strongly advocate advising those people you know that are interested in being vegan, to NEVER get their information from the television. And in this day and age they really don’t need to. Reputable books and websites suffice.

These sources of health advice are independent, and their only agenda is to make you well and wise:

Books: The China Study (Dr T Colin Campbell); How Not To Die (Dr Michael Greger; Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease (Dr Caldwell Esselstyn); The Starch Solution (Dr John McDougall)

Documentaries: Forks Over Knives; Food Choices; Cowspiracy; Plant Pure Nation

Websites: forksoverknives.com; nutritionstudies.org; nutritionfacts.org

Veganism and plant-based nutrition are the subjects I usually stick to giving professional advice on. But if I could give any other advice, and if anyone would listen, it would be this: THROW AWAY YOUR TELEVISION SETS.

I did this a few years back and it was the best thing I ever did.

Thankfully there is plenty of good, independent alternative media out there to inform and enlighten us.

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The OTHER piece of BS that had me fuming was in HuffPost UK. It said vegan women had a higher risk of having premature babies.

The whole premise of this was that women who are low in vitamin B12 risk delivering prematurely.

What they don’t say is that vitamin B12 deficiency ISN’T JUST A VEGAN THING – plenty of omnis are B12 deficient. And no vegan ever need be deficient in B12 as there are these handy things available everywhere called supplements. I don’t know this for sure but I would be happy to wager that fewer vegans are deficient in B12 than omnis, as vegans learn from the beginning that they have to supplement. Omnis always just assume they’re getting plenty when this isn’t always the case.

FFS.

If you think you know someone who may have been influenced by this piece (as you can bet it will have been widely shared and quoted by omnis happy to believe bad things about veganism), then Julianna Hever’s response post is here. Make sure to share this with them.

Please media, no more bullcrap this week, I can’t take it.

 

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