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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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Announcement: FREE Weight Loss Webinar!

 

Heeeyyy,

Happy New Year and shit!

You want a FREE weight loss webinar?

OK, you twisted my arm!

If you’re in a rush, just sign up here! And have a good day, thanks for stopping by.

Otherwise, let me explain why I’m doing this.

 

I believe body and mind are connected.

What affects one, affects the other.

I don’t care what people look like, and the free weight-loss workshop I’m about to pitch to you is nothing to do with ‘bikini bodies’ or ‘looking hot.’

Having been overweight at one point, I know now that even though I wasn’t overly unhappy or insecure about it in terms of how I looked, and even though I didn’t feel especially unhealthy in any serious way as a result of the extra weight I was carrying – I wasn’t feeling or performing at my best either.

Even though each difference between how I felt then and how I feel now is a subtle one, they definitely add up to more than the sum of their parts.

It IS healthier to be at a good weight for your body frame if only for purely practical reasons. Your body can function more optimally – your heart doesn’t have to work so hard to pump blood around your body; less weight carried on the bones means less stress to the bones and frame, your sleep is better etc.

And we know that even if we don’t feel unhealthy right now, excess body weight can put us more at risk for chronic disease.

There’s another, more intangible thing that happens when you are carrying the right amount of weight for your body.

Please note that when I say ‘ideal amount of weight for your body,’ I don’t mean super-skinny with collar bones sticking out, or a thigh gap, or whatever the hell some screwed–up teens are calling it. Every ‘body’ is different and will have its own ideal weight at which it functions optimally.

The thing that happens when your body is carrying only the weight it needs is hard to articulate. It’s something like feeling light on your feet and getting less tired because you’re only moving around the body mass that you need, not any excess. It’s something like feeling lean and mean and ninja. It’s something like I imagine a cat or a squirrel feels when they leap onto a fence with such ease because they know the capability and the limits of their bodies instinctually.

If I may get a little ‘woo’ for a second, it also feels like you are weighed down to the ground by less and so your mind and spirit can fly free-er. Remember in my first sentence I said that body and mind (and I’m just gonna say ‘spirit’ now too since we’ve already gone there!) are connected?

If I just lost you at that – apologies; but I don’t know any other way to describe that feeling. And I’m aware this isn’t science – I’m just tellin’ ya what happened to me.

Your physical and mental energies seem much more aligned when you’re at a point where your weight fits your frame.

What I’m trying to say is that’s it’s not all about heart disease and diabetes, although we obviously want to avoid these; and it’s most definitely not about bikinis. There are so many other benefits to having only as much weight as our body needs.

So it’s with the intention of helping you feel, perform, create, dream, run, wonder, fantasize, climb, imagine, abseil (hee!) and basically – DO ALL THE FUN THINGS to the very best of your individual capacity, that I invite you to catch my FREE weight-loss webinar on Tuesday 17th January, at 2pm Eastern, 11am Pacific, 7pm GMT.

 

Now you should know by now – I’M VEGAN.

Yes, really 😉

And a happy coincidence is that a plant-based diet is the best, healthiest and most sustainable way to lose weight.

So please know from the outset that we will be an animal-product free zone!

You want an idea of how I roll when teaching about weight loss? Let me just say there are no scales (either for you, or to measure out portion sizes) or counting calories involved. Who the hell wants to count stuff before eating?

I am so excited to share with you my key components to helping you reach a weight (actually it’s more of a feeling than a number on a scale) that helps your body and mind thrive.

 

As well as talking about all the amazingly delicious foods you can eat in abundance, I have a TON of insights, tips, recommendations, motivational tools, ways to frame things that make your weight-loss goals achievable AND more sustainable once you’ve achieved them.

AND AND AND! You will also receive a free 7-day meal plan on the day of the webinar – I wouldn’t wanna give you all this info without any ideas to start off with!

So –

Are you in?

Yes, I’m in!

And at the end of the talk I’ll be letting you know how you can make your weight loss transition utterly delectable with a mini-program I’m creating based on dishes from world cuisines that are largely plant-based by default. So, yayy!

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Delicious Vegan Stocking Fillers Omnivores Will Love

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Have you done most of your Christmas shopping, but there’s maybe a few little extra things you need to get for your family and friends?

This totally applies to me this year.

I did a lot of my Christmas shopping online on Black Friday. Win-win right? Ridiculous savings and you don’t have to trawl around crowded shops that blast out obnoxious Christmas ‘music.’ I was trying desperately not to be a consumer on that day, in protest at our greedy capitalist society, but once I saw the savings to be had I went a little…er…crazy (ok, a lot crazy) and decided I’ll have higher principles when I’m rich and can afford to be revolutionary! 🙂

What I’m trying to say is, as a result of my savings, a lot of the gifts I bought came in under-budget, so I feel like I want to top these up with an extra little treat for the intended recipients.

If this is you too, then here you’ll find a few ideas for deliciously decadent, vegan, chocolatey, truffley, praliney stocking stuffers.

Because hello? What says love at Christmas more than chocolatey goodness?

NOTHING, that’s what!

Please consider these gifts ESPECIALLY for non-vegans. Good food is good food right? You can’t argue with scrummy chocolate. The idea is that it will help them see that vegans do not deprive themselves and can easily enjoy decadent treats.

As we know, good food talks!

If you are worried that dark chocolate may taste bitter, avoid any product with over 70% cocoa. Good dark chocolate however, should NOT taste bitter.

You also need to know that I am not getting paid by any of these companies. Although quite frankly I really should be considering the amount I’ve spent on some of their yummy products! 🙂

I have 3 top ideas for my UK friends and 3 for my Northern American pals:

Here are my UK suggestions:

Booja Booja

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Oooh, What would I do without Booja Booja? It is an all-vegan company, and their small boxes of truffles make the sweetest little stocking fillers, which come in a range of flavours. They are £3.99 each. If you want to splash out a little more, they have bigger boxes for £9.99, or super fancy boxes for £12.95

Available at: Holland & Barrett, Whole Foods, Ocado, Booja Booja online.

I recommend: The hazelnut truffles are scrumptious, as are the champagne, and the almond and sea salt caramel flavours.

Hotel Chocolat

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Hotel Chocolat isn’t fully vegan, but they have a ton of vegan products – see full vegan selection here. Usually (though not always), the staff can point you in the direction of the vegan chocolates if you are in store.

The vegan products ARE marked ‘vegan,’ so if the staff are a little clueless, just check the packaging.

They have quite a few cute stocking-filler size gifts around the £3-5 pound mark.

Available at: Hotel Chocolat outlets are in most UK cities, or shop online.

I recommend: Gianduja Bombe Selector (hazelnut pralines).

Montezuma

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Again, Montezuma are not an all-vegan company, but very vegan-friendly, see their vegan selection here.

Again, several great options at stocking-filler prices.

Available at: Some supermarkets stock Montezuma products, otherwise Whole Foods, Holland & Barrett, Ocado, or online.

I recommend: The chocolate buttons!!!!

 

And if North America is the continent you call home:

Whole Foods chocolate truffles

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You may have seen these at the artisanal chocolate counter in Whole Foods. I’m pretty sure most Whole Foods have these – though it’s possible the smaller ones don’t.

They have several flavours that are vegan, so it’s easy to make up a small bag of the vegan choices. You really don’t need to buy many, they are very rich and decadent, so don’t think you need to fill the bag.

Don’t worry if your local Whole Foods doesn’t sell these single truffles at the chocolate counter – they should also carry these boxes of organic chocolate truffles. When I last checked, these were $6.99/box.

Available at: uh…Whole Foods.

I recommend: Everything. Yup, everything.

Hooray Truffles

Courtesy of Hooray Truffles
Courtesy of Hooray Truffles

This Canadian online company is all vegan. They have 3 types of truffle; some made with different flavoured balsamic vinegars such as raspberry and blackberry, some with essential oils (I’ve been drooling over the peppermint one); and some gold ol,’ plain ol’ chocolate truffles.

These are a little pricier, but you can pick up a stocking filler size bag for C$10.99

Available at: Hooray Truffles

I recommend: I haven’t tried these, so I can’t recommend any in particular, but a safe bet would be the plain (Simply Naked) chocolate truffles.

Lagusta’s Luscious

Courtesy of Lagusta's Luscious
Courtesy of Lagusta’s Luscious

Oh man, did I have fun browsing these goodies! Lagusta’s Luscious is an all-vegan artisanal chocolatier, with several outlets across the states – but they ship everywhere too.

From Selma’s Peppermint Patties, to Furious Vulvas (yes, you read that right!), to Cardamom Caramel Bars, to Fig & Caramelised Fennel Bark, just about everything sounds delicious.

For more moderately priced gifts, see the bars and barks.

Available at: Here is a list of the outlets, otherwise online at Lagusta’s Luscious

I recommend: Again, I haven’t tried these, but I’d definitely be willing to try every single product given the opportunity!
For a safe and sure bet stick to more classic flavours, otherwise take a risk on a Furious Vulva!

 

And on that note dear readers, Merry Christmas!!! May your year ahead be rollicking, and stay tuned for exciting, new, RIDICULOUSLY AFFORDABLE programs appearing here at Vegan Coach. I hope to bring you a weight-loss freebie, and a program based around ethnic vegan dishes. I can’t wait to share these with you all!

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Optimal Health: 6 Meal Ideas That Contain A Grain, A Green & A Bean

I love saying ‘a grain, a green and a bean,’ when I’m asked what an optimally healthy meal is. Party because it rhymes and it’s rhythmic, and partly because it’s mostly true. You can use other starches (sweet potato/white potato/squashes) instead of (or as well as) the grain to nutritionally round-out a meal, and of course you can add plenty of other veg that aren’t green. But it’s just an easy, fun way to remember how to get a full complement of nutrients in a meal.

Of course you don’t have to eat the full trifecta for every single meal either. It’s just something to aim for on a reasonably consistent basis.

With this in mind, here are 6 great ways to utterly rock the holy trinity that is the gorgeous grain, the glorious green and the beauteous bean! 🙂 :

1. Black Eyed Pea Curry With Collards & Potatoes

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This recipe is from isachandra.com – Post Punk Kitchen that was. I remember watching Isa’s videos that she shot with her friend in her tiny apartment in Brooklyn, like, a million years ago. I’ve made several of her recipes and she knows her shit. Make.This.Now. Ooh, and serve it over brown rice!

2. Pasta Fagioli with Cranberry Beans and Kale

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I’ve used fatfreevegan.com several times, always with delicious, yummy success. Don’t forget to use wholewheat pasta! Also, Susan (the recipe creator) says you can use pinto or borlotti beans if you can’t find cranberry beans (phew – I’d never heard of these!)

3. Quinoa, White Bean And Kale Stew

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From isachandra.com again. What dish could be more perfect for winter?

4. Cajun-Style Vegan Red Beans and Rice

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I make a version of this, but to be honest, this recipe from emilieeats.com has a couple more flavours than mine. And Emilie is a Louisiana dude so knows what’s what when it comes to Cajun beans, so I’m using her recipe here. You can wilt a little spinach into it for your greens, or just have any steamed greens on the side.

5. Adzuki Bean Noodles with Bok Choy, Edamame, and Miso Sesame Sauce

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This recipe from thefullhelping.com uses adzuki bean noodles; but just simply switch these for brown rice, black rice, or soba (buckwheat) noodles, to get your grain.

6. Shimbra Asa (Spicy Chickpea Stew) & Atakilt Wat (Gardener’s Vegetables in Aromatic Spices)

ethiopian

Much like the blogger over at profoundhatredofmeat.com , Ethiopian food is easily my favourite. This year I discovered Shimbra Asa (pronounced ‘shimbrassa’), a dish I hadn’t yet tried in all my years of visiting Ethiopian restaurants, and it blew my teeny-tiny mind. It’s like a berbere stew with chickpea balls in it, and it is heaven. It’s soul food. When you eat shimbra asa, you know damn well you’ve been fed.

I haven’t yet tried to make it (I’m scared I’ll f**k it up) but this recipe looks legit.
Your ‘grain’ is the highly nutritious teff used to make the injera bread, your ‘bean’ is the chickpea flour, and your green is the cabbage in the atakilt wat.

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The Problem With ‘Flexitarian’ And Why It’s Not Enough

One last look at 2012. Happy New Year planet Earth! from Flickr via Wylio
© 2012 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

So Donald Asshat Trump won the US election (do you remember saying a few months back, as I did, ‘it’ll NEVER happen!’), and I’m seeing lots of concern on social media about what this means for the planet.

It’s said that Trump believes climate change is ‘a hoax invented by the Chinese.’ If this is true, then of course it’s very worrying indeed.

He may let energy and business projects go ahead regardless of the environmental impact, and may not be too concerned with implementing clean forms of energy. Not to mention the fact that he may get the planet nuked if someone pisses him off too much on Twitter!

However – there is LOTS that WE can do to counteract his ecological idiocy.

We know that the best and most positively impactful solution to all forms of environmental damage is cessation of animal agriculture.

This can only be achieved if WE stop consuming animal products.

Watch Cowspiracy and read the works of Dr Richard Oppenlander if you didn’t know this already and need it substantiated. Though I have a hunch you already have an awareness of this.

Worryingly, what I’m seeing on Twitter from some non-vegan peeps that are worried about Trump’s effect on the planet, is a call to ‘flexitarianism.’

This word has no exact definition, but seems to mean a reduction in amounts of meat consumed.

Under one such call to arms I saw people saying they’d reduced their meat consumption to three times a week, and that they felt good about the change.

While it’s true that any reduction is good; it’s not enough. And it’s not helpful just to encourage people to lessen the amount of meat they eat by an ambiguous amount.

Here’s why:

  • The tweeter that now only eats meat three times a week is possibly still eating eggs every day, and dairy a few times every day. It’s ALL animal products that bugger up the planet, not just meat, so to put the focus on meat is misguided.
  • It dilutes the discourse; it lowers the bar; however you want to say it. If you think that all you have to do is not eat as much beef – then that’s ALL you’ll ever do. If you’re encouraged from the outset to avoid animal products and you understand why, you’re more likely to keep moving in that direction. It may take a while, but the end goal will be more achievable than if we make people feel comfortable just reducing meat a little.
  • ‘Flexitarian’ is very much like the word ‘moderation.’ What does it mean? Everyone’s definition is different. By not having a firm definition, this slows down progress, as anyone who even does as little as stops eating meat for one meal a week can call themselves this.
  • I don’t care if being flexitarian is the most zeitgeisty thing to do right now – it’s NOT working anywhere NEAR quickly enough. We need more and quicker movement in that direction if we are to salvage anything for future generations.
  • I include ‘Meatless  Mondays’ in this criticism. What this really means is that you’re screwing up the environment and contributing to world hunger six days a week instead of seven, but it makes you feel that you’re ‘doing your bit for the planet’ and that that is ALL you need to do.  It’s true some people might start here and go further, but I believe in the long run its better to be honest about what is really needed, and have people start moving in that direction, than have lots just stop at Meatless Mondays.

 

Manifest your concern for the environment by going vegan. Call it ‘plant-based’ if you don’t want to call it ‘vegan.’ The planet doesn’t really care. It just cares that you quit doing what is harming it the most – consuming ALL and any animal products.

If we really care about the fate of the planet, we absolutely have the power to counteract a substantial amount of the harm that Trump may do (uh, unless he nukes it of course!)

 

 

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