Monday, February 16, 2009

R.E.S.P.E.C.T - thinking what it means to me

Last week something happened at work that's been playing on my mind. A flippant comment I made sparked a mild rebuke from a coworker along the lines that since they respect my position (as a vegan) I ought to respect theirs as a meat-eater. It was the old 'it's-my-choice-we-are-all-different' kind of argument with which we're all familiar but which I had not yet faced directly.

In the interests of politeness and good coworker relations, I smiled and let it go even though there were a few choice things I could have said. However, an additional but unconnected incident at the end of the week, has brought the comment back to the forefront of my mind. I have an account on one of the many popular social networking sites and discovered a comment written on my wall. It reads as follows:

I just realized the irony of you talking about the meat menu at School St [our Valentine's destination], and then me saying I was making Chicken Cordon Bleu for dinner like I wasn't nearly so bad as to have a meat filled diet. Gee, thats terrible Amanda, a completely overrun meat menu? Hey, I am making ham and cheese wrapped chicken soaking in butter.....

At first I thought 'what the heck?' Then I started to feel annoyed by the snarkiness of this posting. And then I started to think a bit more deeply about this perceived 'respect' that my coworkers have for my veganism. Now, I am not tarring everyone with the same brush but I am now wondering how deep this respect goes.

Because, you see, when someone makes the effort to post on my wall about 'making ham and cheese wrapped chicken soaking in butter' I guess they think they've come up with a novel and untried way of irritating me. I guess they think it's all pretty clever...

But it's really not.

Because when they see a neat way of playing 'Poke the Vegan', this is what I see: a pig, a chicken, a dairy cow and a veal calf.

I see sentient creatures who are tortured and killed just to satisfy something as fleeting and transitory as our taste for their flesh.

So now that you've savored your meal, let's take a moment to deconstruct what you's your chicken:

(photo courtesy of Farm Sanctuary)

and here's the ham wrapped around the chicken:

(photo courtesy of Slaughterhouse Cam)

Still hungry? OK, well here's the provenence of that cheese and butter the chef in question so relished:

(photo courtesy of Animal Angels)

This is a 'spent' dairy cow - a mother whose body was used up providing for offspring she never got to raise just so we could have her milk made into butter and cheese. Oh, here she is again:

(photo courtesy of Animal Angels)

Taking a break? Not exactly. Her bones have given out due to the calcium loss she's suffered from having spent her foreshortened life being impregnated over and over again in order to remain productive milk-wise.

Oh and lastly, let's not forget the unwanted by-product of that process - the veal calf:

(photo courtesy of Farm Sanctuary)

He'll spend his brief life tethered in a stall unable even to turn around, deliberately rendered anemic to keep his flesh pale, before being sent for slaughter at the tender age of between 16 and 20 weeks of age. Just a baby....

Hmmm....the components of a truly satisfying meal, no?

So, to come full circle, when we talk about respect, this is why I cannot and will not respect your position as a meat-eater.

Because the suffering your position causes, supports financially and perpetuates socially is unnecessary and unconscionable. What happens to the animals that we call food is horrifying beyond belief and it is all for nothing: for something as ephemeral as a morsel of taste; for the 'convenience' of a lunch-stop at a burger joint; for a 'Chicken Cordon Bleu'...

When is a mousse not a mousse?

I am feeling distinctly under the weather. My Beloved has been battling the same thing for approx. a week now and, since one of my managers at work is also ill, I guess it was inevitable that I would come down with it. So, given that I have spent much of the day in bed, I thought I would post something light and fluffy to cheer myself up.

Lemon mousse, to be specific.

I have long wanted to create a vegan equivalent of those light and airy mousses I used to enjoy back when I ate dairy and eggs and this weekend My Beloved spotted a gorgeous raspberry mousse on the menu and could not resist. Settling for a rich dark coffee instead, I mused at how I might some day render this sweet treat cruelty-free.

So yesterday, just before the flu started to settle in, I tried out a recipe for lemon mousse which turned out delish but distinctly un-moussy. More like a pudding, in fact.

I don't yet have too much experience with pudding-type desserts, being more of a baker, but I really want to try to expand my repertoire and the recipe - which uses all of six ingredients - seemed like an easy way in. Here's what you do....

Take the following:

1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c soymilk
2 Tbsp cornstarch
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1 package (12 oz) silken tofu, drained

1. Place the sugar, soymilk and cornstarch in a saucepan and whisk until combined.
2. Heat gently until the mix comes to a simmer and starts to thicken.
3. Add in the lemon juice and stir well to incorporate.
4. Place the drained tofu into a food processor and pour in the sweetened lemon-soymilk mixture.
5. Process until an even and creamy texture is reached, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally to re-capture any tofu escapees!
6. Spoon into martini glasses and allow to cool. Chill and eat when you just can't stand it anymore!

Now, the amounts listed actually make four portions, but being the greedy vegan I am, I made only two.....Hmmmm....mistake! My Beloved and I shared one last evening and it really was too big. Try to resist making the super-sized portions that I made....your thighs will thank you!

It really isn't terribly mousse-like, so I guess my little experiment failed. But I will persist and perhaps next time come out with something closer to light and airy than to rich and creamy. But when failure tastes this good, I say 'Bring it on!'

Oh, and lastly...why not dress it all up a little with a shot of Limoncello and a few fresh blueberries.....oh mama!


Eat well, stay well and stay vegan, friends! :)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Got a Date?

Dogs need love too...and what better way to show them than through homemade Valentine cookies? (Well, I suppose letting them sleep on the couch, chase the mailman and drink out of the toilet is probably what they'd prefer, but for the sake of my sanity I'm just going to express my love via the humble cookie!)

Being owned by a beagle and a wannabeagle, I have been highly trained in the art of cookie-giving. Long, loooooong years have been spent in patient repetition of the cookie-drop stance and, by Jove, I think I finally have it!

However, what is the use of being so gifted if you never actually have the chance to practice what they've drummed into you? And since most commercial dog cookies are out because they contain other animals, these vegan pups of mine have suggested strongly that I begin experimenting with making my own. And so, it is with great fanfare that I unveil the latest round of vegan cookies for our canine friends. These latest little nuggets of joy are a real winner so I am excited to share the recipe!

'Got-a-Date-With-Brown-Rice-and-Sweet-Potato Cookie Delights for Dogs'

Here's what you need:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup sweet potato, finely diced
1/2 cup brown rice, cooked and cooled
3 tbsp chopped dates (5-6 whole dates, approx)
2 tbsp canola oil
3/4 cup water

- Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees
- Mix your flour and baking powder in a large bowl.
- Add in the rice, sweet potato and chopped dates and mix so that they are nicely distributed.
- Make a well in the center of the bowl and add first the canola and then the water.
- Mix well and - when it is almost completely mixed in - abandon your wooden spoon in favour of your hands. Knead gently for a minute or so.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and turn the dough out onto it.
- Press it down with your hands and then roll out thinly (to about 1/4 inch thick).
- Bake in the pre-heated oven for 30 mins.

Now comes the fun part. Once you remove the baking sheet from the oven you can go ahead and cut the whole huge cookie into bitesize pieces. In the past I have found that a pizza wheel makes life really simple in this regard: first cut long strips and then turn the tray through 90 degrees and cut across again to form squares.

At this point, you'll notice that the cookies are still relatively soft. And this is the key: once you've cut the one giant cookie into many smaller ones, put the tray back in the oven for a further 30 minutes - biscotti-style!

After 30 minutes, turn the oven off, but leave the cookies inside to dry out even more and to cool. That way, they have that awesome crunchiness that doggies the world over will sit up and beg for!

Anyways, given the Valentine's Day connection, I felt Darwin (the Loud) and Humphrey (the Small and Irritating) deserved little bits of my heart instead.

Happy Valentine's Day, friends...and stay vegan!