Archive for the Vegan and Vegetarian Lifestyle Category

Eating Dolphins & Poll # 2 — What Would You Eat??

Posted in Polls, Vegan and Vegetarian Lifestyle with tags , , , on March 9, 2010 by Verge

The other night, in case you were unaware, was the Academy Awards.  That’s just another pat-ourselves-on-the-back, Hollywood bullshit fest in general, but it does give us some insight.  The award winners in each category are not based on statistics, but rather the Academy members’ collective opinions.  While the film that makes the most money doesn’t get an award, sometimes a ground-breaking movie with relatively little known actors, that didn’t make a ton of money, gets an award.

Yeah, they love to glorify each other, but once in a while, they have some class, too.  But what’s more is that because the votes are a result of Academy members’ opinions, and Academy members are most certainly a part of pop culture (every one of them, to some degree), it would be fair to say that the Academy Awards are a pretty decent reflection of current popular opinion in Hollywood, if not the entire country.

This past weekend a movie called “The Cove” won a statue for Best Feature Documentary.  The subject of this film is basically the fishing practices of the indigenous people of Taiji, Wakayama,  Japan.   They practice a fishing technique called dolphin drive hunting in which bottle nose dolphins are cornered into an inescapable inlet and then attacked with spears and knives, dragged ashore, and killed for meat and lard.

http://thecovemovie.com/

While I think it is fairly obvious that I don’t approve of these practices, it raises several intriguing questions.  There are so many lines to be drawn between what is and what is not acceptable in these practices, but I’m focusing on just one.  What is it that Westerners, and really, most of the world, find despicable in killing and eating dolphins?

Rightly so, the leaders of this community either refuse to comment on the recent publicity and controversy surrounding their culture or they shoot right back.  While they kill dolphins with their bare hands and hunting skills, America raises, tortures, slaughters and gets fat (financially and physically) on a lifetime of animal abuse for the convenience of a dollar double cheese burger.

It has been their culture for 400 years to corner the local dolphins, kill them and eat them.  Never mind that it is gruesome.  Now that this movie has gotten an Academy Award, many will watch and shun the Japanese culture and their mistreatment of innocent animals.  There are many documented accounts of a much higher degree of disgusting treatment withing our own borders, but those movies don’t win awards.  I don’t wonder why.

So, is it that dolphins are smart??  That they look  kind of cute?  Pigs are just as smart as dolphins.  They have been know to use tools, to be easily trained, and are estimated to have the intelligence of a 3 year old human child.  But shit… this country love bacon.

Some things on the farm get to live, and some get to be dinner.  The cow, chicken, and pig…they’re dinner.  But for some reason, the horse, mule, donkey, dog and barn cats get to live.  Why??  Okay, maybe the cats don’t offer that much meat.   Maybe the horse is just too damn muscular to be tender.  But why don’t we force feed the cats corn for three months, fill them with steroids and fatten them up for a snack?  Why don’t we cage young horses in dark rooms and starve them so their muscles don’t have the opportunity to develop, and make them delicious?

So, I present to you the “What Would You Eat” Poll.  I’m not talking about what extent you would be willing to go in a catastrophe.  I’m not talking about what you would be willing to eat on a dare, or for money, or in a foreign country while visiting.  I’m asking what you would eat if it was considered normal, everyday food in America.  Is what we eat really a direct result of what is culturally acceptable??  Do we only find flavor in things we don’t consider pets??  It’s a truly anonymous poll, so answer truthfully and marvel at the results.  The answers are randomly ordered and you can check as many as you like, or add your own.

Jackfruit Recipe (Vegan Pulled Pork)

Posted in Recipes, Vegan and Vegetarian Lifestyle with tags , , on February 15, 2010 by Verge

I came across this food while browsing some vegan sites.  I found it on ChowVegan.com and you can look at the original inspirations here

http://chowvegan.com/2008/05/28/bbq-pulled-jackfruit-sandwich/

After seeing how delicious this vegan sandwich looked, I had to track this down and try it out.  First of all, “young, ripe jackfruit” isn’t nearly as easy to locate in South Jersey as ChowVegan implies.  I stopped in several Asian stores to try to locate a can or two before resorting to the be-all-and-end-all of Asian Supermarkets, Hanahreum.  Otherwise known as “H-Mart,” this chain truly is the real deal.  They have everything Asian you could possibly think of and a ton of things you never knew, nor wanted to know, exists.

Sometimes it’s difficult to navigate the foodstuff they offer because many of the labels are in Japanese only.  Nevertheless, I was pretty sure I could find a can of jackfruit there but my hunt, at first was unsuccesful.  Persistance paid off when I eventually did find “green” jackfruit in brine and tried it out.  It was delicious but then, for months, I couldn’t find the “green” jackfruit at H-Mart any longer.  Recently, Monika, Sam and I went back to H-Mart to stock up on Asian groceries (Sam wanted a cache for Ohio).  I found that they had some available, so I stocked up.

I changed the recipe a little, but nonetheless, this is a ridiculously simple recipe to follow.  You’ll need the following items.

1 Crock Pot

2 Martinis (Consume during the duration of CrockPotting, to taste)

4 – 16  oz. cans of “Young” or “Green” Jackfruit.

Some minced garlic

1 cup of White Wine

A bunch of BBQ Sauce

Open the cans of jackfruit and rinse them with cold water to get rid of the brine.

Here’s what the jackfruit looks like.  It’s kind of like the consistency of Pineapple, but not sweet, and very meaty and not juicy.

I used my potato masher to break up the Jackfruit.  It pretty much falls apart and doesn’t require too much effort.  The original ChowVegan recipe says to fry them up a bit but I didn’t feel it was necessary at all.


Add the garlic, wine and BBQ Sauce.  Stir.  Turn on Crock Pot for a few hours until it looks awesome, like this:

Cook it for a little while, maybe a total of 4 hours, and shut off the pot.  Let it cool.  Toast up some whole-grain hamburger buns, or even a torpedo roll.  If you want to make a kind of BBQ cheesesteak, you can add cheese, vegan or otherwise.

This recipe makes a bunch of jackfruit so if you want to just give it a try, halve the recipe.  We love it and it keeps well in the fridge so you can use it for a few weeks.  We use it as a topping on veggie burgers or as a substitute for bacon in a BLT on Rye, too.

–~r

Michael Vick and Animal Abuse

Posted in Vegan and Vegetarian Lifestyle with tags , , , , on December 8, 2009 by Verge

This weekend, Michael Vick scored some touchdowns in Atlanta to mixed reviews.  Some cheer for his present performance  and some continue to jeer at Vick for his actions several years ago that involved despicable acts of animal abuse.  Now, everyone must expect this blog to be an angry tirade against Vick for his actions, but, in fact, it may come across as something completely different.

Now, just so I dispel the ambiguity of this blog straight away, Micheal Vick’s actions were downright unconscionable.  I certainly have a problem with his actions, but as far as I’m concerned, he served his time for the crimes he was found accountable for and is now free to live his life with the shame of what he was convicted of.  I can’t imagine the soullessness that one must have to torture until death any animal, much less a domesticated “best friend” and companion.

However, I try to not be preachy with the whole vegetarian thing, I really do.  But I had a whole hell of a lot of a hard time biting my tongue over the last few years whenever the whole Vick subject came up.  And, it came up a lot seeing as I work for the NFL.

This isn’t a evaluation of Michael Vick, or what the NFL did to him, or what the law did to him, or what PETA did to him, or, especially, what he did to those dogs.  Those things are all records of fact and my opinion has little effect on them now that they are history.

I just don’t see how rational meat-eaters couldn’t at least see that their condemnation of Vick was at least a tad bit groundless, if not shamelessly hypocritical.  It’s not as if these people, and by these people, I mean almost everyone, don’t know that meat comes from the slaughter of defenseless animals raised in deplorable conditions.  Okay, some of them choose to not know the details, and I find that even more conveniently ignorant.

Now, Peta-types usually pitch in here with the fact that Einstein was a vegetarian, and carnivores counter with the fact that Hitler was too.  None of these arguments make any empirical sense.  I’m not making that argument, nor any other argument based on health, effects on global warming, or compassion to animals that feed our endless gluttony.

I shared in the condemnation of Michael Vick.  But as millions of Americans race off to work or school, and grab a $1 Double Cheese burger, or a Bacon Classic, or a couple of Hard Tacos…  When night after night, families enjoy their small side salad with a chunk of beef, or pork, or chicken (somehow called “poultry” as if that makes it not an animal)…when poorly paid immigrants lose a limb and have no recourse to their employer…WE can only blame ourselves for the same level of cruelty that we accused Vick of having.  WE should have all been pointing our fingers of shame at ourselves.

You don’t have to stop eating meat, but I’m asking you to stop burying your head in the sand.

Restaurant Reviews

Posted in Restaurant Reviews, Vegan and Vegetarian Lifestyle on November 30, 2009 by Verge

So, this is an intro to our restaurant and lounge reviews.  This is no easy, “liked it,”” didn’t like it” kind of review.

Monika and I don’t attend many restaurants.  There are many reasons for this.  I guess, right now, a big part of the reason is that it’s expensive to dine out, especially when it involves a few cocktails, as it always does for us.  But, a huge part of the reason is that dining out as vegetarians, much less vegans, is complicated.

We are often invited out to social occasions to restaurants for dinner.  We try our best to not be difficult, and try our best to let people know not to go out of their way to accommodate our “special” diets.  Monika and I have combined over 25 years of finding things to eat in less-than-accommodating establishments and situations.  Shit, she’s even got more experience than me; even before Mon was a vegetarian, she was and has been Kosher her entire life.

Most times we’re invited to regular, every day, American Cuisine restaurants.  A shot list:  TGI Fridays, Ruby Tuesdsay, Fudruckers, PH Whelihans, Chaamps Americana.  People in South Jersey know them all quite well.  There’s always something we can find on the menu at these places, as any vegan can attest.  It’s usually a salad.

The big problem with eating a salad at a restaurant is a fundamental mindset of American Cuisine!  Specifically, that for a meal to be a meal, it must contain meat.  That argument aside, the more direct problem with ordering a salad at a restaurant is price.  They’re priced with grilled chicken, or grilled tuna, or deep fired, batter dipped chicken chunks, etc.  Great!  $8.99 for a bed of shitty Iceberg lettuce a couple of tomatoes and stale bread crumbs.  Oh, wait a minute, hold the chicken, that’ll save me a couple dollars, right?  Yeah, sure.  The fact that I’ve worked in more than a few kitchens in my life and I know the quality of salads alone is fodder for another blog all together and something we’ll choose to ignore for now.

So, for American Cuisine, for a vegan at least, the holy grail is a solid salad bar.  At least for under ten bucks you can really have a full meal.  All you can eat…yeah, even vegans love the sound of that.   They’ll even add some great stuff at the better restaurants:  sunflower seeds, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, those little mini corn on the cobs!  And, you make your own, which, contrary to my idea being served, makes dinner kind of an arts and crafts for dinner experience!  Oh, and you can actually see the sanitary conditions right in front of you (through a sneeze guard, of course).

You’ve committed to thus blog this far, and I’m not even close to being done, so hang in there.

Okay, so, American Cuisine aside…what else is there?  Well, common enough is the so called “Italian” cuisine.  Don’t get me wrong here, I wouldn’t know real Italian food from fake because I’ve never had it, really.  Being vegan pretty much excludes you from the start on that endeavor.  Nevertheless, it always strikes non-vegetarians as a good compromise to invite their vegetarian friends to an Italian restaurant.

And, to be honest, it is.  But, we have some complaints.  I’m not short on complaints, as you’ll eventually discover.  First, people assume that pasta is a safe bet.  We only eat whole wheat pasta.  Not available at most places.  Okay, regular is not so bad, though nutritionally void.  But, why pay 10 bucks a plate for noodles and red sauce, er, gravy.  We don’t even get meatballs!  Oh, usually, there is eggplant, which is vegetarian, right?  Well, sure, but not vegan since it’s probably batter dipped with eggs or milk and then deep fried, hopefully in something that isn’t animal based.

Beyond that, there are many options for vegetarians and vegans, actually!  Mediterranean, Turkish, Greek, Indian, Moroccan, Chinese, Japanese, Caribbean, Thai, Vietnamese.  It is no wonder to a vegetarian that most of the “international” cuisine doesn’t place meat as the centerpiece.  Most of the time, the traditional meals of the world use whole grains and basic staples because that’s what they can afford.   And, with the use of hundreds of years of tradition, and local herbs and spices, they’ve made things delicious.

It’s great when we go out with friends that want to try the new Vietnamese restaurant.  But, it kind of does suck when we have to go to the regular old crappy salad restaurant.   Too much money, too little choices.

Over the years, I’ve been slowly devising a rating system for restaurants and bars.  It’s not perfect, and will most likely be the subject of many a blog, but I’m open to suggestions.  Because Monika and I go out to eat very seldom, and because I hold such high standards,  I thought that it would be fun to begin to categorize our favorite and least favorite places.

I’ve been turning this one over in my mind for years.  I haven’t even touched upon the fallacies of bars and lounges, but I’ll get to them.  I have high standards, what can I say.  I can’t wait to share my overwhelming scrutiny and obsessive-compulsive mania that is my view of the world.  Monika is along for the ride, in so many ways more than one.

Cranberry Sauce

Posted in Recipes, Vegan and Vegetarian Lifestyle on November 25, 2009 by Verge

Okay, there is no doubt what makes people love canned (actually, jellied) cranberry sauce.  It’s basically the only other ingredient besides cranberries in jellied, canned cranberry sauce:   little lovely ingredient called High Fructose Corn Syrup.  Is it delicious?  Yeah, sometimes it is.  It’s what makes so many things so damn delicious.

Ketchup?  Tomatoes, Vinegar and High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Soda/Cola?  Water, Carbon Dioxide, High Fructose Corn Syrup, and a bit of flavoring that came from a lab, not a tree.

Grape Jelly?  Grapes, Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup.

The list is basically endless.  Try to shop for things without High Fructose Corn Syrup one day.  Your shopping trip to the Supermarket just got 3 times longer as you search for the items you’ve learned to love all you life in a healthier and more natural version.

Oh, and this one ingredient can arguably be the single biggest reason for the epidemic of Obesity, Diabetes and Heart Disease that has gripped America in the last 10-20 years.

Sidenote:  watch King Corn!  An excellent documentary that will explain how fucked up this situation really is.

http://www.kingcorn.net/          Right now, King Corn can be viewed on the Netflix watch-now feature.

So, if you’ve never had real Cranberry Sauce, like anything that’s all natural and doesn’t come from a can, it takes you by surprise at first.  But seeing that we live in one of the top 5 states in the country to produce cranberries (I’m pretty sure Ocean Spray OWNS Chatsworth), it would be a shame to not take quick advantage to make some from scratch for Thanksgiving.  It’s thick without gelatin, sweetened by your choice of sweeteners, and a little bitter because it’s actual cranberries!

Monika made some tonight, and we don’t have pictures of the process, only the result.  But, it’s delicious, and takes only fifteen minutes, and very little skill on the stove (not that Monika doesn’t have plenty of kitchen skills)

1 Cup Sugar (or sugar substitute)

1 Cup Water

4 Cups Fresh Cranberries (local and organic is ideal, but we used what’s pictured above)

Optional:  nuts, orange zest, raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg, or anything else you feel like adding

1.  Wash cranberries.

2.  Boil water and sugar until disolved.

3.  Add cranberries and return to boil.

4.  Reduce Heat, Simmer for 10 minutes and stir continuously.  The cranberries will burst and start to gel

Add optional ingredients if you like.  Thicker when cooled, but delicious when hot and syrupy.

See you tomorrow with more recipes!

–~r

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