Saturday, September 30, 2006

Vegan Freak with a Vengeance

Got my two new books today! They are Vegan with a Vengeance and Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World. I dare you to find the theme! I am going to sit down, read and enjoy them this afternoon. In particular, I think Vegan with a Vengenance is a cookbook that is intended to be in my life.

I had to order them from the evil empire, as my library and discount bookhouses did not have them and Bookwarehouse couldn't even order Vegan Freak.
Then the moratorium on Vegan and Cookbook buying begins. They have become my gazingus pins. I always feel compelled to buy and read more of them.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Unchicken Soup Sickie

I haven't been doing much besides working and sleeping the past few days. Not only is it quarter end at work, but I have a fairly miserable cold. In good news, I have a much huskier singing voice at the moment! I am trying to recover while eating Amy's "No Chicken Noodle" canned soup. I recomend chopping up a leaf of chard, and adding it to the soup at the last moment to make it heartier. Almost as warming as a hug.
Geesh my last post was long. I should have made it a weeklong series or something. Hope nobody sustained any injuries from their head crashing against the keyboard when they fell asleep trying to read it. I'm worse than a reformed smoker with my verbosity.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Vegan Navel Gazing: A Three Month Retrospective

So what's it like to go from entrenched semi-vegetarian to completely vegan "cold tofu"? I started off on this adventure 3 months ago, with no particular pre-conceived notion of what it would be like. I thought that veganism would be an ideal way to eat and live in theory, but had only some idea of what to expect in practice. Until I tried it, I didn't know how it would affect me.
Well here is my "highly scientific" list of effects, and observations:
  • I found the changes I needed to make to embrace veganism a lot easier to implement than I would have thought, for the most part. For my own cooking there was just some simple substitutions to make. I was adept at "veganizing" my favourite recipes immediately. Really, a lot of it is a "no brainer", like subsituting soy milk for cow's milk or veggie broth for meat broth. This works for most cooking. For baking, you need a little more expertise, but with a good vegan cookbook by my side I have had no problem with simple recipes.
  • I've noticed being (on average) a little more clear headed, slightly more energetic, and more easygoing about stressful situations recently. The amount of stress I have experienced has been about the same as always, but it has rolled off me just a little easier, and my mind is more free to problem solve, rather than being caught in a rut worrying about the situation. I'll attribute this improvement to veganism because the difference has been noticeable. This was not an effect I was expecting.
  • My average weight has been about 7 lbs less than before veganism, starting shortly after I switched my eating. I don't believe in the concept of dieting at all, my belief is that if you work at being healthy and being kind to yourself, then your body sorts itself out, and you stay in your own personal version of "fighting trim". It works for me, anyway. That said, it is nice to get the compliments. I have been looking very svelte and healthy lately, with less effort than I normally have to put into it. And NOT because I am hungry or am denying myself something. I had Mushroom Barley Stew and homemade "easy biscuits" this evening (recipes courtesy of How it all Vegan), and I don't think I could eat anything more tonight if you paid me (well maybe if the pay was reeeal good)
  • It has been easy to keep vegan at home (starting with eating). My personal belongings still include leather, etc. as most people's do, but I am trying to make all new acquisitions fit vegan standards as well. For example, I passed up buying a beautiful sweater a few weeks ago because it contained wool. But not to worry, in this consumerist culture there is always another sweater around the corner, and the next one(s) will suit my specs. It is getting easier to narrow down the endless choices that we have.
  • Not always so easy is eating out, and I'll admit I have not had a perfect score on this point in the past few months. My particular downfall has been a few baked goods with whom I have had a "don't ask, don't tell" relationship, especially when I have been too busy (or maybe that should read too disorganized) to plan or to go get a proper snack for myself. Thus I have room for improvement to reach the standard I want to hit. But I have done pretty good. Previous to this change, I would buy my lunch almost every day. With my increased cooking, there has more often been tempting leftovers for me to bring for lunch (saving money), but I still eat out for lunch often, and I have more vegan choices near work than you would think. And more servers and sales clerks have been savvy to my questions about animal products than I would have thought. Then again, I live in a town with a lot of veggie people.
  • You would think there would be cravings for particular types of food because I am "denying myself". I can't say I have particularly experienced this, with the exception of the aforementioned baked goods, which were really more about convenience than cravings. The only thing I have wanted that I have not yet created a substitute for is stuffed pasta (i.e. ravioli or something similar). The ones that you see premade always contain eggs, and often cheese. My chiropractor suggested I just get a pasta maker and make my own ravioli "shells" without eggs, and stuff them with squash, pumpkin, or, his favourite, pureed peas (I had never even heard of that possibility). I just might do so (although it sounds like a lot of work & equipment), or I might find a recipe that's even easier one day.
  • Can't say that I have craved cheese, which seems to be a commonly cited reason why vegetarians don't want to go vegan My tastes are changing, as they do when I try something new. Cheese really is a weird, goopy substance if you think about it. Just imagine smearing it directly on your arteries, yummmm! I bought some vegan "tofutti" brand cheese, it is ok for once in a while, but not too exciting.
  • My cravings have been more about information. I have had a really interesting time doing research on veganism, and reading all that I can. I have had to impose a moratorim on buying more cookbooks, as I am so enthusiastic about the subject I want to read and/or try recipes from every book that looks good or comes recommended.
  • In my first post on this subject, I was wondering how my diet would affect my meditation practise. Well I will have to continue to wonder a while longer, as I have not been disciplined enough to have a daily meditation practise (bad Kareno BAD!). But I can't beat myself up about it too much, as overall I have accomplished a lot in these past few months.
  • And I can't forget to mention the support I have received online. I had expected to be going this alone as this is a highly personal change to make. But it hasn't felt like that. Thanks too all who have either helped show the way and/or shown support.

This is not every change that I have experienced, but just a few that are at the top of my head at the moment.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Ginger's Gruelling Monday Morning Commute

While everybody is rushing to work, just though I would show you the hell my cat goes through on a Monday morning.

Then again, I hope my Monday mornings will be a little more like this, when I am one hundred and eleventy in human years like she is now.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Dating the Non-Vegan

I would describe the guy I am seeing as an incorrigible meat-eater. He is about twice my size, and of Viking heritage, so he comes by it natually I guess. He is very respectful of my new Vegan lifestyle, but as of yet he has to try my Vegetarian cooking. I am a good cook (really!). We are currently getting more serious, and working towards the day that we will move in together. I would be moving onto his boat, thus technically "his turf". So all this makes me very circumspect. He thinks that my cooking will probably make him healthier. But I don't think he will ever give up eating meat. And I am not naive enough to think that you can necessarily change people that easily, or that you should even try. I will think optimistically and hope that I am a positive influence.
I don't mind being around meat all that much, but I would rather leave behind the feeling of obligation that I have to prepare it for somebody. If it is my turn to cook, I want to be preparing a vegan meal, and will stick to my guns. Still, I hope that my meals are well received, are filling enough, and don't seem too strange to those around me in general. Cooking for myself, I have been free to experiment (and sometimes the experiments are not exactly what could be termed an unqualified success). I cook whatever is vegan and appeals to me, and haven't yet had to consider anyone else's opinion about whether it constitutes a good meal.
On the typical weekend, if he is over we will tend to go to the same restaurant and order the same thing every time. On his side of the table: Hamburger and fries. On my side: Tofu Scramble (really good!). Well, this is not the only area in which we differ (sigh). Must be love.
Some good posts on the same subject:

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Holy Linkage Batman!

I'm not nearly done yet, but I have just added a few links that turn my crank. Scroll all the waydown to see the links that I have added so far. To be continued.......

Ack! Technical Difficulties!

For some reason, the connection between my digital camera and my USB cable is suddenly not working, no matter what I try.

So until I figure it out, I will be constrained with the pictures I have already downloaded. Aargh! I don't do well with technologically imposed creative limitations! Baaargh!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Just remember that I posted first!!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Veganism and the Environment

This doesn't tend to be an issue you hear about every day. Before I tried veganism and started doing research out of sheer curiosity, I wouldn't have tied together these two topics on a conscious level.

But from what I have learned, I am convinced that the human consumption of animal products is one of the bigger contributors to the wholesale, exponential destruction of the environment that is going on today. It is just getting less press. I am not of the opinion that the killing of animals for consumption is inherently wrong for humans to do in theory (this opinion might set me apart from many of my fellow vegetarians). Instead, I think it is unnecessary for most (if not all) people in the modern Western world to consume animal products when we are capable of producing good alternatives in this day and age. I think this is an example of blind excess in our times. Our modern methods of animal husbandry via factory farming are not only horrifying from an compassionate standpoint, but are devastating the environment as well.
The number of animals needed annually to feed every meat eating human is a startling statistic (in the thousands, per year, per person). Just from a perspective of keeping these billions of animals living (albeit temporarily), means polluting the water and the ground from all the manure and and associated runoff concentrated in one place (not to mention the methane!). 50% of the water supply is used (and polluted) in order to raise animals. Oceans are being overfished to the point of extinction of fish species that we once thought must be infinite. Irreplaceable forests such as the Amazon rainforest are being burned down (causing species extinction) to provide grazing room for cows in order to satisfy the world's beef cravings, such as through the McDonalds chain. So many of our natural resources are sacrified in the name of market forces, and most of those "resources" ain't coming back.
Animals that are destined to be meat eat enough grain per year that could otherwise keep many more people alive and fed, if they ate lower on the food chain. We are feeding to billions of cows what many more billions of people could use to stave off malnutrition, and therefore possibly take steps to build a life beyond survival. I have read that it takes 25 times the land space to keep a person on a meat eating diet alive than it takes to keep a person on a plant based diet fed. The inefficiency of it all just astonishes me. I point out this disconnect very gently to meat eating friends whenever they mention starving people in the world. We do have enough resources to feed everyone in the world, even today I believe. But meat is not a smart distribution of those resources. Our planet can sustain us all, distribution to those in need is the problem, and even vegetarianism does not solve all those problems.
It is reasonable to believe that in times of human scarcity, resourcefulness in what we eat is a good trait. One that kept our foraging ancestors alive without 7-11s. It can keep those people in situations where their survival is at stake alive in this day and age as well. In a survivalist situation, I would eat whatever I could get to keep me alive. But does this admirable human trait of resourcefulness automatically become greed once our needs are satified? Why do we need meat so much?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Crocodile Hunter has Manhandled last Crocodile

I actually first read about his passing on another blog. How terrible that after all the danger he has put himself through over the years, that it would be a freak stingray accident that would do him in. But I always thought that he knew what he was doing. Kudos to Steve for living his life exactly the way that he wanted it.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Why I am Vegan (aspiring)

Most self identified Vegans make this lifestyle decision because of at least one of these three aspects: Personal health, animal welfare and activism, and/or the Environment. For me, I decided to try Veganism on for size a grand total of 2 1/2 months ago. None of the 3 reasons above were actually the immediate impetus for my decision.

I had been perusing Steve Pavlina's blog for awhile. Many of his ideas have captured my imagination, even to the point of getting me to take action (heh). I was reading (on Father's Day) this article about taking a "30 day trial" of any life change you would like to make. I decided out of the blue to take veganism out for a 30 day spin. I recommend the 30 day trial to anyone, before you commit to a life or habit change. It can be intimidating to make a change that is to be forever in your life, potentially tying you down through the echoing corridors of time (scaaary).

However, 30 days sounds more like a fun experiment, and can help mute (or at least confuse) the naysayers who might be threatened by a person trying something so "radical"

i.e. "You're a vegan? know that....." "No, I'm just trying it for 30 days. I probably won't die during that time".

Well it wasn't totally out of the blue, these disparate thoughts partly contributed to my sudden resolve:

  • Steve Pavlina (article author) and his wife are Vegans
  • My interest in cooking was increasing, but ever since I learned to cook as a teen, I found that dealing with animal parts disrupts the zen of the experience (although meat did not consciously disgust me)
  • I was doing research into a raw vegan lifestyle (which I still feel has its benefits), but after a while I deemed that too radical a departure from where I was coming from
  • I had been a semi-vegetarian for years
  • Had a friend visit earlier in the spring who was trying a vegan lifestyle. We have a lot of interests in common, so I was intrigued
  • Vancouver is a great place to be veggie. Have 5 great veggie places a stone's throw from where I live, and vegan ingredients are not usually difficult to purchase.
  • Wanted to see what effect it would have on my meditation practise (if any).

Well, 2 1/2 months later, and I am having a lot of fun, and feel more congruent with my beliefs (I was suprised by how strongly I felt about that). Overall, I am not interested in looking back. Now having done more research, all 3 of these common reasons really resonate with me.

But the big one for me is the Environment. More on this later.

Beautiful Cottage Memories from Kinmount, Ontario

I managed to make it to the family cottage this year. This cottage has been in our family since 1962. I was there during that time where the water lilies are out, and a multitude of dragonflys appear to be dancing just above the water in sheer joy. I swam and I kayaked through all of this. As you can imagine, it is hard to be stressed there.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Polenta Scramble - Completed

As usual, it rocked. It's gone now.

Recipe: Easy Breakfast Polenta Scramble

This recipe is my own creation. I sometimes eat this scramble (and often crave it) for weekend breakfasts. It is one of those meals that you could eat at any time of day. Let me know what you think if you try it.


1/3 pk Polenta (comes in a 510g tube),sliced & quartered, or homemade
1 tsp olive oil
½ cup vegetable stock or broth
1 tsp tomato paste, or something tomatoy on hand (maybe even finely chopped tomatoes, sauce, salsa)
small amts of onion chopped
small pieces of random veg (I used zuchini, broccoli, & thinly sliced carrot, mushrooms are a good addition). About ¼ cup of each.
Greens (few leaves sliced), i.e spinach or something similar
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
½ tbsp soy sauce (or to taste)

Optional goodies:
Chopped fresh basil (dried might be nice too)
sesame seeds

Heat olive oil slightly in large frying pan or wok. Add onion, then polenta and vegetables, stirring occasionally. In a separate bowl, mix together tomato paste and stock. When veggies are somewhat softened (but still crisp), add the stock & tomato paste mixture to the pan. Heat for a couple more minutes, adding apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, greens, basil, and sesame seeds. Stir and serve. Polenta will be soft but not entirely broken up, and veggies will be still a bit crispy but cooked through.

Just enough of a tomatoy taste to compliment the basil, but this is not a tomatoy tasting recipe.

Idea: Frying or broiling polenta separately might maintain a tougher consistency, but the soft polenta is nice.

Serves 1 Generously