On being kind of a pain in the ass

I know, I never post anymore. It’s mostly because I was going to start this other blog then I got this job that took up most of my time and somehow posting rants on the internet became a lower priority. I know, it’s weird.

Anyway, guess what happened? I went gluten-free.

I KNOW. I am a vegan cliche. I put spinach in my smoothies and I own like ten Herbivore T-shirts and I eat quinoa all the time even though I’m not even sure that I like it that much. And I stopped eating gluten. I swear it’s legit, my stomach was hurting, ok? My bowels are not really that much of your business but I swear I feel better.

Seriously, though, why do so many vegans go gluten-free? Is it because we’re more conscious of how our food makes us feel and more likely to realize that gluten is making us sick? Is it because we like the special attention inconvenient dietary needs bring us? Maybe some of both?

Speaking of inconvenience, well, let me tell you. First of all, I want to make it clear that obviously I can eat gluten without dying, as I was doing it for 23 years, and I don’t want to act like I know what it’s like to be celiac and be constantly vigilant about cross-contamination and stuff like that. And I’m sure seasoned gluten-free people are totally going to laugh at me. BUT.

Ok, you know when you’re with a group of people, and maybe you don’t know them that well, like you just met them or they’re your friend’s parents or something? And you all want something to eat and you’re doing the whole internal dialogue about whether you should speak up about somewhere where you can eat or whether you should just shut up and not feel entitled to choose the place just because you’re vegan? And you end up at a Mexican place that is just so authentic that everything has lard in it and you drink four margaritas for dinner and vomit on yourself? (Veganism: Getting you drunker faster at awkward social occasions since forever.)

Actually, that was a bad example, because margaritas are gluten-free (please, if they aren’t, just don’t tell me) and that would go down in exactly the same way now. My point is, even if the people you are with are super accommodating and like, yeah, let’s go to a vegan-friendly place, you have to be like, OH BUT THERE’S THIS OTHER THING.

Fortunately, the classic vegan restaurant meal, an iceberg salad, hold the cheese, hold the dressing, hold the croutons, is vegan AND gluten-free. So at least I’ve still got that.

At New Seasons I saw that you can get individual packets of gluten-free tamari, which I guess is so gluten-free people can bring their own soy sauce to restaurants. I was amused by the idea of going out for Thai food and, after asking about fish sauce, also being like, no soy sauce either, oh don’t worry, I brought my own in this packet. But I totally know people who bring nutritional yeast to restaurants. (I’m not quite that vegan.) I guess it’s similar.

On the bright side, I made this gluten-free chocolate shortbread and it is so awesome you would not believe it. And when I’m not eating out being gluten-free isn’t bad at all because I mostly ate gluten-free anyway. Because I’m a vegan cliche and it’s the hip thing to do. Everyone knows brown rice pasta is better than whole wheat pasta and eating white pasta is a moral failure. Or at least that’s what my mom taught me.

We’re a family, and we eat together.

That’s what my mom always told me when we fought about my veganism.

I went vegan when I was 17, during my senior year of high school. I had been vegetarian for four years prior, and stopped eating mammals four years before that. My parents were grudgingly accepting—they didn’t eat a ton of meat in the first place (we were a big beans and kale family), and they weren’t worried about my health or anything. But they did complain about the hassle because they insisted on eating dinner together as a family every night, and it was hard to accommodate everyone. I didn’t eat meat and my brother barely ate vegetables.

I always responded to this complaining with, “I can just make myself dinner!” I was perfectly competent in the kitchen, and was making dinner for my family and I to share at least twice a week anyway. I was happy to make some peanut butter and jelly if necessary. But my mom would say, no, we’re a family, and we eat together. And so we did. The grated cheese was put on a separate plate, a meatless portion was taken out, or we just all ate vegan.

I didn’t get it, at the time. (And I realize now how much of a privilege it was that my parents accommodated me even if they complained about it sometimes.) But sharing a meal is pretty intimate. Sometimes, as vegans, we end up sacrificing some of this intimacy. I never question whether it’s worth it—of course I’m not willing to exploit animals in order to share a meal. But I can’t argue that it’s not giving something up.

My best, warmest memories of my childhood involve making and eating food together. Making oatmeal cookies with my mom, eating waffles on the weekends, picking raspberries from my grandmother’s backyard, the special lunches my dad would make when we had days off from school…

As I grew older, my relationship with food grew more complicated. I have a long history of disordered eating and I’m not going to get that into it here but it became harder for me to eat around other people. It absolutely had an effect on my relationships with friends and family.

There are the families we’re born into, and the families we make for ourselves. I have close vegan and nonvegan friends, but it can be easier to be friends with vegans, and I think a big part of that is the ease of sharing food, and making it together.

Recently, I’ve made pizza with two of my close friends (Jeff and Jess) twice for a fun and silly night in. Pizza can be truly communal– everyone can bring a topping. As we’re gossiping and listening to Lady Gaga and drinking wine I’m not really reflecting on the emotional significance of food, but still, that’s the stuff friendship is made of.

Photo by Jess

I made the crust from Vegan with a Vengeance, and we topped it with eggplant, mushrooms, kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, Tofurkey Italian sausage, and Follow Your Heart vegan cheese.

Did you know, vegans can smell good and look pretty?

You may have noticed this is becoming less and less of a food blog…I blame the lack of batteries in my camera. I am working on a pretty awesome goat cheese-like dip recipe, though…I’ll get back to you on that. Anyway.

Ok, first of all, you can smell good (or like a person, that’s cool) and look pretty without make-up and fancy soaps and whatnot. You’re beautiful just the way you are! Yes, you! But, anyway, if you want to spend hundreds of dollars to smell like candy and have make-up like I do, that’s cool too!

By the way, I am really really not wealthy, I am just incredibly irresponsible with my money.

I’m just going to talk about two vegan-friendly companies I love, and no, this isn’t a paid advertisement, and no, I haven’t gotten any free shit from them (though, I mean, I would be into that–anyone listening?).

The first is Lush. Omg, Lush. The first time I went there, it was because my skin was a disaster and I was desperate and I heard good things about their face care stuff. I bought some Fresh Farmacy cleanser and Imperialis moisturizer and guess what? My skin cleared up.

So that’s where it started. And now I have Lush soaps, shampoo, conditioner, solid perfume, lip balm, massage bars…and it’s pricy, for sure. And it has some chemicals that some people are not huge fans of, I am aware. But I love the scents and how shiny my hair is and I LOVE that all the vegan things are labeled vegan, and the salespeople are informed about what’s vegan and what’s not and are super nice about it. Once they were giving away free hand cream to people who made purchases and I said I wouldn’t take it because it wasn’t vegan and they found me another product that was to give to me even though it wasn’t supposed to be part of the giveaway. Awesome!

If you’re sensitive to really strong perfumey smells, I would not recommend stepping into the store, though. I think it smells like unicorns and rainbows but for some people it probably smells like an allergy attack.

The second company is Urban Decay. I had been putting off buying vegan makeup for a long time…I had waaaay old nonvegan makeup I was still using, which is gross. But I wanted new makeup for the new year so I got myself to the Sephora at Clackamas Town Center and spent way too much money at the Urban Decay section. Like Lush, many things are vegan and labeled as such (look for the paw symbol). I wish they had vegan mascara so bad, but I’ll make do. I love the Hotpants lipstick and the Half Baked eye shadow. The eye shadows in particular are great–so much color, and they look amazing all night.

Does anyone have any recommendations for vegan personal products? I would love to support smaller and more local companies as well. I always want to buy stuff off Etsy but I hate buying things without trying them first.

Veganism is not a personal identity and eating meat is not a personal choice (Or, outing myself as a crazy vegan)

Veganism and the problems with eating animal products have been getting tons of media coverage lately. Jonathan Safran Foer and Alicia Silverstone have both written books about it, and there have been lots of articles including a great one about the environmental impact of animal farming in Forbes. I think this is so great–anything that makes people consider the impact of eating animal products on animals, their body and the whole world is so fantastic.

I’ve been thinking about this issue a ton recently, and it kind of came to a head when posting on a thread on Yelp. (Did you know I’m Yelp Elite? Yeah, I’m a pretty big deal.) The question was, is it ok to give a restaurant a worse review because they don’t have vegetarian or vegan options? There were plenty of people on both side of the debate: people who said that no, restaurants don’t have to accommodate everybody, and people who said that restaurants who accommodate people with special diets should get more stars. And it’s really nice that people who weren’t vegan were saying that vegan options at a restaurant were a good thing because they wanted their vegan friends and girlfriends and moms to be able to eat there too, but there was something that was bothering me a little bit. Being vegan is not like having a gluten allergy or keeping kosher. I’m not saying those things shouldn’t be accommodated at restaurants–I think it’s great when they are. But it’s not that I’m really worried about whether a restaurant has an option to accomodate my “special diet.” It’s that I think vegan food is inherently more sustainable and ethical than nonvegan food so of course I think restaurants should offer it. (And yes, we can discuss the vegetable shipped from across the world and the cow in your back yard if you want, but vegan food can be local just as easily as nonvegan food can so that’s a false dichotomy.)

Sometimes I think that in some ways, the concept of “vegan” as a personal identity, and a subculture, is ultimately harmful. Think about the people who post comments on vegan recipes that say things like “This looks great! I’m not vegan so I would just use regular milk.” They could use soy milk or rice milk or almond milk just that one time and it would be a more sustainable choice. But because they don’t identify as vegan, it seems pointless.

My veganism is not a personal choice. It’s not about my identity. I’m vegan because that’s the word we use to describe waking up every morning and reaching for the choice that’s better for the earth. It’s not who I am, it’s how I live. Eating meat isn’t a personal choice either. If you eat meat, it does not just affect you and your body. It affects animals, it affects the earth, it increases global warming, it changes the world that will exist for your children and my children. We (and by we I mean me and the people I interact with on a daily basis) live in a highly individualistic society where we like to talk about how everyone has personal freedom, which is great sometimes, but I don’t respect someone’s personal choice to inflict violence on another, and so I can never respect someone’s personal choice to eat meat.

I think this might be surprising to people who know me in real life because I do try to come off as an easygoing vegan. I have friends who aren’t vegan and yes, sometimes I watch them eat meat, and no, I don’t grab hamburgers out of their hands and throw them on the floor and call them murderers.

But here’s my big secret. If I thought doing that would make them go vegan, I would. But I know that’s not the way to change minds so I do my best to live as an example and share my knowledge and help people who are considering consuming fewer animal products.

You don’t have to call yourself vegan to live more sustainably. You don’t have to learn a secret handshake, join the Post Punk Kitchen (though it’s really helpful) or ride a fixie. You can do it one step at a time. If you are too attached to cheese, you can give up other things first. You don’t have to ask the question, is it vegan? You can just ask, is it right? What kind of impact is this going to have on the rest of the world? Is it worth it? I think that’s a really good question to ask about anything you’re going to consume.

None of us are perfect. I’m certainly not. I’m not trying to claim that I live my life in the most environmentally-friendly way possible (I use electricity, after all). But not eating animals is an easy step with a big impact.

Surly service: Part of the Portland experience

This is just a PSA for people who come to Portland as vegan tourists, which seems to be getting more and more common. Maybe I should preface this by saying that, in general, yes, Portland is vegan-friendly, but it is also, much like the latest vegan cheese, overhyped.  So yes, there are lots of people here who don’t know what “vegan” means, or hate vegans, and most of our vegan options are not fancy–heavy on the deep-fried stuff, light on the fine dining.  So there’s that.

But you know what people seem to bitch about the most? The service they get in Portland.

And you know what? Deal with it.

Look, your waiter/waitress/barista/bartender probably does not give a shit about you. They are probably very very hip and have better things to do.  Generally, the burden is on you to be incredibly nice and maybe they will be nice back. Maybe. And maybe if you tip really well they’ll remember you next time and crack a smile. But seriously, you should probably just be a big girl or boy and suck it up. If you need more affection in your life, I recommend seeking it from your friends and family, not your server.

With this attitude, you’ll be ridiculously happy anytime someone is friendly to you, which is nice. Just think of hipper-than-thou service as part of the Portland, er, “Vegan Mecca” cultural experience. And if you hang out here long enough maybe you’ll be the friend the barista stops to talk to when there is a line of ten people behind you.

Happy Holidays!

I know, it’s August, but it has been so hot in Portland, which meant it was the perfect time for an air-conditioned Holiday Office Party.  Jess and I co-hosted the party on Saturday night, and it was tons of fun. There was a food drive, a white elephant gift exchange, holiday-themed cocktails, and assorted vegan snacks, including a delicious vegan cheese ball.

Also, carrots!

Also, carrots!

It turns out there are tons and tons of vegan cheese ball recipes on the internet. Some use fake cheese, some don’t. I was intrigued by a recipe I found that used tofu and cashews, but I also didn’t have a lot of time, so I based my cheese ball on this recipe. But I was like, garlic flakes? I’ve got fresh garlic from the farmers market, thanks. Dried parsley? Hey, I’ve got all these fresh herbs in my window boxes, I don’t use the dried stuff! Just cayenne? Why not throw some smoked paprika in there! It was a hit, with vegans and non-vegans alike. I had honestly never eaten a cheese ball before, vegan or non-vegan, but I’m definitely making another one soon.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Growing your own damn food

I live in an apartment. It’s pretty small and there’s no yard, or porch, or balcony, or any sort of outdoor space I have access to. I do have windows, though, and this spring I was determined to grow stuff.  I went into this not really knowing anything, and I’m not really the type to do a lot of research, I’m more the type to just go into something blindly and be shocked when it doesn’t go well.  So I bought some herbs from the Eastbank Farmers Market, and I bought some lettuce seeds, and some window boxes and some potting soil, and I went to work.  I planted mint, basil, stevia, dill, cilantro, parsley and chives. Ok, I planted oregano and thyme too, but let’s not talk about that, as they are no more.  Anyway! It’s been an adventure. At first they weren’t doing that well so I did what I always do when facing a crisis– hyperventilated and called my mom. She said I should get fertilizer. Finding vegetarian fertilizer is hard, but it exists (for $12 for a tiny box).  So my herbs were doing ok, and growing way fast, and then I had the next crisis– what the fuck do I do with all these herbs?

I have been between roommates for the past few weeks and one of the effects of that is I haven’t had plates, so I don’t have any pictures of my culinary creations in tupperware and mixing bowls.  I rediscovered my love of quinoa salads this summer, though, and they work well with every herb I am growing, except for stevia, maybe, because that would be kind of weird. The New York Times did a thing about cooking with herbs for their Recipes for Health series, which has a whole bunch of vegan recipes, so I have definitely been using it for inspiration.  I have been eating an awful lot of that tabbouleh. I want to make the lentil soup with cilantro but it has been so hot for soup.

So, I have been using herbs in salads, and marinades, and stir fries, and teas (parsley tea induces your period, did you know?) and infused vinegar and everything I can possibly think of. If you aren’t growing herbs this year, you should try it next year! Everything I eat is just that much more delicious.

I am also growing a pepper plant, because I went to the Urban Farm store and they told me I could grow peppers in a window box. It’s doing well! There is one pepper that is huge. I named her Mabel. Isn’t she cute?

She is actually even bigger now.

She is actually even bigger now.

And of course, salads are way better when you grow the lettuce yourself. And then throw piles of herbs on top.

(Can I admit something? I bought some salad dressing. My mom would be so mad, but how good is the Annie’s Goddess stuff? I know, Mom, I can make my own salad dressing…Mom, you never understand me! Like that time you wouldn’t let me go to that party…um…anyway…)