November 7, 2010

Interview with a Vegan

It seems that a large population of vegans and vegetarians are college students, which is not surprising to me, as college students tend to have some very progressive ideas.

Kristen Lambert is a 20-year-old vegan who attends Utah Valley University. She follows a vegan diet and has interned at the Vegetarian Resource Group, an organization dedicated to educating the population about vegetarianism.

In order to gain some insight as to why other people my age chose to be vegan, I spoke to Kristen about her dietary choices.

ME: What motivated you to become a vegan?

KRISTEN: The idea first manifested itself with animals rights, but has grown to include environmental and human rights.

ME: What do you believe the true meaning of veganism and vegetarianism is?

KRISTEN: Being a vegan or vegetarian is an attempt to prevent as little harm as possible. This is not just a dietary change, but affects your entire lifestyle. Not partaking in animal products or bi-products is as important to me as making sure that the system responsible for dispensing misery is destroyed.

The true meaning of veganism in my opinion is a philosophy of compassion that provides a voice for the voiceless, whether that be animals who are human or aren’t.

ME: Do you think it’s important to be militant about hidden animal ingredients or trace amounts of hidden animal products?

KRISTEN: My mom has always given me great advice; pick your battles. That is to say, I’m not against people being militant about hidden animal derived ingredients, as I for one have been called the “vegan police” on numerous occasions, but I also believe that seeing the forest for the trees is important and small issues are usually symptoms of larger underlying problems such as improper food labeling.

ME: How do you choose which products that contain hidden animal products you use? For instance sugar, rubber.

KRISTEN: I don’t believe that it is possible to be 100% vegan, so in order for me to feel content with my actions I try to do the best I can. The products that people use (even if they don’t directly contain animal ingredients) have likely destroyed a living creature’s habitat, but if you are in any way able to reduce suffering through something like not supporting a subsidized meat and dairy industry that inflicts pain, you should.

If I am able to avoid purchasing products that are known to contain animal ingredients, I will. In regards to a product like rubber which I am assuming is most likely referring to shoes, I either buy them second hand from a thrift store, or snag some from a dumpster, neither of which supports that industry or a wasteful society.

ME: What do you most consider when making dietary choices?

KRISTEN: First and foremost, is it vegan? I would prefer the food to be from alternative sources (like a dumpster or maybe Food Not Bombs) that don’t support an agricultural system in desperate need of worker’s rights, but those options aren’t always available. If I am buying food I try to stay with organic, fair trade and local if possible.

ME: Has becoming a vegan made you feel healthier?

KRISTEN: In terms of mental engagement and social activism, definitely. If you are asking about physical health, that depends on the day. I still fall victim to what seems like my eternal enemy- sugar.

ME: How do you make sure you get proper nutrition?

KRISTEN: Any nutritionist talking about a vegan diet will likely tell you the same thing: eat a varied diet. I am fortunate enough to love vegetables and other whole foods. However, if you aren’t able to find all of the necessary nutrients you need in your food (which is something to strive for) then supplements such as vitamins can be important. One nutrient that cannot be derived from plants is B12, and thus it is important to eat foods fortified with it (nutritional yeast, soy milk, an some cereals) or consume lozenges or drops containing it.

ME: Do you make an active effort to introduce the vegetarian and vegan lifestyle to other people?

KRISTEN: I certainly try. I am fortunate enough to be a decent cook and baker, so I offer to make vegan food for people to show them how tasty it can be. None of that unseasoned tofu out of the package nonsense!

If someone wants to talk about issues concerning veganism and ways they can become vegan I am more than happy to talk with them. In the past I helped pass out pamphlets at events with Vegan Outreach, and would like to start up again soon since I am a strong believer in changing people’s minds through education. Usually if you are passionate about your beliefs and open to communication with others, sharing your ideals isn’t too difficult.

 

 

 

 

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October 28, 2010

We Like it Raw

It seems that many people still consider veganism to be some strange, far out diet that only hippies and health nuts prescribe to (not that there is anything wrong with either of these groups in my opinion). If some people believe that vegans are so radical, I wonder what they would think of raw foodists!

Raw foodists love their fruits and veggies!

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of research on the raw food lifestyle and have decided that I am going to try to incorporate more raw food into my diet. Raw food refers to any food that has not been cooked above 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Once food has been cooked at temperatures higher than this, chemical changes occur that form acidic toxins, mutagens and free-radicals. Live enzymes that aid in digestion are also destroyed when food is cooked.

The benefits of raw food appear endless; increased energy, alertness, health and beauty! Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis, authors of Raw Food: 100 Recipes to Get the Glow, state that, “It’s easy to spot a raw foodist in a crowd of people living on the Standard American Diet (SAD…an appropriate acronym). Just look for the unusually clear skin, glossy hair, and shinning eyes.” If raw foodists look that good, you can count me in.

There are hundreds of delicious recipes online (some require a dehydrator), including Italian Chocolate Almond Zuccotto cake and Ruby Red Sushi. Even if you have no interest in becoming a full-fledged raw foodist, it still might be fun to experiment with your cooking and baking!

 

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October 27, 2010

Vegan Week

This week happens to be full of vegan and vegetarian celebrations across the States. We are currently in the middle of the IDA (In Defense of Animals) World Go Vegan Week. World Go Vegan Week began this past Sunday and ends on the 31st of the month.

The purpose of this week is to celebrate the benefits of veganism (environmental, health, animal rights) and to help educate others about the positive effects veganism has on the world. Vegans are encouraged to cook their friends an animal-free meal or hand out pamphlets on veganism.

This coming weekend is also the 15th Annual Boston Vegetarian Food Festival. The festival is chance for vegetarian friendly food companies, chefs, speakers and people like you to get together and celebrate vegetarianism. If Boston has been celebrating the vegetarian lifestyle for 15 years, I think it’s about time we in Frederick have our own vegetarian food festival!

In California, the Veggie Pride Parade is being held on Saturday in Los Angeles. Vegans will gather there to listen to speakers, eat delicious food and parade through Santa Monica in veggie costumes.

Let’s not forget, this weekend also brings Halloween. Celebrate with cute ghost and pumpkin cupcakes and have fun!

 

October 22, 2010

Seasonal Recipes

Fall is my favorite time of year. It is when the leaves change brilliant red, yellow and orange, the air is crisp and refreshing and a variety of delicious vegetables and fruits come into season. With fall being the start of the holidays, there are plenty of opportunities to show off your seasonal cooking and baking skills.

Autumn is the time for some of my favorite fruits and vegetables: kale, broccoli, pumpkins and apples.

Kale is a hearty, leafy green and probably my most loved vegetable. There are plenty of dishes that can be made with kale, including vegan kale lasagna and chickpea and kale soup.

Broccoli is a fairly versatile vegetable as well and some of my favorite broccoli recipes include caramelized broccoli stuffed shells, broccoli and tofu in garlic sauce (my go-to Chinese dish) and vegan cream of broccoli soup.

Pumpkin is a great vegetable because it can be easily used in both entrees and desserts. For the main course, try pumpkin and peanut curry or pumpkin thyme rigatoni. Dessert can include anything from pumpkin pie brownies to vegan pumpkin cheesecake.

When it comes to apples, some amazing recipes include acorn squash and apple soup, apple waffles and the classic apple pie.

These are only a few of the many tasty recipes that can be made with kale, broccoli, pumpkins and apples, not to mention the bounty of other fall vegetables and fruits such as beets, artichokes and cranberries. The possibilities for cooking with fall friendly vegetables and fruits are endless, so better get started!

 

October 16, 2010

A Post in Which I Gush About Yummy Food

This past week I went up to Montreal to visit a friend. Not only is Montreal a beautiful city with a calm atmosphere, but it is also home to a bounty of vegan restaurants.

Lucky for me, Montreal’s first all-vegan restaurant, Aux Vivres, was only a ten-minute walk away (on St. Laurent) from where I was staying. It was so good I ended up going there three times in the five days I was in Montreal.

A street shot of Aux Vivres

On my first visit, my friends and I went there for dinner. It took me forever to decide what to order as absolutely everything on the menu is vegan-friendly. I’m used to much more limited choices!

I finally decided on the Dragon Bowl, which was delicious. The Dragon Bowl consisted of a salad with shredded vegetables, sprouts, toasted sesame seeds and their dragon sauce. I can’t tell you what exactly dragon sauce is, but I do know no animals were harmed in its making. I also added grilled tofu to the mix, as protein is important.

Not being able to resist, I went back with my boyfriend a day later to partake in Aux Vivres brunch menu. We both ordered the waffles and we were not disappointed.

The waffles and maple syrup they came with were all organic and mighty yummy. Not only was there maple syrup on them, but there was also cashew cream, vegan whipped cream and fruit. Accompanied with multiple cups of coffee with almond milk, it might have been the best breakfast of my life.

The last time I went back was to pick up something for Canadian Thanksgiving, which was this past Monday. I couldn’t resist buying half a cake of Gateau Fauxmage (quite the clever pun). It was a bit expensive, but totally worth it. I’ve never eaten vegan cheesecake before and I don’t think I’ll ever eat any moderately as good again.

Needless to say, I was reluctant to leave when the time came but I’m sure I’ll go back to Montreal to stuff myself at Aux Vivres again sometime in the future!

 

October 6, 2010

The B-12 Debate

In my many internet searches of veganism, I have come across quite a few pro-vegan sites that allege vegans can get a sufficient amount of B12 from plant sources such as algae.

I find such claims slightly disturbing as there is no significant evidence that vegans can obtain the levels of B12 necessary outside of eating fortified foods or taking supplements.

As always, it is important to be wary of information gathered off of the internet. Know your sources! Most legitimate vegan sites strongly advise vegans to carefully monitor their B12 intake by taking supplements.

The myth concerning plant-based B12 revolves around “fake” B12, or analogues. Jack Norris, Registered Dietitian and President of Vegan Outreach, states on his website Vegan Health that Analogues can “imitate true B12 in blood tests while actually interfering with B12 metabolism” which can cause harm.

Vegan Health has an entire section dedicated to providing legitimate information on proper B12 consumption for every type of vegan imaginable.

Norris states on Vegan Health that, “There are no reliable, unfortified plant sources of vitamin B12; therefore fortified foods and/or supplements are necessary for the optimal health of vegans and even vegetarians in many cases.”

It is incredibly important to maintain healthy levels of B12 as a B12 deficiency can lead to heart disease, blindness, deafness, dementia and even death.

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September 29, 2010

Vegan…Mainstream?

The fast food chain Chipotle is now offering vegan chicken at two of their locations in Los Angeles. This “chicken” is marinated in chipotle adobo sauce and then grilled. You can get it in a burrito with all your favorite toppings- black beans, rice, guacamole and peppers to name a few.

Though Chipotle is only experimenting with vegan chicken in select restaurants, it is quite significant that they are serving vegan chicken at all. Clearly, the movement to live in a more compassionate manner has gained some serious attention if a massive chain like Chipotle is willing to offer specifically vegan options.

Another burrito joint that offers a vegan alternative, and is closer to home for those who live outside of L.A., is California Tortilla. Their No-Meato Burrito comes with a variety of vegan deliciousness; guacamole and zucchini being two of my favorite toppings.

It is amazing to see that the vegan diet is finally being recognized by the mainstream. When you get down to it, companies only offer what sells, so there must be enough vegans out there to support major companies’ endeavors into animal-friendly dishes. It’s an exciting to time to be a vegan!

To find restaurants and stores that offer vegan food and goods near you, visit the Happy Cow Compassionate Eating Guide website.

September 20, 2010

Sugar: Maybe not so Sweet

Recently, it has been brought to my attention that sugar is not always vegan. There are two main types of sugar in the United states- cane sugar beet and sugar. Unlike beet sugar, cane sugar is often refined using animal bone char. The problem for vegans is that beet sugar is rarely labeled as such and it is impossible to distinguish between the two types of sugars in taste or appearance.

There are alternatives to consuming normal table sugars, such as date sugar or maple sugar, and of course, you can always just avoid sugar altogether. The issue really comes down to how committed a

A field of sugar cane.

person is to maintaining strict veganism. When you get down to it, most products in the United States are not vegan as they are transported in trucks composed of steel and rubber: products which are produced with the use of animal fats.

As Vegan Outreach points out, groundwater is also filtered through bone char, so it’s important to draw the line somewhere. They urge vegans to concentrate on the more obvious animal products and not get carried away. It’s important not to forget that the true purpose of veganism is to live with compassion, not to starve yourself!

On a side note, September 2nd was the birthday of Donald Watson, the man often referred to as the “father of veganism”. Watson is responsible for founding the Vegan Society and for coining the term “vegan” itself. Although he passed away five years ago, it is important to remember the man who started the movement for a compassionate lifestyle. A 2005 interview with Watson can be found at vegnews.com.

September 9, 2010

Mac and Cheeseless

Growing up, box mac and cheese was my favorite food to eat. I especially

The lovely Cafe Green logo

loved the mac and cheese that came with shell macaroni because the cheese powder would get caught inside the shells and make them taste extra cheesy and delicious. Since making the switch from vegetarian to vegan almost four years ago, I haven’t tasted anything remotely like mac and cheese, as I’m not a big fan of soy cheese (yech!). A few weeks ago though, I ventured into D.C. with my boyfriend and we ate at Cafe Green, an organic, fair trade and vegan friendly restaurant. I decided to go wild and order their Mac N Cheese Soul Plate- it turned out to be the best dish I have ever eaten ever (well, definitely in the top ten!) and it didn’t include any real cheese or otherwise. If you can’t make it to Cafe Green yourself, I’ve gone to the trouble of finding the Best Mac and Cheese in the Entire World…Seriously recipe. Just follow the link and you will be tasting heaven in your mouth in no time!

September 9, 2010

Vegans can Party too!

I have to confess that there is one area that I have been slacking in when it comes to upholding veganism- alcohol. Strangely enough, many brewing companies use animal products, such as fish bladders and gelatin, in order to filter impurities from their beverages. Some liquors and champagnes are actually made with the use of animal bone char (gross).

Despite the fact that I’m entirely repulsed by such practices, I’ve always found the thought of researching every beer or wine I want to drink (and I admit, there are many!) daunting, as the use of animal products in alcoholic beverages is often not listed on the labels.

Recently, I’ve decided to be a bit more conscientious about the alcoholic drinks I consume; luckily, I found a website that lists over a thousand breweries, wineries and distillers and which, if any, products they make that are vegan. I was overjoyed to discover that one of my favorite beers, Chimay, is actually vegan friendly! If you haven’t tried Chimay yet, I would highly recommend it to vegans and non-vegans alike.

Chimay is brewed within a Trappist monastery in Belgium by the monastic community, hence its holy deliciousness! To see an ever-growing list of vegan alcoholic beverages, visit barnivore.com and to learn more about animal products used in alcohols, visit the Vegetarian Society website for a complete overview of clarifying practices.

Chimay

The tastiest vegan beer ever!

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