23 December 2007

Meat Free Holiday!

Boss man decided to close on xmas day, so I get to spend it at home with Steve. Of course, if there's any New York City or Jersey vegans who want to come over for some cooking and eating (and light drinking), let me know in a comment, and we'll set something up. I can't have /too/ many people, because the space in the house is limited, but no matter! It'll be fun even if it's just me and Steve. He's not too thrilled with going all the way to Chicago, only to have his sensibilities ignored for the sake of a corpse on the table, so I figure if we can get some vegans out to our place, we can have a family dinner by a family that we create ourselves, right!?

Of course, I'll be making my special lentil soup that everyone loves. We might do some frying, depending on how much oil I can trace. Chances are good that we'll do some deep frying, just because it goes so well with everything. The bodega down the street sells excellent vegan French bread, so I'll probably grab a few loaves of that on the day before, if I remember. I may ask Steve to run down to the store before he gets home tomorrow, and snag a bit of produce. If anyone wants my famous kale with cocoanut milk, bring on the cocoanut milk and kale, and we'll make it happen. Either way, the possibilities are endless, right?

Steve and I tend to give each other gifts all year long (and immediately, as soon as we find said gift), so we're not going to be exchanging any for each other, but I know he wouldn't be averse to a few nice things (like a good solid 3/4 or full length winter coat, some nice button down shirts [we take a medium] for work, or a good pair of trousers in size 32 without wool). I'm big on hats and cute bracelets. :-D

While I'm here, let me remind you to check out my fellow vegan's podcast, The Angry Hippie Podcast Check out his blog as well for some of his neat poetry. Think Dr. Seuss meets Emily Dickinson. In particular, check out the Vegan Helliday Special.

I've found that it's becoming harder and harder to cope with other peoples' carnism in my face, because of the extent of the vegan bubble I've found myself in. I go to sleep every night with my vegan husband in our vegan home, to my vegan place of work, where I work with other vegans. I don't have to ask what's in the soup, because I know of every ingredient in the restaurant, and the owner's commitment to cruelty free (actual, not just labelled) everything. I still read the ingredients so that I never get out of the habit, but I don't /have/ to. On top of all that, when Cliff (owner of Sacred Chow) says the word "sustainable, healthy (for the earth, the animals and people), tasty, comforting food," I know he's actually being serious about it, instead of having it be a marketing concept. And my coworkers aren't rabidly corporate-loving.

So when I leave that protective, nurturing nest, it freaks me out a lot more than it used to.

I am making new friends every day, and my Spanish is getting more and more fluid, fluent, and rapid. I don't search as hard for commonly used words anymore, and I can more or less get across what I need to with Alonzo (he's one of my coworkers; doesn't speak English yet). It's promising, because it means that I don't have to stop at Spanish, and that I can finally start working on my ABYSMAL French and German. So far, I can only struggle through the written forms, and even then, I can only pick out the /gist/ of what it's trying to say. Eventually, I'm hoping to get the Spanish up to the level of (at least) the Tamil, if not at the level of the English.

17 December 2007

The Shock Doctrine

A brief film by Alfonso Cuaron.

Making a Killing and much more

Animal (human and nonhuman animals) rights activist Bob Torres's long-awaited book, Making a Killing: The Political Economy of Animal Rights finally arrived today, and we're looking forward to plunging in headfirst. From the website at AK Press:

Suggest to the average leftist that animals should be part of broader liberation struggles and—once they stop laughing—you'll find yourself casually dismissed. With a focus on labor, property, and the life of commodities, Making a Killing contains key insights into the broad nature of domination, power, and hierarchy. It explores the intersections between human and animal oppressions in relation to the exploitative dynamics of capitalism. Combining nuts-and-bolts Marxist political economy, a pluralistic anarchist critique, as well as a searing assessment of the animal rights movement, Bob Torres challenges conventional anti-capitalist thinking and convincingly advocates for the abolition of animals in industry—and on the dinner plate.
Making A Killing is sure to spark wide debate in the animal rights and anarchist movements for years to come.

Bingo. It's been a long time coming. Basically, what's been happening thus far is that the widely based movements, such as civil rights, worker's rights, animal rights, and women's rights (to name just a couple) have been struggling on their own, oblivious to the plight of the others. For some reason, people have not made the connection that we are all fighting for the same thing, and allowing our struggle to be coopted by oppressive forces is playing right into the slavery. Finally, someone brings up a critique of how the movements have been waging their battles, and how they can improve.

Go out and get yourself a copy (or request that your local library carry one if you can't afford it!), and be prepared for an excellent read. The reason I know anything at all about it is because Bob and Jenna have been making mention of the book on their podcast called Vegan Freak Radio. Even if you're not traditionally "into" politics, give the book a read for Bob's rather engaging writing style. If you've read his blog, or his other work (such as the book Vegan Freak: Being a Vegan in a Non Vegan World), you'll recognise how he takes complex concepts, and explains them in an accessible manner.

In other news, I get X-Mas off, so Steve and I are going to spend the day together. Most likely, it'll be a quiet dinner in, and maybe a movie or something. We tend to give each other our gifts as soon as we get them for a couple of reasons. For one thing, x-mas isn't my holiday. It means nothing to me. For another, we'd really like to avoid double buying. That is, if Steve wants something for himself, chances are that he'll buy it when he sees it. I do the same. Why should we have double of things? Easier to call immediately, and say, "Hi babe. I got you ______ when I saw it." When your time is measured in minutes, every minute that you're not wasting is precious. And, on top of that, seeing the reaction to the gift immediately, is a pleasure we'd like to experience over and over again. If we saved it all for the day of, it'd only be one set of reactions all in one day. This way, we get to experience the joy of giving many times.

While I'm at it, let me remind you to make copies of your identification cards, and store them some place safe. While you're all out there in the mad rush, things get lost, stolen, or misplaced. Don't take chances. Make the copies now, and be safe. Also, while you're at it, run a backup of important documents and such into your email. Just send it as an email to yourself as an attachment. Gmail provides excellent email capabilities, and is free. Why chance losing your stuff? I've got my documents backed up on three different media devices, but I also put it on email, so that I can pick it up anywhere I go.

Hope everyone has a safe and happy few days off that we're getting (hopefully, you do too!).

07 December 2007


World renowned cookbook author and chef Dreena Burton is quite a kitchen alchemist. She can spin gold from pretty much any dietary need, be it wheat free, gluten free, sugar free, soy free, or just free. She really knows her stuff, and I'd definitely suggest that you ask your local libraries to stock her books, so that everyone can share in her talent.

Guess what? She emailed me! I couldn't believe it when I saw it, but apparently, she tried my black eyed peas daal, and enjoyed it! I'm still trying to process it all, and get over my fanboy-ness, but there it is.

05 December 2007

To anyone out there who's been made fun of.

OK. I admit it. I have a secret love for Tyra Banks. I was on YouTube, and found this rant of hers. I love it.

Just a reminder to be kind to your fellow creatures, animal or otherwise.

Back from CT

I left from New York to go to Connecticut (again!) to see my parents before they went back to Florida. Because plans change all the time, I couldn't be sure when I'd get the chance to see them both in person again, so I figured that Sunday evening was as good a time as any. I jumped on the Metro North train again, and began my journey.

I called my mother to let her know that I was on the way. She let me know that my dad had totalled the car, because of the icy roads. He was going too fast down a curve, and couldn't regain control of the car. Worse, they hit two other parked cars. It was bad. Fortunately, he and my brother-in-law got out of the car without any injuries. The layer of ice on the ground was so thick that you couldn't even walk on it (unless you were wearing cleats or something) without flailing madly, and almost falling to the ground. It was really scary for both of them. They somehow managed to get the demolished car home to my sister's (Radhika) house.

After much shuffling around, they figured that it would be best if my dad didn't drive again (and no voice was a bigger proponent of this position than my dad) for a little while, so my brother-in-law (Raj) took over instead. [Side note: Yes, it really is soo cute that my sister and her husband have alliterative first names! What's even weirder is that his surname is the same initial as my family's surname!] I got there at 8:00, and they reached the New Haven station at 8:30.

NOTE TO CONNECTICUT: Your mass transit SUCKS. It took an additional hour from New Haven to Middletown, where my sister is. And no, I'm not about to spend $12 on a Peter Pan bus. For all that money, Raj or Radhika can come get me from the station. I pay like $14 to get from Manhattan to New Haven. There's really no reason for me to shell out almost that much for a 30 minute drive.

So anyway. The walk to the car was a ... challenge, as the parking lot was extremely slippery, and near impossible to walk on. For my friends in Florida: Imagine you're walking with your shoes on an ice skating rink. Or, that the latest rain storm has sloshed water all over your granite (or other smooth surfaced) tile, and you forgot to wear your flip flops on the way across the living room. Now imagine that there's a layer of oil on top of all of this. Not fun. We got into the (heated!) car, and made the drive out to Radhika's house. It was a relatively slow and uneventful drive, and we chatted about this and that on the way. Dad mentioned something about how all day, Radhika had been complaining about general stomach upsets, and was in a more or less sickly mood, but had immediately perked up when she heard that I was coming for a visit. He also mentioned how my mother postponed her ticket to go to Florida, rather than head back with him on Monday.

We got to their house, and made our slippery way to the door. My mother and sister were sitting on the couch, having a chat. Both were wrapped up fairly snugly. I didn't think that the house was all that cold, but those two seemed to be freezing. Mind you, I was wearing about four layers of clothing and 2 layers of socks under my shoes, but that's immaterial. We got past the hugs, and went on to catch up on whatever has been going on thus far. I, of course, made a beeline to the kitchen, and started grazing. The fridge was, as usual, full of goodies that my mother had cooked, and I wasn't about to delay eating, since she might get upset if I didn't. Yeah, that's it ... upset ...

We're all just having a general good time, and started to wind down around 10:00. My sister excuses herself, and starts making the most hideous noises in the washroom. "Oh my god, what is that?" My mother replied, "That's pretty much how it is all day." So, I flippantly remarked, "Haha, she's pregnant, isn't she?" They all looked shocked, and said, "Wait, you didn't know!?" Apparently, they forgot to let me know. I congratulated them both, and we kept chatting. In essence, the rest of the weekend is a blur, because it was mostly eating, talking to my mother and sister, and lots of sleeping. I left around 5:00 on Tuesday afternoon, to come home to Isabel (my landlady) and Steve doing an early (or is it late?) Spring Cleaning. What a week!

I'm going to be an uncle again.

03 December 2007

First Snow on Sunday

Sunday, just before walking out, I asked Steve to lock up behind me, so that I could leave my gloves on. He opened the door for me, and said, "Oh!" In about a second and change, I saw what got him surprised. The first snow.

I don't like snow. Everything was covered in a thick, white blanket of the stuff, and the floor was slightly unstable, as my shoes crunched against the piles of the flakes on the ground. I could see the testament of the little pawed and clawed feet that had passed in the night before on my way to the train.

I stepped into the train, to feel my body finally warm up as the heating kicked in. When I got to work, there was still more snow falling, and now it was drifting onto my face and eyelashes, and melting on the spot from the radiating heat that my body gave off (due to the multiple layers of clothes I had on). It took me another minute of trudging through the veil of snow to get to work, at which point we flipped on the ovens (both to get work done and to get the kitchen warmer). The day progressed at the speed of light, with me learning how Brunch is done at the restaurant. I learned a whole lot, and sat with my fearless leader to hammer out the upcoming schedule. He gave me Monday and Tuesday of this week off, so I decided to take advantage of the consecutive days off. I got out of the train at Union square, and called my mother in Connecticut.

I told her I'd be heading up that night itself, and staying till Tuesday afternoon. She said it'd be fine with her, and that she'd see me when she sees me. My dad would be leaving for Florida on Monday, so I wanted to get in to see him one last time. I got on the Metro North train, and we headed out around 6:00. I promptly fell asleep for most of the rest of the journey. By 7:00, I called my sister's house, and told her that I was getting close. Apparently, my dad had an accident, because the roads were icy to the point of being unable to even walk on it. It crashed and totaled the car he was in, but left the other cars unscratched. Fortunately, it also left him physically untouched. He was shaken (as was my sister's husband), but otherwise, was OK. The two of them headed home, and shuffled around a bit. Finally, they headed out to come get me at the train station. It was only 30 minutes after I arrived at the station that they got in to get me back, but this means that it's already 8:30.

We made it to my sister's house around 9 and change. I had something to eat, chatted with the family for a couple of hours, and promptly at 30 minutes past midnight, felt tired and ready to sleep. And, of course, this means that I wouldn't be waking up till noon the next day, by which point my dad would have left. So I guess our goodbyes on the night before would have to suffice.

I'll be here in CT tomorrow as well as today, and should be back in NY by Wednesday. Be safe, because those conditions are really dodgy.

01 December 2007

Got the photos up (Finally!)

As I mentioned in my last entry, Thanksgiving was a wonderful, outstanding weekend for me; more so than ever before. In the past, it'd always be with my family that was living in the same house, because it really wasn't a huge deal for us. We'd certainly cook, but never anything special. This year, however, was different. My friend came in from the city, and we hung out here in Brooklyn. We cooked quite a few dishes (most of which I don't even remember).

Then, of course, Sunday the 25th was that day in Jersey, where we started cooking things at like 2:00, and wound up around 9 or 10. And I'm talking nonstop cooking. Something was always going down in the kitchen, and although quite a few people helped, there was a core group who was curious about how everything goes together, and I really had fun showing them all how the food was made.

For anyone who's curious, there's photos of it on my Photobucket page. Feel free to browse through them! Of course, the kitchen with the white walls is the kitchen in my house, and the one with the brown walls is the kitchen in New Jersey.

28 November 2007

The Onion

The humble onion is often overlooked in terms of importance, but any cook will tell you that its use is varied and interesting in terms of the places it can sneak in and fill a niche. Whether raw, cooked, steamed, boiled, dried and powdered, or fresh and crisp, the onion is a flavour powerhouse. It gives many dishes a mild sweetness to cut through the salty and sour flavours of other ingredients. It caramelises in fat, to give the final dish a deep, dark brown, earthy colour. It's like your Jack of All Trades of the culinary world. I had a dear friend who was wondering about the different kinds of onions, and this entry goes out to her (she knows who she is) for inspiring an entry so early in the morning!

In terms of heat, Spanish (aka yellow) onions have the most kick, in my opinion. They're really good with an even amount of sugars that'll caramelise rather well. They also work extremely well in a sweat, and in raw or other forms. They're your all purpose onion.

White onions are sweeter than Spanish onions. They also have a bit more sugar in them, and tend to burn more easily in a sautee. You don't really want them to caramelise overmuch, but rather, you want to sweat them (turn on the heat, hear the onions sizzle, turn down the heat to as low as it'll go, and let them cook, covered, for like twenty minutes or so, till they're clear). They have subtle undertones that come out very well in a sweat. White onions are also used in Indian medicine (ayurveda), for reduction of phlegm, and to relieve gas, and to increase vitality. They're eaten raw, or cooked.

Red onions are sweeter, but have a sharper, more biting flavour when eaten raw. Try not to cook with red onions, because you'll be missing out on its most powerful weapon: its beautiful colour! Serve reds raw, over soups, salads, etc., with a splash of lemon and a touch of salt.

Vidalia onions are mild, fairly sweet, and ever so hard to find, unless they're in season. They're only grown in a town called Vidalia, in Georgia. Hawaiian sweet onions are sweeter still, but have that same mild, clean flavour working with them. Because they're so expensive, you want to make these onions in ways that will showcase them, and where they're the focus of a dish. Try them in onion rings, or even raw in a salsa or salad. They're quite tasty.

Scallions, or green onions, or long onions, or spring onions (all the same onion!) are the ones with the white part and the green part. The green part has an earthy, "green" flavour, while the white part has more of an oniony bite to it. You want to use as much as you can, to get the combination of flavours that will come out onto the food.

Shallots are much much smaller than regular onions, and looks almost like large cloves of garlic, with a pale reddish/purplish flesh. Use shallots in applications where you will be simmering, rather than sauteeing, so that you don't burn them. You only need a small amount to flavour a lot of food. Shallots are the onions found in a buerre blanc.

Leeks are extremely mild, and are excellent when sweated, to flavour complex, and delicately flavoured soups. The most famous use of leeks is in a vichyssoise, which is a leek and potato soup that's served chilled and pureed. Its flavour is light and airy, and a regular onion would overpower the soup. Also, because the leeks don't have too much sugar, they don't caramelise easily, which keeps the soup very white.

Chives are an herb that's related to onions and garlic (and leeks, oh my!), and that have a flavour that's kind of like a cross between garlic and onion. Use chives raw, as a last minute garnish, for a little bit of an extra kick in the food. It's excellent!

I hope that's inspired you to get out there and experiment with your onions!

26 November 2007

NJ Veg Social Post Thanksgiving Recap

We had the party at Jeff's house for the New Jersey Veg Social group. There was so much food that they thought that I wouldn't be able to cook it all. But, I decided to get out there, and cook something like twenty or thirty different dishes with the vegetables that everyone brought. That being said, it wouldn't have been possible without all the people helping with the prep of the vegetables, and chatting with me. Because I was having such a good time, my creativity flowed more strongly, and I began to create entirely new taste sensations, and to flow with whatever was being prepared at the moment.

It wasn't just a party, it was an event. It was a phenomenon. It was everything that a meetup should and can be. Why? Because people came together, vegan or otherwise, and enjoyed the company of friends, and broke bread together over five or six hours. The food just kept coming and coming. Every hour or so, a new dish would come out onto the tables, and the people would cluster around, and sample the new thing. They'd comment on the flavours and textures. They'd talk about how they never thought of preparing the vegetable in question in that manner before. They'd eat, and eat some more. It was so much fun!

The next time this happens, I'll be sure to let you all know. It's something that more of us need to share if we can.


21 November 2007

Creation is a wonderful thing.

Yesterday, I lazed around the house, and decided to make a quick meal that I could fall back on if I got hungry during the day. See, rather than having three distinct meals per day, I tend to graze on whatever is lying around. This includes everything from fruit to nuts to anything cooked. So on days off, I tend to make a big pot of something, and nibble on it all day.

Yesterday's dish started off as a potato curry. I did the cumin, turmeric, and hot paprika thing initially, thinking that it'd be enough for me. Of course, I had a pot of rice going on the back burner. Once the potatoes and rice were cooked, I eyed a bunch of spinach that looked ready to go bad really soon. And, I figured that if I was going to be adding, why not throw down some protein while I'm at it? In went the chopped spinach, and a can of black beans (drained and washed).

It came out way better than I expected, and Steve and I were attacking it all day!

18 November 2007


"Baby, have you seen my sea salt? It seems to have run off somewhere."

It was sitting there on the dining room table as he fried up some hash browns. "Here it is," he said.

I picked it up, and was about to walk out with it. "I was just about to use it, though."

"I was just about to put it back in my purse."

I love the fact that he didn't skip a beat as he sprinkled some onto the golden potatoes, and handed me back my secret stash to replace in my bag.

17 November 2007

Weather's getting /really/ cold

I finally have a set schedule for work, so that means that I'll be able to more quickly and efficiently settle in, now that I can plan for my days off, and get the specific things done that I need to get done. :) Fortunately, they're all night shifts, so I don't even have to get out of bed until like 1 PM; unfortunately that means that I'll be getting home late enough that I won't be able to get out of bed until at least noon! To be fair though, this is the sort of schedule I'd wanted when I was back in Florida.

I either wanted it to be so early (like 5 AM or something) that I could have the rest of my day, or so late (like past 3 PM) so that I could get up rather late. This whole 9 am - 5 pm thing was ridiculous. I had to be awake early, but by the time I got home, I needed to get other things done that I couldn't get done (because those stores/banks/places) would be closed already. So I'd have to run around on my lunch hour to get those errands handled, and it wasn't working for me at all. Boo.

I did do the cooking for the SEAL NYU event last night. It was a collaboration between socialist/leftist people, and animal rights people. The panel was made up of people (like Steve) who were socialist and animal rights activists. They used a lot of big words, and it flew over my head. However, the main thing that I did catch was that capitalism tends to reduce people to numbers. That is, the purpose of capitalism is to make the biggest profit possible for the few who are in charge of the whole.

That's what it is. What it looks like is mass human slavery (be it the kind where it was obvious, or whether it's Wage Slavery), exploitation of women and children workers, mass cruelty to animals, exploitation of animal's bodies, the products of the animals' bodies, and the secretions of their natural life cycles, be it milk, eggs, urine, sweat, etc. It looks like the current climate, where there is a complete disregard for thinking, feeling, sentient beings, be they the ten year old little girl working in a sweat shop, the "blue collar" worker forced to take on difficult, life threatening, and/or demeaning jobs just so that his family can have enough food and shelter to survive. It looks like the marketing ploys that Animal Agriculture uses to allow people to euphemise the suffering with labels like "grass fed," "organic," "free range," or "cruelty free," when to the workers, the animals being murdered, and the ecosystems laid to waste to continue the system, cruelty free is a joke.

It was quite an interesting panel, and I learned a lot about how people can have those "aha" moments of enlightenment, and I learned how some other people, even in the face of reasoned logic, can still be completely blind to things that they haven't come to terms with yet. I respect those people for coming to a conference where their deeply held ideals of what's right and wrong will be challenged, but I wonder whether there have been any inroads made, when their primary concern is whether or not we'll run out of oil, when the concern should be that the process of drilling for and using oil harms the environment. When questions like "Well, if we all did what you're doing, humanity would be doomed!!!" came out even after it was clearly explained that we're fighting for the rights of sentient beings. Of course the current paradigm will be doomed! That's the whole point!

I hope that those people continue to question, and continue to find people who are as patient and well spoken as the panel from last night. I hope that they find the answers they're seeking. They wouldn't be asking these questions if there wasn't already some small seed that's been planted already. I consider it a very positive step. I just wish they'd hurry up so that we can get more people!

14 November 2007

Getting stuff done!

I FINALLY got my knives sharpened at ABC Knife Grinding in Brooklyn. They wanted a couple of hours, but when I got back, they charged me REALLY cheap prices. In Manhattan, there's a store called Westpfalz, that does top quality knife sharpening for $25 per knife. The other knife sharpening people I couldn't even find. Instead, I figured I'd give Brooklyn a chance, because this is ridiculous that I live near so many different ones, and I wasn't taking advantage of it. So I got back to pick up my knives, and the guy tells me that it's going to cost $15. "Each?" "No. All of them!" Happily, I paid my money, and went off on my way.

Just as a friendly reminder, make sure to get your knives sharpened at least once a year. A sharp knife is less dangerous than a dull one. With a sharp knife, when you make a cut into something, the cut will go through the thing, and get it over with. With a dull knife, however, when you make a cut, you have to saw back and forth, and often times, the blade will slip. While it doesn't cut the vegetables very well, it'll cut your skin juuuust fine. Real fair, right?

Never fear, though. Every city that has any concentration of restaurants will have a knife sharpening person somewhere in there. If you make friends with the chefs at your favourite restaurants, the chef can tell you where they send their knives. The professionals send theirs out twice a year.

There's a difference between honing a knife, and sharpening a knife. Those sharpening steels that come with your knife are meant for honing. During regular cutting, from the impact of the edge of the knife on the cutting surface, the edge goes out of alignment, and gets curved or bent. What honing does is to align the edge of the knife to a straight point. In the long term, however, the sharp edge starts to corrode, and the knife goes outright dull. This is caused by regular wear and tear. This is where sharpening comes in.

It should only be done by a professional, because it involves fairly expensive equipment. That being said, the same professional who sharpens your knives will often be able to sharpen your garden shears and other scissors as well. I encourage you to find your local knife sharpener, and get this done right!

12 November 2007


Sorry about the scant updates, folks. Life has thrown a monkey wrench into the works, and I've been running around like a crazy person! I started here at Sacred Chow Sunday morning at 11, and I've already created a soup of the day, a protein of the day, and a vegetable of the day. I almost forgot the bounty of the grain of the day! They all came out wonderfully.

For the grain, I made a Zanzibar Pilao, which is a celebratory dish made with rice (I used brown rice instead of white), vegetables, and lots of rich, fragrant spices. The vegetable was a yucca and butternut squash that I did up with more yummy spices. For the protein (I know, I know, it's shocking, but I do know how to make tofu), I did a groundnut tofu. For the soup, I did a Moroccan lentil soup (the basic lentil soup from the book, with the addition of lots of tahini and lemon). All of it was mucho yummy, and we've all been sneaking bits of it when we get a few minutes of down time. In case you haven't noticed, I've been in a distinctly African mood today. I even wore a lovely maroon dashiki to suit my mood. :)

The owner is a sweetheart, and lets us who work here eat the food whenever we get hungry. The coolest part of all, however, is the fact that everyone likes everyone else. We enjoy the company of each other, and we can laugh and joke while getting the work done. And, besterest of all, the owner is letting me be me. :)

10 November 2007

Recoloured Hairs

I went to get my hairs coloured. I think I like how it came out!

09 November 2007

Studio B

I'll be at Studio B (259 Banker St in Brooklyn) so if you're out my way, say hi! I recently got my hair coloured, with red streaks in it, so I will be looking a bit different. Thus far, I've done my partying in Manhattan, so I think it'll be fun to see what Brooklyn has to offer too!

Today, I plan on mooching around my neighbourhood. I need to hit up an Indian store near my house to snag some last-minute ingredients for cooking, as well as run down to some shoe stores and get myself some walking shoes. Oh. And I need socks.

I remember when I was growing up, my mother would get us kids gifts like fresh new underwear and socks for our birthdays, and a new shirt or trousers for Diwali (major Indian holiday). We'd get shoes when she was able to find them on sale at the store, or at garage sales or second hand stores. Right about now, I could really really really use a few sets of birthday presents. It's not that I can't afford these things, but more that I'm feeling phenomenally lazy, and don't feel like schelpping out there to beyond the beyonds to figure out ... foundational clothing.

08 November 2007

Cooking in New York City, Baby! and other stuff.

While listening to the beautiful, intelligent, well spoken and talented Ms Colleen Patrick Goudreau (and if you haven't done so yet, go out and subscribe to her podcast via iTunes now, please), I jumped on the L train headed to Manhattan. I disembarked from the train, and tried to locate the #@$#ing knife sharpening store that I had located on the Googles. As has been the case this entire day, the search was utterly fruitless, and it was only because of Ms Colleen's voice that I kept from swearing loudly and colourfully.

But that's neither here nor there. No, the purpose of the story is to update you all on my adventures in New York City. Anycow, I was wandering the streets, and finally made it into Sacred Chow, on Sullivan Street in Greenwich Village. It took me an hour to find it, because I kept going in the wrong direction. According to the pedometer on my phone, I walked around 20.2 km yesterday, and a goodly 15.1 km today. New Yorkers really walk everywhere, and it looks like I've become accustomed to this new way of thinking.

Just one more minor digression, and we'll be back to today's updates. Yesterday, we hung out at two vegan lesbians' house and cooked at the end of the day. What an outstanding way to spend spare time! We had so much fun hammering out a meagre 4 dishes (which I made in large quantity to make up for the lack of variety), chatting, laughing, joking, and all the requisite things that good friends can do together. The funny thing is that this was the fist time we'd met! I encourage all you vegans to get into each other's homes, and cook together. Sharing that meal makes the eating an event, rather than a regular daily occurrence, even if that meal is simple (like the one we shared last night). We made a lentil soup, a vegetable soup, some Unslaw (from the cookbook), and Indian roasted potatoes. There was also some rice, of course.

So I made it to Sacred Chow for my ... Wait for it ... Wait for it: Interview.

Which I thought would be for a server position (I would do anything to get my foot in the door of a vegan restaurant).

But the owner wants me cooking.

We chatted for the better part of an hour and forty five minutes. We chatted about food, cooking philosophy, my getting over my fear of omni subs and trying out new things (because they were yummy), my mother, my mother's influence on my cooking, my mother's legacy to me (the love of cooking). We talked about events that we could have at the restaurant, about work schedules on busy days and empty days, about ideas that I had for new recipes, new presentations, new ways of getting bodies into our seats.

We talked about his beautiful son (he's 5). About his son's cavities. About his lack of cavities. We talked about Steve, and how much Steve supports me in every way, every day, and makes me utterly revel in creation, rather than living each day. We spoke about having respect for all life, and reflecting one's daily journey in that respect.

We joked about the heat of the summer causing us to want to shed the clothes and go back to nature. We discussed Ethiopian food. We talked South Indian fusion food (which I love to make of course). I told him about cooking with my friends in Jersey, and how I plan on going back to do so on the 25th of this month. I told him my dreams, my hopes, my desires to be a vegan chef. He told me of his vision for the place, of his hopes, his dreams, his desires.

In short, rather than having an interview, I feel that I have made a friend. It is my sincerest desire that I get to work there as the fantabulous vegan chef that I have waiting to come out and play. That being said, I think it's even more important that I met such a compassionate, kind, loving soul, and made a connection with a like-minded being. It was such a revelation of what a job should be like.

After that, feeling fairly giddy on the wings of having met a new friend, I wandered off to seek yet another store that was supposed to be able to sharpen the knives. No luck again. I walked up a few blocks to yet ANOTHER place. Nothing. I'm going to have to try my luck tomorrow at the Chelsea Market, and hope for the best. This severely sucks.

It can't however, take away my elation at the thought of being a vegan chef! There would have been hundreds of people who apply to get in to work at Sacred Chow, but I got it! I feel like I've truly arrived in the city now, and that I have a life here.

Glove love.

I went shopping all over the city. I need all sorts of winter clothes, and figured that it'd be a good idea to hit up some second hand stores. I wandered about, and found some fantastic bargains. Just by chance, I happened upon a store where they had these gloves at $1 per pair. For whatever reason, there were three pairs left. I bought all three. I couldn't figure out why, because I can only wear only pair at a time, and it's not like I'm suffering from an overabundance of space. Maybe the answer would come later on.

I had a lovely lunch at a cute little bistro, and kept walking. There were two men sitting on the sidewalk, with a sign in front of them. "Homeless, cold, and hungry. Need winter clothes. Anything will help." So that's what the extra pairs of gloves were for! I handed (hah!) them over, and walked off far less confused than where I started.

05 November 2007

Back from CT

On Tuesday afternoon, I made a quick trip out to Connecticut to visit with my mother, father, sister, and brother-in-law. To say that it was quiet out there in CT would be horribly understating the sheer deafening quiet that pervaded everything. The only noises you'd hear were the footsteps of people walking about in the house, and the wind gushing all over ... whatever it is that wind gushes all over.

Suffice to say, I was going out of my head, because that level of quiet feel unnatural to me. There weren't any sirens, neighbours chatting on their front porches, dogs barking, cats fighting, parties going, cars zooming by, or any of the other normal noises of a city. Instead, you'd hear the occasional squirrel skittering off to do its squirrely business, and that's only if you were outdoors.

That being said, there were a lot of trees. Let me treet you to the variety. (hah!)

On the train, there was this sign about being cautious of the gap between the train itself, and the platform. For whatever reason, the icon they used to depict this amused me to no end. For any of you who've ridden the MTA CT to NY train, you'll recognise this immediately.

Aside from that was the food. Ever since my sister started college, she'd started compiling cooking techniques. For me, cooking is easy, because I was at my mother's knee the whole time that she was in the kitchen, performing her magic. I'd watch what she did avidly, and later try to replicate it on my own. Many burned pots later, it'd come out just so, and I would interpret the dish in my own way.

My sister, on the other hand, wasn't that much of a kitchen person. For her to have picked up cooking the way she did (via many frantic, panicked phone calls to my mother) is a great accomplishment, and I'm very proud of her. She's become quite accomplished at making uppuma, and rasam. Other than that, she can do a lemon rice in her sleep, or a cocoanut rice with a little motherly advice. Either way, she'd quite good at what she does. The reason we don't have photos of her food is because we ate it all before I got a chance to snap a few shots off.

Oh yeah. And dosa. Both my mother and sister are adept at churning out a perfect dosa lightning quick, at any time of day or night. That was quite a treat, let me tell you. Having fresh, piping hot dosa directly from the frying pan is a treat that must be experienced at least once in your life.

Today, I'm meeting with a person that Steve introduced me to via email. We'll be discussing how to cook for a huge group of people on $75. They haven't seen what I can do yet!

30 October 2007

NYC, here we came.

We finally made it into the City on Saturday at 4:20 PM. The flight was delayed, and I was, understandably, swearing proficiently and colourfully under and over my breath. But, we made it in, and I took some pictures of our new home.

The picture below is how you see our bedroom as soon as you enter it. The fireplace doesn't connect to anything.

This is our palatial kitchen. It's freaking HUGE. It's also really pretty. It's granite floors, and marble counters. That's a hardwood table, and the appliances and utensils are all top of the line. I love my land lady.

To christen our kitchen with my mark, I created a few new dishes, and cooked. This one here is whole potatoes, tossed with some oil, and then combined with diced tomatoes, and sliced onions. I baked it at 350º until the potatoes were tender. They got crispy on the outside, and nobody needed margarine, because the oil and tomatoes and onions provided lots of flavour.

This is a dish of plantains, with the typical spices that I used to make Indian roasted potatoes, but I added crushed peanuts at the last five minutes of cooking. Very yummy, and the skins got all crispy, so the two textures of the plantains were cleanly balanced.

While I was waiting for the plantains and potatoes to cook in the oven, I dashed off and snagged a picture of Steve on the bed, checking his email and my blog.

On the way out, I snagged a quick picture of all of our luggage. To imagine that we managed to make the move with only five pieces of luggage in total is pretty darned good, I think. No need to tell you that the red suitcases are mine, as well my red purse. I hope you're all taking notes, so that you know what colour of stuff to get me!

I found some tinned beans, so I made a really quick bean soup with adobo seasoning.

I used the same adobo seasoning to give the rice a yellow tint, but then I thought it looked too boring. I quickly deep fried some onions to get them dark brown. It was still lacking. So, I sliced up a couple of carrots in thin slices, and deep fried them as well. I think it came out rather pretty. The sweetness of the carrots and onions offset the dark, earthy adobo seasonings in the rice. Quite yummy.

My landlady seems to enjoy my cooking quite a lot, and has been eating vegan since I arrived. It is her house, so I'm not going to make a fuss if she has animal products, but I think it's very sweet of her to be so accommodating. Dinner that first night gave us leftovers for a while. I froze half of the soup. In fact, I froze a lot of the leftovers, so that we don't get bored.

Now I need to figure out what to make for tomorrow!

25 October 2007

Italian Stir-fry?

There. I'm doing it. I'm scraping down at the bottom of the barrel at this point, because I sincerely doubt that I'll get satisfaction from a restaurant, but I dislike going to the market, when I'm about to leave in two days! So, here comes what is left in my fridge. There was some broccoli in the freezer, along with some cut green beans. There were mushrooms floating about, so those got chopped as well. I had a tin of olives (sorry--I just love olives). Of course, I also used my old standard of garlic, onions, sesame seeds, and cumin as the base seasoning, and I added oregano, basil, and thyme to the dish for heightened flavour. I did it up like a stir-fry, keeping things moving constantly, and cooking it all over a very hot flame. It came out wonderfully with some pasta. I'm pleased.

For the birds

I was watching the birds early in the morning, and they were hanging out on this telephone wire. You'd see the large crow tend to stick toward the edges of the wire, while the small, noisy green parrots would congregate in the middles. It was a lot of fun to watch the parrots home in on a seemingly impossibly small spot, and come in for the landing. It was almost as if they've got visual spatial skills of an architect, the flying skills of an experienced pilot, and the ability to be boisterous and cheerful like a young child. Happy flying, my feathered brethren.

24 October 2007

Massive Food Update

Two weeks ago, I went to the beautiful home of my friend Erica to cook with her and her daughter. Ever since Karen (her daughter) found out that her mom works with a guy that does Indian cooking, she's been bugging her mom to call me over to have us all cook together. Finally, now that I'm leaving town, Erica decided to get this thing off of the ground. She called me and Steve to come over that Saturday, and see what we could see.

We arrived bright and early at 11:30 AM, and went shopping at this fruit and vegetable store near her house. They had such an enormous variety that I was squealing in excited glee, and grabbing everything I could find. The entire trolley was overflowing with a cornucopia of colours. Erica could barely name half the stuff I was flinging into the trolley, but was happy that I was at least having a good time. $50 later, the car was loaded up, and we were ready to roll. We made a quick run to my parents' house to grab some curry leaves (again, which Erica had never heard of before!) and get things started.

Karen is an eager and talented cook. She knows her way around the kitchen, and is comfortable with pretty much anything you ask her to try. We chopped, peeled, and cooked. And cooked. And cooked some more. We started around noon, and rounded off the last dish around 4:00 PM. At the final count, we came up with 14 dishes. All of them were amazing. I decided to take some photographs of the event, but lost the camera that night. Steve found the camera, so I'm sharing now.

On the far left is lentil soup. It's a standard for me, and a crowd pleaser every time. In the centre is kale soup, with carrots. On the far right is kale and swiss chard soup. Yes, we had three soups to start.

On the left are plantains, done up like the Indian Roasted Potatoes from the cookbook. Since they were cooked in the oven, they all came out done all the way through. In the centre are roasted potatoes with whole cippoline onions. It was done in a cumin, sea salt, and turmeric base, in the oven. They came out tender on the inside, and crispy on the outside. The onions were sweet, and a little smoky from the cumin. Fabulous! On the right you see Karen, me, Erica, and Janice.

When Erica got back form Israel, she mentioned in passing that with every meal, they serve a chopped salad of cucumber, red onions, and tomatoes, tossed with parsley and lemon. Just by luck, the vegetable place had Israeli cucumbers, and good sweet plum tomatoes, so I couldn't resist! The only change I made was that I used shallots instead of onions, and cilantro instead of parsley. On the right is the Unslaw from the cookbook, with the addition of red peppers, and broccoli. I also added some hot Hungarian paprika to finish it off.

On the left is the unslaw, but without the broccoli or Hungarian paprika. I left out the broccoli, so that everyone could clearly see which one is hot, and which one isn't. In the middle are me and Steve. On the right is a blend of toasted ground cocoanut, with mixed nuts (also ground) that I seasoned with cinnamon, clove, fennel, and a bit of salt. We used it to sprinkle onto the soups, or salad, or rice, or whatever else we felt like eating it on!

On the left are red wine and brandy marinated beets (you can't see the nest of sautéed beet greens underneath, but they're there). On the right are the Indian aubergines from the cookbook.

No party is complete without silly poses after the cooking. I submit to you mine for that night.

This is what the spread looked like before everything came out. There's still a few dishes missing.

That's me and Erica in the kitchen, ready to break open the cocoanut with a hammer.

I'm sorry that it took so long to post the updates (which is why it's coming all at once!), but better late than never, eh?

23 October 2007

Mornings. ::shudder::

I'm not a morning person by definition, but it looks like I may be by design. For whatever reason, I sat up at 3:45 AM today, and didn't feel like going back to sleep. After my usual glass of water, I took one look at the fridge, the living room, and the kitchen, and quietly screamed inside. This will simply not do. The fridge was outright empty, the living room had what seemed to be a quarter tonne of junk mail, old magazines, and random other flotsam washing up from the shores of the couches and tables and every other space open surface there was. I couldn't see much of a floor. And we're flying out on Saturday.

First thing's first, which was to work on the fridge. As I've probably mentioned a few million times by now, I like to make large quantities of soups, stews, and stocks, and leave myself my own version of a frozen food aisle in my freezer. They come in handy for rainy days, or for whenever you haven't gone shopping in a while, and need to crank out a meal in a hurry. I set the microwave to stun, and let a large bowl of mung bean soup defrost (and recook, of course). I also pitched in the flour, water, yeast, and salt into my breadmaker, so that I'd have a fresh steamy loaf when I get home this afternoon. I also managed to ferret out a dish of pasta that I'd left in the freezer for emergency rations. Having 2 pita breads, and a small pot of hummus in the fridge (along with bottles of water, because it's ungodly hot out here) and nothing more to eat is what I'd call a code red emergency. Also, we're not going to be here all that long, so there you go.

Hold on. I should qualify what I mean by nothing to eat. Since the world revolves around me (Galileo got it wrong), I mean specifically that there was nothing for me to eat. There is still a whole mess of aubergine and a bunch of red wine marinated baked beets. Technically there's plenty of food for people to eat, but none for me. Oh yeah, and the Venn Pongal, of course. Granted, I don't count it, because I've already had it twice since I made it.

Damn. I am spoiled.

19 October 2007

Old standbys are there, as always.

Of course, since the move is coming up so soon, Steve and I are streamlining our lives, as well as our pantries and fridges and the like. Unfortunately, that means that we've more or less eaten everything else. It's vaguely embarrassing when the child of a mother whose cupboards are overflowing with food, who had to buy a second fridge to keep up with the amount of food, and whose family entertained almost every night is down to the components of food-like things.

There's split peas. There's oil, but I'd rather not bother with it, because I used it for frying a few too many times, and I think it answered back last night. Either that, or I was a lot more tired than I thought I was. Of course, there's rice. Spices are there, because my mother seriously has extreme stores of spices. No, I'm serious; she bought out stores with spices, and kept them in long term storage at home. Extreme, see?

It's not exactly torture, of course, when the pieces fall into place, and I make that old favourite, Venn Pongal. This time, I decided to be even more lazy than I normally am with this dish. I threw two cups of rice, and five cups of water into a large microwave safe dish. I microwaved it at 70% power for 15 minutes, then again at full power for 20 minutes. While that was going, I set a pot of water to boil (roughly 2 litres) and added 2 cups of yellow split peas to it.

As I said, that oil was giving me dirty looks, so I figured it'd be best to avoid that line of questioning, and tipped in a few stout teaspoons of my mother's Sambhar powder. (Google is your friend. I have a recipe in my book, but if you don't have my book, google "Sambhar powder recipe" and click around till you find one with the ingredients you have.) I also tipped in a scant teaspoon of turmeric, and a few scrapings of ginger root (fresh; powdered doesn't taste close to the same, so omit it if you don't have fresh). Of course, in went the ever present red chili flakes, and quite a lot of freshly ground black pepper. I could have added curry leaves, but I didn't feel like walking out into that rain.

I picked up my book, reclined on the couch to listen for the beep, and read avidly when the first 15 minutes were over. The water on the stove was cheerfully boiling, but the rice wasn't nearly cooked at all. In fact, at 70%, the water wasn't even boiling. I got annoyed, set the time for 20 minutes, and hit the start button. I added in the cooked rice. I replaced a bit of the water in the pot (as it was evaporating fairly fast), and put the lid on it. I dropped down the flame to medium low. Covering the lid and lowering the heat would maintain the temperature without my having to expend so much fuel. Besides, with Venn Pongal, you need the rice to be mushy in any case.

At the end of the 20 minute beep, the rice was done, and the split peas were almost done. I decided to have some toast, wash my face, do some tidying up, and get ready for dinner. The rice continued to merrily simmer away. About ten minutes later, the yellow split peas were done through (they sort of fell apart), and the rice was that proper mushy consistency. I generously salted the dish, and turned off the stove. It was still in that sloshy stage. I gave it a good strong stirring, to loosen up any bits that were stuck to the bottom of the pot, and covered the lid tightly. I relaxed with a glass of water, and knew that Steve would be coming home shortly. Just about ten minutes later, when the pongal had just set, he walked in, sniffed the air, and dug right in!

I'm surprised that it came out so well without any of the fat. Interesting ...

If, however, you don't particularly mind a bit of fat, here are some nifty and easy
Ideas for Jazzing Up Pongal
  • Raw or caramelised onions, sprinkled on top of each diner's bowl
  • Crushed toasted nuts
  • A drizzle of tahini, thrown on just before serving
  • Indian pickles (it's in the book, I swear)
Other than that, you really don't want to fuss around with the flavours or textures too much. Feel free to add more heat, or salt, or a kick more of spices. However, pongal is such a classic that it's hard to improve on something that's such a staple for so many people across the world.

That's right, world, not just India. I've noticed that all over the world, in the older civilisations, you had some mix of rice and lentils/beans/legums/pulses, that was cooked together, gently spiced, and eaten as a staple dish. The reason is that when you're feeding a family with such varied needs and tastes, as you did in those days when you lived with your family, you'd want to get something on the table that everyone could enjoy comfortably, from the very young to the adult to the very old. Regardless of what the culture would call it, it'd be fairly mushy, gently spiced, and cooked for a fairly long time (since the grain and the legume was cooking together). Cultures who don't quite have that art down (the younger, meat based ones) tried to emulate it, but would fall short of the whole point of the dish: it was meant to be a staple, it was meant to be cheap, and it was meant to be something that the whole family could easily enjoy.

Look at the traditional comfort foods of the American south. Macaroni and cheese. Smashed potatoes. You could certainly feed it to everyone, but it's not something you could eat every day as a staple. They're just searching for their lost bowls of pongal. It's OK, folks. There's a large pot of it waiting patiently on my stove. Come. Eat. :)

17 October 2007

Public Service Announcement

My mom called me on Saturday afternoon to tell me that dad's wallet was lost. It was late on a Saturday, and Steve and I were out. Shipping would be, to say the least, a little pricey. Cue the mad dash of madness.

Since the US Postal offices were already well past closed at that point, the only other option would be to ship it with a different carrier, like DHL or FedEx. Meanwhile, none of them had a clue as to how expensive this can be. Take it from someone who's made some pretty big messes in his life that it's not cheap. DHL's 10 AM service alone is like $80 on a weekday. This was a Saturday night, and they'd need it before their 9:00 AM flight on Tuesday. There are just some chances you don't take.

They filed the police report, but would be unable to pick it up until Monday, when the station had regular business hours. Meanwhile, a call to the airlines revealed that there was a fair bit of other ... stuff to be done before he could get on the plane, so could they please show up a couple of hours ahead of time? As it is, you already need to be at the airport two or three hours early, to get through security and the rest. Whoof. This was going to be a challenge.

By hook or crook, I managed to contact a family friend, dash over to his place, and scan my dad's passport. I got it on my flash drive, took it home, and sent it in an email. My parents went ahead and took a colour print of the copies, and were ready to bring it on Tuesday before their flight.

The wallet turned up on Monday.

A jogger had seen it on the road, and took it to the station. Fortunately, all the money was still in there, and the guy was honest enough to leave it all in there. None of the cards were fussed with, and everything was in order. My parents managed to pick it up from the station on Monday afternoon. Bear in mind that from Saturday though Monday afternoon both my parents were on edge, because this was NOT a pleasant prospect (i.e., getting new bank, credit, and social security card) to face. Then calling the credit bureaus, and putting up a fraud alert. Then hoping against hope that someone doesn't steal his identity. It would have been an epic disaster.

My mom and I talked this morning, and she said that now that they have the copy of his passport, that they'd be making copies of the rest of that stuff. A thought struck me at that moment. What if that'd been me? I'm leaving to New York in a week, and don't know what I'd do if I lost my ID and credit cards. I don't even have the phone numbers for all those cards to call them. That in itself would take a while to sort out. Then I'd have to figure out how to handle the rest of it. Meanwhile, I'm a USA citizen. To have my stuff stolen would be a major head ache, because my information would go for a fair bit of money.

I told my mom that I had to go, and explained that I'd be going to make the copies NOW. I went in, scanned the front and back of my credit cards, then took a scan of my passport. I emailed it to myself, and have it for safe keeping. Please please do this as well. Have it there for yourself should anything ever happen to your cards. It's just nice to know that you have options.

16 October 2007

Veganism != expensive

I've heard it once, and I'll probably hear it a few thousand more times, but let me be abundantly clear right now: veganism is not expensive. I got the comment just yesterday, and it annoyed me, but I chose not to say anything, because I was in a hurry, and a dirty look was all I had time for. If you're reading this, person to whom I shot a dirty look, this is to you. I'll try to make this as friendly as I can, and if you notice me getting ranty, forgive me, because this is about the millionth time I've addressed this.

Everyone needs a variety of foods in their diet, which include selections of dark leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, grains, and lots of water. Not juice, coffee, tea, or soymilk, but water. All these things are dirt cheap no matter where you're going, especially if you're buying them in bulk, cooking them up in large batches, and freezing the leftovers. Ideally, we'd all be eating locally grown, organic, fresh picked produce, but for those of you who cannot afford that, buying the regular fruits and veg are just fine.

That being said, if it's a time issue, even living off of frozen vegetables (though not the best idea in the world) and tinned beans would still leave you at less than $5 a day for food. 1 lb of frozen veg generally goes for a dollar or two. 1 lb of tinned beans are generally around a dollar. A 20 lb bag of rice shouldn't be more than $7, unless you're buying something fancy. Even at $10 for a 20 lb bag of rice, you're still going to take some serious time to finish it off. Throw in the cost of spices, and you're still eating really cheaply, because you're not using them in large amounts.

So what if you can't afford cookbooks? There are sites like vegweb that have hundreds of recipes for each category in their site. They let you post your pictures and reviews of the recipes, so that others can see how it turned out. You can read other peoples' reviews, and get an idea of how it's going to turn out. This is not difficult at all. They've even got recipes posted for all levels of skill.

Maybe that's still not enough for you. Join any vegan forum on the Internet, and there's bound to be a food section, because vegans really like to eat, and love to talk about it. If you're on a tight budget, chances are that someone else is too, and can probably guide you along the path without too much pain. As long as you're not behaving like a jerk, people are willing to lend a hand.

I've met multiple people who've gone vegan at age 12 or 13, with or without the support of their parents, and still managed to make it work. Here you are, a full grown adult, whining about how it's too expensive? That's pretty sad there, buddy. If those young kids, with no car, no job, no money, and no support can manage to make it work for themselves, you as an adult who is infinitely more equipped to navigate life are not only capable of making it work, you're able to make it work very well.

Finally, if you really think it's all that expensive, let me cook for you for a week. I'll go shopping with you, and show you exactly what I'm buying. I'll keep the costs at around $20 for two weeks, and make sure to hit up the produce aisle regularly. This isn't $20 per week for two weeks. It's $20 for two weeks, full stop. Then I'll come over to your house, cook the whole lot of it, and chuck it in your freezer for you to have.

The reason you're saying that going vegan is expensive is because you're waffling around the national Health Food Store chains, and trying to find vegan versions of every single thing you've ever eaten, full stop. If your idea of going vegan is buying soy cheese, soy parm, soy milk, tofu, tempeh, seitan, mock chicken, fish, beef, hotdogs, burgers, and ice cream, you're not only going to get tremendously unhealthy, you're also going to be spending ten times more than any sane person needs to be spending on food. Remember kids: a cookie is a SOMETIMES food. I almost wish for a vegan version of that song, where they say "an omnisub is a sometimes food" but I'm not sure how much Sesame Street would care for that.

15 October 2007

Saturday Cooking

On Saturday, a friend of mine (Erica) called me over to her house to get together to cook. This is probably going to be the only chance I'll get to go over there before I move next Saturday, so I figured it'd be a great opportunity to show her and her daughter how to get down the basics of cooking for vegans. Their food is mostly centred around a meat main dish, and a couple of sides, so I don't know what they expected when Steve and I came over!

We got in, and I immediately set a pot of lentils to start simmering, so that by the time we got back from the store, they'd be at least mostly done. We went to this place called the Fruit Emporium, where they had so many different kinds of fruits and vegetables, that I was running around like a kid opening presents on the day of his birthday. Kale, collard and beet greens, swiss chard, bok choy, cabbages as big as your head, cocoanut, yams, tiny little baby potatoes, yucca, cassava, pumpkin, butternut squash, eggplant (both Japanese and Italian), and so many others that I can't even remember them all. We piled the trolley full of vegetables, and went to pay.

Everything totalled up to $50.

She was quite shocked at that, because she's used to paying so much more for her weekly grocery bill. We lugged everything to her house, and started cooking. I showed her daughter how to do everything, from start a fresh soup to roasting vegetables in the oven with a spice rub. I kept the steps really simple, so that she could come back and try things out on her own.

All in all, we turned out 14 dishes. 3 of them were soups, there were four varieties of oven roasted vegetables, and the rest were random sides we composed on the stove top. Our friends who came over to help us eat all that food were raving about how it was so much fun to try out the different things we came up with, and enjoy everything so much! The star of the programme, however, was the lentil soup. For some reason, no matter how many times I make them, they always get big raves from the people who eat it.

Unfortunately, we lost our camera, so I can't upload pictures of all the food. :( I'm sure it'll turn up at some point when we get everything set up at home to move.

12 October 2007


I was up late last night, because I had a lot on my mind, and wanted to chat with a friend to clear said mind. Granted, I'd lost my mind years ago, but I can pretend, right? So there you go.

I think I got back in around 12:45 or something, and Steve, bless him, muttered something cute, and rolled over when I came to bed. The next morning, bright and early at 6:00, Steve cheerfully woke me up. I was still half asleep, when I figured out the best way to get him out of my hair so I could sleep in. "Steve could you please pop some cumin and mustard and sesame seeds, throw in some cooked beans, and throw in some garlic? Make sure to keep an eye on it though."

"Sure, no problem."

30 minutes later, he comes back. "Beans are done."


"We're almost out of rice."

"I meant uncooked. Throw in 1 cup of rice, 2 cups water, let it come to a boil, drop to a simmer for fifteen minutes."

Another fifteen minutes later, "Babe, the rice is done, and it's time to go."

I groaned, and silently cursed the need to go to the store, but I was fine once I got out of the house, because I had a yummy lunch to look forward to!

EDIT: Gallopinto is a delightful South American dish, where beans and rice are cooked together, and served as a main course. It's spicy, smoky, and yummy.

Damn home improvement shows.

When they told me that a Stud Finder had nothing to do with what I thought it was, I cried for days.


10 October 2007

Moving ramble: not for the easily bored.

If you're bored by my ramblings about moving, just keep going. Maybe read the veganfaq.blogspot.com for something more interesting and definitely more enlightening than my whinging. Either way, it's here so that I have some record of moving, and so that Steve can grant me a firm kick in the bottom if I ever suggest moving again. Onwards then!

So here we are, with a mountain of crap that we've managed to accumulate over the past year and change. Tonnes of clothes, lots of baubles, random books, books that aren't so random, accessories, and more stuff that I'm ashamed to admit. My mother rustled up some Club cookware, which I feel hideous leaving behind, as I've wanted to cook with it since forever, but was saving it for when I move. My set of Henckel knives that I got as a gift from Steve's brother (and sister—both bought us a set) that have served me so well. It's just about that time to get them sharpened anyway, but the lovely lady who's renting us the place has generously offered the use of her kitchen.

There's also a small mountain of miscellaneous crap that's sitting around and gathering dust. I can't take all those books with me, because I literally don't have the space in my suitcases. But what about that tome that I have for using Creative Suite 2? I read that damn thing constantly. I also have autographed copies of some books that I can't let go, because they came from friends.

Aside from all of that, however, I'm LAZY! I don't feel like going through that huge pile of stuff, and sorting it out and getting it into boxes. Boo. I can't exactly ask Steve to tackle it, because he doesn't get home until past 7:00 anyway. I know that when this is all over, I'll look back and laugh, but for now, it just feels good to whine. >_<

08 October 2007


Of course I made soup. I had a bunch of disparate ingredients, and a hankering for something to battle that horrible rainy weather we've been having for the past few weeks. Contents of this soup include red potatoes, broccoli, and cabbage. Of course, it's got a metric tonne of curry leaves, some spices, and a touch of chili.

Then yesterday, I had some beans laying about. I was feeling lazy, so I tipped in a few cups of beans to the soup as well. Those lovely little gems launched my soup from wonderful to catastrophically delicious. I can't wait to have another go at it this afternoon.

07 October 2007

I'll be moving from Florida to New York city really soon. If anyone would mind having a couple of cute vegan boys who will cook and clean for you for a few days in exchange for couch space, let me know.

Speaking of cooking, my friend Dana (I mentioned her a lot in the book) invited me over to come cook with her. She wanted to get in a couple more sessions before I leave the state, and I was more than happy to oblige her, because I enjoy being with her so much! And, you, my lovely readers, can enjoy the pictures of the food.

This is bajji. The larger pieces are actually bread that we used to use up the last of the batter. It was delicious. I was bursting with pride, because Dana managed this batch herself with no prompting from me at all. In the time I've known her, we've only made it a couple of times, because it isn't exactly healthy, and it uses up a fair bit of oil, and makes an enormous mess. So to have seen her triumphing over the recipe (from MEMORY, no less!) was a wonderful parting gift.

This is one of Steve and Dana's favourites: aubergine. I made version 2 from the book, with lots of whole cloves of garlic. It was another moment of pride, because as I was cooking in, Dana's daughter Noodle walked by, and asked "Did you just add cinnamon to something?" We were both shocked that this little five year old was able to correctly identify a spice by smell alone. We're making a future chef!

Wine, of course. The glasses looked really pretty, so I wanted a picture of them.

Courgettes and Squash. VERY yummy, with lots of basil, oregano, rosemary, and curry leaves. Piles and piles of curry leaves.

Saffron and cashew rice Basmati rice. Extremely yummy all by itself.

This stuff makes me ill to think about, but Steve and Dana POUNCE at it every time I make it. It's that okra buried treasure from the book. It's another of Dana's favourites, so she specifically got okra so that I'd make it for her. The things you do for friends!

Indian roasted potatoes with onions.

We had a really good time, cooking, talking, gossiping; all the regular stuff that we do when you get that many vegans in a room together. The food came out very well, and the house smelled divine for hours afterwards!

03 October 2007

Mushrooms, Cabbage, Potatoes

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it yet, but Steve makes a very bad liar. He's also fairly bad at dropping subtle hints. But that's OK, because I can tell what he's getting at for the most part. A prime example of this was yesterday night after work. I'd asked him to snag some vegetables on his way back home. We had frozen spinach and dried beans, but we'd already had bean soups three times this week alone. I was wanting some actual vegetables. He said that he'd definitely hit up our usual haunts, and see what he could rustle up. "Oh, I made sure to eat already, so there's no pressure to cook, but I did clear out the dishes in the sink, and the counter, so it's there if you want." See what I mean? About as subtle as a flaming pink and neon green rhino at a tea party. In a sun dress and white gloves, no less.

We got home, and he showed me that he'd bought cabbage. And potatoes.


This would usually mean, on my side, a stew or soup of some sort. I'd whip out the holy trinity of ingredients (onions, garlic, tomato), and the holy trinity of spices (cumin seed, mustard seed, sesame seed), and make soup happen, with the addition of some lentils, or other beans. It would have been comforting and delicious. But last night, I was feeling contrary. I didn't want to follow predictable patterns. He knows what happens when he presents me with really scant variety of ingredients: I panic and make soup. It's what happened every single time in the past when the pantry has been bare.
Fortunately, this old dog has a few new tricks up his sleeves. I puttered around for a while, chopping up the cabbage, dicing up the potatoes, dicing up some onions, and musing on what to make. For good measure, I roughly chopped up a few handfuls of curry leaves, and had my spices waiting for me, depending on where to go. When I saw how much more cabbage there was to chop, I groaned inwardly, and decided on my old standby of soup.
Let me explain. The cabbage that Steve brought home was a couple of kilos at the very least. Something of that size takes some serious effort to break down. I managed to hack it apart enough that I could finish chopping half the head, but beyond that, I was far and away screwed if I were to chop through the entire monster. Considering that I'd just chopped up an onion and some potatoes, I was ready to call it quits at this point in the chopping department.
Good Dino: Wait a minute, Dino. Isn't the holy trinity of soup supposed to be onions, garlic, and tomato? You've only got one of the three handled now, and you know how we feel about starting something without having all the ingredients ready in front of us. Evil (AKA normal) Dino: Quiet, you. We'll figure this out.
In went some oil into a deep sided pot. When the oil got hot, in went some spices (the same spices I used in that lentil soup a few posts back). I pitched in the curry leaves and the onions, and a liberal dose of salt. While the onions sautéed, I fumbled around in the fridge, seeing what else I could rustle up. Aha! Sliced mushrooms! Suddenly, I knew that I could do this as a dry curry on top of the stove, rather than a soup.
When the potatoes were crusty and brown all the way around, I lobbed in the sliced mushrooms. See, my problem is that if I was going to add in cabbage, which takes a while to leak out its water and let you unstick the potatoes from the bottom of the pot, I would have to add some water first to deglaze the pot first. What the mushrooms would do for me is quickly leak out their water naturally, which would deglaze the pot. In the mean time, the water would also evaporate fairly quickly, so that I wouldn't end up with a wet dish, meaning that I could make a dry curry after all!
Once the mushrooms cooked down a bit, I threw in the mass of cabbage that I did have cut already (the other half comfortably sitting in the fridge), and added a bit more salt. I let the cabbage cook for about five or ten minutes or so, and stirred it around every two or three minutes to redistribute all the spices and salt and flavours. Once the cabbage was done to a T, I turned off the heat, and had the divine stuff with some steaming hot rice. It tasted wonderful, and was easy to make.

01 October 2007

It all started with a slice of bread that I toasted on the stove with olive oil. I just needed the barest few drops to get the bread lightly oiled on both sides, and then a nice hot skillet to get that pretty colour on it.

Next came a clove of garlic, that I had sliced in half vertically. I rubbed the garlic all over the bread, on both sides and on the crust.

I wanted that garlic to permeate the bread thoroughly. It was quite nice.

Finally, I loaded on giant slices of fresh tomatoes, dripping with flavour.

Breakfast is served.

26 September 2007

"But we are out of the soy cheese."

There's this restaurant that's a goodly thirty minutes away from my house. They serve vegan pizzas, but there's nothing else in there that really interests me. Meanwhile, their prices aren't exactly affordable, so going there is a special treat that I'd do only on special occasions and the like. If I'm making a trek to a place that's so far out of the way, they'd damn well better deliver.

So what do you know? We show up on Monday night, after flying in from New York (where vegan food surrounded us from sea to shining sea), and they tell us that they're out of the soy cheese for the vegan pizzas, and would we prefer the buffalo mozzarella. "That's OK, we'll find some other place."

Let me make this very clear: if you advertise something, have it in stock. If you find that you seem to be powering through the stuff, and people are purchasing it, get more. Don't make me travel all the way out there, only to be told you don't have any more. There aren't that many vegans in this region anyway. I'd never had this stuff before, and I'm probably never going to have it in the future, because I'm not about to go to a place that doesn't have its stuff together. Good job, you lost another customer. Go back to feeding the cow-sucking hippies.

New York Recap

New York City, was, of course, fabulous. We cooked, we ate, and we got to relax with friends for quite a while. Meanwhile, the weather was scrumptious, and the people were friendly as always. I'm definitely looking forward to moving there eventually.

I've started watching that new TV show, Ugly Betty. OK, it's not exactly new; it's been out for a year, but I am sometimes behind the times when it comes to popular culture stuff. It's an interesting show, and quite twisted at times. The stories are varying, and the characters are likeable (if so the character is meant to be liked) and loathable (as required, of course). The clothing is a LOT of fun to look at, because you'll see high Couture outfits being combined in interesting ways, in combinations that work (or really don't work, as in Betty's outfits). You'll see a $5,000 patterned skirt looking decidedly bargain basement, because Betty doesn't know how to pair clothing very well, and tends to wear clashing colours. It's hideously fun!

22 September 2007

Friday on the way in

I fortunately managed to find a ride to the airport, and it wasn't that difficult at all, once I got there. It was more or less an issue of getting through security, and getting a bit of tranquilising stuff into me. Unfortunately, I was too keyed up all day to eat much of anything, so I'd been downing a few cups of coffee instead, and not quite enough of anything else. Of course, what ended up happening then was that my nerves were shot to heck, and I was a twitch (hah!) jittery.

Fortunately, I asked Steve to snag some nuts ahead of time, and we managed to snack a bit before heading onto the aeroplane. The flight took off on time, and is hopefully going to land a bit early. I'm definitely looking forward to getting off the plane, as flying makes me ridiculously nervous.

God bless Jet Blue airlines. They have very generous leg room, as well as individual television sets in the backs of the seats in front of you. Quite fun. Of all the trips that I've taken to New York, I'd have to say that tonight's flight was the absolute best of them. It took off and arrived exactly on time, and the flight crew was friendly and attentive.

In spite of the multiple times that I've gotten lost in the past trying to find her house, I managed to make it to my friend J's house without even calling her once for clarification on directions. I think that having the cheat sheet in front of me (thank you, Google maps) and poking at her guy earlier in the day helped matters tremendously.

Of course, as soon as we got in, Steve was hungry, and I expected as much. We'd both had a long day in getting to the airport (what with the rain, and traffic delays and such), and I was in the mood to throw together something quick. My friend had bought some wonderful rustic bread with a chewy texture, and thick hearty crust. I threw together a quick bruschetta. Here's what I did.

First, I sliced up the bread into thick~ish slices. Then, I combined:
- 2 medium sized tomatoes, finely diced
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
- 1 TB minced fresh basil
- 1 TB minced fresh rosemary
- Splash of balsamic vinegar
- Splash of olive oil
- 8 oz tinned red beans, drained well

I tossed all the ingredients together in a bowl, and ground up a bit of sea salt and black pepper to round things out. Once the bread got toasty and crusty, I removed it from the oven, and let everyone pile on the toppings to her or his own liking. They enjoyed tremendously, because the bread was fresh, and the topping was that perfect blend of tart, sweet, salty, and peppery. The herbs provided a wonderful counterpoint to the strength of the garlic, and the olive oil took the edge off of everything. Quite a success, if I do say so myself.

More to come as the weekend progresses.

19 September 2007

Dino Wallpapers

A friend of mine made wallpapers of me out of the header image when I let him play around with it:

My mom and I chatted ...

And she's going to Seattle today to visit my second brother there. She's been looking forward to the trip, although she is very nervous that things won't go right either in terms of the food situation, or a million other things that could go wrong. We caught up on all sorts of little things, and my phone promptly died. Of course it only died after we'd wrapped everything up, but there you are.

Seattle has a very active Food Not Bombs community, where they distribute food three times a week (according to mom), and even have a "Free Market", where people can come and take produce away for free. It's a pretty cool concept, I'd say, to have food that would have been wasted being given out to all takers. Meanwhile, the store gets a fat tax write-off for the donation, so everyone wins in the end. :)

New York is looming large, and I'm nervous because I still haven't bothered to pack. Of course I haven't packed yet; doing so would mean that I'm organised and have my stuff together. Such is not the case, of course. We'll see where it goes, hmm?

Last night, when I got home, I started to unwind. I had a quick snack, I lay down for a bit, and had a fast catnap. Finally, around 6:00 (an hour before Steve gets home), I had a sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach. I ran out of my room, and checked the fridge.

It was empty.

So there I was, trying to figure out what to make. The first thing I did, which I always do in moments of food crises, is make a pot of rice immediately. The rice cooker is a wonderful tool in taking care of that little step without my worrying about it. I have one of those basic models with a removable pot, a lid, and an on/off button. It keeps the rice warm, but doesn't DING when it's done. Like I said, it's a very basic model, but it does the job every time. That barely took me a minute or two to throw down. Then, I foraged around for vegetables. And realised that we didn't bother buying any, because we'd be leaving over the weekend.


Fortunately for me, there are a couple of staples I always have on hand: tomatoes (either tinned or fresh, depending), onions, and garlic. That holy trinity is never far from anywhere I am, because it forms the baseline of so many dishes. Tonight, it would have to be a dish! Fortunately, I have the recipe for Tomato Rice memorised from making it so many times (I hope you're getting the point that I'm not always together when it comes to planning things out on time), and started in on chopping the vegetables, starting with the onions. Once the spices were popped, in went the onions. Once they had a couple of minutes to cook (I was on a time crunch here), I threw in the tomatoes, and let them simmer for a while. By the time they were mostly done, Steve walked in earlier than I'd expected. I sent him out on a really quick errand while I finished things off. By the time he got back (it took him only five minutes), the food was ready, and I could relax again.

Dinner was served.

17 September 2007

Updates and the like

As I'd hoped, the VeganFAQ project is coming along swimmingly. I've got quite a few people on board, who are happy to share their wisdom, their humour, and their venting, all at the same time. It's very interesting to read people's take on various aspects of vegan life. If you're up to join in, leave a comment on here with your email address (so that it gets emailed to me), and delete the comment after doing so (so that nobody else gets it!) and I'll see what I can do.

Hopefully, on Wednesday, I'll have another segment on the Vegan Freaks podcast. If any of you have questions for me to cover, please leave a comment here, and I'll try to include them (as long as I haven't covered the information before). Barring that, it should be an interesting podcast and Cooking With Dino segment.

Steve and I leave for New York on Friday night, and will be back Monday afternoon. I probably will not get a chance to update here too much until I get home, but I'll try to remember to take pictures of our visit. We're staying with a friend, which means that I'll be cooking, and sharing photos, of course. After having been as many times as I have, I have a pretty good idea of what I'm looking to check out. I'll let you all know how it goes, of course.

My new iPod 160 GB came in today, and I couldn't be happier to have it. I finally have a large hard disk drive for backups. It's been such a pain working off the tiny 30 GB HDD on my little iBook G4, and this will be quite nice to have. Since it doesn't require an external power source, like my backup drive does, life will be far simpler this way.

I've been sitting on a minor case of writer's block again, so that's why this post utterly sucks.

16 September 2007

New Project

I'm one of those people that likes to be involved in new projects all the time. I just enjoy watching my ideas unfold into something that's enjoyable for me and my friends. Here’s my latest one. The idea behind it is to allow vegans from different parts  of the world, all kinds of walks of life, and different perspectives to share how they respond to various questions that vegans get asked on a daily basis. I do this because so many FAQs are sterilised, washed out and so clinical. I enjoy my friends immensely, and I want to hear how they handle things, not how others handle them. Rather than having a large, faceless organisation tell me how to think, I'd rather have my friends tell me how they wanted to handle it, or how they did. When we can make our responses have a face, and a name, and a voice, we are no longer just “those damn vegans,” but rather become people, with lives, stories and names. 

12 September 2007


On my entry where I discussed the basics of bringing together a quick and easy dish, I posted some pictures of the food while it was cooking. JonBen asked about garlic in particular.

Why was the garlic whole?
First and foremost, it's important to understand the different levels of flavour that garlic can give. When it's whole, or just loosely crushed (but still mostly whole), you're going to get a very gentle gradation of garlic that permeates the dish, but never stands out in the dish. What I want when I leave the cloves whole is a dish that is OK for people who don’t care for garlic per se, but can tolerate it in their food, as long as it is not the main flavour component. Who hates garlic? Well, I know one of Steve’s aunts refuses to touch the stuff, but doesn't mind it if she can't taste it. I made a spinach dish for Steve and the rest of the people who had come over, but I did not want to exclude anyone from at least trying all the dishes. I left the garlic cloves whole, but put in a lot of garlic! This way, when the aunt tasted some, I served her a portion that didn't have the cloves of garlic. For everyone else, who loves the stuff, they still had whole roasted cloves of garlic in the dish now that they could eat and enjoy.

That's the other thing to note about whole garlic: the flavour of the garlic clove itself is mild, as long as you slow cook it (which is pretty much the only application where I would use whole garlic), or flash fry it in oil (which is how I get the recipes started in any case, where you start with the oil, move on to the spices, then the aromatics—garlic is an aromatic) and then quick cook whatever vegetables you want to eat that night. It is definitely worth a try if you like garlic. I encourage you to give the whole cloves a try. Just do not be afraid, and stop at one clove. Go nuts, and throw in lots and lots of cloves. If the dish is too strongly garlicky for you, you can always remove the whole cloves, and everything gets mild again.

When should it be added?
This will depend solely on what it is you're making. Let’s say that you are in the process of making a barely wilted spinach dish, and you want a very strong kick in the back side of garlic. Mince up the garlic as finely as you can, and add it in with the spinach. Suppose you get a call from your best friend that her new date is coming with her, and she would like to be able to have a little kissing after the dinner is over. No worries! Go back to the kitchen, and put the garlicky spinach in the fridge for yourself for later, when nobody else is around, and there to complain about your foul breath. Then, go ahead and peel up two or three cloves of garlic. In the skillet, start off with your spices.

Once they're popped, throw the whole cloves of garlic into the skillet. Quickly sauté it around in there until they're a toasty brown on the outside. Once that's done, throw in your spinach, and wilt it down. Throw in a pinch of nutmeg (because as we all remember from the book, a pinch of nutmeg makes spinach taste divine), and boil up some pasta really quickly (I would use farfalle). When your friends arrive, toss the pasta with the spinach, and set out some good crusty bread and a bottle of wine. When you serve your friends, quietly scooch the cloves of garlic over to the side, and serve them away from it. Then, when you serve yourself, throw it down onto your own plate, and have a ball! Everyone can walk away happy.

If the dish is going to be a dressing, add it in before you add in the oil or vinegar or whichever liquid you use to make your salad dressing. When you grind a dressing in a blender, the garlic pieces tend to stick to the sides. The liquids that you pour down the sides will help wash the garlic down towards the blades where they can get properly chopped up. If you are making a hummus, I have specific instructions on how to handle the garlic in the book, but the general rule is that you want to add it early on to give it a chance to grind down properly.

Thanks for the great question, John. I will be sure to look you all up if Steve and I are ever in Vancouver!