Back on Friday!

Photo via Imgarcade.

Photo via Imgarcade.

Hi, all! Since I’m currently on break from school and visiting a dear friend in Brooklyn, I’m taking a mini-hiatus from the blogosphere and will return on Friday for Vegan Chews & Progressive News (# NewsandChews).

To tide you over, though, why not check out a recent article I wrote for the Our Hen House online magazine, entitled “Celebrating the Rich Histories of Largely Vegan Cultures“?

See you later this week!

In solidarity, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {10-17-14}

Farmers Market Vegan’s “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” series strives to promote artful vegan food and progressive discussion of social issues—both of which prove necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the well-being of all creatures (not just the rich or the human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News (# NewsandChews) turns 20!!! (And only a month after my own 20th birthday.) Today’s roundup – as a testament to my beloved mother and the variety of soups she crafts on an almost daily basis during the winter – features two velvety, steaming purees of colorful root vegetables, along with another spoonable recipe of fruity succulence. For stories, an interview and a book provide meaningful models of transformative activism, while a podcast offers an eye-opening take on three otherwise familiar social issues. So, welcome!

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Savory

Beet & Horseradish Soup with Thyme & Caraway Croutons
via The Circus Gardener

Photo via Steve Dent.

Photo via Steve Dent.

The first of two fall-centric soups of today’s roundup, this vibrant puree marries the sweet earthiness of beets with the clean sharpness of fresh horseradish. Lately I’ve found myself more enamored than usual of beets – chopping them raw into my daily lunch salads and baking them whole wrapped in aluminum foil – but have hesitated to implement them in a soupy application. This velvety looking recipe has convinced me, and I intend to throw some caraway seeds directly into the soup along with the thyme, rather than allowing the croutons to get all the caraway glory.

Sweet

Ginger Pear Butter
via Connoisseurus Veg

Photo via Alissa Saenz.

Photo via Alissa Saenz.

No soup, but still a smooth puree of yumminess. Quality ripe pears harbor a buttery quality all on their own, but I’m sure not going to argue with a recipe that capitalizes on this rich texture while adding a spicy zing of ginger. For an unrefined version of this delightfully copper-toned fruit spread, use a less processed type of sugar (such as date or coconut sugar) instead of the brown sugar.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Kabocha Squash, Fennel, & Ginger Soup with Spicy Coconut Cream
via Dolly and Oatmeal

Photo via Lindsey S. Love.

Photo via Lindsey S. Love.

While I don’t have a photo of my own to share with you, I do have deeply fond memories from earlier in the week of savoring spoonfuls of this succulent, complexly flavored soup (the second of the day!). Ya’ll. This soup stopped me in my hungry tracks, necessitating after my first bite that I pause to fully appreciate its silky texture and multilayered flavor profile. Providing an example of expert flavor-building, this recipe forms a base of delicate sweetness with caramelized leeks before adding fennel’s notes of mild licorice and finally the most decadent of squashes – kabocha – roasted to tender perfection. I already miss this soup, and I finished the final batch of leftovers two nights ago…back to the kitchen!

Must-Read News Story

Turning Fear into Power: An Interview with Unarmed Peacekeeper Linda Sartor
by Stephanie Van Hook at Waging Nonviolence

Linda Sartor standing on a Soviet tank outside of Kabul, Afghanistan. (WNV / Peggy Gish)

Linda Sartor standing on a Soviet tank outside of Kabul, Afghanistan. (WNV / Peggy Gish)

I find that looking to more experienced, thriving activists can provide an inspiring model for burgeoning changemakers (like myself, I hope!), especially in demonstrating how to maintain our work in the long-term. Though I hadn’t heard of Linda Sartor before this article from Waging Nonviolence landed in my inbox, I think she offers a great deal of insight into how to sustain oneself as an activist, even while engaging in serious forms of civil disobedience. Linda’s practice of asking “Where is that violence in me?” when she witnesses violence manifested in the world particularly sticks with me, as I see it as a reminder that transformative change begins in ourselves; how can we build a just world if we reenact oppressive structures in our daily lives? All of our activism must incorporate a reconceptualization of the self, an idea that I touched upon in my most recent blog post.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

On Privacy and Privilege
via Radio Dispatch

Logo via Radio Dispatch.

Logo via Radio Dispatch.

While the daily Radio Dispatch episodes never fail to bring contemplation and laughter to my morning, Thursday’s edition of the show framed three issues with which I’m fairly familiar in a completely new light. Discussing the privileges inherent in being able to say that you’re not personally fearful of government surveillance, the paralyzing effect of telling young Black men that they have a set of predetermined life outcomes from which to choose, and the positioning of the white supremacist criminal systems as public health epidemics, hosts John and Molly provided me with a more nuanced manner of understanding these pressing issues.

Book Recommendation

Transforming Feminist Practice: Non-Violence, Social Justice and the Possibilities of a Spiritualized Feminism
by Leela Fernandes

Photo via Aunt Lute Books.

Photo via Aunt Lute Books.

In her realistically hopeful book Transforming Feminist Practice, political scientist Leela Fernandes argues that we – people living in contemporary times – have learned to define ourselves against external entities, and that our doing so has limited us from imagining new worldly realities. Fernandes contends that our inability to see ourselves beyond the possibilities of pre-existing identities prevents us from rejecting the ego inherent in all forms of identity, and instead fostering in ourselves a “radical humility required to really manifest social justice in this world” (44). To cast off these static identities through which we currently constitute ourselves, Fernandes calls for an understanding of the self in “radical interconnection” with the world in its entirety (36). In this task, Fernandes does not mean for us to cease taking responsibility for the very real effects of our identity-based privileges, but rather encourages us to envision ourselves as comprised of so much more than these fixed identities, and asserts that this re-envisioning constitutes a necessary aspect of fostering a world in which the social structures that determine our privileges do not exist. Fernandes encapsulates this re-envisioning well in the following passage:

“A strategy for white students dealing with racial privilege would be to recognize and address the social and economic forms of power and privilege associated with whiteness in contemporary society in the United States while realizing that their own conceptions of their self do not need to rest on such hegemonic conceptions of ‘whiteness'” (33).

I love this book. I think I shall sleep with it underneath my pillow.

In solidarity, Ali.

We are Not Cruelty-Free

Hi, folks. No recipe today since the demands of college midterms have prevented me from doing much experimenting in the kitchen. I do, however, want to share with you some of my thoughts on the implications of the term “cruelty-free” and others like it that are often used in vegan and animal rights circles.

Both A. Breeze Harper of Sistah Vegan and writer James McWilliams have recently touched upon the problems with using simplistic phrases to justify a vegan lifestyle. As McWilliams notes, such aphorisms “obscure a far more complicated reality” – a point that Harper effectively demonstrates in a post explaining worker exploitation in the strawberry-picking industry. Pointing out rhetoric among many vegans “about how one’s consciousness is more ‘clean’ by eating diets of fruits and veggies in North America,” Harper astutely reminds us that non-human animal slaughter “is always made visible amongst the vegan mainstream in the US, while…harvesting strawberries or other plants for human consumption under horrible and insufferable conditions is painted as something one need not think deeply about since non-human animals weren’t directly harmed.” Of course, as Harper notes, both practices are not the same (comparing oppressions is messy work at best, after all), though both cause substantial pain and suffering. I also don’t see this reminder as harboring a goal of making vegans guilty or demonstrating to us that we shouldn’t eat strawberries ever again. Rather, I think it provides a jumping off point for interrogating our own positioning, even while combating one instance of systemic subjection (that of non-human animals), in the societal hegemonies that normalize the pain and suffering of certain groups of people (such as Latino/a farm workers) by deeming such groups inferior or threatening to dominant (“normal”) groups.

Whether consciously or not, we all reproduce in our daily lives forms of domination that the social order has inscribed into our very bodies through a process of disciplinary power. Trans activist Dean Spade cogently explains the operation of disciplinary power in his book Normal Life (featured in the latest edition of Vegan Chews & Progressive News):

“The disciplinary mode of power refers to how racism, transphobia, sexism, ableism, and homophobia operate through norms that produce ideas about types of people and proper ways to be. […] Institutional locations such as medicine, the social sciences, and education—where standards of healthfulness, proper behavior, and socialization are established and taught—are key technologies of disciplinary power. In such locations, we learn how to view our bodies, how our actions make us into certain types of people, and how to practice techniques to modify ourselves to better fit the norms. [...] The impossibility of matching the ideal types generates a lifetime of self- and external policing that keep us occupied with our personal reform efforts” (104-105).

Through virtually no fault of our own, we become socialized from birth to recognize certain people and behaviors as “right” and others as “wrong,” “inferior,” and “dangerous,” and this enables us to ignore the injustices perpetuated against the latter groups. Though animal rights activists have challenged a small aspect of this socialization by rejecting the inferior status of non-human animals and identifying their subjection, many if not all of us uphold our learned assumptions of norms in ways that we have a supremely difficult time recognizing unless explicitly pointed out to us (such as the ways in which the mainstream vegan and animal rights movements currently operate under racist, sexist, classist, and ableist rhetoric). Therefore, in the sense of working toward collective liberation for all beings human and non, none of us are living wholly cruelty-free lives, whether vegan or not.

I don’t mean for any of this to make readers feel guilty, depressed, or defensive, but rather to point out that we simply cannot claim moral superiority over others (such as through labels like “cruelty-free”) since we all exist in a world that implicates us in dominant structures of systemic violence. Instead of touting the very personal reform efforts that Spade describes as occupying our activist focus to consequently maintain the invisibility of such structures, we must replace this mode of individualized improvement with what political scientist Leela Fernandes– in her book Transforming Feminist Practice – describes as disidentification: a process that “rests on letting go of all attachments to power, privilege and control” with the goal of “creating a different form of self” that “contains within it a radical interconnection between all of us that necessarily transcends narrower forms of identification” (27, 36). Disidentification, Fernandes notes, “requires a complete dissociation from the ego-based investments in control, recognition and superiority which are mistakenly identified as self-interest” in order to “provide the kind of radical humility required to really manifest social justice in this world” (44).

I can see as one way to begin this process of disidentification a refusal to use blanket terms like “cruelty-free” that imply the moral superiority of certain entities over others. This of course isn’t to say, for example, that the choice between almond milk and dairy milk is an arbitrary one (since the latter is produced through an abhorrent process of reproductive exploitation), but to point out that both exist because of capitalist structures whose dismantling requires activism that transcends individual consumer choices by rooting itself in the radical interconnectedness and humility that Fernandes describes.

I apologize if all of this seems very abstract; working towards social justice is an immensely difficult process, especially if we understand it to require a complete transformation of who we currently know ourselves to be. Let’s keep seeking resources to provide us with models of how to do so, while working to embody radical interconnection and humility in our everyday lives.

In solidarity, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {10-10-14}

Farmers Market Vegan’s “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” series strives to promote artful vegan food and progressive discussion of social issues—both of which prove necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the well-being of all creatures (not just the rich or the human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

Wowza, it’s the 19th edition of Vegan Chews & Progressive News (# NewsandChews)! This week’s recipes move into intensely autumnal fare, highlighting the hearty veggies that provide the substance to get us through the cold months to come. As for stories, I’m pointing you toward three articles that showcase grassroots resistance to the neoliberal powers that perpetuate the ever-growing wealth gap, both in the U.S. and internationally; an important reminder that the intellectual history of our nation did not consist solely of white people; and a book that envisions truly transformative justice more concretely than any text I’ve yet encountered. Happy Friday!

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Savory

Kale and Roasted Red Kuri Squash Salad
via A House in the Hills

Photo by Sarah Yates.

Photo by Sarah Yates.

Vibrant and substantial, this epitome-0f-fall salad promises the creamy succulence of roasted squash, the chewy smokiness of sauteed kale, the crunchy richness of hazelnuts, the plump tanginess of dried cranberries, and the silky brightness of miso-tahini dressing. A prime example of transforming unpretentious ingredients into a dish that far surpasses the sum of its parts.

Sweet

Pumpkin Pie Popsicles
via Fragrant Vanilla Cake

Photo via Amy Lyons.

Photo by Amy Lyons.

Not even the cooling weather can dissuade me from enjoying my dessert of choice: creamy frozen treats (did I mention that I basically lived on vegan ice cream over the summer?). This iteration of such goodies employs a creamy base of bananas for the pumpkiny star of the popsicles, accentuated by warming spices and imbued with richness from nut butter (the recipe calls for pecan butter, but my goodness, how expensive does that sound? I trust that homemade almond butter or even tahini would quite suffice). Plus, look how gorgeously orange they are!

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Za’atar Eggplant over Lemon-Tahini Greens
inspired by My New Roots

za'atar eggplant (2)

Certainly the least seasonal of the recipes highlighted today, this roasted whole eggplant still provides a warming dinner to enjoy on bracing nights. Adapting Sarah’s recipe, I sprinkled the eggplant halves with homemade za’atar seasoning, roasted them until tender, then set them atop a generous pile of mixed salad greens coated in an adaptation of Sarah’s Spicy Tahini Sauce. Filling and flavorful, this dish adequately showcases the smooth texture and buttery flavor of the mighty eggplant.

Must-Read News Stories

Because I’m perpetually interested in examining instances of community-based challenges to hegemonic power structures, I felt compelled to showcase today not one, but three articles that spotlight grassroots resistance to the various iterations of the neoliberal powers that perpetuate the ever-growing wealth gap, both in the U.S. and internationally. Each of these instances of resistance of course prove hugely valuable in and of themselves, but they also point to the infiltration of the neoliberal framework into all aspects of life, and the consequent need to challenge it in a multiplicity of locations.

World Versus Bank: The Return of the World Bank and the People’s Resistance
by Martin Kirk and Alnoor Ladha at Truthout

Homeless Bill of Rights aims to protect life-sustaining activities
by Renee Lewis at Al Jazeera America

Developers Aren’t Going to Solve the Housing Crisis in San Francisco
by Dyan Ruiz and Joseph Smooke at Truthout

Photo via Truthout.

Photo via Truthout.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

Black Prophetic Fire: Cornel West on the Revolutionary Legacy of Leading African-American Voices
via Democracy Now!

Photo via Democracy Now!.

Photo via Democracy Now!.

Despite what the vast majority of our history books taught us, the construction of this nation did not hinge upon white people alone. Indeed, our entire economy would not exist without the brutal enslavement of millions of African peoples, and African Americans as a population have inhabited U.S. land for longer than any other immigrant group. Yet, despite the fact that Black people played a vital role in building our society, the white supremacist powers that be have all but erased their contributions – economic, social, intellectual – and thereby upheld the myth of Black people as worthless and expendable to this day (as we can see with the mass incarceration of Black people. They’re useless, so let’s throw them in prison…or so the rhetoric goes).

On this segment of Democracy Now!, the inimitable Dr. Cornel West brings Black voices to the fore, reminding us of the astonishing, revolutionary individuals who devoted their lives to fighting for justice.

Book Recommendation

Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of Law
by Dean Spade

Photo via South End Press.

Photo via South End Press.

An example of a truly intersectional text, Dean Spade’s Normal Life lays out the three formulations of power – individual, disciplinary, and population-based – more clearly than any other work I’ve encountered. Though his book includes “critical trans politics” in its title, Spade makes clear that the power structures that compromise the life chances of trans people operate in the same way to wreak systemic violence upon all vulnerable populations (and to render them vulnerable in the first place). Spade fiercely challenges the “individual rights” framework of the legal system in which many social justice movements currently operate, specifically critiquing the mainstream lesbian and gay movement for centering their efforts on securing legal reform that will only benefit the most privileged in their community, and in doing so strengthening the very stratifying power structures that generate their subjection in the first place.

Not only does Spade offer this necessary critique, he also provides a framework for how to re-enact such social justice movements currently focused on reform rather than revolution, such that they can fulfill their transformative potentials. Read this and be inspired.

In solidarity, Ali.

The (Vegan) Triple Bacon Salad | Why “Farmers Market Vegan”?

Over the course of the past four years of my blogging endeavors, my understanding of and relationship to food, veganism, social justice, and, yes, farmers markets has shifted considerably. Indeed, way back in 2011 when I first conceptualized my blog, I held rather naive, perhaps even romantic notions of all of these entities, and hadn’t even begun to realize the coalescing forms of structural subjugation rampant in our society.

Today, after a turbulent four years involving enrollment at a progressive college and eating disorder recovery, I’d like to think of myself as harboring more nuanced views on all of the above (though I certainly don’t purport to understand them in all their complexity). As such, this past summer I penned a new draft of my ever-developing story and blogging “mission statement” of sorts. Though I made this piece of writing available on the “About Me” page of my blog a couple of months ago, in an effort to share more broadly the new meaning behind my blog (and to free up some time in my hectic college-student schedule), I’d like to republish my “blogging autobiography,” if you will, in a separate post today.

Waiting at the bottom of this story is the recipe for an indulgent-tasting amalgamation of richly umami flavors and a satisfying contrast of hearty and crisp textures…with three shots of bacon (vegan, of course!). A bed of bacon-flavored salad greens (who knew that sesame oil, smoked paprika, and garlic powder combined to create an eerily accurate bacony taste?) forms the base of this salad, nearly charred roasted cauliflower and shiitake mushrooms provide bacon’s crispy-chewy juxtaposition, and succulent tempeh bacon tops the dish. To offset the richness of these three salad components, a drizzle of bright and tangy “ranch” dressing finishes everything off. An impressive meal-sized salad, if I ever saw one (and I’ve seen many).

vegan bacon salad (2)


Birth of a Farmers’ Market Foodie

My relationship with food and activism began as early as childhood, when I would perch upon the kitchen stool alongside my mother as she prepared dinner that my family would share each evening. This youthful connection with food grew into a full “foodie” identity by age twelve, when my mother and I ogled at the culinary masterpieces showcased on Iron Chef and Top Chef every week. As a freshman in high school, I began planning, shopping for, and cooking my family’s weekly dinner menus. Having become quite the make-from-scratch-er, I soon began to disdain packaged convenience foods, due to both their low quality and ability to completely separate individuals from developing any sort of meaningful relationship with their food.

Naturally, my interest in high-quality, homemade, unprocessed food as well as its convivial nature led me to my local farmers’ market, where I first inhaled the succulent aroma of fresh heirloom tomatoes and gawked at rainbow-hued carrots while befriending the farmers who produced them. Though I had hardly begun to understand the full extent of the problems surrounding America’s current food system (and beyond), I still sought haven at the farmers’ market from the few predicaments I had already realized. My weekly interactions with devoted purveyors of organic produce, as well as with fellow shoppers who too became a bit verklempt over a particularly aromatic cantaloupe, provided me with a (rather naïve) foodie utopia of sorts.

Disorderly Conduct

Come sophomore year of high school, however, my enthusiasm for food had morphed into an unhealthy obsession after an amalgamation of factors—constant judging of young women’s bodies on my gymnastics team, pressure to perform perfectly in academics at my highly competitive high school—led to the development of a fierce eating disorder. With my thoughts constantly fixated on calories—both in terms of eating fewer and burning more—my life suddenly lacked joy and passion. All of my consciousness was focused on waiting for my next meal, as these were the only times when I would allow myself to actually partake in the act that saturated my every thought.

About a year and a half into my eating disorder, a classmate introduced me to veganism, to which I soon clung as a tool of further restriction. Lending less than a second thought to the ethical implications of a vegan lifestyle, I latched onto the diet for an unsuspicious reason to reject calorie-dense foodssuch as traditionally made baked goods, cream sauces, and ice cream (the vegan versions of which I now regularly enjoy). Conscious of this misguided and harmful reason for adopting a vegan diet, I felt uncomfortable every time I called myself a vegan—I knew I was a fraud.

A combination of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s Vegetarian Food for Thought podcast and Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet began to pave my path from a depressed, waif-like, phony “vegan” into an inspired, healthy, committed animal rights activist. Introducing me to the intense injustices humans perpetrate against our fellow beings, Colleen and Alicia unflinchingly explained the forced insemination of female cows in the dairy industry, the pulverizing of live male chicks in the egg industry, the role of animal agriculture as one of the most significant contributors to the world’s most serious environmental problems, and a plethora of additional shocking truths.

Previously indifferent to anything unrelated to my obsessive eating habits, I now found a fierce passion ignited inside of me, a drive forceful enough to expel me from my zombie-like state and to shift my mental focus onto something vastly larger than myself – fighting the dominant, violent ideology of carnism.

Suddenly faced with the urgent yet overlooked issue of animal exploitation, I somehow managed to forget about preventing my thighs from meeting in the middle and not consuming more than 25 grams of fat per day. I realized that directing all of my energy toward adhering to arbitrary, self-imposed rules would contribute absolutely nothing to the movement of compassion for all beings. I disposed of my calorie-tracking charts, replacing them with animal advocacy leaflets. I ceased to Google the most effective ab-toning workouts, and instead launched this blog as an educational resource for my classmates who had never before encountered veganism. I even yearned to (and successfully did) gain weight to combat the mainstream notion of vegans as gaunt, frail, and unhealthy. The only unyielding imperative dictating my once laughably self-restricted food choices was now not to consume anything that promotes the needless suffering of sentient beings.

Utopia: Shattered

In the midst of this profound (and life-saving) transformation, I continued to patronize the farmers’ market—to this day, I still revel in my Saturday morning jaunts to the market. However, while after adopting a vegan lifestyle I still viewed the farmers’ market as an aspect of a potential reformation of America’s broken food system, I began to view many facets of the farmers’ marketas antithetical to what I perceived as its primary goal of broadening access to good, clean, and fair food. While I certainly couldn’t argue with the qualitative “goodness” of the market’s impeccable produce, I questioned the market’s tenets of “clean” and “fair” in terms of its support of animal agriculture.

Consumers who understandably reject nonindustrial animal agriculture due to the huge threats it poses to the environment often opt for animals raised in small-scale free-range, grass-fed, and cage-free operations. These seemingly more sustainable farming methods, however, still effect the environment quite negatively. For example, pastured organic chickens affect global warming 20 percent more than do caged hens. Grass-grazing cows emit considerably more methane than grain-fed cows. If each grass-fed cow requires an average of 10 acres for grazing, and if we all 100 million of the cows in the U.S. on grass, then we would have to devote the entire Western half of the country’s land to cattle (this doesn’t even consider the space required of pastured chickens and pigs). As author, journalist, and author James McWilliams reminds us, “It’s not how we produce animal products that ultimately matters. It’s whether we produce them at all.” A truly “clean” farmers’ market would eschew the sale of animal foods.

To describe the “fair” aspect of its goals, Slow Food nobly affirms that, “we believe that food is a universal right.” I wholeheartedly agree, especially considering the inexcusable food deserts largely concentrated in America’s communities of color, or the 870 million people worldwide who do not have enough to eat. If we agree also, though, that autonomy over one’s own body functions as a universal right, then with animal agriculture we infringe upon this liberty while misguidedly seeking to ensure that advocated by Slow Food (I say “misguidedly” because if all of the crops grown to feed livestock became available for direct human consumption, the available food calories worldwide would increase by up to 70 percent).

Indeed, animal agriculture ensures the exploitation of non-human animals’ bodies while jeopardizing the health of the human animals who consume them, as well as the amount of crops available for direct human consumption. While we may not often hear tales of animal cruelty on small-scale farms, the treatment of animals on such operations often parallels that on factory farms.

The cage-free label, for example, only stipulates that hens live uncaged among up to thousands of other birds in barns or warehouses, generally without access to the outdoors; it also permits forced molting. Additionally, I learned on a trip to the Poplar Springs Animal Sanctuary during the summer of 2013 that every single one of the sanctuary’s cows—all of whom the sanctuary rescued from cases of intense abuse—came from small-scale, family farms.

Most importantly, however, I truly believe that supporting non-industrial animal agriculture inadvertently supports factory farming, since it does not question the notion of eating animals in general. As long as this carnist concept remains unchallenged, factory farms will always thrive, seeing as demand for meat will not decrease—and let’s face it, factory farms produce meat most efficiently, to the immense detriment of the nearly 10 billion land animals Americans consume each year. A “fair” farmers’ market would include non-human animals in the pool of beings whom they grant universal rights, especially if doing so meant that it would render the universal right of nourishing, plant-based food accessible to many more people.

Growth of an Activist

Coming to terms with the fact that the farmers’ market and the foodie community in general would probably not fulfill my idealistic notion of sparking a large-scale shift in America’s corrupt food system, I looked to strengthen my animal activism, becoming a devoted member of the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC) immediately upon entering my first year at Vassar College. Little did I know that freshman year (and beyond) would introduce me to a multiplicity of societal oppressions that existed among the speciesism that had kindled my activist flame. Suddenly, I found myself seeking to combat not only the exploitation of non-human animals, but such harmful “isms” as capitalism, colonialism, racism, sexism, ableism, neoliberalism, homophobia, and more.

However, this well-meaning intention first manifested itself in a questionable manner as I began to draw links between these newly encountered social justice issues and the ones I knew well: veganism and animal rights. I found myself thinking: “Women’s reproductive rights are violated…just like female farmed animals are artificially inseminated! Black and brown bodies are systemically exploited…just like the bodies of non-human animals!” Veganism and animal rights provided me a basis for understanding the social justice issues about which I hadn’t read extensively, yet I soon realized the problematic nature of this framing.

During the summer following freshman year, I and my close friend and VARC co-president found ourselves (as Vassar students often do) discussing intersectionality — a social theory suggesting that the various aspects of one’s identity intersect in complex ways, as do the ways one is treated by society because of such aspects. My friend said something hugely profound that day: “It’s not enough to appreciate social justice issues based on how they relate to the one in which we’re most involved. For real change to happen, we must understand the importance of such issues in and of themselves.” That statement has guided my activism ever since.

While I will never forget that veganism and animal rights opened the door to my commitment to advocacy, I’ve since begun learning about and contributing to other social movements — not because they relate to veganism, but because their fights prove necessary in fostering a more just society. I think that all activists must work to recognize the confluence of inequities prevalent in our world, for disparate activism has the potential to create animosity between the feminists over here and the animal rights activists over there. We must realize all of our fights as intimately connected, and commit to individually understanding all of them.

For me, an integral aspect of my intersectional activism involves challenging the problematic aspects of the current vegan movement, including its racism, sexism,ableism, and focus on capitalist, consumer-based strategies. Because these oppressions would exist even if I were not vegan, and my giving up veganism would enforce another very real oppression, challenging such exploitative facets of today’s vegan movement does not involve dismissing veganism altogether.

Instead, I try to engage in a number of actions in the hopes of combating the privileges (access to a bounty of plant-based foods, an income to obtain such foods, and a social circle that won’t disown my non-mainstream lifestyle) that allow me live a sustainable vegan lifestyle. Such actions include supporting admirable organizations like Food Not Bombs and the Food Empowerment Project that work to make nourishing vegan options accessible to marginalized communities; working to free myself of the capitalistic mindset of nonstop accumulation of material goods; working not to reinforce my various privileges in my daily interpersonal relations; and educating myself about the histories and current manifestations of various oppressions by devouring anti-racist, feminist, anarchist, etc. literature and following progressive news sources.

Veganism is only the first way in which I hope to challenge the capitalist, patriarchal, colonial, speciesist, etc. society that makes it super easy to thrive as a white, straight, cis-gender individual with an upper-middle-class background like me.

So…Why “Farmers’ Market Vegan”?

And thus, you have the long, convoluted story of my development as a vegan and an activist. The name of my blog—Farmers’ Market Vegan—serves as a nod to the origins of this story, as well as a reminder to all that combating systemic oppression in all manifestations involves much more than simply buying a bunch of kale at the local farmers’ market.


vegan bacon salad (1)

The (Vegan) Triple Bacon Salad

Serves 2.

Ingredients:

2-4 oz tempeh, relatively thinly sliced
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 tsp tamari
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper
Pinch of cayenne

1/4-1/2 medium-sized head of cauliflower, cut into florets
6 large shiitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tsp smoked paprkia
1/2 tsp liquid smoke

2 tbsp vegan mayonnaise (Just Mayo and Vegenaise are my favorites)
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh dill, minced
1 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
1 tbsp fresh chives, minced

2-3 big handfuls of mixed salad greens, washed and dried
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, olive oil, liquid smoke, tamari, cumin, black pepper, and cayenne (in the first grouping of ingredients). Toss the tempeh slices in the marinade and allow to sit while you prepare the rest of the salad components.

Toss the cauliflower florets and sliced shiitake mushrooms with the coconut oil, smoked paprika, and liquid smoke (in the second grouping of ingredients). Spread out in an even layer on a baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes, or until the veggies are crispy.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the vegan mayo, water, apple cider vinegar, garlic, dill, parsley, and chives (in the third grouping of ingredients). Set aside.

Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Place each slice of marinated tempeh in the skillet and sear until browned, 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from the heat.

While the tempeh cooks, in a large bowl, toss the mixed greens with the sesame oil, smoked paprika, and garlic powder (in the fourth grouping of ingredients).

To assemble, place a bed of half of the dressed salad greens on two large plates. Scatter half of the roasted veggies over each bed of greens. Place half of the tempeh bacon on top of each salad. Drizzle half of the ranch over each plate. Serve.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

In solidarity, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {10-3-14}

Farmers Market Vegan’s “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” series strives to promote artful vegan food and progressive discussion of social issues—both of which prove necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the well-being of all creatures (not just the rich or the human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

Get yer weekly dose of Vegan Chews and Progressive News (# NewsandChews) here on FMV! I’ve abbreviated my commentary on each featured recipe and story today, since I’ve got my hands full with a campus screening of Maximum Tolerated Dose, courtesy of the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC). But! The content this week essentially speaks for itself, whether it be a hearty and very green burger, a simple yet refined dinner plate, the harmful reality of the NYPD’s “broken windows” policing strategy, two lesser known yet fully phenomenal animal sanctuaries, progressive discourse on the links between climate and class, and a collection of powerful Palestinian short stories. Onward!

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Broccoli Burgers
via Vegan Yumminess

Photo via Vegan Yumminess.

Photo via Vegan Yumminess.

Chock full of walnuts, brown rice, and enough wheat gluten to provide a satisfyingly dense texture, this burger is sure to nourish both tastebuds and body, especially when you throw in a generous helping of cruciferous goodness.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Steamed Squash and Baby Bok Choy with Ginger-Sesame Sauce
adapted from Gourmande in the Kitchen

squash & bok choy with ginger-sesame dressing

Who knew that the clean flavors of steamed butternut squash and baby bok choy drizzled with a ginger-sesame dressing could offer such a fulfilling meal? Served with some tofu-packed miso soup, this dish proves surprisingly comforting, especially on a cold, gloomy day.

Must-Read News Story

Policing for Wealth
via Aaron Cantú at Truthout

Photo via JR/TO.

Photo via JR/TO.

In case you didn’t harbor enough contempt for the NYPD, the truth behind broken windows policing arrives to remind us all of the criminal “justice” system’s close friendship with white supremacy.

Supporting Less Famous Animal Sanctuaries: A Spotlight On VINE And Peaceful Prairie
via Sarah E. Brown at Queer Vegan Food

Photo via Sarah E. Brown.

Photo via Sarah E. Brown.

While the NYPD certainly sucks the joy out of any occasion, the two sanctuaries that one of my favorite fellow animal activists Sarah E. Brown highlighted this week on her blog Queer Vegan Food never fail to reignite the hopeful fire inside my belly. VINE and Peaceful Prairie do incredible work, both for their non-human residents and for the larger animal rights movement. Get to know them and prepare to be amazed.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

Belabored Podcast #61: When Climate and Labor Converge (Live!), with Nastaran Mohit and Lara Skinner
via Dissent Magazine

Photo via Dissent Magazine.

Photo via Dissent Magazine.

The two women who host the Belabored podcast – Sarah Jaffe and Michelle Chen – comprise powerful voices in the world of workers’ rights, labor equality, and economic justice. Here, they combine their insights on labor with the fight for climate justice by welcoming two activists and scholars onto their podcast.

Book Recommendation

Men in the Sun and Other Palestinian Stories
by Ghassan Kanafani

Photo via Amazon.com.

Photo via Amazon.com.

For my Subaltern Politics course at Vassar, we’ve been reading this collection of beautifully haunting short stories from Palestinian author Ghassan Kanafani not with the goal of analyzing the experiences of Kanafani’s Palestinian subjects, but in order to reflect upon our own relationships with marginalized peoples around the world in a greater effort to confront the hegemonic systems that shape our dominating views of The Other. Not easy work, let me tell you, but work that I believe to be absolutely necessary.

In solidarity, Ali.

Winter Squash Soup with Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Basil | Where Did the Recipe Labels Go?

Congratulations to the winner of my Vega prize pack giveaway: Andrew Rogers!

When I launched my blog way back in August 2011, I had only just begun my journey of recovery from an anorexia-like eating disorder. (I say “anorexia-like” because, similar to most all individuals suffering from disordered eating, my experiences proved much too complex to neatly pathologize). While both my weight and comfort with eating/food in general increased – the former steadily, the latter sporadically – I still harbored a fear of putting foods I deemed “unhealthy” into my body. Essentially, as my anorexia-like disorder subsided, my orthorexia-like disorder endured, masking itself as a well-intentioned desire to make food choices that would nourish my body, but basing itself in the pseudoscience and trends that circulate among food blogs and Pinterest recipe boards.

squash tomato soup 2

Recovering from this aspect of my eating disorder required re-imagining food outside of the false dichotomy I had created that categorized food into “good” and “bad,” as well as understanding that truly healthy eating involves both physical and mental wellbeing (read more on this subject in a previous post that also contains an awesome recipe for Ranch Potato Salad!). Removing these categories helped me to avoid seeing foods both as the effect I presumed they would have on my body (i.e., kale would turn me into a superhero while sugar would slowly dissolve my insides) and as a measure of my self-worth. It also helped me to re-root my veganism in a consideration of and respect for the bodies and minds of non-human individuals, rather than in an oft-touted belief that one can only achieve good health on a vegan diet – an assertion that erases the many cultures that have enjoyed long histories of vitality while including animal flesh and secretions in their eating habits.

squash tomato soup

Since de-categorizing my food choices served as an integral tool of my recovery, it seems only fitting that I also de-categorize the recipes on my blog. Previously labeled as “Low Fat,” “Low Sodium,” “Oil Free,” “Gluten Free,” “Nut Free,” and more, my recipes now only fall under one category: food. Of course, while I recognize and respect the reasoning of other bloggers to apply such labels to their recipes (allowing folks with food allergies to more easily find appropriate recipes, for example), doing so on my own blog now feels antithetical to my past and continued efforts to fully reconcile my relationship with food and eating.

squash tomato soup

To usher in this era without recipe labels, I’d like to share with you a creamy, full-bodied soup ideal for bridging the summer and fall as we undergo this period of seasonal transition. In late September-early October here in the Northeast, we’re seeing winter squashes popping up alongside summer’s fading basil bounty, and it only feels natural to me to follow the earth’s logic and combine them in a warming concoction to enjoy on the chilly days starting to weave through the waning heat. Sundried tomatoes provide richness and umami, while a touch of vinegar brightens the soup at the very end.

Is this recipe low in or free of anything? Only fear.

Winter Squash Soup with Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Basil

Serves 2-4.

Ingredients:

2 tsp coconut oil
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 medium winter squash such as butternut, buttercup, or acorn, cubed
4 cups vegetable broth or water
3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (the kind not packed in oil)
1/2 of a large bunch of basil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

In a large soup pot, warm the oil over medium heat. Saute the onion for 5-7 minute, or until it turns translucent. Add the salt and garlic and saute for another minute. Add the squash cubes and saute for another minute. Add the sundried tomatoes and broth/water. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then partially cover, lower the heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is tender. Stir in the basil.

Puree the soup either with an immersion blender, or (carefully!) in batches in a standing blender. Add water to thin, if desired. Stir in the apple cider vinegar. Bring back up to heat on the stove, and serve when the soup has reached your desired temperature.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

In solidarity, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {9-26-14}

If you haven’t yet entered my giveaway for your chance to win a Vega prize pack, be sure to do so!

Farmers Market Vegan’s “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” series strives to promote artful vegan food and progressive discussion of social issues—both of which prove necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the well-being of all creatures (not just the rich or the human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

Today’s edition of Vegan Chews & Progressive News (#NewsandChews) features a hearty soup for the fast-approaching cool fall days, a creamy tart studded with one of my personal favorite fruits, a multidimensional dish from a restaurant cookbook that required an entire day to prepare, a more collaborative notion of charity, a call for resistance against climate change to come from below, and an upcoming book that needs pre-order support!

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Savory

Persian Lentil Soup
via Sweet Paul

Photo via Sweet Paul.

Photo via Sweet Paul.

When I return to my parents’ house for winter break from college, my mother puts soup on the dinner table nearly every night, much to the content and comforted bellies of my father and myself. I fully intend to ensure that this soup – rich with earthy lentils and brightened with Iranian flavors like mint, black lime, and sumac – weaves its way into our soup repertoire this January.

Sweet

Saffron Custard Tart with Figs & Blackberries
via Harmony a la Carte

Photo via Harmony a la Carte.

Photo via Harmony a la Carte.

I think that fresh figs will always seem like a huge treat to me, special and novelty no matter how often I purchase them (which proved pretty darn often this summer…). Though eating these perpetual personal delicacies right out-of-hand satisfies me to no end, I certainly wouldn’t pooh-pooh a dessert that incorporates figs – especially if that dessert also happened to involve a rich vegan custard in a sticky date-nut crust. With orange blossom water and saffron, this tart would provide a complementary ending to the soup above, now that I think about it. If saffron is out of your price range (aka, if you’re not swimming in a pool of dollar bills), turmeric will do the trick in imparting a deep yellow tone to this tart.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Stone-Ground Grits with Pickled Shiitakes and Tempura Watercress
via Dirt Candy: A Cookbook

corn polenta w shiitakes & tempura watercress (1)

Day before: make the shiitake pickles and allow their flavor to develop overnight. Morning: simmer the corn stock. Afternoon: blend the corn cream. Before dinner: cook the grits, fry the watercress, and assemble the dish. At dinner: marvel at the symphony of flavors you’ve created over the course of the last 24 hours. Yes, this dish may require a full day of preparation, but over my breaks from school I got time to kill and that means that I’m killin’ it in the kitchen. While I recreated this dish from Dirt Candy executive chef Amanda Cohen’s trailblazing cookbook/graphic novel last winter break rather than this week, my October break slowly approaches, bringing with it the ability to spend some good quality time with my pots and pans. Perhaps more grits are in their future…

Must-Read News Story

The Charitable Society or ‘How to Avoid the Poor and Perpetuate the Wealth Gap’
via Fred Guerin at Truthout

Photo via Shutterstock.

Photo via Shutterstock.

In the spirit of radically altering our socio-personal relationships with one another in order to cultivate a society based on respect and community, philosophy scholar Fred Guerin envisions a model of charity that drastically departs from the current self-interested, patronizing, paternal system of the 1% projecting themselves as altruistic while enabling their control over the institutions at which they throw vast sums of money. This article particularly speaks to me with its willingness to deeply investigate the implications of and propose viable solutions to a very real problem. A well-done piece of work.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

‘We Can’t Rely on Our Leaders': Inaction at Climate Summit Fuels Call for Movements to Take the Helm
via Democracy Now!

Photo via Democracy Now!

Photo via Democracy Now!

Time and time again, social movements throughout history have proven that for concrete and lasting change to take place, its driving force needs to come “from below,” from the people bearing the brunt of society’s burdens and their allies. On the September 24 (one day after my mother’s birthday!) edition of Democracy Now!, two prominent earth advocates invoke this wisdom in the context of climate change. Though the segment opens with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Leonardo Dicaprio – two voices often privileged within the environmental  movement – the broadcast focuses attention on the voices of two much less visible individuals, which I feel is important to note considering the tendency of media to prioritize advocates already receiving substantial coverage.

Book Recommendation

Newsfail: Climate Change, Feminism, Gun Control, and Other Fun Stuff We Talk About Because Nobody Else Will
by Jamie Kilstein & Allison Kilkenny

Photo via Simon & Schuster.

Photo via Simon & Schuster.

While I haven’t actually read this book (it hasn’t even been published yet!), I’ve been listening to Allison and Jamie promote it every morning on Citizen Radio, and it sounds like a compelling, hard-hitting, and highly entertaining work (much like the duo’s daily podcast). Relaying the urgent news stories of our time accurately and fairly, Allison and Jamie provide a refreshing contrast to the corporate-controlled mainstream media. If you have the funds, I’d highly encourage you to pre-order the book in the hopes of generating popular attention for these groundbreaking journalists.

In solidarity, Ali.

Vega Review & GIVEAWAY!

Sorry, this giveaway has closed.

In the past decade, the vegan community has borne more top-level athletes than the world ever expected of we sickly, malnourished, and deprived plant-eaters. From bodybuilders to fighters to endurance athletes to runners, competitive athletes fueled by animal-free diets have demonstrated not just the viability, but the power of plants(Of course, many non-Western, largely plant-based cultures have demonstrated this for years, but for the most part we haven’t been willing to look).

Photo via BrendanBrazier.com.

Photo via BrendanBrazier.com.

I first encountered the world of vegan athleticism after picking up a copy of Thrive Foods: 200 Plant-Based Recipes for Peak Health by Brendan Brazier, Canadian vegan ultramarathoner and creator of the award-winning line of whole-food nutritional products known as Vega. After developing an increasing concern for how individual food choices affect the lives of human workers, non-human animals, and the planet, Brendan became determined to create a conscious diet that would also enable top performance in his endeavors as a professional Ironman triathlete. With a focus on nutrient density, alkaline-forming foods, and nutrient-to-resource ratio, Brendan succeeded in developing just the diet that would maximize his athletic performance and minimize his environmental impact: one based on whole plant foods.

Photo via MyVega.com.

Photo via MyVega.com.

Three years after the publication of Thrive Foods, Brendan’s line of Vega products has aided countless nutritionally and athletically minded folks in their health- and performance-related endeavors, receiving numerous accolades along the way. Brendan launched Vega with his plant-powered protein powder – based in pea protein, seeds, brown rice protein, chlorella, and maca – now known as Vega One and available in french vanilla, chocolate, berry, vanilla chai, and natural flavors. Since that first protein powder, Vega has expanded its meticulously formulated line to include meal and snack bars, sacha inchi seeds, chlorella, maca, and an antioxidant oil blend – all completely vegan, nourishing, and selected for peak athletic performance and environmental sustainability.

Photo via MyVega.com.

Photo via MyVega.com.

The Vega team generously provided me with three products from their line: the Vega One Nutritional Shake in French Vanilla flavor, the Antioxidant Omega Oil Blend, and the Maca Chocolate bars (recommended by the Food Empowerment Project’s Chocolate List!).

Imparting a warm sweetness and full-bodied mouthfeel to my morning smoothies, the Vega One Nutritional Shake contributed to a fantastic pre-workout meal without the chalkiness from which many other protein powders suffer. With 15 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, three servings of leafy green vegetables, and tons of antioxidants, omega-3’s, and probiotics, Vega One can provide a comprehensive answer for the oft-asked question, “Where do vegans get their nutrition?”

vega (5)

vega (8)

The Antioxidant Omega Oil Blend starred in the latest rendition of my famous Liquid Gold Salad Dressing (which in turn stars in my Everyday Salad!), lending it a vibrant green hue thanks to the blend’s inclusion of hemp seed oil. Also featuring flax seed oil, pumpkin seed oil, coconut seed oil, green tea seed oil, pomegranate seed oil, black cumin seed oil, black raspberry seed oil, blueberry seed oil, and cranberry seed oil, the blend boasts a balanced two-to-one ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, in accordance with widely accepted nutritional recommendations.

vega (3)

For dessert, I sampled Vega’s 70% dark chocolate bars, infused with the unique malty flavor of maca – a Peruvian root touted for its ability to improve energy, stamina, fertility, and libido. While I cannot definitively say if I experienced an increase in any of these characteristics, I can say that I wholeheartedly enjoyed the silky smooth texture and complex flavor of the bars (slavery-free!).

vega (1)

vega (2)

While expensive and not-widely-available “superfoods” like maca, chlorella, and sacha inchi seeds do not play necessary roles in a diet for quality athletic performance – indeed, insisting they did would prove quite elitist – at the heart of Brendan and Vega’s work lies a passion for the health and environmental benefits of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds: foods available to many more people (though still not enough). Showcasing this passion, the Vega team offers a bounty of free, nourishing, performance-minded, vegan recipes and meal plans on their website.

In my increasingly privileged position as an established blogger, these foods have become very available to me thanks to vegan companies attuned to the benefits of collaborating with prominent online presences. As such, the availability of products has increased for blog readers, as well, showcased by the constant flurry of giveaways on the blogosphere.

And you, dear readers, have the opportunity to experience Vega’s products: one of you will win a prize pack of surprise goods from the Vega line. Simply click on the links at the top or bottom of this post to enter the giveaway for your chance to win! And of course, don’t forget to connect with Vega on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram.

This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Sunday, September 28, and I will announce the winner on the following day.

Sorry, this giveaway has closed.

I was not paid to run this giveaway, though I was provided with free product samples. All opinions are completely my own.

In solidarity, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {9-19-14}

Farmers Market Vegan’s “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” series strives to promote artful vegan food and progressive discussion of social issues—both of which prove necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the well-being of all creatures (not just the rich or the human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

On this 16th edition of Vegan Chews and Progressive News (#NewsandChews), I’m sharing with you all a simple yet thoughtfully composed bowl, flower-infused cookies, hands-down the most awe-inspiring birthday cake with which I’ve ever celebrated, some critical thoughts on this weekend’s People’s Climate March, a firsthand account of the neoliberalization of higher education from progressive journalist extraordinaire Mychal Denzel Smith, and a book that will expand your notions of slavery beyond what you’ve ever imagined. Onward!

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Savory

Sprouted Rye Berry & Roasted Cauliflower Bowl
via Naturally Ella

Photo via Naturally Ella.

Photo via Naturally Ella.

I’m not one to turn my nose up at a good vegan bowl, especially when it involves my favorite vegetable to roast (cauliflower) and my number-one legume of choice (chickpeas). Combined with the toothsome chew of hearty grains and the full-bodied crunch of pepitas, these humble ingredients promise a dish that amounts to much more than the sum of its parts. Of course, I would either omit the feta or replace it with a creamy, tangy, homemade cashew cheese, and would wholeheartedly encourage you to do the same!

Sweet

Calming Chamomile Cookies
via The Little Green House

Photo via The Little Green House.

Photo via The Little Green House.

The use of unorthodox herbs and spices in sweet applications woos me to no end, and chamomile has presented me with my latest culinary seducer. I would expect a soothing flavor and crisp bite from these chamomile-infused cookies, ideal for enjoying with a steaming cup of afternoon tea. Sub coconut oil for the vegan butter and coconut sugar for the regular sugar, and you have a less refined version of these comforting treats.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Matcha Green Tea Tiramisu
adapted from Eat Plants, Pray, Love

Photo credit to Rhyston Mays.

Photo credit to Rhyston Mays.

As I reflected upon in my last post (in which I also shared a recipe for my go-to salad dressing), I celebrated my 20th birthday this past weekend. And celebrate I did, with music, friends, and this: the uncontested dreamiest cake I’ve eaten in recent memory…perhaps ever. With layers of moist vanilla sponge cake soaked in a matcha-infused syrup and spread thickly with a brightly flavored, oh-so-luscious matcha cashew-coconut cream, this green tea tiramisu took my breath away, along with that of everyone else in the room. Garnished with raspberries freshly picked from the Poughkeepsie Farm Project from which my living cooperative receives a weekly CSA share, this cake permeates my gastronomic dreams to this day. It may just make another appearance around this time next year…

Must-Read News Story

Like a Dull Knife: The People’s Climate ‘Farce’
via Quincy Saul at Truthout

Photo via NYC Light Brigade / People's Climate March via Facebook.

Photo via NYC Light Brigade / People’s Climate March via Facebook.

In these past couple of weeks leading up to the People’s Climate March on September 21 – billed as “the biggest climate march in history” – I’ve heard only positive talk regarding the event. Of those I’ve encountered, students on my college campus and progressive media sources alike have spoken with high aspirations and revolutionary spirits of the event. And rightly so – the March will constitute a massive public demonstration highlighting a deeply and urgently felt concern for the future of the earth and its inhabitants. However, as this article from Quincy Saul points out, the March does not come without its drawbacks and potentially negative implications. I highlight this story not to squelch the well-meaning intentions of the climate activists involved in the March, or to pooh-pooh the spectacle that an event of this scale has already generated. Rather, I think that – as with any action, campaign, or organization working toward large-scale social change – we must constantly think critically and reflexively about our means of activism and their effects. This article does a fantastic job of applying this necessary critical energy to the otherwise largely unquestioned People’s Climate March.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

Episode 42: An Education
via Mychal Denzel Smith on Katharine Heller’s “Tell the Bartender”

Photo via Tell the Bartender.

Photo via Tell the Bartender.

After hearing him voice his always thought-provoking insights on my favorite progressive podcasts and reading similar insights in his pieces at The Nation, I’ve become an enormous fan of Mychal Denzel Smith. As such, I was thrilled to see his name on the lineup of the most recent episode of Tell the Bartender – a storytelling podcast hosted by vegan actor, writer, and comedian Katharine Heller. In the episode, Mychal tells of his tumultuous college years, focusing on his relationship as the editor of his campus activist newspaper with an administration invested in stifling the publication’s journalistic freedoms. Honest and compelling, Mychal’s story provides a firsthand account of the increasingly threatening phenomenon of neoliberalism’s effect on higher education.

Book Recommendation

The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World
by Greg Grandin

Photo via Macmillan Publishers.

Photo via Macmillan Publishers.

Included on the syllabus for my sociology course entitled “Black Intellectual History” is this eye-opening text on the Atlantic slave trade. While I (and I expect many others) grew up learning about slavery almost solely in the context of the southern United States, Grandin’s Empire of Necessity illuminates the integral role slavery played in the economic development of the Americas more broadly. Indeed, as Grandin effectively demonstrates, the economic successes of the Americas absolutely could not have happened without slavery. Grandin employs vivid firsthand accounts of African peoples’ experiences traveling, working, and struggling to survive in the New World of the 1800s that viewed them only as commodities, highlighting not only the physical but psychological traumas forced upon them. An important work in understanding slavery’s unwavering pervasiveness in North and South American societies.

Check out this segment on Democracy Now! for an interview with Empire of Necessity author Greg Grandin.

In solidarity, Ali.