Liquid Gold Dressing 2.0 | Reflections on Two Decades

Thanks to all who entered my latest giveaway for two pints of ice cream and an ice cream sandwich from the socially responsible, vegan company Three Little Birds! Congrats to the winner: Katherine Earnshaw.

Unfortunately, due to the class readings calling my name and the Vegucated screening I’m hosting on campus tonight with the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC) (complete with a vegan ice cream sundae bar), I’ll need to keep this post a bit abbreviated. However, as yesterday marked the beginning of my twentieth year on this earth, I would like to take this opportunity to briefly reflect upon where I’ve found myself after two decades of living and learning, particularly over the past year.

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Since September 14, 2013, I’ve successfully completed my second year as a Geography major at Vassar College. I’ve led VARC through a year of campus animal rights activism, helping to grow our humble organization such that we now enjoy a team of seven executive board members. I’ve increased my blog readership substantially and developed a concrete idea of what exactly I want to accomplish with my small space of the interwebs. I’ve returned to a place near to my heart – Florence, Italy – for the first time in three years. I’ve interned with the multimedia hub of animal activism known as Our Hen House (and now officially work for them as their Media Coordinator), falling head over heels in love with Brooklyn in the process. I’ve fostered a number of fulfilling relationships with some truly wondrous individuals who have taught me important lessons about the world, being a decent human being, and myself.

Most notably, in my opinion, I’ve gained some clarity as to where I want to focus my activist energies. After becoming increasingly disillusioned with the animal rights movement thanks to fellow activists and a growing consciousness regarding the multiplicity of human oppressions in our world that much of AR perpetuates, I took the summer to immerse myself in progressive media and literature on movement organizing, critical race theory, feminism, and social critique in general. I sought to develop a fuller understanding of what I feel called to offer to the world at this point in my life, and think that I’m now well on the path toward that understanding.

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Staunchly committed to animal liberation, I want to continue my activism in that struggle (always grappling with the social privilege that allows me to do this work rather than having to fight for respect and well-being based upon my very identity). But just as I see the urgency in shifting societal paradigms in regards to our conceptions and consequent treatment of non-human animals, I see another urgency in ensuring that the AR movement does not uphold forms of human oppression in the process. Collective liberation involves all marginalized groups – whether human or non – and forgetting about or co-opting one of these groups in the name of furthering any particular struggle maintains the very social ills we strive to combat. Working as a critical voice within AR feels right, accessible, and valuable to me right now, and I what I’m calling my “Big Ol’ Project” has begun to formulate in my activist psyche. It’s this project (sorry I can’t say more on it yet!) that I hope will serve as a driving force through to next September 14 and beyond.

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Speaking of driving life forces, I’ve taken one recipe with me throughout high school and into college, from Madison to Poughkeepsie to Washington D.C. to Brooklyn, treasuring it on a near daily basis through all of life’s travails. I published the original iteration of the Liquid Gold Dressing I adapted from Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina’s Becoming Vegan over three years ago now, and have tweaked it to suit my needs and taste preferences many a time since. The recipe below constitutes the version of LGD I’ve been loving most recently, and its improvement in depth of flavor hasn’t at all subtracted from the substantial nourishment it has dependably provided over the years (can you say over the recommended daily supply of omega-3 fatty acids and 40 percent of the RDA of Vitamin B12 in just two tablespoons of the stuff?). Here’s to another year of this life-defining salad dressing.

Liquid Gold Dressing 2.0

Makes 2 cups.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup flax oil
1/4 cup sesame oil
1 cup water
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
6 tbsp tamari
6 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric

Combine all ingredients in a large jar. Shake well before using.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

In solidarity, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {9-12-14}

If you haven’t already, please be sure to enter my latest giveaway for my new favorite vegan ice cream from the admirable, socially conscious company Three Little Birds!

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 pre-birthday edition of Vegan Chews & Progressive News (#NewsandChews) – can you say 20 years old on September 14, woot woot! – we’ve got the crispiest of potatoes, the most spectacular of cruciferi, an essential feminist critique of the animal rights movement, the practice of calling each other in, a pivotal court ruling in the battle against climate change, and what I consider one of the most important books in the world of veganism and animal rights to date. Allez-y!

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Best-Ever Breakfast Potatoes
via Minimalist Baker

Photo via Minimalist Baker.

Photo via Minimalist Baker.

We eat a pretty hefty amount of potatoes in my on-campus 21-person vegan living cooperative (one of my housemates recently testified to eating at least 11 potatoes on a weekly basis), due to their price accessibility, nutritional value, and downright comforting tastiness. Though we enjoy a variety of potato-based dishes in our house dinners (salads, soups, mashes, etc.), we’ve all but officially voted on roasted potatoes as our preferred tuber preparation. Each time a housemate offers up roasted potatoes for a communal dinner, they enter an informal contest judging who can produce the crispiest potatoes. With this recipe from Dana at Minimalist Baker, I feel pretty confident in my abilities to trump the competition.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Cauliflower Steaks with Mushroom Gravy
adapted from Olives for Dinner

cauliflower steak with mushroom gravy

Though my good friend Kaden may resent me for saying so, I’ve come to the conclusion that cauliflower far surpasses broccoli in the battle for the title of Best Floret-Based Cruciferous Vegetable. While cauliflower’s versatility (creamy soups and sauces! raw and dipped in hummus! hidden in baked goods!) certainly plays a role in this thoroughly contemplated judgment, I believe that the superiority of cauliflower lies mainly in its roasting capabilities (can you tell that I’m really into roasting vegetables? Potatoes, cauliflower…you name it, I’ll roast it). In fact, in my humble opinion, cauliflower resides on the pedestal of Best Roasting Vegetables, along with brussels sprouts and squash (cauliflower holds a lot of titles, in my book). So when a recipe tells me to roast thick slices of cauliflower in sage leaves to yield hearty, tender bites with crispy edges and douse them in a mushroom-based gravy, how can I refuse?

Must-Read News Story

For the Animals, By the People…Not the Man: A Vegan Feminist Critique of Social Movement Hierarchy
by Corey Lee Wrenn at The Academic Abolitionist Vegan

Photo via TAVS.

Photo via TAVS.

Last summer, as an intern for Compassion Over Killing, I attended the 2013 national Animal Rights Conference in Alexandria, VA. As a main attraction, the event highlighted a debate on the most effective form of animal advocacy – welfarism or abolitionism – between Farm Sanctuary’s Bruce Friedrich (advocating for welfarism) and Gary Francione (the figurehead of the “abolitionist approach” to animal rights). In speaking to conference attendees, I found that many folks thought ill of this movement “in-fighting,” espousing a sentiment along the lines of, “why can’t we all just get along?” This sentiment in part inspired my recent blog post on the need for animal activists to critically engage with problematic practices of our movement, and I’m thrilled that the ever-insightful Corey Lee Wrenn has penned a clear and concise post informed by similar concerns. Not only does Corey Lee affirm that “factionalism is both normal and healthy for social movements, and is something to be expected,” she also does not shy away from speaking out against forms of human oppression within the animal rights movement; in this particular post, “a patriarchal social structure of command within our organizations.” I highly recommend that you subscribe to Corey Lee’s mailing list on her blog immediately.

Calling IN: A Less Disposable Way of Holding Each Other Accountable
via Ngoc Loan Tran at Black Girl Dangerous

Image via Black Girl Dangerous.

Image via Black Girl Dangerous.

In response to my aforementioned recent post on “The Importance of Calling Each Other Out,” fellow progressive vegan blogger Raechel of Rebel Grrl Living shared with me this post from the truly important blog Black Girl Dangerous (another one to which you must subscribe in the next twelve seconds). The piece advocates for social justice activists to cultivate a practice of calling in along with calling out, the distinction resting in a sense of compassion behind our reason for speaking to someone about an action of theirs we consider problematic. Author Ngoc Loan Tran explains in hopeful, profound terms what they see as the value behind calling in: “Because when I see problematic behavior from someone who is connected to me, who is committed to some of the things I am, I want to believe that it’s possible for us to move through and beyond whatever mistake was committed.” I’m definitely going to actively try to start practicing this more caring form of critical engagement. Thank you, Raechel, for sharing the post with me!

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

Exclusive: DA Joins the Climate Activists He Declined to Prosecute, Citing Danger of Global Warming
via Democracy Now!

Untitled

Photo via Democracy Now!.

In a hopefully precedent-setting court ruling, Massachusetts’ Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter dropped criminal charges on two climate activists who blocked the shipment of 40,000 tons of coal to a local power plant with their lobster boat (of course, I find it rather ironic that two environmental activists employed a boat engaged in an industry tied to the wholesale destruction of our oceans…but that’s a topic for another post). Not only did Sutter take the very real and urgent concern of climate change into account when carrying out this ruling, he also plans to march with the two previously arrested activists – Ken Ward, Jr. and Jay O’Hara – in the upcoming People’s Climate March in New York City. I wholeheartedly appreciate Sutter’s consideration of social context in his ruling, rather than attempting to rule “objectively” as the judicial system strives to do (an impossible goal considering the fact that everyone – even supposedly objective actors like lawyers, judges, and scientists – carry personal prejudices, preferences, and subjective experiences with them).

I do, however, want to point out the whiteness of both of the activists as well as Sutter. Considering the U.S. criminal justice system’s disproportionate targeting of people of color, I can’t help but wondering whether the activists would have enjoyed dropped charges if they were not white. Additionally, I’d like to point out that the environmental movement and the media tend to highlight the activism of white folks despite the significant contributions that people of color have made to the struggle for the well-being of the planet, and this story – though indicative of an important social shift – plays into that tendency. Just as with the animal rights movement, we have to work to make the environmental movement a more inclusive one.

Book Recommendation

Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health, and Society
edited by A. Breeze Harper

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An anthology of perspectives on veganism from Black females, Sistah Vegan constitutes a phenomenally important work in that it gives voice to a group habitually silenced both within the animal rights movement and in a broader societal context. Combating the mainstream vegan culture dominated by wealthy white folks and that focuses on the proliferation of expensive novelty foods and capitalist-driven consumer choices, this anthology highlights the marginalized views of women of color who see veganism as a practice of holistic health and anti-colonialism. Thanks to the incredible work of A. Breeze Harper, Sistah Vegan has expanded from a book into a larger project, the details of which you can find at The Sistah Vegan Project. There, you can also read Harper’s introduction to the anthology, and I sincerely hope that you do.

In solidarity, Ali.

Three Little Birds Vegan Ice Cream Review & GIVEAWAY!

Sorry, this giveaway has closed.

I’m fairly confident in estimating that about 62% of my diet this summer consisted of vegan ice cream (no complaints here). Over the past few months, I’ve come to consider myself somewhat of a vegan ice cream connoisseur, familiarizing myself with which brands boast the silky-smoothest, richest, most full-flavored dairy-free frozen treats (check out my past reviews of Coconut Bliss and DF Mavens for two such brands). Of course, obtaining an ice cream maker of my own remains an ever-present fantasy of mine, but until then, commercially packed pints will have to satisfy my ice cream desires.

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Today, I’m dancing with excitement in introducing you all to my new favorite among these commercial vegan ice cream purveyors: Three Little Birds. Derek and Wei, the company’s founders, launched Three Little Birds out of NYC’s East Village just back in July, and have since found great success with their 100% handmade, hand-packed, organic vegan ice cream at health food stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn, as well as at the monthly Vegan Shop Up and the weekly Hester Street Fair. Vegans themselves, Wei and Derek know quite well the vegan ice creams currently available on the market, and sought to best them all. With Derek as a co-founder of Lula’s Sweet Apothecary (aka the most magical place on earth), and therefore a veritable genius of the nuances of vegan ice cream, this goal certainly doesn’t seem too lofty.

Photo via Three Little Birds.

Photo via Three Little Birds.

I had the immense pleasure of chatting with Derek and Wei at Dunwell Doughnuts on one of the last few days of my summer stay in Brooklyn, and immediately felt drawn to their ethos and outlook on the current animal rights movement. Discovering that we shared a critical eye toward the various forms of human oppression (racism, sexism, ableism, classism) that prevail in AR today, Derek, Wei, and I conversed animatedly about our histories of activism and future plans. I’ve never felt more connected to a company whose product I’ve reviewed on my blog, and am overjoyed to offer my support.

Three Little Birds' ice cream at the Village Farm Grocery in Manhattan (photo via Three Little Birds).

Three Little Birds’ ice cream at the Village Farm Grocery in Manhattan (photo via Three Little Birds).

Not only are Derek and Wei phenomenal people, they also craft phenomenal ice cream, the likes of which I’ve honestly not encountered in vegan ice creams I’ve enjoyed in the past. Currently, Three Little Birds offers ten classically inspired flavors, seeking to perfect the basics before diving into experimentation: Death by Chocolate, Peanut Buttacups, Wafer Thin Mint, Strawberry, Cookies n’ Cream, Chocolate Fudge Swirl, Coffee Almond Fudge, Vanilla, Neapolitan, and Mint Chip (all of their chocolate flavors use products sourced from areas whose chocolate industry does not employ conditions of slavery). Excitingly, Three Little Birds just started offering ice cream sandwiches, as well!

Three Little Birds' just-launched ice cream sandwiches (photo via Three Little Birds).

Three Little Birds’ just-launched ice cream sandwiches (photo via Three Little Birds).

During our conversation at Dunwell, Derek and Wei informed me of a couple of their taste-testing requirements: they seek to eliminate the subtle cashew aftertaste present in many other cashew-based ice creams, and they strive for generous and even distribution of mix-ins within the ice cream (to this end, Derek goes so far as to hand-place every nut, cookie piece, and fudge swirl in each pint).

Derek and Wei offered me three of their flavors to review, and I more than happily obliged.

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Intensely peanutty, fantastically rich, and creamier than any ice cream I’ve ever put into my mouth, the Peanut Buttacups flavor embodies the magic of peanut butter in frozen dessert form. This ice cream left me completely satisfied after only a couple of spoonfuls – a meaningful testament considering how much ice cream I can pack away at any given time. I would have loved to find more of the chocolate-coated peanut butter cups distributed throughout the ice cream, but the chocolatey fragments I did encounter offered a gorgeous crunch for textural contrast to the superbly smooth ice cream. I may need to start sleeping with this stuff underneath my pillow.

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Next, the Coffee Almond Fudge boasted a ribbon of fudge sauce of impeccably sticky-smooth consistency masterfully swirled throughout the coffee-flavored ice cream. Laughing in the face of the nut crumbs I encounter in many other vegan ice cream brands, this pint’s heftily sized almond pieces are distributed in ideal proportion throughout the ice cream. Though I would have enjoyed a bolder coffee flavor, my difficulty sleeping the night after consuming this ice cream for post-dinner dessert suggests the adequacy of its coffee level.

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Finally, the Neapolitan transported me right back to childhood, when enormous tubs of tri-colored ice cream packed the grocery store freezers. All three of the flavors featured in this ice cream prove spot-on: the vanilla proves delicate yet harbors character; the strawberry boasts an intense berry flavor, surprising because of the fact that Wei and Derek use no flavor-enhancing ingredients; and the chocolate offers an ideal combination of bitter-sweet that all good chocolate should strive to attain.

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In my effort to spread the word about Three Little Birds far and wide, I’m thrilled to offer one of you lucky readers a selection of flavors from Derek and Wei’s burgeoning line of exquisite vegan ice cream! They’re offering one pint of Peanut Buttacups, one pint of Neapolitan, and an ice cream sandwich. 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 Three Little Birds on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Sunday, September 14, and I will announce the winner on the following day. Please note that due to shipping restrictions, this giveaway is restricted to residents of New York City and its five boroughs.

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 {9-5-14}

In case you missed the edit to Monday’s post, please hop on over to the top of my “Saffron Cantaloupe Butter | The Importance of Calling Each Other Out” post and check out a very important retraction. Thank you!

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.

Happy Friday and welcome to your weekly dose of Vegan Chews and Progressive News (#NewsandChews)Today’s recipes feature an original take on the classic kale chip, a delectable interpretation of a quintessential flavor pairing, and a vegan taco bar for a crowd. Turning to news, we’re looking at an enlightening perspective on women’s lack of advancement in the workplace, Hong Kong’s powerful Occupy Central movement, and a book that explores a myriad of problems within the U.S. food system through investigative journalism. Let’s get to it!

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Savory

Baked Pesto Kale Chips
via Sweet Simple Vegan

Photo via Sweet Simple Vegan.

Photo via Sweet Simple Vegan.

I’ve crafted many a crispy leaf of smoky kale in my time, from rich savory treats coated in cheesy cashew sauce to simply roasted greens coated in coconut oil and smoked paprika. I’ve even coated to-roast kale in hummus, but never before encountering this recipe had I contemplated the same use for pesto. Bound to yield deeply yet brightly flavored kale chip fabulousness, this recipe will certainly enter my repertoire in the very near future.

Sweet

Peanut Butter & Jelly Cookie Bars
via The Honour System

Photo via The Honour System.

Photo via The Honour System.

In my 21-person vegan living cooperative, we devour our fair share of chickpea-based desserts, thanks to our monthly supply of 25-pound sacks of dried chickpeas. Similarly, I’m fairly certain that we consume up to 41% of New York state’s peanut butter supply. This 8-ingredient treat, therefore, proves more than well-suited for the Ferry Haus kitchen and bellies, once again marrying those three letters made for each other: PB & J.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Ferry Taco Bar with Roasted Chickpeas, Dirty Rice, Crispy Cabbage Slaw, & Salsa
Original Recipe

tacos

Speaking of Ferry Haus, last week I packed up my Brooklyn apartment and completed the short journey to my on-campus cooperative in Poughkeepsie, where this Tuesday I began classes as a junior Geography major at Vassar College. With 21 creative minds – both culinary and otherwise – to fill the kitchen, our nightly communal dinners never fail to wow, surprise, and disappear within minutes. Inspired by the corn tortillas that turned up in our refrigerator, I felt compelled to prepare a summery taco bar for the Haus, complete with smoked paprika-roasted chickpeas, tomato-laden dirty rice with plenty of spices (cumin, oregano, cilantro, Spanish paprika, cayenne), a bright and crunchy cabbage-carrot slaw for contrast, and a canned tomato classic-style salsa with onions, garlic, and jalapeno. Who can argue with veggies, grains, and legumes rolled up in a soft tortilla? Almost as good as a sandwich. ;)

Must-Read News Article

Why Aren’t Women Advancing at Work? Ask a Transgender Person.
via Jessica Nordell at New Republic

Photo via New Republic.

Photo via New Republic.

This eye-opening article from New Republic explores the fact that women advance in the workplace at a much lower rate than men, specifically the notion that this happens because of personal choices or cognitive and emotional characteristics, whether innate or socialized. Through interviews with individuals of trans experience who have remained in the same careers/jobs after their transitions, author Jessica Nordell reveals that individuals experience starkly different treatment in the workplace depending on their gender, even though they’re essentially the exact same person.

To take an example from the article, when a man named Ben still presented as a woman and solved a difficult math problem, his biology professor insisted that “Your boyfriend must have solved it.” However, after Ben’s transition, that same professor – unaware of Ben’s transition – commended his work, commenting that Ben’s work was “so much better than his sister’s.”

A fascinating article that sheds light upon the clear anti-woman bias that still exists in our society of supposed gender equality.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

Hong Kong ‘Occupy Central’ Protests Call for Political Freedom After China Rejects Open Elections
via Democracy Now!

Photo via Democracy Now!

Photo via Democracy Now!

In Hong Kong, an outpouring of protestors have united under the name of Occupy Central to oppose the Chinese government’s rejection of demands for Hong Kong to freely choose its next leader in 2017. The oldest global faction in the Occupy movement, Occupy Central has proven its determination through huge numbers of protestors and international recognition, and is currently threatening to blockade the city’s central business district.

I don’t highlight this story to bash the Chinese government, for I don’t feel that it’s my place to do so as a Westerner whose government has its fair share of problems with its democratic leadership. Instead, I seek to act in solidarity with the protestors, who have publicly requested that individuals in the Western world spread the word of their struggle. Additionally, I hope that seeing these powerful protests against an oppressive government will inspire U.S. actors to more actively speak out against our less obviously exploitative system of rule, especially in regards to its regards to its treatment of already marginalized peoples.

Book Recommendation

The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields, and the Dinner Table
by Tracie McMillan

Photo via American Way of Eating blog.

Photo via American Way of Eating blog.

In this acclaimed book uncovering a myriad of problems existing within the U.S. food system, award-winning and working-class journalist Tracie McMillan worked undercover in three jobs that feed America, living off of her wages in each. Reporting from California onion and grape fields, the produce aisle of a Walmart just outside of Detroit, and the kitchen of a NYC Applebee’s, McMillan investigates how most folks living in the U.S. eat, while a much smaller group happily spends $9 on organic heirloom tomatoes (guilty as charged). Most insightfully, McMillan explains the national policies (especially their racist dimensions) that lay the groundwork for this “American way of eating.” Though McMillan does not explore the problems within the U.S.’ system of animal agriculture, I think that it proves especially important for vegans to educate ourselves about the non-animal-related issues surrounding our nation’s food, so as not to ignore the plight of farm workers and other individuals exploited in various forms of food service.

In solidarity, Ali.

Saffron Cantaloupe Butter | The Importance of Calling Each Other Out

***I want to make it perfectly clear to my readers that individuals’ names previously listed in this post were included in error. I was writing from limited information, and inadvertently confused individual names in this post. I apologize for any confusion or harm that this has caused. In the future, before posting about sensitive issues, I will make sure to fact-check more thoroughly. If readers ever catch an error in my writing–whether mundane or otherwise–I would hugely appreciate it if you brought those errors to my attention, as I operate without a team of fact-checkers behind me. If you have any questions or concerns about this incident, please feel free to contact me using my blog’s Contact page.


Before launching into today’s post and recipe, I’d like to congratulate Renee McEneany, the winner of my giveaway for a copy of the Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats cookbook!

In late August, I had the pleasure of attending the New York City premiere of the hugely important new documentary Cowspiracy, which investigates why the vast majority of major environmental organizations fail to acknowledge animal agriculture despite the plethora of information that suggests that the industry constitutes the top contributor to global climate change. Active members of NYC’s vegan scene comprised most of the audience, and all seemed to share an air of understanding and camaraderie that occurs when like-minded folk congregate. The audience laughed, groaned, and cried at largely the same moments throughout the film, united under the cause of animal activism.

One interview in the film features a woman from the Animal Agriculture Alliance – a common enemy, if you will, for the audience. First focusing on her face, the camera then pans out for a wide shot…at which point the entire theater began to titter. “Of course she’s fat! She sits around eating animal products all day! Tee hee! Fat people are morally inferior!” I suddenly experienced a very strong urge to flee from my seat and far away from that AMC.

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 Fat-shaming abounds throughout the animal rights movement, evinced in cartoons and advertisements that focus on vegan diets as tools of weight loss, thus equating thinness with health. Though I could devote an entire post any beyond to this topic, I want to instead use it as a jumping-off point for exploring another issue: calling each other out(For thoughtful, critical discussions of fat-shaming within the animal rights movement, check out The Thinking Vegan and Choosing Raw).

Speaking out against the multiple forms of human oppression that exist within the animal rights movement – such as ableism in the form of fat-shaming – won’t make anyone comfortable, and certainly won’t win anyone friends among the higher-ups of mainstream animal advocacy organizations. But I would sincerely like to see a greater willingness among animal rights activists to critique problematic behavior within our own movement. Developing such a willingness first involves educating oneself about intra-movement oppressions like racism, sexism, ableism, and classism, reminding oneself not to become defensive while doing so. From there, that willingness to engage in constructive critique requires an understanding that building social consciousness is an uncomfortable process, since it demands a questioning of default behaviors and beliefs, and that even if speaking out means adversary feelings now, it has the powerful potential to translate into a more equitable movement in the future.

Since we as ethical vegans have already undergone the process of questioning default behaviors and beliefs by living a vegan lifestyle to the extent possible in our very non-vegan world, it seems to me that we find ourselves in a more experienced position than most to apply that same level of self-reflexivity to our positions of privilege as a largely white, economically well-off, fit-focused movement with men in most leadership positions.

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Though I see this intra-movement critique happening in regards to our tactics of animal activism – such as the infamous liberation vs. welfare debate or the recent backlash against HSUS’ sponsorship of a meat-eating festival – I see much less critical engagement with the marginalization of women, people of color, and differently abled folks involved in the vegan movement. For example, few individuals or groups speak out against the sexual abuse perpetrated by males in movement positions of power, even though such abuse unfortunately proves a common occurrence (please see the redaction at the top of this post). *** Similarly, only a handful of folks voice the problems of asserting that “being vegan is so easy!” and “you can get vegan food anywhere nowadays!,” pointing out the lack of understanding of racialized food access that these statements suggest.

Individuals and organizations like pattrice jones at VINE Sanctuary, A. Breeze Harper at The Sistah Vegan Project, lauren Ornelas at the Food Empowerment Project, Corey Lee Wrenn and Cheryl Abbate at Vegan Feminist Network, and more that you can find on my Resource page have done fantastic work in critically engaging the animal rights movement in dialogue about the oppressions our movement currently perpetuates. I want to see more of this. We need to see more of this, otherwise our goal of animal liberation will fail miserably as we continue to demean the marginalized groups that comprise integral aspects of our struggle, and as non-vegans continue to correctly view the mainstream animal rights movement as racist, sexist, classist, and ableist.

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So let’s talk, write, and engage more with each other about the fat-shaming that happens in AR, the sexual abuse that happens in AR, the white supremacy that happens in AR. Because we can’t combat those problems without recognizing them.

There also comes a point when one must recognize that a cantaloupe is too ripe to eat fresh. One can either deny the cantaloupe’s over-ripeness and suffer through forkfuls of mealy melon, or critically engage with that cantaloupe to turn it into something beautiful. The recipe you’ll find below is that something beautiful. Because saffron is cost-prohibitive for many of us (I only had some on-hand from a gift I received), you can most certainly substitute cardamom or even cinnamon for the saffron. Your tastebuds won’t know the difference, though the hue of your final butter won’t prove as vibrant (OH NO!!!).

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Saffron Cantaloupe Butter

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups cubed very ripe cantaloupe

1/3 cup brown rice syrup

Juice of 1 orange

1/2 tsp saffron (or cardamom)

Mix all of the ingredients together in a medium-large, non-reactive saucepan. Let the mixture macerate for 1-2 hours, allowing the juices to release.

After the cantaloupe has macerated, bring the mixture to a boil over high heat and boil for 10-15 minutes, uncovered, keeping an eye on the mixture to ensure that it doesn’t boil over.

Blend the mixture until smooth either with an immersion blender or by carefully transferring to a standing blender. Return the puree to the saucepan, set it over medium heat, and allow to simmer for about 30-40 minutes, or until it becomes very thick.

The butter will keep well in an airtight container in a refrigerator, or you could multiply the size of this recipe and use proper canning procedures for long-term storage.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

In solidarity, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {8-29-14}

A quick note before today’s #NewsandChews post: be sure to enter my current giveaway for your chance to win a copy of the cookbook Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats: Allergy-Free & Vegan Recipes from the Famous Los Angeles Bakery!

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 wellbeing of all creatures (not just the rich or the human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

Welcome to the last summer edition of Vegan Chews and Progressive News (#NewsandChews)! In honor of the final days of August, I’ve got a meal-sized salad recipe ideal for highlighting all of that late-summer produce calling your tastebuds, plus a sandwich that has inspired disappointment in every moment that I’ve not yet eaten it, and some finger food that provides a tasty way to use up those puzzling broccoli stems. For news, I’m pointing you toward an article that reminds us that poverty need not serve as a default mode in our society, a video that offers a striking and truly consciousness-raising alternative to the Ice Bucket Challenge, and a book that deeply explores the fact – recently erupting with the public outcry against the murder of Black teenager Michael Brown – that racism and white supremacy reign in the U.S.

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Savory

Smashed Potato Salad with Seed Pesto & Charred Sweet Corn
via Our Four Forks

Photo via Our Four Forks.

Photo via Our Four Forks.

Yesterday, I relocated from my summer apartment in Brooklyn to my vegan living cooperative on the Vassar College campus. While I’m thrilled to recommence my formal education (WRITING PAPERS!!! But actually, I live to write papers), it’s recipes like the one pictured above that cause my heart to pine for the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket that I’ve left behind. Currently bursting will all of the ripe summer produce featured in this meal-sized salad and beyond, the market provided me with vibrant, fragrant, and nourishing produce (and good conversation) each week from Greg at Willow Wisp Organic Farm, the heirloom tomato lady at Evolutionary Organics, the Divine Brine pickle folks, and more. Another aspect to love about the market concerns its EBT program, which allows low-income New Yorkers access to this top-notch produce. Comprising 25%-50% of many farmers’ total income, EBT sales clearly prove substantial, suggesting that the market welcomes a wide array of individuals, not just rich white locavore foodies. Anywho, this hearty salad – crispy, crunchy, sweet, nutty, herby, succulent – provides an ideal dish for featuring that summer produce that won’t hang around much longer.

Sweet

Grilled Almond Butter Mango Sandwich
via Connoisseurs Veg

Photo via Connoisseurs Veg.

Photo via Connoisseurs Veg.

There exist few food types that satisfy me more than sandwiches, especially when those toasty, bready slabs of scrumptiousness involve nut butters and the fruit of culinary royalty (aka mango). Though I choose to avoid purchasing tropical fruit on a regular basis since I don’t think that the working conditions and monoculture rates in their countries of origin warrant my support (especially when those issues arise primarily from Western demand), sometimes I’ll treat myself to a mango if I can find a fair-trade and organic one (and OH, what a treat it is). My next mango will certainly contribute to the recreation of this sumptuous sandwich.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Broccoli Stem Fries with Spicy Sunflower-Pumpkin Seed Dipping Sauce
adapted from What’s Cooking Good Looking

broccoli fries 3

Impressed by the ingenuity and no-waste mentality represented by this use for broccoli stems, I experimented with Jodi’s original recipe, coating the green batons in coconut oil, corn flour, salt, pepper, onion powder, and black sesame seeds. Crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, these fun finger foods married well with a simple “peanut” sauce made with homemade sunflower-pumpkin seed butter, brown rice syrup, tamari, lime juice, garlic, ginger, and sriracha.

Must-Read News Article

Poverty is Not Inevitable: What We Can Do to Turn Things Around
via Dean Paton at Yes! Magazine

Photo via Yes! Magazine.

Photo via Yes! Magazine.

I believe wholeheartedly in the importance of reminding folks that the status quo need not serve as the default – need not exist at all, even. For example, though most individuals cannot (or do not wish to) envision an alternative to our current dominant economic mode of neoliberal patriarchal imperial capitalism, the industrial-based capitalist system originated pretty darn recently in relative terms, around 1750 according to Marks in The Origins of the Modern World. Before that, non-Western civilizations thrived on trade-based, non-war-inducing economies of subsistence rather than of accumulation. This article from Yes! Magazine follows the same path of debunking what we’ve been conditioned to believe must exist – in this case, poverty – and suggests a number of  potential solutions. It’s stories like these that give me hope.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

The Rubble Bucket Challenge
via Ayman al Aloul at AlterNet

Photo via Ayman al Aloul.

Photo via Ayman al Aloul.

In the midst of the sweeping popularity of the multiply problematic ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, many folks have found alternative, more productive methods of consciousness-raising around social issues. For example, a number of my friends within the animal rights movement have taken on the #HydrateDonate challenge launched by Vegan Outreach Executive Vice President Jon Camp, in which one drinks a glass of ice water and donates to a number of organizations of their choice (learn why the Ice Bucket Challenge proves greatly harmful to non-human animals and humans who use drugs tested on animals here). The alternative challenge presented by Gaza-based journalist Ayman al Aloul in this video strikes me as especially profound, employing the rubble pervasive in an Israeli-ravaged Palestine instead of the area’s scarce water to encourage folks to speak out against Israel’s devastating bombardment and occupation of Palestine.

Book Recommendation

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
by Michelle Alexander

Photo via NewJimCrow.com.

Photo via NewJimCrow.com.

I’ve found myself seeking out a ton of critical race theory for reading material this summer, which seems fitting amidst the murder of Black teenager Michael Brown by white cop Darren Wilson. Of course, since racism and white supremacy run rampant in the U.S., this reading material would prove relevant even if Michael Brown’s murder had not sparked such public outcry. Indeed, Michelle Alexander illustrates this point well with her argument that the War on Drugs – launched under Reagan but still thriving – has sparked the rebirth of a racial caste system that treats Black people as second-class citizens by throwing them behind bars for the most minor of offenses. Targeting young Black individuals for drug-related arrest even though statistics show that white people tend to use drugs at rates equal to or above the drug use of Black people, today’s criminal justice system functions as clear evidence that the racial biases so obvious in the civil rights era run rampant even in the age of our first Black president, only now they prove more difficult to identify. The hidden nature of this discrimination demands systemic change, and Alexander’s book provides a thorough, compelling analysis of where we should focus such changemaking efforts.

In solidarity, Ali.

Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats Review, Recipe, & GIVEAWAY!

Sorry, this giveaway has closed.

Before getting into today’s giveaway, I’d like to point you all toward Episode 241 of the Our Hen House podcast, on which I provide a review of my three favorite vegan mayonnaise brands. Also check out this post for a backstory of how my passion for vegan mayo began. 

Another week, another giveaway here on Farmers Market Vegan. As I prepare to journey from Brooklyn to Poughkeepsie to begin my junior year of undergrad, I’d encourage you, dear readers, to prepare your cookbook senses for a tingling and your allergy-free treat desires for a sparking.

With the recently increasing incidence of food allergies, celiac disease, and diabetes in children and adults alike – as well as an allergy-heavy son herself – Debbie Adler felt called to create wholesome, nourishing baked goods free of dairy, eggs, soy, gluten, wheat, nuts, and refined sugars. And create she did, launching a Los Angeles-based vegan and allergy-free bakery known as Sweet Debbie’s Organic Cupcakes that specializes in gourmet baked goods including cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and muffins.

Debbie Adler.

Debbie Adler.

Though Debbie ships her creative and allergy-friendly treats nationwide, seven years after opening her bakery she sought to spread her culinary love even further and published her cookbook, Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats: Allergy-Free & Vegan Recipes from the Famous Los Angeles Bakery. Chosen as a “Best Gluten-free Cookbook of 2013″ by Delicious Living Magazine, a “Best Vegan Cookbook of 2013″ by Green Vegan Living and a “Favorite Book” by Living Without Magazine, Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats features over 50 recipes for truly unique muffins, brownies, cookies, cupcakes, energy bars, donut holes, and breads.

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Guiding you through such mouthwatering recipes as Salted Caramel Apple Muffins, Quinoa Cranberry Cookies, Coconut Crunch Donut Holes, and Krispy Kale ‘n Cheese Soft Pretzel Rods, Debbie provides fun, upbeat, and snarky commentary on every page to inform readers about particular ingredients and the story behind the treat (including a very harried excursion to a neighborhood pumpkin patch).

sweet debbie's (4)

Though some of the ingredients Debbie recommends – like coconut nectar, certain gluten-free flours, and powdered erythriol – cost a bit more than is accessible for many of us not beholden to food allergies, substitutions for these ingredients abound, and I can vouch for the fact that smart, budget-friendly ingredient subs still yield delectable goodies.

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The first of  the Sweet Debbie’s recipes with which I experimented caught my attention with its promise of summery, refreshing flavors. The Basil-Lemonade Cookies feature a moist crumb and chewy texture to provide the dessert version of a cooling waterside beverage, complete with a sticky glaze that abounds with citrus flavor. Clearly, Debbie sees the powerful wisdom in accentuating sweet treats with herbs (Rosemary-Plum Ice Cream, anyone?).

sweet debbie's (7)

Eager to try out Debbie’s baked version of fried dough balls, I grabbed the saffron gifted to me by my aunt who recently traveled to Morocco and recreated a batch of Saffron and Cardamom Donut Holes. With the sophisticated flavor of saffron infused into both the dough and the glaze, these donut holes boast a gorgeously pink hue. Of course, considering saffron’s exorbitantly high price point, I certainly wouldn’t have made this recipe without my aunt’s herby gift, and I’m confident that the donut holes would taste just as complexly spiced with only the cardamom. Cakey and dense, these bite-sized donut holes provide a fun dessert or snack easy for popping right into one’s mouth.

sweet debbie's (12)

An avowed chocolate fanatic, Debbie also includes plenty of cocoa-filled recipes in her cookbook, and she’s graciously agreed to share one such recipe here on Farmers Market Vegan! Debbie’s Caramel-Glazed Fakin’ Bacon Brownies offer an animal-friendly way to participate in the recent bacon-chocolate phenomenon, employing the versatile shiitake mushroom for a vegan meaty topping. Given the rampant worker exploitation in the chocolate industry, I would highly recommend using either carob powder or a cacao powder approved by the Food Empowerment Project in the recipe, which you can find at the bottom of this post.

Photo via "Sweet Debbie's Organic Treats."

Photo via “Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats.”

I’m sure that many of you are eager to enter today’s giveaway for your chance to win a copy of Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats, so don’t wait any longer and click the links at the top and bottom of this post! Also don’t forget to connect with Debbie and her bakery on Facebook and Twitter.

This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Sunday, August 31, and I will announce the winner on the following day.

Caramel-Glazed Fakin’ Bacon Brownies

Makes 16 brownies.

Must Have (Faux Bacon):

15 x 10-inch sheet of parchment paper
1 cup 1/4-inch-thick sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Must Have (Caramel Sauce):

1/2 cup coconut nectar
1/4 cup sunflower seed butter
1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Must Have (Brownies):

Grapeseed oil, for greasing the pan
1 1/4 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour
1/2 cup cacao or carob powder (make sure to use Food Empowerment Project-approved chocolate if using cacao)
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/8 tsp guar gum
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/8 tsp cayenne powder (optional)
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup coconut nectar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/8 tsp stevia powder
10 tbsp warm water

Must Do

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan with parchment paper.

To make the faux bacon, spread the shiitakes on the prepared pan. Drizzle the grapeseed oil on the mushrooms, toss them gently with your hand to coat, and sprinkle with the salt. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the mushrooms are slightly crisp. Set aside.

Reduce the heat of he oven to 325°F.

To make the caramel sauce, mix together the coconut nectar, sunflower seed butter, and salt in a small bowl until well-combined.

To make the brownies, grease an 8 x 8-inch square baking pan with grapeseed oil.

Whisk together the flour, cacao or carob powder, baking soda, guar gum, salt, and cayenne (if using) in a large bowl.

Add the grapeseed oil, coconut nectar, vanilla, and stevia and stir to combine. Next add the warm water and stir until it is absorbed and the batter is smooth.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smooth down with a wet baking spatula or the back of a wet spoon, and drizzle with caramel sauce. With a swirling motion, run a pointy knife in and out of the caramel sauce so some of it seeps into the brownie. Top evenly with the “bacon” bits.

Bake the brownies for 11 to 12 minutes, or until the batter starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached. Rotate the pan from front to back after 9 minutes of baking.

Transfer the pan from the oven to a wire rack and let rest for about 20 minutes before cutting the brownies into 16 squares. Keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or wrap and freeze for up to 3 months.

Sorry, this giveaway has closed.

I was not paid to run this giveaway, though I was provided with a free copy of the cookbook. All opinions are completely my own.

In solidarity, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {8-22-14}

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 wellbeing of all creatures (not just the rich or the human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

Welcome to the 12th installment of Vegan Chews and Progressive News (#NewsandChews)! Coconut milk abounds in today’s featured recipes, as well as a culinary gift from the Mediterranean. For stories, we’re touching on global hunger, Ferguson and the murder of black teenager Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson, and the U.S. surveillance state. Let’s get to it!

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Savory

Zucchini Mac & Cheese
via VeganSandra

Photo via VeganSandra.

Photo via VeganSandra.

Contrary to popular belief, vegans can with relative ease enjoy the creamy, cheesy goodness of mac & cheese, all without directly exploiting mother cows or the babies dragged away from them at birth. Animal-free mac & cheese recipes abound on the blogosphere, but this particular one caught my eye due to its use of succulent and summery zucchini, its kick of richness from coconut cream, and its photos of ooey-gooey caramelized yumminess. An easy, frugal, and spectacular entree.

Sweet

Thai Peanut Popsicles
via Dula Notes

Photo via Dula Notes.

Photo via Dula Notes.

If you haven’t gathered from the multiple ice cream giveaways I’ve recently hosted on my blog, vegan ice cream has comprised the bulk of my diet this summe(not complaining). Okay, I exaggerate a teeny bit, but my deep fondness for frozen non-dairy treats has certainly intensified over the past three months. As a shift away from enjoying spoonfuls straight from the pint, these popsicles look like they’d provide ideal scrumptious diversity to my ice cream-eating routine. An enormous fan of employing herbs in sweet applications, I’m really cheering on the cilantro in this recipe, which surely would provide a fresh contrast to the peanut butter’s richness. If you, like me, don’t own the single-utility gadget of a popsicle mold, I bet an ice cube tray would play the part.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Socca with Za’atar, Caramelized Onions, and Roasted Red Peppers
Adapted from My Name is Yeh

socca w za'atar

Oh my. I know I featured a za’atar-y recipe on a past #NewsandChews post, but this dish truly deserves a mention…or a billboard…or its own podcast. Few culinary creations can match the creamy-on-the-inside-crispy-on-the-outside perfection of socca (what the French call it) or cecina (what the Italians call it), a traditional, naturally vegan Mediterranean chickpea flour pancake that practically begs for succulent toppings. In this case, those toppings involve the inimitable simplicity and full-bodied flavor of caramelized onions and roasted red peppers, brightened with a generous sprinkling of lemon-thymey za’atar seasoning. Chickpea flour does come with a relatively high price tag, and while you can certainly try making your own, I’ve experimented with using all sorts of less expensive whole-grain flours – from buckwheat to brown rice to spelt – in socca recipes and experienced tasty (if inauthentic) results each time.

Must-Read News Article

Is Producing More Food to Feed the World Beside the Point?
by Nathanael Johnson at Grist

Image via Shutterstock.

Image via Shutterstock.

In this insightful article, Nathanael Johnson asks the question, “We currently have plenty of food, and yet we still have hunger, even in the U.S. So how will increasing yields further help?” An important inquiry, especially considering that, according to author Gordon Conway, “If we were to add up all of the world’s production of food and then divide it equally among the world’s population, each man, woman, and child would receive a daily average of over 2,800 calories — enough for a healthy lifestyle.” Like so many other social issues, hunger stems from a lack of access – to food, in this case – caused by government policies that embolden white supremacy, favor the rich, and repress dissent. Thus, instead of delegating the reformation of agriculture to attempts of alliances between transnational agribusiness and government to increase crop yields, we – the people “from below” – must organize for a more egalitarian society.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

Coverage of Ferguson
via Democracy Now!

Photo via DemocracyNow.com.

Photo via DemocracyNow.com.

The murder of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri and the events that subsequently ensued will undoubtedly go down in history (as it rightly should), at least if the amount of media coverage it’s received provides any indication. Predictably, though, mainstream coverage has all but completely obscured what matters most in Ferguson – the killing of yet another unarmed black teenager – by focusing on the “riots” and looting that occurred in the days following Michael Brown’s killing (and jeez, who are these privileged white journalists who have probably never dealt with racist police brutality to tell the citizens of Ferguson how to assert their humanity?).

Thankfully, media outlets like Democracy Now! exist to provide independent, accurate, and fair coverage of current events in a manner that doesn’t victim-blame and allows the people involved in struggle to make their voices heard. As I’m not a resident of Ferguson and therefore cannot speak for the folks valiantly demanding some sort of justice in a supremely unjust societal structure, I think that Democracy Now! has done a great job of maintaining focus on Michael Brown’s murder and the systemic racism responsible for it. Check out episodes from August 18, August 19, and August 20 for progressive coverage of Ferguson.

Book Recommendation

No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State
by Glenn Greenwald

Photo via GlennGreenwald.net.

Photo via GlennGreenwald.net.

Recounting his experiences being contacted by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, providing adversarial reporting on Snowden’s leaked documents, and finding himself as the target of intense backlash from the government and corporate media, journalist Glenn Greenwald ingeniously employs his own story to demonstrate just how much of a surveillance state that silences even socially sanctioned forms of dissent (i.e., journalism) the U.S. has become. This book is a page-turner unlike any other social critique I’ve read in recent memory, reading almost like a novel in its first chapter, and took me all of three days to read in its entirety. If you’re interested in the full story behind the Snowden revelations, as well as much of what they illuminate, I’d highly recommend rushing to your local library and picking up Mr. Greenwald’s latest work.

In solidarity, Ali.

Cashew Cheese-Stuffed Fried Squash Blossoms | Restaurant (Review) Closing

Before launching into today’s post and recipe, I’d like to congratulate Melissa Kallick, the winner of my giveaway for a pack of savory, vegan, gluten-free snack bars from Slow Food for Fast Lives!

Back in mid-June, shortly after I had set myself up in Brooklyn for the summer, I published a review of a restaurant in my new neighborhood and promised many more over the course of the next three months. However, on the next occasion I sat down to type up a Brooklyn restaurant review, I stopped myself mid-paragraph and questioned, “Do I really want to post this review on my blog?”

fried squash blossoms (1)

Why, after offering my take on dozens of vegan-friendly eateries around the world, did I suddenly decide not to do so? I don’t feel comfortable publishing restaurant reviews anymore. Dining at fabulous eateries on a regular basis (or at all) constitutes an enormous privilege afforded to me by my family’s well-off background and my social standing as a non-marginalized individual.

Indeed, if one considers that, after paying rent and taxes, someone who works full-time on the minimum wage enjoys only $77 per week to spend on food and transportation, a single dinner at an average restaurant in New York City would eat up (oh, puns!) about a third of the money that someone has to spend over the course of seven days (i.e., 20 more meals). I imagine that anyone who has experienced this skimpy weekly budget – 3.3 million workers, or 4.3 percent of all hourly paid workers – would not only feel completely unable to identify with me as a person, but would also feel rather offended that I was essentially rubbing in their face the class gap that allowed me to eat at a high-quality restaurant at least once a week while their food choices remained severely constrained.

fried squash blossoms (2)

As someone who advocates veganism – a lifestyle often associated today with upper-middle-class white folks, and thereby regarded as classist – I seek not to perpetuate the frequently true stereotype of vegans as people focused solely on staying up-to-date on the latest animal-free food trends, waxing poetic about expensive specialty products, and acting in other ways that obscure the heart of veganism: saying no, wherever possible in the contemporary world, to consuming products that rely on animal exploitation (meat, dairy, eggs, honey, fur, leather, silk, animal-tested cosmetics, etc.). While I understand the importance of sharing with not-yet-vegans the wide variety of familiar, veganized foods – both packaged and in restaurants – that make many individual’s transition easier, I feel that relying on these aspects of one form of the vegan lifestyle contributes to the capitalist system that both oppresses marginalized groups everywhere and fuels the animal agriculture industry.

fried squash blossoms (3)

Veganism is about so much more than the food we eat, no matter how ridiculously delicious it can be, and centering our (and thereby the general public’s) attention on the food to which we have ready access contributes to the perception of a vegan diet as viable only for the most privileged groups of people. I certainly don’t mean to say that we shouldn’t continue to share vegan food with others – I write a blog with plenty of recipes, for goodness sake – but that we should be careful to not present vegan specialty products and restaurant food as the only important aspects of a vegan lifestyle.

fried squash blossoms (4)

Of course, in addition to this shift in attention, we should support measures to get nourishing food into communities damaged by systemic inequalities, such as community garden initiatives, efforts to minimize food waste, and the programs of such groups as the Food Empowerment Project. Lack of access to healthy food options is also intimately connected to structural racism against which we must unite, though these efforts prove much more complicated and multifaceted. Check out my Resources section to learn more about structural racism and how we might combat it.

fried squash blossoms (5)

Obviously, my choice to no longer publish restaurant reviews on my blog will not fix the lack of access to nourishing food in low-income communities, nor does it mean that I’ve ceased to play into the classist rhetoric of the current vegan movement. However, I feel that it will comprise a small, semi-symbolic/semi-material step on the path to a less classist vegan movement. If you’re interested in vegan restaurant recommendations in a particular city, check out my Travel section or shoot me a message using my Contact form.

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And anyhow, why take up blog space writing about food I didn’t even make, especially when I and anyone with a bit of practice have the ability to create just as tasty fare? Indeed, it doesn’t take a culinary genius to blend up some cashews into creamy bliss, stuff it inside the flowers that grow on the end of summer’s bounty of zucchini, and fry it all intro crispy morsels of summery yumminess. This recipe represents Italian peasant food at its best – a reminder that the origins of plant-based food lay not with cost-prohibitive items, but with unpretentious produce-centric dishes. Pff, who needs restaurant reviews?

fried squash blossoms (7)

Cashew Cheese-Stuffed Fried Squash Blossoms

Makes 15-20 blossoms.

Ingredients:

1 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours (preferably overnight), drained, and rinsed
1 tbsp sweet white miso
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemons’ worth)
1/2 tsp maple syrup
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup tightly packed fresh tarragon leaves

15-20 fresh squash blossoms, gently rinsed
1/2 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch
Coconut or vegetable oil for frying

In the bowl of a food processor or the carafe of a high-speed blender, combine all of the cashew cheese ingredients except the tarragon (cashews through salt). Process/blend until very smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl/carafe as necessary to get everything blending nicely. Once the mixture is smooth, pulse in the tarragon so that it flecks the cheese, rather than turns it green.

Spoon a tablespoon or so into the hollow middle of each blossom, handling the delicate blossoms carefully so as not to tear them. As you stuff the blossoms, lay each one on a large plate.

Place the arrowroot or cornstarch in a medium-sized bowl. Lightly coat each stuffed blossom in the starch, tapping the blossom against the side of the bowl to knock off any excess starch. Lay back on the plate.

Heat over high heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a large-ish skillet with about a 1/2-inch of oil. While the oil heats, place two layers of paper towel on another large plate. Once the oil is very hot and starts crackling (350°F), place half of the stuffed and coated blossoms in the oil. Fry for 2-4 minutes on each side, or until both sides are golden brown, using a tongs to turn the blossoms over. Once the blossoms have finished frying, turn off the heat and carefully transfer them with the tongs to the paper towel-lined plate. Place the skillet back over the heat, and add more oil as needed to bring the level back up to about a 1/2-inch of oil. Fry the remaining half of the blossoms, placing them on the paper towel-lined plate when they’ve finished frying. Serve immediately.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

In solidarity, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {8-15-14}

Before launching into today’s post, I’d like to point you toward the giveaway I’m currently running for a free pack of savory, vegan, gluten-free snack bars from Slow Food for Fast Lives, as well as toward my recent review of the eBook series entitled “Socialists and Animal Rights” on Our Hen House

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 wellbeing of all creatures (not just the rich or the human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

Welcome to the 11th installment of Vegan Chews and Progressive News (#NewsandChews)! This one’s recipes feature two items of summer produce that I hold near and dear to my heart, as well as the non-dairy cheese that occupies an equally cherished place…in my stomach. As for news, we’ve got gender norms, the denial of racism, non-military solutions to the situation in Iraq, corporate efforts to privatize education, and the government’s labeling of activists as terrorists. Fun stuff today, folks!

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Savory
via Veggie Belly
Photo via Veggie Belly.

Photo via Veggie Belly.

 When summer rolls around, one vegetable that I can’t seem to put into my mouth fast enough is sweet corn. Growing up the in Midwest, I devoured the juicy corn-on-the-cob my mother would boil every week during the warm months, smearing corn bits all over my adolescent face. Naturally, I’ve held the majestic sweet corn dear into adulthood, now chopping it into salads, roasting it in the husk, and pureeing it into soups, but always appreciating its familiarity as a childhood family favorite. This recipe for Masala-Coated Corn, however, introduces a completely new application for my longtime summer veggie pal, coating it in a succulent Indian-spiced tomato sauce. Yes. Yes, please.
Sweet
via My Whole Food Life
Blueberry-Bliss-Bars-My-Whole-Food-Life

I don’t know how the folks at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket grow their blueberries, but whatever they’re doing comprises the work of a genius. I honestly cannot remember ever experiencing plumper, sweeter, and more flavorful blueberries than during my time in Brooklyn this summer. With a mere four ingredients –one of which is the true delicacy of coconut cream –the fudgy bars pictured above would surely showcase the perfection of my Brooklyn blueberries (how’s that for alliteration?).

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Broccoli Quesadilla with Avocado, Garlic, and Dill
Adapted from Mountain Mama Cooks

broccoli-avocado quesadilla (2)

During my daily perusing of the latest recipes published in the foodie blogosphere, I tend to bypass those that contain animal flesh and secretions rather than seeking to veganize them. With such a plethora of creative, masterful vegan recipes out there that replicate and far exceed the non-vegan online fare, I see no reason to bookmark the recipes that imply animal exploitation. There exist exceptions to every rule, however, and this verdant quesadilla recipe represents one such exception. Boasting a saute of crisp-tender broccoli and sharp garlic contrasted with the refreshing smoothness of avocado and the slightly sweet note of one of my favorite herbs, the original quesadilla recipe required only a substitute of the king of all non-dairy cheeses on the market (aka, Daiya shredsto provide a veggie-loaded and ooey-gooey vegan entree.

Must-Read News Article

Today I’d like to highlight a pair of articles that touch upon two forms of hegemonic oppression that profoundly affect all of us, though about which most of us remain either unconscious or in denial: gender conformity and white supremacy.

Forcing Kids to Stick to Gender Roles Can Actually Be Harmful to Their Health
by Tara Culp-Ressler at Think Progress

Photo via Shutterstock.

Photo via Shutterstock.

It should come as no surprise that forcing children to conform to an identity with which they don’t actually, well, identify would cause them severe stress and mental anxiety. Indeed, a recent study has confirmed just this intuition, suggesting that the pervasive societal assumption of gender as biological (aka, “natural”) leads to insecurity and low self-esteem in children, who feel the need to exert constant effort to perform in line with established gender norms. Unlike many articles concerning entrenched social issues, though, this one concludes on a hopeful bent, noting that young folks are far less indoctrinated into society’s notions of gender than are older individuals.

We’re Not a Post-Racial Society: We’re an Innocent-Until-Proven-Racist Society
by Danielle Henderson at AlterNet

Photo via AlterNet.

Photo via AlterNet.

Turning to a second hegemony of white supremacy, this article points out with specific examples the general resistance to labeling clearly racist incidents as “racist” (kind of like how only recently did the New York Times promise to start calling torture “torture”). The author astutely attributes this problematic phenomenon to the the promotion in the 1990s of colorblindness, which encouraged whites to pretend not to “see” race, and therefore to deny the existence of racism while at the same time perpetuating it (in the words of Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”). Indeed, if we pretend that racism does not exist, we can not as white folks start to cultivate the anti-racist consciousness necessary in fostering a just society for all.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

Two multimedia segments for you today, as well! One on the U.S. intervention in Iraq, the other on the corporatization of the educational system.

As U.S. Airstrikes in Iraq Begin, Will Military Intervention Escalate Growing Crisis?
via Democracy Now!

Photo via Democracy Now!

Photo via Democracy Now!

On last Friday’s episode of Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez spoke with Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies who has written extensively on Middle East-U.S. relations and actively opposes the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Recently, Bennis published an insightful piece entitled “Don’t Go Back to Iraq!: Five Steps the U.S. Can Take in Iraq without Going Back to War.” Emphasizing an end to military “solutions” and a collaboration with other nations, Bennis’ piece counters the U.S.’ patriarchal discourse of war as the answer to all of our problems. Bennis discusses the details of her piece and more on this episode of Democracy Now!.

Debunking Ed Reform
via Radio Dispatch

Photo via The Colbert Report.

Photo via The Colbert Report.

Moving to another war – this time the war on public education by conservative self-titled “ed reformers” – John and Molly of Radio Dispatch debunk in detail claims that we must abolish teacher tenure in an effort to improve the performance of schoolchildren. John and Molly explain that standardized testing does not necessarily adequately reflect a student’s capabilities, and that the low-income students performing the worst based upon this standardized testing is largely the result of their poverty, not their teacher’s presumed incompetence. For more on this important discussion, watch the Colbert Report episode with ed reform advocate Campbell Brown that John and Molly reference on the show, as well as a Washington Post article entitled “Fact-Checking Campbell Brown: What She Said, What Research Really Shows.”

Book Recommendation

The Terrorization of Dissent: Corporate Repression, Legal Corruption, and the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act
by Jason del Gandio and Anthony J. Nocella II

Photo via Amazon.com.

Photo via Amazon.com.

I’ll finish today by recommending a book that brings together the government repression of activists (particularly animal and environmental), the privileging of corporate interests, and the shoddy U.S. legal system. Edited by powerful intersectional activists and scholars Jason del Gandio and Anthony J. Nocella II, this anthology contains important essays by intellectuals and prosecuted activists alike that concern the government’s labeling of animal and environmental activists as terrorists (even though these groups have never caused bodily harm to anyone, while white supremacist hate groups run free), the free speech-chilling Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) of 2006, and recent “ag-gag” laws. This November, the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC) (for which I’m honored and humbled to serve a second year as co-president) plans on hosting a campus event week focusing on the topics explored in this book, featuring three of the anthology’s contributors and finishing on Saturday with a discussion that includes numerous activist groups on campus. An important topic for activists of all stripes to explore.

In solidarity, Ali.