Ellovi Body Butter Review & Giveaway

This giveaway has closed!

 Farmers Market Vegan’s big ol’ Tofurky giveaway may have ended only last week, but I’m elated to host for you, dear readers, a second giveaway during the month of March. This one comes courtesy of dynamic vegan duo Kelly Winterhalter and Ryan Pamplin, co-founders of the all-natural, animal-friendly, and sustainably sourced cosmetic company known as Ellovi. A couple of weeks ago, Kelly kindly contacted me requesting that I review one of Ellovi’s two products—their six-ingredient body butter—and I have nothing but laudatory words to say about it.

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 A cloud-white blend of oils from macadamia nuts, coconuts, marula, hemp seed, and shea, Ellovi Body Butter contains such pure ingredients that you could slather it on a piece of toast and chomp away. While the butter contains no added fragrance, its delicately nutty aroma will leave you fervently sniffing the jar, your hands, and anything else the butter touches. Not only does the butter serve as a highly effective moisturizer due to its omission of water and therefore its inability to evaporate like other lotions, it also works well as a facial moisturizer, makeup remover, and sunscreen—and it’s perfect for sensitive skin.

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The first time I dipped my finger into the jar, the rich yet airy texture of the butter duly surprised me, as I had expected a thinner, more fluid substance. Not so—the Ellovi Body Butter proves so thick that you could easily stand a spoon straight up in its jar. Though it did seem like I had to use more of the butter than of a conventional moisturizer to spread on my entire body after a morning shower, I didn’t have to reapply the butter at all throughout the rest of the day. Even after washing my hands, they still felt moisturized by the butter—and this in the dead of winter, mind you!

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Though the price of the butter does prove a bit steep at $26 per jar, the impeccable quality of its ingredients and its impressive moisturizing abilities merit the expense (at least once in a while).

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Luckily, one of you, dear readers, will have the ability to revel in the vegan moisturizing goodness of Ellovi Body Butter for free! By entering the giveaway at the links at the top and bottom of this post, one of you will win your very own jar of Ellovi Body Butter plus a tube of Ellovi Lip Butter. Your hands, arms, legs, belly, lips, and everywhere else on your body will thank you for entering.

The giveaway will end at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, April 2, and I will announce the winner on Thursday, April 3. Apologies to my international readers, but you must reside within the U.S. in order to enter this giveaway.

Good luck to all!

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.

Until next time, Ali.

Digestive Woes of Eating Disorders and Why I’m Not Gluten-Free Anymore

Hello again, dear readers! After a much-needed month-ish-long break from the blogosphere, I’m thrilled to return to the good ol’ blog, especially because, boy oh boy, do I have some exciting posts, reviews, and giveaways lined up for all of you. For the next two weeks, my posts will come to you from Florence, Italy—a city near and dear to my heart, where I’ve visited my aunt every other year since the age of three. This year, I’m fortunate enough to spend my college’s spring break there with one of my very good friends and my parents. Rest assured, I’ll be providing you, dear readers, with plenty of reports of Florentine vegan eats and adventures, intertwined with two super fabulous giveaways. Moral of the story: keep a close eye on Farmers Market Vegan for the month of March! (And beyond, of course).

The post to break my blogging hiatus, however, does not concern Italy or free vegan products. Rather, it continues the conversations proliferated by National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) Week 2014. Though the event concluded a couple Saturdays ago, I feel it hugely important to make an ongoing discussion of this highly stigmatized topic.

As so often happens, the inimitable Gena of Choosing Raw planted the idea seedlings for this post. Two weeks ago Gena featured three highly thoughtful posts in light of NEDA Week 2014—a mention in the first of which particularly caught my attention. In her post “Five Reasons to Embrace Recovery,” Gena lists the fact that recovery can save your life (a notion I touch upon in my narrative on Our Hen House regarding my recovery through veganism). In addition to the immediate physical symptoms of eating disorders, Gena notes the significant long-term health tolls EDs can take on one’s body. For me, the most notable of these are digestive disorders, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

If you’ve followed Farmers Market Vegan for a substantial amount of time, you’ll know that I’ve battled digestive stress for about three years now, very much in conjunction with my ED recovery. I chalked up frequent abdominal cramping, gas, and less-than-happy trips to the restroom to my assumed consumption of insufficiently washed produce, spoiled leftovers, and certain hard-to-digest foods. To mitigate these supposed culprits of digestive woe, I incorporated any and all foods touted as digestives into my diet—fermented foods; spices like ginger, fennel, peppermint, and their teas; etc. I joined in the recent widespread condemnation of gluten. I supplemented with digestive enzymes and probiotics. I developed a short series of yoga postures known to facilitate digestion. Nothing significantly improved my symptoms.

This past December, I finally decided that something beyond food choice and sanitization proved responsible for my ongoing digestive troubles. Indeed, a visit to my internal medicine doctor provided me with a diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)—a functional disorder of the large intestine that affects bowel contraction, resulting in cramping, diarrhea, constipation, and other fun symptoms. Every case of IBS is highly individualized, meaning that there exists no one medication or treatment for the disorder. Luckily, IBS does not affect long-term health or cause other health complications, but can significantly impact daily quality of life (and oh boy, does it). While it’s difficult to know that I’ll have to deal with IBS symptoms for the rest of my life, I’m super happy to give a name to my digestive woes, rather than to worry at every meal about how my stomach will feel afterwards, or to hypothesize about other more severe health complications that might cause my symptoms.

Interestingly, a number of women I know who have a history of disordered eating also now suffer from IBS which, according to recent research, proves a common correlation. Out of 73 ED patients involved in a 2010 study, 97% suffered from at least one functional gastrointestinal disorder (FGID) (a category that includes IBS). Another study prior to this one found that, out of 89 respondents, 87.6% had an onset of their ED prior to IBS symptoms, 6.7% had an onset of IBS prior to their ED, and 5.6% had an onset of their EDs and IBS the same time. Additionally, the latter study noted that those who suffer from EDs and IBS tend to share certain personality traits—perfectionism, negative self-evaluation, self-blame, chronic stress— and early developmental factors—childhood trauma, physical and sexual abuse. They also overwhelmingly tend to be women.

I find it the fact that there exists such a correlation between EDs and IBS fascinating—and completely logical. On a rather obvious level, disordered eating behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, and restriction all but guarantee digestive complications. Less conspicuous, though, are the psychological similarities between both disorders: EDs and IBS prompt a “hyper-vigilance to internal sensations” and eating behaviors, as noted in research by Perkins et al. As I mentioned above, I first attributed my digestive complications to certain foods I consumed, demonizing gluten, peanut butter, and other foods known to cause digestive troubles. Such a habit reminds me of Steven Bratman’s definition of orthorexia as “a tendency to assume that every single physical symptom is a direct result of something we’ve eaten,” and thus signals to me a severe hindrance in my recovery largely inspired by digestive ailments. Developing a similar mindset towards food as that which plagued me during the most intense periods of my ED, I became essentially scared of certain foods due to my perception of their responsibility for my digestive troubles. To me, it comes as no surprise that many other women have experienced this phenomenon, especially considering the common advice given by internal medicine practitioners to keep a food journal to help identify “trigger foods,” or those that tend to cause an individual digestive upset.

Thankfully, with a clear plan of how to deal with my IBS came the much more relaxed mindset toward food that I had worked to cultivate throughout my recovery. Since I consume such a wholesome diet, it seems nonsensical to me (and medical practitioners to whom I’ve spoken) that treating my IBS would necessitate a dietary shift, or a naming of “trigger foods.” Instead, I’ve started taking a prescription-strength probiotic as well as a teaspoon of psyllium husk (a portion of an Indian plant that is essentially all soluble fiber) stirred into my morning smoothie everyday. These remedies have worked marvelously since I began employing them, and have considerably aided me in shunning the “food is enemy, food makes your gut unhappy” voice inside my head.

With this foregoing, I’ve re-embraced the foods that I perceived to upset my digestion. Most notably, I’ve begun eating gluten again, and with vigor. Both my body and soul have responded with amazing positivity towards bread, sandwiches, and other glutinous foods—my goodness, does it feel good to bite into the chewy-crunchy-creamy layers of a chickpea salad sandwich again! Though dubious at first that a reintroduction of gluten would not cause me digestive upset, it makes sense to me now, especially considering the fact that “dietary variety also helps to help bolster digestive strength,” a fact that Gena has witnessed first-hand from working with a GI doctor. So, dear readers, you can expect to see some glutinous recipes appearing on the blog from now on (though I’ll be sure to include gluten-free substitutions for those of you who suffer from actual gluten/wheat intolerances).

I think that the connection between eating disorders and digestive complications both emphasizes the long-term health detriments of EDs, and suggests a more understanding approach to treating digestive disorders. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, and/or if you’ve had similar experiences.

And with that, I’ve got a plane to catch! My next post will reach you from Florence, Italy.

Until next time, Ali.

A Response to “Veganism is Celibacy” from an Eating Disordered Perspective

All photos taken at the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.

A couple of weeks ago, I began my morning—as I do every Saturday—by listening to the then latest episode of Our Hen House (at which I now serve as a Contributing Writer, whoo hoo!). Jasmin and Mariann, during their preliminary “Ramblings” section, discussed two articles that referred to veganism as akin to celibacy, the latter of which deemed it “a form of dietary totalitarianism,” a regime that “sucks out the joy” from eating.

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Synonymous with celibacy is abstention—the act of voluntarily holding oneself back. Integral to totalitarianism is control—the exercise of restraint. The absence of joy connotes the absence of pleasure—a feeling of satisfaction.

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I’m deeply familiar with this state of abstention, control, and lack of gratification surrounding food. My catchall term for this state? Eating disorder. In high school, I eagerly held myself back from consuming calorie-dense foods, in disgusted awe of those who dared to eat peanut butter sandwiches and baked goods. I controlled every calorie that entered my mouth, tracking each morsel of food on a macronutrient chart and making sure to restrain myself from consuming over 1200 daily calories. I gained no pleasure from eating, simultaneously overwhelmed during meals with the fear that I would consume “too many” calories, and with the stifled yearning to finally feel dietarily satisfied.

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In contrast to the two aforementioned articles’ authors, as well as to this disordered mindset, veganism both reintroduced meaning into my life and aided me in viewing food as friend rather than adversary. Soon after discovering veganism, my obsession with not consuming more than 25 grams of fat per day paled in comparison to the urgent yet overlooked issue of animal exploitation. I strove to gain weight in order to combat the mainstream notion of vegans as frail, gaunt, and unhealthy. I found a sense of empowerment in voting with my meal choices against the oppressive system of animal agriculture, eager and proud to consume all of the edibles in the plant kingdom (even those I had before demonized, such as…gasp, full-fat coconut milk?!?!?). Most of all, I pushed away the shadow of gloom lingering over my restrictive, fanatic lifestyle, welcoming in the sense of purpose, the passion, the joy with which veganism imbues my life.

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Emerging from my introverted hibernation (eating disordered depression proves quite adverse to quality social relationships), I found communion with the world around me, first and foremost through the non-human animals for whom I soon began to advocate. As an individual with access to adequate plant-based food sources and the funds to purchase them, I found the act of not eating the flesh and secretions as a logical extension of my newfound harmony with the broader world. In the words of Buddhist philosopher Joanna Macy in her book Active Hope, “When we perceive our identity as an ecological self that includes not just us but also all life on Earth, then acting for the sake of our world doesn’t seem like sacrifice. It seems a natural thing to do” (76). 

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Replacing the chickens on my plate with maple-glazed tempeh and the dairy-based cheese in my salad with aged cashew cheddar does not add any militancy nor detract any pleasure from my life. On the contrary, doing so has opened up a world of flavors, textures, and ingredient preparations of which I never before dreamed.

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I completely understand that, for many individuals suffering from eating disorders, veg(eteri)anism can serve to perpetuate dietary regimentation. However, I’d like to introduce an alternate perspective to this unfortunate phenomenon, as well as to the authors of the articles in question (most likely neither of whom, as well-off white males, have had to face the same lifelong media bombardment dictating how female bodies “should” look). For me—as well as others featured in Choosing Raw’s “Green Recovery Series”veganism proved integral in transforming my life from the empty one described in both articles into a vibrant, fulfilling one.

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Veganism is not celibacy. Veganism is not totalitarianism. Veganism is a respect for all life put into practice in a world that frowns upon such respect, but that with our activism, won’t be frowning for much longer.

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Until next time, Ali.

Vegan Delish Giveaway & Recipe for No-Bake Apple Pie

Vegan Delish sized for blog use

Get excited, folks, for I’m about to announce Farmers Market Vegan’s first ever giveaway! That’s right, dear readers, three of you lucky ducks have the chance to win a quite fabulous prize: a free download code for the iPhone/iPod recipe app Vegan Delish. Scroll to the bottom of this post to enter.

easy recipes Vegan Delish screenshot

Launched by the talented blogger, recipe developer, and graduate in public health nutrition Carrie Forest of Carrie on Vegan, Vegan Delish offers over 140 nourishing, mouthwatering recipes—all of which are vegan, gluten-free, made with minimal oil, salt, and added sugars, and accompanied by high-definition photos. New and veteran vegans, vegetarians, and those seeking to explore a plant-based diet will enjoy Vegan Delish not only for healthy and easy recipes, but also for a digital shopping list; social media sharing, recipe scaling, and kitchen timer functions; and recipe ratings and reviews—all without any ads. From Vegan Delish’s multiplicity of well-tested recipes and features, it comes as no surprise that the App Store lists it as one of the top 25 Paid Food & Drink Apps.

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To further enthuse you about this fabulous app and giveaway, check out a sampling of recipes featured on Vegan Delish:

–Mock Tuna Salad
–Buckwheat Pancakes with Maple Cashew Cream
–Cauliflower Pizza Crust
–Vegetable Quinoa Salad
–Avocado Chocolate Pudding
–Brown Rice & Lentil Salad
–Veggie Sushi Rolls
–Red Lentil Dal
–Almond Date Balls

As if Carrie had not already adequately showcased her generosity by offering up three free download codes for Vegan Delish, she also offered for me to share a recipe from the app—one for No-Bake Apple Pie—right here, right now.

No-Bake Apple Pie

Published with permission from Vegan Delish.

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (divided)
1 cup almonds
1/2 cup walnuts
1 cup orange juice
6 Fuji apples
1 1/2 cups medjool dates, pitted
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons cinnamon (divided)
1/4 cup raisins
1 cup gluten-free rolled oats

Instructions:

1. Core the apples and cut them into bite-sized pieces.

2. Combine the apples, orange juice, raisins, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon and ½ teaspoon of the vanilla extract into a saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until apples are softened. Stir in nutritional yeast and set aside to cool.

3. Place almonds, walnuts, and oats in a food processor and process until finely ground. Add the remaining cinnamon and vanilla extract. Turn the food processor on and add the dates through the feeding tube one at a time. Process until mixture is well combined.

4. Pour the contents of the food processor into the pie dish and use your hands to spread evenly into the dish. Place the crust in the refrigerator to chill for at least an hour.

5. When you are ready to assemble the pie, pour the apple mixture into the pie crust and serve cold or at room temperature.

Bakeless Apple Pie 2 Bakeless Apple Pie 1

Let’s face it: how could you not enter this giveaway? Simply click on the link below and you could be one of three winners, whom I will announce on Monday, November 11.

***NOTE: This giveaway is only open to U.S. residents. The codes will only work on iPhones and iPads.***

This giveaway has closed. Congrats to Eric, Anna, and Erika!

Piece Published on Our Hen House: How I Recovered from an Eating Disorder through Veganism

I’m thrilled, honored, amazed, verklempt, and every other related adjective to inform you all, dear readers, that the hub of vegan indie media Our Hen House just published a piece of mine on their online magazine. The piece tells the story of how I recovered from an eating disorder through veganism—the compassionate lifestyle offered me an altruistic means of redirecting my inwardly focused energies, and allowed me to realize the dominant societal forces that both influenced my eating disorder and exploited non-human animals.

The piece functions as the first instance during which I’ve spoken completely candidly about my past of disordered eating (at least in the online realm). While I’m certainly not suggesting that all those suffering from eating disorders should adopt a vegan diet while in the throes of a super scary time, I felt it necessary to offer my view that discovering a passion outside of oneself can aid immensely in recovering from an eating disorder. If you’d like to read more stories from brave individuals who found healing through veganism, check out Gena’s fabulous Green Recovery Series over at Choosing Raw.

Check out my piece on Our Hen House here!

Much love, Ali.

DC Restaurant & Yoga Exploration: Yoga District & District Tea Lodge

For those of us lucky enough to have the funds, geographical access, and physical ability necessary to engage in a frequent studio yoga practice, moving to a different location can prove difficult, since doing so means bidding good-bye to a well-loved studio community and seeking out a new one in which to hopefully foster the same sort of connections and support group. Granted, cultivating a fulfilling yoga practice certainly does not require a studio membership or even a mat, necessarily—indeed, during the school year I happily practice yoga alone in my room, either guiding myself through the asanas or following along with a free podcast provided by Jivamukti teacher Jessica Sage Stickler, since I can’t easily access a studio near campus without a car.

That’s yours truly in the bright blue tank top with the short brown hair at my hometown studio.

While I find that a solo practice does minimize distractions and eliminate any tendency of judgment or one-upmanship toward other yogis, it lacks a sense of community, of “We’re-in-this-together-even though-this-advanced-arm-balance”-ness, of powerful energy only generated by a room full of individuals united in a physical manifestation of peace. Not only can yoga studios provide a supportive group of oft like-minded people, they also play an integral role in developing the base of a safe and joyful yoga practice for newcomers, as well as in offering the advanced yogic knowledge (physical, mental, and spiritual) necessary for longtime yogis to continue to find excitement in their practice.

Returning to the notion of finding a new yoga studio after moving to a different area, I’ve shifted between three studios in the past year thanks to moves from my hometown of Madison, WI to Vassar College in New York, and from Vassar to my summer home of Washington D.C. Madison offers the heated, fast-paced intensity of Inner Fire, at which my love of yoga first blossomed; New York offers the deep spirituality, advanced physicality, and vegan philosophy of Jivamukti (though I don’t visit the studio as often as I’d like since it requires a two-hour train ride from Vassar to get there); and DC offers the unpretentiousness, activist-oriented programming of Yoga District.

Boasting six brightly sunlit, immensely welcoming studio spaces around DC, Yoga District features a variety of classes from beginner to advanced, vinyasa to kundalini, and yogalates to AcroYoga. The studio strives to render the innumerable benefits of yoga financially accessible to as many individuals as possible with its yoga work/study program, sliding scale fees, and donation-based classes, providing a refreshing reminder of yoga’s humble roots—an aspect of the practice so often forgotten in an age of $20 drop-in classes and expensive yoga gear advertised as necessary for a “proper” practice ($40 for a mat towel? No thanks).

Yoga District’s vision of spreading the yogic message of peace, health, and overall wellbeing to those who may not otherwise find the practice manifests itself no better than in the studio’s Yoga Activist program. A nonprofit that partners yoga teachers with social service organizations, Yoga Activist runs on the notion that “every being deserves the  holistic benefits of yoga as a practical tool of empowerment, self-soothing, self-healing, and coping.” Yoga Activist currently partners with organizations that support cancer survivors and patients, domestic violence survivors, eating disorder patients and survivors, homeless communities, communities affected by HIV/AIDS, prisons, seniors, trauma survivors, veterans, and youth—and they’re ever willing to partner with more.

Image courtesy of Yoga Activist.

I would consider the Yoga Activist program social justice outreach at its finest, since it provides an effective method by which largely disenfranchised groups can cultivate a sense of autonomy in a society that’s toxic cultural norms previously overpowered them—this program functions as the antithesis of a Band-Aid solution. Indeed, a 1980 social study by Michael Dillbeck found that “during periods when large-scale Transcendental Meditation groups numbering more than 1% of the population were holding regular meditation sessions, researchers did find a statistically significant reduction in the rate of fatalities resulting from automobile accidents, suicides, and homicides in the United States.” The phenomenon discovered from this study, known as the Maharishi Effect, helps to prove the societal value of spreading yoga and meditation practices well beyond the affluent group to which the modern, Westernized realm of yoga primarily caters. Thankfully, programs like Yoga Activist accomplish just that.

Image courtesy of Yoga Activist.

Not only does Yoga District engage in hugely beneficial community outreach, it also succeeds where so many yoga studios fall short of fully embracing the integral yogic tenet of ahimsa (nonviolence)—it advocates veganism. Unlike Jivamukti in NYC, Yoga District does not directly incorporate discussion of a vegan lifestyle into the inspirational prose offered by its teachers, but the studio outspokenly supports a vegan lifestyle in other manners. For example, at the beginning of the summer, Yoga District students had to pay a $100 membership fee in order to participate in the studio’s unlimited monthly yoga program (to my understanding, Yoga District does not require membership anymore). However, in the spirit of offering maximally accessible yoga, the studio waived the membership fee for students, non-profit workers, and vegans. The fact that Yoga District legitimizes a vegan lifestyle in such a manner further highlights the studio’s commitment to truly fostering a just, equitable society for all.

Additionally, the I Street location of Yoga District features an all-vegan, high-raw café known as District Tea Lodge on the studio’s lower level. The wood-paneled, warmly lit dining space features a long communal table; a bar with kombucha on tap, behind which the cafe’s friendly chefs prepare fresh, seasonal, organic, and hugely nourishing fare; and a case displaying a daily selection of raw desserts. While the café certainly lives up to its namesake, boasting a wide selection of handcrafted tea blends, District Tea Lodge also knows a thing or two about handcrafting wholesome vegan noms. A creamy, optionally green smoothie; a fruity chia pudding; a “big daily bowl” with whole grains, plant-based protein, greens, veggies, and dressing; and raw cookies and puddings always grace the District Tea Lodge menu, though the specifics of these dishes varies according to produce seasonality and availability.

Tea Lodge communal table.

Tea Lodge communal table.

My experience at District Tea Lodge happened to fall on the same weekend during which my parents visited me in DC, so I had the pleasure of enjoying the humble café with my dear mother. The “big daily bowl” that day featured quinoa, steamed tempeh, lightly cooked kale, sliced cucumber, and julienned beets and kohlrabi in a choice of dressing (my mother and I both chose the creamy tahini dressing, but they also offer Asian amino and apple cider vinegar & oil). While I’ve long adored the blissful simplicity of the vegan bowl, this one erred on the side of ersatz rather than pleasantly uncomplicated. The bowl certainly showcased the fresh crispness and bold flavor of each individual veggie, but with its unseasoned tempeh, a fairly scant drizzling of tahini dressing, and an oddly disproportionate amount of quinoa to veggies (one can only eat so much plain quinoa without becoming bored, after all), I found myself quite underwhelmed with the dish.

Big Daily Bowl

Big Daily Bowl

Other offerings that day included a raw almond hummus with sliced cucumbers, a raw tomato-basil bisque, and a kohlrabi slaw in a creamy sunflower seed-basil dressing—my mother and I opted to split the latter. The kohlrabi slaw proved much more dynamic and enjoyable than the bowl, highlighting the earthy brightness of the kohlrabi and beet batons, yet harboring enough dressing to provide interest and textural contrast.

Almond hummus with cucumbers.

Almond hummus with cucumbers.

Kohlrabi slaw.

Kohlrabi slaw.

Though perhaps the newly opened District Tea Lodge’s savory offerings require a bit of improvement, its selection of nourishing, wholesome raw sweets has already reached top quality. Equally as simple as the cafe’s savory fare yet much more satisfying and gastronomically captivating, District Tea Lodge’s daily dessert variety includes artfully prepared raw cookies, brownies, tarts, mousses, and chia puddings in dynamic yet familiar flavors. On the night of our visit, the café featured a mango pudding tart, a chocolate avocado mousse, a pecan brownie, and almond cookies with either cashew-chocolate or raspberry frosting. My mother and I partook in the first two options, reveling in the creamy, healthful decadence of our strawberry-topped dessert selections. While I harbor absolutely no qualms with the impeccable pudding-y portions of our desserts, the very small criticism that I must make regards the somewhat dry, crumbly texture of the mango tart’s crust—an issue easily remedied by a more thorough blending of nuts and dates in the food processor.

Raw dessert case.

Raw dessert case.

Mango tart.

Mango tart.

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Chocolate mousse.

Relatively in keeping with Yoga District’s mission of affordability, District Tea Lodge’s fare proves quite inexpensive ($8 for a generously sized daily bowl, $3-5 for a side such as the almond hummus, and $4 for a dessert), especially when compared to most all other high-raw restaurants I’ve visited, as well as to other DC-area restaurants of the cafe’s caliber—the daily bowl closely parallels the cost of a Chipotle entrée, for goodness’ sake! District Tea Lodge’s teas, however, cost a much prettier penny: $5 for a single mug of tea. I do understand the expense, though, seeing as the café ethically sources the teas, herbs, and spices featured in its blends.

Needless to say, I’ve developed a close kinship with the Yoga District community, both with its yoga classes and teachers as well as its support of a vegan lifestyle. I’ll fondly remember my immensely positive experiences with the studio after returning to Vassar this upcoming weekend, and intend to return for a drop-in class if I ever find myself in the DC area again.

Until next time, Ali.

DC Restaurant Exploration: Woodland’s Vegan Bistro (formerly Everlasting Life Cafe)

Ask anyone familiar with the veg-friendly eatery scene in DC for restaurant recommendations and they’ll invariably mention two restaurants: Sticky Fingers Bakery (which I reviewed about a month ago) and Woodland’s Vegan Bistro. These two establishments have long reigned over DC’s veg restaurant kingdom, and any DC-area vegan, vegetarian, veg-curious folk, or person who enjoys eating fabulous food should prioritize patronizing both of them—perhaps three times each, if they and I share any commonalities.

As I’ve already introduced you, dear readers, to the delights of Sticky Fingers Bakery, I’ve reserved this post to discuss the delightfully unexpected fusion of comfort and health food known as Woodland’s Vegan Bistro. Formerly named Everlasting Life Café, Woodland’s specializes in 100% plant-based versions of traditional soul food dishes including barbeque seitan ribs, fried “fish” sandwiches, mashed maple sweet potatoes, smoky collard greens, and “the best mac & cheese I’ve ever eaten,” according to Katie, my fellow intern at Compassion Over Killing. While I’d definitely consider some of Woodland’s more novelty items (veggie country fried steak made of fried yuba skins, anyone?) as occasional treats rather than everyday fare, the restaurant also features a wide array of veggie-heavy prepared salads, green juices, wheatgrass shots, and fruit smoothies that more closely parallel my daily eating habits. Needless to say, Woodland’s eclectic blend of vegan noms will astound even the most skeptical of parents who insist upon their adult child’s veganism as a “phase,” as well as health-conscious folk who scoff at the term “too much kale.”

Woodland’s warm and inviting dining room.

Though I’ve become a die-hard fan of Woodland’s thanks in part to its deeply satisfying fare, the primary reason I ardently support the eatery comes with its success in rendering nourishing, compassionate food accessible to a community most often barred from making such choices. Located in an area of DC populated largely by people of color and low-socioeconomic status, Woodland’s offers a welcome alternative to the fast food joints and liquor stores littering this almost-food desert, providing healthful vegan options at affordable prices. Seeing that about 2.3 million Americans live more than one mile away from a grocery store and do not own a car, that wealthy districts boast three times as many supermarkets as do poor ones, that white neighborhoods contain an average of four times as many supermarkets as do primarily black ones, and that the grocery stores in black communities usually lack an adequate selection of fresh produce, taking action against such atrocities to food access has become absolutely imperative, and Woodland’s has nobly done so. (Stop by the Food Empowerment Project’s website for more information on food justice issues.)

In food deserts, liquor stores often function as the only establishments at which residents can purchase food.

First introduced to Woodland’s by their booth at DC’s annual Capital Pride festival, I immediately fell head-over-heels in love with the restaurant’s sweet kale salad and sticky BBQ soy chick’n drumsticks. This preliminary sampling of Woodland’s cuisine ensured that I would venture to their brick-and-mortar establishment with my parents (now vegans of eight months) during the weekend they visited me in DC. Fast-forward a couple weeks, and my parents and I passed through the warmly hued, welcoming atmosphere of Woodland’s spacious dining room on our way to the eatery’s cafeteria-style food service area. Boasting a hot foods bar, a cold case of prepared salads, a sandwich-ordering station, a dessert display, a juice and smoothie bar, and a soft-serve ice cream machine, Woodland’s ready-to-order selection certainly does not skimp on variety or volume.

A glimpse of the hot foods bar.

A glimpse of the hot foods bar.

Beautifully colorful cold case of prepared salads.

Beautifully colorful cold case of prepared salads.

My father, the true southern boy he is,  positively swooned over the restaurant’s cornbread muffins and tender collard greens, while I struggled to refrain myself from breaking the glass of the cold case and stuffing my face into the dish of sweet kale salad. (You guys. I’m not kidding around. This kale salad=pure magic.) Meanwhile my mother, understandably overwhelmed by Woodland’s tantalizing array, heeded my recommendation of their famous baked mac & cheese.

My plate from bottom clockwise: sweet kale salad, chewy seaweed salad, curried tofu salad with bell peppers, brown rice.

My plate from bottom clockwise: sweet kale salad, chewy seaweed salad, curried tofu salad with bell peppers, brown rice.

My mother's plate from bottom clockwise: baked mac & cheese, smoky braised collard greens, spicy "live stir fry" with brassicas and carrots.

My mother’s plate from bottom clockwise: baked mac & cheese, smoky braised collard greens, spicy “live stir fry” with brassicas and carrots.

While undoubtedly scrumptious, the food at Woodland’s comes in hefty portions—one plate can easily provide two meals for a single person, thereby rendering Woodland’s fare even more cost-effective than do their already quite fair prices. So impressed with his meal of comforting favorites that harkened back to his childhood in Arkansas, my father eagerly purchased a pack of three homemade peanut butter cookies to maintain his energy during our full day of trekking around DC—please enjoy the comical picture of him and his beloved cookies below.

everlasting life cafe (8)

I would encourage anyone in the DC area to sample the impressive fare at Woodland’s Vegan Bistro, and to support their endeavors to improve food access in their community. Woodland’s latest project, the Woodland’s Vegan Bistro To-Go food truck, launches TODAY! (Saturday, August 3) at the 2013 Mustock Festival in Lignum, VA, and plans from then on to serve the streets of DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Follow them on Twitter or like them on Facebook.

Woodland’s Vegan Bistro To-Go food truck.

Until next time, Ali.

Natural Skincare: Homemade Exfoliating Cleanser

Last October during Vegan Mofo, I introduced you all, dear readers, to the wonders of a homemade facial toner and acne scar remover that consists merely of apple cider vinegar and white tea. Since entering college almost one year ago, I’ve actively strove to reduce the amount of hygiene and skincare products I purchase for a variety of reasons: 1.) To ease the financial strain commonly experienced by college students. 2.) To avoid slathering harmful chemicals all over my face and extremities. 3.) To minimize the risk of accidentally purchasing products that contain animal-tested ingredients. 4.) To feel damn cool and DIY for developing an almost completely homemade skin and hair care regimen.

My homemade facial toner & its ridiculously simple ingredients.

Shampoo, conditioner, exfoliating cleanser, and facial toner comprise the cosmetic products that I’ve homemade for almost 12 months now. You can read more about the details of the “No-Poo” hair care method, which employs only baking soda and apple cider vinegar in fostering healthy, lustrous hair, at the Nature Moms blog, and can find the “recipe” for homemade facial toner on one of my previous posts. While I now save about $27 on a semi-monthly basis by ceasing to purchase these products, I’m also reducing my carbon footprint by avoiding the chemicals and packaging involved in the production of cosmetics. Not one to embark upon any endeavor halfheartedly, I’m still seeking to further contribute to the health of both my personal finances and the planet by incorporating more homemade hygiene solutions into my daily routine. For example, once I run out of my current stick of deodorant and tube of toothpaste, I fully intend to start homemaking these items as well, following these two sets of instructions. After eschewing these two store-bought hygiene products, I’ll regain another $10 every month or so, and will only need purchase facial cleanser, a couple items of makeup, and hair sculpting paste to fulfill my hair and skincare requirements (if you know of natural methods to replace any of these particular products, please do let me know!).

DIY toothpaste from Wild Roots.

DIY deodorant from In Sonnet’s Kitchen.

Today, I’d like to share with you perhaps the simplest and most economic exfoliating cleanser I’ve ever encountered. Costing less than $0.05 per use and consisting of only one sole ingredient, this exfoliating cleanser effectively dissolves under-skin sebum, clears away debris, and alkalizes the skin. The magic ingredient? Baking soda.

baking soda baking soda 2

The Method:

1.) Splash your face with warm water to preliminarily cleanse the skin.
2.) In the palm of your hand, dissolve 1 tbsp baking soda in a couple drops of water (feel free to add a drop or two of your favorite essential oil for fragrance).
3.) Rub the baking soda paste all over your face in small, circular motions for about 2-3 minutes before rinsing the mixture off completely with warm water.
4.) Gently dry your face and follow the exfoliating cleanser immediately with facial toner to close your pores and prevent gunk (a technical esthetic term) from entering them.

Method submitted to Waste Not Want Not Wednesdays, Allergy-Free Wednesdays, Healthy Vegan Fridays, and Wellness Weekend.

Comment-Provoking Questions: Do you make any of your own cosmetics or skin, hair, and hygiene products? If so, of what ingredients do they consist?

Until next time, Ali.

Veganism & Yoga: Fostering an Awakened Consciousness Against an Oppresive Society

I’ve fostered a steady yoga practice over the past five or so years, and now find myself practicing daily. No, I don’t necessarily attend a yoga class or complete a couple series of Surya Namaskar each and every day, but I actively attempt to live in accordance with yoga’s ten ethical guidelines, otherwise known as the yamas and niyamas. To briefly summarize, the yamas consist of nonviolence, truthfulness, nonstealing, nonexcess, and nonpossessiveness, while the niyamas include purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study, and surrender. While most of these tenets appear rather self-explanatory, their core meanings exist much deeper in the ocean of morality than those of us merely wading in the water would first expect. For example, rather than simply referring to an abstinence from lying to others, truthfulness encourages individuals to discover the inner courage necessary to live in accordance with one’s true self. Similarly, while nonstealing clearly denotes the avoidance of swiping items at your local hardware store, it also ascribes finding comfort as oneself, rather than yearning to live as another. I make a concerted effort to allow these more complex interpretations of the yamas and niyamas to guide my daily interactions, decisions, habits, and mentalities, though doing so often proves more easily said than done (wishing a pox upon the woman smacking her gum at an inordinate decibel behind me on the Metro does not necessarily jive with the whole “nonviolence” thing, for example).

Living in accordance with the yamas and niyamas requires perpetual self-reflection, a constant questioning of habitual behavior and thoughts. Though following the yamas and niyamas may seem rather exhausting (no thought is exempt from curious examination!), doing so can vastly improve the quality of one’s daily life. Surrender, for example, can free oneself from constantly harping over aspects of life that one cannot control; self-discipline, on another hand, can improve virtually any situation by altering how one chooses to perceive that situation. Indeed, by “deliberately and consciously direct[ing] attention and hold[ing] it voluntarily on an object [or situation], [...] [yogis] perceive the world as it really is” (Simpkins 25). In short, emulating the yamas and niyamas necessitates a truly conscious mode of living—one cannot sail through life on “auto-pilot” when abiding by yoga’s ten virtuous precepts—yet offers innumerable benefits, both measurable and more abstract. So too does veganism.

As I listened to episode 87 of the Team Earthling podcast, host Stevie and guest Erin Red reminded me of the high level of consciousness and reflection both inspired and required by living a vegan lifestyle. Though the discussion in no way centered upon yoga, consciousness, the yamas, nor the niyamas, a briefly mentioned idea of Stevie’s highly resonated with me. To paraphrase, Stevie posited that “people get so hung up on wanting things immediately” and become accustomed to “being able to have those things without inconvenience.” She then employed the example of a pizza craving to demonstrate that once an individual becomes vegan, she or he can no longer “just have it”—one loses the material pleasure of immediate pizza gratification once one must first consider where to procure/how to make/where to find a recipe for pizza that does not contain dairy-based cheese or animal flesh. Seeking out cruelty-free pizza necessitates a conscious examination of how to adequately satisfy one’s hunger (even though it shouldn’t, for cruelty-free pizza should always be the default), as well as a knowledge of the vast and varied consequences associated with eating animals. Yes, obtaining vegan pizza may require more effort than simply placing an order with your nearest Pizza Hut, but doing so also reflects a transcendence of the “false needs [...] which are superimposed upon the individual by particular social interests in his repression” (Marcuse 479).

Because our capitalist society prioritizes the accumulation of material goods above all else, it encourages its’ members to acquire as much as possible, to do so as efficiently as possible, and to harbor complete obliviousness as to the moral consequences of doing so. Constantly bombarded with product advertisements and reinforcements of the notion that wealth equals happiness, victims of capitalism devote their lives to earning the great sums of money that will purchase their heated swimming pools and hovercrafts—luxuries that our capitalist society has conditioned us to believe will provide us with a sense of fulfillment. Sociologist Herbert Marcuse, however, offers his take on this phenomenon: “Though perhaps immediately gratifying, these [material goods] do not offer long-term happiness to the individual. The result then is euphoria in unhappiness” (Marcuse 479). The capitalist powers that be depend upon the perpetuation of a superficial sense of satisfaction—a happiness that programs us to complacently continue contributing to the major corporations of the world while these wealthiest 1% of humankind benefit from the social and environmental destruction smoldering around them.

Indeed, regarding accumulation as the sole purpose of one’s life, while immediately gratifying and superficially fulfilling, also ensures one’s oppression under the rule of capitalism. Leading a truly meaningful, satisfying, and moral life requires us to recognize and reject the “euphoria in unhappiness,” the mode of unconsciousness, the “auto-pilot” setting foisted upon us by this entirely self-serving capitalist system. Suddenly, ordering from Pizza Hut versus creating one’s own pizza, free of products from the immense agribusiness industry, transforms from a matter of taste preference and convenience into one of social justice. Perhaps eating tofu or holding a downward dog pose won’t in and of themselves constitute a revolution, but the philosophies behind these actions certainly can—practicing these philosophies in their physical forms constitutes the most effective mode of bringing about change. For example, while yogis practice movements and deep breathing on the surface, they truly “practice[e] focusing, immersing [them]selves completely in the activity” to eliminate the “fear, agitation, [and] craving” inspired by our capitalism-influenced thirst for material wealth (Levine 97). Similarly, vegans abstain from consuming, wearing, and  otherwise exploiting non-human animals in order to foster a compassionate world in which humans do not regard their fellow creatures as economic commodities.

Both my yoga practice and my veganism have inspired in me a truly awakened consciousness—one that, though disheartening and inconvenient at times, I know will contribute to the (no matter how far-off) achievement of a just society. Every day, I find myself contemplating the potential moral consequences of my actions. Not only does this render life infinitely more stimulating than if I merely “spontaneous[ly] accept[ed] [...] what [was] offered” by the dominating capitalist mindset, it also enlivens the genuine happiness of knowing that I do all I can not to actively contribute to the suffering of sentient beings, both human and non (Marcuse 481). May we all seek to fully activate our compassionate consciousness in peaceful rebellion against an immeasurably oppressive system.

Until next time, Ali.

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Works Cited

Levine, Marvin. The Positive Psychology of Buddhism and Yoga Paths to a Mature Happiness: With a Special Application to Handling Anger. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers, 2000. Print.

Marcuse, Herbert. “One-Dimensional Man.” Classical Sociological Theory. Ed. Craig Calhoun, Joseph Gerteis, James Moody, Steven Pfaff, and Indermohan Virk. West Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2012. 478-487. Print.

Simpkins, Annellen M. and Alexander C. Simpkins. Meditation and Yoga in Psychotherapy: Techniques for Clinical Practice. Hoboken: Wiley, 2011. Ebook Library. Web. 13 Oct. 2012. < http://www.connectny.eblib.com.libproxy.vassar.edu/patron/FullRecord.aspx?p=706676&userid=EwFVS9yQLfXp2Tei%2baMalg%3d%3d&tstamp=1355063978&id=7220CB73B2F935CE1F5F70E80EBEBB3BF0291B65&conl=vcl&gt;.

The 2nd Annual Ivy League Vegan Conference: Part 1

Though I shamefully acknowledge that my last post occurred far too long ago (more than an entire week without blogging? C’mon, girl!), I hope to duly justify my absense from the virtual vegan community by recounting the fabulously thought-provoking weekend I experienced with the real-life vegan community at the 2nd annual Ivy League Vegan Conference held at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Focusing on “analysis of the current state of veganism in relationship to specific academic disciplines,” the conference sought to “create an atmosphere of open expression and productive dialogue, where we can examine vegan activism and advocacy with an academic lens and challenge ourselves to do better; to take the next step; to alter our future course(s) of action and scholarship based on the wealth of progressive intellectualism that we shall apply to these issues.” To me, discussing veganism at such a prestigious institution and among an overwhelmingly intelligent group of individuals underscored the legitimacy of the movement—if up-and-coming scholars, renowned philosophers and health experts, and all-around well-educated people have deemed veganism as the lifestyle best suited for a socially aware, logical, fully conscious, and progressive mode of existence, then perhaps mainstream society would do well to question its general view of vegans as uneducated, radical hippies bent on liberating the world’s non-human animal population in order to unleash its fury upon the evils of a capitalism society. Or something like that.

My Elian adventure began on Friday afternoon with a two-hour drive to New Haven, shared with five fellow members of the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition. Arriving on the Yale campus right around dinner time, our group of famished vegan scholastics sought a hearty dose of nourishment, which the conference website suggested we could find in the comforting Ethiopian fare offered at Lalibela. Indeed, the impressive variety of warming, flavorful, and animal-product-free wats, rife with tender veggies and legumes, more than adequately satisfied our travel-induced hunger. Opting to share three two-person combo platters, the six of us sampled almost every dish on the vegan section of the menu. Beginning at 12:00 and progressing clockwise in the top photo, the mouthwatering stews included shuro, a puree of berbere-spiced chickpeas; fosolia, a well-seasoned mix of tender carrots, green beans, and onions; yemisir wat, slow-cooked lentils spiced with berbere; and kosta, a blend of silky spinach and hearty potato chunks. The bottom photo features shuro and fosolia on the top of the plate, while ater kik—meltingly tender yellow split peas—and gomen—collard greens cooked down in a flavorful sauce—sit below them. Unfortunately, Lalibela’s injera—a fermented flatbread that serves as the plates and utensils in Ethiopian cuisine—consists of wheat flour along with the traditional teff, so my gluten-free self happily filled up on the wats, of which the tangy fosolia appealed most to my tastebuds, and left my eager dining compatriates to devour the spongy, crepe-like bread.

Contentedly sated and excited to meet the ivy league vegan community, our VARC group ventured to the house of the Yale Animal Welfare Alliance co-director for a lively gathering of fellow conference-goers. After chatting with a number of iV leaders and vegan activists heavily involved in the animal liberation movement, including an intern for Compassion Over Killing’s law department and none other than Humane League founder Nick Cooney, my soon-exhausted self ventured, along with my fellow VARC-er and dear friend Katie, to the room of two Yale students who graciously volunteered to host us over the weekend. Needless to say, I fell asleep immediately upon contact with my makeshift yoga-mat-and-blanket bed, and dreamed of the bounty of vegan education and cameraderie to ensue on the following day.

Upon awaking and enjoying a premade green smoothie for breakfast on Saturday morning, Katie, myself, and Rachel—a fellow conference attendee sharing the Yale dorm room with us—strolled a short distance to New Haven’s celebrated vegetarian restaurant since 1975, Claire’s Corner Copia. While studying the conference schedule the previous evening, I noticed that Saturday’s lunch would consist of vegan pizza (read: not gluten-free), and opted instead to pick up my midday meal before heading to the conference from the wide array of wholesome salads, sandwiches, stir-fries, and roasted vegetable medleys offered at Claire’s, which MSNBC apparently named one of America’s ten heart-healthiest restaurants.

Claire’s deli case full of delectable vegan noms.

Rachel, myself, and Katie inside Claire’s.

Rachel, a graduate student studying Gastronomy (aka the coolest master’s degree I’ve ever heard of) at Boston University, united with the VARC-ers during the weekend of the conference and became fast friends with all of us. She’s interned at the California shelter of Farm Sanctuary, shares my ardent frustration with Michael Pollan, and has generously offered me a temporary home in Boston should I decide to visit Beantown in the near future.

The three of us arrived at the conference a bit after Eitan Fischer of the Yale Animal Welfare Alliance and Victor Galli of the Penn Vegan Society (a group boasting one of the most impressive student-organization websites I’ve ever seen) had begun their opening remarks. Victor, who appeared in Joshua Katcher’s article on up-and-coming vegan activists in the premiere issue of Laika Magazine, then introduced the leaders of the rest of the ivy league vegan organizations—Brown Animal Rights Club, Columbia Society for Animal Protection, Cornell Vegan Society, Dartmouth Animal Welfare Group, Harvard Vegan Society, and Princeton Animal Welfare Society.

With the formal introductions complete, the first talk of the conference began. Milton Mills, Director of Preventative Medicine at the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, effectively answered the question “Are Humans Designed to Eat Meat?” with a resounding “no” by comparing the physiology of humans to those of both carnivores and herbivores. Displaying that the body plan of humans parallels that of herbivores far more closely than that of carnivores—based primarily on skeletal composition, jaw structure, and digestive functioning—Dr. Mills shed light on the reasoning behind humans’ tendency to thrive on plant-based diets. He also introduced the interesting notion that carnivores specifically seek diseased animals upon which to prey—since they must expend far less energy to catch these weak creatures than to chase after a sprightly gazelle, for example—while herbivores scout out the healthiest-looking, most colorful foliage since it contains the most nutrients. To me, it seems far more sensible to imitate the herbivores and enjoy the rainbow-hued bounty of delicious plant food than to exploit weak animals and risk contracting their diseases by consuming them. But that’s just my humble opinion (oh, and that of a Stanford-educated MD, but no biggie).

Gidon Eshel, Professor of Environmental and Urban Studies and Physics at Bard College, delivered the final talk of the morning, entitled “The Environmental Effects of Diet.” Through his numerical examination of food production’s impacts on the physical environment, Dr. Eshel touched upon important statistical points of agriculture that cited agricultural development and animal grazing as counting for over 70% of species loss, small-scale agriculture as an extremely inefficient user of geophysical resources (read: grass-fed, pasture-raised meat is not the answer), and plant-based diets as requiring 0.27-0.41 less acres of land than omnivorous diets. While Dr. Eshel passionately instructed the audience to never eat cows due to the beef industry’s astoundingly negative impact on the environment, he concluded that if one must consume animal products, he or she should choose to eat eggs since they cause the least harm to the environment. However, since cows arguably suffer the least and egg-laying hens the most in animal agriculture, I would argue that we should simply ensure the best for both the environment and the treatment of animals by choosing not to partake in either.

After Dr. Eshel’s talk, I and the rest of the conference attendees broke for lunch, during which I enjoyed a scrumptious (yet unfortunately unpictured) salad from Claire’s consisting of baby spinach, mushrooms, red onions, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, chickpeas, and half of an avocado tossed in a creamy tahini dressing, while my fellow VARC-ers reveled in their glutinous pizza.

Conference-goers enjoying vegan pizza.

Rachel posing with her pizza.

Saturday afternoon consisted of three more fascinating discussions on philosophy, animal-related career choices, and ag-gag laws, as well as dinner at Claire’s and the keynote speech from Yale alum and Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle. However, reflecting upon the lengthy post I’ve already scribed and preferring to leave you, dear readers, in suspense, I’ll save the second half of Saturday and the final conference events on Sunday for my next blog entry.

Until next time, Ali.