Thursday, September 30, 2010

Coast to Cote Week 27

Pang: Every year, Jefferson County holds a fall arts and crafts festival (Mountain Heritage Arts & Crafts Festival). There were lots of great handmade goods, like animal masks (photos later!) that I wish I could afford, but some really affordable things items too. I got a pair of vintage owl earrings as an early Christmas gift from Meghan. This was the bust displayed at that very booth, filled with vintage buttons!

Me: Gone are the days of tasteless terrible cookies. Ever since I have started making vegan cookies I have had no more problems with my cookies coming out too airy or too just blah. This week I made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies - and while they were not my all time favorite cookie (I love shortbread best!) they came out pretty well. I brought some over to Pang but she wasn't home so it was just me, Remy and some cookies. I saved one or two for her - just because Im a nice friend.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Kind Diet: A Book Review

As I mentioned in my last book review, I have a whole pile of vegan lifestyle books waiting for me to tackle, so after Thanking the Monkey I moved right on to Alicia Silverstone's book, The Kind Diet. I had seen this book online before when someone had posted her recipe for Mochi Waffles (pictured below) so I had always wanted to get my hands on it and check it out for myself.

The checking out has been done - and Im even preparing to make one of the recipes from her book today - and I must say.....hmmmm. Yeah. Let me just say before I get into this that I did read the book the whole way through AND I checked out her blog/website AND I watched several videos on youtube of the making of the book, her food adventures in NYC and her little video welcome to the Kind Life.

Alright lemme break this book down for you. The book starts with a short preface written by Paul McCartney - who yes, is an animal lover and longtime vegetarian, but, does not actually display the characteristics Alicia Silverstone is trying to convince you will save your life and the planet. He's not vegan - but - he is a celebrity. Now this isn't me getting up on a high horse and saying "Hey, he's not good enough because he's a vegetarian," Im just pointing out that rather than choose perhaps a less famous vegan, Alicia decided to go for the star factor here and choose a way famous vegetarian. Lets keep this in mind as I go through the rest of the book.

Her first chapter is called Kind Versus Nasty. In this chapter she starts by telling us about how her own "journey" began as a child who one day connected her lamb chop dinner with its animal counterpart. Being only 8 years old, her conviction to go vegetarian was, while heartfelt, unsuccessful. It wasn't until her twenties when she decided to go vegan, after bringing home 11 dogs in one day, all of whom had been scheduled to be euthanized. She then describes how the decision to eat vegan changed her life. She talks about how in just two weeks people were commenting on how great she looked, how energetic and spunky she felt and how she felt her heart opening and felt more in touch with her "truest self and deepest beliefs." She then shifts gears and starts talking about how she and her husband went to see a macrobiotic counselor who pointed out that Alicia still had rampant acne and would benefit from a macrobiotic diet with better skin and more energy. She talks about how she overhauled her diet to include grains and whole foods rather than sweeteners, processed food and white flours and pastas. She even claimed that this helped her "feel things more acutely and sense [her] intuition." While most of this I was able to easily digest (despite the fact that it seemed a little contradictory that her friends all noticed she was looking so great on a vegan diet, yet still had the acne problem), the more talking she did about feeling at peace and calm in her body on this new diet, the more I started to question how much of this she could back up with any kind of research and how much of this was just new age enlightened spirit talk.

She then moves on to outlining the downfalls and hidden cruelty of the meat, fish and dairy industry. For those of us who know something about this already, Alicia wont give you any new information. In fact, she will give you skimpier versions of what you already know. For example she sites an Australian behavioral ecologist's experiments that prove that fish "have longer memories than we assumed, the capacity to learn, and they transmit knowledge to other members of the school." Cool. This is good to know - but why not tell us more specifics on the experiment? I can guarantee you that if I tell my dad that Dr. so and so did "experiments" to prove that fish have the capacity to learn things and remember the things they learn for longer than we thought, he wont get much out of that. Now if I can explain to him the actual experiments "hey Dad, this Dr. did a test where he passed a net through a tank with a small hole in it. After 5 times through the fish had figured out where the hole was and could successfully find the hole each time the net passed through. Then 11 months later the same test was done with the same fish, who hadn't seen the net in those 11 months, and they could still find the hole every time. Crazy right? That information, by the way, came from Thanking the Monkey. Both Dawn and Silverstone's message was the same: fish are in fact intelligent, but Dawn's was not only more convincing to me, but it also armed me with concrete material to share with others rather than just, "well i read in Alicia Silverstone's book that fish are actually able to learn and remember things."

But perhaps I am being too harsh on Alicia Silverstone. In reading her book you can definitely tell that her focus is more about the relationship between the body and the food, not the animal and the food. It's a diet book. Oh...and its also a diet book that seems to be specifically branded for young, twenty something, hip girls. Let's discuss the language Silverstone uses in the book. In the beginning of the book when she is welcoming us to her creation she ends her little preface by signing it: Peace out, Alicia. Ok, I think to myself, she's a fun loving, hippy. Not a big deal. But then she starts talking about food, and words like "naughty, magical, nasty, and sexy," start popping up left and right. In fact, based on the amount of times each of these words shows up, I'm lead to believe these are her absolute favorite words and are the sole words which comprise the scale of descriptions of quality. The words naughty and sexy especially irked me. She uses these words when talking about resisting temptation to eat animal products, and while I commend her for being honest about "nick[ing] a piece of sushi off a friend's plate right at the end of the meal," because this clearly reminds us that she is in fact human and prone to weakness and error, her vocabulary makes me simultaneously believe that she's a eccentric fairy princess writing to us from some utopian far off land. Its ironic because this type of vocabulary, while I'm sure it was meant to be fresh and youthful, was actually kinda alienating and almost a little insulting - and Im only 23 years old.

Never-the-less I read through the rest of the book, looking forward to the recipes at the end. The next few chapters did hold some interesting information. While I felt her chapter on animal cruelty was a bit lackluster, she presents a pretty good chunk of writing dedicated to explaining food. Well...most of it. While she does go into some explanations of tempeh and seitan, which are very useful to people who don't know much about them, she pretty much leaves out information about other ingredients that many of us have no exposure to. For example she has mirin in several of her recipes - but never bothers to tell us what mirin is. Turns out (I googled it) its a rice wine similar to saki thats used for cooking. I work in a Japanese restaurant. I didn't know what this was. I also could have used some descriptions or pictures of hijiki, arame, wakame, and kombu. She also refers to shoyu several times in her book before she decides to define it. What is it...turns out she's talking about soy sauce. She tells us that in fact shoyu "is how most soy sauce is labeled in the health food worlds these days." The health food world or the LA world? I checked my health food store, and even the bottles we have in the restaurant and the bottles of private stuff the chef uses to cook his own meals. No mention of shoyu. Now I am all for recipes that make me try new things or have me exploring my local ethnic markets, but come on, it's not some random recipe I found online, you have a whole book to explain these ingredients! Not to mention - some of these things are expensive. I asked Kazu, the Japanese owner of the restaruant where I work if she could get me some black soybeans (part of a stew recipe in the Kind Diet) at the Asian market. First of all, Kazu didn't even know if they would have black soybeans because she had never used them before and wasn't even familiar with the idea of them, and secondly, when she did find them there, they came in a tiny, expensive package all in Japanese. Now how was I supposed to find that if even my Japanese boss had some trouble? This failure to fully explain the ingredients she was introducing (and she does acknowledge the fact that most of these things will be totally new for a lot of people) just added to the alienation I felt when reading this book.

Plus...doesn't she say we should be eating local foods? Part of the macrobiotic diet is to avoid foods that don't come from your area. For example eating a pineapple in the middie of winter makes no sense for me, according to this diet, because that food is designed to hydrate my body and cool it down, when thats not really what i need. Plus its shipped from far away which means lots and lots of energy and fossil fuels go into that pineapple getting to me. But skim through one of her recipe and you will see all kinds of Japanese ingredients that really don't qualify as local. Perhaps they feel more local to those living in LA who share an ocean with Japan - but even that is quite a stretch.

She says in the beginning of this book that this diet is for everyone. Not just celebrities. I don't feel like she does a great job of convincing the reader of this. From her obvious target audience (throughout the book she cites ways in which this diet will help with your menstrual cramps or ward off breast cancer, she even has a page of "cute vegan boys") to her expensive and complicated ingredients list, Im not completely sure this is a diet for everyone. But she does convince me of several things. I need more grains and veggies in my diet. I could do with less processed vegan substitutes. And, I could certainly switch to sweeteners that don't spike my blood sugar to such a crazy extent.

She also does something I totally love her for. She hired Victoria Pearson to photograph her food. The food looks amazing and delcious and healthy and Alicia and her husband look vibrant and young and happy. Im absolutely a sucker for beautiful photography and this book certainly packs some in.

And while I was a little peeved about Alicia not explaining all the food she suggests we adopt into our lifestyles, I am going to seek out some of them and try the recipes. In fact, I look a break from writing this and made her Fried Udon noodles with cabbage and onions and it was pretty darn good. In closing - Im willing to give these recipes a fair shot. Im even a little excited to find out what this "magical" umboshi vinegar tastes like. Would I recommend this book to others. would have to be the right situation. If it was a guy - no. If it was my grandma - no. If it was my hippy minded peace loving friend - maybe. If it was someone I knew who already knew lots about animal cruelty and just wanted some recipes to try being healthier and vegan - yes.

All that being said I think her blog is actually a good resource and worth checking out! Also, I would like to add, that in giving this book a somewhat unfavorable review, I don't at all mean that to detract from Alicia Silverstone as a vegan or animal lover. I think its great that she felt so moved to write this book and that her celebrity status will perhaps get it into the hands of more readers. I do think more thought could have gone into certain aspects of the book, as I've already covered. In watching her youtube videos where she is running around NYC (with wild crazy untamed hair - which she comments on in the video) I DO realize that the way she talks in the book is pretty much the way she talks in real life. She does in fact say groovy. She's cute, she's vivacious, and she's thrilled to death by food. I still don't lover her book, but I actually do think I would like her as a person if we were to meet.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Coast to Cote Week 26

Pang: Our first stop on Sunday was Hudson River Park. It was beautiful and the weather couldn't have been more perfect. this park is the largest park constructed in the city since Central Park and this area used to be piers were ships would dock to unload cargo to the trains. this pile of metal, used to be one of those piers...or so I was told.

Lacey: Its been a pretty mellow week here. Ryan has been sick and now I feel the creepy crawlies in my throat and the coughing has started. Fall is right around the corner (technically it's here) and all I can think to myself is I want to curl up in bed, not be sick, and feel the warm sun coming through the window, because soon the sun wont be so warm, and then there will hardly be a sun at all till spring. Lets enjoy it!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Thanking the Monkey: A book review

I read a lot of books. But sadly I have a very poor memory for details. Ask me the names of the characters from a book I read a few months ago, heck even last month, its likely I can't tell you. But I love to read. So I do it almost compulsively. I power through books in days but always manage to have a healthy stack of "in the future" books waiting for me. I tend to get stuck on certain topics or specific writers and amass a collection of work to tackle as soon as the current book is finished. My current stack is on the topic of animal rights combined with vegan lifestyle and diet. I've got books from the library waiting, books I bought at the bookstore, and books I ordered from Amazon. I'm set for the next few weeks.

I picked up this book, Thanking the Monday, the other day at the library because one of Ryan's friends at work is interested in learning about vegetarianism and animal cruelty and as Ryan put it "I figured you would have some books to recommend since you know more about this stuff than I even do at this point. I've created a monster." While he may be right that he's created a "monster" as I get more and more into the cruelty free lifestyle and my list of "to read asap" books gets higher and higher - I realized I had no books to recommend that I personally had read other than Skinny Bitch (which was interesting and while it was recommended to me by a dude, I couldn't really see one of Ryan's dude friends going out and buying it).

So I went to the library and searched the animal rights section and came upon Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking The Way We Treat Animals. I came home and immediately started reading the book and now 3 days later I am pretty much ready to hand this book out to anyone and everyone for Christmas. Realistically I can't afford that, and also I don't want to push the issue on people who just aren't ready - but what I will do, and am currently doing, is give this book as much endorsement as possible.

Here is why I thought this book was great: To many people veganism is scary, extreme, and somewhat elitist. Karen Dawn presents a different perspective. A more realistic perspective. Instead of bashing us over the head with her intended purpose from the word go (which is absolutely to convince readers that a vegan lifestyle is not only the morally correct choice but also the healthiest diet option) she begins her book by tackling the broadest topic involved: animal rights. Animal whats? Rights....oh right...they don't have any. At least not the animals who contribute to what you eat, wear, or put on your skin or use in your household. Dawn starts her look at the world of animal cruelty by addressing the questions vegetarians and vegans face on a regular basis from others. Questions like: why do you work so hard for animal rights when there is so much human suffering in the world? Shouldn't that come first? Or: Don't animal rights activists prefer animals to people? She addresses these common questions and tries to put the misconceptions to rest by fully explaining what we mean by the term animal rights and why its so important to be the voice of beings that can't contribute their own voice.

Next she moves to a topic we can all show some interest in: pets. She addresses topics in this chapter such as: what exactly is in your pets food, the practices of animal shelters, keeping wild animals as pets, debunking the myth that fish are unintelligent (really interesting studies she quotes), animals as part of a family unit (and how the government doesn't consider them so, leaving them open to abandonment when disasters like Katrina happen and survivors are forbidden to bring animals to shelters) breeding and the ethical questions that come along with that like tail docking, selective breeding that is detrimental to the breed (think the smashed faces of pugs, adorable, but absolutely detrimental to the species) and puppy mills.

From here she moves into animals in the entertainment industry. From circuses (the elephant stories are heartbreaking and amazing) to zoos to the animals that perform and die making the movies we pay so much (too much man, theaters are so expensive these days. When I was young.....ok I'll stop) to see. This section get me thinking about animal rights and animal cruelty in a way I had never even considered. So wait... the animals that play in the movies sometimes die making it? And if they don't die they can be sold to laboratories or slaughterhouses? What kinda thanks is that for a part well learned?

The rest of the book gets into the things you pretty much expect. The issues with fur, leather, wool, and silk. The absolutely inhumane way we raise and slaughter animals. And the pointless tests we run on animals to proves things like: consuming alcohol and smoking cigarettes while pregnant can damage fetuses.....did you really need to test thousands of animals to prove something we already have lots and lots and lots of concrete human evidence on? These three sections of the book: fashion, diet, and testing presented me with a lot of squirmy information. I remember shirking away from PETA volunteers and their gruesome brochures or looking the other way when those terrible commercials about abused animals would come on the tv. These sections, while reaffirming my choice to go cruelty free, brought back those familiar queasy emotions I always tried so hard to avoid. It was a tough read. Ryan would come home from work the last few days, take one look at my face, and say "you making yourself sad again?" But some of it was completely new information for me. Completely heartbreaking but necessary for me to ingest, process, and hopefully one day share with others who are curious about how we treat animals.

This book is gruesome. Really gruesome. She spares no details. But she also acknowledges the fact that we don't want to sit through a book that makes us feel terrible the entire time. She tries to lighten the mood (while still being absolutely serious mind you) by using ironic titles for sections like: Confining Nemo, Going Clubbing, Finger Lickin Bad For You, The Right to Arm Bears? and All the Worlds a Cage. She also includes loads of cartoons pulled from newspapers, quotes and photos from vegan and vegetarian celebrities, and artwork on pretty much every page. Another thing that hooked me with this book is that she pulls her information from real, recognizable stories. This isn't a book full of finger wagging and "lets just do the right thing because its what I believe is the right thing" kinda talk. Every topic she puts forward in the book is supported by studies, news reports, newspaper articles or interviews. She cites newspapers like the New York Times, Reader's Digest, the Los Angeles Times, and surprisingly several publications geared towards farmers and hunters. In her last chapter she also explains how having a real relationship with our media can have a surprising impact. Letters to the editor, calls to radio stations, and praise for stories well reported and represented can mean future stories and follow-up stories that might otherwise be canceled due to networks fear that the information is too sensitive or gruesome for the American public.

At the end of the book you will leave with your head swimming full of information. Both heartening and disheartening. You will be itching to tell people things you learned, like: Did you know that bees have the second most complex language of any species (ours is most complex of course). Or: Did you know that male chicks born on hatching farms are considered practically worthless and most of them are ground into pet food? Im probably driving Ryan crazy doing all this "fun fact" sharing.

For those of you who are already vegetarians or vegans, go ahead and pat yourself on the back or give yourself a gold star and just feel warm and fuzzy after reading this, knowing that although millions of animals are out there suffer, YOU aren't contributing and hopefully you are even working against it. You'll come away from this book with a bit more knowledge and a few more facts to share with curious non-veg friends and family, while simultaneously reaffirming your life choice.

For those of you who are still eating the carnivorous Western diet most of us were raised on: After you've spent a good half an hour rocking yourself back and forth, tightly rolled into a ball, in the corner of your house that gets you furthest away from the bacon staring you down from the fridge, while clutching your fuzzy little cat or your yappy little dog to your chest, promising that HE wont ever be abandoned or abused or sold to a lab for testing or fed ground up baby male chicks....well, once you've recovered from that. Let me welcome you to the club. If you really read this book all the way through you should be fully on your way towards an animal friendly lifestyle. You wont regret your choice.

Dawn chooses to close out the book by letting her readers in on a little secret. She's a vegan - but she sometimes bends the rules when she feels its acceptable. She gives the example of going out to dinner with non-vegan friends and ordering the veggie burger, even if it may contain traces of eggs or dairy, to show her friends that making kinder choices isn't as impossible as it seems, and to show the restaurant that there are in fact customers who will choose the veggie burger over the beef burger. She reminds her readers that lifestyle is a personal choice. If what you feel you can contribute is not wearing leather, not visiting zoos and cutting out eggs from your diet, well great. You ARE making a difference. If you want to cut all animal products from your life and adopt a dog. Awesome! The point is: being animal friendly doesn't need to be scary or extreme or elitist. Anyone can do it and we are all free to choose at what level we commit ourselves to the cause.

In closing: I heartily recommend this book.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Where Can't I Chant Part 2

Jeremy and I had another photoshoot to work on the Where Can't I Chant series. We shot at the National Harbor and Downtown Alexandria (two new places for me. I am so ashamed that I live so close to these places and never go there!) and these are a few of my favorite shots from the evening.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Carotte Rapée

Few things say France to me like carott rapée. Kids eat it, adults eat it, maybe even the French feral street kittens eat it. It's that popular. The markets of France are always equipped with long bodied, green topped carrots (it's carotte in French) for the eatin'. This week while I was at the Common Market (returning some what I thought would be vegan nutella - which turned out to be crushed hazelnut butter that was all runny and gritty and tasted nothing like chocolate despite the label boasting that it was chocolate hazelnut spread) I saw these beautiful, vibrant red carrots. I didn't NEED them but I felt I NEEDED them. So they came home with me.

And then I was at a loss for what to do with them that would let them shine. And then I thought - if my time in France has taught me anything it's that a single vegetable can be considered a meal because.....well just because i guess. Pumpkin soup, beet salad, avocados eaten with a little balsamic vinegar, leek quiche, you get the idea.

Carotte Rapée can be made lots of different ways but in the end its all pretty similar and pretty darn simple

Carotte Rapée for 4

5 to 6 large carrots, peeled and then grated
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
2-3 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and mustard until well combine. Pour over the grated carrots and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy.

While the French will heartily chow down on this simple side with nothing but a fistful of bread, I have found that it also works well on sandwiches, on top of salads, and even thrown into a burrito or taco. Any way you choose to eat it, it's pretty great!

Coast to Cote Week 25

Pang: As I mentioned in an earlier post, a couple friends and i headed to DC to see Best Coast. At one point during the show, Bethany Consentino (vocals) mentioned that her guitarist, Bobb Bruno, will be at the merch table. I yelled out and asked if he was for sale as Bob answered that he would only cost a mere $1...but alas, Bethany had the last words when she said he would be selling for $420. Obviously, I could not afford my very own Best Coast guitarist and I was defeated.

Me: Yesterday I did a photoshoot with Jeremy Litten as part of our Where Can't I Chant series. We went down to the National Harbor in Alexandria at sunset and the view was absolutely beautiful. I convinced Jeremy to hop a rail and get out onto this ledge to snap a few pictures and we both agreed it was worth the risk (the ledge was plenty big enough it was just a concern of security guards!).

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My First Summer of Plants

I've always liked the idea of having herbs and plants. I have always killed any herb or plant I tried to nurture.

But then this summer a couple plants just kinda fell into my lap. And now I am ever so attached to them...

This pretty little basket of herbs came from my friend Katie as a welcome home gift when I got back from France. Inside she planted lemon basil, oregano, thyme, sage, and rosemary. As I drove the little gift herbs home I thought to myself "these will be so pretty for a week until they unexplainably but not unexpectedly die." Well ho ho Miss Pessamist. The end of summer is nearing and they are still going strong. Here is my question though - what happens to them as it gets cooler? Basil is an annual herb while the other 4 are perennial. Uhm....what do I do. Does anyone know? Can they live indoors through the winter. Im so distraught at the thought of them just freezing into the little sad herby icicles. Help me save them!

And then there is this guy. This colorful fern type thing. All summer the ladies at a local plant store have been giving my mom plants, so when she offered me some I figured, why not? This plant was all shriveled and eaten and there were some slimy little leaf eating worms in the box they were in. I planted them half heartedly in a pot with my dad's guidance. They have now almost tripled in size AND sprouted weird "flower" things!

Anyone know what this is? Golden star if you can tell me :)

This ornamental pepper plant was another regift from my mom. I found this old coffee/tea kettle thing at the Harper's Ferry flea market for a dollar! Is this perennial?

So long story short, i successfully grew some plants this summer. Now what? Do they just die?

Coast to Cote Week 24

So we took a little break from the Coast to Cote project but now we are both feeling like its time to give ourselves deadlines again and push ourselves a little harder to make images every week. We're back!

Pang: On a photo shoot with DJ yesterday, i caught an effortless photograph of Gillian while she was balancing on the railroad tracks.

Lacey: Remy. Best Friends. Period.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Chop Mexican Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing

I've been a bad blogger. I apologize. Here is me trying to get back on the horse. So recently I subscribed to Vegetarian Times magazine. Great mag with lots of healthy, quick meals. For those of you that got the July/August magazine you might remember this recipe. I changed aspects of it to suit my taste, but the credit certainly goes to VT on this meal.

I've been trying to eat more veggies lately. I came to the sad discovery that multivitamins aren't inherently vegetarian. I don't know why I thought they would be, but then I was in the Common Market looking at vitamins and noticed they had a bunch marked vegetarian and vegan. I did some research. No more Centrum for me. And hey, here is an idea...why not get my vitamins and minerals from a good diet. Yes!

Mexican Chopped Salad

1 small head of romaine, sliced
1/2 bunch spinach, stems removed, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 avocados, diced
1/2 cucumber, halved lengthwise and then sliced
the corn cut from one fresh cob, raw
1 can black beans
several large pieces of roasted red pepper, sliced
1/4 red onion, minced
1/2 cup broccoli or alfalfa sprouts

1/2 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
juice from one lemon and one lime
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
pinch cayenne pepper

1. Heat the oil, garlic, cumin, coriander, sugar and salt in a saucepan for until the garlic begins to sizzle.
2. Blend the remaining dressing ingredients with the garlic oil. Blend in a blender if you want it to be smooth (I left it chunky)
3. Toss over the chopped salad

I gave this salad to a few friends without the dressing a few days later and the veggies had marinated to the point where they even liked it with no dressing at all. If you want the salad to last a few days keep the avocado on the side and just top each bowl with it rather than putting it in the whole mixture.