Sunday, December 6, 2009

Red buckets and bell-ringers

It's that time of year again, the bell-ringers are out and looking for our loose change. Every year after Thanksgiving the Salvation Army sets up volunteers outside of businesses to collect funds for their many programs. While the Salvation Army undoubtedly does a great deal of good in combating poverty, helping at-risk youth, rehabilitating convicts, and many other areas, the organization holds core beliefs which work counter to the cause of human dignity. When it comes to donating money and supporting charitable organizations, it falls to us to be sure that the money we give goes to support ideals we can fully support. For some, the good done will outweigh any difference of conscience, but for others, such as myself, these differences are great enough to justify searching out a different organization. In other words, we need to be informed and make decisions for ourselves.
While there are many positions that the Salvation Army takes with which I disagree, the deal breaker for me is their homophobic stance. SA would deny the sexual expression of consenting adults, claiming that marriage is the only acceptable context for sex. This not only denies the right of homosexuals to fulfillment, but to heterosexuals who do not marry, as well. We would do well to be mindful of those who seek to limit our rights in this area, and to help safeguard the rights of others.
There is much more I could mention, but look over the Salvation Army's statements of belief and decide for yourself if this is an organization that you would choose to support.

12/17 addition:
Effort Sysipus recently posted a list of charities without religious affiliation, for those who wish to make a contribution.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

I haven't had lemon poppy seed cake in over two years. Incidentally, it was the very thing I was making the night that I first went over to Matt's place--I was making a butter and eggs version of it when I found out that he was vegan; it was then that I found out that veganism was indeed possible. Since then, I've been thinking about lemon poppy seed cake, but have just never gotten around to making it. Part of the reason why I haven't made it is that I just haven't found the perfect recipe: there's either egg replacer or cornstarch, or some other ingredient that makes it...I don't know--less than perfect. I also don't have any lemon extract around, either, and I wanted a recipe that would have good lemon flavor without it. Finally, after the Thanksgiving festivities, on the night before heading up to see my parents, I made a lemon poppy seed cake, and it's perfect. I am now sharing the recipe with you, and I hope that you like it.

Dry ingredients:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Wet ingredients:
  • 1 flax egg
  • 1 cup soy yogurt (vanilla, plain, or lemon-flavored)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup canola/vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of two lemons
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl; mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Stir wet ingredients into dry. Pour batter into bundt cake pan or a 9" cake pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Wait for a few minutes for the cake to cool before turning it out onto serving plate. Dust with powdered sugar. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Food, Inc. Student Reactions

Last week, I showed portions of Food, Inc. to the students in all three of my classes; because I teach composition and rhetorical analysis, I felt that the movie would be something that they could discuss both in terms of structure and content. What I wasn't expecting was the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the message: in all three of my classes, I had students who were asking about where they can watch the movie in its entirety (and they sounded earnest enough that I suspect they will actually seek it out). In all three of my classes, there was critical discussion of the kinds of ways our food choices affect everything else--our bodies, the environment, economy, etc.
One thing, in particular, seemed to be a catching point for them--it was something that was brought up in every class, and something that I had to address honestly: they were concerned that I was trying to convert them to veganism by showing them this film.

My students--whether it's just one in a given class, or a handful--know that I am a vegan. I wasn't ever particularly concealing the fact, and because I got to know some of them while waiting for the preceding class to vacate the classroom in which I teach, I would inevitably end up discussing food and food issues with them. I remember that one of my students, in what I like to think is a common knee-jerk response to veganism, said that my stance was an extreme one, one that he could never understand or support. There are others who are less shocked by veganism now, and are more curious and want to have conversations with me about it. After I showed the section of Food, Inc., and after a discussion was already progressing, someone asked if I had an interest in getting them to stop eating meat--if I was trying to influence them in a way that would support my position... To which I replied, "Actually, I am not trying to tell you how to eat; I am trying to inform you about what you are already eating, and about the hidden ways in which everyday food choices are implicated in the world." I told them that in a class that focuses on analytical skills and examines current issues, it would be an oversight to not talk about food/meat.

In one of my classes, a student spoke out against factory farming--his was, by far, the most urgent and concerned voice; he was also quite well-informed about factory farming. His family owns a vinyard and a farm, and they raise their own animals and consume them. He said that exactly the ways of food production criticized in Food, Inc. were the same ones his father stood so firmly against--and it was surprising to him to see me, a vegan, agree with the kind of values upheld by his family. I, as a vegan, was surprised to have him on my side as I was addressing some other concerns brought up by his peers. This does not mean that I was compromising my position, nor did I suddenly start questioning the foundation of my ethical veganism, but I think the event taught me a few different ways in which to approach the topic and introduce it to those unfamiliar with it. Because my student and I were on the same side of the argument against factory farming, others saw veganism not just as something extreme or ridiculous or limiting, but as another way to promote criticism of the present-day methods of food production. In all my classes, the students were eager to discuss possible solutions to the problems of animal agriculture, and I think that was my goal--to allow them to see that there are people surviving quite well outside of the manipulative and mystified network of factory farming. What I thought would be a difficult topic to discuss turned out to be not only a rewarding lesson for me, but a productive point of analysis for them. In the future, I will be less hesitant to teach not just this movie, but also other texts, such as Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Jonathan Safran Foer's new book

We're looking forward to this. Read the press.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


A week and a half ago (or so), I went to a canning/pickling workshop with my friend Charlotte. The workshop was at the local community house, and there were about a dozen aspiring canners there; in about three hours' time, we made and canned (under the supervision of the canning workshop leader) Dilly Beans, Pear Chutney, and Pickled Daikon and Golden Beets. After going to the workshop, I couldn't stop thinking about canning--it was so easy! I suddenly had this new technology of preserving food at my fingertips! And so, I started planning a canning day for myself.
As with any food event, there was the question of what to make; I browsed and contemplated many recipes and finally decided on BBQ Sauce, Tangelo Marmalade, and Pickled Peppers.
Two of those, I knew, would be more involved recipes, and the peppers would be something easier--I had gotten a handful of banana peppers over the weekend, and our own little cinder-block garden had produced a few poblanos and jalapenos.
I planned the day along with my friend Megan, as she had an interest in canning things and is in possession of a canning pot; it also turned out that Megan and I make an incredible canning team--we work well together, and she's not afraid of picking up hot jars with her bare hands. (There she is, pouring sugar into the marmalade pot!)
We worked tirelessly for hours. One of the two large burners on our stove quit working soon after we moved into the house, and this was what slowed us down quite a bit, as canning involves several things going at once: a pan to sterilize the jars, whatever is being canned, and the big canning pot to process the jars once they're filled. Here is a picture of half-way through the day: the BBQ sauce was already blended up (I used fresh tomatoes to make it) and in a bowl, ready to be ladled out into jars; the tangelos ready to be cooked down for the marmalade; the peppers chopped up and waiting in a bowl... Including cooking time (and time to go out and get more jar lids, as we filled up more jars than we expected), we were hard at work for about six hours. And of course, as we were hearing the little "ping" of processed jars sealing themselves, all that work was worth it. I was especially pleased with the way the BBBQ sauce came out--we have enough to give to friends and family, and some
to use ourselves.
However, the marmalade never "set up" as promised by the recipe, which never mentions pectin... The taste was wonderful, but I was really hoping for marmalade, rather than tangelo drink mixer--we'll have to try it again, with pectin this time. I'm also looking forward to canning tomatillo salsa. And rosemary jelly. If you haven't tried canning, it's rather easy if you have the necessary tools. Also, it would help if you are making only one thing to can (especially if it's your first time). The sense of accomplishment in seeing the finished product is pretty great--and renewed each time I see the jars I purposefully left sitting out on the kitchen table.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Today marks 9 years that I've been vegan.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I realize things. That I haven't posted here in a while is one thing. That of the three topics listed in the title of this blog, we've been hitting one consistently and neglecting the others, is another. I recently found some words I wrote after I learned of the suicide of David Foster Wallace, a little over a year ago. I like to recover these bits from my own past because they give me a view into what I was thinking at the time. At times it seems hard to believe that the people we used to be can be such strangers, or at least can be so surprising, to the people we are now. This is what I wrote:


Earlier today I found out that David Foster Wallace had been found dead in his home, that evidence pointed to his having killed himself. Wallace, for those who may not know, came to some fame for his writing. The first time I came into contact with his writing was when in Columbus about three years ago. One of my good friends had clued me onto his writing; we were both in a master's program in literature. I checked Oblivion out at the branch near my apartment but I couldn't get into it.

I complained to my friend that the writing was dry, it was heavy on the detail and light on the characterization. We talked about the merits of his writing and that I liked what he was doing, but I didn't enjoy reading it. These long phone conversations lead me to eventually pick up Infinite Jest, Wallace's magnum opus. I read the majority of Infinite Jest in Daytona during the AP literature reading of 2005 afterhours, in the hotel bar by myself.

During this reading I wasn't completely sure I liked the book. It was an effort to get through it and I liked it in an abstract sense, but did not enjoy it in the same way that I would normally think of enjoying a novel. We've talked on and off about Infinite Jest for the last 3 years, and I've come closer to liking the book every time that we talked.

The news of Wallace's death has come as something of a blow to me because I had recently (as recently as this semester) been thinking about rereading Infinite Jest and incorporating it into my current studies. Wallace is a writer I have always respected if not always enjoyed and that big novel I hesitate to mention once again has been a conundrum in my reading history. I think the reason that I've always had difficulty with this novel is that I've never been able to designate it in any category. I've always been able to relegate novels into one of several categories, usually having to do with whether I liked it or not or whether I thought it might have any (what we might call in 'the business') cultural relevance. In Wallace's big novel I could see all of the hallmarks of the big postmodern novel from all of the authors I've loved and admired but there was something that squirmed in me when I thought about it. Wallace pinpointed, or at least helped to gesture toward some postmodern discontent: some malaise of the modern world: an uncertain discomfort that has always been difficult or impossible to place in reality.

I've read some accounts of Wallace's death on the internets today and they all seem to point to this dark aspect of his writing as some vague indication of his apparent suicide. I find this ludicrous to the point of insult. Wallace wrote about the world in which he found himself with dark humor and aplomb. He indicated the source of his discontent through his fictional characters and pointed a way toward distraction, if not redemption. Certainly there may have been some dissatisfaction in his life, but I like to think that the process of writing works to excise these demons rather than to enliven them. Despite the difficulty I have always found in Wallace's work (and perhaps because of them), I don't hesitate to mention my respect for him as a writer. I think that I do like Infinite Jest after all, and not because of Wallace's death but because it is a challenging book that has caused me to think a lot more than even some of my 'favorite' books have.

I've just poured myself a couple of fingers of whiskey and I'm about to sit down with a good book. I am going to revisit Infinite Jest though I might put it off a little while longer. I think I do need to thank that old friend for turning me on to Wallace and providing a sounding board to discuss his work and complain about his less admirable qualities. In any case, American literature will suffer for this loss.

Since I wrote this, I've gone back and reread Infinite Jest with a group of friends. I did, indeed, find the second read more rewarding. This isn't surprising. I often find second third and nth readings more rewarding than the first. There is something to be said for the fresh experience of a new narrative, but I've always found rereadings to be extremely valuable. At the risk of contention, I often find rereading more valuable than initial reads.

This is a novel I've thought about quite a bit, and I still find it confounding in the right way. It makes me think about narrative, the role of the author in the fiction. I think about the nature of irony. Kierkegaard defines irony, in part, as a question which is not asked in order to gain knowledge, but to subvert or question the very act of questioning. Wallace's work makes me ask these questions of myself. There are some haunting and beautiful passages in the novel, and it is one that I look forward to reading again in the future.

Monday, October 5, 2009

"Vegan Month of Food"

Last year was the first year that I discovered vegan blogs--I had only been vegan for about six months, and was starting to bake more and more often, and I needed recipes. After a couple months of looking at all the various blogs, I settled on a few favorites (you can see them in the blog list just over to the right), and have been following them ever since. Of course, there are other blogs that I visit occasionally, especially if I'm searching for a new recipe for something, but there are few (if any) that I'd want to add to the blog list. So, last year as I was pedalling around the blogosphere with my training wheels still on, I encountered the phenomenon that is Vegan Month of Food. I learned that Isa Chandra Moskowitz proclaimed October to be the "Vegan Month of Food," or "Vegan MoFo," as it is endearingly called by a myriad of vegan bloggers. The call goes something like this:
The idea is to write as much as you can for the month of October about vegan food. The blog entries can be about anything food related - your love of tongs, your top secret tofu pressing techniques, the first time your mom cooked vegan for you, vegan options in Timbuktu - you get the idea. There is no strict guideline for how much you have to write, but we shoot for about 20 times a month, or every weekday.
At first, this whole enterprise seems rather exciting--who wouldn't want more posts about delicious vegan food from favorite bloggers? More pictures of food, more frequent discussions of techniques, more personal stories from vegans (aside from my husband, I actually don't know any vegans personally)... This year, however, I am thinking about the prescribed month differently.

I ask: what does "Vegan Month of Food" accomplish? The vegan blogging community is rather insular--it exists, but does not affect too many others outside of itself. Sure, it may be getting some little publicity, but it's publicity that doens't accomplish anything. I feel like for the rest of this month, the vegan bloggers who are participating (and apparently, there's an official list) will orbit around each other and then settle down a few recipes richer, but wiser? I am perplexed at the lack of direction and purpose within this phenomenon; I am even more confused about the activity that supposedly makes October special--vegan bloggers eating...vegan food and...wait a minute....blogging about it?! I wish that I could say that "Vegan Mofo" is about outreach and vegan education in excess of that which is already in existence on blogs, but it appears to be more about frenzy (empty frenzy, even, because what other reason is there to stay up and post at midnight as soon as the clock rolled over into October?). And I refuse to participate in it because that very frenzy and fanaticism is what can be alienating to others. Once again, "Vegan Month of Food" doesn't accomplish anything that any other month of being vegan doesn't; I would invite fellow bloggers (and non-bloggers) to consider more carefully the kinds of efforts spent on a daily basis, and to question whether those efforts couldn't be put towards more productive outcomes.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Please Welcome Lucy!

In an earlier post, I mentioned that Matt and I have been looking for a companion for our cat, Feast. After about a month of careful consideration, figuring out finances, and contacting various shelters around town, we decided to adopt a rescued border collie from East Tennessee Border Collie Rescue. I like this organization because they are thorough in the profiles of their collies, which has the potential to decrease returns of dogs due to "misunderstandings." Their application is detailed and they consider references carefully--all in all, they take adoption of companion animals seriously.

When I began looking through the dogs' profiles, I was searching for one who would be likely to be gentle with our (rather ornery) cat; I decided on Lucy, who was a little smaller than the other dogs up for adoption, and who was described as friendly, with both humans and other dogs. (Of course, I was hoping she would get along with Feast, too.)
Lucy, as the site said, "came from a truly horrendous situation of abuse. [She and two other dogs] had spent almost their entire lives in rusted metal cages, and hardly knew how to stand on firm ground when [ETBCR] rescued them." As I began email correspondence with Lucy's foster
mom, I found out that Lucy had had to have a few teeth removed because they were too black and damaged from chewing on the bars of her metal prison. She also had to have a lot of her fur shaved off because of its terrible condition...

This is a picture of Lucy at the time of the rescue.

Even now, I do not quite have the words to articulate my outrage with the people who abused her so.

We arrived at the adoption site on Saturday--Lucy greeted us cheerfully, and was so sweet; we took her home for a trial run with Feast. As it became clear that the two were more interested in avoiding each other, Matt and I finalized the adoption papers and brought Lucy home with us!

In the three days that she has been in our home, she has adjusted wonderfully. She loves walking around the neighborhood; she knows her name well and comes whenever we mention it; she is curious but cautious with Feast--and the two are getting along better and better. We are very happy to share our home with Lucy. Please join us in welcoming her to a life where humans take care of her, lavish attention on her, and make sure that her needs are met.

As you can see, she is beautiful (and would hardly sit still for the camera)!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cabbage Pie

One of the readings I assigned my classes for today was an essay by Geeta Kothari, "If You Are What You Eat, Then What Am I?" Kothari traces several points of conflict between her Indian upbringing and the desire to fit in, to eat the kinds of foods American kids eat--"bologna, hot dogs, salami." During a couple points in the essay, she discusses a sense of inherited vegetarianism, and her various rebellions against it (like eating her friend's tuna-salad sandwiches at school). The essay didn't go over as well as I'd hoped; my students refused to see the conflict, refused, in fact, to see beyond the fact that one could go through life without meat products. I feel like because about a third of my students are older than I (some of them significantly so), I was more reluctant to question their stance, and didn't pursue the discussion into the realm of disclosing my own veganism. Of course, with all of the semester ahead, I think at some point, they will inevitably know.
Kothari's essay resonated with me--I, too, moved to the United States as a child. And although food issues were not as ripe with conflict as they were for her, I am beginning to realize, more and more that:

One day, my parents will be gone, and I will long for the foods of my childhood, the way they long for theirs. I prepare for this day the way people on TV prepare for the end of the world. They gather canned goods they will never eat while I stockpile recipes I cannot replicate. I am frantic, disorganized, grabbing what I can, filing scribbled notes haphazardly. I regret the tastes I've forgotten, the meals I have inhaled without a thought. I worry that I've come to this realization too late.

When I was growing up, there was cabbage pie. My father would make the dough, and my mother would make the filling and put it all together. A few weeks ago, I started thinking of making this pie. Of course, after at least half a dozen phone calls (and two emails) to my mother, her only advice to me in making the pie was, "Oh, you'll figure it out." And as it turns out, I did, although my pie was not as elegant as hers are--it was a sturdy replica. Usually, the pie is made with either cabbage or potatoes, but I had both on hand and decided to use them. In the pie are also carrot, onion, bell pepper, banana pepper, and spices. I made the pie last Monday, and we've been slowly eating it, taking it with us for lunches, having it for dinner, with a side. Today, I lunched on the final piece and it was as good as the first. I am already planning more pies with different fillings, but am also wondering about what else I'm potentially forgetting about, what other foods did I not appreciate as a child? I We all should remember things as such sooner, maintain those memories...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Companion Animals

Now that I have a job, we've been considering getting a friend for Feast (our cat).
I've also been reading Prof. Gary Francione's Animals as Persons and thinking about companion animals--about their status in our homes, and about animals' status in general. Francione states that "as a legal matter, we do not regard animals as having any value apart from the value we accord them" (104). Moreover, "the equal consideration of animal interests necessarily requires the recognition that non-humans have a right not to be treated as the property of humans" (106).

To a vegan, especially, these concepts seem pretty logical and aren't a far stretch from the rest of Francione's argument. However, I think these concepts are more difficult to grasp, to live according to--it is easier to accept the idea that "food" and "entertainment" animals are not property, and more difficult to see companion animals as having inherent value, as not property.
Indeed, it is more often than not that companion animals are treated as though they have inherent value--and yet the demand for these animals that are clearly are only ever marked as "companion" (fetishized objects) is problematic.

If someone were to go to a (dog, cat, hedgehog, etc.) breeder in order to obtain a "pet," she would be signaling a demand to this particular producer, who will in turn force the animals within his control to breed in order to create the supply. This chain of supply and demand becomes especially transparent (at least to me) in a scenario where there is a waiting list for an animal to be born and weaned to fulfill the role that is created for him/her--as "pet." From inception--and even before then--the animal's value is dictated by the role that humans impose, not by the animal's inherent value; in becoming a "pet," the animal is expected to fulfill the human's expectations, not his or her own instincts and wishes. In this sense, the animal is treated more as a thing. This kind of misguided action (obtaining an animal from a breeder, or obtaining an animal for the role of "pet") not only goes against most people's intuitive belief that animals have inherent value--their own personality, memories, desires--but clearly indicates a violation of the vegan ethics. If veganism renounces the idea that animals should be used for food, clothing, and entertainment, we should certainly strive for moral consistency and view companion animals as part of the chain of animal "products."

When considering obtaining a companion animal, rescued animals pose less of a problem--they are inadvertent victims of the system, and oftentimes the ones who have been rejected by the previous "owner;" these rejected animals are evidence (symptoms) of a failed system--if people recognized inherent value of animals, they would stop a) demanding "pets" or b) (especially in instances where the animal's interests conflict with those of the human "owner") discard them at their convenience. To provide a home for a mature animal does not create that same demand, as breeders do not receive the signal to "produce" more animals through forced breeding. Again, I stress that veganism demands attention to not only what we eat and wear, but also awareness of the other ways in which animals are exploited (for entertainment or as pets).

A few years ago, I had a hedgehog, and she was one of the best companions I could ever hope for; when thinking of a companion for Feast, I began considering another hedgehog. However, thinking more extensively about it, I realized that if I want a hedgehog, this desire is selfish (I'd have to go to a breeder to obtain her), and is only a desire to fulfill my human need (whim)--this desire does not consider the interests of the animal mother or offspring.

What we must do is work towards the demystification of everyday practices--whether it's eating an animal or considerint providing a home for one. If veganism signifies a rejection of the commodity status of non-humans, we should be thorough, and carry that belief to the realm (and treatment of) companion animals. Many of the things I have mentioned in this post seem intuitive, but like many things close at hand, they are sometimes the very ideas that we pay least attention to and take for granted.

(A picture of very young Feast and Big, the hedgehog.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Theory and Practice

It has been some while since the last post, but I want to assure you that the blog is still very much alive. As some of you may already know, I have been looking for a job for the duration of the entire spring and summer, and recently, something has turned up. Now, with the assurance that I am employed and some financial stability, I think I will return to posting more regularly.

I have been reading the work of Gary Francione--most recently, I began Animals as Persons (2008); I also am a frequent visitor to his site and listen to his
podcasts. His voice is one that I respect for its clarity and consistency on ethical veganism; he does not back down on issues and addresses them tactfully and respectfully; moreover, he is inventive in finding opportunities for vegan education. In his latest podcast, he addresses violence in general, and more specifically, violence directed at institutions that use animals (vivisectionists, producers of flesh from "food animals," venues that use animals for entertainment purposes, etc.). He admonishes that violence against these does not have a cultural context, that it is ineffective because: a) attacking/destroying one animal-exploiting supplier only means that the demand for that animal "product" (fur, leather, flesh, excretion, etc.) will be taken up by somebody else and b) in the eyes of the general public, the violent act further demonizes anyone associated with the movement for animal rights. Those are two points that really caught my attention--this perspective is so different from and opposed to the kinds of escapades people have come to expect from PETA, it's inspiring. Francione talks about and practices what I believe would be the most effective approach in promoting veganism: active vegan education and a consistently vegan lifestyle.

In the last six months or so, I have been immersing myself in the discourse of animal rights theory, and have been finding this foray incredibly helpful--I am able to converse with people more easily on the topic of veganism, am able to be more rational and informed within conversations. In addition to this, I also try to share vegan food with those around me at any available opportunity (there aren't many, but I always come prepared to a pot-luck). I find the union of theory and practice to be most effective. I think that even if I encourage people to consider (if not
reconsider) their food and lifestyle choices, I have succeeded in inciting some change for the better, have allowed another person or two a glimpse outside of the normative participation in exploitative practices.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Whizbang Chicken Plucker, Or: The Arbitrary Distinction between Food and Companion Animals

Recently, one of my Flickr contacts posted this picture of the "Whizbang Chicken Plucker" (the video of the "thing in action" is linked as well, and I would recommend that you take the couple minutes to watch it before reading this post)*.
I won't say anything about the contact, except that she's interested in sustainable living, and I'm guessing this to be one of the things she's doing to get to know this step in producing "food." I would definitely agree with the sentiment of the endeavor--that it is good for people to be familiar with the processes behind the manufacturing of food: too often, we separate the product from the process; we are urged to consume the packaged and convenient flesh and ignore what is done to the animal. However, the video is distressing: the handling of the chickens is nonchalant, and as the machine is ripping the feathers out of the chickens, the onlookers even chuckle. Why?

Since becoming vegan, I have been more and more sensitive to the construction of normative behaviors--how people defend, justify, and ignore what to me (us) seems unacceptable, despicable, disgusting. This was just another instance--the chicken-plucking--to which I was more sensitive. It is not just something that is perhaps repulsive--although it is that, in its graphic display of what the animal goes through to become "meat;" the reaction of the participants is symptomatic of the overall attitude: the laugh is at the spectacle, rather than the actual occurrence of the killing and deformation of the creatures. Despite being aware of the process of dismembering the chickens, there is no change in perception, and the animal is viewed as just that--a means to human ends, not as an entity with interests of its own.
It's peculiar--so often people say that they don't wish to think of the process that takes the animal from its life to their plate, etc., but it is apparent that even thinking (and seeing) the process doesn't directly disrupt that: the chickens being de-feathered in the Whizbang were already seen as food before the process (and thus, casually held by the feet and dunked in cold water beforehand--not a dead being, but food).
This separation is cultivated in our culture--the inconsistency between the treatment of companion and "food animals" is forgotten; if the distinction was recognized as completely arbitrary, perhaps the state of affairs would be different. I'm not sure what else to say at this point, so I'll leave it up to Matt to continue in his (longer) post in the same vein.

*After I started writing the post, I looked up the instrument--the plucker--and was dismayed to find several YouTube videos of "the thing in action"...apparently, this is a very common device--just something I didn't know about; and of course--arguably--it is a much more "humane" way to mutilate chickens and remove their feathers.

Some thoughts on ethical veganism.

Much of this post is in reply to Pat, who asked some questions about our views on eating meat. I don't want to speak for both of us, so I'll just answer for myself and Kat can add or amend as she sees fit. I think one way of discussing vegetarianism and veganism is to describe why and how I first came to these decisions. Some of the hurdles that vegans and vegetarians face is a lack of understanding about the decision or even about what such decisions entail. Unfortunately, many vegetarians and vegans become defensive when they are questioned by others instead of trying to offer any explanation. This can only lead to more misunderstanding.

I turned to vegetarianism because I could no longer separate the animal from the meat. I tried to separate the idea of the animal from the thing on my dinner plate, but realized that this disconnect was harmful and unnatural. There must be a direct connection between cause and effect, before and after, and to deny this is to deny an essential part of our own understanding. However, this separation is made easy for us by those from whom we buy such products. We are disconnected from our own source of nutrition because we don't see where it comes from or what it must face. This disconnect practically does not exist where vegetables are considered. We see plant growth everyday and know how it operates, but we don't see the same thing with meat. Along with this disconnect comes a loss of connection with the source of our nutrition. Our relationship to the packaged meat in the store is a fetish for the real relationship which must exist but is lost with the animal, and the plants and the earth before that.

The other aspect which originally led to my vegetarianism was a growth in my perception of the rights to happiness and life that other beings possess. I won't argue that all animals are equal or that animals are equal to humans (I do think that there is an affinity for proximity and likeness). I will say, however, that mutual respect is a premium I could never get around. It is unnecessary for me to end the life of another animal in order for me to remain healthy, and even to thrive. Consumption of these items is a luxury that necessarily comes at the detriment of others.

This may lead to the question of animals that die of natural causes. The question may be stated: "Is one ethically permitted to consume an animal, provided one does not cause the death of the animal?" In some cases, the question is moot. If an animal dies of illness or is killed by a predator, the carcass will likely be unfit to eat. In other cases, an animal that dies of old age would likely be unpalatable. So this question asks of unlikely circumstances that involve an animal dying in such a way as to leave a carcass which would be safe and palatable to eat. I would still answer this question in the negative. This question depends upon a view of eating flesh as normal. A vegan like myself wouldn't even think about this as an option anymore than an omnivore would think of pieces of wood or leather as viable food options.

Perhaps a different way of viewing the question would be to consider veganism as a positive, or liberating philosophy instead of a negative, or limiting, philosophy. Veganism is not built around the idea that I must refrain from eating one thing or another, but that my dedication to the recognition of the rights of sentient beings precludes my viewing them as consumable object, or objects at all for that matter. If one considers a liberating view of veganism, the question of eating animals or what they produce is null. It is only when one considers veganism from the limiting perspective that such loop holes become true questions.

Finally, the question may arise regarding the celebration of an animal's life by eating it. Pat asks about our views on this subject, but quickly points out that he doesn't mean a beloved dog, but a pet cow or chicken. I think that this question also relates to whether we view veganism as a liberating or limiting philosophy. If we see it as the former, then their is no question that the consumption of a pet is always inappropriate, whatever sort of animal the pet is. This question leads to two other questions, though: in what way would eating an animal be considered honoring its life? and what really is the difference between a cow and a dog? I don't see the connection between eating a pet and honor. Perhaps because of my point of view on the matter, I can only see this as degrading. As for the second question: why would we make a distinction between a dog and a cow? As far as I can see, this distinction is arbitrary. If a person kept a cow as a pet in the same way that s/he would keep a dog as a pet, then I would imagine that person would be just as horrified at the prospect of eating the cow as the dog. Just because a cow is conventionally labeled "food" would not change the way the owner would care for it or regard it.

There is more that I could write, but I think I'll cut it off here. Thanks Pat for your questions. I hope that I was able to provide some answers. Feel free to reply or ask more, I'm open to what others think, too.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Power of Prayer

There have been a lot of posts about this guy lately, but I thought I'd just take a moment to add my opinion.  Wiley Drake, a minister of the Southern Baptist church has been praying for Barack Obama's death.  Drake has also previously gone out of his way to deprecate and harass gays (you can read more here and here).
While it is impossible for me to take someone like this man seriously, the problem is that many people do take him at face value.  Recent events such as the shooting death of Dr. George Tiller and the shooting spree in the Knoxville Unitarian Universalist church last summer demonstrate that people do indeed take these messages of hatred and destruction very seriously.  
Wiley Drake abuses his authority within the church to stroke his own vanity and what he does is nothing short of incitement to violence.  

Monday, July 13, 2009

Left, Right, and "New Atheists"

I've been reading a lot of blogs lately and one trend that disturbs me is the grandiose posturing of whichever politically entrenched group each blogger takes him/herself to represent.  The news of Palin's resignation from Alaskan government, revelation of the Young Republican's racist comments on facebook, the ongoing degradation of Obama and his family that has nothing to do with political issues, etc have sparked heated back and forth between bloggers and those who comment. I value rhetoric and logical argument, in fact these are values I hope to impart to my students every semester.  I strive to show them that they can learn to disagree without enmity or hatred.  That when they disagree they must have the courage to stand up for their opinion and I try to give them the tools they need to support it.  The commentary I've been reading is filled with innuendo, poorly conceived argumentation, and a tightly-held curtain of patriotic self-righteousness.  This is a poor example for those who are just entering the debate.  They are encouraged to believe that the one who shouts the loudest or makes the most outrageous claims is correct, that hunches are synonymous with facts, and that fear is an appropriate rhetorical tool.  
Today I'm going to go back to my books.  I'm going to immerse myself in others' wisdom and try to ferret out a little more of what makes sense to me instead of getting lost in unwonted vitriol.  
Tomorrow I'm going to work on my syllabus for the upcoming school year.  I have some revisions to make to patch some leaks in my course from last year.  I've been kicking around some ideas to encourage my students to value revision, as well.  Tomorrow will be good.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Animal Welfarism v. Animal Rights

After stepping into the discourse of ethical veganism (through Bob Torres' Making a Killing), I am continuing my study in that area in the hopes of using it in future academic pursuits and my own writing. Thus, I am currently reading Gary Francione's Rain without Thunder (1996), and am trying to decide where I stand on the issue of animal welfarism, and how (or rather--at what point) I should differentiate between the two. On the one hand, incremental progress in animal welfare is good, and a goal to work towards; however, it is not an end goal, especially if welfarism permits and justifies "humane slaughter" under the argument that the animals are afforded more comfort in the span of their lives. I anticipate this to be a longer post in the near future, but just wanted to get my thoughts out there--it's been a while since I've posted.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I am taking a minute to post about this pizza:
Ever since I started making pizza dough, we try to have pizza a couple times a month--and this pizza was exceptional! It has a olive oil and garlic base (rather than sauce), and toppings include smoked tofu, grilled eggplant, gently sauteed chanterelles, and basil. This pizza was better, even, than it looks OR sounds, and was the perfect meal for the night before we go out of town.
And I know that there are a million pizza dough recipes out there, but this is the one I trust, and have come back to over and over. It has a nice texture (because of the bran), and makes enough for at least two pizzas. I usually refrigerate half of it, and it keeps for use later in the week. I have also frozen leftover dough, and thawed it quite successfully. It is super-dough, to me. Here is the recipe (same proportions as in Richard Bertinet's Dough, different ingredients).
  • 1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 c white whole wheat flour (may need more if dough is too sticky)
  • 1/4 c wheat bran
  • 12 oz warm water
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 t salt
  • 2 t instant-rise or bread-machine yeast
  • 1 T basil
  • 1 T oregano (and/or any other spices you want to use)
  • (optional) small handful of flax seeds
Mix the dry ingredients first, then add water and oil. Allow for at least an hour to rise; preheat oven to 400 degrees, and bake the pizza (with your choice of toppings) for 20 minutes.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


The other few raw days that followed the previous raw post weren't all that exciting--there were some repeats, a lot of salads (and then, of course, my camera ran out of batteries). All in all, the experience was good: the ten days of raw food, with the small exception of last night's meal (about which I will write more, later).
Eating raw in the summer is easier, I think, than it would be in the winter--here in land-locked not-an-especially-big town, Tennessee. With the CSA basket once a week, the farmer's market, and fresh produce either from the co-op or the fruit and vegetable store down the street, eating raw food would require relatively minor preparation (unless, that is, I were to make the buckwheat crust on a regular basis). Moreover, because I haven't turned on the stove or oven in the last ten days, the house has been cooler. I also found myself taking out the trash less frequently, and not accumulating as many recyclables--whatever wasn't vegetable scraps was either a small produce plastic bag, or twist-tie from bunches of herbs or spinach. I can definitely see the ethical stance of veganism extended by raw foodism, with perhaps the added benefit of an even smaller effect on the Environment; I also understand some of the health benefits of eating raw--during the ten days, I lost a couple pounds, and felt pretty good overall (not that I complain of any ailments on a vegan diet). I didn't feel hungry, or tired of eating raw, and for most of the ten days, I didn't miss coffee or cooked food, which was surprising.
And although I will continue to incorporate more raw food into every day (and will probably have a designated Raw Day once a week), I am returning to cooked food. Somewhere along the way during the ten raw days, I found myself questioning eating cooked food, and then--equally--questioning eating 100% raw. I kept asking myself: what if I never eat bread again, what then?
Eating only raw food is interesting and exciting, at least it was for me--but there's something a little unsettling about it as a panacea for the "Standard American Diet." Swinging to the other extreme of "S.A.D." doesn't seem adequate as a response, and especially when it is advocated as the only solution--as in, "Eat raw food, or else" (and the "else" is depicted in the most horrible way, of course).
Eating raw is also oftentimes inextricably bound to health and the ultimate (or only) healthy eating--this is also problematic (unless the people who make the transition are overcoming a chronic disease). This kind of emphasis on health oftentimes is synonymous with an emphasis on the self/appearance, which, as an end in and of itself (the goal of a "beautiful face" or "lithe body") is rather unfruitful--at least to me. I like that my food choices have an ethical dimension; I also like making food that would look familiar for my omnivorish friends (and students, once), and showing them that vegan food isn't difficult to make, and in fact can be quite, quite tasty.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Raw, Day 6

Matt messaged me from Louisville earlier today, and said that he would eat raw with me for a few days after his return on Friday! That means that "raw week" is getting extended for a little while, which is great--I still have a fridge full of greens from the CSA basket last weekend, and we'll be getting another one on Saturday...thus, we will be having many, many salads.
Today's food was a lot of repeats--green smoothie for breakfast, a little raw pizza for lunch, a huge salad for dinner. A friend of mine came over to work on a puzzle , and right as we were finishing putting together the outer edges, we thought it was time to have some RAW CHEESECAKE! I made this using Isa's recipe, with substitutions where necessary (as you can see, I used blueberries, not strawberries), and it came out wonderfully. As my (omni) friend said, "I think I like this better than regular cheesecake."
I made half the recipe, and because I don't actually own a springform pan, I made it in three ramekins, which I lined with parchment paper so I could lift the cheesecake out once it set. It worked wonderfully, and my friend and I split one of the three--see, it almost looks like it's a regular piece of cake.
You may be seeing more pictures of this, perhaps a little more decorated and frilled. Although, I have to say, this raw cheesecake stands up quite well on its own. (Click on the photo to enlarge the picture to all its mouth-watering goodness!)
I froze one of them, so will also be reporting how this little treat withstands freezing.*

*And the cheesecake was every bit as good after freezing. I thawed it for about an hour in the fridge, and then some more minutes on the counter. I'll have to make it again sometime, maybe with different berries.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Raw, Day 5

A long and disappointing day today--tried to go to have my wedding dress altered, but the woman (Thelma) said that she couldn't do it; with the fabric and the pleats and all, there is no way to make it shorter. I trust her word--she's had 47 years of experience, after all. So I'm a bit bummed out and not sure what to do next.

Food today was:
Breakfast--pinapple-spinach-banana-blueberry smoothie
Lunch--massaged kale salad
Dinner--raw pizza
I'd made the buckwheat crust a couple days ago, and it had been waiting patiently for me; today, I made the marinara (tomato, sun-dried tomatoes, herbs), and then! Well, you can see for yourself. I'd been wanting something salty, and as I was biting into this, realized that it was olives, which I'd formerly not liked at all (silly me).
Right now, as I type, the cashews are soaking for a blueberry version of this. I'm thinking about omitting the "fluffy white frosting," but may yet change my mind. Also, I'm making half the recipe. If it comes out, and is attractive, I will have pictures of it tomorrow, and you'll just have to wait until then, won't you.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Raw, Day 4

My (omni) parents were in town yesterday, and somehow I averted questions about why I only have greens in the refrigerator AND my mom ended up buying me a pineapple! I was afraid of having to explain eating raw to them, and didn't have to; my dad even tried a piece of the buckwheat pizza crust and said it was "interesting." So, this morning started off with a green smoothie (with some pineapple and young coconut meat in it!). I'm very happy to have discovered young coconuts, and am getting better and better at opening them; and--at 99 cents each at the Asian market we recently discovered, they're cheaper and better than Zico!
For lunch, there was zucchini alfredo with the very last of the creamy red pepper dressing from raw day 1. For some reason, I've never had zucchini in this fashion, and I love it! This raw week has definitely gotten me to try new things (zucchini "pasta," young coconuts, dehydrated sprouted-grain breads), and I'm pretty pleased with the results, so far.
Dinner was quite a dilemma--I was out with friends most of the afternoon, and they invited me to dinner with them. Of course, the place they picked to have dinner is one of my favorite restaurants: a vegan-friendly place called Tomato Head. I knew that I could get a salad there, but what I did not know was that my friends would be eating pesto and bread as an appetizer (and of course, Tomato Head does have a vegan pesto available). I had to avert my eyes a little, just so my love for bread would not win over my determination to keep to raw food for a week. I found myself not as hungry for bread as I had been after three days of last summer's juice fast, but I was tempted nevertheless.
Eating raw is obviously not a punishment I'm inflicting on myself (although it may have seemed like that to my friends who were enjoying the bread)--it's a choice. I chose to eat raw to get out of the kind of mental funk I've been in the last couple months, with finishing the degree and all, and trying to find a job. I knew that it would keep me focused, busy, and healthy. I'm very glad that I'm doing this, and will keep it up at least through Thursday. Stay tuned for more.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Raw, Day 2

Today began with green juice--I'd forgotten how much I like it (and then remembered last summer's juice fast and also remembered how tired I'd gotten of just liquid food, and how I wanted to chew). (You can also see part of my notes for Infinite Jest, but more about that at a later time.)
I also woke up to check on the sprouts, and was rather surprised to see that the buckwheat groats had sprouted overnight, and even the wheatberries were looking lively (in preparation for Rejuvelac!).

For lunch, I made an avocado-cucumber-young coconut meat soup, which was more filling than I had expected. It was my first time making this kind of soup (I also added cilantro and a little lemon juice), and I think if I were to make it again, I'd use it as a base, and throw some cut-up vegetables into it--I wasn't used to the texture, and was recalling my distaste for grits half-way through the bowl. The taste, however, was rather pleasing; it's something I will definitely make again and play around with. On the side (as you see), I had a few cucumber slices with cashew-cheeze.

As the day wore on, and I was getting ready to make dinner (a large green salad, not pictured), a voice in my head kept telling me that I'm not a "raw person," and will never be one; that I can't keep this up, for even a week, etc. I had to stop myself and say, well, no person is a particular type of person when it comes to food choices. More often than not, people get used to a harmful normativity, a normativity that masks especially the everyday aspects of existence (food). I've been thinking about this--how the raw week (for me) defamiliarizes food, makes me see it in a different way, beyond just appreciating it, but being also mindful of the methods of production and consumption. It's important, you know.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Raw, Day 1

This will be a quick post--my first day eating raw on my own was a little tiring: I always over-plan days which I am spending mostly alone, and then, of course, don't get done half of what I wanted to do. However, I am pretty happy with how this first day turned out.

I made some cashew-milk today, and the amazing red-pepper dressing from Swell Vegan (you can see both, side by side, happily in the fridge); for lunch, I had a bok choy salad with the dressing, and it was delicious. I can see myself making more of it next week, or even for the omni parents who are dropping in for a visit this weekend.
For dinner, I had the famous massaged kale salad from Gena's blog, and it surpassed all expectation. For some reason, I haven't eaten much raw kale, and this was a good way to try it. Well--look for more posts (and pictures) in the coming days.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Raw Food Ruminations

Last weekend was our first experience with CSA--a colleague from the department was giving up her spot with this particular group, and we were more than happy to fill it. The basket was excellent: kale, chard, lettuce mix, radishes, bok choy, arugula, mustard greens, spinach--the woman who signed it over to us joked about the two of us not being able to finish off the produce in a week's time, but I don't foresee that problem. We have also recently discovered a fruit and vegetable market not too far away from where we live (the produce there is almost half the price of Kroger's); and although Kroger is closer, I foresee more trips to the other, more friendly place (which also has better produce). Thus, with summer almost upon us, and with this abundance of fruit and vegetables, I've been thinking more and more about eating raw.
Last summer, Matt and I ate raw for a week, with a juice fast in the middle of that week, and it was a good experience--at the end of the week, I was ravenous, and had an altogether different appreciation for food. I remember going to a farmer's market then, on the third day of the juice fast, and buying a loaf of sourdough dill bread, and holding it in my hands on the way home, smelling the bread through the plastic and holding it close to my face--how I loved that bread then, when I was hungry, and beyond that, I love good bread. Bread has been, without exaggeration, a cornerstone of my life: growing up in Tajikistan, I remember the naan-like bread we waited in line for; in Belarus--I was sent to the store (I was 7 years old!) for black bread, which I've missed so much here in the States.
It was only a year and a half ago that I started making my own bread. I had set a few goals for myself, in terms of baking, and have met them: successfully made a loaf of bread (for some reason, my loaves were sub-par for a long time), made marbled rye bread, then the green onion bread from a previous post. (I know, this is quite a digression from the subject, but yes, bread is important. Also, I don't quite know how to approach the subject, except in a round-about way.)

I've been looking at a few raw food blogs, and following Gena's blog more closely--and have been thinking about giving raw food a try--maybe for a week or two. I have the resources for it, and it will do the ol' body good. Moreover, eating raw makes people--both the ones doing it, and the ones who surround the person, friends and family--aware that food is a matter of choice, and that the choices made when it comes to food are important. This is what attracted me to veganism in the first place--the ethical implications, the fact that it was within my power to change not just myself, but something bigger as well. My transition to veganism was an easy one, both because I am in a relationship with a vegan, and because I was very ready to make the change, even before I knew anything about it. I only wish that I had become vegan sooner, rather than being stuck in a mode of thinking that is actually fairly common, I've come to find--the thinking that says, "Oh, but eating meat and dairy is what I've always done, therefore, I cannot imagine not doing it," or even better, "I am only one person, and anything I change about my diet won't have a big enough impact." Eating is an action with consequences beyond a single individual, and it should be a conscious decision with awareness of implications, with every meal. I think that's why I like Gena's blog, and especially the title of it--one doesn't just fall into veganism or eating raw; it is a choice, an active participation. Also, for me, eating raw and fasting is a way to remind myself of the choices I make the rest of the time--veganism has become pretty normative to me, and it's not something I want to take for granted.
I don't think, however, that eating raw all the time is a viable option for me--my relationship with bread is a strong one. I love bread, unapologetically. I think that there may be a follow-up to this post some time in the future, when I have my thoughts a bit more collected For now, I will go and put away the CSA goodies from this week.
(This is last week's basket, but this week's was pretty similar--a lot of greens, but with the added bonus of broccoli and garlic scapes!)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Vegans and vegetarians in literature: A brief introduction and case 1

As I work toward my dissertation, I often keep track of ideas for criticism that might prove to be fertile subjects.  One particular angle I've become interested in is the representation of vegetarians, vegans, and animal rights activists in literature.  Vegans and vegetarians are not widely depicted in literature, or in popular culture, but the representations are telling, as they often characterize vegans as malnourished, pitiable, mislead, or crazed.  The reason for this is obvious, it is easy to dismiss an idea once the individual is discredited -- compare this to the popular depiction of the feminist as "man-hating."  
Of course, not all of these representations are negative (I'll list a couple of positive and neutral representations below), but each of them bears investigation so that we know what we are up against.  For the majority of the population, and especially for those who do not know any vegans personally, the cartoonish depiction of vegans becomes a reality, making our lives more difficult.  
As a child, I remember an episode of the Cosby Show in which one of the daughters brought home a new boyfriend who was a vegetarian.  Of course, the boy arrived for dinner and told the family at the table that he was a vegetarian.  This situation is clearly meant to depict the vegetarian as someone who is rude and demanding (he didn't inform his host ahead of time and expected to be catered to) and ultimately the sort of person you wouldn't want your child to bring home.  This sort of representation, whether it was meant to denigrate vegetarians or not, confirms the idea that vegetarians are pushy people who expect everyone to conform to their own whims.  This is the attitude of entitlement and bigotry.  
Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close features a child protagonist, Oskar Schell, who describes himself as a vegan but makes exceptions for astronaut ice cream.  Overall, this depiction is neutral-to-positive although Oskar's veganism sometimes comes off as a childish caprice.  Because Oskar is a sympathetic character whose father died in the World Trade Center, the reader may overlook his veganism as just another personality quirk of an unfortunate young boy.  
Vegetarianism is represented in a much more ambiguous fashion in John Barth's Giles Goat-Boy.  In this novel, the main character was raised as a goat for the first 9 years of this life before he began to live as a human.  One of the hold-overs from his early upbringing is a vegetarian diet.  Throughout the book, George (the goat-boy) expresses disgust at the sight of others eating meat.  On the one hand, George's attitude is given moral weight, but the character is portrayed in such an absurd way overall, that the message is diluted.  Maybe vegetarianism is okay for a goat-boy, but it might still remain out of the realm of possibility for a 'real' human.  
The first case I want to discuss in greater depth is The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen.  There are two scenes in particular that I will describe and analyze, which deal with the issue at hand.  The novel itself is about a midwestern family (elderly parents, 3 grown children who have all moved to eastern cities) and their attempts to find harmony with themselves and each other.  The eldest, Gary, lives in Philadelphia with his wife and his own children.  In this scene, Gary's wife uses their sons as leverage against him; specifically, she encourages her sons to dump their dinner (a mixed grill Gary has prepared) down the disposall by example and then orders pizza for them later:  "Altogether maybe thirty dollars' worth of meat went into the sewer, but Gary, trying to keep his Factor 3 levels off the floor, succeeded pretty well in forgetting about the animals that had died for this purpose" (164).  In this narrative, and sadly for too many people, this sort of disregard is standard.  Gary's first concern is for money, next his personal well-being, and finally the animals.  However, he only cares about the animals to the extent that it affects him personally and not for their own sake.  The animals in question serve only as a vehicle for Gary's wife's passive-aggression -- a tool for her petty power play.  This passage confirms for the reader that selfish thoughts and emotions are acceptable, that the role of animals as food is standard and that their deaths are only 'tragic' when the meat goes to waste.  
Gary's younger sister, Denise, works as a chef in popular Philadelphia restaurants.  At one of the novel's turning points, she considers running away with the wife of the restaurant's owner, but pictures her life with another woman.  She imagines herself cooking vegetarian food, wearing dumpy clothing, and letting herself go with her mate.  The meaning here is more clear: vegetarianism is marginal and something that a respectable chef wouldn't touch.  Denise equates vegetarianism with settling for less. (419) 
There is one other toss-off line concerning vegans in this book as well, to the extent that veganism is a marker of extremism and radicalism.  A minor character becomes involved in underground anarchism in Philadelphia and his company places "minor vegan prophets" alongside "bomb-makers and Xeroxer, and zinesters and punks" (341).  This depiction is fairly standard, and one that most vegans must confront at some point in their lives.  The tactic is to throw the philosophy and ethical dimension of veganism out the window by creating an association with violence, fringe ideology, and implicitly, terrorism.  We are encouraged to view the vegan as the bomb-maker.  
The danger of these incidents is that they escape the notice of most readers on a conscious level.  While a reader would likely make note of a racist or sexist comment, s/he would likely not notice the speciesist commentary, but that commentary does subtly confirm their existing thoughts.  The real danger lies in reaffirming the normality of meat consumption and, conversely, the transgression of vegetarianism and veganism.  

The book is great and should not be judged for these few scenes.  In part, this analysis is meant to show that such ideology does occur in the books we read and in the popular culture that surrounds us.  We shouldn't use this as an excuse to barricade ourselves off from these outlets, but as a chance to inform ourselves.  Once we peel back the implicit arguments and identify the tools used to castigate vegans and belittle sentience issues, we stand a better chance of right the misinformation and projecting the true image of veganism.  

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bread, and Farewell, Apartment

Although I wish I could spend more time writing a new post, I cannot, as tomorrow is the day we have to turn in the apartment keys--and lately, we've been treating the apartment as a large storage box: all the things left in it are odds and ends we haven't packed, but have lived quite well without for the last couple weeks (of course, the kitchen things were the first to move...). Thus! It will be a night of cleaning and packing and sleeping over at the bare apartment one last time. Maybe we'll watch some zombie movies on a laptop later, or maybe we'll fall exhausted to the floor and sleep like logs.
I give you this, the picture of the new kitchen, and a glimpse of the rather disorderly living room. For some strange reason, I was unnaturally drawn to the bright colors when we were picking up paint, and so our house is green, yellow, and light blue. This kitchen has already produced wonders--of course, I made Celine's banana nut chip muffins, and this great bread, among other things:
This was my first time making bread with a sponge or poolish, and it was wonderful--although the original recipe isn't vegan, the soy yogurt works in this. I actually used green onions we got at the farmer's market, and used that in place of the fresh dill, as done in the original recipe.

Well, that's all for now, and the cleaning begins!

A note on this blog

Veganism is one of the cornerstones of my life.  Over the years it has meant different things to me, and I'm happy that I can share it with Kat.  This blog, in part, is a way for us to continue to share with each other and with anyone else who cares to have a look.  Over the last few months, I've watched Kat follow many other blogs and I thought that we could use this as a forum to discuss what we think is important.  
I created this blog with the idea of writing on these three angles of life I find indispensable: food, literature, and philosophy.  We should always strive to incorporate each into the others by thinking equally about what we eat, read, and create.  We need to take responsibility for what we consume and not rely on convention, but always consider the rationale.  
This, then, is a space for those thoughts.  I'm sure it is also a space for discussion of other things, but it always helps to start with a focus.  I trust that we'll have many pictures of the great food that Kat and I make together, and we may even post some recipes.  

First post--New House, New Blog

Hello, all--after months of looking at others' vegan food blogs, and after much encouragement from Matt (my betrothed and other contributor) I am making the first post in this new blog of ours! As the title goes, some of the posts will be about food, some about literature, and some about philosophy: I will be posting about the former two, and Matt will probably post about all of those.

I want to begin with some before pictures of the (rented) house, and a picture or two of food. The pictures, just so you know, don't do the house justice--it was dirty, covered in cobwebs, and leaking from almost every place where it was connected to water. (Maybe in the next post or so, I'll post the after pictures.)
This is the living room. The "stained glass" on the door looks much better from the outside; the swirls, however, had to go, although I'm sure some previous tenant had a hell of a time painting them by hand on the flesh-colored walls.
Below is the kitchen, which makes up with the pantry for the inadequate cabinet space. Oh, how we scrubbed it and painted it--you'll see!

There are definitely more pictures, but--who needs them! We've cleaned the whole place thoroughly, and are rid of the cobwebs and most of the dirt; we've moved in furniture and painted it much happier colors.

Here is the food pictures, as I promised--this is from a meal before we moved.
This is pan-fried tofu with corn pudding and collard greens, all with BBQ sauce--a great meal, and one of my favorites, although before I was vegan, I refused to eat greens of any variety (what a fool I was!).
Well, we look forward to visitors to this, the little blog of ours. See you around!