Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Recently, we had a few good friends over; we were playing a rousing card game, and somehow ended up a with this spread of food on the table. Even I was a little surprised at the variety of things we pulled out of our fridge for the tasting. And I was reminded (once again) how much I love to share food with others. Here are some things on the table: home-made granola; sauerkraut; white bean (Great Northern) hummus; coarse grain beer mustard; mini mincemeat pies and mini cranberry relish pies; pickled Spanish radishes; peaches in light syrup; samples from two different batches of kimchi. Hiding behind the metal bowl is a small jar of roasted pepper hot sauce that we made. The only thing we didn't make that is in the picture is the beer, chips, and the two different kinds of hot sauce (made from fermented peppers).

And of course, we are now in the process of fermenting peppers for our own hot sauce. I can't help but feel a sense of awe and pride at how much I've learned since last year. Humbly, I will proceed to learn more, to mark progress as I go.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

10 Books and 10 books

There are some books I can't seem to escape. A lot of them are novels that I teach or that I work with in the course of my own studies. I tend to choose books to teach and to work with that have been important to me. This is a short list of 10 books that I will read again this year. They have shaped me as a person and they have shaped my intellectual interests and development.
1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
3. Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
4. Anatomy of Criticism by Northrop Frye
5. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
6. The Political Unconscious by Fredric Jameson
7. Meditations on First Philosophy by Rene Descartes
8. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
9. Phenomenology of Spirit by G.W.F. Hegel
10. White Noise by Don DeLillo
11. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

This is a second list of books that I will read this year, but which I have not read before. I anticipate them having a similar effect.
1. On Liberty - J.S. Mill
2. Goldbug Variations - Richard Powers
3. You Bright and Risen Angels - William T. Vollman
4. The Pale King by David Foster Wallace
5. Minima Moralia by Theodor Adorno

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Story of Stuff

Every semester that I've taught at the college level, I teach my students the Proposal Paper. It's not a paper usually assigned by instructors; it's something that M. has been teaching for a while, too, and after I considered the assignment, I thought it was a much better option for my students than, say, writing a simple "Argument Paper." I think of the proposal as a type of argument (an argument in favor of acknowledging and resolving a problem), and it teaches my students valuable skills--after all, they'll most likely write proposals for a future employer, or for a graduate application. The proposal is also just good practice in getting others to listen to you--it teaches students how to appeal to an audience, how to be respectful, and how to accept a compromise in order to get something they want eventually. Here is how the beginning of the assignment goes:

For this paper, you will define a particular problem close to you (one here on campus, at work, or in your home community) and propose a specific solution. The action should be one for which you can provide ample reasoning and supporting argument. Keep in mind that not only is it important to present your proposal coherently and persuasively, but it should also be a proposal that has a realistic chance of success.
Aside from practicing how to write an argument, it is of course my goal to encourage students to effect change in their lives. Too often we ignore small problems and not make anything happen. I have students writing on a range of topics--from installing more recycling bins in their school to fixing potholes in their neighborhoods. Overall, the proposal is usually their most successful essay, not just because they write it late in the semester, but because they are invested in the issue. I always advise students to revise proposals after I have graded them, and to send them off to their intended audience--after all, they'd have nothing to lose, and their proposal would already be written. I suspect that not all my students actually send their proposals off, but even if it's just one or two from a class who take that initial action, I think it's worth me teaching for two weeks of the semester.

In addition to writing proposals, my classes also view and read a number of texts that propose action. We start of with "A Modest Proposal," read "My Amendment," and watch "The Story of Stuff." The latter is an ambitious, but very necessary project--and a proposal, too. I know that I have a soft spot for stick-figure animation (as in, Don Hertzfeldt's work), and I know that's part of the reason why I like "The Story of Stuff" so much. But of course, I also like Annie Leonard's explanations, thoroughness, and urgency. It turned out that this year I showed the video two days before Black Friday--in class discussion it was clear that even if some of my students don't plan to halt their holiday shopping completely, they were going to be more thoughtful about it.

And I, too, have been thinking about it more. I've seen "The Story of Stuff" at least six times (in preparation for class discussion, and once for every three of my sections of composition), and each time I get something new out of it. The last time around, I really zeroed in on "...recycling will never be enough..." And yes, Leonard urges, yes recycling is good, but it doesn't address the core of the problem. If you haven't seen the short video, I encourage that you do--and maybe you'll take something away from it, even if you're already aware of the state of the planet. Leonard is empowering, in a way, and although her proposal offers a very large problem, I think that she is effective in inciting her audience towards a solution.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A decade in.

A couple of weeks ago I celebrated the tenth year of my veganism. In the weeks running up to the day, K and I had a lot of conversations about the amount of time that had gone by and about that initial decision to become vegan. It seemed to me to be something monumental when I made the decision, but it has become so second-nature that most days I don't even think about it anymore. It is automatic. In our house it is normal.
The day passed and it was like every single other day in the last ten years: it was easy, it was natural, it was good.
In those early days when veganism was difficult and most folks had not even heard of the concept I had to be much more vigilant. The world now is a little more accepting of vegans.
I won't let this carry on too long.
I mainly wanted to jot a quick note to give the day a nod because I recognize that the decision to become vegan was one of the most important ones I've ever made. I cannot conceive of my life differently.
I am very grateful to my wife for sharing this aspect of our lives.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Canning Workshop

Earlier this month, and with the help/organization of my friend Katie Ries,
I led a canning workshop at The Birdhouse.
The group was very receptive, despite my nervousness. I tried very hard
to keep my hands off the process and let them handle everything.
In the end, everyone had had a turn doing just about every part of the preparation and canning.
We made ginger-garlic mustard, pickled carrots, and chunky apple sauce.
The workshop was a great success and taught me a few good lessons.
Firstly, I love teaching, and I love canning.
Therefore, I love teaching canning.

Secondly, canning things that are in-season is very exciting.

Thirdly, just because I am able to can multiple things in one session in our own kitchen
does not necessarily mean it's a good idea when teaching a group.
By the end of the workshop, I was completely drained, as were several participants.
This is why the next workshop will be a single-item one.

The next workshop will be at 1:00 PM
on Sunday, November 14.
We will be making apple-cranberry rum relish.
If you would like to attend, contact me for details.

(Most of the photos were taken by Katie Ries, too!)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

For Winter

As the seasons change, and the weather is finally getting cool, the produce at the farmers' markets is shifting from tomatoes and okra to squash and greens. With this change of seasons, I've found myself canning less; don't get me wrong, I've still been canning about once a week, but it's not the daily frenzy of summer canning. This summer had a few very memorable weeks, with the bushel and a half of tomatoes, half bushel of okra, and then bushel and a half of apples. But now, things are moving at a more leisurely pace. I'm trying new things, for example, I'm making granola for the first time, and finding it quite satisfying. For the first time, too, I'm freezing things for the winter. I'm not one to take revelatory pictures of our fridge or freezer, but I felt particularly proud of it at this point. On the bottom shelf, as you see, there is ice, ice cream, and ice packs; but in the larger compartment, there are a few real gems. There are containers of pesto, jars (and bags) of okra, a bag of butternut squash, jars of pureed pumpkin, and a loaf of rustic rye bread. I hope to get a few more pumpkins over the course of next month, and preserve them in various forms in the freezer; they will be incredibly appreciated in soups, casseroles, bread, granola, and pies. If I plan things out correctly, I won't need to buy canned pumpkin, ever (unless our use of it greatly exceeds my estimations).

I was surprised today by how much better this pureed pumpkin tastes than the store-bought kind. I read about a few methods of preserving it, and decided against boiling or steaming it--or, horror of horrors, microwaving it. Instead, I roasted slices of pumpkin on a large sheet pan until the skin began blistering and browning. Once the pumpkin cooled, I peeled it and pureed, tasting it all the way. I highly recommend this method; yes, it takes longer, but none of the flavor or nutrients are lost to the water or the evil microwaves. I encourage you to try preserving pumpkin in this way, especially now that pumpkins are starting to appear everywhere. And like the woman at the farm-stand said: it's called a "pie pumpkin" because it's perfect for one pie!

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I realize that blackberries have been gone for a while, but as I was submitting pictures of a cake made with foraged blackberries to Urban Land Scouts, I fell into some great reminiscing. The cake that I made was a conglomeration of ideas: the actual cake part was the vanilla cake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, the icing was the lime "buttercream" from the same book, and the filling (as well as the coulis) was improvised by me, with Matt's help. Blackberries and lime seemed like a good combination, and I scraped a vanilla bean into the cake better for a more intense flavor. If you have never macerated berries, I highly recommend it. You can just let them sit in sugar for an hour or so, until they release their juices; or you can make the berries very happy by soaking them in booze (and also sugar). I soaked the blackberries in brandy, and used the resulting deliciousness as the filling for the cake. I also cooked down some berries with brandy and sugar for a coulis, which made me feel very fancy. Here are some pictures of the process. I'll go and quietly remember the blackberries and think of more season-appropriate posts. Until later.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Last week, Matt and I canned a few jars of dilly beans, cauliflower, and one jar of pickles. I used the recipe from my canning workshop: mustard seeds, peppercorns, dill seeds and garlic. There were a couple notable things about this canning experience. It was my first time re-using jars that I did not get specifically for canning; we'd gotten some pasta sauce a few months ago, and I realized that the jars it came in were Mason jars! The large jar on the left with the dilly beans is the reused jar. This was also my first time using the large Weck jars. We'd preserved some strawberry syrup in a tall Weck juice jar a few weeks ago, but somehow, the large jars seemed to behave differently--they took longer to seal. And of course, because I was impatient to test the seals, I ended up unsealing the two Weck jars, and had to re-process them the next morning. The re-processing worked out just fine, and the jars sealed. I learned a valuable lesson: the heavy glass lids and thick rubber seals of the Weck jars take longer than thin metal lids to seal.

If any of you are wondering, I bought the beautiful Weck jars at the co-op. I've been coveting them online for a good few months, when I unexpectedly ran into them in the bulk isle of the co-op. When I was buying a couple jars for my mom, the cashier commented that she'd never used an "alternative" method of canning. I was quick to correct her that this method of canning--with the rubber gasket and glass lid--predates the metal lids that we are so used to now. The Weck jars, although more expensive, are much more aesthetically appealing than the Mason/Ball jars; the lids are also reusable, and I would imagine it would take a good few canning sessions to wear out one of the rubber gaskets. I think that as long as the co-op is carrying the jars, I will continue to add to my collection; I look forward to more canning with them, too!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Urban Land Scouts--Badges

Just a quick post tonight; I received my first Urban Land Scout badges today, and just had to share. They are the badges for the first two levels, and for the seventh level. I looked back over the list and think that I may have a few more coming my way in a few weeks. Here they are:

I have also had the fortune of the gift of vegetables from one of my co-workers: a whole bucket of green beans, several zucchinis and yellow squash, cucumbers, and hot peppers. One of the zucchinis was as big as my arm! So tonight we made double batches of both sweet and savory zucchini bread. I'm taking some to my co-worker (after all, he brought us the produce), and will be posting another short post soon about our canning adventures.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Today--my fourth of ten days raw--was not difficult, per se, but I wavered in my conviction of doing the project (or cleanse, whatever you want to call it). I worked an eight-hour shift, and the food at work smelled and looked a lot more appetizing than the chard and guacamole wrap that I'd brought for lunch. Don't get me wrong, I love guacamole, but the potato chips and the roasted portobellos were calling my name so much, that I turned to a co-worker and said, "Would it defeat the purpose of the raw period if I had raw all the time at home, but had (cooked) sandwiches while I was at work?" He looked at me and said, "Yes, of course it would. You're the one always telling me about willpower, why quit now?" And he's right, of course. It was my choice to do the raw thing, and I will do the full ten days of it, possibly having some cooked food on Friday night, but not before.

Of course, that got me thinking more about choice and commitment and how those are ways of acting upon knowledge/the acknowledged. I acknowledge that eating raw for a stretch of time is incredibly good for my body and mind, partially because it allows me to have a break from caffeine and alcohol. (There are also practical reasons for doing it: the CSA baskets this time of the year are almost all leafy greens and salad mix; because Matt is out of town, this means that I have the task of eating all of them on my own--and what better way to do it than raw?) So, if I acknowledge the benefits (finishing the CSA basket, cleansing and feeling better, experimenting with new ways of raw food preparation), I can see how choosing raw has a positive impact on my ten days. In a more extensive way, I can acknowledge the positive impact that veganism--my veganism--has, and I know that it is a choice that I make on a daily basis. I choose to be vegan. As Matt once said, "It wouldn't be so much of an issue if meat didn't taste good." But to most people, it does, and it is certainly more convenient to be an omnivore--and therefore, being vegan isn't a simple preference, but a conviction, a commitment, a choice.

I had to write all of this out because I recently found out that one of our friends who was vegetarian isn't so anymore. And when I found out, it bothered me--and it took me a while to figure out why. This person is someone with rather strong convictions, and it was just so strange to hear that he had abandoned them! It was a choice made for whatever reasons, but a choice made in direct opposition to the previous acknowledgements of the harms enacted by the meat industry.

I'm tired. It has been a long, long day, so I will close with these words form the first chapter of Cafe Gratitude's Dessert Cookbook Sweet Gratitude. I came across this book completely by accident today, but the words resonated with me, and so:
Our choices are not isolated incidents, they are powerful decisions that create a ripple effect on the rest of the world. What we choose now sooner or later has a direct impact, not just on ourselves, but on many others and the whole planet. Sometimes what we choose is influenced by habit or what makes us comfortable. To step into our power of choice is to be consciously aware of why we are making a choice and to be present to its impact

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Raw Again-Day 1

As one co-worker exclaimed, "You already have one of the most restrictive diets, why would you want to eat raw for any specific amount of time?" I corrected him--I don't think of veganism as restrictive; if anything, I eat a greater variety of things now than I did two and a half years ago. And eating only raw for a little while (the goal is ten days, like last year) reminds me to appreciate the produce of the season in a different way. I look forward to the CSA basket more than ever! Just as last year, I will have to be just a little more creative than I would on a daily basis, but this just means that I'll end up trying more different things.

Today, I made the raw ranch dressing from Gena's wonderful blog. I also started the raw coconut yogurt, and hope to have it tomorrow for breakfast. I'm excited about the next week, and know that the various little raw projects will keep me occupied while Matt is away in Louisville.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Full-Circle, or--A Year Later

A little over a year ago, Matt and I started this blog as we were moving into this house. Now we are quite settled in, married for almost a year, and I find myself recognizing the season more meaningfully as I search the area for edible native plants and cultivate our own little garden. I return to what I wrote about a year ago, believing more than ever that
"Eating is an action with consequences beyond a single individual, and it should be a conscious decision with awareness of implications, with every meal."
My present concern (as was last year) is with bread. Recently, we bought a little garlic loaf at the grocery store, and although it had better than average ingredients, I couldn't help but think about production and value of bread--where it comes from and who puts the effort into it?
I have been reading about making bread and going through the introduction of Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. Reinhart writes with such clarity and passion, it is difficult not to catch his enthusiasm for the craft. Many of his recipes, however, take several days to make, and I promised myself that I wouldn't start baking from his book until I finished the introduction. Thus, I revisited Dough, and made fougasse to go along with our dinner. I used half a batch of the "white dough" and hope to make breadsticks with the rest tomorrow. As I learn about fermentation and other parts of the bread-making process, I appreciate bread more; I am starting to visualize the process by which good bread comes to be--the release of the sugars, the resulting caramelization of the crust. I love bread!

Of course, as I'm expanding my knowledge of bread, I'm preparing for ten days of raw food. Soon, Matt will be away in Louisville for a week, and I thought that I would repeat last year's raw week. I've started making kale chips and flax crackers, and am experimenting with raw bars (dates, raw cacao, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds). This year will be more challenging, working full time, so I'm focusing more on things that can be more portable. I foresee myself making a few things on my days off (dressings, nut pates, etc.) and eating them for a few days. I'm glad that I'm over last year's unease over my love for bread--I realize that I can eat raw when I want (and when the produce is exceptional and in season), and I can cultivate my bread-making skills. The two aren't necessarily in conflict with each other, and there is a time and a place for both.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cinnamon Buns and Working in a Non-Vegan Environment

Today, in my day off work, I am making cinnamon buns. I've been thinking about these buns for quite some time, but had not previously worked up the nerve to make them--after all, it's quite a bit of work for something that is not savory (and there's all the sugar! and EarthBalance!). However, having worked for a good few weeks at the little bakery and sandwich shop, I became a little envious of the customers who were coming in and eating enormous cinnamon buns with their morning coffee. Sweet Celebrations makes cinnamon buns that are approximately six to seven inches in diameter. These buns are enormous, but also, apparently, delicious. I started thinking about cinnamon buns, and realized that I hadn't had one in over thirteen years. I remember eating one at Cinnabon, before I became too self-conscious about my eating habits and cut out most fats and sugars out of my diet. When I became vegan, I embraced the fats and sugars (and vegetables!), but not in the form of a cinnamon bun. There was still the issue of the time and effort involved in making them; I knew that I could't exactly go out and buy one because where, pray tell me, am I supposed to get vegan cinnamon buns in Knoxville?!
The envy of the customers at my work, and pride in my baking skills finally took over, and so the dough is rising for the cinnamon buns. If they turn out exceptionally well, I just might take some in to work and show them off to my boss and co-workers.

This brings me to the topic of working in an environment that is not altogether hostile to vegans, but is definitely not vegan-friendly. Every sweet that we make at Sweet Celebrations has dairy butter and milk; with the exception of two items on the sandwich menu, every lunch item has meat--and some have several different kinds of it. We also have a large cooler of ice cream and gelato. The little shop is famous for its quiche and reuben sandwiches. Working there full-time means that I either have to bring my lunch or combine the few ingredients that are vegan to create meals: sometimes, I have a veggie wrap, and sometimes the portobello sandwich. Although I'm not bothered by the lack of options, I find myself sometimes covetous of the things that one of my co-workers brings from his other job in a gourmet kitchen; these are hand-made and long-cured salamis, hand-made chocolates, and other things. I don't necessarily regret not trying those things, but I want the interaction that surrounds them--I want the communal experience of sampling a delicacy and discussing it. I suppose that until this point, I have been quite sheltered from the omnivorish world, and able to make it a disgusting or risible realm--nothing of which I'd want to partake. As Matt and I would say, "Who eats better than we do?" And now, now that I am constantly around people who eat tasty food, sometimes it becomes a task to remind myself that their food comes with a heavy price. Is this a fault or flaw on my part, to momentarily waver? I don't think so.

There are things to be grateful for, too. The main chef at Sweet Celebrations used to be vegan and is sensitive to my desires. Whenever he's not too busy, he whips up lunch for me--things that are not available on the normal menu. I brought in Vegenaise and a few blocks of tofu at his request, and he told met hat he'll try to broaden the range of food that I am able to eat while at work. Yes, yes, yes.

The dough for the cinnamon buns has risen, so off to roll and cover it in Earth Balance and sugar and cinnamon.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Urban Land Scouts

I've been thinking of personal responsibility (to the environment and the community) beyond veganism. For many, veganism is a step in becoming more aware of food consumption and production, but of course, there is more to conscientiousness than just eating vegan food (or not wearing animal products). There are other steps an individual can make towards conserving resources and living sustainably. As a result of all this thinking, I bought a composter with the rest of my tax return, and we moved 2/3 of our winter compost pile into it for quicker composting. I've been combing the area for native edible plants, and I've also been attempting to start a small container garden (out of wooden drawers that we've been taking from the abandoned school next door). Because of all these things--and my interest in building community and supporting the environment, I was incredibly excited to become a part of Urban Land Scouts.

The Urban Land Scouts is a project created by Katie Ries, and it is part of her Master's Thesis work, although I think that it has been coming along for a few years. Katie is involved around town, and is very conscious about people's interactions with the land that they occupy. Here is a brief description of the organization from their website:
The Urban Land Scouts are a new group helping modern urban people become better stewards of the land and communities where they live. Membership is open to all.
Also, here are the core values of an Urban Land Scout:

1 – The Urban Land Scouts looks at the land daily; he is observant of and attentive to it.

2 - The Urban Land Scout tries to identify and use the plants in her neighborhood.

3 - The Urban Land Scout seeks to cultivate native or edible plants in whatever soil he can access and tend.

4 - The Urban Land Scout is fed by the land in which she lives.

5 - The Urban Land Scout makes an effort to grow vegetables.

6 - The Urban Land Scout plants and cares for seeds.

7 - The Urban Land scout shares information freely and teach others what she knows.

8 - The Urban Land scout is lucid, patient, and rooted in the land where he lives.

9 - The Urban Land Scout composts with the help of worms.

10 - The Urban Land Scout shares her harvest.

These are also the ten levels of the Urban Land Scout, and you can see the logical progression--from observing and identifying to harvesting, sharing, and composting. What I especially like about ULS is that it's a project with built-in accountability on several different levels; yes, the project itself is about being mindful of our (urban) environment and connection to food creation. But also, in order to earn a badge, each of the scouts has to document the achievement and report back to the site. One of the tenets of the group is to share information (to blog about it!), resulting in wider awareness of the project and its goals.

As many of us become more and more estranged from the sources of our food, we can become less and less aware of the kind of impact our consumption makes on the community and environment; it is thus critical to pay attention to the land one inhabits--to take care of it, in any way, even if these actions are just small changes to the everyday routine (such as saving seeds from vegetables bought at a local farmer's market). I strongly encourage everyone to become an Urban Land Scout, officially or not. Everyone can become a genuine steward of the land! Everyone can become more responsible to the land and to our respective communities!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Water Capture

After watching No Impact Man a couple of weeks ago Kat and I have been thinking more about our patterns of consumption and ways that we could work to reduce our own impact. One of the things we noticed is that we haven't been the best at conserving and limiting our water usage. This is just a list of some of the things which we have decided to do to reduce the amount of water that goes to waste every day.
- Follow the rule "if it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down"
Using this method, we've reduced the number of times per day that we flush the toilet. Both of the toilets in our house are 1.6 gpf (gallons per flush), so we save approximately 6.4 gallons of water per day just by letting the yellow mellow.
- Save captured water from the dehumidifier.
I've done some research into safe use for water captured in this way, and there aren't a lot. Most sources I found say that water from this source in not potable and should not be used to water plants grown for food (I've read conflicting information on that last part, but we decided against taking the risk). One website suggested using captured water in the iron, but we had been capturing a full bucket every day or so (1.5 gallon capacity) and only refill the water in the iron about once a week. When we first got the dehumidifier we were dumping out the water because we didn't know what else to do with it. I finally came upon a solution. I turned off the water to the toilet in the bathroom that I use more and use the captured water to flush the toilet. This is easier than it sounds. When the water is turned off, the tank does not refill after flushing. Rather than keeping a bucket in the bathroom that the pets could get into, I've started pouring the captured water into the tank so that the toilet will flush normally. This move cuts in half our already-reduced waste water usage.
- Rain barrel to water plants.
We have not purchased our rain barrel yet, but this will be our next big purchase after we get paid. A rain barrel costs between $80-100, has a screen over the top to limit the debris in the barrel and a threaded spigot at the bottom for attaching a hose. This summer we hope to completely eliminate using water from the tap to water our plants.
- Shower water reclamation.
When Kat first told me about this idea I was skeptical but the idea has grown on me. Again, this is an idea which we've talked about but haven't yet begun. The idea is to put a bucket or other receptacle behind yourself in the shower. The bucket will catch water that would normally just run down the drain. Like the dehumidifier water, this is unsafe to drink or water plants, but it can be used to flush toilets as well.
- Toilet tank volume reduction.
Putting brick in the toilet tank reduces the volume of water used per flush. This effectively turns a normal toilet into a low-flow. I don't know the exact change in volume, but this is a way to reduce water consumption that is completely effortless.

With these changes, we hope to see a dramatic reduction in water usage in our household with a minimum of extra effort. These changes are all rather easy and only require a slight bit more work than doing nothing.

EDIT (by Kat)

After I read this post, I remembered something that we did when we were visiting my grandparents in Germany three years ago. The reason why I didn't remember it until now is...I hated doing it and swore that it was something I'd never do voluntarily. When visiting in Germany, my aunt informed me that they turned the water off in the middle of the shower: wet the body, turn water off, soap the body, turn water on--rinse, and finish. At the time, I rebelled against this simple rule as much as I could (after all, how could they tell me what to do)! Standing cold and soapy in the shower wasn't my idea of fun. However, especially with a rather warm spring upon us, I don't think that this will be too unpleasant to try. In fact, when I tried doing this today, I probably used a third of the water that I usually use during a shower!

Of course, reducing water consumption in these several ways has got me thinking about what else we could reduce use of or do without completely. We already don't use disposable facial tissues (and haven't for years), but could we do without paper towels? Napkins? All kinds of plastic bags?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mustard Tiger Update

I write this with a rather heavy heart, but I thought that if I made the initial move to introduce Mustard Tiger, I should follow up with his present condition.
We kept Mustard in our home for a few days--and for the most part, he was friendly and happy. He got along with Lucy, and although Feast was not happy, I think that he, too, started getting used to him. We put out posters with details about a found cat, but had no response to them.
After the few days in our home, Mustard began to get restless--I suppose that he had gotten used to being outside, roaming freely; he was also probably tired of being cornered by our cat... For whatever reason, he bit Lucy.

Because we had not taken Mustard to the vet yet, we didn't think that it was quite safe to keep him indoors, in the case that he had a communicable disease; so, we put him outside and continued to give him food and water. He came back a few days in a row, and I was starting to get used to him as an outside cat, when he went missing.

He came back on Saturday, and when I first saw him, I thought that he was missing an eye. Upon closer examination, I realized that he still had his eye, but had gotten his eyelid torn up pretty badly in a fight (with another cat? a raccoon?). He had a rather sizable abscess on his eyelid, and it was oozing pus, which would sometimes cover his eye. He came back late on Saturday, when, unfortunately, the animal hospitals in town were all closed (and we do not have the means to take him to an emergency clinic). We made space for him in our backyard shed; gave him food and water; and I did my best to clean his wound with a wet washcloth and a peroxide solution. We took him to the vet first thing this morning (at 7 a.m.); we now have eye drops for his eye and antibiotics. Mustard was also neutered today.

We will keep him isolated from the the other animals until he recovers, and will then try to integrate him into our family.

At first, I was so angry with myself for letting him go back outside, where he was hurt; I felt bad for sacrificing Mustard's well-being in the act of protecting the family we already have. However, I think that it was only a matter of time until Mustard got hurt--he'd been coming around for about three weeks, and in all that time managed to avoid the several dangers in our neighborhood (busy street, cats, raccoons). In fact, I think that all in all, we have done the best that we are possibly able for Mustard.

What does make me angry and upset is the fact that Mustard Tiger was abandoned in the first place. He was clearly a cat used to human attention and affection: when we first saw him, he was clean and looked very healthy and tame. Even if he had somehow gotten lost on his own, it was irresponsible of his previous caretakers to not have had him neutered. I agree with Gary Francione's commentary on "pets," in that it is reprehensible to treat animals as (play-)things. I cannot imagine abandoning an animal, especially one who was clearly not accustomed to fending for himself. I could write more on this, but am afraid that I'll merely repeat myself.

Here's couple pictures of him resting--I just hate how sad he looks: they had to shave part of his face, and he can't quite close or open the hurt eye.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Mustard Tiger

Mustard Tiger
Originally uploaded by zemmely
This is a stray that has been coming around to our house for a week. He's looked worse and worse each day--clearly, a house cat who was not used to living outside and fighting the neighborhood cats. It's also been cold--in the 20s at night, and I felt bad for him. Thus, we took him in.

We'll make posters and put them up around the neighborhood to make sure we're not taking someone's cat. He's quite tame, as you can see, and climbs into my lap at every opportunity.

Oh, and as you can hear, he has the tiniest little voice!

Also: we just happen to have a room that doesn't have furniture in it because our landlord fixed some bad floors and put carpet in.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Having been to other fully vegetarian restaurants around Asheville, NC; Louisville, KY; and the famous Vegiterranean of Akron, OH, I developed some high expectations for vegan food. Thus, I think, I carried a prejudice into Veg-O-Rama on my first visit there: I was expecting something more extravagant, or unusual, and what I received was tasty, but modest. I kept telling myself, "They're not doing anything here that I couldn't just as well make for myself at home!" However, on subsequent visits there, I really grew to like the place--the food is nice, if not spectacular; the atmosphere is welcoming. And for a vegetarian restaurant in Tennessee's third largest city, it has done quite well for itself.
Veg-O-Rama is a great place to pop into for a bowl of home-made chili and a sandwich. They have good specials and make their food from wholesome ingredients.

The reason for this post, however, is that I am now making desserts for the restaurant. It's nothing too grand as of yet--the owner and I talked it over and decided that we'll start small and see how people like it--but I feel rather priviliged to be offering baked goods to them. Besides, it feels very good to get paid for something that I love doing. The things I brought there are a dozen Coconut-Lime Cupcakes and a half dozen of PB&J mini pies (Celine's recipe!). I encourage everyone here in Knoxville to visit Veg-O-Rama and support their business, even if you don't end up buying dessert. Since I moved to Knoxville, I have already seen a couple vegetarian-friendly places shut down, and I don't want to see that happen with this one.