Am I Still Vegan If....?

Friday, April 13, 2018
Recently I found out that one of my favorite vegan products, Impossible Meat, was tested on animals to submit full transparency to the FDA.  (I will unpack this later in detail, and what it means to me).

Learning this, and grappling with the ramifications and affect on the vegan community as well as the meat-eating community, and expressing my thoughts on an Instagram post of an Impossible Umami Burger, caused a few people to take issue with my comment (My comment was as objective as I could make it. I always try to be as compassionate and moderate on social media as possible about these things, as I know they are sensitive issues).  One individual, whom I have never spoken to or heard of in my life decided that I was somewhere on the spectrum of pure evil and left a series of comments not only calling into questions my "right" to be vegan, but also leaving sarcastic comments about my posts, and implying that I'm only vegan because it's "trendy."  I was honestly genuinely hurt.  I have been meat-free for 2 1/2 years, and have been vegan since December (I'm still a newbie, sure) but it seems ridiculous and counterproductive to treat being vegan and plant-based like an elite club that you have to pledge and be inducted into, and you are only allowed if you fit someone else's strict criteria.

NO one is perfect. No vegan is perfect.  We all do the best we can, and when we make a decision to alter our lifestyle in a way that invites criticism from the general public, it helps no one to being criticizing others within that community.  There is no such thing as "true veganism."  We all adapt the lifestyle to ways that fit our lives.  Of course, if someone eats eggs occasionally they are not vegan, but that doesn't mean that they deserve to be ridiculed and made to feel "less than" because of it. But on that same note, if you kill a bug in your house that doesn't mean you aren't vegan (contrary to a recent conversation I had with someone who isn't vegan or vegetarian...)  The goal of being vegan is to live as compassionately as possible, and do as little harm as possible.  I try to live this way everyday, in the best way I can.  The vegan community should not be elitist and exclusionary, we should all be welcoming, informative, and above all compassionate.

Which brings me to my thoughts on Impossible Meat.  You can read the company's statement here.  Let me start by saying that my first experience with veganism was in high school, when my first boyfriend ever was vegan.  It was difficult (to say the least) to find vegan options that didn't taste like cardboard to cook at my house for him when he came for dinner, and also going out to eat in our small, Central Valley town was a real task.  There was a time when plant-based burgers were gross and bland and plant-based food in general was difficult to come by if you weren't in a metro area.  In 2018, we have  so many meat-free options it's almost overwhelming.  One of the biggest innovations in recent years is the burgers offered in restaurants by Impossible Foods.  Impossible foods uses a unique ingredient called soy leghemoglobin.  If part of that word looks familiar, it's because heme is an iron carrying molecule, and it's what gives meat the "meat" taste.  Impossible Foods found a way to isolate this molecule in plants, which was a huge discovery. This heme is identical to the heme found in your blood.

In an effort to be "fully transparent,"  Impossible Foods submitted additional data tests to the FDA.  These tests included testing the heme on rats.  I, like most vegans, do not condone animal testing and will not use products that are tested on animals (I do make one exception: I wear Chanel No. 5 as a tribute to my grandmother who recently passed. Chanel has no statement on animal testing on their website, but like many high end cosmetic and fragrance brands, they sell in mainland China, which requires animal testing by a 3rd party.  So, though Chanel may not test on animals stateside or in the EU, which actually prohibits animal testing of any kind, they allow their products to be tested by others in mainland China. So, judge me as you see fit). However,  I fully believe that Impossible Foods is making great strides to reduce and hopefully one day eliminate the human consumption of animal products.  A meatless product that tastes like meat? This is revolutionary!  So many people can't tell that they are not eating an animal, and it could be one of the first major steps to introducing the plant-based lifestyle to the general public.  The founder of Impossible Foods expressed his moral dilemma with this animal testing, and in the end I agree with his decision to "advance the greater good." Impossible Foods has also ceased testing their product on animals, as it was a one time certification requirement.

In fact, most medications that you take are tested on animals. Of course, I try to keep my body healthy to avoid illness and medication, but I take hormonal birth control and OTC medication for migraines.  The medication keeping a lot of people alive has been tested on animals.  I would never shame someone for taking a medication that keeps them happy and healthy because it doesn't align with my personal life choices. You would really have to be a special kind of asshole to do that (pardon my French...).

I think my takeaway from this is that no one is perfect, not even vegans. Not even gluten free vegans. Not even gluten free raw vegans.  I always like to live firmly in reality, and while I will never support animal cruelty, or killing/harming of animals for human consumption, I am not perfect.  I have done everything I can to help animals by abstaining from consuming them or their byproducts.  But I support Impossible Foods' decision to complete these tests in order to present the world with a product that could quite possible convert more people to a plant based lifestyle, then I'm here for that.

And let me urge all of you to remember that being vegan is above all, about compassion.  If you disagree with someone or don't think they are the picture of plant-based perfection that you are, please keep that to yourself. If you want to educate someone on their food choices and what it means for animals and the environment, engage thoughtfully and tread lightly because no one wants a stranger interrupting their day by making them feel bad.  Being vegan is about feeling GOOD.  It's about helping, and educating, and informing, not judging and pointing fingers. I frequently voice my opinions about animal rights and welfare, and my post about "Selective Compassion" is probably as aggressive as I'll get. But I do make it a point to remind everyone that I'm not judging by expressing my opinions, and we can still be friends if you eat meat.

I would love to hear others' thoughts on this, do you support Impossible Foods, or have you given it up?

For more information about volunteering to save farmed animals, and for ways to explore ta plant-based lifestyle, visit Mercy for Animals.  They have all kinds of great resources, including the Vegetarian Starter Guide.


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Pyttipanne, or Pytt i Panna in Swedish, means "little pieces in a pan."  I made this once for my family at Christmas, when I still ate meat, and it was such a big hit.  I sometimes think of that as my first real dish that I cooked.  I have cooked plenty before that, but it was at that moment that I realized I had a gift for bringing people together with food.  I have never been very outgoing, or very warm and friendly (sorry), and I have struggled to find words to express things sometimes.  It was on Christmas day when I served pytt i panna and my brother-in-law told me I had to bring that to every dinner at their house that I realized, "wow, I can actually do something that makes people happy."

Fast forward about 4 years, and I no longer eat the beef or lamb that I once did, so making this dish again required a little finesse. This dish is rustic comfort food that was born from necessity and locale.  It features ingredients that are always typical in Scandinavian cooking (potatoes, meat, dill...) and was usually made using leftover meat from other nights.  Scandinavian cooking is one of my favorites, because it is so simple and so accessible, but is so full of flavor and life.  It is also really easy to make most dishes vegan, even though they usually have a meat or dairy ingredient.  In 2018 we are so lucky, because we have so many easy substitutions for ingredients that were once necessity. It is one of my dreams to go to Norway and cook using local ingredients.  Which may happen sooner than later...

This meal is surprisingly light even though it's hearty, as well super simple to make.  And as I've said many times before, I love Scandinavian cooking because it's so easy, but special at the same time.  Which is honestly the whole appeal of a Scandinavian lifestyle (remember what a big hit hygge in the past few years?).  Scandinavian people are among some of the happiest in the world, and it's because they life simple lives, eat simple food, and honestly probably a little because they have a adopted a 6 hour work day, they get tons of paid time off at work, and exceptionally generous maternity leave (Sweden gets 480 days at 80% normal pay and Norway gets 35 weeks at full pay). If you live in the US, you don't get nearly that much time off, but this recipe is a pretty good consolation, amiright? No, I'm not, but it is a pretty good meal.

1 yellow onion, chopped
around 4 or 5 potatoes, chopped small
3 vegan sausages (your choice, but I'm partial to field roast. I used Tofurky bratwurst in this version)
1 cup vegan beef crumples (I used Gardein)
dill, fresh or dry
salt and pepper to taste
vegan butter (around 2 tbsp)

Melt half of the butter in a pan, and add in the potatoes.  Season with salt and pepper and dill and let cook until just about done.

Meanwhile, heat the rest of the butter in a separate pan on medium heat, and add in the onions.  Cook until nearly transparent, and add in the sausage and crumbles.  Cook until the crumbles are browned (some may get crisp, but this is good! We are subbing this for bacon that is in the recipe I based it on).  Add the meat and onion mixture to the pan with the potatoes and reduce your heat, and cover. Cook until potatoes are easily pieced with a fork. Top with chopped parsley.

You can also serve with lingon berry jam, for an authentic-feeling meal.

See? Easy sneezey. 


Rustic Spanish Potatoes

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

I have been craving different flavors lately, and spicy flavors at that.  Alex and I went to this hot sauce store at the Farmer's Market called Light My Fire, and it got me craving spicy foods. I've always been a fan of regional cooking, and have tried my hand at a lot of French, English and Scandinavian recipes, but sometimes you need a little extra kick.  I stumbled upon a recipe for Spanish Potatoes and I knew I had to give it a shot.  The results were so good that I definitely am going to put this on my rotation.  I love roasted potatoes (or anything to do with potatoes really), so this one is good for when I'm feeing a little extra creative and have a little more time to spend.  They aren't time consuming to make, but they are a bit more involved than my famous salt, pepper, dill and olive oil potatoes that I make frequently (pretty sure Alex is sick of them).

What is "Selective Compassion"?

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Ah yes, the dreaded "V-Word."  I'm talking about Vegan.

The word itself elicits all kinds of stereotypes, groans, and eye-rolls. "Vegans think they're better than everyone who eats mean." "Vegans are tree-hugging hippies."  "Vegans are preachy and shove their beliefs down everyone's throat!"  Some of us may be "tree-hugging hippies" (who cares?) and some vegans are undoubtedly preachy which may have turned you, dear reader, off at some point.  But (most) vegans do not think they are better than anyone, and that's honestly kind of the point.

Yes, I'm going to be exploring aspects of vegan living and my beliefs on how that pertains to non-meat eaters and meat eaters alike, and you may not like what I have so say. But this is, above all, a vegan and plant-based lifestyle blog and it's going to come up at some point.

I have written about my choices to live a plant-based lifestyle, and I have been meat free for 2 years now, and I recently gave up the last of my dairy-consuming ways, and I often talk about how I've never felt better (honestly, it was the best decision I've ever made).  I've spoken a lot about my plant-based philosophy (which you can read here) and what that means to me.  But I would like to examine a particular reaction I get from meat-eaters when they sniff out that I don't eat meat.  It usually comes up if someone buys me a gift that doesn't align with my values, or if they offer to take me to a meal.  If it's a gift, I say thank you and accept it and simply find someone who isn't vegan to take it off my hands. If it's an offer for a meal, I simply mention I'm vegan and hope the convo stops there. However, it rarely does.  All of a sudden I'm asked a laundry list of questions about my lifestyle, why I chose this, where I get my protein, musings about why animals were put on this earth and what our ancient ancestors ate.  I would really love it if I could decline certain foods without being put on the spot...but whatever. I'll answer your questions politely and if I don't feel like answering I'll tell you it's a conversation for another time (politely, of course).

One thing that often baffles (and honestly frustrates) me, is the meat-eater response to my chosen diet and lifestyle that includes something called "selective compassion."  Selective compassion is when someone claims to be an animal lover, to love their cats and dogs and other pets, to be saddened when we see trophy hunter photos of dead lions on the news, when whales are put in captivity... But this compassion doesn't extend animals that are reserved for being "food."  Essentially, there are "food" animals and "not food" animals.  This is one of the main reasons why I have given up meat and dairy, and consume only cruelty free products and goods in my home. Forgive me for being blunt and graphic, but I simply do not believe that some living creatures are for killing and some are not.

By expressing this belief, I often times am met with great defensiveness of people trying to justify their choices to me, and also of course more groans and eye rolls.  But where does this disconnect come from?  It probably is so ingrained in us as humans to see some animals as food and some as worthy companions because that's how it has been for thousands of years.  When humans began cultivating crops and raising animals for meat, it was born from survival.  They reserved some animals, like dogs, as helpers with the animals they slaughtered for food.  However, I believe that we are now living in 2018 and don't have to rely on animals for food.

Another belief is that if you have a lot of pets and think some animals are cute and cuddly and could never imagine hurting your dog, that you are an animal lover.  I fail to see this logic as well, to be honest.  If you love animals, you love all animals. If you love all animals you don't want to see them suffer. If you don't want to see them suffer, you do not support the killing of them for meat and the inhuman treatment of them for dairy.  This is what I believe.  Animals that are sold for meat and kept in awful conditions, and animals that are reserved for the dairy industry are kept in equally terrible conditions and subjected to artificial insemination regularly and separation from their newborns, also regularly. This is not something you would support having done to animals if you love them, any of them. At all. Also, even animals that are "free range" and slaughtered on privately owned farms instead of factory farms, are still not slaughtered "humanely."  Is there a way to kill something humanely...?

All of this is selective compassion.

Once I decided not to separate animals into categories, I gave up consuming animal products.  I could no longer see a tasty burger on my plate for anything other than a poor animal who did not live a great life, and met their end so I could have 10 minutes of happiness and not appreciate it.

I'm not meaning to preach or to sit on a high horse (get it, horse...? ha.).  I merely want to reflect on my own choices, share those choices with others, and offer my help to anyone who is interested in becoming meat free.  That's the whole reason I started this blog!

Also, please remember, whether you order the veggie burger or regular burger, I would never think less of you or think you're a terrible person. We simply disagree about certain lifestyle choices. Everyone is different, and that's what makes the world great.

Thanks for letting me share,

Maye Musk - Anti-Anti-Aging Inspiration

Thursday, March 15, 2018
Photo courtesy Into the Gloss
My grandmother was born in 1927, and passed just last month at 90 years old (I'm still reeling from this, to be honest. It's been hard). She was beautiful in her youth and honestly, she has remained just as beautiful until her very last days.  She never once had any kind of filler, surgery, and followed a very French beauty regime that was always super simple and never over complicated by a million products.  She was not afraid of her aging body or face that I was aware of, and this has inspired me to be the same way.

Here's a little anecdote:
I'm 33 years old and I was always naturally super thin and youthful looking.  In your early thirties, no matter who you are or how highly you think of yourself, your body begins to change.  I have gained 20 pounds the past couple years (cooking good food will often to that....) and I actually have to use a friggin' night cream.  I panicked when the reality of this first set in.  I bought a Groupon for Botox, went to the doctor to check my thyroid, and refused to look at myself in the mirror naked (not that I spend a lot of time doing this anyway...). I checked the scale every morning. Yup, still 135 lbs. See, there is NOTHING wrong with gaining weight, or being 135 lbs. I just had grown up with and gotten used to my 110 lb. frame and my skin that never needed moisturizer.  I was aging, and I was terrified of it.

Women are taught to be terrified of getting older.  Products are always marked towards getting younger-looking skin and the words "anti-aging" are plastered all over magazines and skin products and it's gross.  Finally one day, I realized who gives a shit if I'm getting older? That's awesome! I've graduated my master's program with an MFA, I manage an art gallery in hollywood, I have a rad apartment in WeHo...all things that I never had in my youth.  Getting older is awesome!  Mere weeks after I purchased that Groupon for Botox, I begged Groupon for my money back (like, literally begged). I began wearing less makeup and being proud of my new light wrinkling around my eyes, because that just means that I've lived a happy life.  I made an appointment to return my hair to its natural color, so I can grow out my grays gracefully (my hair went gray at 23 years old, I've never seen it in it's full glory).

Last summer I picked up a copy of Allure with one of my favorites, Helen Mirren, on the COVER.  Helen Mirren, an accomplished actress and 72 years old, was on the cover of a magazine that boasts itself as the "beauty authority."  In this same issue, the magazine announced that it would stop using the term "anti-aging."  That's big.  Once a woman hits 30, people start talking about her in a different way.  They start saying she looks good "for her age," and they start lying to you and saying how young you look.  People will frequently talk about my age and say "wow you don't look 33!" but wait...what's wrong with a woman looking her age? What the hell am I supposed to look like at 33? Why is looking younger than your age some kind of accomplishment? Let me tell you something - it's not.

Aside from my grandmother and Helen Mirren, I've recently become a fan of Elon Musk's mother, Maye.  Maye Musk is 70 years old and has been a model for 50 years.  She has a campaign with Cover Girl and not only is she gorgeous, she's smart as heck.  She's a dietitian, which you need a degree for (half of all dietitians have graduate degrees).  She rocks her silver hair with a grace that is otherworldy, and puts to rest the notion that women have to give up red lipstick at a "certain age."

Listen, I'm not saying you have to give up your retinol or skimp on your nightly skincare routine (PLEASE take of your makeup before you go to bed and remember sunscreen in the morning...). Even Maye suggests going to the dermatologist regularly, especially after 60.  But she also says that she shops for beauty products at Ralph's in Los Angeles...

Finally, at age 33 I'm ready to accept my imperfect and juuuuuust beginning to wrinkle skin, my early 30's weight gain, my greying hair, and most importantly my accomplishments and wisdom that only come with age.  Americans treasure youth and put it on a pedestal, but I get happier the older I get, and I can't wait to see what's in store and I'm ready to see laugh lines and know, down the line.

Patates au Vin - a la Julia Child

Monday, March 12, 2018

It's no secret I'm kind of a Francophile.  I love French style, French food, and French fashion (hello Mademoiselle Chanel!). I, however, do not speak a lick of French except ballet terms and food terms, and even then my accent is questionable at best.  Anyway....
I watched "Julie & Julia" a couple months ago, and I'm obsessed with Amy Adams and this movie gave me the inspiration I needed at the time to keep blogging AND keep cooking.  Sometimes it's hard to keep going when you see so many others blogging and it's easy to feel like no one is out there reading your stuff.  But I just kind of realized I didn't care, and that I like doing this and I like sharing my food.  I'm rambling again... So I watched that movie and it inspired me to adapt more French recipes to being vegan friendly.  And you know what? I'm always surprised at how easy it is.  This recipe is hearty and filling without being heavy.  It's also super easy and tastes really fancy, which is kind of what I always strive for.

**Oddly enough, I was inspired to make this specific dish because of another Amy Adams movie, "Leap Year," that takes place in Ireland, not France. It's a charming flick, give it a go.
So here you go, bon appetit!

2 potatoes, peeled and rough cut into wedges
1 carrot, peeled and rough cut into wedges
1 onion, roughly chopped
oz. crimini mushrooms, quartered
a handful of fresh thyme
2 or 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (I like garlic, so I used 3)
3/4 cup merlot
1 1/2 cup vegetable broth (you can use my recipe, here!)
1 tbsp all purpose flour (for potatoes)
1 tsp all purpose flour
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp paprika

Heat your olive oil in a large pan, and season your potato wedges with salt, pepper, and paprika.  Roll em around in the flour.  Drop those suckers into the oil and fry em up (lightly). Use tongs to remove and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate.  In the same pan, add in garlic and onions, then carrots and mushrooms.  Allow the veggies to cook so the flavors mingle and they get a little tender, then add in the thyme and a pinch of salt.  Sprinkle in the rest of the flour and stir so that everything is well coated, then add in the wine and broth and the potatoes you removed earlier.  The sauce should thicken up. Cover and simmer. Once the vegetables have cooked through, plate and serve.  Tastes great with a french baguette and garnished with thyme.  You can also serve over noodles or rice.

Et Voila!