Currently viewing the tag: "rant"

Vegan food is just like “regular” food. You put it in your mouth, chew it, then swallow. And just like “regular” food, it can be made of junk or it can be made of quality. Vegan foods are not exempt from the simple truth that the more pure and unprocessed the ingredients are, the better–for our health, for the environment, etc. Lately the misconception that vegan food equates to healthy food has been irking me. I’ll chalk it up to a “growing pain,” a new problem based on a great thing–more people offering vegan options. For the new vegans, the vegan-friendly eateries with great intentions of inclusion, the mock-meaters… I’m going to yell it from the rooftops, “Processed food, vegan or otherwise, is no good!”

As a roaming vegan reporter of sorts, I have been conflicted. Should I celebrate all vegan food out there? Should I try to remain positive in all my reviews of vegan eateries? Well, if this was 1996, when I first went vegan and sustenance wasn’t easy to find, I’d say yes! But now, in 2013, I feel very differently. Quality food–food good for us and good for the animals–that’s what’s important. Easy, processed food short-cuts are not good for us and they cheapen what is movement about better options and higher standards in eating. I’ve ranted about this many times before: here, here, here. In fact, here is a page from my zine, publishing in 2004, written by a friend after many conversations:CCF22082013_00102

Anyway, my passion pushes my standards sky-high, yes. It’s not a bad thing. (I think there isn’t enough discernment out there in the world, in general.) Sometimes that discourages me.  But I am not going to lower my standards, however frustration-inducing they are sometimes.

Then sometimes I eat a meal that is just perfect in every way, that meets my standards and strolls with them for a romantic walk on the beach. That was Six Main in the lovely and idyllic Chester, Connecticut. Sure, it helped that Ms. CP and I visited Six Main for Sunday brunch (the best meal ever), with a sharp blue sky backdrop against the mingling row of farmers market tents.

DSC_0002mOf course Six Main’s head chef has culinary roots out west in Los Angeles, the most vegan-done-right city in the country in this well-traveled vegan’s opinion. This salad was delectable–a subtlely smoky grilled watermelon, topped with a pesto vinaigrette, balsamic drizzle, and a few berries.

DSC_0007My Portobello Benedict. Nothing beats the Benedict for brunch. Biscuit topped with different textures and flavors, smothered in Hollandaise. Dissecting a vegan hollandaise is always fun. Without the egg, the definition is broader. Chefs use a variety of ingredients to create something drenchingly viscous and opaque in color. This one seemed to be tofu-based. Along with the potatoes here and the appreciated palate-cleansing fruit, you have a perfect dish. And you have faith restored.

DSC_0011Vendors set up for the farmers market. People saying “God bless you.”

DSC_0014Six Main is right across from an adorable co-op, The Local Beet.

DSC_0017Being just 40 minutes from Manchester, Connecticut, we took a quick trip to Divine Treasures. This place is now a requisite stop if I’m ever in Connecticut. The variety of delicious chocolates just blows me away.

PicMonkey Collage.jpgEven more impressive is how spot-on their hot fudge topping is. Definitely thee best I have ever had. This time I had both hot fudge and caramel sauce.

DSC_0020My only complaint is the lack of seats to sit and enjoy this delicious treat. We sat on the concrete like the teenage derelicts we once were.

DSC_0002You have to meet the card minimum at Divine Treasures, a perfect excuse to splurge on the not-readily-available-near-home chocolates, caramels and truffles. But of course! Goodbye beautiful Connecticut! Until next time.

I enjoy flipping through an old magazine looking at their advertisements. From my teenage years I was fascinated with exploring subliminal advertising in old liquor ads. I remember clearly seeing the “S E X” spelled out in a pile of ice cubes, the women–open-mouthed–holding many-a phallic object, and the far-fetched, hyper-idealized circumstances contained in the ads. Later, as I moved into an exploration of feminism, I criticized the place of women in these old ads: their simplification and objectification, how the ads promoted misogynist views and strengthened the “male-dominant paradigm” ["Raaar!!"]  I know I am not alone in believing old advertising to be sociologically fascinating. And years of progress has helped many find amusement in ads like this [and take a look at these]. Unfortunately, not everyone extends such critical thinking on today’s advertisements. And they are just as ludicrous.

The blatant lies ought to be outlawed. Especially when they contribute to health problems. Like the old deceptive and misleading cigarette advertisements that touted cigarettes as healthy, with health claims from actual doctors. Now, with ad budgets bigger, companies can fund their own studies. But most don’t even need to. They’re, after all, a “trusted” brand. This is certainly true for processed food advertisements. With so many health problems related to eating a diet of processed food, “Big Food” is kind of the new “Big Tobacco.” And with brand loyalty, nostalgic associations, and easy convenience on their side, these big food companies thrive–at the price of their customers’ health.

This is, of course, big business. The Big Food companies pretty much own all the inside aisles of the supermarket. Though the variety of packages and brand names perpetrate real choice, it just isn’t so. With money to be had, Big Food has taken to buying up small, health-minded start-ups, hiding behind their established images of “all natural” and “eco-friendly” while they cut corners and contradict the product’s image (This is a great resource for creating a better grocery list.) It is, after all–like most everything where profit reigns, a nice image to hide all the ugliness. All of this rials me up quite a bit. ["Raaar!!" again]

That is why I was so interested to see this article in the NYTimes this morning. It seems lawsuits against food companies for deceptive labeling has begun. Although some frivolous (a lawsuit against General Mills by a consumer disappointed to learn crunch berries were not an actual fuit) to merited (a suit against Pam cooking spray for not disclosing the specific propellants contained in their product: petroleum gas, propane and butane.) Whether this trend is an example of lawyers following the buck or not, it is time giant food corporations begin to take some responsibility in misleading the public regarding the healthfulness of their products. It is downright sickening what these companies are allowed to pitch. And even more sickening when you consider the health problems and lifestyle illnesses that plague this country. There ought to be a law! But that wouldn’t be good for big business now would it.

Here are a list of lawsuits I’d like to see pending. And so I don’t have to purge all these rants to The Electrician constantly, I’ll keep growing this list:

Hamburger Helper [General Mills]: “Sometimes it’s hard to cook a home cooked meal every night,” their advertisements say. Luckily, you have Hamburger Helper on your side. With a package of pink slime ground round and Hamburger Helper‘s packet of hydrolyzed, chemical flavorings, almighty ever-versatile corn syrup, hydrogenated genetically engineered soybean, and their nutritionally-void pasta, you can have an amazing “home-cooked meal.” Are you joking?

Lean Cuisine [Nestlé]: “Be culinary chic.” Yeah, sure. Culinary should never be associated with unpackaging a block of frozen processed food–hydrogenated genetically engineered soybean, high fructose corn syrup, and a long list of preservatives (see a trend here?), poking holes in cellophane and microwaving it. I hate this brand most especially as they target my peers and profit on their attempt in trying to eat healthfully, however misguided.

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Getting into the swing of my cleanse, I spent Day 3 embracing it. I set the hammock up in the backyard to peruse the newspaper and then headed to the nail salon for a low-cost massage. My achey neck and shoulders certainly needed it. After juice #4, I began to break cleanse. I felt ready. And I also wanted to introduce solid good gradually and not be so restricted over the weekend.

So was it worth it? Definitely. I feel clean and fresh. That’s the only way I can describe it. The detox was for the benefit of my internal organs. Of course I can’t see the difference in my organs, but I really do feel it. I feel light and efficient, like I had a tune-up. Other benefits: I can tell that I did lose a few pounds. Although my activity level was minimal, I barely sweat. The end of the day low-grade musk was none existant. My oily skin and hair, which barely goes a few hours before greasing up, was not at all oily. I feel good. I can say that a dozen more times.

I am, however, a bit worried about transitioning fully back to solid foods. Saturday is, of course, bagel day. My weekendly toasted everything bagel with Earth Balance and Bonne Maman four fruits is one of my favorite parts of the week. I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I wanted to eat after this cleanse and I’ve had a lot of cravings during my cleanse. Carbohydrates, mostly.

The poor carbohydrate, always associated the refined flour, sweetener-pumped industrialized food product mega-processed food corporations dare to call “bread.” My general rule about bread is if it’s sold in the everyday supermarket, it’s crap, like most of what’s in there. Even the supermarket’s bakery pumps their bread with chemicals and sugars. That stuff should get a bad wrap, even more so the ones with catch-word of the day health claims printed on the bag: “Low Fat!” means a bunch of fake stuff added and some unnatural processing. “All-natural!” means absolutely nothing. “Whole Grains!” means, if they are in the everyday supermarket, that those are genetically engineered whole grains that have a host of harmful associations and, for the most part, remain untested and unlabeled. Sorry, I can rant on and on about how advertising pedals lies and products that are killing everybody… Back to carbs, I like my carbs like I like my movies, complex. Complex carbohydrates are the good guys.

I didn’t mean to veer off on that carb tangent. Nutritional ignorance is very harmful and yet advertising doesn’t allow us to know what is behind the products they make. They paint bogus images of farmers and pastures. But it’s mostly test tubes and dirty assembly lines. I will eat my bagel. Because it will be stale by the end of the day and that is normal and natural. Because it’s sweetened with molasses and that is normal and natural. My diet is mindful and healthful, with sprinklings of decadence… and that’s where the Earth Balance comes in.

No more juice!

My trip to the west coast was a gluttonous one. At some point during the trip, I realized a juice fast would be the only thing that could restore balance to my body after the West Coast Eating Extravaganza. I ordered a 3-day supply of HOHM juice from American Yogini, a retreat space on the North Fork of Long Island that specializing in raw cleanses. The juice would be Fedex-ed and ready upon my return. Today is the first day. No food, no coffee, just juice.

Juice 1: SECURITY [beets, celery, apple, lime, ginger]

Juice 2: CREATIVITY [carrot, orange, celery, yam, apple, lemon, ginger]

Juice 3: CONFIDENCE [pineapple, celery, cilantro, lemon, ginger]

Juice 4: LOVE [romaine, celery, green apple, lime, ginger]

Juice 5: COMPASSION [collards, kale, lime, green apple, celery, ginger]

Juice 6: COMFORT [almond mylk-almonds water, raw honey, vanilla]

Day 1 Reflections: The cleanse started easy. Cravings for solid food became strong as the progressed but it was bearable. But then came some irritating aches and pains. Then came some feverish bouts and some strong nausea, along with stronger aches and pains–and all-around general malaise. Eek, what was happening here? Several things really.

One is likely caffeine withdrawal. Headaches are the most common symptom of turning off, suddenly, the caffeine fix. I am not a huge coffee drinker but it seems I am certainly addicted.

Number two, I needed a lot more water. With so many toxins being released, I need to drink more water to flush them from my system. The process is called a cleanse for a reason. As I am detoxing, the toxins flood the blood causing these aches and pains. The stricter the cleanse, the stronger these symptoms occur. It seems as if my symptoms indicate a strong and fast detox… and if they become unbearable, which they did, I should slow the cleanse by nibbling on some cooked–veggies, grains, nothing processed. The point is to maintain the cleanse-a nibble on something to soothe these detox headaches and pains is better than giving up the cleanse completely out of growing physical discomfort, which I was ready to do.

I also need to understand what I am ingesting and what it is doing to my body. The juice portions are “one-size-fits-most.” As a petite woman I may not require the entire bottle of juice as a serving. It may be too much. The fruit and vegetable combinations pack a powerful punch, especially without the body multi-tasking with digestion. They help purify the blood, detoxify the liver, and draw toxins from the G.I. tract. I need to adjust how much I ingest as a full bottle may quicken my detox too much, bringing on adverse symptoms.

I need to help my body detox better by drinking more water, having a vigorous shower (as many toxins leave the body through the skin), mild yoga, and, most importantly, listening to my body. If I need to nibble on something to slow the cleanse down, I can’t feel like I am failing. (Or that I wasted a huge chunk of money on this juice!)

All-in-all, the discomforts of a cleanse are indicative of the need for the cleanse. Our bodies adapt to our environment, even if that means operating imbalanced and toxic. The longterm toxicity of our lifestyle choices are related to a whole assortment of cancers and heart disease–the deadly duo responsible for most of the deaths in this country. There will be no miracle pill to end the death toll of these conditions. No quick fix. Eat better and you’ll live better and longer. Of course, I’m no doctor. But then again doctors thrive on treatment (not prevention) so…

For further reading on detox side effects: read this article. It is a bit of a crazy rant but thought-provoking at moments… then crazy again.

Here’s to an easier day 2.

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And now… an ode to VegNews, in light of the photo scandal.

Recipe for succulent VEGAN TURKEY
Ingredients:
1 photo of a real turkey dinner
1 very poor editorial decision
A pinch of deception
A sprinkle of censorship

1) For a vegetarian magazine to use stock photos of food in a community so brimming with amateur vegan food blogographers who pride themselves on their work is in excusable, especially when we are their target audience of the magazine. The idea of a stock photo depot that specializes in vegan food is a good idea… but then again so is taking actual photos of the recipes you, VegNews, are supposedly making. Either way, email any vegan blogger, some whose photography is frame-worthy, and I’m sure you’ll find an eager contributor who would love to have published work in the magazine, and would likely contribute their work at no charge.

2) So yes, stock photos are one thing but… the are stock photos used in the vegetarian magazine are of meat! Glistening meat with bones! Intestine-encased ground meats! Thick, opaque animal fat potato salad! Real beef! This pushes my disgust for #1 over the edge. It is sickening, plain and simple. Add the fact that these photos were then photoshopped to appear as meat substitues and you mix in premeditated deceit on top of the in excusable laziness. Disgusting. I can’t say it enough.

3) Then you have VegNews‘ response. The ridiculous excuses, what seems to be blatant lying, as well as their censoring of comments on their website, compounds the shock to a new level. (And I didn’t think I could be more disgusted after #2.)

Shame on VegNews!

**A hearty thanks to Quarry Girl, a fabulous reporter and vegan advocate. As the V-word hits mainstream, we’ll need to continue to uncover its misuse. Who would think we’d have to defend veganism from a vegetarian magazine?

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I did most of my growing up in the 90’s. I did a zine. Worked in record stores. Went vegetarian. Fell in love with misfits.. often who listened to The Misfits. Had an amazing record collection. Listened to Riot Grrrl. [Balanced that with Lou Barlow. Balanced that with Unwound.] Music was my everything, the score to a youth spent exploring, experiencing things, subcultures that have long since become exploited or extinct. I was cool, like Al Bundy was a high school football star.

Now, I am buried in time. Stunted in some capacities, I suppose. I still listen to 90’s indierock most prominently. {Maybe like my father listened to Do-wop while I was growing up.} I am out of the loop with new music. Maybe because I’d rather not listen to voices that represent this generation now [18-24 year olds]. To make a harsh, sweeping generalization, I find this world of young people to be trashy and spiritless for ladies and for guys, effeminate and arrogant. {To qualify this conclusion I must say that living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn grants me with credible empirical data.} Now everyone is a developed and tested marketing demographic, shallow multi-hybrids of confusion, while, in the 90’s, weird was still just weird. Industry did not [yet] know how to talk to us really… so they didn’t. {After Mogwai helped sell Levis and Spiritualized-several Volkswagons, a slew of indie musicians now branch to commercials. I guess in a world where Mtv no longer plays music, car commercials are the new video. And Nick Drake rolls in his grave. They’re trying to get us retroactively?}

That was a bit of a tangent, yes. And I sound like an old curmudgeon, yes. My point was that I find most current music empty and without a context. Maybe because music doesn’t play the same role in my life these days… or in anyone’s life really, save for those old souls still frequenting Bleecker Bob’s to complete their jazz collection. I used to scour record stores for b-sides and imports. That hunt was part of the pleasure, the investment–a requirement. Those with resources, intuition, perseverance and consistency won the prize. Now, in just a few clicks you can find what you are looking for. In a broader sense, I resent the instant gratification of the cyber-world because effort enriches; there’s lessons and experiences embedded along the paths that are being short-cut, creating shallow insta-experts in all walks of leisure life. And I am in no way a Luddite. Is this my equivalent of “When I was your age I used to walk to school”? Perhaps. When I was your age I had to dub a record to a cassette to play it in the car. When I was your age I use to love music, spend hours with it, discover it with my keen senses and it became my own in the process.

Through writing this I realize, I loved my time in the 90’s. Loved riding that last wave of counterculture before it all was fair game for advertisers, for every Tom, Dick and Harry, for anyone who could click a mouse. Beyond music I realize that most of my current best friends I met in the 90’s. I met my boyfriend in the 90’s. I went vegan in the 90’s. Maybe I live partly in the past. Maybe I am, for the first time, at the age of having enough adult history to draw from, to find patterns and reach hypotheses. Maybe I miss the love I had for bands, for songs like haunting ghosts who invade and tinker with my expectations–of music, of life. Whichever the case, this was all stirred up by nabbing Jeff Mangum tickets for his first 2011 tour date in Toronto, Canada. Mangum and Neutral Milk Hotel, who checked out of music in the hey-day 90’s, have since been buried and preserved in time. To time…

And quite possibly the best video on youtube:

Just Salad is just terrible.

Dig if you will a picture: you select some stuff for a salad–standard NYC-style, select your own additions set up. Your defenseless bowl gets passed on to another employee who dumps it on a wet, unclean cutting board to chop contents into tiny, can’t-I-chew-my-salad pieces. [What's next? Blend and inject for your mid-town lunch convenience?] Besides ruining the texture and bite of the salad… the cutting board, which is built into the counter, probably had grilled chicken juices, hard-boiled egg remnants and other sickening dead, bacteria-laden ingredients about its surface.

Ew. Don’t go.

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Summary: I kind of love V & T Supermarket in Hempstead, Long Island.
Scoring the car for the day for some errands, I knew I had to hit V & T Supermarket on Franklin street in Hempstead. I had been seeing it for years, the huge white cryptic building off the side of the busy road with the Chinese characters. I was usually on my way to the Hempstead Salvation thrift. And though it’s true that I wasn’t into foodie exploration back then, I always was intrigued. With some recent scores at the Indian mart in Hicksville, I knew there was magic awaiting me within that mysterious building.

I was glad I was alone. I was going to scour every inch of the place, spending as much time as needed to check labels, scan, dig, piece together needs for their unusual goods. Of course I knew vegan goods would be abound. And given they took cards, I knew I would leave with a motley assortment of ingredients for some blog-worthy eats. My first score was a jar of Roland wild berry blue cherries. Carmine-free: no boiled beetles here just good ol’ healthy chemical coloring. Who needs beetle-red when Roland makes such a variety of chemically-colored cherries? Notice also the raspberry and strawberry Fluff. Not until I reached the crazy candy aisle had I seen such color variety.

Mock duck! You know that wheat gluten with the textured skin you get from Thai restaurants? I bought a can for 99 cents. A section at V & T had a bunch of canned wheat glutens at rock bottom prices. I bought the vegetarian mock duck in curry sauce from Wu Chang for a little sodium-fueled fun. 1/3 of this small can has 650 mg of sodium. If you eat the whole thing, that’s your sodium for the day, so says the USDA who sets the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) you see on nutritional labels. And the USDA is just no good. They’re downright disgusting. Um, I’d rant to by local and direct, but here I am buying cans from Taiwan.

Tons of kooky tofu! Vacuum-sealed, flavored, fresh-pressed, sliced and diced, the tofu section at the far end of the store was wonderful. And, like most everything else in the store, cheap. Being I spend so much time on Long Island I celebrate in this discovery. Imagine a huge supermarket

[wait Brooklyn, there's more],

free of bustling crowds

and employees whose jobs are solely to stand at the ends of long lines to alert customers of its ending

[still more]

with prices not meant to exploit your tastes and dietary preferences

[I'm talking to you, Khim's Millienium Market and Sunac, and your $6.99 Tofurkey sausages]

and offer you different and affordable options than the “variety” of processed

crap in the Kraft/Kellog/PepsiCo world of mainstream supermarkets. Thanks V & T.

I bought some mochi.

Some sesame rice paper, which I had never seen before. Some flavored tofu strips.

Chinese spinach buns and some japanese dipping sauce.

And some Jello-brand Flan, which is vegan.

I’ll be back, V & T Supermarket!