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Vegan Restaurant Travel Series: NYC

26 Apr

Two flavor ice cream sundae at Lula's Sweet Apothecary

Often times, people wonder whether or not, as a vegan, they will ever be able to go out to eat again. Some even ask whether or not they can trust omni restaurants to listen to their questions and requests and prepare food accordingly so as to avoid eating undesirables and getting physically ill. Some may even make an excuse not to become vegan because, given the lack of vegan restaurants/vegan options in comparison to vegetarian options in other restaurants, becoming vegan would be “socially awkward.” For them having to ask questions or make requests about their food would be “too much work”–all in all, some might think veganism would slap a wet rag on their social lives.

If it comes down to rejecting animal use and not participating in the suffering of innocent beings or looking like a socially awkward and needy customer, I’ll take looking like a socially awkward pariah in a heartbeat. We can (and should) ask ourselves honestly whether our social lives or the appearance of being “like everyone else” or maintaining that “I’m a vegetarian, ohmygosh because vegans are so extreme!” ever justifies the enslavement and death of billions of nonhuman animals every year. It doesn’t.

The good news is: vegans and wannabe vegans don’t have to worry. It’s no surprise, but 100% vegan restaurants are popping up all over the country. And some have been quietly hiding close by for years (as you’ll see when I take you to New Hampshire). Veganism has come a long way in that respect. Thirty years ago an all-vegan restaurant was unheard of. Now, most vegans you meet can list off a few of them, if not name all the cities that have restaurants they want to go to.

I’ve visited a few of these US vegan dining meccas and I plan on continuing this oft traveled road. I’ll be doing these “travel food blogs” a few times this year as I’ll be traveling quite a bit and eventually moving. I hope you’ll decide to help out these wonderful restaurants by dining in. Many of these places are small and not as profitable as omnivorous or vegetarian restaurants, and it’s not because the food sucks–on the contrary, the food is delicious–it’s because, sadly, veganism is not the status quo and people are afraid of trying food that seems “different.”

Often, entrepreneurs open up vegetarian restaurants, instead, so as not to seem “extreme,” and to ensure that they’re profitable by being “unoffensive” at the expense of perpetuating the myth that dairy, eggs, and other non-flesh animal products are ethically justifiable and harmless. Unfortunately, it begets the whole issue of giving your money to places that think dairy and eggs are justifiable uses of animals. If it can be helped, I say, choose 100% vegan all the time! Of course, you don’t have to eat out at all to enjoy good food or be vegan, but if one or more of these places are at your disposal, do yourself a favor and help out your fellow vegan small business owners, whether you’re vegan or not: grab a seat!

Let’s start in the most likely place. It’s so nice they named it twice…
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Homemade vegan butter and the horror of palm oil

23 Mar

Hi friends,

I recently became aware of a pretty serious issue regarding palm oil which is consumed most notably by vegans in the form of vegan butter, other commercial baked goods, vegan cheeses and spreads, as well as soaps. Popular commercial butters and spreads like Smart Balance and Earth Balance use this ingredient in their products and although they claim to be using sustainable palm oil, I’m a bit skeptical of that.

In short, the obtaining of palm oil has been the root cause of the environmental degradation and deforestation of critical rainforest lands. This increases CO2 emissions, more of which we do not need with the ever present threat of climate change already upon us. It has resulted in habitat loss for endangered species like Sumatran tigers and rhinoceroses, and Borneo orangutans, and home loss for the people who live in the rainforests of Malaysia and Indonesia. Moreover, unfair wages and dangerous work spaces for workers have been documented.

So, as you can see, this is a vegan issue. Ethical veganism is often singularly focused to being about respecting (and acting justly) toward non-human animals, but it’s also about responding to human and environmental rights violations in the same way. Because a large part of veganism is dedicated to focusing on respecting animals–and it’s not a surprise given our global and cultural beliefs that “otherize” non-humans–it obscures or completely neglects the larger focus of veganism which is that of practicing nonviolence.

I know it can seem overwhelming to consider all the aspects of veganism that don’t focus on just not eating animal products, but it gets easier with time (and a little research). Eventually, you find yourself intentionally making really considerate choices and giving your money to companies and organizations that respect animals, the environment, and people too.

I urge my readers to do an internet search to find out more about palm oil and to seek alternatives. Lush, the cosmetics company that makes a good deal of vegan products has provided this easy-read pamphlet on the issue which provides some links for more information as well.

So, in light of this information and the fact that I eat A LOT of toast and enjoy baking quite a bit, I decided to look for commercial palm-oil free vegan butters and I came up lacking, which was sad. But then, I remembered an article I once read about making your own vegan butter. And boy, was I glad I did! Last night, I decided to make my own butter and to my surprise, it came out fabulously! Better yet, this was incredibly easy and not time consuming to make. The ingredients were all very easy to find. They were a bit expensive, but they also came in large quantities so they will last a very, very long time. Here’s the link, which provides recipes for regular butter, coconut butter, garlic butter, herbed butter, and even banana butter! I can’t wait to try them all! I highly recommend getting the silicone ice cube trays for this endeavor. I bought mine at Crate and Barrel, they are also sold at Target and are only $8. Skim through the comments as well for some helpful tips on making your butter the best butter ever!

Start churnin’! And as always, thanks for reading and for being vegan!

An update, the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival, and vegan sugar, oh my!

13 Nov

Not just tofu and kale...Don't be afraid to ask vegan companies for a full disclosure of their ingredients and sources.

Hello all you loyal hungry people,

I’ve been absent for quite some time–at least it feels that way to me–and so an update is an order. As you may have picked up, I’ve recently moved back to Massachusetts from New Hampshire. And it couldn’t have happened at a more inopportune time–right smack in the middle of VeganMoFo. The twenty recipes I had lined up to go up for the month of October sadly became only ten. I’m still pretty proud that of the ten I blogged, many were made in the midst of a crazy schedule of driving back and forth between states to look at apartments and in the midst of packing, settling into the new place, and interviewing potential roommates. And, many of them are getting a lot of attention still, despite that VeganMoFo is over and that I was forced to stop blogging weeks ago in order to stay afloat with everything else I had to do. It’s November now and I don’t know how I made it here. Coincidentally, I made it to yet another birthday at the same time. Hurrah!

Although other food blogs rarely ever delve into anything but food and especially anything centered on ethics–in order not to piss off potential readers who aren’t vegan or who don’t agree–I’m going to push against the grain.

There have been a lot of changes in my life recently, most notably the move which has limited the amount of time I spend driving back and forth for work and eating in the car. I’ve also been able to catch up on sleep, finally, which has given me the energy I need to reassess my current situation as it relates to the kind of work I want to be doing for a living and the kind of work I want to do with regard to vegan education and advocacy. They’re unrelated, and at the same time, related. Now that I’m settled in a new place, closer to more people and closer to other like-minded vegans, I’m ready to get back to work on all the advocacy goals I’ve had in mind, which among other really great projects unrelated to food, includes recipe writing, cooking, and blogging about it.

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Now on Facebook!

1 Jun

Hi friends,

Just popping in to say you can now find and follow Little House On The Vegan Prairie on Facebook! You can stay up to date with all the latest LHOTVP recipes and soon to come happy vegan restaurant outings.  Please “like” the page and “share” it with your friends.

Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/LittleHouseOnTheVeganPrairie

As always, thanks for your support! And stay tuned for a new recipe this week! Here’s a hint: it involves lemons, blueberries, and sugar. Yum!

Your vegan comrade,

Melody

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