Thursday, January 24, 2013

Happy Second Veganniversary to Meeeeeee!

Today, in the spirit of living Kind, I shall reflect on something I’ve been thinking a lot about not to be a vegan douchebag, both online and in the real world.

Two years ago today I started this Kind experiment that was only supposed to last a week. And somewhere along the way, my perception of the world changed.

And somewhere along the way, I realized that I’m not cool with eating animals, or the milk they produce, or the eggs they produce, because doing so is cruel, and really not necessary.

And somewhere along the way, I realized that not only is eating animals and their milk and their eggs unnecessary, but also that I’m actually better off without them.

And somewhere along the way I became comfortable with identifying myself as vegan, in spite of the militant extremist hippie pre-conceptions that come with this label.

And I still don’t know if I’m vegan or a vegan.

Before my shift in consciousness, I was more or less in the willfully ignorant category. My consumption of animal products was never really challenged by anyone, and though I obviously knew that farm animals were dying so I could eat them, I didn’t realize just how cruel this industry was, and had no idea about the cruelty inherent in the dairy and egg industries. Until I read The Kind Diet, I never had to defend my animal product consumption, and I had no idea just how protective people are over their meat.

I’m pretty passive for the most part in the real world, happy to share my cookies, accept compliments on my non-leather shoes, and wear my "Eat Veggies Not Friends" shirt with a smile (though I will admit that my "what kind of asshole eats a lamb?" tote may come off as a tad confrontational).

I am super grateful when people point out the vegan items to me at a dinner party and when my co-worker orders a cheeseless pizza for me at our staff pizza lunch.  I am proud of my mom when she puts down the purse she was going to buy at Winners after noticing the “Genuine Leather” tag. I never start the meat = heart disease discussion with anyone or comment on what someone is eating (unless it’s my mother...she gets me and loves me even when I go all preachy on her), though I am happy to give my opinion when prompted.

And in the facebook world, while I will share certain vegan-y animal rights things I come across on my fb profile, I will never venture over to anyone else’s profile to comment on his burger pic and start a dialogue about it. That, after all, is what public vegan facebook pages are for, as there is no shortage of meat eaters who make their way over to these pages eager to rile up the vegans and voraciously defend eating animals.

See, before two years ago, I never had to justify or question the morality of eating animals. None of my friends were vegan, and while I knew a few vegetarians, I was never in a position to have to defend my meat eating. Once this was challenged upon reading The Kind Diet, truth and reason and compassion won out, and I changed, because my eating animals was indefensible. So I’m totally fascinated by meat eaters who come on vegan fb pages to defend eating animals.

I get the whole willful ignorance thing, because I was there, and I get the whole shrug it off as the way of the world thing, because that is the easier way to make sense of it if you want to keep participating in it. But to actually feel that strongly about your right to eat meat and dairy and eggs in spite of the cruelty inherent in this practice, to go out of your way to engage people in a debate about it...I find this somewhat perplexing and entertaining.

I have certainly come across a ton of douchebag meat eaters, but I’ve also come across a ton of douchebag vegans. Holy crap can we ever be self-righteous, and violent, and insulting, and stupid. And we too are guilty of horrendously massacring the English language with embarrassing violations of spelling and grammar. Don’t you just love how people debating on social media thrive on taking jabs at the other guy’s grammar?

So to avoid being a douchebag online-vegan, I try to follow a few guidelines before jumping into a debate with a meat eater.

* Avoid trolls.

Trolls can be pretty funny & entertaining sometimes, but those who frequent vegan pages tend to be rather unimaginative, as they all resort to the same, not particularly original strategy. That would be spouting any variation of “Mmmmm, delicious!” or “Can’t wait to slap one of those on the BBQ!” when commenting on a picture of a cute baby pig or a tortured duck or a bloody skinned animal carcass. Sometimes they’ll post nasty imagery in the hope of offending us overly-sensitive vegans, failing to realize that these are the exact same images the vegan pages post to raise awareness.

Actually, I haven’t watched Earthlings. I think I'd have a brutal time processing it if I did. But I applaud those who have watched it. From what I hear, it's life-changing.

Anyways, the point is, trolls are only there for their own entertainment, not to actually seek out exchange of ideas. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that they exist because there are plenty of people who respond to them and give them the reaction they crave. So as long as there are idiot vegans who waste their time feeding the trolls on vegan facebook pages, there will be trolls. Therefore, I blame the vegans .

* Be civil.

I make a valiant effort to avoid engaging in exchange of personal insults, regardless of whether someone is showing me that same courtesy, and regardless of how stupid someone appears to be. Sometimes it’s hard when you have people trying to argue that plants feel pain, and ask about vegans breast feeding their babies (because humans are animals and we’re against using animal products and all), and claim that your whole life philosophy is flawed because you drive a car that kills bugs, and if you were really vegan and against killing you wouldn’t drive a car because it kills bugs.

Riiiiight...I wouldn’t be walking or breathing either, because walking and breathing kills bugs too. And my car not only has the potential to kill bugs, it can also kill animals. And people. Including other vegans. Whoa. Mind. Blown.

So to avoid being a douchebag, I reply with sincerity as best I can. And yes, it can be hard to distinguish between the more advanced trolls and people with questionable reasoning skills asking a legitimate question, but sometimes you just gotta take a leap of faith and answer a question genuinely, because ridiculous as it may seem, it might be genuine. And before you think I’m being a condescending vegan douchebag right now by mentioning people’s “questionable reasoning skills”, that’s just because you haven’t dealt with people who accuse us of caring more about suffering animals than suffering people in the world.

Just google the link between meat consumption and world hunger and tell me again how I care more about dead cows than starving children. Or how caring for one automatically negates caring for the other.

However, when I balance out all the crap conversations I have with the insightful ones, it’s worth it. If anything, it’s an interesting insight into how people think. And if I don’t think I can carry out a conversation without becoming a vegan douchebag, I just don’t respond.

 * Remember I’m not Chris Pine, and neither is anyone else, except for Chris Pine 

With the exception of Chris Pine, perfection does not exist. We live in an imperfect world, and even the most militant vegan cannot live a 100% cruelty-free lifestyle. This doesn’t prevent the douchebag vegan from carefully scrutinizing the lives of others to catch them doing something wrong, because vegans tend to hold certain people and groups up as paradigms of vegan perfection.

Ellen DeGeneres eats eggs layed by her neighbor’s pet chickens.
Whaaaaaaaaat? I hate her. There’s really no ethical argument against what she’s doing, but I hate her. You let me down, vegan Ellen. You let us all down.

Alicia Silverstone admits to Oprah that she slips up on cheese sometimes at a party.
Whaaaaaaaaat? Alicia, girl, you were my vegan guru. How could you be so cruel? What kind of example are you setting for humanity?

I listen to my Zooey Deschanel Christmas cd even though Zooey is a spokesperson for Pantene, which tests on animals like a bunch of jerks so we can admire Zooey’s silky hair. 
Whaaaaaaat? How can I live with myself? I love Zooey and her epic bangs and her folky singing. If I was a true vegan I wouldn't love her or her epic bangs or folky singing. I hang my head in shame.

To avoid being a douchebag vegan, one must avoid being a “Gotcha” vegan, and acknowledge that nobody is capable of existing on this planet without having some sort of negative effect on it. As James McWilliams says, ethical veganism is not an all or nothing position, and the goal is a world as free of animal exploitation as we can achieve.


There are limitations, but these limitations don’t negate the effort altogether. I’d rather focus on all the positive strides vegan celebrities have made in raising awareness about animal cruelty instead of focussing on their consumption of non-exploitative pet chicken eggs (though why Ellen would still eat eggs baffles me...that shit is gross).

So onward into Year Three of a Kinder lifestyle. Much to learn, much to eat, and much to look forward to...

*To clarify: No, Chris Pine is not vegan. However, one day he may be. In the meantime,  he makes the world a more beautiful place simply by existing within it and allowing us to bask in the perfection that is his face. Every negative thing that happens in this world can be mitigated simply by looking into his eyes, therefore balancing the state of the universe and allowing him to exist in this world with zero negative impact. 

Hence, he is perfect. 

I ended my first official blog post almost two years ago with a quote from Wil Wheaton

The next time some idiot says that gaming and gamers are antisocial, I think I'll mention this ... and then punch them in the dick.

I ended my one year veganniversary blog post one year ago with a pic of me and Alicia.

So it’s only fitting that I jump into Year Three with another pic with Alicia...

Bahaha that's like the exact same expression as last year. I'm so unoriginal.

...and another quote from Wil Wheaton, which serves as a good reminder to me as I strive to not be a douchebag vegan.

When it comes to living vegan, 

I shall try, Wil Wheaton. I shall try.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What Do Vegans New York. Part 2.

Stand clear of the closing doors, please.

(Anyone who's ever been to NYC will totally get that.)

Just as certainly as hearing that phrase eighty-six times a day riding the subway, we came to expect an awesome dining experience at every vegan restaurant we went to in NYC. 

A couple of Asian restaurants on Chloe Coscarelli's NYC list were Franchia and Hangawi. We hit up Franchia for an early dinner on New Years Day before seeing Book of Mormon, and it worked out perfectly. We were running short on time, but because we were there early there was hardly anyone else in the restaurant yet, so we were able to order quickly and get our food quickly. This place has an abundant selection of tea, and though I'm not a fan of tea, I fell in love with their plum iced tea...absolutely delicious.

Chloe recommended the assorted dumplings

which we ordered along with brown rice sushi

and potato pancakes.

Everything was perfect.

Rob the Husband especially liked Franchia because of the calm atmosphere and great service, and he just really appreciated how quickly we were able to get in and how the whole dining experience worked out under a time crunch. 

Hangawi is a Korean restaurant on Chloe's list, and definitely one of the more unique places we ate at.  You take off your shoes upon entering, and the eating areas are sunken into the floor, so you sit very low. The floor under your table is heated, so it keeps your feet toasty warm, though I don't know how smart it is to make it a policy to remove shoes, especially when you can't predict what people's feet will smell like after a day of wandering around New York.

But the atmosphere is zen and the food is pretty cool. Rob ordered a sesame porridge that looked like black goo and tasted awesome.

The combination pancakes were also delicious...very similar to what we had at Franchia.

The entrees were a bit odd. I ordered the mushroom sizzler, an entree of assorted mushrooms on a stone plate...and that's all it was. Mushrooms. They were great, and I'm a huge fan of mushrooms, but it was weird to get an entree that was just mushrooms...and pay $26 for it. I thought there would be more to it other than a few veggies thrown on top.

Rob ordered ssam it yourself lettuce wraps with veggies & rice. Very tasty, but super awkward to put together. It comes with romaine lettuce, and it was impossible to wrap anything in the leaves. Not a particularly elegant dish to eat in such a fancy setting. But it tasted good.

Hangawi was definitely an experience. The food is good but pricey...maybe that's so they can afford to heat the floors and keep customers' shoeless feet toasty warm.

It's not only important to keep your feet toasty warm when wandering around NYC, but also the rest of you...which is why we made the trip over the bridge to Brooklyn so I could check out Vaute Couture.

It is really hard finding warm outerwear that is not made with down or wool, and a few years ago Vaute Couture recognized this and set out to fill the need for fashionable, warm, cruelty-free outerwear. I already had two Vaute coats that I ordered online, and I absolutely love them! So when I realized the actual store was in Brooklyn, I was super excited to be able to go there in person.

I went in with the intention of finding either a black coat or puffy jacket, but my heart was quickly claimed by the adorable petal pink luxe Yasuko.

I. Love. This. Coat. Holy. Shit. Do. I. Ever. Love. This. Coat. :) :) :) And it's machine washable. Awwww yeahhhhh.

I totally lucked out with my timing, because there was a staff meeting in progress when we got there, so I got to meet pretty much everyone, including the founder, Leanne. She was very helpful in recommending her fave vegan eats in the city, including a place that serves a vegan omelette which wasn't on our radar. She was a sweetheart and obliged my request for a pic with her, but made me promise not to tag her on facebook or anything because she was all dressed down...which really didn't matter because the girl is absolutely gorgeous, but ima respect her wishes, because she designs incredible coats.

Like my adorable petal pink luxe Yasuko.

I'm in a bad habit of skipping breakfast, especially when I'm traveling, as I'm very rarely hungry in the morning...but I was eager to try the vegan omelette Leanne mentioned, so the next morning we headed to The Organic Grill for breakfast. This was one of the only places we ate at that wasn't 100% vegan (they serve eggs and dairy from Amish country). I kind of wanted to stick to all vegan restaurants on this trip since there certainly was an abundance of them, but the idea of a vegan omelette (not just a tofu scramble, but an actual friggen omelette) was too interesting to pass up.

I'm really glad we took Leanne's advice, because the omelette was awesome.

You choose your own fillings, so I went with spinach, vegan cheese, and cauliflower. I'd never had cauliflower in an omelette (vegan or otherwise), and now I question why that is, because cauliflower totally works in this is seriously good. How have I never, in my 32 years, come across cauliflower as an omelette filling? I've been missing out. And so have you. I suggest you remedy this immediately and make yourself an omelette with cauliflower asap.

Also on the menu? Vegan perogies. Served with cashew sour cream. How could we not?

Thumbs up Organic Cafe. Thumbs up indeed.

The other exception we made to the 100% vegan restaurant plan was an Ethiopian restaurant called Meskell.

This was the only place we ate at that served meat, but we had to try Ethiopian food in NYC, since Ethiopian cuisine is my absolute favourite food everrrr. We even managed to find an Ethiopian restaurant in Stockholm a few years ago.

Stockholm February 2010
It's pretty simple to order at an Ethiopian place...we just get the veggie combo and try a bit of everything...cabbage, kale, green beans, lentils, split peas...all served with injera (bread that can be best described as a sourdough crepe).

Meskell also offered an avocado salad which I had never seen before at an Ethiopian place, so we had that too.

Because most Ethiopian vegetarian dishes are vegan by default, Ethiopian food is always a great bet for us.

And no NYC city dining experience would be complete without tracking down a food cart, so we were thrilled to discover Cinnamon Snail. I had started following these guys on Twitter a few months ago, and they're always in a different location, so you have to check in the morning to find out where they're going to be that day.

I was expecting a few basic dishes and pastries. I was not expecting this.

This pastry case was sensory overload for me. You need to understand that when I look into a typical pastry case I'm usually scanning for that one item that might be egg & dairy-free, if I bother to look in the pastry case at all.

To look into a pastry case as glorious and colorful and interesting as this one with the understanding that nothing is off limits...I think I may have shed a little tear.

We kinda went nuts on the pastries...

Clockwise from top left: Lavender pear turnover, marshmallow cookie (it had a really cool name but I forget), raspberry blackout donut, bourbon custard donut, cinnamon snail
And we still ordered breakfast.

Don't be fooled by the paper carton presentation. That there is the Standard American Riot...Blue corn pancakes with Vermont maple syrup, scrambled tofu, maple breakfast tempeh strips and greens. You out that on a fancy schmancy plate and you got yourself a fancy schmancy breakfast.

Friggen blue corn pancakes. Such a unique flavour. Brought me back to my grade 12 trip to Tijuana.

This breakfast was 5 star hotel worthy. Or so I thought until my 5 star hotel ended up THROWING OUT MY CINNAMON SNAIL PASTRIES.

Oh yes. Those incredible pastries in the photo above? The Plaza THREW 3.5 OF THEM OUT. Ohhh I was pissed.

You see, we stayed at the Plaza for the second half of our trip (staying for an entire week was wayyyyyyy out of our tax bracket). When we checked in we were gifted with a lovely fruit tray.

We had eaten the cherries, grapes and banana, and put our Cinnamon Snail stash on the plate with the remaining fruit.

And when we got back to the room later that night, it was gone.

Let me clarify that these were not picked over, half eaten remains. That plate was FULL. We'd only eaten the raspberry blackout donut and half the bourbon custard donut.

The cinnamon snail? Lavender pear turnover? Marshmallow cookie? Gone. Tossed with half a plate of perfect fruit.

Really Plaza housekeeping? Really?

I was more pissed with the wastefulness than anything.

So a couple of days later we tracked down Cinnamon Snail again. And stocked up. Again.

They were super busy this afternoon and sold out of a lot of stuff by the time we got there, but we still managed to score some good stuff.

Clockwise from top left: peanut butter cheesecake brownie, marshmallow cookie, maple glazed donut, coconut Thai basil donut, raspberry cheese danish
This time I hid the stash in a drawer. Stupid Plaza.

So we've covered NYC vegan fine dining, casual dining, and food cart dining, which leaves us with the most important dining of cream dining.

And for the best tity-milk-free ice cream in New York, and dare I say, the universe, you need look no further than Lula's Sweet Apothecary.

This ice cream is hands down the creamiest, most delicious, most satisfying ice cream I've had since Haagen Dazs. Actually, even if I was still partaking in titty-milk, I'd still choose Lula's over Haagen Dazs.

Since forsaking titty-milk I've discovered some great dairy-free ice creams that I love. But Lula's blows them all away.

This is a cashew based ice cream. Absolutely amazing.

We came here three days in a row. Because it was absolutely amazing.

Day 1: Rob didn't have any ice cream. He was all like, nah, you go ahead.
Peanut butter chocolate cookie/ orange creamscicle

Day 2: Rob totally had ice cream.
Orange creamscicle/espresso
Vanilla malt/cookies & cream

Day 3: My first banana split in 2 years.

With cinnamon pecan, cookies & cream and chocolate ice cream, drizzled with chocolate fudge and marshmallow fluff, topped with gummy bears, coconut whip, and a maraschino cherry...but not one of those bright red artificially colored cherries...the real deal.

It is ridiculous how happy ice cream makes me.

Dear Vancouver,

We really really really need a Lula's Sweet Apothecary on the west coast.



Dear Lula's Sweet Apothecary,

Please move to Vancouver.



New York was truly breathtaking. It is such a dazzling, dramatic, interesting place. And as much as I would have loved to eat 24/7, even I have my limits. So we did do a few things to pass the time between stuffing our faces...

Like wandering...


Times Square-ing...

Hailing cabs...

Stalking SNL...

Admiring huge balls...

and huge trees...

Visiting the Apple cube...

Appreciating readily accessible vegan literature...

Hating on Monsanto...

Giving a dollar to what appears to be an animal rights cause but upon further examination just appears to be a weirdo filming me with an iPad that I totally didn't notice until Rob told me the guy had an iPad and was filming me...

Occupying Wall Street...

Visiting Thomas Crown...

and Donald Trump...

You're fired.

Searching for Kevin McCallister...

but finding the Plaza bear instead...

Gettin' our Met on...

Just a nice little Renoir
Gettin' our modern art on...

Gettin' our Public Library on...

Gettin' our viewpoint on...

Gettin' our Central Park on...

And of course, getting my Stella on...

Why yes those are non-leather Stella McCartney boots for 60% off, thank you for asking.

I love New York :) It's a pretty great place to hang out.

Except for all the assholes wearing fur.