Vegan Angst

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I know the title is off-putting.

But I really just need to vent figure out why I’m feeling so frustrated.

It started with my roommate, bless her (although I’m Atheist?) at a DiPhi meeting last week.  She had basically gone up to introduce herself to the members of the societies, and aside from a lot of silly questions and answers, the one that really stuck with me was when Senator Arrington stood up and asked, “Vegetarian or omnivore and why?”

Her response: “Omnivore, because I believe God put animals on this Earth for our consumption.”

That particular answer has really been bugging me.  As an atheist and spiritualist I can’t fathom why anyone would believe the multitude of these vast and beautiful creatures were put on Earth just for us.  And to consume.

What makes it wrong, then, to consume a dog, or your cute little kitten?  Or even to kick and beat them mercilessly just to give pleasure to our senses in the form of dead flesh and juices?  It’s just insane!  We can’t continue on like this, sooner or later – but I definitely hope sooner – people will wake up and realize what we’re doing to these creatures is wrong and inhumane.  We have no right to give ourselves so much addictive power and create horrific conditions for animals.

Some people equate the use of animals for food with the Holocaust – after much speculation, I actually agree with it.  The killing of millions of Jews via a systematic, powerful regime and an engineered belief that one is better than the other.  Death is still death – whether it’s 6 million Jews or billions of animals per year.  It’s cruel, and no one should have the authority over another’s life in this way.

And, randomly, my conceptualized answers to a very important question I always get (besides the question on protein, ugh):

“Why did you become vegan?”

A: To save the Earth, my health, and the animals.
A: Because I want to kill every freaking plant on Earth.  I absolutely hate plants.
A: Why aren’t you?
A: I can’t justify eating cows, pigs, and chickens while my dog and guinea pig live just because they were different from each other.  I couldn’t handle the discrimination.
A: Earthlings.
A: (The most true) Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals.  I couldn’t bring myself to touch another piece of flesh after reading his book.

& my final A: Because I confronted the truth.

I really hope I don’t come off as “better than you.”  I’ve spent the majority of my time as a vegetarian and vegan being very understanding and pleasant to people that consume meat.  I thought being compassionate to everyone and leading by example would turn people to the better path of consumption.  I’d get asked the same questions over and over and just reply with a smile and a quick reply.  I hate making trouble or creating conflict.  Yet all the while I’d be screaming inside, Please oh please just learn what your burger went through to become what’s on your plate.

& I don’t really know why I’m writing this post, honestly.  But I think I’ve reached this point where I’m weary of being nice and complacent when billions of animals are still being murdered.  It’s time to get more action-y.

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Mellow Mushroom – Mistakes Learned

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Oh the past glories of Valentine’s Day…really the best day to be single.  But rather than wax on about this weird condition we call ‘love,’ I will talk about mistakes.

Namely, Mellow Mushroom pizza.

For vegans everywhere, I urge you to try Mellow Mushroom – they’re one of the only pizza chains that offer vegan cheese (Daiya cheese), which is really saying something. In addition, it promotes those with lactose allergies and gluten too.
And really, who wants to eat pizza “sans cheese”?  Nothing is as satisfying as a real cheezy slice of goodness.  Mmm, delicious carbs and fat.  And at least we get to justify our pizza as being ‘healthy’ because it’s  a) cruelty-free, b) usually loaded with veggies, and c) red sauce counts as a vegetable.  The vegan choice should be supported, and what better way to do this than by eating pizza?  It’s a win-win situation.

Anyways, on to the real story: It was my dad’s 50th birthday, which happened to coincide with two essays and a midterm, yikes.  So I forced encouraged the family to go to Mellow Mushroom, since I knew it’d be a great place to satisfy all of our needs and a really quick one too.

IMG_1118Above is my gluten-free crust Mega Veggie pizza with vegan cheese and tempeh crumbles.  It was pure deliciousness, and I loved that I could get a pizza right alongside my family.
The gluten-free crust was fluffy and exactly what I would have wanted in a regular wheat crust.  Almost pillowy, and reminiscent of bread sticks – even my sister said she like it more than the meat-eaters pizza crust.

As a disclaimer, vegan cheese is a little gluey-r than real cheese, but honestly you can’t complain; it’s vegan cheese!  But if it really bothers anyone, just order your pie sans-cheeze.  The veggie toppings are very generously layered, fresh, and perfectly accent the red sauce base.  All-in-all it was a great meal, and I polished off two slices (and half a hummus appetizer) before calling it quits.

IMG_1120Oh, and my sister mentioned to the server that it was our dad’s birthday, and they ever so graciously gave us a happy-face pretzel pie free of charge.  Not vegan, but awesome nonetheless.

IMG_1119Okay now remember this gluten-free crust I had mentioned?  Well, chowing down on leftovers the next day I perused the Mellow Mushroom nutritional information website: apparently it contains eggs.  Oops.  That was a big let down, and a ‘well-duh’ moment.  I knew I shouldn’t have assumed gluten free = vegan, but I did anyways.

(Oh, and somehow the hummus has milk in it?  Seriously MM, you gotta step up your game.)

So: Always check the ingredients list online or ask the server.  Never just assume.

(Admittedly I finished my slice, ate another and threw the rest away, but that was because I didn’t want the pizza to go to waste like that.  It was still a good ‘mostly’ vegan pizza)

So really does this make me not a vegan?  No, absolutely not.  Veganism, in my view, is in the learning curve.  I started out as a vegetarian, then gradually transitioned away from eggs and finally yogurt.  It’s not something that can easily be done overnight (although there are cases), and there will be mistakes made.  As long as you learn to get up and brush yourself off, it doesn’t matter.  Sure I ate eggs, but now I know better and will be more careful in the future.

Seriously though Mellow Mushroom – what will happen when people demand vegan gluten-free pizza?  You’ve gotta get rid of that egg, it’s lagging behind Z Pizza’s Berkeley Vegan and vegan gluten-free crust.  

Anyways I hope everyone had a great Valentine’s Day – mine was more than a little confusing and misinformed, but a memorable one at that.

So go forth my minions – go forth, be fruitful, and eat vegan pizza.

Namu Gaji’s Vegan Review

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San Francisco; a 45-minute Bart ride from my mum’s house, it’s a wonderland for vegans and non-vegans.  Thrift stores, strawberry kombucha, and people-watching – if a city could hold my heart, it would be SF.

While I’m against city living (too much concrete and fatty foods within my reach) I like being able to stroll the streets during the day.  Excitement is everywhere, if you know where to look.  Getting lost is more than easy in SF, but with a GPS and a few plotted out points, the intricacies disappear – it is suddenly a wonderland of vegan goodies and hip, artsy knick-knacks.

Over Christmas Break my brother, being the self-less soul he is, was incredibly tolerant humbled when I asked to go with him on his excursion to the city.  And so we went.

2 thrift stores, eggnog-less Bi-Rite, 2 scoops of Bi-Rite Creamery‘s vegan chocolate-coconut ice-cream (yum!) and 2 strawberry kombucha’s later we boarded the Bart with our loot and shuffled back to a warm dinner with the mother and step-father.

Yet before any of this awesomeness, our first stop was Namu Gaji.  This hip little restaurant in the Mission District is focused on Korean Fusion food; They source their ingredients locally, and their menu reflects the changes of the seasons; the menu is short, yet each item is crafted with detail in mind and reflects their Korean roots perfectly.

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I chose a vegan version of the dosirak (which was already vegetarian, but lists different protein choices, including tofu).  It is similiar to a bento box, or ‘lunchbox’ with a small variety of sides and rice as the main grain.  The cashier even noted my order would include the ‘vegetarian kimchi,’ which I really appreciated; not many people know that kimchi has fish and/or shrimp paste in it, and I sorely miss kimchi because of this.

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My dosirak was quite pretty!  Included were:

– Fried brussel sprouts
– Vegan kimchi
– Bean sprouts
– Some nori sheets
– Marinated tofu (to die for!)
– Big hunk of white rice
– And a side salad, pictured below:

IMG_1102I was so hungry I started to dig in before I realized I needed to take pictures, oops.

But everything was delicious.  You seriously cannot go wrong with this combination of yummy veggies – the brussel sprouts were crispy on the outside, but nice and earthy in taste; it was seasoned simply with a sprinkle of salt.  The side salad was just a small mixture of leafy greens in a simple vinaigrette, nothing to rave about.  The kimchi, rice and bean sprouts were good, but again nothing to rave about.

Oh but the tofu, the tofuIMG_1099I got 6 pan-fried squares, but just one bite and I wished I had so many more; forget the other stuff in my tray, if I could pay for the tofu alone I’d have been absolutely fine with that.

From my experience with tofu (*ahem* thank you Chinese culture) it was definitely deep-fried tofu that had been marinated in a sweet soy sauce mixture overnight, then lightly fried in a pan before serving.  It was simple in flavor, but texture wise it blew it me away.  The skin was slightly crispy, but still held on to enough soy sauce so that it gave way easily, yet not too easily (gosh I can’t even describe it).  The inner portion had pulled away from the skin and held on to the flavors of the marinade selfishly; it was a flavorful & overflowing flat slice of heaven.

Each bite was a contrast between the custard-like inside and textured outer skin; I savored each bit, and my brother agreed that it was by far the best tofu he’d ever eaten (sorry mum).

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All in all, Namu Gaji deserves 4/5 stars.  I feel that given the simplicity of the meal it needed more bulk; the rice had an overpowering presence on the plate.  I probably could’ve made this meal for less than $3 at home, but the marinated tofu brings in the punch (as well as the fact that they had vegan kimchi).

I will be returning to Namu Gaji, and this time I am going to take all the tofu.

Pepple’s Donuts Review, From ‘Last Year’

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New Year’s at San Francisco, oh my.  The glimmering lights, and festivities – granted it was a bit overrated with all the scantily clad women waltzing the streets (how could they not freeze?) but wonderful nonetheless.

I stayed with the family in a 4-bedroom suite at Villa Florence, a block away from Union Square.  Parking on New Year’s Eve was like trying to fit into size 00 pants after the holidays; just not gonna happen.  Until we lucked out at a ‘full’ parking lot under the square.

January 1st also being my birthday I’ve always felt slightly let down by the festive nature of New Years.  It is a new start, but how exactly does everything change?  Things go into a spike, then fall into normality; from what I’ve seen, it’s mostly an excuse to wear silly 2013 glasses and party ‘into the new year.’

But hey, who am I to judge?  I entered 2013 standing outside a Thai shop, totally unaware of the fact that the year had changed until the workers inside had started counting down from 10.  My mother and I struggled to catch a glimpse of the harbor’s fireworks; we didn’t see them, but it was a pleasant moment of its own.

And now that I’ve turned 20, I feel like life has changed in a sense; I’m not a teenager anymore.  Life is getting real.  I’m asking myself questions such as, “Will I be financially secure in the future?”  “Where will I live?”  “Is college even necessary?”  Le sigh.  Too much to worry about for someone who doesn’t even feel 20 yet!

Oops.  I digressed too much.

Right.  Pepple’s Donuts, from New Year’s Eve – The entire family walked 2 miles out of their way to indulge me, those selfless souls.

In case you don’t know, Pepple’s Donuts sells vegan donuts in the Ferry Building everyday from 9-5.  They use local and organic ingredients to create incredible donuts with fun flavors; I saw apricot-vanilla and concord grape, but I was more interested in Matcha Green Tea & Chocolate Coconut:

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Matcha Green Tea: We managed to snag the last one!  At first it was troublesome trying to ‘bite’ into this, so I ended up just tearing it into chunks with my fingers.  Hmm.  Not quite what I was expecting from a donut; it had no ‘fluff,’ and was actually quite dense.  Its crumb was more akin to a quick-bread than the mainstream Krispy Kreme donut, the predominant donuts of my days.

The flavor was very lacking – I couldn’t detect even the slightest hint of green tea. It appeared to be a dense sugar bomb with green icing.  Delicious nonetheless.

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Chocolate Coconut: Yum!  Again, this was very dense, not to my liking.  But the combination of chocolate and coconut cannot be beat.  I repeat, cannot be beat.  It was a wise choice, and the more favored of the two we sampled.  The chocolate frosting was sugary and quite flaky, but in a fun way.  The coconut shreds were visually appealing and took the coconut-ness up a notch.

All in all?  Pepple’s Donuts has amazing concepts and have rave reviews on Yelp; I would give it 3 stars if it were an ordinary donut, but since they’re vegan I’m pretty much obligated to give them another.  4/5 stars, Pepple’s.  You earned it.

Garam Masala Thumbprint Cookies

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The first words out of my mom’s mouth: “These are so cute!”

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We were heading to her colleague’s house for lunch, so I whipped these up in just 45 minutes.  Which is quite amazing since I always take such a long time when I bake… but I did have some help this time.

Among the chatty grandparents and lovely vegan-friendly Chinese dishes she served us, I sampled some dark chocolate and we talked quite a bit over steaming cups of tea.  Shanghainese (the dialect of Shanghai) blended with Mandarin & English – it was quite the eclectic conversation.

DSC01596These cookies were just yum.  They are rather ‘cute’, and make a pleasing dessert to impress friends.  Yet it’s as easy as any other cookie – the jam filling takes just a minute to whip up.  I was lacking in the jam department, so I mixed my own – it was a mixture of blackberry, apple cranberry butter and some garam masala.

I was worried after I added the garam masala thinking it might’ve been a bad spur-of-the-moment decision, yet the dash of blended spices gave the jam a nice hint of something.  Whatever it was, it imparted a slight Asian twist – a hint of cardamom while the crispy almond-laced crumbles melt in your mouth.

Savor the buttery edges and sweet filling, then stealthily reach for one more.

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Garam Masala Thumbprint Cookies:

Makes 13 ~Adapted from The Pancake Princess & Protein Prince’s Vegan Thumbprint Cookies

  • 1 cup rolled or instant oats, or oat flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 ‘egg’ = 1 tsp egg replacer + 2 Tbsp water
  • 2 Tbsp almond meal (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp honey or other liquid sweetener
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Jam Filling:

  • 3 1/2 – 4  Tbsp jam of choice
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp powdered pepper
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice/vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk together your ‘egg’ and set aside.

If you’re using rolled/instant oats, process them in a blender or food processor until it resembles a coarse flour.  Add in the rest of the dry ingredients and continue to blend.

Gradually add in the honey , liquid coconut oil, extracts & egg replacement.  Blend for another 30 seconds or so until the mixture is consistent throughout.

On a greased cookie sheet, then try to shape them into heaping-Tbsp-sized balls, although they’ll definitely still be flat in size.  (Note: This process can vary the number of cookies you come out with, I just happened to have enough for 13 cookies. )  Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Bake for 14-20 minutes, depending on how chewy or crispy you want them (less = chewy, more = crispy).  Remove from the oven and immediately use a small spoon to create indents on the tops.

Mix together your jam filling and after the cookies have cooled drop about a teaspoon of jam into each indent.

Then serve!

& Merry Christmas guys.