Friday, July 29, 2016

Seventeen Examples of How Vegans are Poised to Rule the World...

1. We are obsessed with avocados and bananas and in a state of emergency, we have all the ripe ones while you are stuck with the sad, unripe ones, waiting in vain for them to ripen while the world burns outside your door.

2. Vegans can make people feel guilty without a word or even a glance. Let me repeat that: we can make omnivores feel guilty simply by existing. Who else besides your mother could make the same claim? I’m not sure exactly how this gift will be used to affirm our eventual ruling status, but, hey, it’s something for our toolbox just in case.

3. Put us in the least accommodating restaurant and the best of us can hack the hell out of the menu vegan MacGyver-style. I’m pretty sure this means that we’re resourceful and visionary, which are favorable traits for taking over the world.

4. Speaking of, we are like ruthless ninjas with flinging one-star reviews like we’re throwing shuriken stars at establishments that provoke our displeasure, which probably is evidence of our sharp reflexes and non-violent ruthlessness.

5. Not to brag or anything but we know approximately 700 things to do with cashews, which could be of value.  

6. With an hour’s notice, we can create an entire Instagram-worthy Thanksgiving meal out of pantry staples, parsley and a couple of onions. Can you?

7. We have been hit with every ludicrous excuse and justification for eating animals imaginable from people who want us to believe that the dietary needs of a carnivorous lion should dictate our moral decisions and those who make the should-have-been-disregarded-in-sixth-grade claim that plants feel pain. This is the landscape we dwell in, meaning that our lives are like absurdist comedies so we are ready for whatever life throws our way. Also: we’re basically Teflon.

8. Once you’ve been tagged in a bunch of photos wearing a tofu costume all over social media, you’re basically embarrassment-proof. I’m sure there’s some practical leadership advantage to that but I don’t know what it is right now.

9. If you’ve ever witnessed the conniptions that ensue when people find out that the wedding they’ve been invited to is going to be vegan and how irate they become at having their dietary preferences not catered to for one entire, single meal, you’ll realize that it doesn’t take much for some omnivores to collapse in a heap of self-pity and hollow righteous fury. Vegans, however, are accustomed to adapting to all situations thus we are completely poised for global domination.

10. Vegans who live in small towns and rural areas are practically survivalists but do it without killing animals, which is so much more awesome and less gross.

11. We invented and are perfecting an egg white replacement that is made from bean water. I’ll just leave that here.

12. We survived 1944 – 2000-something without decent vegan cheese. Some people say they can’t live without cheese, maybe the same people who will die if they have to endure an entire wedding without meat and animal products. Are these the people who we trust to take over the world? Unable to imagine life without string cheese and gruy
ère? Until recently, vegans have put nutritional yeast and almonds in the food processor, pulsed it together a few times, called it cheese, and carried on with our lives without colossal freak-outs. In short, we’re not babies.  

13. Have you ever wondered why we say or type the word “vegan” about 50 times a day? You can pronounce it correctly now, right? This will make power transfer much smoother. Thank you for your compliance.

14. You know how vegans are in and out of the bathroom quickly because of all that fiber? We’re using that spare time to foment the vegan revolution. What do you do with your time in the bathroom? Just sit there twiddling your thumbs? Whatever floats your boat.

15. We can scan an ingredients label in 10 – 20 seconds. We can scan labels in our sleep. We can scan labels while simultaneously making sure a toddler doesn’t upend a display of canned beans, figuring out dinner and planning our Fur Free Friday march. We’re like supercomputers when it comes to label scanning. Again, I’m not sure what we’ll be using this talent for in the new world order but it’s something.

16. The word “bacon” does not make us slobber uncontrollably. The new world order will reflect that Homer Simpson is a cautionary tale, not someone to emulate.

17. Who is better prepared for the revolution, the people who have meltdowns when there isn’t sufficient cheese, who care more about bacon than basic rights, and who feel completely violated when their every dietary preference isn’t met or the vegans? I think you already know the answer to that.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Hi, all -

It’s come to my attention that I really need some time to reflect, recharge and get focused with some new goals. It’s not been an easy time, to be honest. I’ve become painfully aware that when you speak up about the things that matter to you, you may experience a lot of push-back in the form of verbal attacks and character assassination. This is not from outside the vegan movement, it is from within. I’ve dedicated my life to helping to build a more compassionate, just and sustainable world. I am unwavering in that. What is sad to me, though, that we can’t disagree, even vehemently, without stooping to such personal meanness. It makes me wonder what hope we have in ushering in a new consciousness when our default norm for engaging in critical disagreement is no better than what we see acted out on the political stage. I would hope that vegans would be modeling a different approach to dissension but I see that for many, vituperation and demonization is the status quo. We need to do better than this, even when our egos have been rattled.

Anyway, I am taking the time for a little self-care and reassessment, inspired by a generous and helpful friend, and I hope I return a little more rested and a lot more recharged. In the meantime, if you are in the Chicago area, please check out Veggie Fest this weekend! I will be doing a cooking demo on July 24 at 3:00. Details on the link.

See you soon!

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Best Vegans Aren't Vegan and Other Absurdities...

From within the vegan movement, I have always observed a tendency toward painting one another as either hard-line ideologues or compromising doormats and the tinderbox that is online communication has only made things more fractious. This is also nothing new. What is new, though, is the attitude that I’ve seen pushed with more and more frequency and more and more certainty by mainstream vegan “thought leaders” that by making concessions on our vegan practices to accommodate those who are inconvenienced, confused or threatened by them, we are making strategic advances for the animals. In recent months, I’ve even seen some make the wholly Orwellian claim that by eating animal products on occasion, we are actually helping the animals overall by appearing to be less extreme, more approachable, just generally nicer. It seems that by eating animal products on advantageous occasions, we can help to assure their eventual liberation, or at least the liberation of their future generations. This line of reasoning only works, though, if you have bought into the false dichotomy that it is more beneficial to be helpful and pragmatic than to be judgmental and dogmatic.

In the world I live in, though, there are many ways to live as a vegan within the brackets of these polarities that do not rely on an obvious straw man caricature as the boogeyman. According to this convenient duality I’ve seen pushed with an increasing confidence, vegans can only choose between being supportive, smart pragmatists or angry, irrational ideologues. While I will wholeheartedly agree that all of us need to communicate better, I also believe that it is entirely possible to not behave like shrieking militants while still maintaining our commitment to veganism. If we bend over backwards to accommodate what we think people are threatened by, if suddenly eating something with “a little egg” or “a little butter” is the difference between someone thinking we’re reasonable and that same person thinking we’re puritanical, where do we draw the line? What if someone who I really want to appeal to thinks it’s dogmatic that I won’t eat bacon? What then? Do I eat the bacon? Why end there? A little beef? I am to understand from our new pragmatic leaders that we should eat cows over chickens. Why not just make it a regular part of my life to consume some beef and dairy to be more accommodating and model for the world that eating cows is preferable to eating chickens? Why not? Maybe I will become the ultimate vegan by not being vegan anymore. This may sound absurd and rightfully so but it is the obvious outcome of the Orwellian claptrap I’ve seen championed by thought leaders in the vegan movement for the past year or so: The best vegans are the ones who are not even vegan at all.

I came home tonight pretty upset and heartbroken after hearing yet another vegan speaker promoting this view of the helpful pragmatist and the out-of-touch idealist, an out-of-touch idealist who is so very extreme that he or she won’t even intentionally consume animal products. As my husband said when I came home and told him about it, here we are, closer than ever to gaining legitimacy and beginning to make real inroads for creating change and the real challenge to our progress is coming not from well-funded industries or powerful special interests but from within the vegan movement. By making the term “vegan” so nebulous and shape-shifting it for what we see as strategic gains, we are cutting the ethical basis out of our social justice movement. Those are our own hands doing the cutting. It’s not industry. It’s not special interests. We are on the precipice of powerfully positive change and here we are voluntarily holding the scissors. Snip, snip, snip. Cut that pesky meaning from the word. Let’s make everything all nice and neat and non-threatening.

All of this is to say that I will not knowingly consume animal products because if someone’s convictions about living with compassion and justice are so tenuous and flimsy that I need to eat yogurt-covered pretzels in order to convince them that I am a reasonable person, this is not someone I am going to focus on influencing. I will move on. I will continue to show that it is entirely possible to be a vegan who maintains her standards while remaining friendly, welcoming, engaging, accessible and helpful. Just as I wouldn’t expect domestic violence activists to engage in “a little battery” to convince the public that, hey, they’re not so high and mighty with their whole anti-violence thing, we should not be expected to compromise our values to be effective. We can be effective without it.

I have gotten dozens and dozens of messages from people over the years who have learned about veganism through positive but honest advocacy and they are deeply grateful for being able to access and unlock this incredibly rich, rewarding and empowering reservoir they never knew was inside of them. Their intelligence, strength and basic goodness was respected. These are people who had never envisioned themselves as vegan but saw the possibilities because their capacity to grow was trusted. Intentionally eating some animals to score perceived tactical points with “normal people” violates the very foundational premise of veganism, which is that we don’t knowingly use other animals for our purposes. This isn’t about purity; it isn’t about judgment. It’s simply about consistency and believing in the foundational principles of veganism. As my husband said when we talked about it, we have worked really hard for this word vegan to mean something and to bring awareness to not only what it means but also why we do it. People who largely eat a vegan diet but advocate eating some animals on some occasions under the pretext of effectiveness need to call themselves something else. This isn’t splitting hairs. They are simply promoting something other than veganism.

Oh, and, hey, look at what just showed up in my Google alerts this very morning. Sample quote: "I think 'seagan' fits a huge need for vegans who want variety and, for health reasons, they now realize they can eat this."

Yup. When animals are eaten by vegans, we are truly in an Orwellian reality of our own doing. My sincere apologies to the animals. The “vegans” have sold you down the river.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

10 Questions: Vegan Foodie with Jocelyn Graef of Fast Easy Vegan

One of the great things about being a vegan today is that there are so many delicious, animal-free replacements for the foods w
e once ate and loved. With vegan cheeses and eggs, ice creams and candy bars, creamy salad dressings and even bacon-flavored potato chips, it is easy today to be vegan without saying goodbye to any of our old favorites and maintain our commitment to an animal product-free diet. As someone who has been vegan for more than 20 years, I can tell you that opportunities to indulge just like our omnivorous counterparts are at a level I never could have predicted when I began on this path. It is a boon for the animals when people discover that they don’t have to eat or harm them to enjoy corn dogs and cheesecake but, yeah, not so great for our waistlines. Highly seasoned, rich, crunchy and creamy foods are not off limits to vegans anymore and it means that “slim” and “vegan” are no longer synonymous.

Enter Jocelyn Graef.

Jocelyn is the down-to-earth powerhouse behind the highly accessible Fast Easy Vegan meal plan and service. For just $1.99 a week, FEV sends subscribers different weekly dinner recipes that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less and emphasize the most nutrient-dense ingredients without sacrificing taste, convenience or enjoyment. Best, subscribers will learn lifelong skills and techniques for preparing healthy vegan foods with ease and an eye toward thriftiness. The recipes you will get as a FEV subscriber (find some sample recipes here) or in Jocelyn’s helpful cookbook, The LowFat Herbivore, are simple and uncomplicated, relying on the flavors of whole, nutritious ingredients to help transform your taste buds to crave more delicious plant-centered foods. With a re-booted website (Jocelyn is a Vegan Street Media client) and a passion for creating a kinder, healthier world, Fast Easy Vegan is poised to create positive change in countless lives. Please like her on Facebook and help to spread the word about Fast Easy Vegan. Healthy living doesn’t need to compromise flavor, convenience or our values. We are honored and excited to showcase Jocelyn Graef of Fast Easy Vegan as this week’s Vegan Foodie.

1. How did you start down this path of creating delicious food? Was a love for food nurtured into you? Did you have any special relatives or mentors who helped to instill this passion?

As a child, my Mom encouraged exploration and learning of all kinds and cooking was definitely a part of that. I was encouraged to be independent and self-reliant in all ways. My father was German and his mother lived with us in my younger years, so I was also exposed to different foods than my friends. I was raised with lots of wonderful dense, whole grain breads and vegetables and salad were a part of every dinner. They still are.

2. What was your diet like when you were growing up? Did you have any favorite meals or meal traditions? Do you carry them over today?

I was raised by a Mom who was nutritionally conscious. In all the wrong ways, as it turns out, as she was a victim of the trends of the day – lots and lots of protein. Lots. As a result, my brother and I were often sick. I didn’t put the food pieces together until I was a teenager and everything changed for me when I took control of my diet and became a vegan, then explored vegetarianism and cleansing diets and raw food and, and, and. The health connection was always the key for me. I didn’t grow up with junk food or processed foods (thanks, Mom) so I never developed a taste for them, and everything we made in the kitchen was made from scratch. Dropping the meat and dairy was an easy transition for me. Same real food, sans animal products.

3. What is the best vegan meal you've ever had? Give us all the details!

That is such a difficult question to answer! There are several, and all for different reasons. One was a meal at Dirt Candy in NYC. It was the first high-end vegan meal I’d had in a restaurant. The owner/chef was filling water glasses as well as cooking and serving in this tiny, tiny place down some stairs in a room with just a few tables and two people working. She had created a theme for the night around beans. Every course had a bean dish. Black beans, green beans, kidney beans. It was fun, interesting and inventive. Not all the dishes worked, which I also appreciated because it showed that she wasn’t afraid to get out there with her ideas. It was a memorable meal. Many years later, I’m still thinking about it.

Another memorable dining experience was at a place called Aska in Brooklyn. At the time it was a pop-up and my son (a true foodie and erstwhile chef) and his wife (also a foodie) and I had to check it out. Not a vegan place, they rose to the challenge of spontaneously making a vegan version of every course just for me. Talk about cooking chops! I was absolutely blown away at the level of taste they achieved from a spontaneous effort without having a knowledge of vegan cooking. Their effort and creativity was marvelous.

Finally we come to Millennium. Close to home here in the Bay Area of California where my husband and I live, we go to Millennium in Oakland for the most special occasions. A topflight true vegan restaurant, I have never had anything less than a stellar meal there. There are too many too recount. In fact, we are looking forward to dining there in a few days where a guest chef is presenting a 5 course Latin American meal. Now how could we miss that?! Sometimes the food itself is the very special occasion.

4. If you could prepare one meal or dessert for anyone living or dead, who would it be for and what would you create?

I think the one person I would like to cook a meal for would be my grandfather. Raised on a farm, he became a “people’s” artist who loved sketching and painting people as they went about their daily lives. He frequently contributed to a political German magazine – and was executed for it by the Nazi’s. I never had the pleasure of knowing him. I would like to honor him for elevating the value of working people everywhere through his art, as well as to share with him the bounty and the beauty of “peasant food”: The foods that are the most abundant, the cheapest and the healthiest. It would be a simple, hearty meal, reflecting the favorite tastes of Germany: A mushroom mixture of wild mushrooms, thickly sliced and sautéed, simmered in a brown gravy and spooned over a dish of spaetzle. Accompanying this would be a robust portion of bright green asparagus with a citrusy piccata sauce drizzled over. An accompanying salad would be served on the side, filled with fresh vegetables and a variety of baby lettuces and dressed in a light vinaigrette. A crisp and light white wine, German of course, would accompany the meal. The blissful ending would have to be some sort of torte; the flavors of raspberry and chocolate with a thin layer of marzipan, and a sweet dessert port to finish. Add some good conversation and it would be a night to remember! I only hope he’d want seconds.

5. What do you think are common mistakes in vegan cooking and how do you avoid them?

This is an easy one: fake meats!! I have never understood why people who stop eating animals spend so much time trying to replicate the taste and texture of flesh. It isn’t pretty, dead animals aren’t cute and plants don’t taste like animals. Stop with the trying! It will never happen and that’s a good thing. Cheese is a close second, being, in the hilarious words of Dr. Neal Barnard, “70% grease, which is one step away from Vaseline.” He was actually talking about dairy cheese, but vegan cheese qualifies, too. Eat whole foods. If you’re trying to win over the carnivores, don’t try to compete. It doesn’t work. Prove to them how delicious the differences are instead.

6. What ingredients are you especially excited about at the moment?

Right now, in July, I am a fiend for fresh fruit. I don’t do anything but wash it, peel it and cut it up into fruit salad. There is nothing better. A few different ripe melons, chunks of nectarine and ripe peach with a sprinkling of blueberries. And a fork. Sometimes, unadulterated Nature cannot be improved upon.

7. What are your top three cuisines from around the world?

Mexican, Middle Eastern and Italian. In that order.

8. Who or what has been most influential to you on your vegan path? Individuals, groups, books, films, etc. included.

Since I connected with food as medicine as a teenager, I have always believed intuitively and logically that veganism is the best diet for humans. That said, I never made a long-term commitment to it until the end of 2003. Shortly thereafter, The China Study came out and the science proved it all. Between that book and Dr. John McDougall’s website I have found all the answers, and more, to all my questions. I have researched everybody else in the vegan world, to the point of overwhelm, but I keep coming back to Dr. McDougall and The China Study as my foundation. The McDougall website is the deepest and most information-generous on the web. He and his wife, Mary, run many group events and live-in trainings as well as offering free webinars for those who can’t afford to attend in person.

9. What issue is nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like people to know more about?

Food is medicine. I am at the age where I hear all my friends talk about their health woes. Many of them are felled by heart attacks or strokes, beset by diabetes or cancers of all flavors. Some of them have embraced a plant exclusive diet and recovered, thrillingly. I started the Fast Easy Vegan menu planning service to make it easy for people to get healthy and eat plant exclusive, without the problems caused by processed foods and oil. I get that it’s overwhelming at first. Make it easy on yourself and find a program where you can simply follow the plans. If you don’t like mine, find another one. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll love it and see how simple it really is. I want everyone to be healthy!

10. Last, please finish this sentence. "To me, veganism is…"

To me, veganism is a circle of harmony. Everybody/everything benefits and nobody/nothing gets hurt. The perfect system! The beauty of a plant exclusive diet is not only health-giving, but utterly delicious. Vegetables and grains in and of themselves have a variety of taste and texture that is nearly endless, as well as being beautiful to behold. When I stopped eating animals and their products I was amazed to experience a layer of grief lift off of me that I hadn’t known was there. As I thought about it, it made perfect sense that I would experience that as I was no longer ingesting the terror and pain of sentient beings. I was also doing my heart and overall health a huge favor. Too, the environmental damage caused by a brutal and widespread animal industry was something I was no longer participating in. Everybody wins! To me, that is the proof that people are intended to eat plants as their native diet. It is a joyful experience, nobody is hurt in the process and our health improves as an end result. There are many doors to veganism: environmental, health, love of animals. Enter one and you will also connect to the others. It all works.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Dear Oppressed, Hectored Meat Eaters


Dear Oppressed, Hectored Meat Eaters,

I know. It’s been very hard to be you, OHME. I’ve been hearing your complaints and I want to acknowledge them.

I understand that you feel like an oppressed minority with this new breed of uppity vegans cropping up all over the place. God, it must feel like there are more of us every day. We used to be so docile, too. We used to be quiet about being vegan. Not anymore, though. It’s like you took two minutes to heat up a steak burrito in the microwave and in that time, hostile vegans did a land grab. Now we’re in your office, in your classroom, maybe even in your own home. We may even be your boss. It used to be different and not even that long ago. It used to be that vegans knew our place and we just kind of left all you normal people alone to live your life in peace and everything was easy. Yeah, there were always random vegans running around but they were easy to identify with all the bumper stickers on their cars and the dust cloud of nutritional yeast that followed them everywhere. Today’s vegan has gotten good at surreptitiously infiltrating society without setting off too many alarms. I don’t blame you for feeling insecure, OHME. It used to seem like you knew when someone was a vegan but not anymore. This stresses you out and almost makes you want to cover up your bacon tattoos.

Nowadays, the vegans have gotten all high and mighty, too, making you remember that meat comes from animals and all that other stuff that is annoying about vegans. It’s not only that but the world is also changing; sometimes feels like vegans are on the way up and that can only mean that you are on the way down, which sucks for you, OHME. It’s like you are an oppressed class despite the fact that you are, like, 97% of the population and there is literally no one stopping you from eating what you want. Somehow the fact that your oppression is not real makes your perceived subjugation even more painful. No, that doesn’t make any sense but, whatever, I have to work with what I’ve got.

I get it, OHME: you feel you’ve been cruelly punished by those espousing a vegan lifestyle, just as men are tyrannized by women having equal rights and white people by Black Lives Matter. Who is speaking up for those in power these days, anyway? It’s almost as if only the victims of oppression get a voice and you don’t. It is understandable you’d be feeling the urge to rage against the vegan machine, OHME. If we say that, optimistically thinking, vegans are two percent of the worldwide population, this means that vegans are oppressing approximately 2,252,000,000 of you. That’s mean! Let me just give three examples that illustrate how you and those like you feel that you are uniquely persecuted by Big Vegan.

1. Vegan events = discrimination. You can’t just go to a vegan event and expect to eat meat. That’s right: you won’t even find it there. You know what you can expect to eat at a vegan festival? Vegan food. How oppressive is that?! Meanwhile, vegans can go to a normal person’s festival and, you know, eat corn or French fries or whatever. How is that even fair? It’s almost like reverse-anti-veganism or something. This means that your freedom of choice to assemble with meat is discriminated against by a radical, elite minority. Some – perhaps you? – might even call vegans terrorists, terrorizing you by temporarily standing between you and your unfettered access to meat-stuffs. Time for a citizen’s arrest?

2. Vegan friends = discrimination. You are upset that if you have a vegan friend over for dinner, you are expected to cook her vegan food but if you go to her house, she will not reciprocate by feeding you dead animals. Talk about inconsiderate. She refuses to go against her values to accommodate you and this feels unjust, unfair and one-sided even though you preparing vegan food for her involved no such compromise. It’s almost as if you had a domestic violence activist over and you would be expected to not abuse your partner because she was there but she wouldn’t extend the same courtesy to you and allow you to do what you want when you are a guest in her home. How is that equitable? How is that good etiquette? How is that courteous?

3. Vegan weddings = discrimination. Okay, not only are you unlucky enough to know a couple well enough to be invited to their vegan wedding but then you can’t even exercise your freedom of choice to eat meat at it? This is too much: you are, like, literally being held hostage to their radical vegan agenda for a single, entire meal. Yeah, it’s just one meal in a lifetime but, still, it’s like the whole wedding was ruined for you. Talk about selfish, too, making their wedding all about what’s important to them. It’s almost as if the whole wedding wasn’t planned around you at all.

OHME, I understand that you feel the need to re-assert your birthright as a flesh-eater. Maybe it’s time to take a stand against the injustices all these vegans are planning to inflict on you. People are already having parties that are not designed with you in mind. What’s next? Apartheid? An underground railroad shuttling you and your fellow persecuted OHMEs to safe meat zones? Criminalizing cheese?

Or, I don’t know, maybe you could just accept that the world is shifting and understand that maybe everything isn’t about you and that vegans don’t need your permission for creating a better world? That’s what I’m leaning toward, OHME.   

All the best,