Conference musings from last weekend:
Sitting and watching, listening and talking, can inspire one’s mind to wander. I watched the earnest young ones who were so hip, it was painful, to the older attendees who were there for inspiration/food and learning and were not so hip 😉 (That’d be me). And everything else in between.
Awhile back, after the last Virtual Vegan Potluck, I had a comment left from a reader that they thought I was a vegan and why did my recipe feature a non-vegan ingredient? Simple. I do not consider myself a vegan. Lest one scroll down quickly and leave me a vehement self-righteous rant, hear me out first.
When I was in my early 20’s, I was a dedicated vegan. I lived it down to my hemp hiking boots with soles made from recycled pop bottles and the sanctimonious attitude to match, I was young and I am sure…exceedingly annoying to listen to, while I harped on and on about how my “lifestyle” was better than theirs. It didn’t mean I was living healthy though. I loved drinking, smoking and eating crappy junk food that just happened to be vegan. But I was sure to tell you how evil your cheeseburger was while I ate a massive box of artificially colored candy…
Everything we do will touch something else.
Am I wrong for buying and releasing 1,500 ladybugs in my gardens to serial kill aphids? If one thinks about it, it seems so….ghastly. And very-non vegan. The poor aphids never knew what was coming as I shook the wily red ladies over them. Should I have used deadly chemicals instead to kill them, that instead wreak havoc on other humans, birds and bees? I’ll take the serial killer route. The aphids will destroy my crops if I don’t. And my crops feed us, which I rank a bit more important than them.
When I fertilize my gardens, I long ago chose to go organic for I love bees and birds and even the squirrels that run the fences. I plant food for them, as much as I do for us. Yet, the dirty secret: Should I use organic fertilizer, it nearly always has animal matter in it. Blood meal, bone meal and fish bones all add to it, as do aged manure. Should I not use it? Support Miracle Gro and their chemical slurry instead? I’ll take as natural as I can get, even if it uses animal, instead of petro based chemicals and worse.
The vegetables and fruits one buys in stores have huge carbon foot prints, slavery, child labor and animal fertilizers used. Buy locally, eat in season and grown your own if you can. Destroy the aphids if you will….
As I got into my 30’s I gave up drinking and artificial coloring, as they were severe migraines triggers. I was happy to be able to eat at Starbuck’s, as they used natural dyes. Oops, was that red dye from an insect shell? Yes. Yet ,I’d rather consume that and not petro chemicals/tar coal, which ironically enough … has dead dino’s in it.
I use honey. With no shame. Bees are desperate for our help. We are killing them off in vast numbers due to modern life. Supporting local bee keepers by using their luscious LOCAL honey is encouraging them to keep hives. Local bee keepers on average love their bees and take very good care of them. Without bees being healthy, we face a very challenging process of pollinating our food. Support local! And put out bee baths and flowers for them:
Consider this, to pollinate the mega-crops of big ag around the US, bees are trucked all over. Almonds, the fave food of many vegans, are heavily treated with pesticides. When the bees are brought in, once they leave, they must be detoxed for months and losing 40-50% of your bees a year is considered normal! The pesticides mean local bees are not faring well. Yet, there is an animal cost to our love of almond milk! We just don’t see it openly, where it is easy to cry foul over drinking cow’s milk.
Eggs. Yes, I do use them on occasion. Without shame. There is something to be said about cracking a fresh egg from a local farm in summer. The lady birds live good lives, outside all day, eating bugs. Truly, farming can be sustainable and done with love. And I can support local ladies in their endeavors. I see the eggs almost more special than candy or chocolate. Especially turkey eggs. Those are amazing and the farmer has to hunt for their nests, as they roam freely on her farm.
Eat less, eat mindfully and reward those who choose to live better. This has slowly become my way. Yes, Fair Trade and organic chocolate and sugar costs a lot more. So I use less. But I know I am not supporting child labor and slavery with my dollars. Even in my youth, growing up poor, I still had it better than most people in 3rd world countries. I got to be a kid, I went to school. And I was relatively happy.
And that is why I won’t label myself a “vegan”, for it is more a lifestyle choice and a way of life, and not a diet. I cannot justify the cost of my lifestyle to our environment and world. I’ll live happily plant-based and do the best I can do every day. Which is try to minimize our weight on the Earth, to live locally and be even more productive with growing/preserving our food. And for that, I say thank you to the classes/discussions at VVC for opening my eyes to what was inside me all along. Eating less meat/seafood/animal products is good for the Earth. Using natural over artificial is often the better choice (OK, maybe not with whale oil vs. petroleum…but hey…). I just carefully weigh my choices and do my best to slog through, painfully unhip.
Which leads to dinner last night:
Summer living on an evening that is cold, rainy and pretty much dreary 😉 It just needed a cheerful salad, with a comfort food worthy main. The Quiché is very satisfying, not an appetizer sized main. And unlike the traditional egg-cheese-cream recipes, this one won’t leave you looking for a nap after.
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion, peeled and chopped
- 8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
- 2 cups spinach leaves, packed, chopped
- 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 14 ounce package extra firm tofu, well-drained/pressed
- 1/3 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (used almond)
- 2 Tbsp tahini or favorite seed/nut butter (used sunflower)
- 2 tsp mild curry powder
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp granulated garlic
- 2 Tbsp Soy sauce or Tamari, or to taste
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper, or to taste
- 9″ frozen pie crust, thawed or favorite hand-made crust
Preheat oven to 375°.
Heat a large skillet over medium, add in oil, onions and mushrooms along with a pinch of fine sea salt. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until mushrooms have release most of their liquid. Add spinach and garlic, cook for 5 minutes more, uncovered.
Meanwhile, add tofu, milk and sunflower butter to a food processor, purée until smooth. Add curry powder onion powder, granulated garlic and soy sauce and black pepper to taste. Stir tofu mixture into cooked vegetables, pour into thawed pie shell, place on a baking sheet.
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until crust is and top of Quiché are golden brown. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes and slice as desired.
Serves 4+, depending on appetite.
I adapted this dressing from a recipe I saw in the June 2013 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine. I played with the recipe, using a mildly spicy/sweet red pepper rice vinegar over plain vinegar. That and I still had a lot on hand from a recent recipe project I worked on (cannot wait to talk about that with everyone!).
Shallot Vinaigrette Dressed Greens
- 1 large shallot clove, peeled and finely chopped (about ½ cup)
- Zest of large lemon, microplaned
- 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp red pepper seasoned rice vinegar
- 40 or so grinds of black pepper
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Fine sea salt, to taste
Combine shallot through pepper in a small bowl, let marinate on counter for 20 minutes.
Transfer to a glass jar, pour olive oil over gently, seal and refrigerate till needed, for up to a week. Bring to room temperature and shake gently before using.
I used a mix of baby spinach leaves and red lettuce, topped with candied pecans and dried cherries, drizzled with the shallot dressing.