Sunday, April 29, 2007

Two words that inspire rage (with footnote added)

In today's Toronto Star, section D12, the column's feature writer, Bill Taylor, wrote about the ongoing situation of a seal-hunting boat trapped in ice off the cost of Newfoundland. Well not so much about them, but about the responses people have been sending to the paper with regards to seal-hunting and the hunters themselves. To give you a taste of the mind-set, here is a sampling of what some readers are hoping will ensue for the hunters: "...we hope for a huge, sudden squall to take these barbaric savages to a watery grave..."; "There is a place in Hell for...these revel in torturing infant seals is beyond wicked." "A heartless psychopath who enjoys inflicting maximum pain and suffering on...helpless creatures."; "...serial killers start out their killing sprees by torturing animals...". I'm sure you get the gist.

I was reading this column, and thinking 'ok, these are probably animal rights activists' and I can understand some of this sentiment. I am against factory farming for it's abhorrent cruelty and lack of even the least shred of compassion for animals. People who know me (or don't know me at all) might lump me in with this group. But I would have a couple of objections with that blanket judgment.

The first thing that came to mind, when reading the article and the "violent, vituperative" responses (in Bill Taylor's words), was 'what about the consumer that drives this business; aren't they responsible, and, in no small way?' As it is for meat, eggs and milk, all huge corporate industries are driven by the endless consumer lust for the product at the cheapest price possible. We want it now, we want it for the least amount of money - and the corporations deliver. I can hardly condemn the people who work in these industries - they are cogs in the wheel. As a matter of fact, I have read reports of unthinkable cruelties inflicted on animals (chickens, cows, etc.) by workers on the kill floor. Yes, it sickened me to read and think that people could do these things, but then I wondered: if I had to work in these conditions, would I not want to be completely numbed out of my mind? How could any person do these jobs, without turning off a part of their brain? Turning off a part of the brain, where we feel compassion and pity for suffering, frightened creatures who are just as afraid to die as we all are.

I don't know what goes through a seal hunter's mind when he is clubbing a pup. But wishing that hunter dead or to suffer in an equal manner, no...I don't feel that way. Instead, I feel grateful, that I have never had to walk in their do a job like this in order to pay my bills, make my mortgage payments, feed my kids.

I feel fortunate that I am not de-sensitized to the painful images I see in the world (maybe that means I can be moved to do something about it).

I feel fortunate that I saw images that bolted me out of my seat. As a result, the further away I am from the meat-eating culture, the stranger it seems to me. Very strange (and yet I have to admit the cravings do still come and go, but this is recognized as just conditioning and past experience and I let it go).

That this industry continues today in my country does not make me proud. However, as long as there is a need for the end-product, the means to the end will continue. I don't know what the answer is either. But people need to work to provide for themselves and their families. In an area that is already economically depressed, maybe there is blessed little choice.

Footnote: check out this site
This gentleman experienced first hand seal hunting. He certainly does not come across as a "barbaric hunter" but maybe just a man who found himself in this position once and made a decision not to repeat it. His grand-daughter is my teacher.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Matt's Birthday Cake

You can't go wrong with a Moosewood recipe. Thanks to Vegetarian Times online recipes for this Deep Chocolate Vegan Cake ("a perennial favorite at Moosewood").

Chocolate cake:

  • 1.1/2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup cold water or chilled brewed coffee
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbs cider vinegar
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Frosting
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 3-4 tbs water
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
Directions: 1. Preheat over to 375F. Generously oil 8-in square or round baking pan. Dust with sifted cocoa, or line bottom of baking pan with parchment paper.
2. To make cake: sift flour, cocoa, soda, salt and sugar. In another bowl, combine oil, water or brewed coffee and vanilla. Pour liquid into dry and mix until smooth.
3. Add vinegar and stir briefly; baking soda will react with vinegar, leaving pale swirls in batter. Without wasting time, pour batter into prepared pan.
4. Bake for 25-30 mins. Serve cake from pan or when cool, transfer to plate.
5. To make frosting: in heavy pan melt chocolate over med. heat. Beat together peanut butter, water and vanilla until smooth. Beat in confectioner's sugar and add melted chocolate, mixing until blended. Spread frosting on cooled cake.

Serves 8 and only 440 calories per serving (but it's vegan!!!!!). ENJOY - IT IS DELICIOUS.

Apparently, my frequent, but necessary, lectures on nutrition are falling on deaf ears!

As I watched my eldest son spread margarine (vegan margarine, thank goodness!) on his toasted onion/cheese bagel, I asked if he got any other selections when he put a dozen bagels into the bag last night at the grocers. "Just cheese and onion and cheese". To which I replied (and here is the impromptu but profound mini lecture) "Food is a way to nourish the body, not just satisfy the taste buds." His comeback? "But they're gooooood!!"
(Where have I gone wrong, I ask myself.)


Monday, April 23, 2007

Visiting Kensington Market

Although I have lived all my life approximately one hour west of Toronto, it is only in the last several months, have I taken the opportunity to become acquainted with the charming district known as Kensington Market.
If you have a chance, I would recommend spending a leisurely afternoon there, as I did recently with a friend. Arriving just around the noon hour, we visited San Korean restaurant on Queen Street for lunch, enjoying their Spicy Tofu, with small side dishes of kimchee, rice, and soya beans in sauce.
From there, we then made our way to Kensington Market, parked the car and just started walking. The area is several city blocks, enclosed on all four sides by four major streets: Bathurst, College, Spadina and Dundas.
Within this cube are small business' catering to every possible need: fresh fruit vendors, grocers, boutiques, restaurants, bars, cheese shops, coffee shops, and on and on!
If this isn't enough, just around the corner is Chinatown, running along Spadina. Lots of interesting nooks and crannies - shopping, eating and site seeing. If people watching (and listening for there are so many different languages to be heard) interests you, this has got to be one of the best areas there is.
There are so many sights, sounds and smells - it is amazing to me to be in the middle of this huge metropolis and be stopped dead in your tracks by the fragrance of beautiful little potted hyacinths for sale in a corner store's 'garden area'.
For the occasional glimpse of the CN Tower in between small three storey buildings, you tend to forget you are in this huge modern city with monolithic skyscrapers very close by. But out of sight, out of mind. My friend, who worked in Toronto and knew the area well, led the way effortlessly - I wasn't even aware of the time until, heading back to the car just before 7PM, I realized we had walked for the whole afternoon.
This area has many restaurants, but specifically, I would like to mention that the Toronto Vegetarian Association has their office on Baldwin near McCall (within walking distance of Kensington). I have put a link to their site where you will find a very handy 'vegetarian directory' of Toronto and other areas. Not only does this directory contain places to eat, but other related business' such as Left Feet. We stopped in to see their stock of 'vegan' shoes and apparel. Another stop was at the Hibiscus Eatery. Here we enjoyed some refreshments. The owner, Joseph Tam, is the head cook and bottle washer along with his assistant. I bought a sampling of his vegan baked goods and fresh salads. And were they ever delicious!! Of course, because cooking without eggs, milk and butter is still relatively new to me, I am duly impressed when I taste cookies that are wickedly decadent.
My friend, Sister T.Q. also recommended a restaurant called Bo De Duyen on Spadina (Chinatown). This place gets her thumbs up for good food and generous portions (and it is vegetarian as well).
I hope you are inspired to visit Kensington and Chinatown sometime soon.

** Other recommendations **
  • Affinity Vegetarian Restaurant, 87 John St. S. (905-529-2598) (fine dining)
  • Himalaya, 160 Centennial Pkwy. N., (905-578-7400) (casual, offers take out)
  • Stir It Up, 128 Dalhousie St., (519-752-3873) (casual, offers take out)
I have dined at all three places and can vouch for their tasty food and charming ambiance!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Six Arguments for a Greener Diet / June Callwood

Author: Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., and the Staff of the Center for Science in the Public Interest
Visit on the web at

This is not a "vegetarian" book, but rather a discussion of our environment, health, economy, government policies and how they are effected by our huge consumption of livestock and it's production via the agri-business culture.

I'm not sure if I am inspired or encouraged by the book; so far I am only a 3rd of the way through. But it is interesting, especially because Jacobson
does not claim to be a vegetarian. The evidence is presented in a pretty convincing way that evolving to a "greener" diet would be much better not only for our individual health and our society's health but for our planets survival as well.

Here is a sampling of comments that I have highlighted:

"Milk and cheese account for 21 percent of the saturated fat and 11 percent of the cholesterol in the American Diet. Cheese is now the single greatest source of saturated fat." pg. 44

" Grazing is better in many ways than feeding grain to cattle, but it still exacts environmental costs. Cattle that eat grass and roughage release more methane (a gas that causes global warming and is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide) than cattle on a high-energy feedlot diet, because grass-fed cattle take about 10 to 20 percent longer to reach market weight. Those longer lives also mean more manure-about 3,500 to 5,000 pounds per animal (60 pounds per day). That manure, though, is dispersed widely on pastureland, enriching the soil and nourishing the growth of plant life." pg. 12

"Feeding grain to cattle makes a bad situation worse. It takes about 7 pounds of corn to put on 1 pound of weight. That's why over 200 million acres of land are devoted to producing grains, oilseeds, pasture and hay for livestock." pg. 11

What the book does not discuss is the whys and wherefores. The questions are raised ("Why are so many animals allowed to be raised in miserable conditions?) ("Why do farmers who grow crops to feed livestock receive billions of dollars in annual subsidies, hundreds of times as much as fruit and vegetable growers receive?). It is up to us though to find the answers or justification. Jacobson offers up some assistant in the final section of the book: Making Change. He discusses changing your own diet which is a start, but then flows into "Changing Government Policies". The circle is complete at this point - suggestions are made that would not only help the general health of the population, but clean up the environment, reduce suffering of the animals we raise for our consumption, help the economy and raise the nutrition of our food.

"Getting the 'why' questions answered in a way that protects humans, animals, and the environment will require the involvement of thousands of concerned citizens, non-profit organizations, concerned farmers and the local, state and national levels." "Meanwhile, each of us can quietly do our part-in our kitchens, grocery stores, farmers' markets and backyard gardens." pg. XIV

Canada recently lost one of our most inspiring, courageous and accomplished activists - June Callwood. She was many things: kind, wise, compassionate, passionate, and she got things done (I'm sure despite the inevitable fears or the hurt incurred by her critics). I have no idea whether or not she was interested in vegetarianism. It doesn't matter. A statement attributed to her (and I am paraphrasing) was 'if you see an injustice, you are no longer a spectator, you are a participant'. She is a beacon to me of what can and should be done - of what it means to see an injustice, be moved by it, and to act.

I certainly see myself as a participant - there are injustices all around us. Those that cannot speak for themselves, the impoverished and suffering peoples of our world, the millions of animals that are denied basic care & suffer greatly in their short lives only to be slaughtered for our consumption , our battered planet. All are interrelated. I pray that I will be able to arise to my fullest potential to do what I can to make this place a better home for all of us. As June said to a CBC interviewer shortly before her death when questioned about her belief in a god, answered, "I believe in kindness". This I find encouraging.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I have been incorporating quinoa into the family diet as an alternative to rice. The dishes have been well received by all. Here is some nutritional information on this "grain".

Quinoa can be cooked much like rice and substituted in many dishes that call for rice. It has a high protein content (12-18%) which makes it a wise staple for vegan diets. It is a complete food meaning it contains a balanced set of amino acids suitable for human consumption. Easy to digest and gluten free, a good source of dietary fibre, phosphorous, high in magnesium and iron are other benefits.

Quinoa is readily available in grocery and health food stores; I prefer to purchase it in bulk over the small convenience packaged boxes. But if you are a first time user, you might want to try a small box first. There are different colours of quinoa; the beige quinoa (pictured above) is the one that I use. I tried the red quinoa but found the flavour slightly stronger - personal preference only.

Look for recipes to follow - give it a try!

Picture Source:

Quinoa and Beans


1 tsp olive oil, 1 red onion diced, 3 cloves garlic minced, 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, 1 1/2 cup broth (I used veg'n chicken cube), 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 t cayenne, 1 cup corn kernels, 2 (15 oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained, 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley.

Heat oil in pan, medium heat. Saute onions and garlic. Mix in quinoa and broth, then season with cumin and cayenne, salt and pepper to taste. Bring mixture to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir in corn, then add beans and cilantro or parsley. Serve.

Quick to prepare and delicious!
Source: Rocio A.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Tofu and Kale Quiche

Source: CalciYum by David & Rachelle Bronfman

This is my favourite quiche recipe right now. The texture and taste are close to the real thing as my taste buds remember!

Preheat over to 350 F (180 C). Serves 4 to 6.

  • 1/2 tsp canola oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 8 oz each firm tofu and soft tofu crumbled
  • 1 cup packed finely chopped kale or turnip greens
  • 1 cup grated soy cheese (I also used soy feta with good results)
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell peppers
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 9 inch pastry pie shell*
  1. In a small nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add green onions and saute for 3 minutes. Add remaining ingredients to skillet and mix together until cheese begins to soften and kale wilts slightly.
  2. Transfer mixture to prepared pie shell. Bake quiche in preheated over for 40 minutes.
* A no-fail pastry recipe: 1 1/4 cups flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 cup vegetable shortening or margarine, 3 tbsp cold water. In large bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Cut the shortening or margarine into the flour mixture and when well mixed add the water. Mix together until a ball of dough forms. Knead for a minute or two. Wrap dough in wax paper and chill for 30 minutes. Roll out into a pie crust. Makes one crust. When in a hurry, I have skipped the chilling and rolled the pastry, but you must use a very LIGHT hand when rolling the unchilled pastry. Remember the old phrase from Home Ec classes "don't work the pastry to much"? Rolling with a heavy hand might be quick and produce a pie crust that covers the entire counter, but the end result will be a heavy, don't eat the crust pastry. So far with this recipe, my crusts have turned out light and flaky.
PS>I prefer margarine rather than shortening, which might make a difference.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

We all contradict ourselves at one time or another.

Have you ever had the experience, where someones words, it could be in the most common-place conversations, stick in your mind? Recently, on a couple of occasions a dear person's words really made me think. To paraphrase, the comment that struck was 'we all contradict ourselves'. After rolling this statement around in my own head for a while, I had to flat out agree with the truth of this - and that in fact, I do contradict myself at times. It could be a public statement or stance I have taken or just a pledge to myself. With regards to veganism, I have at times stated that I try to follow a vegan diet but then I have also labeled myself "a vegan". Two totally different statements with different implications. The reality is I cannot call myself a vegan for several reasons: the lifestyle (adhering to animal free consumerism, be it clothing, product), the times when I do eat a dish in which cheese or eggs are present. However, I can comfortably say that I aspire to eating a vegan diet, especially when in my own kitchen making dishes that are dairy and egg free.
Tonight, I prepared a vegan quiche, a lovely spinach salad, boiled potatoes and two breaded pork chops. As of late, I have asked my husband or son to prepare the meat, but tonight, my husband was busy and I took it upon myself. As I unwrapped the butcher paper and looked at these thick cuts that my husband enjoys, I thought of the suffering of the pig. I thought of the end of it's suffering. I touched the pork chop and thought of this piece of muscle as part of the pig. Compassion and suffering and accepting it all here in my kitchen.
I think in the future, I will try to be quieter rather than jumping at opportunities to talk about veganism. Maybe, with this quiet fortitude and an openness (not attaching to any desired outcome), I can show by example the ability to live a less cruelty-inflicting life.