Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

This is a special time of year -- a time of year where we get together with those closest to us and celebrate the systematic extermination of an indigenous people.

Yeah, those of you that know me know that I am the kind of guy that enjoys watching the world burn while giggling like a twelve year old Japanese school girl. Yet all the same, this holiday (as originally intended by Abraham Lincoln, who created the holiday in the midst of the Civil War) is for giving thanks.

I'm thankful to St. Louis vegetarians, who inspire me in so many different ways. You are intelligent, thoughtful and compassionate people that make this city a better place, and make St. Louis not a complete joke in the vegetarian world. This blog does not begin to represent you with the awesomeness that you deserve. The past year and a half has been the hardest period of my life. Basically, in this time, my life has fallen completely apart. Most of you know of my struggles with depression. I won't lie: it's still there, and I don't know if it's getting better or not. It's hard for me as I am a person that is very skilled at stabbing myself in the heart, and also allowing other people into my life that do it for me. For all my cynicism, I am also, interestingly enough, rather naive. I trust people too much, I get the wrong messages from people, misunderstand intentions, and on occasion push away people that I shouldn't. (Okay, that got a little ranty -- sorry!)

My point? My life would be of much lesser quality if it weren't for St. Louis vegetarians. So, thank you. I don't know if I will be in St. Louis all that much longer. This saddens me, as I love this city, and the people in it. But regardless, my life has been enriched for having know you.

Monday, November 22, 2010


I should make sure there is at least one post on here every week. So I will just spout off about a few things.

First, there was a meatless Thanksgiving event. It was held at some church near WashU by the St. Louis Vegetarian Society. And DA-YUM there was some good food there! Given my last post regarding how vegans tend to say everything is amazing just because it's vegan (even when it sucks), hopefully it means something coming from me. Trust me, if the food sucked I would be sitting here bitching about it*. I was glad to enjoy some good food by some apparently good cooks. I brought my garlic-rosemary mashed potatoes**, homemade gravy, and some bbq seitan (no one ate the bbq seitan, probably because no one knew what the hell it was, and it looked a lot like meat. The other stuff was virtually gone).

I will say this -- if there are going to be that many vegans at an even I think it's a little tacky to bring a dish that is not vegan. Pretty much every person I knew there was vegan. I mean really, how hard is it to not make that casserole with eggs in it? Make something else ffs***!

Okay, I will finish up with some holiday talk. 'Tis the season for these awesome bad boys again.

Hells yeah! I love these things. I can sit down and eat like ten of them in a sitting. It's like junk food that isn't that bad for you. If you've never had one, well what the hell is wrong with you. Go get some now. Yes, I mean right now. I'll wait.

See? I told you they were good. Now what to do with those peels? Well I like to throw them on a pot on the stove and boil them in water with a little cinnamon. It makes the house smell good.

Yes, I just gave you a homemaking tip. With garbage (or compost). I guess that kind of makes me like a white trash Martha Stewart. Only vegan. And with a penis****.

*I'm an asshole like that.
**I would give the recipe, but that means I would actually have to measure stuff out, and I'm too lazy to put in that kind of effort for the six people that actually read this blog. No, you are not worth it. Deal bitches.
***Means "for fuck's sake." Or you could have just Googled that, with your lazy ass.
****Albeit a very small one.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I'm sorry, but sometimes things aren't simply amazing

Maybe I'm in a grumpy mood. I hope this doesn't come off as passive aggressive -- while I am the self professed master of passive aggressiveness, that usually manifests itself most in closer relationships (family, friends and significant others are the ones that get to enjoy the product of my unresolved self-esteem issues, not the unwashed masses -- go find your own covertly insidious asshole!). So I don't want anyone that reads this to think I am singling him or her out personally -- I assure you I am not! But there's a pet peeve I have about vegans: we tend to think that every food in the vegan universe is amazing. Sorry, it's not.

I don't know why we grasseaters have a tendency to think that every food that exists in the vegan world deserves a reaction of "OMGZ this is SO unbelievably good; it's the best thing I have ever put in my mouth!!!!!!!" But we do. Is it out of politeness? Possibly. I mean, most of my fellow herbivores are very nice, passive and accommodating people that want everyone to just get along, and for everyone to be happy. Most other veggies don't have the inclination or the disposition to play the grumpy asshole role in the vegetarian social ecosystem. I guess that's my job, to be the vegan player hater. Oh well, I guess I'm okay with that. Someone's gotta do it!

There are also probably some basic psychological processes at work here. When we tend to categorize things we encounter in the social world, there's a natural tendency to associate like with like. We like it when a restaurant or a bakery creates something vegan. That's a good thing. We are already biased to think it's good. And when we taste it, and it doesn't completely suck, we automatically give it credit for being much better than it really is. If it's vegan, it must be good, right?

So what though? I mean is it really a big deal when vegans think everything they try is amazing? Well, kind of, yes. For one thing, if everything is really, really amazing, then nothing is really, really amazing; the vegan chili whose recipe I spent twelve years perfecting and worked five hours to make is suddenly in the same category as the salsa someone made by by throwing onions, garlic, peppers, a can of Rotel in a food processor. Another example: the vegan cupcakes at Sweet Art are really, truly amazing. They are the best cupcakes I have ever had in my life; that is not hyperbole. I don't throw the word amazing around like it's meaningless; when I say something is amazing, I mean it. Those cupcakes deserve a higher evaluation than the mediocre sweets served at other vegan friendly establishments in the city. We should reserve the concept of greatness for things that are truly great, and not for the merely good, and certainly not the mediocre.

In my opinion, systematic, uncritical bias is never a good thing. And this tendency among vegans to evaluate any food that's at least average to the level of greatness is very much a bias. It's a bias towards positively in evaluating things that don't deserve it, and lifting the merely good or passable into a category of elite quality. Not every vegan buffet is amazing, and not every vegan scone is delicious. Sometimes the buffet is average at best, and doesn't have enough variety. Sometimes the scone is dry, bland and flavorless. Sometimes the food is too salty, too expensive, and portions are ridiculously small. And, even if the place is very vegan friendly, sometimes the service sucks.

Just trying is not enough to make something truly great. Now I'm all for trying. Trying is awesome! I think it's great when a new vegetarian restaurant opens up, or a local restaurant decides to do something to accommodate vegans. That does deserve recognition. But that doesn't mean that whatever they do is, by definition, of very high quality. Until someone actually does something great, he or she doesn't deserve credit for achieving greatness.

Friday, November 5, 2010

No Vegan Left Behind

Somehow, somewhere along the line, Vegan became a bad word. I don't know how it happened that refusing to be connected to the suffering of any living thing became tantamount to devil-worship, but let's see what we can do to fix our image. In tribute to the Republican Congressional takeover this week, I'm taking a look at some of the marketing strategies conservatives have used to successfully dupe the American people. Perhaps we can learn a thing or two?

Healthy Forest Initiative
The Bush Administration saw a bunch of trees and thought, how can we clear that landscape without people knowing that we're raping the environment?
They looked ahead and knew that a news-clip discussing any initiatives to clear-cut national forests would be bad publicity, so they decided to twist the truth and science of ecology around a few times, and call it something NOBODY could argue with. You have to admire the brilliance. How could an environmentalist argue with something called "The Healthy Forest Initiative"? Most Americans would think, "hmph, George Bush is doing something good for the environment!"

No Child Left (Behind)
This is a fine example of christening a destructive initiative with golden euphemisms. Who could argue with a purportedly pro-child initiative like that? Bush got to redirect millions of dollars from failing/noncompliant schools towards funding the Iraq War, all in the name of improved education! AND they got to send military recruiters to high schools that wanted to continue to receive funding. Ted Kennedy even helped pass this Act (he later regretted the diminished educational funding that resulted). Talk about a win-win.

Intelligent Design
Brilliant false advertising. What better way to introduce religion into elementary education science classes than to promote something which lacks any scientific evidence as "intelligent"? This really takes the cake for euphemistic abuse, and might explain why over half of Americans believe God created humans in their present form. God help us.

Anti-Animal Rights Groups Are Buried in Doublespeak
These days it seems like for every Animal Rights/Welfare group, there exists some similar-sounding group whose intentions are the exact opposite.
I decided to come up with my own names for some of the Anti-AR Groups:
Alliance for Truth- why didn't they just call themselves Puppy Mill Defenders?
Humane Watch- this one should be obvious- Inhumane Watchman
Center for Consumer Freedom- Consumers for Hardened Arteries
Californians for Safe Food - this was actually a group of farmers opposed to CA's 2008 Proposition 2 for improving conditions for farm animals. It should have been called Farmers Against Animal Welfare

What Can We Learn From Them?
Some of the above initiatives and groups have been exposed for their true intentions, but it can take awhile. They work in the short-term by using half-truths to convince people to vote against things they normally would have supported. Remember how easy it was for Bush to convince the masses that Iraq blew up the WTC? He just had to use Saddam Hussein's name enough times in conjunction with 9/11 and before you know it, we were invading Iraq.

The Alliance for Truth's mission was almost realized this week as Proposition B barely passed. Can we learn something from these groups' duplicity? I'm not suggesting we be dishonest, but I think we should take a look at why they are successful and see if we can't turn it around in our favor. Can we revive our own image and reframe our cause in a more convincing way? Or is the vegan agenda too complex to be universally accepted?

Thursday, November 4, 2010


I need to cleanse the pallet of the blog from politics. Yuck. Politics has a way of making people stupid, and despite the detached and analytical angle I usually use to observe partisan politics, I can't help but get really passionate, and subsequently rather angry, regarding issues of animal rights. I am cursed with a rather high degree of understanding of public opinion, and this leads me to understand what a huge uphill struggle the fight for animal rights will be. I'm no Marxist (not by a long shot!), but I can't help but agree with his observation about the idiocy of rural people. Anyway...

Seitan. Yeah. I've been making a lot of it lately. And I have been getting better and better at it. For the longest time I had a rough time making the stuff, but as they say, practice makes perfect. And while my seitan is not perfect, I will say that it's pretty good. And recently I have found a secret to make it even better.

Well in the entry I will share my own, special, super secret, super awesome seitan recipe. I usually don't follow recipes, but with seitan it's kind of important to get the proportions just right. Seitan is not something you can just whip up -- it's really hard to just eyeball the amounts of most of this stuff. This recipe is the culmination of years and years of fucking up.

Here's what you need and the amounts*:
Dry ingredients
2.25 cups of vital wheat gluten flour
7 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
4 tablespoons of garlic powder
Wet ingredients
1 cub of broth
0.5 cups soy sauce
5 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
*This makes a pretty large batch of seitan. If you want to make a smaller batch just use half of everything.

You want to thoroughly mix the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients together, separately. Then, in a large mixing bowl, add the wet to the dry. Some people suggest using a spoon for this, but I just use my hands. You are going to want to kneed this for several minutes until the dough is nice and elastic. Then I roll in into a log shaped form several inches thick and slice pieces about half to three-quarters inches each.

Then you put them into a stock pot with 10 cups of cool broth (or 8 cups of broth and 2 of soy sauce). It doesn't have to be cold -- room temperature is fine -- but it can't be warm. The turn the heat on high and bring it up to a boil. After it's boiling, put the
heat on medium low (high enough to where it still simmers) and cover for an hour.

The main ingredient that I'm sharing here with you is the toasted sesame oil. Like many culinary discoveries, it was made by accident. There's not really a cool story to
it; one time I was making seitan I was out of extra virgin olive oil (a sin, I know) and didn't feel like taking my lazy ass to the store. So I used a combination of canola oil and sesame oil. Turns out it was much better than usual. So I started using only sesame oil, and it's even better.

Seriously, this seitan is good enough it makes you wanna slap somebody. It's especially good to make barbecue sandwiches.

Update: I forgot something rather important. It's the final step to making the seitan. You drain it through a strainer (common sense there) and then you let it cool. When it's cooled off then you will need to squeeze the excess broth out. It will be very watery if you don't do this.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

On puppy mills

It's election night. And I'm angry. The anti-puppy mill Proposition B here in Missouri is going to pass, but it's going to be a lot closer than people thought. Polls from the Post-Dispatch found 70% support. Right now, as I type this, the margin is 51-49 in favor of passage. It will probably get larger as the night goes on, as St. Louis city, St. Louis county, St. Charles country, and Jackson county still have votes to be counted. These places will go heavily in favor of Prop B. How do I know this? Because these areas are civilization.

But who would possibly go against puppy mills? Is anyone for puppy mills? Yes. Some people make a lot of money in these canine factory farms, and they have money to spend in defending their economic interests. They did this using a very simple, and very effective tactic aimed at rural Missourians: they vilified animal rights supporters. Vilifying animal rights supporters is cheap, easy, and effective as far as an election goes. If AR people are for it, then it must be bad!

But to blame the puppy mill industry in this state misses the point. Missouri is the puppy mill capital of this country, and this is a well known fact throughout the state. That we have a puppy mill problem is not news, and it takes a hell of a lot more than a few misleading ads to make people forget that. The puppy mill industry is not to blame for this vote being close.

The people of Missouri are to blame. Specifically, the rural people of Missouri are to blame. Look at the county-by-county election map for Prop B. Notice a pattern? Look at civilization -- St. Louis and Kansas City areas. Then look at the rest of the state; "Mizzuruh" as the rednecks call it.

There is a hard truth that not many people want to face, but I will say it.


Rural Americans are the scum of the Earth. They are disgusting, immoral people, and honestly this country would be better off without them. If we removed all the cities from this country, this part of North America would be home to a Third World hellhole called Redneckistan.

Yeah, I am angry. I'm angry that what should have been a slam dunk was so close. I'm angry that people hate animals so much they would cast a vote for puppy mills. But this should serve as a reminder: a lot people hate animals. The road in the fight for animal rights is hard. It's going to take fundamental cultural change.

Nights like this do not make me optimistic for the future of animal rights.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The importance of voting

Yes, it's election day. And yes, I am a big proponent of voicing opinions and of keeping up with politics. But no, I am not here to tell you how important it is to participate in the country's elections today.

I'm here to tell you how important is it to realize that you don't just vote on ballots once every couple years. You vote with your wallets every single day. Many times per day, usually.

And with that, you have incredible power.

Our system is governed, more or less, on supply and demand. There are only iPods because people want them. There is only makeup because women (and some men, to be fair) want it. Sometimes demand is organic and real. Sometimes it is artificially produced by people who want to make money. But either way, demand begats (I'm inventing words, so try to keep up) supply.

This is the case with animal foods and other products. Joe Bob wants a cheeseburger. So business-savvy (read: greedy, evil) men hire illegal immigrants (and the occasional down-and-out American) to kill cows, and hire teenagers and elderly folks to make cheeseburgers for Joe Bob.

When one day Joe Bob sees a video, gets handed a pamphlet, or (ahem) reads a blog post, and decides to shorten his name to Joe and stop eating animals, the demand for cheeseburgers decreases. No, not very much. Not even noticeably. Yet.

When fifty, five hundred, five thousand Joe Bobs decide to stop eating animals, cheeseburger businessmen take notice. They have taken notice. That's why Kraft makes (and sells, sells, sells) vegan burgers. Same with ConAgra. And Kellogg (although their Morningstar Farms crap is mostly non-vegan). And others.

Companies produce and sell what consumers indicate - with their money - that they want.

When you buy a shirt from Target, you're voting. When you buy a dog from a large-scale breeder, you're voting. And yes, when you buy a cheeseburger from McDonald's, you are voting.

You are only one person, yes. But large groups.... revolutions.... are made up of a bunch of "one person"s.

You have incredible power.

Recognize it.

And use it wisely.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Reviewin' shit, vol. 1: Cafe Natasha's Tuesday night hummus bar

Cost: $8 (Lisa says it's $8 -- I thought it was $10)

Where: Cafe Natasha's at 3200 S. Grand Blvd in south city.

Review: This is one of the better regular vegan friendly eating extravaganzas in the city. (Okay, I was having trouble coming up with that right noun, and extravaganza might be a little, well, extravagant, but I'm too lazy to use a thesaurus right now. So deal.)

There is a bit of irony here though. The hummus on this hummus bar kind of sucks. It's bland; nothing but empty calories. But everything else on this buffet does not suck. Not only that, but each time I have gone there everything on it was vegan!

Natasha's has the best falafel in the city. Al-Tarboush on the Delmar Loop is good, but Natasha's is slightly better (not to mention a much cleaner establishment; not even the cute Lebanese chicks in Al-Tarboush make up for the roaches you share your table with). The falafel here is seriously amazing. It's a little spicy though -- I like that but some of you don't. It's not super spicy but it is noticeable. Fair warning.

There are also some awesome sides. They have a sauted mushroom side that is really impressive. It's hard to describe what it tastes like -- sort of like a curry I guess -- but it's really good. They also have seared garlic chucks (I've never seen garlic cooked like this before, but it works), sauted peppers, and as many thin pita pieces as you want.

I've had this three times, and my impressive is overall quite favorable. The service is a little slow at times, but really friendly and overall not bad. The atmosphere is busy, but not rushed -- pretty much quintessential South Grand.

My suggestion for improvement (this is where I come off as the complaining asshole who is compensating for his small penis) would be (if anyone actually read this blog) to either change the name to a falafel bar or make the hummus good. They seriously need a new hummus recipe. And the music they occasionally have in there is not entertaining or contributing to the ambiance; it's annoying and makes it where you can't even talk to the person next to you.

All in all though, I don't have much in the way of complaints. I like this place, the staff and the owner (named, oddly enough, Natasha) are great, the atmosphere is awesome, and the food is, on the whole, quite good.

Overall grade: B+

TLDR version: it's pretty good and you should probably try it. The falafel is awesome, as are some of the other sides; the hummus, not so much.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

This week in stuff (linkz)

Okay, I should probably do a regular weekly segment of some sort, where I link you, the unwashed masses (and in some cases I mean that literally), to cool stuff, both veggie and not veggie related.

Here is a cool article on the cultural change possibly coming about in this country regarding people going veggie. I hope this keeps up.

Here's an article I found about McDonald's food not being biodegradable. I'm fucking serious; it's literally not biodegradable. Okay, now I'm not one of those health nut vegans (here's proof: I love these things), but Sweet Baby Jesus, I like what I put in my body to at least be able to return to the Earth!

I should try to promote the St. Louis Vegetarian Meetup page; there's been a lot of cool stuff going on there lately. Recently, I've met some really cool people there. If you have not checked it out then you probably should.

And in the shameless self-promotion department, here is a somewhat pathetic attempt at comedy writing by your's truly. If you know anything about college football hopefully you can appreciate this. If not, perhaps you will find it amusing anyway. Or pathetic. Whichever doesn't get me laid.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I miss Vegifide

Two years ago, or there about, marked the beginning of the end of the greatest online vegetarian community there ever was. That place was Vegifide exemplified everything that was good and bad about vegetarians – from selfless compassion and logically-derived moral positions, to smug self-righteousness and espousals of batshit insane conspiracy theories. People didn’t always get along on that site. We argued, and sometimes things got heated. We also shared ideas, recipes, offered support to each other, and fostered true, genuine friendships. It was a true community. Now people don’t always get along in a community, but in a way that’s what makes it good – that freedom of interaction allows for conflict, but also allows for genuine and honest interaction.

If it weren’t for Vegifide, I very likely never would have gone vegan. Communicating with so many vegetarians made it impossible for me to continue to ignore the truths of animal cruelty endemic in the dairy and egg industries. Several aspiring vegetarians also joined that site and participated to get information and support. This is one reason that the community was so great – we shared information that allowed people to take steps forward on the path of vegetarianism at all different levels. Vegifide, on the whole, influenced a lot of people for the better.

Vegifide also had a HUGE St. Louis presence. I have met some of my best friends from there, people who I hang out with drinking, eating meals, watching football, etc, to this day. (I also met the person who ripped my heart out from there. Can’t win ‘em all I guess!) I don’t want to give the impression that this was only a St. Louis thing – it just so happens that a disproportionate amount of people were from here. Users from all over, from the Pacific Northwest to the UK, were active members of this community.

Vegifide still exists. Technically. I don’t have an account there; I was kicked off, along with several other prominent members in an incident that I won’t get in to too much, other than to say that some users, including me, took exception to some actions taken by the owner. We (the banished members) have our side of the story, and I’m sure the guy that runs (ran?) Vegifide has his. I feel pretty strongly that I was not in the wrong in this situation, and to the owner’s credit, he did offer a full, unconditional and (what I took to be) sincere apology for his actions regarding the mass banning. He welcomed us all back; none of us took him up on it. And it was too late anyway; the damage had been done.

From then on, Vegifide died a very slow, very ugly death. In the following months users steadily stopped coming to the site. The banned users made their “home” on another site (that’s now pretty much dead as well). It was never the same. No vegetarian site that I know of, before or since, has compared to Vegifide. There’s Volentia, and VeggieBoards, but neither are even in the same league.

As I said, Vegifide still exists, but only technically. There was a “hiatus” that lasted several months, and a few months ago the site came back online. I went there today. The last five posts on that site were all trying to sell term papers. That right, the most active current members of Vegifide are spammers for online papermills catering to stupid and unethical college kids. Yeah, the house is still standing, but the yard is completely overgrown, most of the windows have been busted out by kids throwing rocks, and the only people living there are squatters with a heroin addiction. This isn’t the kind of dignified death Vegifide deserves.

My friend Carl has flirted with the idea of helping create a new site, but he has these silly little trivial distractions like a wife, kids, and a mortgage that apparently are more important to him. (Some people just can’t get their priorities straight!) I would love to be involved with something new like that, recruit the old members of Vegifide (the ones I liked at least), and “get the band back together.” I want to recapture what probably can never be recaptured. So I will keep looking. And hoping. But I’m not really expecting anything.

I won’t lie: in the months that passed aftervthe mass banning, watching Vegifide die gave me a certain sense of cruel satisfaction. “Yeah, that motherfucker deserves it,” was my attitude. That was petty of me; again, if it weren’t for Vegifide I might not be vegan right now. I truly believe that Vegifide made the world a better place, as it helped lots of people transition to vegetarianism or veganism. Therefore, considering this, in my opinion the creation of Vegifide was an act of animal rights activism much greater than anything I have ever done. That place was special. And I miss it.

When the schadenfreude wears off, all that’s left is regret.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Chili recipe (finally)

The leaves are starting to fall, and soon they will start changing colors. The air is starting to have that really nice chill, and the hint of woodsmoke is in the air. Saturdays are spent drinking copious amounts of beer and watching college football, wondering if being an LSU fan is really worth the ulcer it's giving me. It's fall; it's time for chili.

I've had a few requests to put my recipe for chili up here. I also need to make an entry since apparently I am the only author for what is already a half assed blog. [/passive aggressive jab at the other authors] I should really put more recipes here anyway, as cooking is something I love. The problem with me giving recipes though, as I have expressed before, is that it's hard to convey exactly what I do! I usually just make stuff, and I've been making this chili for a long time (12 years at least), and in that time I have tweaked and altered things, and what you read here is the product of over a decade of tweaking, altering, experimenting and learning. While making chili the past couple of times I have measured stuff out, and made a point to remember how much of everything I use. As far as I know this is the first time that I have actually written this down.

What you need:
  • Two medium onions, diced
  • One large green bell pepper, diced
  • One head (that's right, a whole head) of garlic, minced
  • 12 oz of mushrooms, diced
  • Several tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Red pepper flakes, however much you think you can handle
  • Chili powder, 5-6 tablespoons
  • Brown sugar, 4 tablespoons
  • Salt, not too much (you can always add salt; you can't take it out)
  • Large can of crushed tomatoes
  • Large can of diced tomatoes
  • Three cans of beans (I used one each of black, red and navy)
  • A beer

Get a nice sturdy pot and heat up enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Use a medium-high heat. Saute the onions and bell pepper together with the red pepper flakes (yes, right at the beginning) for a few minutes until the onion starts to get a little translucent. Then add the garlic; you don't add it at the start because you don't want it to burn. After another couple of minutes throw in your mushrooms.

When the mushrooms are completely moist deglaze with the beer. Just pour it all in there. Add the dry ingredients, stir well, and bring the whole thing to a boil. Let it boil for a minute or two. Stir to make sure nothing sticks.

Add tomatoes and beans. If you prefer you can cook your own beans beforehand and use them instead. If you do I will need to add a couple of cups of water too though. Bring it up to a boil and then put the heat on medium low, or whatever setting you need to use to make it simmer. (Different stoves behave differently.)

Now this is going to take a while. I mean like three hours or so, enough time to let the chemical composition of the tomatoes change. If you have tasted the chili before that point, it won't be that good. It won't taste bad, but it won't taste anything like it will after it's cooked for a few hours. While it simmers you are going to need to give this a stir every 15 minutes or so, or stuff will stick to the bottom and burn. If you feel a little sticking to the bottom of the pan, no big deal. Just do your best to use your stirring utensil of choice to scrape the bottom.

You probably won't need to, but if you think it's getting too thick you can add some water. Don't add any more than a cup at a time, as you don't want to cool it down too much, and also don't want it to get too watery.

When it's cooked a while you can taste it and see if it needs anything. (All chili powders are not created equal; sometimes I need to add a little more.)

Okay, this is my chili. It's good. You should make it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Drunken ramblings

Drinking alone, it's almost 1:30 in the morning, and I'm a little drunk. Only a little. It's okay that I'm drinking alone since a) I have been diagnosed with depression and 2) I have a family history of alcoholism. Self medication eff tee double-you bitches! Seriously it's fine though; I'm a fucking LSU graduate, so my liver can take it. They give you extra credit for getting drunk. Hell, I think the first time I puked outside a bar they gave me two credit hours -- and that's graduate hours*!

I came in having no flippin clue what I was gonna write about. I just need to do something since 1) there are a few people that actually follow this blog for some God-forsaken reason and b) I post regularly on SB Nation where I link this blog, which is a network of thinking-man's blogs dedicated to... yeah sports. (And I like to have a fairly recent post on there.)

Sports? But you're vegan. Yes I am. I'm not a stereotypical vegan. I am sort of a guy's guy. I like the three Bs: Beer, boobs and baseball. Some people have this conceptualization of vegans as a bunch of tree hugging hippies. That's not really me. I guess I'm a bundle of contradictions. But this isn't about me -- it's about veganism going mainstream. Though I am an overeducated nerd, I'm also a "normal guy" in many respects. For some reason that seems to go against the typical conceptualization of the vegan -- the peace sign giving, yoga doing, kumbaya singing, tree hugging, slightly effeminate guy that's "in touch with his feelings." Sorry, but that's not me. Hell, to be honest, I'm not even a typical vegan animal lover! My knees don't go weak when I see that rescued baby goat at the communal farm, or your sister's ferret, or whatever.

Veganism to me seems like the most natural ethical position one can take. Animals are sentient beings -- capable of subjective perception. Let's be honest; cows and bulls are pretty fucking stupid. But that doesn't mean we should consume them and treat them as biological machines.

Going off on some animal rights rant is not my style, but at the same time I won't apologize for being a supporter of animals rights. And that's kind of my drunken, rambling, and very likely hard-to-follow point. I am a (sort of) "normal" guy, and I'm an unapologetic vegan. Honestly, I am the future hope of veganism and animal rights. No, I don't mean me specifically; I'm not a narcissist. What I mean is the mainstreaming of the vegan lifestyle and being a reasonable advocate of animal rights.

We need more normal vegans. If a more animal friendly perspective is to be ever be truly mainstream, then people that have mainstream tendencies will need to vegan. Moreover, this needs to become more and more normalized. It needs to be regular. I want to live in a world where being vegan doesn't mean that I am a weirdo, but rather a world where veganism is widely diffused among people that love boobs, beer and baseball, or that love NASCAR, hip hop, heavy metal, comic books, strip clubs, science fiction, model airplanes, S&M, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, motorcycles, classic cars... you get the point.

I don't know if any of this makes any sense or not. If it doesn't I plead drunkenness.

I wrote this listening to Murs. Murs is vegan, and he is an incredibly talented hip hop artist. This is what I am talking about. Veganism is becoming more and more mainstream and normal.

Some of my fellow vegans on the granola-crunching persuasion might find the idea of veganism becoming more mainstream as being somewhat strange, and on an intuitive level they might find it undesirable. Sorry, but you are just gonna have to put up with my beer drinking, boob loving, sports watching ass. No offense, but I have just as much of a right to be vegan as you do.

This post probably have a zillion typos. It's okay -- again: I'm drunk.

*Gregatron is a proud product of the Huey P. Long School of Government. (No, LSU's political science department is not actually called that, though I think we can agree that it should be.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Vegetarian cognitive dissonance

Something bugs me about a lot of vegetarians, particularly those who are less empirically and more spiritually inclined. This is the tendency to emphasize how "natural" vegetarianism is. It seems like people will often use any argument that seems to support their point of view, even if the facts behind it are dubious, particularly when reality doesn't really go along with their immediate point.

(This illustrates a pretty good example of what I am talking about.)

Most evolutionary scientists believe that humans evolved eating a relatively large amount of meat. Most anatomical biologists believe that we are best suited to a primarily omnivorous diet. This is likely responsible for the development of the human brain, and explains why our species is so intelligent. So, against the claims of many vegetarians, the scientific community emphasizes the important of meat in the evolution and development of our species.

So it turns out that eating meat is pretty "natural" after all. Which brings us to this important question: so fucking what?

I think it says something about the insecurity of a position when you feel the need to something as being natural in order for it to be right. People use nature to make all kinds of messed up arguments. This includes arguments against homosexuality, interracial dating, and yes, vegetarian diets! And they are all stupid. Something being natural does not make it moral, and something being not natural does not make it morally wrong.

I am vegan for ethical reasons. I don't give a damn what my predecessors did. If evolutionary scientists discovered that humanity evolution took shape partially because among our proto-human ancestors the strong males raped females and killed weaker males, this would not justify rape and murder!

I guess people can believe whatever they want. If they want to think eating meat is something that is fundamentally unnatural, or that God, Jesus, Moses, the Prophet Mohammad, Abraham, Buddha, Vishnu, the Great Sky Spirit, Thor, Zeus, the Great Cthulhu, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or L. Ron Hubbard disprove, well I guess that's their right. The thing is, I am vegan for moral reasons, and I don't need some illogical existential justification to validate it.

And I don't give a damn what this guy thinks about it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Best vegetarian places to eat in St. Louis

Yeah, it's been months. I have been telling myself this blog was over. Then some nice person just commented to me that she enjoyed this blog, and requested more. That feels kind of nice. I have some time on my hands, so what the hell.

I have been struggling with depression over the past year. It's been really difficult for me to function in my day to day life. Frankly, life has really sucked for me lately, and that is more than anything why I have not been blogging. It simply got overwhelming. I think I might be pulling out of it, but I hesitate to say that as every time I think things are going better life drops another anvil on my head. Meh, okay -- enough whining.

First off, I did end up winning that chili contest. I think I deserved to as well. I have been making the same chili for about twelve or so years, so I pretty much have the process down pat. Perhaps I will provide a recipe or something sometime when I am feeling recipe-ey. But I don't now. So deal.

Over the past few months I have been pestering vegetarians in St. Louis to tell me their favorite places to eat in the area. I had them do a top five ranking and awarded "points" accordingly. There were a lot of places that were mentioned, but the winner by a pretty wide margin was Meskerem.

Meskerem is an Ethiopian place on South Grand, and their food is quite simply wonderful. If you go I strongly suggest you get the vegetarian combo. On their menu they specify that it feeds one person. This is wrong -- this thing easily feeds two hungry people. I have taken a lot of dates here, and they have all been impressed with the food, and it's pretty damn cheap for a large dinner for too -- talk about a win-win! Don't ask me to tell you anything about what they serve -- I just remember various colors, consistencies and flavors, and that should be all that is expected of Mississippi trailer trash like me.

So there you are. I am pretty comfortable in saying that Meskerem is one of the best places to eat if you are vegetarian in St. Louis, and from the sample I have it's rated the best by far. I think they are deserving of this. The service is also good -- they have this nice and cute waitress that looks like Joan Cusack. She's a sweetheart, not to mention a great server. Be sure to tip her well if you go!

Second on the list was Lemon Grass. This is a Vietnamese place, also on South Grand. They have this one dish there that I think is simply amazing: sesame tofu. It's very delicious, and certainly very bad for you -- battered and deep fried tofu covered in a thick, calorie laden brown sesame sauce, garlic, and a little broccoli (so you can pretend it's not as bad for you as it is).

Battered and deep fried tofu. Mmmmm*gargle*gargle*drool*

Any drawbacks? Yeah. The service sucks. And I don't mean a little. It's bad. Every time I have eaten there the service is as slow as it is rude. Fairly recently I took a date there, and she had leftovers. She asked the server for a little rice to take home with her. He said, "no." Now this server KNEW I was a regular; I go there and get sesame tofu take out all the time. (I like to go right to sleep after eating it -- it helps me keep my girlish figure.) Well, safe to say his tip suffered after that -- I am usually a good tipper but that shit is uncalled for. If you won't take care of your regular customers -- well that's just bad business.

Other honorable mentions in my little poll: Pi -- the pizza place on the Delmar Loop. I once had a take out vegan pizza from there. In my opinion it was okay, but generally speaking vegan cheese sucks. Sweet Art was also a favorite among StL veggies.I have never actually been here, but I probably should have been. They have a lot of vegan stuff, from sandwiches to pastries. Finally, rounding out the places I will mention is Foundation Grounds. They usually have a few vegan items in display. They cupcakes are usually wonderful. The pastries are hit or miss. The coffee is fantastic, and the people that work there are great.

So there you have it. A post. I did it. Take that life.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Announcement:: Vegan chili and cake contest

Check it out: link.

I think I might have to enter this. Hope to see some of you there!

Thought on the nature of our relationships with animals

Sometimes I am somewhat disappointed by what I see as a lack of intellectual vigor and critical thinking within the AR community. It seems that many of us become trapped into certain ways of thinking, and never move on from there. And to be perfectly frank about it, some of the people that shout the loudest are among the least intelligent of us. I think it is time to have an intellectual reawakening in the AR movement, where ideas are shared and discussed in thoughtful ways yielding productive dialogue.

Among one of the general misconceptions made by many advocates of animal rights is the assumption that all relationships between humans and animals are zero-sum games. First, what is a zero-sum game (ZSG)? In layman’s terms, a ZSG refers to a situation where, in the course of an interactive relationship, there are winners and losers. Think of this like a home poker game. If there are five players, and I win $50, then the sum of the losses of the other players are $50. If there is a winner then there must be losers.

ZSG easily lend themselves to exploitation, so it’s not surprising that many advocates of animal rights buy into this notion. They assume that all relationships where humans interact with animals are exploitive in nature.

The thing is, not all relationships, or even most relationships are ZSGs. This has been born out with the idea of trade. Centuries ago, the dominant idea was that trade was good for one country (the exploiter) and hence, bad for another (the exploitee). This notion, known as mercantilism, helped usher in the brutal practice of imperialism. Since then, economists (starting with Adam Smith) noted that trade could be, and often is, good for all parties involved. A simple example: if I have a field that grows wheat very well, and you have a field that grows corn very well, it makes no sense for me to grow any corn on my field or for you to grow any wheat on yours. Instead, we should each specialize in what we grow best, and maximize output, and trade with each other. We will have more overall if we do that. This is known as a positive-sum game (PSG). Note that not all positive-sum relationships have to be mutually beneficial, but PSGs are necessary but not sufficient for a mutually beneficial relationship. There are three types of PSGs involving two sets of actors: one where one party wins and another loses, another where one wins and the other yields little to no benefit but is not harmed, and the last where all parties involved win (mutually beneficial PSGs).

Can our relationships with animals be mutually beneficial PSGs? Yes, I believe they can. Many of us have such relationships in the form of having pets. (Some more radical advocates of AR believe that even pets are a form of exploitation, but I would argue that is an extreme position in the AR community.) This is a mutually beneficial relationship in that we provide food, shelter, and health care to an animal to degree that he would not receive in the wild. In turn, we receive companionship (and, as is the case with my cat, a hell of a lot of amusement). This is a win-win relationship, hence it is a PSG.

ZSG relationships include, most notably, factory farming for both dairy and meat. I think this clearly extends to “free range” animal agriculture as well. (One could even argue, that given the health problems associated with meat and dairy consumption, this is actually a negative-sum relationship which harms both parties.) Animal testing for cosmetic or medical purposes also is a ZSG. This would extend to the production of most dairy and the production of most eggs as well (even the “humane” alternatives).

Mutually beneficial PSGs include pets (which I do not morally consider ownership), and some traditional and, in the west somewhat rare instances of production of animal products. This includes one unusual example of a woman who has rescued chickens, who she feeds and provides shelter. In turn, she consumes the eggs. Let’s say she were to sell some of these eggs. Does that make this an exploitive relationship? I would argue it does not based on the logic I discussed above – just because someone benefits from a relationship does not mean the other party necessarily loses.

I think it’s important to understand the difference between a ZSG and a PSG in order properly categorize exploitive versus non-exploitive relationships. Doing this allows us to move beyond absurd and offensive views many less intelligent AR advocates express. (I have actually seen an idiot compare a person riding horses from a family farm to human slavery!) This “test” gives us a logical guideline by which to go beyond making arguments based on emotion and vitriol to making arguments based on sound, logical reasoning.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Vegetarian dating

For most of my twenties I was married to a very nice woman. After about six years of marriage (and another two in a relationship before that), it just wasn’t working. I’m not going to get into the specifics, but rest assured that there is nothing in the way of animosity or resentment against her. She really is a nice person, and we still talk sometimes. I wish her all the best, and genuinely hope she has a happy life.

After our relationship ended I swore to myself I would not seriously date another meat eater. Not eating animals is simply that important to me. I don’t think people that meat eaters are bad people, but I’m not going to compromise this. The disadvantage here is obvious: it limits my options. But I have to stay true to myself, and my values.

After my marriage I got into a very serious relationship with a vegan girl. I’m not going to go into spill-my-guts details here, but I will just say that it ended with my being very hurt, and wound up propelling me into a months-long legitimate depressive episode where I could barely function. I am now, thankfully, on the other side of that chapter of my life. However, unlike with my divorce, there is a lot of resentment and animosity here (on my part at least).

So over the past several months I have been doing a lot of dating. As I was married during most of the “prime” dating years of my twenties, this is something completely new to me. And now that I am “on the market” I am playing by rules where I won’t seriously date anyone who is not at least a pescetarian. I will casually date (and have done so, semi-rarely) some girls that eat meat, though honestly it does make me a little uncomfortable when eating out, but I deal. So, I have never had a “normal” dating life, and I realize I probably never will, and I am totally okay with that. Regardless, the whole process has led me to learn a lot about myself.

So anyway, here are some observations about veggie dating (and dating in general I guess):

It is much easier to guys to be picky about dating based on eating habits than women. The reason? Basic dating economics: more chicks are vegetarians. I see female friends of mine that have a lot of trouble finding a veggie guy, and simply cannot be as picky as me. I am in a hell of a lot better position than they are, so I certainly can’t judge them.

Some people are just fucking mean. Sometimes there is simply nothing there between two people – there is no spark. Sometimes there is the unfortunate “one-sided” spark where one person feels something but not the other. Unfortunately, this happened to me a few months ago, with me being the sparkee. The other person obviously didn’t feel anything. How do I know? She cut off all contact. All of it. No goodbye, no “I’m sorry but there just isn’t anything there,” nothing. While this was far from a life altering event, in the midst of my depression it was not a reassuring experience.

People are going to get hurt. Dating is a blood sport, metaphorically speaking. I am reminded of a common theme in the best TV show ever, The Wire: “it’s all in the game.” Meaning, there are some inherent dangers in the endeavor. You are probably going to get hurt in some way shape or form, and unfortunately you are probably going to hurt somebody, no matter how hard you try not to. There are certain precautions you can put in place. The main one is simply honesty. Be honest with her and (perhaps more difficultly) yourself. If there is nothing there, tell her. However, hurt will still happen, just hopefully not as much than if you were not deceptive. I have put in a conscientious effort to not hurt anyone, and I have failed. Now I have not devastated anyone the way I was devastated, but my hands aren’t clean either, no matter how hard I tried to keep them so. You can’t make yourself feel too guilty about it though. It’s really part of the game. The best you can do is to treat other people with consideration and respect.

Confident guys are more successful at dating. A lot of guys think the assholes get all the girls, and this is not necessarily the case. I have seen lots of self proclaimed “nice guys” complain about how all the nice girls date jerks. I have noticed this to an extent, but I don’t think it’s necessarily the asshole factor chicks go for. It’s confidence. In college I was too shy, awkward and introverted to be very successful at dating. I was scared at getting shot down. After college I took comfort in the safety of relationships to shield myself from what I thought was the harshness of the cutthroat world of dating. Since then I have developed a lot of confidence. I am not scared to ask a girl out. I am not ashamed when I get turned down – it happens. I will kiss a girl if I like her, or at least try to.

Overall, being single is not bad. There are pitfalls sure. Again, someone will get hurt, and while hurting people is not okay, it’s important to realize that it’s part of what you sign up for. I’m not going to get too much into my own situation because this blog is more about vegetarianism in St. Louis than bullshit details and journal entries.

Anyway, I hoped someone finds this perspective on dating from the perspective of a straight vegan male useful, enlightening, interesting, or at least good for a laugh.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Another recipe

French Freedom Onion Soup

Why “freedom”? Because fuck those freedom hating French, that’s why – whenever America wants to liberate a country it’s those pesky French that have a problem with it. Anyway – we kicked their commie asses in doublya-doublya two, so… yeah. Soup this good deserves an AMERICAN name!

Here is what I do to make it:

Peel and thinly slice 3 lbs of yellow onions, and saut̩ in a mixture of margarine (I use Earth Balance) and extra virgin olive oil. I use probably about 4-5 tablespoons total Рthat might feel fatty but this is traditionally a fatty soup. Caramelize the onions on medium-high heat Рthis might take a bit of time, so be patient.

I added about 6 cloves of chopped garlic when the onions start getting a nice brownish color, and let them cook for a couple of minutes.

Then I deglazed with 2/3rd cups of white wine. I like to use Three Buck Chuck, but whatever you want to use is fine. Turn the heat up to high and add some fresh cracked black pepper. Then I added 5 cups of veggie broth, which I had warmed up on the side with a couple of bayleaves.

Bring this up to a simmer, and cover on low heat. Let it cook for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. Add salt to taste (though I didn’t need any).

Put it in the fridge and serve it for that rad girl that is coming over for dinner tomorrow night. :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What, this blog still exists?

[a bunch of personal crap I deleted]

I never meant this blog to be a personal sounding board, but I also never intended to go months without posting on it. Oh well, I blame the chemical reactions in my brain that were a response to life changing events, maybe not all of them bad (buying a house, for example). I met some awesome people in the past several months. Some of it was through dating, some just randomly. I am moving on with my life now, and hope to blog more. Getting out of depression is hard. I hope it's not as hard to find out who I am now. I have heard the Japanese think that depression is a transformative experience. I can definitely see that.

I want to post a recipe to it has at least the pretence of relevance for this blog. Both my omni mom and Cokaru both loved this, and will testify to its beef stewedness. I just make this recipe up in my head, tried it, then wrote down what I did on my Facebook page. I was really happy with the results.

“Beef” (seitan) stew:

2 medium small onions, largely diced
3 carrots, chopped
3 small celery stalks I needed to use before they went bad, chopped
9 small red potatoes, chopped

^^ saute all this until the onions start to caramelize

Add in half a head of minced garlic, half a standard bag of frozen sweet peas, and the "beef" -- the equivalent of a standard (9oz?) package of seitan (though mine is homemade, so I eyeballed it. I use the recipe from The Veganomicon, which they also use here). Chop it up into chunks.

Deglaze with a bottle of Schlafly Oatmeal Stout. Add in several sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped and three bayleaves. Add some red pepper flakes, and the equivalent of a standard container of veggie broth (though I use Better than Bullion)

Bring it up to a boil, then simmer covered while you type what you just did on Facebook.

Get up to go stir it, tasting it to make sure it doesn't suck. I added an arrowroot slurry to thicken it up a bit.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

5 Hour Energy

So lately I have been on a bit of a 5 Hour Energy kick. I have been drinking a few a week, and extolling the virtues about them to anyone that will listen. I have a fairly impressive collection of the empty bottles of the stuff at my work, to the point where my students comment on them. One told me that I am drinking way too much caffeine, to which I replied “No, these things mainly give you energy by giving you lots of B vitamins.”

Well, I noticed that today I have a lot of energy. It feels just like I took one of those energy shots. Instead this morning I took a B vitamin supplement I got at Trader Joe’s. I try not to be a mindless consumer in general, so I did a bit of investigating on this 5 Hour Energy thing, and the claims of the company, as well as my own beliefs on it. Turns out I was really just buying into the company’s bullshit.

Do B vitamins give you energy? Yes and no. Turns out they unlock the ability of your body to metabolizing carbs. And as a vegan, I sometimes don’t get enough B vitamins, especially B 12, which omnis and l/o veggies don’t have as much of a problem with. Well, I can tell you that I do have lots more energy after taking B 12 supplement – pretty much the same way I feel after the 5 Hour Energy.

So, is the 5 Hour Energy a scam? I won’t go that far. Let’s just say the stuff is a really expensive B vitamin supplement. You will better off just drinking a cup of coffee with a B vitamin pill from Trader Joe’s or something. I am just posting this since it seems that a lot of vegans who (like me) might be running a little low on the B 12 can feel a very real effect from 5 Hour Energy, and be convinced that stuff is some sort of magical elixir. I just wish I had figured this out sooner. I could have saved some money.