Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Stop Bragging and Gloating about Eating Bacon

In the aftermath of the World Health Organization report published yesterday, which linked red and processed meat to cancer risk, several of my friends have recurred to Facebook to reiterate their commitment to stuffing their faces with bacon, because it's tasty, goddammit, and because the minuscule increase in risk is not worth giving up their delightful pleasure. As a reward for this sentiment, they get "likes", and "mmmm, bacon", and smiley emoticons.

I understand why people do this. They cling to what they know and are used to, they don't want to change, and they therefore reject new information that contradicts their old ways. It's the oldest heuristic in the Kahneman and Tversky bag of tricks. Moreover, if they post about their desire to cling to their habit, they're bound to get "likes" and other confirmations from people who are also reluctant to let go, which strengthens their resolve to stick with it.

I also understand how easy it is to ignore the realities of what one is eating as long as one is not directly confronted with them. Any disruption of this ignorance (such as a new report or a vegan's presence) reminds people of things they don't like to think about, such as that the meat on their plate once swam, walked, flew, enjoyed the sunshine, and wanted to continue living. Or that the meat on their plate came from someone who lived their lives in conditions comparable to those in a concentration camp before being deprived of life. It's not a comfortable thought; we all like to believe that we are good people, so it's easier to ignore our complicity in something horrible and go back to one's meat-eating support base and get some pats on the back.

Nonetheless, reading these posts throws me into an abyss of distress. I get that it's hard for people to let go of what was traditionally on their plate. But to take moral relish in the killing of pigs for taste? To openly revel and boast in opting for participating in the world's vilest, cruelest industry and in the suffering of living beings because it's tasty, goddammit? It's particularly disturbing when it comes from people who I know are committed to world improvement in all other aspects of their lives. From people who cry out against much lesser cruelties on a daily basis. I guess the human rights buck really stops with "human", even though the desire to live, the love of our offspring, and complex emotions of fear, pain, and suffering, are common to all of us.

When things like this happen, I'm reminded of J. M. Coetzee's The Lives of Animals. Like his heroine, Elizabeth Costello, "I want to find a way of speaking to fellow human beings that will be cool rather than heated, philosophical rather than polemical, that will bring enlightenment rather than seeking to divide us into the righteous and the sinners, the saved and the damned, the sheep and the goats.”  But how do I cope, every day, with friends and acquaintances that I know to be kind, good, moral people, and who participate in the most horrific crime against other living beings every day without batting an eyelash, and feel it is appropriate to gloat and boast about this? It's a contradiction that is really hard to live with.

Please, open your eyes. If you cut back on animal products--or, better still,eschew them completely--the taste sacrifice you'll supposedly make is minor (as this blog proves, it's non-existent!) and you'll exit the vilest human crime on earth. The cancer prevention is just a side benefit.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Chamin 2.0: Halloween Version

I really hope some of you got to make my four-color chamin recipe from a couple of weeks ago--it really rocked. I'm posting yet again about chamin because I've made some seasonal improvements to the recipe and it came out even more wonderful (and more nutritious!) than the previous installment.

Essentially, what I did was replace the white potatoes with a squash and more carrots, making the meal more orange and less white. I also did away with the rice and put in mung beans instead. It came out phenomenal, and I'm thrilled to have a hot meal for the rest of the week!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


This morning I happily found a way to veganize one of my favorite egg dishes, shakshuka. Old-timer followers of this blog may recall that I once posted a shakshuka recipe here, and I've rather missed it. But FEAR NOT. It's very simple: All you have to do is, in lieu of the egg, crumble some tofu into the red sauce. The texture is a bit different, but I have to say that the taste is remarkably similar, and it delivers a heap of protein.

I'd use about 85 grams of tofu (a two-inch-by-two-inch-by-half-an-inch block) for every cup of sauce. This really requires some generosity with the sauce.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

New Smoothies: Carrot Pineapple and "Poached" Pear

The new Vitamix is a thing of marvel, and it has inspired me to create new types of smoothies. Every morning I make up a new recipe. The latest two successes have been really special:

Carrot Pineapple
1 cup soymilk
1 carrot
1/2 cup pineapple chunks
1/2 cup chard
1 tsp turmeric

"Poached" Pear
1 cup almond milk
1 pear
2 plums
1/2 cup unsweetened cranberry juice
2 cloves
1 tsp cinnamon

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Morning Tofu Scramble

It's been a long morning; I started working at 5am and will be working until 10pm. Fortunately, I have a brief lull getting from home to the office and managed to make myself a decent breakfast:

100gr extra-firm tofu (about 3/4 cup crumbled)
1 tbsp chopped onion
1 garlic clove, chopped
12 cherry tomatoes
2 cups chard leaves, sliced into ribbons
3 large mushrooms
1 tbsp hot sauce
1 tsp olive oil

Heat up olive oil in pan. Add onion, garlic, and mushrooms, and sautee until they soften a bit. Add chard and tomatoes and sautee a few more minutes. In a little bowl, crumble the tofu and mix with the hot sauce. Add to pan and stir fry with the vegetables. Yum!

UPDATE: Great variation - pesto sauce in lieu of the hot sauce, and a little bit of Miyoko's Kitchen mozarella! Also marvelous.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Four-Color-Chamin: Vegan and Satisfying

Despite the fact that El NiƱo has not arrived yet, I found myself in a winter preparatory mood (I know, I know, it's 75 degrees outside) and made chamin, the cold-weather, slow-cooked wonder my grandma used to make on Saturdays. Typically, we'd all show up, eat a fresh salad and a big plate of chamin, and then essentially collapse in a diagonal fashion and fail to move for hours. The vegan version is much lighter than the one that includes big chunks of beef and stuffed guts.

My recipe changes a bit every time I make this, but this time I decided to follow the advice of an expert and made one of Ori Shavit's recipes. I had no red quinoa, so I substituted it for red kidney beans, and included black dal and white beans as well. Here's the recipe, translated to English, with my changes and modifications:

1 cup black dal
1 cup white beans
1 cup basmati rice
1 cup kidney beans
2 russet potatoes, thickly sliced
3 sweet potatoes, thickly sliced
3 carrots, thickly sliced
1 red onion, coarsely chopped
5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
3 prunes, chopped
3 bay leaves
5 sage leaves
blackened spice to taste (I used 1 tbsp for the whole pot)
salt to taste (I used 1 tbsp for the whole pot)
7-8 peppercorns
olive oil

If possible, soak the beans and rice in water overnight; if not, no worries (this is a slow-cooked recipe.)
In a heavy pan, heat up a bit of olive oil and sautee the onion, garlic, bay leaves and safe leaves. After a few minutes, add the potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots, and sautee for a few more minutes. Then, place and layer that whole mixture at the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker. On top of it, arrange the rice and beans in four distinct areas (each in every corner), add prune pieces, peppercorns, salt, and blackened spice, and carefully cover with boiling water. Set slow cooker to "high" for three hours. Then, add boiling water to cover again, and set slow cooker to "low"for twelve hours.

This improves when reheated, refrigerates and freezes wonderfully, in case you don't have a horde of people coming over for the weekend.