We simply need more meet-ups which involve either caffeine or alcohol, both of which gets people talking. I’m sure we can rally up a good number of veg heads to come to a pub night, now can’t we? For starters, the next (and first in a long while!) pub night will be held at the Clocktower Brew Pub, at 575 Bank St. on Thurs. Jan. 27, 2011. Come out and let’s make the veg presence known at a local Ottawa favourite.
There is some culinary controversy leading up to this year’s Winterlude. Celebrity chef Martin Picard was set to cook for the Taste of Winterlude event on February 4. Picard is well known for his use of foie gras, an ingredient produced by force feeding a duck or goose. Due to the exceptional level of cruelty involved in the production of foie gras, the selection of Martin Picard as chef has been controversial.
After a number of people raised concerns, the National Capital Commision (NCC) asked Picard to take foie gras off the menu. Instead of preparing a meal sans foie gras, Picard decided to back out of the event entirely. Apparently, Mr. Picard is unable to prepare a meal without using his favourite ingredient. The NCC announced that another celebrity chef, Michael Smith, has taken on the tremendously challenging task of creating a meal that doesn’t contain the fattened liver of a force fed bird.
On the heels of this decision, there have been complaints about self righteous “animal rights nuts” who are unfairly pushing their choices and opinions on everyone else. It is a common tactic to portray vegans and others concerned about animal rights as strident, unreasonable, and downright oppressive. I find it fascinating how the most privileged and powerful have an uncanny ability to paint themselves as a persecuted minority.
The myth of the confrontational vegan is not only overblown, it turns reality on its head. I’ve eaten meat in front of vegans and I’ve declined to eat meat in front of omnivores. Vegans have sometimes given me flak for eating meat, but it’s nothing compared to the harassment I’ve received while choosing vegan options in front of omnivores.
When I turn down meat, I am often bombarded with questions. Usually these questions have a hostile tone and are asked by people who aren’t really interested in the answer. There are also the fun rants about how eating meat is natural, how it’s healthier, how humans are on top of some mythical food chain etc. These are all presented, unsolicited, as if they were clever and novel arguments. If I refuse meat in certain crowds, my masculinity is challenged. But easily my favourite tactic is when someone, who wouldn’t otherwise have done so, orders copious amounts of meat because they think they are making some sort of point.
In that fine tradition, Steve Mitton of the Murray Street Bistro has decided to put foie gras on the restaurant’s menu as a protest. Foie gras is not usually served at the restaurant, but in a breathtakingly obnoxious move, he has gone out of his way to add it. This is a good example of the way privileged people often react when they are asked to make the tiniest concession.
I think there are two reasons for these excessively negative reactions. One reason is that omnivores make up the vast majority of the population and as such are accustomed to being catered to and getting things their way. This is undeniably a privilege. When privileged people are asked to accommodate others, something they aren’t used to doing, they often view it as a deep injustice.
The other factor at play, I believe, is that deep down many people know that using animal products is problematic. When they are confronted with this reality, they often get defensive as a way to cope with the cognitive dissonance.
Clearly, not every omnivore behaves this way. Most are perfectly pleasant people. However, it is long past time we do away with the myth that those who are concerned with animal rights are the ones who push their views on everybody else. More often than not it’s the other way around. We live in an omnivore’s world and nobody is being oppressed when people are asked to make a small concession and refrain from eating foie gras at a large public event.
The author, Kyle, is neither a vegan nor a vegetarian.
Valentine’s Day is widely celebrated as the day to express love and affection to our beloved ones in honor of Saint Valentine. Although the origins of Valentine’s Day are somewhat unclear, one popular legend is that Valentine was a 3rd century Roman priest who lived under the rule of Emperor Claudius II. To strengthen his army, Emperor Claudius outlawed all marriages for young men believing that single men made better soldiers than those that were married. However, Valentine, a romantic priest at heart, continued to secretly perform marriages against Emperor Claudius II’s unjust law, and when his defiance was discovered, he was thrown into jail and sentenced to death on February 14. Before his death, Valentine wrote a letter to a woman he loved, signing it “Your Valentine.” Today, the expression is widely used and the tradition continues with exchanging of love notes in the form of “Valentines.”
Although we may never know the true identity and story behind the man named St. Valentine, this much is for certain: Valentine’s Day is considered to be the most romantic time of the year where lovers express and reaffirm their love for one another. It also ranks the second largest card-sending holiday. According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion mass produced valentine cards are sent each year!
While the emphasis is placed on romantic cards, hearts and love, the majority of people show their affection with edible gifts that are not so “heart-healthy.” Sugary, high-calorie chocolates, candy, and other cholesterol-laden desserts are commonly exchanged between lovers, friends and family members as tokens of their love and appreciation.
I find it ironic that we want our Valentines to be ours “forever” yet feed them harmful foods that play a role in heart disease, blood acidity, sugar spikes, candida, diabetes, and obesity. Shouldn’t we express our love with nurturing gifts that prolong – and not shorten – their lives? After all, how can anyone be happy if we don’t possess good health?
Valentine’s Day is synonymous with chocolate and for many people, incomplete without indulging in something sinfully-rich. If you eat chocolate, why not choose one that is of better quality? One that is raw, dairy and sugar-free? Or better yet, use carob or raw cacao to create your own special mouth-watering treats made with love and healthy ingredients!
Love is definitely in the air during the month of February and if you’re like most people, you’ll be celebrating at a fabulous restaurant over an extravagant meal, rich in atmosphere – and for non-vegans, cholesterol. This year, why not skip the crowded restaurant and surprise your sweetheart with your own romantic, full-course dinner at home? Nothing says love like a delicious, home-prepared meal, especially when followed with a dazzling raw dessert. All it takes is a little creativity and plenty of candlelight. As an added bonus, you won’t be compromising your health – or waistline!
Greeting cards, edible treats and flowers aren’t the only gifts you can give. How about the gift of togetherness? It is, after all, the deep emotional connection between lovers and families that matter most on this day. Personally, I like to sneak off to the Gatineau Park to spend the afternoon snowshoeing with my husband Mark. For me, nothing comes close to warming up in the log cabin, and sharing a simple raw lunch after a good workout in the crisp, clean air.
No matter how we celebrate, Valentine’s Day is an occasion to express our affection to the special people in our lives. And, giving healthy gifts show them just how much we care about them. After all, don’t we want our sweethearts to be around for a very long time?
Natasha Kyssa is the author of “The SimplyRaw Living Foods Detox Manual,” and owner of SimplyRaw. She facilitates a life-changing detox program, and teaches delicious “Life In the Kitchen” food classes. See http://www.simplyraw.ca or call /(613)234-0806 for dates.
Some days, even vegans don’t want to cook. Some days even vegans have terrible cravings for pizza. It’s not a crime to want to order in some “fast food” every so often, and I find that you can make your hungry omnivorous dinner companions happy if you suggest ordering pizza. But what does that mean for a vegan? Do vegans have to sacrifice taste to continue eating ethically at pizza places? Sometimes they do. But I have discovered a way to make “Pizza Pizza” pizza vegan and equally if not more delicious than its dairy-laden counterparts. And here’s how to do it.
Order your pizza at pizzapizza.ca. (I’d recommend ordering online, as you can make all your nitpicking selections without feeling awkward with the phone representative.)
Here are the necessary selections:
Large or extra-large pizza (you may want to take advantage of one of their specials if you’re buying multiple pies)
Ottawa used to have a wonderful vegetarian Thai restaurant called Sacred Garden. Sacred Garden also happened to be about a 20 minute walk from my house, which made it both equal parts wonderful and dangerous. At Sacred Garden most dishes could be made vegan, and none contained the dreaded fish sauce that permeates Thai cuisine. They even stated right on the menu that they didn’t use it. Every trip to Sacred Garden guaranteed a fabulous mouth party. I usually stuck to the same entrees though: pad thai, panang curry, and pad ki mow. Their spring rolls brought me to tears, and induced fierce and uncontrollable cravings.
I have many fond memories of Sacred Garden. I probably took just about every friend I have there at one time or another- omnivore or not. The little Thai lady who ran it knew me by name, and when I called in a take out order she always remembered, “no egg, no mushrooms” before I even had to say it. But I was out for a run in December of 2009, and when I ran past Sacred Garden I saw the sign that nobody wants to see on their favorite restaurant: CLOSED FOR BUSINESS.
I was pretty depressed for at least a week. But the repercussions have lasted long beyond that. I try not to think about Sacred Garden too often, because when I do I become despondent. We had such a good thing here… to have lost it seems beyond comprehension. Sacred Garden’s closing left a huge void in the Ottawa vegan food scene that has yet to be filled, although thank goodness for some of the fantastic eateries that we do have. I love each and every veg restaurant in this city, but none of them do Thai like Sacred Garden. Consequently, I’ve set about trying to emulate the delicious flavours that once left my mouth roaring with delight. Unfortunately, this effort has been a dismal failure.
However, there have been some good things. For one, I discovered Taste of Thai prepared pad thai sauce, and lo and behold… it’s vegan! Now, normally I prefer to make things from scratch, but I have tried, over and over, to make an adequate from-scratch pad thai and I have yet to make one that is as good as this one. It’s not perfect, it’s certainly not Sacred Garden calibre, but it gets the job done. I even made it for a co-worker and her husband, and she reported back that it was very similar to the “real” thing. Taste of Thai also makes a range of curry pastes and a spicy peanut sauce that I will blog about at a later date. They’re also not difficult to find: I’ve purchased them at Loblaws, Food Basics, and Metro.
So when I want pad thai here’s what I do (serves 3):
– Soak half a package of rice stick noodles in hot water
– In a frying pan, saute (just a bit) your choice of vegetables (lots of those). My stand-bys are red pepper, zucchini, and broccoli. I used julienned carrots and onions as well this time.
– If you’re feeling protein deficient (ha!) toss in some tofu cubes, or some sort of mock meat. I personally love it with Nelakee faux shrimp and President’s Choice meatless chicken breast.
– Add the noodles and the sauce packet. Toss to mix/warm. Serve.
From Yves Veggie Cuisine to Tofurky to Gardein to Sol to the offerings in the President’s Choice Blue Menu line, the variety of mock meats in supermarkets has exploded in recent years. Ottawa’s Chinatown is a fantastic resource for lovers of mock meats. This is the second in a series of posts to introduce readers to the treasures they can find in Chinatown and meals that can be made with them.
These are two styles of packaging you might encounter. They have identical stuff inside.
[Update and a caution to vegans: Yesterday I noticed a sticker I had never seen before on a package of mushroom chicken: “ovo-vegetarian”. I phoned the distributor, Chialee, and they told me that there are two kinds of mushroom chicken, one containing egg and one not. The eggless ones should be stickered “vegan”.]
What can you do with it?
You can take it out of the package, shake some salt onto it if you want, and eat it. Warning: it’s addictive! (Don’t thaw it in the microwave though. For some reason, that turns it gross.)
It’s great in stir-fries, of course. And it makes a good chicken salad, chopped up and mixed with celery and red onion and Vegenaise (although I prefer the President’s Choice mock chicken in chicken salad sandwiches).
A favourite cold-winter-day meal in our house is chicken soup made by following this soup recipe from VegWeb, minus the dumplings, plus mushroom chicken. Cut up the mock chicken, lightly brown it in a frying pan, and add to the soup just before serving.
The recipe I am going to highlight today, however, is one you can serve when you have friends over to watch sports. Yes, get ready for vegan chicken wings.
1 bag of mushroom chicken
Your favourite barbecue sauce
Toss the mushroom chicken with barbecue sauce to coat it. Spread out the pieces on a baking sheet. Bake at 400°F for 12-15 minutes, or until the wings begin to blacken at the edges.
On a sad note, since my last post the sign on New 168 Market has changed from “Store Renovations” to “For Lease”. Phuoc Loi and New 168 Market have been my main sources of mock meats since I moved to Ottawa, so it’s a pity to see New 168 go. However, there are other nearby sources of these products. If you visit Montréal, drop by Paradis Végétarien Chi-Ming at 4381 Saint-Denis Street. They carry all these products, and some of them in bulk, so you can bring home extra for your friends. You can also order some of these products online from Viva Vegan. (They ship in insulated cold packs so that the mock meat stays good in the mail.)
First off, I must apologize to Pamela for what is going to be a very un-funny blog entry. My sense of humour is fueled by my bitterness and cynicism, both of which my fabulous lunch at Credible Edibles have temporarily suppressed.
I had to drop off their NCVA window decal (in honour of our new 10 per cent discount – see previous post), so Neil and I decided on an impromptu lunch date. As is our adorable and not-as-unhygienic-as-it-appears way, we got a single meal and shared everything.
“The Quattro” was a four course lunch consisting of soup, salad, sandwich and dessert.
First, the salad. I have the impression that it consisted of a nice variety of fresh vegetables, and probably dressing of some kind. I can’t be too sure, though, as my attention was wholly absorbed by what were probably the most delicious carmelized pecans the world has ever known. Sweet, with hints of what may have been balsamic vinegar and chili pepper, they tasted like Sahale Snacks, only made by god.
The generous portion of Senegalese peanut soup was also fantastic. The flavour seemed a fusion of African and Indian, while the texture was rich and velvety smooth, reminiscent of an Ethiopian stew.
The sandwich was Credible Edibles’ answer to the BLT: smoked dulse, lettuce, tomato and vegan mayo on whole grain bread (with lots of gomashio added from the little bowl on the table).
Neil and I had reservations about the dulse at first, having recently been traumatized by a fish-flavoured smoothie (courtesy of Vega’s ill-conceived dulse-rich “Smoothie Infusion”). The staff of Credible Edibles, however, apparently accustomed to such dubiousness, let us sample the smoked dulse before ordering. Though a bit twiggy, the taste was quite nice (more like a smoked salmon than a bacon analogue), and the assembled sandwich did not disappoint.
Finally, dessert. We opted for a blueberry green tea cookie. I chose it over the cupcake mostly for novelty’s sake. Frankly, it was a bit homely, with that dark and broody look that many vegan baked goods have right before they leave you with a mouthful of sand. But it turned out to be one of the best cookies I’ve ever tasted. With a soft, cake-y texture, it was substantial without being heavy, rich without being greasy, and sweet without being cloying. Seriously, this was Edelweiss’ shortbread calibre good.
Oh, I almost forgot the apple cider, which, like everything else at Credible Edibles, was markedly above average.
I’m running a bit long here, but I should also mention that the staff was friendly and very fast, and that the space itself has a great atmosphere.
My only complaint about Credible Edibles, I suppose, is that there are not more vegan options. On the bright side, though, owner Judi is moving towards veganism herself so she may expand the vegan offerings. And there’s no better way to encourage her to do so than to head over there for an awesome vegan lunch!
Credible Edibles, a local, eco-friendly business, has approached us to offer NCVA members a 10 per cent discount on their purchases.
“Credible Edibles is Ottawa’s first explicitly environmentally-friendly and healthy café and caterer. We aim to offer convenience without compromise. Busy people can get a healthy, earth-friendly lunch quickly and not too expensively,” explains its proprietor, Judi. “We opened on Earth Day 2009. We focus on unique, globally-inspired, locally-sourced seasonal menus which are 80 per cent vegetarian and 40 per cent vegan, as these are the most earth-friendly.”
Judi is a committed vegetarian and aspiring vegan, who wants to recognize and encourage others who are on the same journey. “I think the NCVA does great work and this is a way to support the organization,” she says.
In addition to the lunch time café Credible Edibles specializes in green catering for breakfasts and lunches. It uses no disposable items in our catering service. It also offers cooking classes, workshops and private consultations, and sells environmentally-friendly lunch time accessories.
Its menu features a mostly plant-based selection. For the winter months Credible Edibles is offering vegan choices including Senegalese peanut soup with ginger and fresh cilantro, red and napa cabbage salad with spiced pecans, local cranberries and apple, toasted dulse, lettuce and tomato sandwich, grilled veggie wrap, New Orleans-style Muffuletta, and many of its dessert options are vegan and/or gluten-free.
You may notice that there is some repurposing of blog content for the newsletter. Our blog content has been so good, we figured why not? We print 1,000 copies of each issue of the newsletter and it gets circulated far and wide, mostly through the City of Ottawa’s public libraries. Many of the people who receive it don’t know about the blog yet, or may not be blog readers. In fact, NCVA vice president Corrie Rabbe learned about the NCVA’s existence through picking up a copy of the newsletter, which is evidence enough that it’s a valuable thing to produce!
A special thank you to our newsletter supporters… The Table Vegetarian Restaurant, Rainbow Natural Foods, Green Earth Vegetarian Cuisine, Cafe My House, Credible Edibles, and The Green Door. Their advertising support is what allows us to print and circulate 1,000 copies. Also, thank you to volunteer Chantel who so competently and without complaint does the pagination and design.
Please feel free to print off a few copies and leave them wherever there are potential readers, including your omnivorous friends and family members.