Friday, August 31, 2007

Random Fridays: "Summer's Gone, Summer's Over"*

* Sistah Vegan is a site (and an upcoming book) that I just stumbled upon yesterday. I'm interested to read more about veganism and "the intersection of race, class, religion, gender, sexual orientation, able-bodiedness."

* I Blame the Patriarchy is an astute and altogether too funny blog. Highlight has to be an old post that lambasts Oprah's magazine by calling it a "bright yellow box of Empowerment Bonbons...but with Crispy Cockroach Centers." My co-worker had to look over my cube to check on why I was laughing so hard.

* Summer is, calendar-wise, over in the US after this upcoming Labor Day weekend. I'll be in Philly this weekend with Brian, where we will mostly be eating and seeing friends and family. Here are some pictures from earlier in the summer that I never got around to posting because my computer goes nuts when I try to upload pictures. Happy End of Summer, y'all.

Me at my most pescetarian. Trenton Ave. Arts Festival, Philly, PA.
I'm not always so sweet to Brian, despite the supposed "lovefest." Bastille Day, Philly, PA.

Marie Antoinette didn't throw down cake or Philly's own Tastykakes at the peasants on Bastille Day. She and her minions threw Twinkies. And if there's anything worse than eating Twinkies, it's having your chest pelted with them 5 or 6 times in a row.
Brian made that. Yeah. I was impressed too. Friend's house, Philly, PA.
Central Park, NYC, waiting to see Neko Case.
After Neko, we headed over to Red Bamboo for a late-night fried vegan fest, which included fake fish sticks and tartar sauce and some scarily (and yummily) authentic-tasting fried fake chicken breast, which is in the sandwich below.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Break for Blogs

Blogging takes commitment, time, and energy. Commitment is something Joselle and I definitely share...but we seem to be lacking in the whole time and energy department these days. We want to eventually get to a point where we can blog every day; something that seems as distant as aspirations of eventually being able to prepare meals together on a daily basis. It's certainly possible. In fact, Joselle and I are planning on it.

Beyond just living in the same city and getting more frequent access to one of these here computers, we just want to create together. We'd like to follow in the footsteps of Compassionate Cooks and Vegan Freaks everywhere (Joselle is officially addicted to podcasts like I'm now addicted to the whimsical storytelling and television utopia of Northern Exposure). We also want to follow in the footsteps of people everywhere who pursue their passions and whatever brings them joy without inflicting pain on the rest of the world.

I find happiness in the solace of you, Joselle. I love the way you're here for me, even when you can't be here with me. And I'm so grateful for how you---as the evolving omnivore of this relationship---compel me toward an even greater personal commitment to the welfare of animals and environment.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Random Fridays: Get Out Your Doc Martens and Start a Podcast

I realize that my recent posts have been essay-like mutterings on my simultaneous guilt over and desire for meat. I promise to offer more recipes and tips on assembling easy meals for multuple palates and principles very soon, as that was and is my primary purpose in launching Mutual Menu with Brian. I do think it is, however, pertinent to express my own ethical struggles with food choices since creating this blog was the biggest impetus for my considering vegetarianism. It was when I sat around thinking about how to talk about "humane" meat that I questioned whether any meat can be truly humane (my final vote: no..although, my deepest apologies, as always, to the fish I still eat). So, yes, my thinking and all the changes and questions that come along with it will be apart of this discussion. Since we'e having that BBQ on Saturday to honor my grandfather, it will provide me with the opportunity to share some real-life, from the trenches tips and tales on how people can actual make their menus inviting to all of their loved ones.

Until then, here are some random things I have been poking into and loving this week:

* 120 Minutes Aggregator contains mostly You Tube videos from bands I used to watch at midnight every Sunday night on MTV's 120 Minutes when I was 15 years old: Hole, Throwing Muses, Belly, Velocity Girl, Liz Phair, PJ Harvey, the Smiths, Morrissey, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Sonic Youth, Shonen Knife, Juliana Hatfield. I have spent quite a few hours with my headsets on this week, listening to the songs while the videos play, wondering where my back issues of Sassy and Doc Martens are (note: anyone interested in back issues of Sassy should get in touch. I have two copies of each issue from years of Sassy because, in addition to my own collection, I found a mint-condition batch ready to be recycled. I've wanted to get rid of the extras for years but am too lazy to eBay. Any takers?).

* Podcasts: I know I'm about a century late but just this week was when I discovered how much I love them. Favorites include Food for Thought, Vegan Freaks (they'd hate me as I'm "NOT VEGAN! and they're snotty but funny), The Dawn and Drew Show, which is too hilarious to listen to at work. I guffaw about every two minutes. Please share any podcasts you like. I want more.

* Wendy Williams: This is an oldie but goodie for me but I've got to share the love. She is the only thing that makes my evening commute somewhat bearable. She's all about the gossip and giving out pretty solid advice to some often very stupid people ("I"m just a woman from the suburbs with an opinion. I'm not an expert.") As Wendy herself would say, she is a total friend in my head. When I saw her at a book signing last year, she wore a tight leopard print dress and a diamond-encrusted Hello Kitty necklace. Uh, yeah. Love her.

* Dried mango strips. The perfect afternoon pick me up for when energy is failing and hunger is winning. And wow, they're vegan and sweeten.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Home Base, Not Ham Base

Veterans Stadium implosion photo courtesy of The Tribune.

The latest issue of the Philadelphia Weekly has brought to my attention some exciting news about PETA's impression of a veggie-friendly City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection (courtesy of the author of the Philadelphia Will Do blog). No longer the general locale of the former architectural monstrosity that was once Veterans Stadium, Citizens Bank Park offers a highly-social baseball institution with an old-fashioned feel and Philly neighborhood themes. Even better---as PETA noted---"The Bank" hosts eateries with actual vegetarian selections. Mock meat at a major Philadelphia cultural attraction like a sports venue is just plain rare.

I'm not a Phillies Phanatic like some. Actually, I'm not really into sports at all. I just enjoy going to ball games to celebrate the social summer element of gathering together with other people to yell and eat. Next Tuesday, I'll be joining my mom (sadly, not Joselle and my brother Johnny) for a work-sponsored event with the hometown team; something my mom, brother, and I've done for the past two years since The Bank opened. We get free food vouchers, which is the only reason I had any previous knowledge about the vegan burger options available. And Joselle can vouch for me that I'll certainly be seeking out the mock steak!

If you're at the game in Philly on Tuesday, keep an eye on the jumbotron to see me stuffing my face and immitating the renowned Harry Kalas: "That ball is outtttttaaaaaa here!!!"

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

This is just a Nigella Lawson fan blog after all, isn't it?

Oh happy day. A new Nigella Lawson cookbook comes out in the US this November. I will be there with bells on. Look at how lovely the cover is. And it's fast food, my favorite. I am not a slaver in the kitchen. I love to cook but I adore eating so the faster I get to eat, the happier I am. Oh, yay.

Picture courtesy of Nigella Lawson's official site.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Devising a Mutual Menu

In honor of what would have been my grandfather's 89th birthday this coming Thursday, my family and I are having a casual barbeque on Saturday. The last time we had a backyard cookout for my grampa was in 2005. I didn't know that that would be the last birthday party I would be able to throw for him, the last chance to make him a cake. On April 1 of this year, he died. I am incredibly grateful that I was able to be with him throughout his hospitalization with heart disease and during his actual very last breaths. I am very grateful that Brian and my closest friends were all there for me and my grandfather throughout those trials too. I seem to be more prone to crying now than in the first few weeks after his death. The fact that his birthday is three days away, that it will be the first time in my life I don't get to buy him a card and wish him a happy birthday hasn't entirely hit me. Still, it seems fitting to get together to eat and share time with my loved ones in his memory.

The greatest mark of my grandfather's illness to me wasn't so much his actual hospitalization or even the two known heart attacks he suffered. It was his drastic weight loss and muscle wasting. It was the fact that he stopped eating, stopped getting hungry, stopped being able to taste and enjoy food. That to me seemed the cruelest blow of all. I'd seen him in the hospital before and his heart failure and hypertension had become a part of him that had, for years, been so seemingly well-managed by medication that they became almost incidental. Surmountable, even. But not eating? He loved to eat. That was taken away from him.

As a former cook in the army, he also knew how to cook. As the years went on, his concoctions became questionable, and often unrecognizable as any familiar food item, but I remember his pizza, fried fish, coconut ice cubes. My grandmother, however, loomed larger in the shaping of my food history. She was one of Those grandmothers, the kind who baked delicious cakes without ever referring to a recipe. When I wanted a snack, she'd make me fried chicken. She got me to eat beans--a hated food as a child--with her arroz con gandules, which I nicknamed vitamin rice because the pigeon peas looked like little pills. But the remeberance of my grandmother is more like myth. Maybe she did use recipes and measuring cups but I just don't remember. My grandfather, though, was real. I watched him cook everyday for years (and then I watched him stop cooking). I watched him read the greasy Betty Crocker cookbook when he was bored and then, hours later, he would have made a pear upside down cake. My grandfather didn't care if he didn't have half the ingredients called for. He'd just make whatever. So pineapple turned to pear and sometimes he wouldn't even use flour. Not if he had Bisquick or corn meal instead.

Earlier this year, to watch him turn away from food when I had always watched him turn towards it--first by feeding me, then by feeding my grandmother when she stopped cooking a few years before she died, and then finally for our dog, who he always cooked for--was so frustrating and incomprehensible. I didn't understand. I just thought if we could make him eat, he'd come back home. He's so weak and skinny, he's not rebounding, that's what I heard. So, I'll just make him eat. I made him coconut rice pudding, bought him soup and cakes. All I had to do was bring food, make him eat it, and he would get better. But he never wanted to eat. The biggest conflicts in the hospital were about getting him to eat. Every day my mother, the nurses and doctors, and I would try, tell him why he needed to eat. He would just get so angry. I suppose the only thing worse than losing the will to eat is having everyone bug you about why you should eat. In fact, my last interaction with my grandfather before he really started dying was me finally getting him to drink some Gatorade and bickering over the jello cup he didn't want.

Despite all of that, it doesn't seem strange at all to eat in his honor. He spent most of his life doing it anyway. The one feature, no matter one's religion or background, that seems to be common after any death is the bringing of food from friends and neighbors. You eat after someone dies. Or else someone tries to get you to eat. I guess there are two ways to grieve: eat or don't eat. I eat. The first thing I wanted to read after my grandfather died was the introduction to the "Funeral" chapter in Nigella Lawson's Feast. And the first thing I wanted to make was the marble cake in that chapter. Baking tied and ties me to my grandparents. It may seem cruel, or at least like some kind of denial, to bake a cake and eat it after someone dies. Yet food is what keeps everyone going. How can you go on after someone you love has died is the question Lawson brings up in the chapter. But that's what death is. It's not just someone dying and leaving you. It's you having to keep going on without them.

Yesterday, Brian called me while I was at Wegman's, shopping for the week and picking up a few items for the barbeque. I told him about my friend's husband who only eats halal meat so I'll have to get fish for him (and me). And no pork in the arroz con gandules so Brian and the Guls, who are Muslim, and I can eat it. Let's try not to mix up the ribs with the veggie dogs when grilling. Oh, and do you want me to make grilled eggplant sandwiches with vegan red pepper aioli? You know, a break from Morningstar Farms? Brian laughed as I told him all of this, saying it really was a mutual menu and how our conversation should be my next post. When I started writing, I didn't anticipate getting into so much detail about my grandfather and death in general and how all of that is so tied to food (everything is tied to food for me). But I guess I just really needed to talk about all of that.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


Last Saturday, Brian and I were scurrying around to feed my dog, Luckie, before heading out to visit Brian's co-worker's home and then to the 30th birthday party of his dear, old friend. My dog hasn't eaten dog food in nearly a decade, after a case of retinal detachment caused Luckie to go blind out of nowhere for nearly a week. I had read about the horrible, disgusting crap (the flesh of diseased animals, plastic, uh, other dogs) that goes into pet food and the health-related conditions that go along with eating it. But it wasn't until my seemingly healthy 4 year old dog went BLIND that I finally decided to stop feeding him the stuff. Now he's 13 years old and, other than some arthritis on his right back leg, he still runs, jumps and loves, just with a bit of a limp. And while he used to leave his dry dog food untouched for days, he always licks his bowl of real food clean. Anyways, this meandering introduction leads to this: on Saturday, I had to buy the dog a chicken.

I bought him one of those readymade grocery store rotisserie chickens that I used to pick up for myself when I couldn't be bothered to cook after work. They are convenient and pretty tasty. Brian and I are hungry ourselves so we pick up Amy's Organic roasted veggie pockets for 2 for $4. But I buy the dog an $8 roasted chicken. Brian is floored.

While cutting up the dog's meat--with a knife and then shredding it with my hands and fingers--I tell Brian that it doesn't gross me out to handle meat but that I no longer have the urge to eat it. That wasn't entirely true. For about five seconds, I wanted to eat a little wing, something I used to snack on while cutting up the main pieces for my dinner. I just wanted a little bite. I didn't have one and the urge passed quickly but I had the thought: a life without ever eating roasted chicken again. Can I do it? Well, I do. For now.
I'm still in one day at a time mode. It's been three months since I've ingested chicken, beef, or pork. Perhaps this transition has been made easier by my "fish are vegetables" stance, but that too is starting to wane. Life without shrimp? Maybe.

I sometimes think, one day I'll eat "humanely" raised meat every once in a blue moon. It's not that bad. Or, when I finally get over to Spain, I have to eat meat. I want chorizo. Sometimes I think maybe I do need to eat meat. Not just want to but need to. Need the protein, after all. But I know I don't. I know I'm tired because I'm a sleep-deprived insomniac, not because I didn't eat a steak. I was an insomniac when I ate meat and I'll probably be one for all of my days. Besides, I get plenty of protein from beans, cashew butter, veggie burgers, quinoa and kamut pasta spirals, soy milk, cheese, cow's milk, eggs, and yes, fish. If anything I suffer from a vegetable deficiency. My health is not being compromised by an overabundance of broccoli.

I've been reading less vegetarian literature lately. In the first month of my dietary and belief transition, I ordered back issues of Veg News, read vegan cookbooks on my lunch break, read excerpts of Slaughterhouse, and I listened to the Compassionate Cooks' podcasts, Food for Thought. That last tool really cinched it for me. So much so that I stopped listening, that's how effective the podcasts are. I can read a vegetarian cookbook and still think about the eggs I'll use in a cake. But listening to Food for Thought makes me feel guilty for not being vegan. Because Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is right. Her discussions are imapssioned, thoughtful, well-researched, thorough, and incredibly persuasive. I currently have "The High Costs of Cheap Meat" on pause and will play it once this post goes up.

One bad, bad day last when I was just angry at the world, I really wanted a bacon double cheeseburger. I thought, fuck this, I'm eating one. I want to eat all the fat and grease there is, make myself feel as sick physically as I feel emotionally. I planned on picking one up for lunch. While opening my e-mail that morning, the Compassionate Cooks newsletter was in my inbox. The picture on the top of this post was in the newsletter. I just couldn't eat a burger. The thought of eating one just made me sick.
picture courtesy of the blog, Food For Thought

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Life Swap

Have you ever seen television's Wife Swap? Joselle and I managed to watch an episode together last night, thanks to telephone technology. As seems typical, the show focuses on oddly-paired people who breathe fire at each other while learning valuable life lessons. Joselle and I learned a lesson or two of our own by watching this Wife Swap program: 1.) Most people are not terribly functional in our society; and 2.) No two people eat the same exact way.

Couple A idolizes its miniature doggies with fancy feasts and hand-knitted sweaters, all while worshiping the convenience of gas-guzzling automobiles and gas-inducing, meat-based fast food. Couple B is the epitome of West-Coast American environmentalism with its freegan dumpster-diving, human-waste-recycling backyard agriculture, and overall placidity. Both couples are a hoot---and quite extreme in their own idiosynchratic ways. When dumped together under one roof, the mutual menu is a hard sell. Mom from Couple A thinks that people who "pee on their garden" are "sick." Mom from Couple B thinks that fried chicken is definitely not the way to a household at peace with itself---and the lazy SUV in the garage sure isn't helping any.

Can't we all just get along? Yeah, I find myself leaning more toward the green-grass side of Couple B, but I like to think that Couple A isn't completely diabolical for living out a microculture that's so popularly acceptable at the macrocultural level (even though Dad from Couple B said something about Mom from Couple A being birthed when "Lucifer lifted his leg"). As difficult as a mutual menu can be to achieve, it's not that far off from the multiculturalism that's broadcast to a modern, democratic American society in the form of racial ethnicity, national origin, spiritual belief system, etc. The possibilities for balance are well within our grasp, but the world is definitely spinning out of control.

In the end, the question will stand: Who will be the most grounded in our shared reality? Hopefully, we all will; not just humans, but also the hipster canines in their tight sweaters, and chickens in the fryer at your favorite fast-food restaurant.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Mei Mei

There's always time to post a picture of Brian eating the tofu and broccoli at the delicious dump that is Mei Mei. Not vegetarian-friendly at all. But the few veggies that are there are delicious. And if you like meat, you're in luck. They've got lots of it. What they lack in ambience they make up for in bangin ass food.