Monday, June 23, 2008

Three Days Until Portland and San Francisco

It's been quiet on the blogging front, what with Luckie having a tumor and then a seizure (by the way, he seems really great lately, very alert and always up for eating) and Brian and I heading off to Portland and San Francisco this Thursday. I've been trying to tie up loose ends at work so I come back to only 5000 emails as opposed to 10,000 of them. Brian and I have also been trying to come up with a loose itinerary for our vacation. Mainly, I've planned where we're going to eat. Brian as a veteran vegan and me as the newbie will be in vegan heaven in these two cities. It will be so nice to go to a restaurant and be able to order ANYTHING. Other than that, though, I'm leaving it up to fate. I just want to relax and get away from my ever-present to-do list: bike ride, hike, walk around, laze in bookstores, eat, not touch a computer for 10 days, and spend time with my boyfriend for more than 24 hours in a row. It will be so nice to be in the same city with him for over a week. We'll also be seeing some friends, including Sky. We'll be back with lots of pictures and restaurant reviews sometime after the fourth of July. Until then, if you have any recommendations for Portland and San Francisco--food-related or not--please leave some comments.

* San Francisco postcard found on Flickr.

Friday, June 13, 2008


Luckie has thyroid cancer. It's not an official diagnosis since he has not had a biopsy but the vet is pretty sure that is what his lemon-sized (my nurse oncologist mother says plum) tumor in his throat area is. He's 14. He's lived a good, long life. Much healthier than a lot of dogs who are 9 or 10 years old. His only elderly health problem has been bad arthritis. Otherwise, he's remained curious, happy, loving, lovable, and incredibly interested in food.

His age--or his species--doesn't make his diagnosis and the fact that I will lose him one day any less painful and scary.

He has choked once while eating food. His breathing is more labored when he exerts himself. I now worry every time he barks and coughs, wondering if the tumor is going to close off the esophagus and choke him to death.

I don't know what we'll do yet. I need to read over the information the vet will send, possibly get a second opinion, try some natural remedies in an attempt to approve his thyroid functioning and keep the tumor from getting bigger.

I've known about the tumor for well over a month after Brian found it while hugging the dog. I tried to tuck my fear away, tried to say, maybe it's always been there but I never knew. But I knew that wasn't true. When I took him to the vet on Saturday, I said it was for a regular checkup but it was really for the tumor. At first the vet couldn't find it and didn't seem too concerned by the fatty tumors she found. But then she found it and she turned very concerned very quickly. She aspirated the tumor at least 5 times. All that came out was blood, which means the tumor is being very well-fed.

We talked and I said, "Well, I don't want to do anything drastic. He's 14. Let's just keep an eye on it and make sure he's comfortable. I don't want surgery or chemo." She agreed. She still needed to look at slides and check out the cells more, although it would be hard for a lab to read with so much blood.

When I spoke to the vet yesterday, she said things like carcinoma, metastasis, four months. I lost my shit. I stopped eating. Suddenly everything I said about wanting to make him comfortable seemed stupid and, most importantly, a lie. What about chemo or surgery? I don't want to give up. She said she wouldn't try surgery if it were her but we'd need more information--xrays and biopsies--anyway. I felt nauseous. I had to leave work early not because anything was wrong with Luckie--he's fine for now. I just wanted to be with him and I didn't want a stupid reason like work to get in the way of being with him while he's still happy and relatively healthy.

If you have a companion animal, give them a big hug for me. I hope they're okay. If you don't have one, and you know you can totally care for and love one for their whole life, I can't tell you enough what a great idea that is. One of the biggest reasons I've been so open to going vegan is because of Luckie. When I thought of killing and eating him or keeping him penned up so I could take his milk (well, if he were a girl) or his fur, it seemed unthinkable, sick, and cruel. I've rarely met a creature--human or otherwise--who has such personality, who makes me so happy just looking at him cock his head when I talk to him, who is so damn sweet and funny. Companion animals can be great ambassadors for farm animals. They can break open your heart. And they will also eventually break it.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Happy 1 Year Anniversary to Mutual Menu

Mutual Menu turns one year old today and so much has changed in this year. My initial idea for this blog was to document how Brian and I navigated a relationship with him being vegan and me being an omnivore. I thought it would be fun to visit restaurants that would accommodate both of our diets and then write about the experience. I would think of recipes that could work for both chicken and tofu. I’d give tips to other “mixed” couples and groups. I never planned on giving up eating meat and Brian never asked that of me. When we first met, I thought vegetarians were noble but that it would be too hard for me to be one. And vegans? Forget it. I wasn't going to live without cheese.

On June 6, 2007, when I posted for the first time, I had already stopped eating land animals, much to my own surprise. At this point, I started eating more fish than I ever did as an omnivore because it made eating out at restaurants a little easier. More than that, I just wasn't ready to be a vegetarian, mainly because I didn't want my eating habits to be judged by others. As someone with a complicated relationship to food, I just didn't want my food to be even more dissected than it already was, by me or others.

Just about seven months later, I finally decided to stop eating fish. After months of listening to Vegan Freak Radio and Compassionate Cooks' Food for Thought podcasts, reading Veg News and Herbivore Magazine, collecting links to many vegan & vegetarian blogs, and visiting Catskill Animal Sanctuary with Brian, I was finally ready to be a full-fledged vegetarian. Anything less than that was completely hypocritical to me. I wasn't, however, ready to give up eggs and cheese, although I was at least open to the possibility of being vegan. I bought my cage-free, organic eggs knowing it was a meaningless label and tried to buy only rennet-free cheese but still ate whatever cheese I was given when eating out.

Last month, I was eating an egg for breakfast and the same feeling of revulsion I felt while eating roast chicken for the last time came over me again. Without fanfare, without announcing it to anyone, I gave up eating eggs and dairy. I just felt like I was ready to stop.

So, I guess I'm vegan now, though I'm reluctant to say I am. I just don't want to deal with people who don't understand why I would make a choice. I also still remember how enjoyable eating cheese and even meat can be and I worry that one day Brian will find me in a closet injecting cheddar into my veins. I feel like it would be a bigger disappointment to him, myself, and any of you reading to be a big talker and end up failing at this than it would be to just never have gone down this road at all. I'm doing, though, and it's really not nearly as hard to be vegan as I thought it would be.

I have a lot I would love to do with this blog, one being just having more time for it. I work full-time as an editor, have a long commute, and a very nasty case of repetitive strain injury in both arms, so the last thing I need to do when I’m not working is sitting in front of a computer typing. Luckily, having tendinitis/carpal tunnel/arthritis/chronic pain doesn’t interfere with eating!

I've picked some of my favorite posts from this year, starting from recent time and working my way back to earlier days. One of the biggest reasons I've been able to see the world so differently and change my behavior so drastically is because writing about my thoughts and experiences here has allowed those things to happen:

Would You Like Fries With That? Viva Las Vegans, Trenton Avenue Arts Festival, making new friends.

Guest posts by my friends, Sky Chari of Eats Well With Others and Jessie.

Everyone Is A Little Vegan on how many of the foods we already eat are naturally and perfectly vegan.

Mutable Menu I describe my reaction to passing a truck full of pigs on my drive to work.

My Food Resolutions for 2008

Guess Who Has the World's Best Boyfriend? The answer would be me. There's also a quick and simple comforting soup recipe in this post.

Seven Ways to Host a Vegetarian-Friendly Cocktail Party

What Nigella Lawson Said To Me

Baking Power! Even though Brian doesn't post often, this blog is a joint effort. Here he writes about the maple walnut cake we made. It looked like Pac Man.

The Nature of the Beast Another post by Brian on language.

Author, podcaster, cooking instructor, and activist Colleen Patrick-Goudreau sends a lively greeting my way, by way of Sky.

An ode to Summer 2007.

Devising a Mutual Menu is my all-time favorite post because it's the most personal post. It's about my grandfather.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Everyday Is Not Like Sunday: Memphis Taproom & Headhouse Square

Memphis Taproom
The recently opened bar and restaurant opened just a short walk from Brian’s house in East Kensington (or Port Fishington, according to the peeps at the Taproom). We first passed by Memphis Taproom a few months ago when they were still working hard on renovations. The friendly owners and workers told us to stop by soon and that there would be plenty of vegetarian fare and we didn’t even tell them we were vegetarians. Maybe we had a look about us?

This past Saturday evening, we came off the 25 SEPTA bus schlepping new pillows and a mattress top for Brian’s bed when we ran into Laura Semmelroth of Flat Iron Wildcats—a local feral and homeless cat trap and rescue and adoption organization—and her boyfriend. They were heading off to Memphis Taproom and told us it would be their third weekend in a row at the place. Go, food is good.

After Laura’s endorsement, we vowed to finally head over to the Taproom for Sunday brunch and boy, was it worth the wait. Our waitress could not have been nicer or more attentive. In fact, it was she who offered to take a picture of Brian and me when she saw our camera out. The menu clearly labels what items are vegetarian and vegan (all items contain meat) and will substitute tofu scramble for any egg dish. Our waitress read us the specials, which included a tofu omelet stuffed with veggies. I eyed Brian and said, “Oooh, get that. It’s not just tofu scramble! And I’ll get the barbeque seitan sandwich and we can share and have breakfast and lunch!” So we did. I also got a beer mimosa, which is just like your regular champagne mimosa except with, you guessed it, beer. It was delicious and pretty much tasted like a champagne-based mimosa to my mostly undiscriminating booze taste buds.

When our food our arrived, the plates were heaped with crisp, thick, salty and peppery French fries. Yum.
The tofu omelet looked like an egg omelet and tasted delicious to boot. Brian also got a small cup of berry and wine jam made by Trappist monks, which really hit the tongue with sweet and sour berries and lush wine.

The seitan was slathered in tangy and spicy barbeque sauce and topped with crunchy slaw, which was perfect for me since I hate mayo-y and soggy salads. I gave half to Brian and was still more than satisfied. I’ll have a hard time trying anything else off the menu in the future because I’ll always want this sandwich.

By the end of our meal, we were stuffed and very happy. Our waitress asked if we’d like dessert, which included vegan chocolate cake with almond crust. I so wanted it but I could barely move at this point. Perhaps I should not have overdosed on the fries but I could not help but pop them in my mouth. Next time we’re there, we’re getting dessert.
Headhouse Farmer’s Market
Our next stop was the Headhouse Farmer’s Market, which was bustling even though we got there just about an hour before closing time. There were tons of green leafy vegetables and some berries and tomatoes. Other than produce, this market has lots of cheese, meat, and milk. Fittingly, one of the cheese tables was also selling ground veal. At least they’re keeping it real and not hiding the fact that veal is what all those dairy cows’ male babies become. I would have loved to have sampled and bought some baked goods but even the plain white bread had milk in it. Judging from the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival a few weeks back, I know there are plenty of Philly people making delicious vegan baked goods. I’d love to see a table or two of them representing at the farmer’s market.

After the market, we walked down South Street, got a Rita’s Ice, and sat in a park, watching some squirrels chase each other and a cute toddler relishing in her lunch. It was a nice day and over way too soon.
2331 E. Cumberland St. (corner of Memphis)
Philadelphia, PA 19125
2nd and Lombard Streets
10 am to 2 pm on Sundays