Yesterday, my birthday, boasted a bike ride with my good friend Gabe over the Hudson River, attendance of the Sistah Vegan Web Conference with my VARC co-president and secretary, and an intriguing dinner that featured one of my new favorite ingredients: tamarind concentrate.
After reveling in my usual green smoothie-granola breakfast bowl, Gabe and I hopped on our bikes and embarked upon the 8-mile journey through Poughkeepsie and across the Walkway Over the Hudson, the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world. Though exhilarating to speed over the Walkway with the wind whipping through my hair while Gabe and I reminisced over our most memorable burrito experiences, traversing Poughkeepsie always instills in me a slight sense of despair, for there exists a prominent juxtaposition between the wealthy, privileged students at Vassar and the largely impoverished, underserved community surrounding us. I suppose that witnessing this disconcerting disparity constitutes the first step in fostering change, and I know that Vassar reaches out to Poughkeepsie residents through school tutoring and gardening programs…but that doesn’t ease my deep anger with the class war that intensifies every day. From that class war, of course, comes food deserts and exploitation of agricultural workers (among other food-related issues), all of which hugely intertwine with the commodification of non-human beings.
These contemplations of the intersections between class issues, racism, and speciesism continued throughout the day with the Sistah Vegan Web Conference, entitled “Embodied and Critical Perspectives on Veganism by Black Women.” Conference presentation topics included the animal rights movement’s problematic tendency to perpetuate patriarchal ideals in campaigns; the paradigm between the body types of black vegan women and the stereotypical skinny, white vegan body; and the oppression often bolstered through the consumption of vegan commodities (for example, the cocoa trade largely depends upon child labor). My fellow VARC ladies and I gathered in my room to virtually attend the conference, and spent a thought-provoking afternoon listening, learning, and discussing these urgent social issues.
Katie and I broke from the conference for about an hour to concoct a Thai-inspired, veggie-laden, steaming hot dinner inspired by G0lubka’s recipe for Cellophane Noodle with Crispy Vegetables. Though we modified the recipe considerably, Katie and I still managed to produce a satisfying one-dish meal. Our cooking method follows: we sautéed one small onion, a large clove of garlic, and a generous knob of fresh ginger in a tablespoon of coconut oil until just browned. We then added half of a head of green cabbage, a big handful of green beans, and a couple sliced button mushrooms and sautéed until caramelized. Meanwhile, we whisked together the juice of three limes, one tablespoon of olive oil, two tablespoons of coconut sugar, one tablespoon of tamarind concentrate, and one tablespoon of tamari, while we boiled a package of brown rice noodles. Finally, we added a diced heirloom tomato, the cooked noodles, and the sauce to the sauté pan and tossed until well-combined. The tangy, succulent noodles would find improvement only with the addition of pan-fried tofu squares and fresh basil.
I concluded my day by discovering multiple wishes of birthday love plastered upon my door in Ferry, ever reminded of the supportive community in which I’m so unbelievably lucky to take part.
Until next time, Ali.