A Response to “Veganism is a Form of Disordered Eating”: Why the Vegan Community Needs to Take Accountability

Recently, I was interviewed for an academic publication that sought to debunk the myth that veganism constitutes a form of disordered eating. Having lived in a state of ongoing ED recovery for the past five years now — and having experienced veganism as a profound mechanism of healing — I emphatically support the work my interviewer was attempting to do. Indeed, as a proponent of veganism, I no longer understand animal flesh and secretions as food, so likening my veganism to an eating disorder would parallel someone being concerned about my eating habits because I wasn’t chowing down on my carpet.

During the interview, my interviewer asked whether or not I felt anger toward folks who mask eating disorders with vegan consumption habits, only to subsequently speak out against veganism for the struggles it caused them. The question stopped me. Of course I wasn’t angry at such folks — I was one of them, after all, and I couldn’t possibly feel animosity toward someone solely for their destructive internalization of Western false ideals of beauty and body. But I understood where the question was coming from: there has been much backlash in the vegan community against ED-provoked former vegans — a backlash that I believe targets the wrong entities.

Instead of blaming people who hide eating disorders behind vegan consumption habits for giving veganism a bad name, perhaps we should engage in a critical analysis of how we who support vegan consumption habits tend to construct veganism in discourse and practice in such a way as to prompt folks to use vegan eating as a mask for deeper destructive dynamics.

While as I mentioned above I completely support efforts to de-link veganism from eating disorders, I can totally grasp the tendency to connect the two, since for many — including myself while in the depths of my ED — vegan consumption habits can serve as a method of justification for refusing certain calorie-dense foods (even though there’s an animal-free version of basically any dish these days) or loading up one’s plate with veggies. This linkage, however, depends at least in part upon constructions of vegan consumption as “the healthiest diet,” which serves as one of the main arguments for adopting vegan eating habits among vegan activists.

In vegan health arguments, I can identify a number of problems that serve to lend vegan consumption to a masking of eating disorders.

For starters, vegan health arguments construe veganism as primarily a matter of food choice. They thus equate eating with morality–an equation that has played a large role in my own struggles with disordered eating. For example, if I ate something I perceived as unhealthy, failed to include a leafy green vegetable in one of my meals, or ate more than my body needed at any given moment, I would feel a profound sense of guilt and disgust with myself. I based my self-worth primarily on how, when, and what I ate, so eating became a major marker of how I perceived my morality.

I can also see this dynamic play out in health-oriented vegan circles, which tend to lean toward no-oil/soy-free/grain-free/low-fat/etc. diets and equate such supposedly “healthy” eating styles with morality. Indeed, a number of my colleagues have experienced backlash from such circles for publishing recipes perceived as “unhealthy,” receiving such ludicrous comments as “you’re not really vegan if you cook in such-and-such a way” (which is totally false unless that way in which you cook involves animal products). Veganism thus becomes a path by which to achieve the “purest” form of eating, which many forms of disordered eating also seek to do.

However, if we understand veganism as one among many attempts to question the default ideologies – in this case, speciesism – that infringe upon our ability to coexist with others, practicing vegan consumption habits becomes but one action taken in accordance with a larger political orientation. Emphasizing vegan eating as one of many means rather than the end can help to cultivate an understanding of veganism as much more than just one’s eating habits, which can in turn promote a de-linking of veganism and eating disorders.

Additionally, vegan health arguments work to uphold capitalist, statist ideologies that delineate what count as “normal” (and thus acceptable) bodies–exactly the ideologies that help to foster a proliferation of eating disorders in the first place. I think that our conceptions of what counts as a “healthy body” are largely constructed by the capitalist economic system in which we live, which seeks to constantly accumulate more and more wealth. In order to achieve that constant accumulation, capitalism needs to employ as many people as possible in the service of profit-making. Since profit-making depends upon maximized productivity, the capitalist state can only thrive if it creates maximally productive (i.e., “healthy”) bodies — i.e., “healthy” bodies. Virtually all of us internalized a capitalist ideology that conditions us to see productive/”healthy” bodies as normal and superior to all others, so I understand what we tend to perceive as self-betterment as actually in service of the capitalist state. 

This construction of “healthy” bodies is also profoundly ableist — if we understand ableism as a set of practices and beliefs that assign inferior value to people who live with developmental, emotional, physical or psychiatric disabilities — since they imply that thin, fully mobile, muscular bodies are the “best bodies.” 

I’m not saying here that we shouldn’t strive to feel good in our bodies, but I am saying that we should strive to dissociate what feeling good means to ourselves from what constructions of a capitalist, statist society tell us our body should look and feel like. For example, currently and for a long time now, I’ve only been able to “feel good” in my body if I can perceive it as thin, thanks to Western societal ideals of body size. So, for me, dissociating feeling good from societal constructions would mean assessing my body on how well it can support me in everything I need and love to do, rather than on its size.

So yes, it’s very disappointing to see veganism employed as a front for eating disorders. But I think that instead of getting angry with individual former vegans for having internalized Western societal conceptions of “the ideal body” and grasping onto what is presented as a food-centric, “health”-related philosophy, we as proponents of veganism should work to challenge these capitalist/statist conceptions of “healthy” bodies by emphasizing eating as but one of many political actions in the service of anti-speciesism.

In solidarity, Ali.

{A Belated Observation of} National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2015

Hey, ya’ll. These past couple of days and the coming ones have provided me with ample amounts of schoolwork to manage, so I haven’t the energy to devote to a full post today. I do, however, want to share a number of resources in (belated) observation of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2015, which took place last week from  February 22 to 28. If you’re interested, you can check out this post about why this issue is near and dear to my heart.

Photo via NEDA.

Photo via NEDA.

First, two videos that I found to be inspiring and helpful in fostering a healthy, ongoing recovery process:

Years of Hating Her Body and Then One Simple Choice Changed Everything
Via Caroline Rothstein at Greatist

Photo via Caroline Rothstein.

Photo via Caroline Rothstein.

5 Common Questions About Eating Disorder Recovery Answered
Via Melissa A. Fabello at Everyday Feminism

Photo via Everyday Feminism.

Photo via Everyday Feminism.

And, because the face of eating disorder awareness is a white, upper-middle-class woman, I want to pass along a couple of resources that speak to the eating-related struggles that women of color face, as well.

Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat: A Story of Bulimia
By Stephanie Covington Armstrong

Photo via Stephanie Covington Armstrong.

Photo via Stephanie Covington Armstrong.

A Hunger So Wide And So Deep: A Multiracial View of Women’s Eating Problems
By Becky Thompson

Photo via Amazon.com.

Photo via Amazon.com.

The #MarginalizED Project
Via Melissa A. Fabello & NEDA

Photo via Melissa A. Fabello.

Photo via Melissa A. Fabello.

In solidarity, Ali.

Thoughts on Food as Identity

Hello and happy Monday, all! I hope you’re doing well. Lately I’ve had some thoughts swirling about my head regarding veganism as an identity. I’ve written briefly on the topic before, inspired by bell hooks’ attempts to de-center the self, challenge our culture’s prevailing individualism, and emphasize feminist struggle as a political commitment by using the phrase “I advocate feminism” instead of “I am a feminist.” Perhaps applying this linguistic and conceptual shift to veganism would help to re-frame vegan consumption as something practiced as an extension of a political consciousness of anti-speciesism, rather than as a practice of consumerism designed to benefit human vegans by shifting the market in their favor.

This notion of conceptualizing veganism not as an identity but as a practice has prompted me to reflect upon my identity as it relates to food in general. Throughout my long-fraught history with food, I gauged my worth as a person by the amount I ate (or, perhaps more accurately, didn’t eat), how “healthily” I ate, and the manner in which I ate (at certain times of day, slowly or in a rushed state, etc.). Exceeding the arbitrary caloric limit I set for myself, consuming minimal amounts of refined sugar or white flour, and eating dinner at 5:50 instead of 6:00 resulted in feelings of unworthiness, and lack of willpower and self-discipline. These self-hating feelings suggest my internalization of a Western form of governmentality that seeks to produce healthy and fit bodies able to act productively in service of the state, and that does so by encouraging a mode of self-policing in its citizens through institutions such as schools, hospitals, the criminal legal system, and beyond.

I now actively stray from labeling myself in food-related terms like “salad-eater” and even “vegan,” largely because I seek to define myself beyond what I put into my body, which is exactly what I did for years to the severe detriment of my physical and mental well-being.

All of this is to say that I currently view the conceptualization of food-as-identity as potentially harmful to developing a more broadly articulated politics of anti-speciesism (as opposed to consumer-based veganism), as well as to my own holistic health (and perhaps others with histories of disordered eating can relate).

However, I do want to also emphasize the importance that food has had for the identities of marginalized people throughout history. Indeed, such peoples have used “[r]esistance to and through food as the exercise of power […] [in] spectacular public displays of starvation or everyday actions,small gestures of rebellion located in (un)authorized or (in)appropriate spaces where they did not quite fit” (Cooks 94). For example, in much of African-American culture, “food-centered gatherings are a forum wherein the history, wealth, spirit, creativity, resilience, and collective ethnic identity of the community is perpetuated” as a testament to the “wealth” that food provided to slaves when “it was available for them to share and enjoy when no other tangible resources were truly their own” (Liburd 161, 162).

This food-based form of maintaining cultural integrity and autonomy in the face of white supremacist racial oppression contributes to my immense discomfort with issuing blanket statements that frame vegan consumption practices as “the most ethical” or “healthiest” form of eating (for challenging white racial superiority by maintaining connections to cultural heritage through food that may involve the consumption of animals could certainly also constitute an ethical matter, while health conceptualized holistically may take the maintenance of such connections into account). This lack of cultural sensitivity that I often see in vegan rhetoric I think also points to the need for advocates of other animals to focus on speciesism as a social justice issue, rather than on vegan consumption as an end goal and moral imperative. In this context of food-based cultural connections, I see the latter focus as continuing to suggest that people of color are morally inferior to white people, and thus perpetuating the colonial mindset that began and proliferated the African slave trade.

So, while I no longer wish to define my own personal or political identities by what I eat, I understand that others of different life experiences may seek to establish food as an integral aspect of their identity in order to maintain autonomy in the face of white supremacy. And I, as a white vegan of upper-middle-class status, want to find ways to advocate for anti-speciesism without de-legitimizing such identity-based struggles. The best way I can think of to do this is to support the leadership of those at the margins of advocacy for other animalsthe vegans of color, the queer vegans, the trans* vegans, the differently abled vegans — and to let them define the trajectory of our movement.

No recipe for today, but hopefully enough food for thought.

In solidarity, Ali.


Resources

Bisogni, Carole A., Margaret Conners, Carol M. Devine, and Jeffery Sobal. “Who We Are and How We Eat: A Qualitative Study of Identities in Food Choice.” Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 34.3 (May-June 2002): 128-139. ScienceDirect. Web. 8 February 2015.

Cherry, Elizabeth, Colter Ellis, and Michaela DeSoucey. “Food for Thought, Thought for Food: Consumption, Identity, and Ethnography.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 40.2 (April 2011): 231-258. Sage Journals. Web. 8 February 2015.

Cooks, Leda. “You are What You (Don’t) Eat? Food, Identity, and Resistance.” Text and Performance Quarterly 29.1 (January 2009): 94-110. EbscoHost. Web. 8 February 2015.

Liburd, Leandris C. “Food, Identity, and African-American Women With Type 2 Diabetes: An Anthropological Perspective.” Diabetes Spectrum 16.3 (2003): 160-165. Web. 8 February 2015.

Sneijder, Petra and Hedwig te Molder. “Normalizing Ideological Food Choice and Eating Practices. Identity Work in Online Discussions on Veganism.” Appetite 52.3 (June 2009): 621-630. ScienceDirect. Web. 8 February 2015.

Stead, Martine, Laura McDermott, Anne Marie MacKintosh, and Ashley Adamson. “Why Healthy Eating is Bad for Young People’s Health: Identity, Belonging and Food.” Social Science & Medicine 72.7 (April 2011): 1131-1139. Science Direct. Web. 8 February 2015.

The (Vegan) Triple Bacon Salad | Why “Farmers Market Vegan”?

Over the course of the past four years of my blogging endeavors, my understanding of and relationship to food, veganism, social justice, and, yes, farmers markets has shifted considerably. Indeed, way back in 2011 when I first conceptualized my blog, I held rather naive, perhaps even romantic notions of all of these entities, and hadn’t even begun to realize the coalescing forms of structural subjugation rampant in our society.

Today, after a turbulent four years involving enrollment at a progressive college and eating disorder recovery, I’d like to think of myself as harboring more nuanced views on all of the above (though I certainly don’t purport to understand them in all their complexity). As such, this past summer I penned a new draft of my ever-developing story and blogging “mission statement” of sorts. Though I made this piece of writing available on the “About Me” page of my blog a couple of months ago, in an effort to share more broadly the new meaning behind my blog (and to free up some time in my hectic college-student schedule), I’d like to republish my “blogging autobiography,” if you will, in a separate post today.

Waiting at the bottom of this story is the recipe for an indulgent-tasting amalgamation of richly umami flavors and a satisfying contrast of hearty and crisp textures…with three shots of bacon (vegan, of course!). A bed of bacon-flavored salad greens (who knew that sesame oil, smoked paprika, and garlic powder combined to create an eerily accurate bacony taste?) forms the base of this salad, nearly charred roasted cauliflower and shiitake mushrooms provide bacon’s crispy-chewy juxtaposition, and succulent tempeh bacon tops the dish. To offset the richness of these three salad components, a drizzle of bright and tangy “ranch” dressing finishes everything off. An impressive meal-sized salad, if I ever saw one (and I’ve seen many).

vegan bacon salad (2)


Birth of a Farmers’ Market Foodie

My relationship with food and activism began as early as childhood, when I would perch upon the kitchen stool alongside my mother as she prepared dinner that my family would share each evening. This youthful connection with food grew into a full “foodie” identity by age twelve, when my mother and I ogled at the culinary masterpieces showcased on Iron Chef and Top Chef every week. As a freshman in high school, I began planning, shopping for, and cooking my family’s weekly dinner menus. Having become quite the make-from-scratch-er, I soon began to disdain packaged convenience foods, due to both their low quality and ability to completely separate individuals from developing any sort of meaningful relationship with their food.

Naturally, my interest in high-quality, homemade, unprocessed food as well as its convivial nature led me to my local farmers’ market, where I first inhaled the succulent aroma of fresh heirloom tomatoes and gawked at rainbow-hued carrots while befriending the farmers who produced them. Though I had hardly begun to understand the full extent of the problems surrounding America’s current food system (and beyond), I still sought haven at the farmers’ market from the few predicaments I had already realized. My weekly interactions with devoted purveyors of organic produce, as well as with fellow shoppers who too became a bit verklempt over a particularly aromatic cantaloupe, provided me with a (rather naïve) foodie utopia of sorts.

Disorderly Conduct

Come sophomore year of high school, however, my enthusiasm for food had morphed into an unhealthy obsession after an amalgamation of factors—constant judging of young women’s bodies on my gymnastics team, pressure to perform perfectly in academics at my highly competitive high school—led to the development of a fierce eating disorder. With my thoughts constantly fixated on calories—both in terms of eating fewer and burning more—my life suddenly lacked joy and passion. All of my consciousness was focused on waiting for my next meal, as these were the only times when I would allow myself to actually partake in the act that saturated my every thought.

About a year and a half into my eating disorder, a classmate introduced me to veganism, to which I soon clung as a tool of further restriction. Lending less than a second thought to the ethical implications of a vegan lifestyle, I latched onto the diet for an unsuspicious reason to reject calorie-dense foodssuch as traditionally made baked goods, cream sauces, and ice cream (the vegan versions of which I now regularly enjoy). Conscious of this misguided and harmful reason for adopting a vegan diet, I felt uncomfortable every time I called myself a vegan—I knew I was a fraud.

A combination of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s Vegetarian Food for Thought podcast and Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet began to pave my path from a depressed, waif-like, phony “vegan” into an inspired, healthy, committed animal rights activist. Introducing me to the intense injustices humans perpetrate against our fellow beings, Colleen and Alicia unflinchingly explained the forced insemination of female cows in the dairy industry, the pulverizing of live male chicks in the egg industry, the role of animal agriculture as one of the most significant contributors to the world’s most serious environmental problems, and a plethora of additional shocking truths.

Previously indifferent to anything unrelated to my obsessive eating habits, I now found a fierce passion ignited inside of me, a drive forceful enough to expel me from my zombie-like state and to shift my mental focus onto something vastly larger than myself – fighting the dominant, violent ideology of carnism.

Suddenly faced with the urgent yet overlooked issue of animal exploitation, I somehow managed to forget about preventing my thighs from meeting in the middle and not consuming more than 25 grams of fat per day. I realized that directing all of my energy toward adhering to arbitrary, self-imposed rules would contribute absolutely nothing to the movement of compassion for all beings. I disposed of my calorie-tracking charts, replacing them with animal advocacy leaflets. I ceased to Google the most effective ab-toning workouts, and instead launched this blog as an educational resource for my classmates who had never before encountered veganism. I even yearned to (and successfully did) gain weight to combat the mainstream notion of vegans as gaunt, frail, and unhealthy. The only unyielding imperative dictating my once laughably self-restricted food choices was now not to consume anything that promotes the needless suffering of sentient beings.

Utopia: Shattered

In the midst of this profound (and life-saving) transformation, I continued to patronize the farmers’ market—to this day, I still revel in my Saturday morning jaunts to the market. However, while after adopting a vegan lifestyle I still viewed the farmers’ market as an aspect of a potential reformation of America’s broken food system, I began to view many facets of the farmers’ marketas antithetical to what I perceived as its primary goal of broadening access to good, clean, and fair food. While I certainly couldn’t argue with the qualitative “goodness” of the market’s impeccable produce, I questioned the market’s tenets of “clean” and “fair” in terms of its support of animal agriculture.

Consumers who understandably reject nonindustrial animal agriculture due to the huge threats it poses to the environment often opt for animals raised in small-scale free-range, grass-fed, and cage-free operations. These seemingly more sustainable farming methods, however, still effect the environment quite negatively. For example, pastured organic chickens affect global warming 20 percent more than do caged hens. Grass-grazing cows emit considerably more methane than grain-fed cows. If each grass-fed cow requires an average of 10 acres for grazing, and if we all 100 million of the cows in the U.S. on grass, then we would have to devote the entire Western half of the country’s land to cattle (this doesn’t even consider the space required of pastured chickens and pigs). As author, journalist, and author James McWilliams reminds us, “It’s not how we produce animal products that ultimately matters. It’s whether we produce them at all.” A truly “clean” farmers’ market would eschew the sale of animal foods.

To describe the “fair” aspect of its goals, Slow Food nobly affirms that, “we believe that food is a universal right.” I wholeheartedly agree, especially considering the inexcusable food deserts largely concentrated in America’s communities of color, or the 870 million people worldwide who do not have enough to eat. If we agree also, though, that autonomy over one’s own body functions as a universal right, then with animal agriculture we infringe upon this liberty while misguidedly seeking to ensure that advocated by Slow Food (I say “misguidedly” because if all of the crops grown to feed livestock became available for direct human consumption, the available food calories worldwide would increase by up to 70 percent).

Indeed, animal agriculture ensures the exploitation of non-human animals’ bodies while jeopardizing the health of the human animals who consume them, as well as the amount of crops available for direct human consumption. While we may not often hear tales of animal cruelty on small-scale farms, the treatment of animals on such operations often parallels that on factory farms.

The cage-free label, for example, only stipulates that hens live uncaged among up to thousands of other birds in barns or warehouses, generally without access to the outdoors; it also permits forced molting. Additionally, I learned on a trip to the Poplar Springs Animal Sanctuary during the summer of 2013 that every single one of the sanctuary’s cows—all of whom the sanctuary rescued from cases of intense abuse—came from small-scale, family farms.

Most importantly, however, I truly believe that supporting non-industrial animal agriculture inadvertently supports factory farming, since it does not question the notion of eating animals in general. As long as this carnist concept remains unchallenged, factory farms will always thrive, seeing as demand for meat will not decrease—and let’s face it, factory farms produce meat most efficiently, to the immense detriment of the nearly 10 billion land animals Americans consume each year. A “fair” farmers’ market would include non-human animals in the pool of beings whom they grant universal rights, especially if doing so meant that it would render the universal right of nourishing, plant-based food accessible to many more people.

Growth of an Activist

Coming to terms with the fact that the farmers’ market and the foodie community in general would probably not fulfill my idealistic notion of sparking a large-scale shift in America’s corrupt food system, I looked to strengthen my animal activism, becoming a devoted member of the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC) immediately upon entering my first year at Vassar College. Little did I know that freshman year (and beyond) would introduce me to a multiplicity of societal oppressions that existed among the speciesism that had kindled my activist flame. Suddenly, I found myself seeking to combat not only the exploitation of non-human animals, but such harmful “isms” as capitalism, colonialism, racism, sexism, ableism, neoliberalism, homophobia, and more.

However, this well-meaning intention first manifested itself in a questionable manner as I began to draw links between these newly encountered social justice issues and the ones I knew well: veganism and animal rights. I found myself thinking: “Women’s reproductive rights are violated…just like female farmed animals are artificially inseminated! Black and brown bodies are systemically exploited…just like the bodies of non-human animals!” Veganism and animal rights provided me a basis for understanding the social justice issues about which I hadn’t read extensively, yet I soon realized the problematic nature of this framing.

During the summer following freshman year, I and my close friend and VARC co-president found ourselves (as Vassar students often do) discussing intersectionality — a social theory suggesting that the various aspects of one’s identity intersect in complex ways, as do the ways one is treated by society because of such aspects. My friend said something hugely profound that day: “It’s not enough to appreciate social justice issues based on how they relate to the one in which we’re most involved. For real change to happen, we must understand the importance of such issues in and of themselves.” That statement has guided my activism ever since.

While I will never forget that veganism and animal rights opened the door to my commitment to advocacy, I’ve since begun learning about and contributing to other social movements — not because they relate to veganism, but because their fights prove necessary in fostering a more just society. I think that all activists must work to recognize the confluence of inequities prevalent in our world, for disparate activism has the potential to create animosity between the feminists over here and the animal rights activists over there. We must realize all of our fights as intimately connected, and commit to individually understanding all of them.

For me, an integral aspect of my intersectional activism involves challenging the problematic aspects of the current vegan movement, including its racism, sexism,ableism, and focus on capitalist, consumer-based strategies. Because these oppressions would exist even if I were not vegan, and my giving up veganism would enforce another very real oppression, challenging such exploitative facets of today’s vegan movement does not involve dismissing veganism altogether.

Instead, I try to engage in a number of actions in the hopes of combating the privileges (access to a bounty of plant-based foods, an income to obtain such foods, and a social circle that won’t disown my non-mainstream lifestyle) that allow me live a sustainable vegan lifestyle. Such actions include supporting admirable organizations like Food Not Bombs and the Food Empowerment Project that work to make nourishing vegan options accessible to marginalized communities; working to free myself of the capitalistic mindset of nonstop accumulation of material goods; working not to reinforce my various privileges in my daily interpersonal relations; and educating myself about the histories and current manifestations of various oppressions by devouring anti-racist, feminist, anarchist, etc. literature and following progressive news sources.

Veganism is only the first way in which I hope to challenge the capitalist, patriarchal, colonial, speciesist, etc. society that makes it super easy to thrive as a white, straight, cis-gender individual with an upper-middle-class background like me.

So…Why “Farmers’ Market Vegan”?

And thus, you have the long, convoluted story of my development as a vegan and an activist. The name of my blog—Farmers’ Market Vegan—serves as a nod to the origins of this story, as well as a reminder to all that combating systemic oppression in all manifestations involves much more than simply buying a bunch of kale at the local farmers’ market.


vegan bacon salad (1)

The (Vegan) Triple Bacon Salad

Serves 2.

Ingredients:

2-4 oz tempeh, relatively thinly sliced
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 tsp tamari
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper
Pinch of cayenne

1/4-1/2 medium-sized head of cauliflower, cut into florets
6 large shiitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tsp smoked paprkia
1/2 tsp liquid smoke

2 tbsp vegan mayonnaise (Just Mayo and Vegenaise are my favorites)
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh dill, minced
1 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
1 tbsp fresh chives, minced

2-3 big handfuls of mixed salad greens, washed and dried
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, olive oil, liquid smoke, tamari, cumin, black pepper, and cayenne (in the first grouping of ingredients). Toss the tempeh slices in the marinade and allow to sit while you prepare the rest of the salad components.

Toss the cauliflower florets and sliced shiitake mushrooms with the coconut oil, smoked paprika, and liquid smoke (in the second grouping of ingredients). Spread out in an even layer on a baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes, or until the veggies are crispy.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the vegan mayo, water, apple cider vinegar, garlic, dill, parsley, and chives (in the third grouping of ingredients). Set aside.

Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Place each slice of marinated tempeh in the skillet and sear until browned, 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from the heat.

While the tempeh cooks, in a large bowl, toss the mixed greens with the sesame oil, smoked paprika, and garlic powder (in the fourth grouping of ingredients).

To assemble, place a bed of half of the dressed salad greens on two large plates. Scatter half of the roasted veggies over each bed of greens. Place half of the tempeh bacon on top of each salad. Drizzle half of the ranch over each plate. Serve.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

In solidarity, Ali.

Winter Squash Soup with Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Basil | Where Did the Recipe Labels Go?

Congratulations to the winner of my Vega prize pack giveaway: Andrew Rogers!

When I launched my blog way back in August 2011, I had only just begun my journey of recovery from an anorexia-like eating disorder. (I say “anorexia-like” because, similar to most all individuals suffering from disordered eating, my experiences proved much too complex to neatly pathologize). While both my weight and comfort with eating/food in general increased – the former steadily, the latter sporadically – I still harbored a fear of putting foods I deemed “unhealthy” into my body. Essentially, as my anorexia-like disorder subsided, my orthorexia-like disorder endured, masking itself as a well-intentioned desire to make food choices that would nourish my body, but basing itself in the pseudoscience and trends that circulate among food blogs and Pinterest recipe boards.

squash tomato soup 2

Recovering from this aspect of my eating disorder required re-imagining food outside of the false dichotomy I had created that categorized food into “good” and “bad,” as well as understanding that truly healthy eating involves both physical and mental wellbeing (read more on this subject in a previous post that also contains an awesome recipe for Ranch Potato Salad!). Removing these categories helped me to avoid seeing foods both as the effect I presumed they would have on my body (i.e., kale would turn me into a superhero while sugar would slowly dissolve my insides) and as a measure of my self-worth. It also helped me to re-root my veganism in a consideration of and respect for the bodies and minds of non-human individuals, rather than in an oft-touted belief that one can only achieve good health on a vegan diet – an assertion that erases the many cultures that have enjoyed long histories of vitality while including animal flesh and secretions in their eating habits.

squash tomato soup

Since de-categorizing my food choices served as an integral tool of my recovery, it seems only fitting that I also de-categorize the recipes on my blog. Previously labeled as “Low Fat,” “Low Sodium,” “Oil Free,” “Gluten Free,” “Nut Free,” and more, my recipes now only fall under one category: food. Of course, while I recognize and respect the reasoning of other bloggers to apply such labels to their recipes (allowing folks with food allergies to more easily find appropriate recipes, for example), doing so on my own blog now feels antithetical to my past and continued efforts to fully reconcile my relationship with food and eating.

squash tomato soup

To usher in this era without recipe labels, I’d like to share with you a creamy, full-bodied soup ideal for bridging the summer and fall as we undergo this period of seasonal transition. In late September-early October here in the Northeast, we’re seeing winter squashes popping up alongside summer’s fading basil bounty, and it only feels natural to me to follow the earth’s logic and combine them in a warming concoction to enjoy on the chilly days starting to weave through the waning heat. Sundried tomatoes provide richness and umami, while a touch of vinegar brightens the soup at the very end.

Is this recipe low in or free of anything? Only fear.

Winter Squash Soup with Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Basil

Serves 2-4.

Ingredients:

2 tsp coconut oil
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 medium winter squash such as butternut, buttercup, or acorn, cubed
4 cups vegetable broth or water
3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (the kind not packed in oil)
1/2 of a large bunch of basil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

In a large soup pot, warm the oil over medium heat. Saute the onion for 5-7 minute, or until it turns translucent. Add the salt and garlic and saute for another minute. Add the squash cubes and saute for another minute. Add the sundried tomatoes and broth/water. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then partially cover, lower the heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is tender. Stir in the basil.

Puree the soup either with an immersion blender, or (carefully!) in batches in a standing blender. Add water to thin, if desired. Stir in the apple cider vinegar. Bring back up to heat on the stove, and serve when the soup has reached your desired temperature.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

In solidarity, Ali.

Slow Food for Fast Lives Bars Review & GIVEAWAY!

Sorry, this giveaway has closed!

I know, I know – the amount of Farmers Market Vegan giveaways this summer has gotten a wee bit out of hand. Somehow, though, I feel that you, dear readers, don’t really mind all of these chances to win free, high-quality vegan products…so what the hey? Howsabout a fifth summer giveaway here on FMV?

slow food for fast lives bars (1)

Today I’d like to introduce you to a truly unique line of products from the on-the-go, health-conscious folks over at Slow Food for Fast Lives. Finding themselves with hectic schedules that made sitting down regularly for a nourishing meal quite difficult, the company’s founders – Danny, Mel, and Patricia – combined their appreciation of good food with their desire to provide healthy options for individuals with bustling agendas. With Danny’s innovative idea of launching the market’s first savory snack bar and Mel’s entrepreneurial skills behind her, Patricia employed her imaginative cooking skills in combining farmers’ market produce with nuts, spices, and unrefined sweeteners to create a line of vegetable-based bars in a variety of globally inspired flavors. Not only did these bars far surpass a taste test, they also each contained 1-1.5 servings of veggies and ample amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, and iron.

slow food for fast lives bars (2)

Since Patricia emerged from her kitchen with that first batch of sumptuous home-cooked bars, Slow Food for Fast Lives has shared its breakthrough products with retailers in California and the Southwest, as well as online, in the hopes of helping busy folks across the U.S. to “eat present, not tense.” While the company’s line currently features four bars – California, Indian, Moroccan, and Thai – the founders constantly have their culinary thinking caps on, perfecting such future flavors as Italian, Japanese, and Mexican. They also eagerly welcome suggestions from consumers on what slow food flavors they’d like to enjoy in their fast lives at info@eattruefoods.com.

While all of Slow Food for Fast Live’s bars are gluten-free and kosher, the California bar does contain honey; the rest of the three are completely vegan! (Check out why I don’t advocate the consumption of honey here.) As such, in this post I’ll only be reviewing the Indian, Moroccan, and Thai flavors.

SFFFL collage 1

I first journeyed into the world of Slow Food for Fast Lives with the Moroccan bar: a vibrantly hued blend of crunchy pistachios, chewy currants, sweet carrots, protein-rich lentils, attractive black sesame seeds, and smooth tahini spiced up with lemon, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and cumin. Featuring hearty chunks of each ingredient instead of constituting a homogeneously blended bar, the Moroccan bar offered a multiplicity of interesting textures mingling with bold flavors. Of the three bars I sampled, I might just prefer the Moroccan bar the most.

slow food for fast lives bars (9)

The Thai bar made the next appearance in my Slow Food for Fast Lives tasting tour. Boasting a double whammy of peanuts and peanut butter, crispy brown rice, succulent red bell peppers, and zippy green onions in a bright and spicy mix of lime juice, dried basil, garlic and onion powders, and chiles, the Thai bar definitely got the spice sensors on my tongue all a-tingling. Though I didn’t expect such a pleasant piquant-ness in my snack bar, I found gastronomic memory harkening back to my favorite Thai restaurant in my hometown of Madison, WI after biting into this bar.

slow food for fast lives bars (10)

My snack bar trip around the globe ended with the Indian bar – a close second favorite behind the Moroccan bar. Reminding me of a samosa dipped in mango sauce or a coconut curry (but in snack bar form), the Indian bar made supremely savory use of rich cashews and coconut, cauliflower, lentils, hearty potatoes, sweet peas, and buttery mangoes accentuated with tomato powder, turmeric, onion, chili pepper, ginger, and cumin. Redolent with the flavors of curry without being overwhelming, this smooth, chewy bar proves warming and satisfying.

slow food for fast lives bars (11)

Have I engaged in enough culinary wordplay to persuade you all to incorporate some slow food into your fast lives? Well, lucky for one of you, the folks at Slow Food for Fast Lives have generously offered to gift a pack of their nourishing, tasty, and inventive bars to a Farmers Market Vegan reader. Simply click on one of the links at the top and bottom of this post, follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter giveaway, and get those fingers crossed. Also be sure to connect with Slow Food for Fast Lives on Facebook and Twitter!

This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Sunday, August 17, and I will announce the winner on the following day.

Sorry, this giveaway has closed!

I was not paid to run this giveaway, though I was provided with free product samples. All opinions are completely my own.

In solidarity, Ali.

Ellovi Body Butter Review & Giveaway

This giveaway has closed!

 Farmers Market Vegan’s big ol’ Tofurky giveaway may have ended only last week, but I’m elated to host for you, dear readers, a second giveaway during the month of March. This one comes courtesy of dynamic vegan duo Kelly Winterhalter and Ryan Pamplin, co-founders of the all-natural, animal-friendly, and sustainably sourced cosmetic company known as Ellovi. A couple of weeks ago, Kelly kindly contacted me requesting that I review one of Ellovi’s two products—their six-ingredient body butter—and I have nothing but laudatory words to say about it.

CIMG7906

 A cloud-white blend of oils from macadamia nuts, coconuts, marula, hemp seed, and shea, Ellovi Body Butter contains such pure ingredients that you could slather it on a piece of toast and chomp away. While the butter contains no added fragrance, its delicately nutty aroma will leave you fervently sniffing the jar, your hands, and anything else the butter touches. Not only does the butter serve as a highly effective moisturizer due to its omission of water and therefore its inability to evaporate like other lotions, it also works well as a facial moisturizer, makeup remover, and sunscreen—and it’s perfect for sensitive skin.

CIMG7900

The first time I dipped my finger into the jar, the rich yet airy texture of the butter duly surprised me, as I had expected a thinner, more fluid substance. Not so—the Ellovi Body Butter proves so thick that you could easily stand a spoon straight up in its jar. Though it did seem like I had to use more of the butter than of a conventional moisturizer to spread on my entire body after a morning shower, I didn’t have to reapply the butter at all throughout the rest of the day. Even after washing my hands, they still felt moisturized by the butter—and this in the dead of winter, mind you!

CIMG7897

Though the price of the butter does prove a bit steep at $26 per jar, the impeccable quality of its ingredients and its impressive moisturizing abilities merit the expense (at least once in a while).

CIMG7911

Luckily, one of you, dear readers, will have the ability to revel in the vegan moisturizing goodness of Ellovi Body Butter for free! By entering the giveaway at the links at the top and bottom of this post, one of you will win your very own jar of Ellovi Body Butter plus a tube of Ellovi Lip Butter. Your hands, arms, legs, belly, lips, and everywhere else on your body will thank you for entering.

The giveaway will end at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, April 2, and I will announce the winner on Thursday, April 3. Apologies to my international readers, but you must reside within the U.S. in order to enter this giveaway.

Good luck to all!

This giveaway has closed!

I was not paid to run this giveaway, though I was provided with free product samples. All opinions are completely my own.

Until next time, Ali.