A Vegan Thanksgiving is Still Violent

In light of the Thanksgiving holiday and the recipe guides popping up with increasing frequency on food blogs, I’d like to share with ya’ll a call to take a different approach to Thanksgiving this year.

The Canada-based Native organization Idle No More, along with its branches in Minnesota, have teamed up with the Institute for Critical Animal Studies to ask animal advocacy groups to boycott, ban, and protest Thanksgiving instead of engaging in advocacy themed around this violent holiday. Rather, this coalition is calling for animal advocacy groups to “recognize it as a national day to mourn the genocide by white settlers of Native Americans and First Nation peoples.”

Though I could write in more detail about why Thanksgiving is based in the arrogant ethnocentrism of the settlers who uprooted Native peoples from their land and decimated them, all in the name of building the ever-imperial U.S. as we know it today, I feel that it is more appropriate for me – instead of accepting credit for already-existing information authored by those with historical and familial connections to Native genocide – to refer you to the in-depth, well-written articles that already exist.

Instead of hosting our usual vegan Thanksgiving dinner in the campus dining hall this year, the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC) is installing a poster just outside the hall explaining this call from Idle No More and ICAS, and why we have decided to participate in it. We take this action not to “feel good” about ourselves for being “good social justice activists,” but because a group on the front lines of Native struggle is asking groups like ours to take action.

Though I will be sharing a rather more involved and special meal with my loved ones on Thanksgiving day – celebrating not the “peaceful unification” of Native American peoples and white settlers (what bunk) but instead the love I feel for those around me, my appreciation for the harvest season,  and the fact that I have access to its bounty – I plan to do so while recognizing my own positionality as someone who can still easily perpetuate the violent erasure of Native peoples, and actively seeking ways to rail against this tendency. Some starting points for me may include enrolling in a Native Studies course at my college, advocating for my college to hire more Native Studies faculty, and researching the history of Native peoples specific to the geographic context in which I grew up.

Below I’ve copied the text from the Facebook group that includes the call from Idle No More and ICAS:

Calling Animal Advocacy Groups to Boycott, Ban and Protest Thanksgiving

NATIONAL ACTION

The Institute for Critical Animal Studies, Idle No More Duluth, Idle No More Twin Cities, #NotYourMascot, and other Native organizations (still confirming) are asking all animal advocacy groups to promote social justice this November by boycotting Thanksgiving Day (and any Thanksgiving related events) and recognizing it as a national day to morn a violent genocide by white settlers of Native Americans and First Nations People.

“Boycott” here means not holding public vegan Thanksgiving events and making a commitment not to celebrate Thanksgiving in one’s personal life as well. If you are like us, you believe that veganism is an ethical model for the world; let’s also lead the charge against an out-dated holiday with a make-believe history that covers up the true genocidal history of the U.S.

Turkey or Tofurkey, marshmallows or Dandies, traditional pumpkin pie or dairy-free pumpkin pie—you are still celebrating genocide … and that is *not* vegan.

There is no such thing as a vegan Thanksgiving. Don’t ignore one form of oppression to promote another. Veganism is nonviolence; genocide isn’t.
___________________________________________
Animal Advocacy Groups Boycotting Thanksgiving Events (not supporting genocide)

1. Institute for Critical Animal Studies
2. Progress for Science
3. Portland Animal Liberation
4. Student Animal Liberation Coalition
5. Resistance Ecology

In solidarity, Ali.

Classic Tomato Soup | The Future of Veganism?

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Hello, all! Just a heads up: as I’ve mentioned recently, I’m journeying into the depths of a very demanding period in terms of schoolwork, so please expect (and forgive!) shorter posts for the next month or so. Thank you all for understanding.

Today I want to address a topic that’s certainly not new, but about which my thoughts have so continually morphed that I didn’t feel confident enough to address. My thoughts are still morphing, but – in an ongoing attempt to chip away at my often destructive perfectionist tendencies – I’ve decided to share them with you all anyway, in the hopes that you’ll contribute to their constant transformation.

Ever since the world first heard about lab-grown meat, the media has provocatively asked if in-vitro animal products – most recently like milk and cheese, with their substantially less destructive impact on the planet and the lives of other animals – constitute the “future of food,” with many in more mainstream animal rights circles similarly hailing these products as the “future of veganism.”

My primary concerns with these products, however, are twofold: for one, they don’t challenge the carnist belief that eating animals proves “normal, natural, and necessary”; for another, I wonder about their accessibility – the point on which I’d like to focus today’s post.

Synthesized and cooked in Silicon Valley for a whopping $300,000, the world’ first test-tube hamburger certainly doesn’t jive with the pro-in-vitro animal product rhetoric that lab-grown meat can “feed the world” (unless, of course, the state continues to wreak havoc on poor communities to the point that only those who can shell out thousands of dollars per meal remain…but that’s rather conspiratorial). In more recent news, the in-vitro cheese company Real Vegan Cheese has raised over $37,000 to develop its product, while the animal-free milk startup Muufri has received even more generous amounts of monetary investment.

Please understand that I don’t mean to attack these companies – I think they’re doing wonderful and noble work in prompting individuals to question the viability of continuing to consume animal products. And hey, maybe we will be able to find in-vitro meat, cheese, milk, whatever in conventional supermarkets and heck, perhaps even in gas stations, and maybe it will end up costing mere cents per ounce. But for right now, I’m wondering why we’re so financially invested in developing these rather unnecessary products (I think most of my readers have realized by now that one can thrive on an animal-free diet), and not instead redirecting this money toward the impoverished communities whose only available options for fresh produce often only involves an overripe orange in a basket at the bodega checkout counter, and whose government subsidies become increasingly threatened every day.

Rather than conceptualize lab-grown animal products – no matter how well-intentioned a venture – as the future of veganism, I’d rather see our movement start to really confront the structural inequalities of white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, settler colonialism and the like, that leave Black and brown bodies hungry and contribute to the overwhelmingly white, middle- and upper-class constituency of the animal rights and vegan movements. This is not to say that people of color and lower class groups and individuals have not made immensely valuable contributions to the animal rights and vegan movements that should circulate much more widely than they currently do – think of A. Breeze Harper, Animal Liberationists of Color, Angela Davis, Cesar Chavez and more. However, the white and class privileged majority of AR still prevails, often tokenizing these groups and individuals (essentially as I have just done) as evidence that, “But wait! There are people of color in our movement! We’re inclusive!”…all while the most visible activists – those who head up mainstream organizations and speak at events most often –  remain largely white and middle/upper-class.

In my view, we – vegans, animal rights activists, the world – don’t need in-vitro animal products. What we do need is an end to the structural subjugation of Black and brown bodies woven into the very fabric of our society, which we as animal rights activists can start to confront in our own movement.

If all this hasn’t heated you up enough, be sure to take a couple sips of this warming, satisfyingly simple tomato soup. Paired with an ooey-gooey vegan grilled (non-in-vitro) cheese sandwich, this smooth and classically flavored soup will give you the energy to start engaging in the difficult and ongoing work I’ve advocated above. Because with a soup and sandwich, we can do anything, right?

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Classic Tomato Soup

Serves 2.

Ingredients:

2 tsp melted coconut or olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 tsp dried thyme
3 cups canned tomatoes, low-sodium if possible
2 tbsp tomato paste
4 cups vegetable broth or 4 cups water + 2 tsp/half a cube vegan bouillon
1 tsp agave nectar
1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I like almond here)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a medium-sized soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, caraway, and thyme; saute for another minute.

Add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, vegetable broth or bouillon-ed water, and agave. Bring to a boil, cover partially, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and, either directly in the pot with an immersion blender or in batches in a stand blender, puree the soup until very smooth. Stir in the non-dairy milk and pepper to taste and serve, sprinkling the top of each soup bowl with additional black pepper, if desired.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

In solidarity, Ali.

Persimmon Green Smoothie {Creamy to the Max} | Things to Think About When Buying Bananas (and Everything Else)

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Hi, all! Just a short post today, as the start of the second half of the fall semester has brought with it an increased workload.

Have bananas brainwashed you to believe that only they can yield a richly creamy smoothie? Live under the banana hegemony no longer, folks, for a vastly under-appreciated winter fruit has arrived to dismantle the banana’s power hold: the persimmon. Numerous species of persimmon exist– native to China, southeast Europe, the eastern United States, Mexico, the Philippines, and beyond – but the two most commonly found in U.S. grocery stores include the fuyu (flat, doughnut-shaped) and the hachiya (taller, heart-shaped). For optimal taste and texture, I like to eat my persimmons when they’ve achieved the feel of a ripe avocado; at this stage, persimmons will also produce the silkiest smoothie, one that can easily rival any banana-based concoction. (For more on persimmons, be sure to listen to the upcoming episode of the Our Hen House podcast this Saturday, November 8, on which I’ll give a review of four of my favorite winter produce items for which to keep an eye out!)

Good thing, too, that banana alternatives exist, considering the harsh implications of contemporary industrial banana production on child workers, global trade, women farmers, and the environment (not to mention the racist and colonialist stereotypes long employed to market bananas in the U.S.). For a wealth of information on such implications, I’d like to highlight and direct you all toward the latest addition to the Food Empowerment Project‘s “Food Choices” resource page:Peeling Back the Truth on Bananas.”

Of course, in encouraging folks to purchase responsibly sourced bananas, I in no way mean to shame anyone for their food choices (especially those in difficult financial situations who recognize bananas as a cheap source of ample nutrients and may not be able to find or afford the types of bananas recommended by the FEP), nor to suggest that we can ever hope to eat in a completely ethically sound manner (we are all enmeshed in complicated power relations, after all). I do, however, hope that considering one’s food choices will serve as either a catalyst or complement to first thinking about then acting to transform the multiple structures of oppression that we all help to perpetuate in one way or another, simply by virtue of our socialization in a white supremacist, heteropatriarchal, capitalist society.

If bananas from Equal Exchange, Earth University, or Grow Bananas (those recommended by the FEP) are accessible to you, by all means use them in this smoothie for a double dose of creaminess. If not, substitute additional persimmons and reduce the amount of non-dairy milk to 1/2 cup.

Persimmon Green Smoothie

Serves 1.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup diced ripe persimmon (hachiya and fuyu are both fine)
1/2 cup frozen banana slices
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
2 large leaves kale, chopped
1 cup non-dairy milk
Ground cinnamon to garnish (optional)

Combine all ingredients – in the order specified – in a high-speed blender. Puree until very smooth, stirring the mixture as necessary. Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

In solidarity, Ali.

Apple Custard Pie | About “Ethnic” Recipe Titles…

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In this largely white community of vegan and/or healthy-food bloggers (of course, there are plenty of bloggers of color and I don’t mean to erase them, but in my experience most of my fellow food bloggers are white, including myself), I see many recipe titles that reference different cultures and their cuisines: “Tiki Tempeh,” “Asian-Style Greens,” “Moroccan Chickpea Soup,” just to name a couple. And I’m troubled by them. Though I’m confident that those in this community hold the best intentions in creating and naming their recipes, I can’t help but feel that these “ethnic” recipes titles reflect a larger phenomenon of cultural appropriation.

To illustrate the forms cultural appropriation can cake and its implications, I’d like to quote at length from antiracist organizer Paul Kivel‘s book Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice:

“It is difficult for white people to become multiculturally competent. Wherever we look, we see ourselves — our language, values, images and history. We have learned how great European-based US culture is. … We have been trained to think that other cultures are less literate, less civilized, less efficient, less practical. It is impossible to make a good-faith effort to respect and learn about other cultures when we hold a core assumption that they are inferior to ours. … US culture has drawn from many different cultural traditions. We have valued them enough to appropriate their strengths and achievements. … One way we retain our assumptions of white superiority while increasing our cultural competency is to split off the culture from the people who live it. White people have appropriated music, art, spiritual practices and stories from other cultures while killing or excluding the people who created them. … There is also the danger that we will use our knowledge of another culture to feel superior to the people whose culture it is. Even if we know a lot about the holidays, music or beliefs of another culture, we still have a lot to learn from the people who live it” (285-286).

As a couple examples of the white exploitation of other cultures whose practices we have incorporated into US white culture, think of the Native American peoples whom we all but obliterated in the name of stealing their land, while today we wear moccasins and clothing with “Native” patterns because. Or perhaps some of us have become connoisseurs of jazz while remaining complicit in the systemic suppression of full Black participation in society. Often, we tend to think we’re “cool” for wearing trendy clothes or listening to certain types of music, contributing to our internalized sense of superiority to peoples of different cultures: we become “cultured” by perpetuating the mindset that we are entitled to aspects of other cultures, which has historically resulted in the very real exploitation of the peoples of such cultures.

In the case of titling recipes with “ethnic” references, I think this subtle sense of superiority comes through when we judge it acceptable to call something “Thai” or “African” or “Spanish,” or to name a dish “sushi” or “mofongo,” without having an understanding of those cultures or dishes. Just because a food is cooked with corn and chili powder doesn’t mean it’s Mexican, nor does mashing eggplant with tahini necessarily constitute baba ghanoush, and our readiness to apply these titles to our recipes strikes me as yet another way we casually acknowledge other cultures while not actually taking the time to reflect upon the ways we harmfully treat the peoples who identify with them. In regard to recipe titles that specifically reference broad groups of people like “Asian” and “African,” these generalizing terms fail to recognize the vast diversity of cultures and cuisines within them – a failure that happens quite often, considering our propensity to think of Africa as a country.

I do hope that white folks won’t stop cooking dishes or publishing recipes inspired by the cuisines of other cultures, since I think that seeking out unfamiliar forms of eating can contribute to our fostering of the “cultural competence” that Paul Kivel describes as “the ability to understand another culture well enough to be able to communicate and work with people from that culture,” and to accept them as potential leaders rather than non-agential members of our society (284). To me, publishing recipes inspired by the cuisines of other cultures has different implications than explicitly titling those recipes as the particular dishes or cultures from which they’re drawn. For example, calling rice and veggies wrapped in seaweed “nori rolls” instead of “sushi” can signal that even though you’ve used ingredients commonly featured in a certain cuisine, you’re not purporting to be familiar enough with that cuisine to have created something that can really be called “Ethiopian” or “injera,” and are by extension recognizing that you are not in a place to take from this culture as if it were your own.

Another aspect of this continuation of multicultural cooking that I would call absolutely necessary is a commitment to examining how we contribute to the systemic oppression of other cultures in our daily lives, and how we can challenge ourselves to act and think differently. This everyday change may involve not asking Black people if you can touch their hair (and then often proceeding to do so even without their permission), working to place people of color in positions of leadership in an organization with which you’re involved, intervening when someone tells a racist joke, or not getting defensive when people of color talk about instances in which they’ve been discriminated against.

I’m certainly not saying that by pressing “publish” on a recipe that makes cultural references, white food bloggers are consciously thinking how superior they are to the peoples of the culture they’re referencing. I am, however, suggesting that such an act is indicative of unrecognized participation in an historic legacy of valuing other cultures only when it suits us, and either actively or passively subjugating them the rest of the time. And I’ve done it, too! Heck, I’ve published recipes for “Thai Coconut-Baked Tofu” and “Moo Shoo Veggies with Mung Bean Crepes” (the names of which I’ve since altered). But I intend to do so no longer, and instead continue to analyze my internalized beliefs of white superiority and the ways in which I manifest them.

So now, because I have no adequate transition, please enjoy this pie. It’s a yogurt-based version of this ice cream pie from Hannah Kaminsky with a crust adapted from a recipe in Fran Costigan’s new book Vegan Chocolate. It’s yummy. And it uses apples, which are all the rage around this time of year.

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Apple Custard Pie

Makes one 9″ pie.

Ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat pastry or light spelt flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup rolled oats, ground into a fine powder in your blender, food processor, or spice grinder
1/4 cup melted coconut oil or olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup or agave nectar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp almond or hazelnut extract

1 lb apples (about 3 medium), cored and cubed
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 24-oz container non-dairy yogurt, plain or vanilla
2 tbsp agar flakes or 1 1/2 tsp agar powder

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

First, make the crust: in a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, salt, and ground oats. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the oil, syrup/nectar, and extracts. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and stir well to form a moist dough. Spoon the dough into the center of a 9″ springform pan and press to form an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Refrigerate for 15 minutes, then place the pan in the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the edges of the crust are slightly darker than golden-brown. Refrigerate until completely cool before filling.

Make the filling: in the bowl of a food processor, combine the cubed apples, lemon juice, yogurt, and agar. Run the machine for about 3 minutes to ensure a super smooth filling. Pour the puree into a medium-sized saucepan, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes, whisking often. Once the crust has completely cooled, pour the puree over the crust into the springform pan and let cool to room temperature to ensure that the agar sets properly. Once cooled, transfer the pie to the refrigerator and chill for at least one hour. Serve with additional apple slices fanned over the top and drizzled with maple syrup, if desired.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

In solidarity, Ali.

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).

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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.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {9-26-14}

If you haven’t yet entered my giveaway for your chance to win a Vega prize pack, be sure to do so!

Farmers Market Vegan’s “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” series strives to promote artful vegan food and progressive discussion of social issues—both of which prove necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the well-being of all creatures (not just the rich or the human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

Today’s edition of Vegan Chews & Progressive News (#NewsandChews) features a hearty soup for the fast-approaching cool fall days, a creamy tart studded with one of my personal favorite fruits, a multidimensional dish from a restaurant cookbook that required an entire day to prepare, a more collaborative notion of charity, a call for resistance against climate change to come from below, and an upcoming book that needs pre-order support!

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Savory

Persian Lentil Soup
via Sweet Paul

Photo via Sweet Paul.

Photo via Sweet Paul.

When I return to my parents’ house for winter break from college, my mother puts soup on the dinner table nearly every night, much to the content and comforted bellies of my father and myself. I fully intend to ensure that this soup – rich with earthy lentils and brightened with Iranian flavors like mint, black lime, and sumac – weaves its way into our soup repertoire this January.

Sweet

Saffron Custard Tart with Figs & Blackberries
via Harmony a la Carte

Photo via Harmony a la Carte.

Photo via Harmony a la Carte.

I think that fresh figs will always seem like a huge treat to me, special and novelty no matter how often I purchase them (which proved pretty darn often this summer…). Though eating these perpetual personal delicacies right out-of-hand satisfies me to no end, I certainly wouldn’t pooh-pooh a dessert that incorporates figs – especially if that dessert also happened to involve a rich vegan custard in a sticky date-nut crust. With orange blossom water and saffron, this tart would provide a complementary ending to the soup above, now that I think about it. If saffron is out of your price range (aka, if you’re not swimming in a pool of dollar bills), turmeric will do the trick in imparting a deep yellow tone to this tart.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Stone-Ground Grits with Pickled Shiitakes and Tempura Watercress
via Dirt Candy: A Cookbook

corn polenta w shiitakes & tempura watercress (1)

Day before: make the shiitake pickles and allow their flavor to develop overnight. Morning: simmer the corn stock. Afternoon: blend the corn cream. Before dinner: cook the grits, fry the watercress, and assemble the dish. At dinner: marvel at the symphony of flavors you’ve created over the course of the last 24 hours. Yes, this dish may require a full day of preparation, but over my breaks from school I got time to kill and that means that I’m killin’ it in the kitchen. While I recreated this dish from Dirt Candy executive chef Amanda Cohen’s trailblazing cookbook/graphic novel last winter break rather than this week, my October break slowly approaches, bringing with it the ability to spend some good quality time with my pots and pans. Perhaps more grits are in their future…

Must-Read News Story

The Charitable Society or ‘How to Avoid the Poor and Perpetuate the Wealth Gap’
via Fred Guerin at Truthout

Photo via Shutterstock.

Photo via Shutterstock.

In the spirit of radically altering our socio-personal relationships with one another in order to cultivate a society based on respect and community, philosophy scholar Fred Guerin envisions a model of charity that drastically departs from the current self-interested, patronizing, paternal system of the 1% projecting themselves as altruistic while enabling their control over the institutions at which they throw vast sums of money. This article particularly speaks to me with its willingness to deeply investigate the implications of and propose viable solutions to a very real problem. A well-done piece of work.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

‘We Can’t Rely on Our Leaders’: Inaction at Climate Summit Fuels Call for Movements to Take the Helm
via Democracy Now!

Photo via Democracy Now!

Photo via Democracy Now!

Time and time again, social movements throughout history have proven that for concrete and lasting change to take place, its driving force needs to come “from below,” from the people bearing the brunt of society’s burdens and their allies. On the September 24 (one day after my mother’s birthday!) edition of Democracy Now!, two prominent earth advocates invoke this wisdom in the context of climate change. Though the segment opens with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Leonardo Dicaprio – two voices often privileged within the environmental  movement – the broadcast focuses attention on the voices of two much less visible individuals, which I feel is important to note considering the tendency of media to prioritize advocates already receiving substantial coverage.

Book Recommendation

Newsfail: Climate Change, Feminism, Gun Control, and Other Fun Stuff We Talk About Because Nobody Else Will
by Jamie Kilstein & Allison Kilkenny

Photo via Simon & Schuster.

Photo via Simon & Schuster.

While I haven’t actually read this book (it hasn’t even been published yet!), I’ve been listening to Allison and Jamie promote it every morning on Citizen Radio, and it sounds like a compelling, hard-hitting, and highly entertaining work (much like the duo’s daily podcast). Relaying the urgent news stories of our time accurately and fairly, Allison and Jamie provide a refreshing contrast to the corporate-controlled mainstream media. If you have the funds, I’d highly encourage you to pre-order the book in the hopes of generating popular attention for these groundbreaking journalists.

In solidarity, Ali.