Thursday, February 28, 2013

Contest and Review of Veganissimo A to Z

The kind people at The Experiment recently mailed me two copies of their new resource book, Veganissimo A to Z: A Comprehensive Guide to Identifying and Avoiding Ingredients of Animal Origin in Everyday Products, one to review and one to send to someone else! First, the review:

This book will be undeniably helpful for anyone concerned with where their food comes from, vegans most of all. It has instantly replaced my old guide, which I bought in London three years ago, AK Press's Animal Ingredients A to Z. It's sort of weird that Veganissimo uses the same "A to Z" trope, especially since the first edition of the EG Smith Collective's work and the first German edition of Proctor and Thomsen's work both came out in 1995. (I wouldn't want to guess whether they've ripped off the device or whether they've never heard of or read Animal Ingredients or what.) Titles aside, Animal Ingredients has the advantage of a preface by Carol J. Adams, but it pales in comparison to the scope of the research evident in Veganissimo.

Other positive comments: I like the design and typography. Plus, I didn't catch any typos!

On to the problems! My first gripe is with the title, actually. It makes me sort of uncomfortable that there's this fake dictionary entry for the word "veganissimo" at the top, complete with pronunciation guide. How is the first definition (of two) a noun?! "Grrrl, you're a veganissimo." No, I can't imagine anyone ever saying that. It's a turn-off to be told that the book is designed for vegans of "the highest possible standard." People will use it according to their desires and capacities and circumstances, and it's a shame to think they might be dissuaded to some degree from the jump by the prospect of failing to attain to "veganissimo" status. Of course, the authors say no such garbage in the introduction or anywhere else in the main text, but a cover's a cover and we should judge it.

Major issue number two has to do with the Key to the Icons. Each ingredient heading is flanked by an icon or icons that denote whether that ingredient derives from a vegetable, animal, synthetic, mineral, or microbiological source. Each icon comes in two colors, orange and gray. Orange denotes "always or often," whereas gray denotes "sometimes or rarely." Here's the kicker: almost all the entries come with a bull head, because the guide is designed to help you avoid animal ingredients, but many of those bull heads are paired with other icons, some of the same color! This is harder to explain in words than to understand by glancing at an arbitrary page, but here goes. How is it logically possible for the source of Ammonium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, for instance, to be always or often animal, always or often vegetable, AND always or often synthetic? It's not possible! (Or else I have a different notion of "often" than do the authors.) This probably won't bother some or many or most or few or a number of people, but it bothers me, not just because it's imprecise but because it's confusing. However impressive all those little icons look, the only information you can glean from them is whether you have to avoid something outright, worry about it, or whether you can eat it without hesitation. To that end, I'd like to see the next edition organize the ingredients list completely differently. One section should include all animal ingredients that are always animal-derived. Another section should include all ingredients that come from more than one source, in which case you'll have to contact the company if you want to sleep soundly. The final section should include all the ingredients that aren't animal derived but deserve mention for various reasons, whether because a vegetable-derived ingredient could be confused with a more common animal-derived ingredient or because an ingredient is made out of petroleum or yeast. There's a lot of valuable information in this book, and I trust that the authors have good reason for including every item they've included, but they need to revise the structure of the book.

Okay, that said, if you're vegan or vegan-leaning and you don't already have a solid guide to the numerous esoteric, arcane substances that pepper the packaging on packaged food goods in this country, you should totally enter the following contest and win a copy!

Here's the deal, then. For the next two weeks I encourage anyone and everyone interested to submit a comment. At 1:00 PM on Friday, March 15, I'll pick my favorite and ask the winner for their mailing address so that I can send them a copy of Veganissimo A to Z free of charge. The catch is that you can't leave any old comment (e.g., "Give it to meeeee"). In order to qualify for consideration, you'll have to write me either 1. an anagram poem (I recommend this generator); 2. a short anecdote or fable (or proverb?!); or 3. a charm, spell, prayer, or other incantation. If you flaunt the rules you better flaunt hard.

If you need some inspiring music to bob along to while you write your way to a slightly heavier bookshelf, you should probably listen to something other than the album I just released.

Monday, February 25, 2013

George Harrison's Inception Day Stir Fry

George Harrison was born on February 25, 1943. He would have been 70 today if he hadn't died from lung cancer. Harrison was a Hindu and became a vegetarian in the late 1960s. Bless him! It's funny to think of him now on top of cloud rather than stuck inside one.

Jaaska isn't George Harrison, but s/he makes music that clears away the clouds. Well, only the ones that George Harrison isn't floating on.

serves: 2
prep. time: 40 mins.

sweet brown rice
1 lb. firm tofu, cubed
2 broccoli heads, chopped
6 oz. shiitake mushrooms, sliced
two small vine tomatoes, chopped
soy sauce
ground cumin
ground turmeric
cayenne pepper

1. Pour some rice in a pot. Pour water over the rice. Simmer for approx. 40 mins.
2. Pour some oil in a large pan. Cook tofu over medium heat for 20 mins.
3. Lower heat a bit and add broccoli and soy sauce and seasonings. After 5 mins., add mushrooms.
4. Add tomatoes 5 mins. before the rice is done.

I reviewed an incredible film, Bestiaire, a documentary about the Quebecois zoo amusement park Parc Safari.

On Wednesday, I'm going to announce a contest!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Audre Lorde's Birthday Pasta

Audre Lorde was born on February 18, 1934 in New York City. For those who don't know: she was a Black lesbian feminist socialist warrior mother of two, as well as an incredible poet/writer. Her work has meant a lot to me. Thanks to A. for sending me a link to this Audre Lorde & Adrienne Rich marathon reading at the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Park Slope last November. I attended (and participated) for a few hours and had a wonderful, powerful time. Further thanks to A. for informing me earlier today that it's Lorde's birthday.

Still further thanks to A. for sharing with me a while ago this quotation from Harold Rosenberg's 1953 essay, "Revolution and the Idea of Beauty": "The most radical changes have come from personalities who were conservative and even conventional—a powerful recoil from the present threw them backwards, so to speak, into the future. The artist who concerns himself with angels or stained glass windows may produce effects as devastating as the designer of a new cosmos in plexiglass." From Rich's 1979 interview with Lorde: "I was working nights, and I'd apprenticed myself to a stained-glass window-maker…" I love small cosmic alignments!

I'll leave you with some words of Lorde's I don't think will ever stop resonating with me: "Rationality is not unnecessary. It serves the chaos of knowledge. It serves feeling. It serves to get from this place to that place. But if you don't honor those places, then the road is meaningless."

serves: 1-2
prep. time: 20 mins.

1/2 lb. pasta
1 mid-sized eggplant, peeled and cubed
1 massive portobello mushroom and its single attendant cremini mushroom, chopped
1/2 bundle of spinach
red wine vinegar

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add pasta. Remove pasta when it's done.
2. Sauté eggplant in a large pan over medium-high heat. Turn down to medium or medium-low after several minutes.
3. Add mushroom. Season. Sprinkle red wine vinegar over the whole shebang.
4. Add spinach and cook till wilted.

I published a paper in the Journal for Critical Animal Studies. Not sure if I've plugged that already or not, so here goes: ‡†‡

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Don't Select for Not-Me, Darwinian Mechanism Soup

Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809. "Darwin has been described as one of the most influential figures in human history." There you have it!

I've got a cold. Better than what I had a couple of days ago. If you're fitting to get sick (or caught it already) and want to get sick in the kitchen, there's few better health-charm soups than this 'ere. I guess—I don't really know what's good for you.

My roommate's listening to bad screamo!

serves: 2 or 3
prep. time: 30 mins.

1 large beet, peeled and diced
some kale leaves, ripped and torn (Grrr!)
1/3 lb. tofu, cubed
a couple of handfuls of green lentils (I don't measure things much!)
veggie bullion
nutritional yeast (supererogatory!)

1. Throw everything in a pot and let the magic happen. (That's what Darwin said.) 

A very sad thing happened recently: RIP Collin Anderson