isachandra (isachandra) wrote,
isachandra
isachandra

Vegan Culinary Activism in 10 Yummy Steps

A little article I wrote for Satya's final issue.

Vegan food is too inconvenient. It just doesn’t taste good. How many times have you heard something along those lines? It seems too many conversations about animal liberation end with those deal-breakers. Now imagine a world where we didn’t have to deal with all that, where going vegan is welcoming, fun and, most importantly, delicious. Today it’s easy enough to look around and see that America is a much more vegan-friendly place than it was 10 or 15 years ago. Supermarkets are stocked with vegan burgers, tofu, tempeh and other protein-rich foods. Cafés offer soymilk, tofu cream cheese for your morning bagel and the occasional vegan muffin. Maybe even your meatball lovin’ grandma enjoys vegan ice cream.

The thing is, just seeing the word vegan—in the supermarket, at bake sales and cafés—is doing more than we know to promote veganism. People are often turned off by images of downed cows and debeaked chickens, and, of course, they should be. But while most people know in their hearts harming animals is wrong, their reaction more often than not is to turn away rather than to turn vegan. Presenting the vegan lifestyle in a positive light makes thinking about it easier. The more readily available vegan food is, the more the word vegan is out there and associated with something positive and yummy, the easier the transition will be. That is where culinary activism comes into play!

Every time I hear animal rights activists engaging in heated debate, I want to shout, “Shut the hell up and go invent a good tasting soy cheese!” Because it’s true, without one we are doomed. Of course, we can’t all invent a good tasting soy cheese (but can someone? Please?), so I humbly offer 10 steps even the most activist-phobic among us can use to help create a vegan world. While these things may seem obvious, maybe even insignificant in light of what animals are going through every day, look at it as a chipping away at our meat and dairy based culture.

Also, dealing with issues of animal abuse can take a toll on a person’s psyche, make us cynical, depressed and, worst of all, make us lose hope. It’s important that we keep our spirits up, and sometimes seeing the words “Vegan Muffin!” in a bakery’s display case can feel like reading a newspaper headline declaring “Bush Impeached!”

To that end, here are 10 yummy ways to do your part in creating the vegan world we all want to live in.

Get vegan products into your corner store or supermarket
You don’t wanna waltz into a store you’ve never been in armed with AR literature and demand soymilk. Remember, they have security alarms under the counter. It’s simply not enough to ask for vegan items, you have to get specific. Write down the names of the products you want—better yet, bring in empty boxes of the products for the shop keeper. Small stores like to order from only two or three distributors so their supplier may not carry the brand you prefer. For that reason, asking for products from larger companies ups the odds for you. Also, if you are asking a store where you are not a regular customer, make sure you buy something so it doesn’t seem you are a door-to-door salesman.

Larger supermarkets are a little trickier since the manager makes the buying decisions. Usually, if you ask to speak with the manager they will make the time for you. Again, ask for specific items. It’s helpful to point out that lots of people have food allergies and will purchase dairy-free and egg-free things if only because of that.

Get cafés to carry vegan items
I admit it, I get jealous when I see people walking to the train in the morning with their muffin of choice and coffee. Of course we can bake our own but there’s a certain feeling of normalcy when you can walk into a café and snag a baked good.

If the café does their baking on the premises, bring in a sure-fire recipe. The least socially awkward way to proceed is to first request a vegan muffin. Then, depending on how it goes, tell them you will return with a recipe. This way you don’t come off as a crazy-carrying-around-muffin-recipe-girl. Make sure to test the recipe beforehand. Also, pick something simple that doesn’t call for egg replacer or flax seeds. When you return with the recipe, bring a sample of the muffin. Show them you mean business.

If the café doesn’t do their baking on the premises find a wholesale vegan bakery in your area. More and more are popping up all the time so do some research; ask around on internet message boards. Bakeries often deliver up to an hour away so maybe there’s one you aren’t aware of. Once you find the bakery, call and see if they will deliver to your target café. If they will, the next step is to give the café the contact info for the bakery and vice versa. Make vegan magic happen!

If you can’t find a vegan bakery, find any bakery and ask if they would consider producing a vegan muffin. Again, harness the power of the all-mighty food allergies!

Bring vegan goods to a bake sale
Any bake sale, not just one specifically geared toward animal issues. Sometimes we are wary of marking our baked goods as vegan, thinking people won’t want to try them. But try making your sign really pretty, as if “vegan” were a desirable selling point. Write it in bright colors, surround it with hearts—pimp your vegan goods! Remember, as long as your cookie looks good people will purchase it. If you choose not to disclose the veganitude of your items in writing, then at the point of sale tell them as an aside, “Oh and the great thing about this is that it’s vegan!” No more shall we mumble “vegan” under our breath, say it loud and proud!

Write to companies and get them to produce more vegan goods
Get lots of people to write, call and send e-mails. You can write something like, “Dear so and so, I really used to enjoy your crackers back when I suckled at the teat of death, but now that I am vegan I won’t eat them. Can you please change your murderous ways?” (Only leave out the part about suckling at the teat of death and the part about them being murderers.)

Get your school or work cafeteria to serve vegan options
A petition would work really well here. Make sure your petition takes into consideration how healthy vegan foods are. Lots of people have had success with getting their cafeterias to carry vegan items, especially in colleges where many people are on the four-year meal plan. PETA has a wonderful guide to veganizing your college cafeteria.

Make your friends and family vegan-friendly
Bring vegan dishes to holiday gatherings—any social gathering, really. Just get vegan food out there to the masses starting with the ones closest to you.

As gifts, buy them vegan cookbooks to go along with something they “really want” (no, it doesn’t have to be Vegan With A Vengeance, but that isn’t a bad choice!). Or take them out to a great vegan restaurant. Cook them a yummy vegan meal. Prepare dishes familiar to them: soups, chilies and curries. But here’s a suggestion: don’t break out the nutritional yeast on the first date.

Yes, it would be great if you could make everyone vegan but the next best thing is to make them vegan-friendly. You never know when they will be met by the anti-vegan—that guy who wears the People for Eating Tasty Animals beer hat. Having people who aren’t vegan but are in your corner helps in our defense.

For people you are really close to and that will love you no matter what, replace some of their non-vegan things with vegan ones. Store Vegenaise in their refrigerator door, push the half and half to the back with that ancient jar of apricot preserves and put the Silk Coffee Creamer front and center. Hopefully they will try these things once they are in the fridge, and if they don’t, well, you’ve voted vegan with your wallet and that’s okay, too.

Bring cookies to the office
We all know the one cubicle everyone gravitates to, the one whose inhabitant always has a tissue, handiwipes or that ubiquitous bowl of candy on her desk. Well, guess what? That person is now you. Bring in vegan cookies and candies a few times a week. Your co-workers will love you for it and might even be willing to listen to the reasons why you are vegan. As for the handiwipes and tissues, well, those don’t hurt either.

Offer to write a food column for your local paper
Put that GED to good use and sharpen up your writing skills. Call your local newspaper and ask if they have any need for a recipe column. A good pitch is to say that it will be a column about local foods, offering recipes that are seasonal, healthy and will feature your area’s best produce. Sneak the word vegan in there when you get a chance, but if your ’hood isn’t ready for it, don’t be pushy. Just get it out there.

Start a vegan food blog
The Blogger’s Choice awards are a great example of how effective a good food blog can be. Readers nominate and vote for their favorite blogs, and last year, among the hundreds in the running, Vegan Lunch Box won as Favorite Food Blog. No, not favorite vegan food blog, but favorite food blog overall. Is that not progress? At the time of this writing, the top three blogs in the food category are all vegan ones. It doesn’t take much to get started, just a decent digital camera and an internet connection. (I prefer wordpress.com, but lots of people use blogger.com.) A few examples of wonderful blogs are veganyumyum.com, letsgetsconed.com.blogspot.com and blog.fatfreevegan.com. If you don’t cook but would still like to do a blog, you can photograph and review food from restaurants, like my good friends do at veganfriendly.com.

Cook!!!
Don’t just cook but cook! First learn the basics—cook with every vegetable you can get your hands on. Learn how ingredients act, experiment with different methods—grilling, sautéing, broiling. Watch cooking shows (if you can stomach seeing all that meat), read cooking magazines and cookbooks, and cook cook cook! Even if you think you are the worst cook in the world, keep at it, you’re bound to get better. Even if you are lazy, even if you are busy—vegan culture needs you to cook. The more you cook the more you will be connected to your food. Cooking like a madwoman is actually what made me vegan and what keeps me vegan. Nourish yourself, love your food, share your food and maybe the world will follow. Who knows, you might be the one to invent that soy cheese that actually tastes good…
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Great article, thanks for this list!
Присоединяюсь, получилась отличная статья! Спасибо!

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I've found that the best work I can do is in the area of cooking yummy vegan food for people at home, parties, and the office. And I really want to say Thank You to you, Isa, for making that so easy and fun with VWAV! :-) I made a few dishes from it for my mom (curried split pea soup, tofu scramble) and read her a bunch of recipe names (yes, I am a dork, I read cookbooks for entertainment) and she really liked them so I bought her the book. This a huge step for my meat-loving mom. At parties I make vegan dishes -- at my recent birthday party, a couple of people asked me for the recipe for Tofu-Dill salad. And for the office, every month for our birthday celebrations I bake something vegan, and so far every reaction has been "Yum!" No one even notices they are vegan but I do make sure to mention it occasionally.

I will have to check out what I can do on the other options...
After 21 years of being veg/vegan I can honestly say I’ve found hostility does not work. People get defensive and shut out the possibilities when they feel attacked. (I usually tell people to ask if they want to know the gruesome facts.) Your ideas are fantastic! The quickest way to changing people’s minds is through their taste buds!

Recently I attended a party where I was the only vegan present. The hostess made cupcakes from VCTOTW. The scene was a mad frenzy of carnivores devouring the stack of cupcakes and cheering, “These are the best cupcakes I’ve ever eaten!” My friend changed many minds that day and many people who would normally never try vegan food vowed to buy the book! Woohoo!
*mad crazy applause*

I'm not even vegetarian, but the vast honkin' majority of what I cook is meatfree or vegan, and it drives me crazy when people say anything about food is too hard or not worth it. If anything, veg food is way easier. Plus, when I bring a tasty vegan treat to a party instead of something full of eggs or cheese, it means more people can eat it, and everybody wins. So simple! No rocket science whatsoever involved.
You're quickly becoming my hero because you don't philosophize so damn much, it is seriously helpful. Your food helped me make the vegan transition, in fact, I'm sure it played a HUGE role. Because, for whatever reason people go vegan, it always comes back to food.

Thank you!!
Just because you believe in it doesn’t make it so. Perhaps you didn’t fully read the article. Posted on: Jan pm Shaun says.

dararoked

8 years ago

saabisu

8 years ago

charlenerugaf

8 years ago

Hey, I was trying to make your buttercream frosting from VCTOW and I was wondering what type of non-hydrogenated shortening you use? I used Crisco's trans-fat free one--but it was still hydrogenated and it made my frosting all greasy and weird.
Ooh, greasy and weird is not good! I use Earth Balance, either the sticks or the tub.

boobalah

9 years ago

So true!

Every place I've worked, I've managed to "normalize" veganism quite a bit just by being there, and by bringing in food. Cupcakes, cookies, coffeecakes, everyone loves baked goods. *LOL*
Oh, and: my parents eat less meat than they used to, my mom has let me make her birthday cakes for the last two years, and they switched to Vegenaise when they tried it and realized it tasted the same (but no cholesterol)!

It's all about the food.

feralshiksa

8 years ago

aprilstarchild

8 years ago

feralshiksa

8 years ago

aprilstarchild

8 years ago

feralshiksa

8 years ago

aprilstarchild

8 years ago

aprilstarchild

8 years ago

feralshiksa

8 years ago

I am an active member in my university's vegetarian club (S.S.A.V.E. Students Supporting Animal and Vegetarian Ethics), and last semester in order to promote veganism we made and gave away cupcakes (for free!). We made a different flavor every day. Everyone was so surprised that something vegan could taste so good, and not one person who tried one didn't like it. We also handed out a different fact card every day that included our favourite recipes.

Deleted comment

thanks for posting this..i have definitely been passing it along! oh, and a story to share- i work in a nursing home, and curious coworkers have been asking me for vegan recipes. i often share the chickpea broccoli casserole from VWaV. one of the women who works in recreation realized that she had a cooking "class" to do with some of the long term care patients, and didn't have anything prepared. since she had just bought the ingredients to make the casserole, she made it with a group of age 70+ women. (some of whom are the pickiest eaters..i work in nutrition services there, so i know!) they tried it the next day, and they LOVED it! they even got into a discussion of what they would add to it for flavoring. i was literally beaming all day. the great thing about that recipe is that it is composed of ingredients that are all friendly to the elderly- nothing "new age" like tofu. i'm especially excited, since i won the vrg scholarship this year, and they sent me a copy of vegan in volume. i'm hoping this positive experience just might be a catalyst for adding other vegan entrees to the menus at my work. so thank you for everything- you are seriously my idol =)

cheese.....

Anonymous

June 9 2007, 16:12:10 UTC 9 years ago

thanks for writing that article!
if only it were also in the new york times, you know?

i want to make vegan cheese! it's on my big old list of things to make vegan.
there are two ways to go about it.
1) culturing a non-dairy milk with any number of the various bacteria used to make real cheese. i think this doesn't work because the bacteria need certain animal proteins to grow. but it's worth looking into. maybe with the things that don't need animal proteins to grow: koji, acidophilus, etc.
2) faking a cheese texture with agar, arrowroot, pectin, marshmallow root, or whatever and faking a cheese taste with nutritional yeast or whatever. so very fake. but that vegan gourmet stuff isn't bad.
i've had no success. but with our powers combined, we're like captain vegan cheese planet or something. i'll let you know if anything happens on the cheese front over here. (new blog? vegancheeseproject.blogspot.com???)

carmichaelmonaco@gmail.com
http://eventhevegans.blogspot.com

Virginie, from Absolutely Green, has a bunch of repices to 'forge' cheese. Because when you are French and decide to go vegan, giving up cheese is one of the things that make you cry yourself to sleep a few times a week. Most recipes are in French but are fairly transparent I think ; otherwise you can google-translate them

http://absolutegreen.blogspot.com/2006/03/atelier-vg-faussaire-de-labalone-la.html

Hope you will enjoy them!

aelle
(aelle_aelle [at] hotmail [dot] fr)

Re: cheese.....

Anonymous

9 years ago

Re: cheese.....

Anonymous

9 years ago

Deleted comment

Wow, I haven't seen that. What a horrible person. Her vegan friend must be some sort of saint.

Anonymous

June 12 2007, 10:05:10 UTC 9 years ago

This really does work! I brought VCTOTW cupcakes to a brunch last week, and they were devoured in a frenzy of praise. Those people now think "vegan" means "delicious".

Jul
www.veggiechic.com

Anonymous

June 14 2007, 01:27:30 UTC 9 years ago

I like this post a lot. I've been able to get my parents to switch from butter to earth balance, my mom's tried the silk creamer for her coffee but she didn't like it, however, she loooves the soy yogurt I buy. She thinks it tastes better than the regular yogurt she buys and she just asked me to buy some more soygurt for her!

I also try to cook whenever I can and I can admit this proudly, I am not a good cook. I try and there are certain things I've mastered, but I still have a long way to go. But I totally make up for it with my baked goods. All of my vegan baked goods have been stellar and my friends and family gobble them up. I'm pretty much known as the girl who bakes good things and it doesn't matter that they're vegan.

Oh and I just read that link about the Bone Marrow Night and that is totally foul, even if I still ate meat I wouldn't touch that.
I would love to watch your cooking show, but I don't have cable. I've looked online to buy the season, but I couldn't find it. Do you plan on releasing your show onto DVD anytime soon? That would be amazing.
You can watch a few of the episodes online!
The address is "theppk.com/shows/".
Have fun. (:
Surreptitious advertising [ie. sneaking in vegan baked goods to the office] has always been my biggest campaign. They dig in, proclaim them delicious, and when I tell them that the goodies are vegan, they look surprised. It's funny, you'd think they'd be used to it by now. I made three of the VCTOTW cupcakes for my little sisters' graduation reception this may [pineapple right-side up, marble, and orange pudding [my favorite]], and they were all devoured. Coming from a very small rural town in Iowa, any word I can get out is good. And actually I've been asked to do some talks and interviews at the school, and got one young man to turn vegan...and his parents are pork producers. Was pretty proud of that one.

But yeah, I agree on the "delicious!" campaign. The easiest way to get people to loosen up is by easily providing them with tastiness.

In a slightly related note, I was back in Iowa this weekend for a wedding, and my little brother [23 y/o] mentioned how he hates "all those in your face vegetarians." And my boyfriend immediately said to him, "for every one loud vegetarian, there are 10,000 loud meat-eaters giving them crap for being vegetarian." And he's not even vegan! But he makes delicious vegan food on a regular basis. Which leads all back to the delicious campaign.

I'm going to stop rambling now.
My parents are trying a vegan diet for a variety of reasons (weight, cholesterol, blood sugar, etc.) and it's helped to have their crazy older son be vegan for the last five and a half years and be the healthy, thin one in the family (when I was the fat little kid growing up). So for a combined mother's/father's day gift they got VCTOTW, VWAV and the Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen. :D So far they're liking the recipes. Thank you for such easy cookbooks.
I love you! My sister baked some of your coconut muffins for me the other day, and I bought both cookbooks the following day. How come I didn't know about your site sooner?? I have a daughter in kindergarten who thinks she's died and gone to heaven with your cupcake book.

I love your philosophy. I have a preachy vegan friend who- I swear- has single-handedly been responsible for more spite fueled steak eating binges from the people around him than any cattle industry marketing campaign could ever do.

I'm a school teacher, and I've had at least 3 students in the past year tell me I influenced their decision to go veggie or vegan, and all I do is mention our pros, never their cons. It's enough! More flies with honey and all that jazz...
I live in New Zealand where it is notoriously difficult to buy most of the vegan ingredients, but I have found that a lot of products here that are NOT advertised as vegan contain nothing dead.

On my third day as a vegan I made your rich vegan chocolate cake from PPK, and my supermarket did not have real maple syrup at all!! Luckily I managed to find a corn syrup that worked just as well. I added dairy-free dark chocolate, multiplied the syrup by 1 1/3 and served it with stewed berries sweetened with demerara. It was totally sucessful and the recipe is now in the hands of all my parents' flesheating friends.

We had an Amnesty bake sale at school and I brought vegan lemon-poppy cupcakes- they sold out in the first fifteen minutes! And I have discovered a fabulous cafe with vegan baking- Midnight Espresso for anyone who knows Wellington- who have been inspired to take the sugar out of their recipes once I introduced them to other, moist sweeteners.

THANK YOU ISA! I swear without your recipes which are so easy to follow and have such deliciously normal ingredients, the baking-junkie inside me would never have been able to make the switch. You are saving the tastebuds of vegan guys and gals all over the world.

Anonymous

August 8 2007, 17:04:59 UTC 9 years ago

thanks. i love your recipes. yummmmmmmy :]
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i want to make vegan cheese! it's on my big old list of things to make vegan.
there are two ways to go about it.
1) culturing a non-dairy milk with any number of the various bacteria used to make real cheese. i think this doesn't work because the bacteria need certain animal proteins to grow. but it's worth looking into. maybe with the things that don't need animal proteins to grow: koji, acidophilus, etc.
2) faking a cheese texture with agar, arrowroot, pectin, marshmallow root, or whatever and faking a cheese taste with nutritional yeast or whatever. so very fake. but that vegan gourmet stuff isn't bad.
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