Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Au Revoir, 2008

As we say goodbye to 2008, we have many things to be grateful for. Proposition 2 passing in California. Oprah Winfrey using her national platform to expose mainstream America to factory farming and puppy mills. Donna Karan finally agreeing to stopping using fur. Even small victories, like the pet shop going out of business at my local shopping mall. And yes, even the humble organic soy milk in my office refrigerator that has become so popular after I requested it.

With a new year ahead, the fight for animals must go on. Fur somehow seems to be socially acceptable again, with fur trimmed jackets all over. People are going to McDonald's and other fast food places as the economy dips...bad news for the animals, the environment, and our health care system. Many alternative energy plans are on hold, a victim of both the weak economy and dipping gas prices, worse yet for all the inhabitants of this Earth. I think Tori Amos had it right in her song "Father's Son" when she asked, "Can you blame nature if she's had enough of us?"

But it is we as individuals that decide the America and the larger world we want to live in, and not just on election day. Every day, with our dollars and our voice. Do we want a world filled with factory farms, or local, organic farms? Do we want chain restaurants with homogenized foods, or do we support the local restaurants? Do we value animal rights, workers rights and the environment when we fill our shopping cart?

And we must continue to spread the light of veganism in the most positive way. Judgement is not the answer. It was all a different journey for everyone of us to get to our current destination, and with habits so ingrained on our population, change can only happen step by step.

I love this passage from "This Low," by The Swell Season. While the song is about relationships, I always think of it in the context for continuing to learn and build our knowledge and wisdom as animal advocates, and then spreading the beauty, joy, compassion and peace that is veganism, and doing it in the most loving of ways.

"Shine the light,
Don't hide the light,
Live the light,
And give the light,
Seek the light,
And speak the light,
Crave the light, and brave the light,
Stare the light,
And share the light,
Show the light,
And know the light,
Raise the light,
And praise the light,
Thread the light,
And spread the light"

A happy and healthy new year to all. Let's make 2009 an even better year for the animals.

CNN to Showcase Animal Issues on January 1

Set your DVRs. PETA reported that Jane Velez-Mitchell will devote an entire show to animal issues, including puppy mills, shelter adoption, Prop 2 and more. It will air on Thursday, January 1 at 7 p.m. EST on CNN Headline News. It isn't even here yet, and 2009 is off to a good start.

Read the full story.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Year of the Dog...A Must-See for All Animal Advocates

Ingrid Newkirk said, "To rid ourselves of our biases takes effort, and sometimes it takes an experience." In Year of the Dog, a charming movie starring Molly Shannon as Peggy, it takes the experience of losing her beloved dog Pencil to open her eyes to the larger, unknown world of animal abuse. While we are nation who cherishes their companion animals, even fiercely debating where Barack Obama's puppy should come from, most give little thought to the animals they wear and eat.

When Peggy, a dog lover like so many, meets Newt, she becomes exposed to the horrors of animal testing, factory farming and the fur trade. Peggy even visits a farm sanctuary and treats her coworkers to vegan cupcakes (the latter with results many of us are accustomed to).

While Peggy eventually takes things to the extreme, her love for animals - and her mission to expose as many as she can to their widespread mistreatment - is something we can all relate to. Despite the many vegans and animal advocates I've met, we are still small in numbers, and often our passion for animals can seem so mysterious to others. That is why I found what Peggy said so poignant as she tried to demystify her passion to her friends and family.

"There are so many kinds of life in this life. So many things to love. The love for a husband or a wife, a boyfriend, a girlfriend. The love for children. The love for yourself. And even material things. This is my love. It is mine. And it fills me, and it defines me and it compels me on."

After the holiday madness, this is a DVD for all animal advocates to enjoy in the comfort of their home.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Eliminating Animal Products from Your Wardrobe

Hope everyone had a festive holiday. I feasted on a cashew nut roast, sweet potato mash and broccoli made by the best un-vegan mother ever. I also hit the stores for some great sales. If you're in the market for vegan clothes, now is the time to buy. I picked up a cute vegan coat for under $50, and even scored $5 ballet flats at Old Navy.

In my nearly 20 years as a vegetarian, I never gave much thought to leather or wool. I would justify my purchase of a pair of leather boots or shoes by saying, "I don't eat animal flesh, which saves a lot of suffering." Truthfully, like most people, I just didn't think that much about it.

When I started to research veganism, I was horrified to learn about the cruelties involved in leather production and that I had, even in a small way, contributed to it. Most leather comes from India and China, where animal welfare laws are either non-existent or not enforced, according to PETA's Cows are Cool web site. These suffering souls face extreme crowding, deprivation, castration, branding, tail-docking, and dehorning, all without any anesthetics.

Wool is no better. Australia is the leading producer, accounting for 30 percent of all wool used worldwide, according to PETA's Save the Sheep web site. Animal welfare standards are atrocious for the 100 million sheep there. Lambs' ears are hole-punched, their tails are cut off, and the males are castrated without painkillers.

With so many man-made alternatives, both stylish and inexpensive, now widely available, there is no need for the suffering to continue. For vegan shoes, I recommend Payless Shoes for price and availability. Just beware: many of their sneakers do have leather, but the majority of their shoes are manufactured from man-made materials. Target also has a large man-made shoe line. PETA's Dan Mathews recommended both of these stores when I heard him speak at his book signing. Most people don't have money for Natalie Portman's vegan shoes at Te Casan, typically $200 a pair, and in today's economic climate, that just seems frivolous anyway.

Finding a vegan coat may be a bit more of a challenge, but inexpensive options are available at H&M, Forever 21 and Old Navy. Besides, it's worth the little extra effort to purchase products without any animal by-products. While no one can un-do their past purchases of animal products, we can go forward by making more educated purchasing decisions, and showing, not only how much healthier and better for the animals and planet veganism is, but that you can look great doing so.

Check out PETA Living's guide to vegan coats.
PETA's Cows are Cool
PETA's Save the Sheep
Payless Shoes
Vegan Chic

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Season's Greetings to all My Fellow Animal Lovers

Wishing everyone a safe, happy, and cruelty-free holiday!

For those celebrating Christmas, don't forget to leave the cookies and soy milk out for Santa so he'll bring you cool vegan goodies!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Companion Animal Trust Fundraiser

Saturday, I dined on vegan chow with fellow animal lovers to raise funds for Companion Animal Trust, which rescues and places homeless cats and dogs in the northern New Jersey/New York City area into their forever homes. Run by a guardian angel named Carol, the group also feeds feral cat colonies, and is a strong advocate of a no-kill policy. The dinner was organized by Claudia, who runs my HEARTS for Animals meetup group and fights for various animal rights causes, including elephants abused by Ringling Bros. It never ceases to amaze me how many animal advocates there are. I also believe it is important to give my charitable dollars to local organizations such as this group, in addition to national organizations like Farm Sanctuary and the Humane Society.

Dinner was at Su Restaurant, a vegetarian restaurant in Edgewater, New Jersey. While I was disheartened by so much dairy on the menu, I'm still glad that another vegetarian restaurant is now open. I can still count on one hand the number of vegetarian restaurants in northern New Jersey, a stone's throw from New York City.

A sampling of some dishes. To start, yam and yucca fries. Delicious.

Baby spinach salad with battered onions, mangoes and tomatoes. The dressing needs work.

Pad Thai rice noodles. Hard to get this dish wrong, and Su didn't.

One of my dining companions let me sample his Malaysian coconut curry. It was divine.

Mango pudding with banana coconut tapioca pearls. There are only a few vegan options on the dessert menu. This one was very sweet.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Plea to Give Up Fish

In his lively look back on his activist life, Committed: A Rabble-Rouser's Memoir, Dan Mathews, the senior vice president of PETA, describes a fishing trip he took in the ninth grade, just a few weeks after being bullied for being gay. He discovered, to his dismay, he had caught a flounder.

"'You've got a booby prize!' someone joked as he stomped the flailing fish to the deck and tore out the hook, causing blood to flow from the slimy creature's mouth to the beat of his racing heart. Everybody laughed, but I grew uneasy. I considered what the scene looked like from the flounder's point of view. Stunned, he looked up to see a collection of chuckling faces as he lay gasping for breath...I had become one of the terrorizing bullies I dreaded so much at school."

More than 17 billion fish are killed for food in the U.S. annually, and sport fishing and angling kills another 245 million animals per year, according to PETA's Fishing Hurts web site. Much like their farm animal counterparts, they have no legal protection from cruel treatment. They are impaled, crushed, suffocated, or sliced open and gutted...all while they're fully conscious.

For whatever reason, fish is the one flesh many vegetarians struggle to give up. Perhaps because there isn't as much graphic footage available of their horrible treatment. Or maybe because we've succumbed to the marketing of the industry touting it as a health food. But did you know seafood is the leading cause of food poisoning in the U.S.? So many of our waterways are polluted with human and animal feces, and this waste carries dangerous bacteria like E. coli, according to PETA.

Mercury is in the news as of late due to actor Jermey Pivens' bout with mercury poisoning due to a twice-a-day fish consumption lifestyle. PETA noted a study by the Environmental Protection Agency that revealed that women who ate fish just twice a week had blood mercury concentrations seven times higher than women who had not consumed fish in the prior month.

Meanwhile, commercial fishers have destroyed the ocean's ecosystem to the extent that large fish populations are just 10 percent of what they were in the 1950s.

Please consider shunning fish once and for all, for the health of your body and of our oceans, and for the long-suffering fish.

Learn more about the health, environmental, and moral impact of consuming fish by visiting PETA's Fishing Hurts web site.
Check out Dan's book, available at your local library, or through the PETA catalog.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Veganize and Green Your Laundry Routine

Living a vegan life extends way beyond the plate. Animal by-products are hidden everywhere. Scarier yet, animal testing is still a routine practice. Did you know that Procter & Gamble, maker of the popular Tide brand, still tests on animals?

Luckily, there are more cruelty-free, affordable options than ever before. Trader Joe's Liquid Laundry Detergent is my pick. Biodegradable, non-animal tested and containing no animal ingredients, it has a pleasant, but not over-powering, lavender scent, and is reasonably priced at $8.99 for a one gallon container. It also has a built-in fabric softener. Not lucky enough to have a Trader Joe's nearby? Check out Method and Seventh Generation brands at Whole Foods Market and increasingly available in mainstream supermarkets.

Did you know that most fabric softener sheets contain animal fats? Fortunately, our friends at Method offer a vegan alternative with their squeaky green dryer cloths. Personally, I hang-dry most of my clothes, so I only need these for my towels and sheets. Hang drying is kinder on the environment than being dependent on the dryer, and of course saves money, always a plus.

Don't forget to wash in the cold cycle. A startling 90 percent of the energy used by a washing machine goes to just heating the water, according to Carbon Conscious Consumer. They calculate that if you wash four out of every five loads in cold water, you could reduce your CO2 emissions by 72 pounds in just one month, and save $60 or more on your annual energy spending.

Learn more eco-friendly tips from Carbon Conscious Consumer, including how to reduce your junk mail and breaking the bottled water habit.
Want to know if the products you're buying are tested on animals? Check out PETA's Caring Consumer search engine.

Friday, December 19, 2008

"All Living Beings Wish to be Free"

I first heard of PETA in my teen years, when I made the life-changing decision to become a vegetarian. I've never eaten animal flesh since, save a few years in my late twenties when I confusingly decided to dabble in pescetarianism. Why I thought consuming any level of mercury in fish, whatever amount of omega 3 fatty acids it contained, was an acceptable notion I have no idea. Let alone neglecting their feelings as living, breathing creatures who have as much a desire to live as any cow, chicken, pig or human. But I am now fully committed down the path of veganism, with no desire to look back.

Ingrid Newkirk continues to be a source of inspiration, particularly in her arguments on the moral issues of how we treat animals. Our society is so dependent on animals, as a food source (often poor), for fashion (which we tire of so quickly), for entertainment (to amuse ourselves for a few fleeting hours) and more. Yet they are such an after-thought to many, and to most, their treatment is not thought of at all.

On this snowy weekend, I took the time to listen to Ingrid's moving speech, "Non-Violence Includes Animals," and encourage others to as well.

"How we treat animals goes to the very heart of who we are."

"failure to recognize the us in them."

"They are treated like things, like commodities, machines and objects. They are treated like everything but as animals."

"There is no human nature. It is shared nature, for all animals laugh, and lie and cheat and love and breathe and are lonely and feel pain and wish to be free."

"There will be a day...when we will stop saying, we are human beings, treat us like human beings and start saying, we are living beings, treat us, please like living beings."

Check out PETA's official page on Youtube.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tom Vilsack To Be Ag Secretary: Animal Groups React

As you may have heard by now, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack is Barack Obama's choice to head the Department of Agriculture. Notably, two of the nation's leading animals rights crusaders offered a mixed reaction.

The Humane Society seemed pleased. Writing in his blog, Animals & Politics, Michael Markarian, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said Vilsack was the top choice of head the USDA.

"As governor of Iowa, Vilsack advocated for bills to toughen the state's penalties for animal fighting. He stood up to the puppy mill industry and vetoed a bill in 2006 that would have weakened protections for pets by reclassifying dogs as "farm products." He also...vetoed legislation in 2001 that would have allowed the sport hunting of mourning doves for the first time in decades."

Farm Sanctuary, the nation's leading farm animal protection group, was more critical in its statement, given by Gene Baur, president and co-founder.

"Vilsack has an uneven track record when it comes to farm animals and fighting factory farming. He has supported some animal protection measures and has at times stood up to Big Ag, yet he has also taken actions that are not in the best interest of farm animals or rural communities. During his tenure as governor of Iowa, the state saw a proliferation of massive hog farms, and we saw these hog farms first-hand this summer when we rescued pigs from the flooding in southeastern Iowa."

While a historic shift has come to Washington on a campaign that had a central theme of "change," we humans are creatures of habit, and change in practice is harder to implement than change in theory. That is why it is more important than ever to be emblodended by victories such a Proposition 2 in California, and keep the fight going. The animals are depending on all of us.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Silk Soy Nog, A Festive Addition to Your Holiday Menu

Break out the nog. Silk soy nog is here again! Hooray! Traditional dairy eggnog has 6g of saturated fat and 75 mg of cholesterol per 1/2 cup serving, enough to drive Santa's cholesterol through the roof! Silk's grams of saturated fat and no cholesterol, and of course, no chickens or cows have to suffer.

Any gatherings you attend are a great opportunity to introduce co-workers or loved ones to new vegan products. I plan on bringing a carton to my office pot-luck party. Best yet, Silk nog is becoming widely available, and I found it in my local Stop & Shop and Shop-Rite supermarkets. I've even spotted soy pudding at Shop-Rite. Change is happening every day, and with our help, we can bring awareness to others how delicious and heart-healthy these products are.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Another Loss for Shelter Dogs

The first word (and second, and third) upon hearing that Vice President-elect Joseph Biden bought a 3-month-old male German shepherd from a Chester County, Pennsylvania breeder..."Why?!?" He had a nationwide platform to make a more compassionate, humane choice, yet he chose the vanity of his breed over common sense. I have just never understood people's obsession with having to buy a puppy. One more dog has to wait for his or her forever home, facing likely death, due to this reckless decision. Read PETA's take.

Shelter dogs lose out any time people patronize breeders or pet stores, typically supplied by grizzly puppy mills. Check out PETA's undercover puppy mill investigation, narrated by Charlize Theron.

PETA offers some ways to help.

"Shelter Dogs" is a soul-churning photography book featuring 50 beloved souls captured by Traer Scott. Some found their forever homes, and some went on, hopefully, to a better world than the one they knew here on earth. This book is available through the ASPCA website.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pay a Bill, Spread a Message of Hope

Bill paying is never fun, but writing out a groovy check that support your animal rights message is. Message!Products offers personal checks, checkbook covers, and address labels from Farm Sanctuary, PETA, Best Friends Animal Society, and a host of other animal advocacy groups. While a small royalty of your purchase goes to your organization, the best motivation is advertising our cause each time we write a check. Learn more.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Blinders: The Truth Behind the Tradition

Don't miss this heart-breaking look at the plight of New York City carriage horses. Sadly romanticized by many and patronized by legions of tourists, the horse carriage trade has a very ugly side.

There are as many as 68 horses at a time on the crowded streets of New York City, who must evade cars, buses, and emergency vehicles, according New Yorkers Against Horse-Drawn Carriages. Last year, a mare, frightened by a street performer's drum, died after going into shock when she broke her leg after running into a tree. Meanwhile, a second horse bolted into a car. That incident came just as a NYC Comptroller audit concluded that horses work without sufficient access to water and shade or oversight from authorities.

The list of accidents and deaths goes on and on. Horses, who are extremely sensitive to loud noises and unexpected sounds, should not be subjected to lugging tourists around, just so they can get some delusional New York City experience.

Blinders the Movie site.

Fortunately, people are banding together to put this cruel practice to an end. Learn what you can do: Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages. Also visit PETA:'s The Cruelty of Horse-Drawn Carriages.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rainy Day, NYC

Wish I was sleeping in today, like my friends Charlie and Allie at the C.A.T.S. Resale Shop...

...after devouring a bagel with tofu cream cheese.

Bagel Maven, my nearby bagel place, sells plain tofu and tofu with scallion 'cream cheese'. Does your local haunt sell tofu cream cheese? Why not ask?

Visit Bagel Maven at 362 7th Avenue at 30th, New York City.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Farm Sanctuary Book Signing

Booklist called Gene Baur's book, "Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food" a "life-altering read." For me it was, literally. I was influenced to become a vegan by various elements, including a speech by Ingrid Newkirk and books such as Fast Food Nation, but it was a passage in Gene's book that completely put me off from egg consumption for good.

When talking about witnessing the practice of disposing of unwanted chicks in a device used for processing grain or sand, which is alarmingly ordinary in the trade, he writes, "What stays with me most is the terrible irony of these newly hatched chicks, symbols of spring and rebirth, who'd been driven to fight their way out of their shell by the instinct to live we all share, only to be ground up alive and turned into manure. And all because, in the industry's eyes, they have no value."

I had the pleasure of hearing Gene speak on his book tour at Borders Columbus Circle. He reiterated that sadly, 'bad has become normal' in the farming industry, but presented a message of hope. He raised our spirits, reminding us that change is incremental. Proposition 2 in California, a measure overwhelmingly approved by voters last November that bans the use of veal crates, gestation crates for breeding pigs, and battery cages for egg-laying hens, was an enormous victory, and it is just the beginning.

And he writes, in a sentiment we all need to be reminded of, that "animals show us the enjoyment of simple pleasure and of being in the moment. They teach us that we are of the world. And they tell us that, beneath the skin, we're all bodies together."

Order the book, and follow Gene Baur's blog.

The stars shined in Columbus Circle, and on Gene and the activists...

Not lucky enough to have caught Gene on his book tour? You can listen to his inspiring speech here.

Also, check out Gene's Post-Prop 2 Victory Interview:

Fundraiser for CAT at Su Restaurant in Edgewater, NJ is a great way to network with other animal activists. Simply search by keywords such as "vegan" or "animal rights," enter your zip code, and you'll find groups with a common cause.

One of the groups I belong to, HEARTS for Animals, sent out an invitation for a dinner to raise funds for Companion Animal Trust (CAT), a rescue group for strays. With all the gluttony that occurs in December, it certainly might as well be for a good cause.

Here are the details:
Where: Su Restaurant, an Italian and Asian-influenced vegetarian restaurant in Edgewater, NJ
When: Saturday, December 20 at 7 PM
Cost: $15-$20 (pay via individual checks)
Bring: a cash or check donation for CAT or one of the following most-needed gift items: cans of wet cat food, dry bag of cat food, toys for cats
BYOB: Bring your own beer, wine or other drink.

FLOW: An In-depth Look at the World Water Crisis

Yet more evidence that humans, nudged along in part by powerful corporations, are destroying the planet. FLOW (For Love of Water), Irena Salina's documentary, investigates the matter of the world's dwindling fresh water supply. Move this straight to the top of your Netflix queue.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A bit of Paris at Metro Marche

I am a true Frenchie at heart. I adore learning the language, enjoying the music and films, and the savoring of simple, rustic cuisine at little bistros and brasseries. Fortunately, NYC is filled with dining opportunities for those who can't make it to Paris. While I no longer work near Le Grainne Cafe, where I often lingered over a satisfying lunch of ratatouille, soup and salad, I recently got my French food fix at Metro Marche. Who knew a cute little brasserie was tucked away inside Port Authority of all places?

My favorite cocktail, a kir royale. Champagne with creme de cassis, a blackcurrant-flavored liqueur.

Tahini hummus with grilled pita. Who needs cheese? I could live on hummus alone.

Organic mesclun greens with oven roasted tomatoes and a balsamic vinaigrette. So simple, but so good.

Raspberry sorbet. A sweet ending to any meal.

Visit Metro March at Times Square, Port Authority, 625 Eigth Ave. at 41st St., New York, NY. Update: this charming establishment is now closed.
Visit Le Grainne Cafe at 183 Ninth Ave., New York, NY

After dinner, I went home and threw on some music from my favorite French chanteuse, Vanessa Paradis.

St Germain.

Winter Wonderland

Last Thursday, animals lovers around NYC dined on vegan goodies, bid on artwork, and rubbed elbows with the likes of Corey Feldman, Tatum O'Neal, and Ally Sheedy at the Winter Wonderland fundraiser held by Farm Sanctuary, the nation's leading farm animal protection organization.

I had the honor to work as a volunteer for the day. My reward, vegan pizza from Viva Herbal Pizzeria.

A silent auction featured everything from jewelry and cookbooks to original artwork.

A cool pig mosaic

Blackwell's Organic coffee gelato was a hit.

I finally got to sample some treats from Babycakes NYC. I taste-tested a chocolate chip cookie, a mini chocolate cupcake with mint frosting, and a mini-brownie. I was underwhelmed. Sweet Avenue Bake Shop in Rutherford, NJ is much better.

Dr. Cow Tree Nut Cheese. A disclaimer: as a person of Swiss heritage, I have pretty high standards. This is a descent substitute. I did find it to have an odd fudge-like consistency, but some people swear by this stuff.

Party goers were given a bag of vegan loot for the road. I can't wait to try the Road's End Organics gravy mix, and to hang up my 2009 Farm Sanctuary rescue and refuge calendar.

Of course the reason for it all, to raise money for Farm Sanctuary residents.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Society, you're a crazy breed

Environmental and animal exploitation, greed, materialism... all themes covered in this video that seems so appropriate for today's climate. Created by a user on Youtube, the video is set to the song "Society," performed by Eddie Vedder and written by Jerry Hannan for last year's haunting Into the Wild soundtrack. So many are just simply not heeding the warnings about what we are doing to our planet.

It's a mystery to me
we have a greed
with which we have agreed

You think you have to want
more than you need
until you have it all you won't be free

society, you're a crazy breed
I hope you're not lonely without me

When you want more than you have
you think you need
and when you think more than you want
your thoughts begin to bleed

I think I need to find a bigger place
'cos when you have more than you think
you need more space

society, you're a crazy breed
I hope you're not lonely without me
society, crazy and deep
I hope you're not lonely without me

there's those thinking more or less less is more
but if less is more how you're keeping score?
Means for every point you make
your level drops
kinda like its starting from the top
you can't do that...

society, you're a crazy breed
I hope you're not lonely without me
society, crazy and deep
I hope you're not lonely without me

society, have mercy on me
I hope you're not angry if I disagree
society, crazy and deep
I hope you're not lonely without me

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Vegan Gems at the Chelsea Market in NYC

Vegan delights are aplenty at the Chelsea Market in New York City. I worked right near the market for more than two years before we relocated to mid-town (sigh). Housed in the old Nabisco factory, the market is now a delightful collection of bakeries, restaurants, and other shops. Vegans will not go hungry!

Here are some of my favorite finds:
Amy's Bread
I loved their Parisian Breakfast with Cafe au Lait, which transported me right back to my trip to Paris. A half of a crusty baguette (hold the butter, bien sûr), served with a choice of Bonne Maman jam and a steaming bowl of Cafe au Lait (make that soy). They also have a great selection of vegan breads, as well a white bean sandwich and chickpea, roasted beet and quinoa salad, among others.

Ninth Street Espresso
No bitter tasting beans like you'll find at Starbucks. This is how espresso drinks are supposed to taste. Visit them for your soy cappuccino or soy mocha fix. The chocolate syrup is vegan (I had them check).

T Salon
A purveyor of teas and related accessories, there's a pleasant seating area in the back to enjoy a cup of tea and vegan baked good. Their selection varied greatly in my experience, and I was told they have a very small baker supplying them. I sampled the mixed berry scones and the divine red velvet cake.

The Green Table Restaurant
Menu varies daily, and always had a vegetarian (often vegan) entree and usually had a vegan soup. Expect to pay $5 for a cup of soup ($7 for a bowl) and about $16 for an entree. This was a wild mushroom hot pot with tofu.

L'Arte Del Gelato
Who needs gelato, when you've got refreshing, cruelty-free sorbet? Tucked away in the back of the market by Bowery Kitchen Supply, you'll find a few rotating flavors each day. Favorites include pear, peach, grapefruit and mixed berry. Ask for a small with two flavors, and you'll get a sample of a third flavor on top.

The Market also houses Hale & Hearty, a popular soup and sandwich chain which offers many non-dairy, vegetarian soups; the Manhattan Fruit Exchange; and is home to the Food Network headquarters. Maybe one day we'll get a vegetarian cooking show. Hey, one can dream.

Chelsea Market, 75 9th Avenue (Between 15th and 16th Streets), New York, NY. Open Monday-Saturday, 7am-10pm, Sunday, 8am-8pm.

Monday, December 1, 2008

An Action for Change at the U.S. Department of Agriculture

"What do you plan to do with all your freedom?"
the new sheriff said, quite proud of his badge
"You must admit the land is now in good hands"
yes, time will tell
Scarlet's Walk, by Tori Amos

One month ago, the future was still uncertain, and people were abuzz with personal and political activism. Now that major change has come to Washington, we cannot sit on the sidelines idly and miss this opportunity to lobby for a drastic shift of how farm animals are treated, or more appropriately, mistreated. Farm Sanctuary has a simple form letter you can fill out, urging the Obama administration, in the letter's wording "to appoint a Secretary of Agriculture who supports humane agricultural policies and will guide the Agency in a new direction, one that includes sustainable, organic farming and healthy, plant-based diets available to all Americans."

Armchair activism has benefited widely from the World Wide Web. Simply fill out your name, address, and e-mail, and your voice will be heard. What are you waiting for? Visit today.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Post-Thanksgiving Play-By-Play

The national day of gluttony has passed, and another holiday of gluttony is drawing closer. In a time of food and financial shortages, I am resisting the peer-pressure to gorge myself and empty my wallet.

Sadly, not only did a turkey have to die for the dinner I attended, but so did a pig and several fish. This is a common trend with people I've compared notes with and I'm very saddened by it. Why holidays and other celebrations equal an excessive amount of food (particularly meat) I cannot grasp. Our wallets, waistlines, consciences and the animals would all benefit from a little more modesty.

Luckily, my hosts were very accommodating with my vegan palate, and I feasted on spinach salad with pears and dried blueberries, grilled vegetables, butternut squash, rice pilaf, and cranberry sauce. I didn't even need my Whole Foods Market vegan dinner for one, which I ate the next day (although this could actually be a vegan dinner for two!) The curried apple pumpkin soup and the holiday roast were descent (I could have done without the curry in the soup and the roast needed gravy), while the green beans with almonds were totally undercooked. The mini pecan tart was the saving grace. Tasted just like the non-vegan alternative. That said, I much preferred the cooking demonstration I attended with the holiday portabella mushroom, gravy, cauliflower mash, and vegan pumpkin pie.

Here's a delightful video of "Celebration for the Turkeys," held annually at the California and New York Shelters of Farm Sanctuary. This footage is from 2006 and 2007.

Mark your calenders. Farm Sanctuary is also hosting a Winter Wonderland ball, Thursday, December 4th from 6-10 p.m. at The Art Directors Club, 106 W. 29th St. New York, NY 10001. General admission tickets cost $100.

Gene Baur, the President and Co-Founder of Farm Sanctuary, will be at Borders Columbus Circle NYC, at 7 p.m., Monday, December 8th for a presentation and signing of his book, a must-read, and now in-paperback, a wonderful gift idea or donation to your local library.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Thanksgiving Message

Two years ago for my birthday, I asked for a pair of leather boots. This year I asked for a turkey from the Farm Sanctuary. Times have sure changed. Gone are my leather boots from Lord & Taylor (donated to the C.A.T.S. resale shop), and I now have my adoption certificate of Serendipity, my stylish, non-leather boots from Payless, and a sense of relief that no animal has to suffer for some fleeting fashion whim.

This can be a depressing time of year for animal advocates. Millions of turkeys suffer so our nation can gorge themselves, and even for such tasteless, appalling events as bowling competitions with frozen turkey carcasses. Each day as I walk to my office in Manhattan, I pass streams of women wearing fur-trimmed coats, hats, bags, boots and beyond.

But I remain thankful. Thankful for the many advocates I have met, from those who organize protests to those who pass out pamphlets on their lunch hour. Thankful for the animals, who have shown such a capacity to forgive and love again, despite our abuse and exploitation. And thankful I have seen the light and am no longer contributing to their suffering.

Whatever you are doing today, whether it's eating a Tofurkey, a holiday portabella mushroom, or even a vegan pizza, we must be thankful for all that we have achieved, and optimistic for the future.

Whenever I get discouraged about all that lies ahead, I remind myself of one of my favorite quotes from "These Days" by R.E.M: "We are young despite the years. We are concern. We are hope despite the times."

Seasonal Fare at the Natural Gourmet Institute

The third visit to the Natural Gourmet Institute for their Friday night dinner was an absolute charm, as were my prior two experiences. I love eating fresh, seasonal foods. For $40 a person, tax and tip included, I think the quality, presentation and service you experience here is a tremendous value. I'd much rather eat out less often if it means being able to eat wholesome, gourmet vegan food like this. Being able to bring your own wine is a major savings. I like organic wine as much as anyone, but not at the $12 a glass price level I see at so many places.

Unlike my last visit, when a guest chef prepared and executed the menu, this time, the students of their professional program designed and prepared the offerings, with some guidance from faculty. The portions, thankfully, were much smaller. In a world of food shortages, these more modest plate sizes were welcomed.

Here's a snapshot into the evening.

An inviting table awaited.

Cream of Spinach Soup and Caramelized Onion, White Bean and Spinach Streduel with Roasted Red Pepper Coulis

Watercress, Radicchio, and Butter Lettuce Salad with Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Toasted Walnuts, Pomegranate Seeds, and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Butternut Squash Risotto Cake, Spicy-Garlic Kale, and Wild Mushroom Ragu with Carrot-Ginger Sauce and Sage Pesto

Trio of Fall Tarts: Cranberry Chocolate, Pumpkin Spice, and Caramel Apple with a Cinnamon-Vanilla Steamer

Our talented chefs. With food like this, they have a bright future ahead.

I left full (but not over-full), content, and guilt-free. The steamer was to die for. In a Q&A session with the student chefs, they revealed it was made with a combination of rice and almond milk, vanilla beans, cinnamon and a touch of Agave nectar. Do try this at home!

Visit them at 48 W. 21st St., 2nd floor (between 5th & 6th ave), New York, NY

Public classes are also offered, including some vegan classes. I've personally never taken any.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Veggie Heaven, Teaneck, NJ

Not too long ago, I attended a fundraiser at Veggie Heaven, a vegetarian restaurant in Teaneck, NJ, specializing in mock-meat substitutes of Chinese favorites. Organized by the group, HEARTS for Animals, we dined on a heavenly vegan buffet while supporting Tom Rider, a former Ringling Bros. employee-turned-whistleblower, and the Animal Welfare Institute, in its lawsuit against the notorious animal abuser. The trial has again been delayed to February 3, 2009. Let justice, long-delayed, be sweet when it is finally served.

When my birthday rolled around, I thought it would be a fun place to go for my non-vegetarian loved ones to celebrate over a humane meal. Here's a sampling of some of our dishes...

Spring rolls and wonton soup

Mango chicken

Sesame chicken (the table crowd-pleaser)

Green tea cake (moist and delicious, but probably for serious green tea fans only)

Cheesecake (everyone loved this!)

We also had eggplant in garlic and the least-popular dish on our table, beef and broccoli. The only (universal) complaint...we all noticed a strong after-smell on our clothes and hair after we left. Perhaps some ventilation problem? Definitely wear something you can throw in the washing machine, or easier yet, get take-out and eat it at home in your PJ's.

Visit them at 473 Cedar Lane, Teaneck, NJ; 631 Valley Road, Montclair, NJ; or 57 Bloomfield Avenue, Denville, NJ.

Animal Welfare Institute Release on Ringling Bros.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Old Hook Farm in Emerson, NJ

The universe has smiled on me as I'm in my first year of veganism in the form of Old Hook Farm. While passing by it looks like nothing more than a nursery, inside is a hidden gem containing reasonably priced organic, home-grown produce and an array of vegan goodies.

Many of their pies are vegan, including apple, blueberry, cherry, peach, strawberry rhubarb, and the insanely good bumbleberry, which contains apple, rhubarb, blackberry and raspberry. The selection varies daily, but you can order ahead. Also look out for 50% price reductions on pies that have been baked more than a day ago.

Here was a tasty piece of cherry pie, which I enjoyed with a steaming pot of tea from my dishes from the C.A.T.S. resale shop.

The farm also carries Uncle Eddie's vegan cookies in oatmeal chocolate chip and peanut butter chocolate chip varieties. The former are good. The latter are heavenly. Both are wonderful with a nice glass of non-dairy milk. A bit pricey at $5.65 a bag, but these are worth it. Why couldn't I have an Uncle Eddie?

This Soyatoo Whipped Soy Topping goes great on my mint hot cocoa from Trader Joe's.

Other finds include vegan gnocchi, Soy Boy roasted red pepper ravioli,and Ah!laska organic chocolate syrup.

The best part...eating organically- and locally-grown produce and supporting the family farmer.

Visit them at 650 Old Hook Rd, Emerson, NJ. (closed Mondays).

Vegan Cupcakes at Sweet Avenue Bake Shop...Change I Can Believe In

I have to pinch myself. I'm beaming with pride like a new mother. I can barely believe it. New Jersey has a vegan cupcake bakery!

Yes, vegan foodies, Sweet Avenue Bake Shop in Rutherford, NJ, is here. I just had to go see this for myself. While the bakery also offers a small selection of cookies and muffins, I had tunnel-vision toward the cupcakes. You can see why!

The bakery has six cupcakes they feature always, and six additional flavors they feature that day. Cupcakes are $2.50 for plain, $3.00 for filled. As an occasional splurge, I consider these worth every penny. While overwhelmed with what to try, I finally decided on the Snowball (vanilla cake with coconut frosting and shredded coconut); Sexy Sadie (southern red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting), said to be their most popular flavor; the Chocolate Sundae (chocolate cake filled with chocolate Bavarian creme and topped with vanilla frosting); and the Old Skool (creme filled chocolate cake topped with chocolate ganache), that looks like the Hostess counterpart, minus the questionable animal fats. The Old Skool was my nostalgic favorite. I loved eating those as a kid (little did mini-me know what I was eating!) I was very greedy and ate the entire Old Skool myself, but shared the others for a taste test! They were a hit.

Several cupcakes later, we felt like some of my friends at the C.A.T.S. resale shop...

Visit them soon (and wear something with stretch) at 153 Park Avenue, Rutherford, NJ.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cruelty-free Thanksgiving Recipes

As much as I enjoy perusing cookbooks for inspiration, I love browsing the web even more for recipes. Much like my thrift store hobby, it's creative, fun, and better yet, doesn't cost $20 and collect dust on the top of my refrigerator. The animals rights groups score an "A" for publishing mouth-watering, comfort holiday food recipes online. And you need not be Emeril to pull them off. Here are some easy-breezy recipe sites. You'll wonder why turkey was ever on the table at all.

*PETA's VegCooking Holiday Recipe Guide. Includes hot artichoke dip, broccoli and cauliflower bisque, sweet potato biscuits, and pumpkin patch cheesecake.

*The Humane Society's Favorite Recipes list. Includes cranberry hot punch, butternut squash soup, faux turkey casserole, and miniature apple pies.
*Farm Sanctuary's Compassionate Thanksgiving Recipes. Includes holiday portabella with vegan gravy, millet-cauliflower mash, green beans almondine, and pumpkin pie with glazed pecans and tofu whipped cream.

I attended a cooking demonstration of these Farm Sanctuary recipes at The Loft Salon in NYC that was led by Christine Waltermyer of the Natural Kitchen Cooking School located in Princeton, NJ. You and your guests will love any and all of these cruelty-free and heart-healthy recipes.