Monday, August 31, 2009

"There's a farmers market where?"

"Yes, you heard correctly," I reply to the disbelieving faces when I mention the farmers market at New York City's Port Authority Bus Terminal. "But it's so dirty!" everyone says. We'll, they're not exactly selling tomatoes where the buses pull up.

And what better place to meet a local farmer? Around 210,000 people pass through the terminal every day, according to the Daily News.

The market is held each Thursday between 8 am and 6 pm. Unfortunately, it's positioned on the ground floor of the North Terminal, which most busy commuters, including myself, just don't go through. But I'm glad I sought them out. The only dirt involved was the soil from the Earth the fruit and vegetables were recently pulled from.

Katchkie Farms sells not only fresh produce...

...but they also sell vegan cranberry orange muffins! Priced at $2 each, they're a great compliment to my morning cup of Earl Grey tea.

Pickles, $1.50 each. You'll find everything from jelly to spearmint basil iced tea, which the vendor says is very lightly sweetened with honey. Why is honey off limits to vegans? Here's why. Check out agave instead.

Ratatouille! Tempting at $4, but I opted for something different: a chilled beet soup, $4. So simple: diced beets, cucumber, cider vinegar, water, dill, sugar and salt. A refreshing end-of-summer soup.

Find a farmers market by you.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Gene & Jamie

Two men, very different diets. Gene Baur, a vegan, and one of the leaders in the American movement to improve the lives of farm animals. Jamie Oliver, a British chef and meat eater, working, surprisingly for the same cause: a better life for the animals consumed each year (in the U.S. alone, that's 10 billion).

On Gene
"You know what's missing today on the farm?" a swine unit manger asked Gene Baur, President and Co-Founder of Farm Sanctuary, after failing to justify the egregious conditions on modern day pig farms. "Pigmanship," the manager said.

Gene recalled that very conversation in his packed discussion at the New York Public Library. In his best-selling book, Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food, he provides a window to the horrors of life on factory farms. The pork industry would rather keep the shades pulled down.

No pigmanship here
In the book, Gene documents that "Each of the roughly six million breeding sows in the United States is expected to give birth to two litters a year, or a total of about twenty piglets. Over the course of their lives, breeding sows are fed the barest minimum, only about half of what they would normally eat, and are chronically hungry."

He remarks on the "the connection between the farmers and the animals" being lost, and that "each sow is merely a production unit." Farming doesn't even seem to be a fitting word at all for what goes on, for there is no nourishment, no cultivation, no respect for life. Only profit.

He writes of gestation crates, 2 x 7 foot enclosures scarcely larger than the sows' own bodies. These sows serve a jail sentence, but they committed no crime. They are just the victims of our greed for cheap pork.

Thanks to the efforts in part of Farm Sanctuary, gestation crates in Florida and Arizona were banned by voters. When put on the ballot, voters, the majority of whom want to consume meat, reject such egregious cruelty.

I can't help think about how far removed the treatment of farm animals is compared to Georgeanne Brennan's memoir of her years in France. In A Pig in Provence, she writes of the notion of the pig being the farmer's friend, and of their highly-sensitive noses, used for hunting prized truffles. When it came time for the slaughter, she writes, "They spoke quietly, not wanting to upset the pig. They understood an agitated animal would not bleed well, and if it didn't bleed well, the meat would be tainted, the hams wouldn't cure, and it would be a big loss to the family." There must be a lot of tainted meat considering today's practices, as well as a lot of tainted ethics.

On Jamie
On Giada De Laurentiis' web site, you can buy not only her cookbooks, but you can also pick up Giada's Sicilian Sea Salt/Tuscan Herb Mix and Giada's Sicilian Sea Salt/Tuscan Herb Mix Extra Virgin Olive Oil. You won't read about how her Veal Stew with Cipollini Onions is produced. Rachael Ray's web site? I spotted a $1 off coupon for Perdue Chicken, and the most popular recipe was Teriyaki Chicken Lettuce Cups. Paula Deen? The animals won't find any southern comfort on her site. She even has her own line of pork made by Smithfield Foods. Not a peep about animal welfare (pun intended).

Why are American chefs so unconcerned about the welfare of the animals they recommend millions of people eat? The Brits, and the animals, thankfully have Jamie Oliver in their camp. To his credit are two shows exposing the horrors of the chicken and pig industries, and his web site devotes a section to pig welfare, where he notes 65% of British pigs spend their whole lives indoors.

"The sow stall is where pigs live for probably 90% of their lives for four or five years," he told the Radio Times. While banned in the UK, they're not banned in Europe, Jamie bemoaned.

A recent Taco Bell ad asks the consumer, "why pay more?" Jamie has been a tireless advocate of paying more for meat so that animals can have a better quality of life.

The labeling game
Gene Baur talked about being a "conscious consumer." For those who don't wish to go veg and are trying to purchase more humanly raised meat, milk and eggs, that can be a challenge, especially when it comes to confusing labeling guidelines, combined with bad behavior sanctioned by organizations and our very own government.

Farm Sanctuary's "The Truth Behind The Labels: Farm Animal Welfare Standards and Labeling Practices" report took a look at this very issue. For instance, under the Certified Humane program, which is administered by Humane Farm Animal Care and endorsed by some animal advocacy organizations, confinement of pregnant sows to gestation crates is prohibited, and bedding is required. However, there is no requirement that pigs be provided access to the outdoors, and tail docking pigs is allowed under some circumstances. Neither of those seem particularly humane to most caring individuals.

Across the pond, no legal definition of 'free-range pork' exists in the UK. The RSPCA believes that the label 'free-range' should only be used where the pig (and the sow that bred the pig) is kept outside for its entire life, in paddocks with ample space to move around and soil to root in, Jamie's web site noted.

Clarity is needed. "How many people outside of the industry know the difference between outdoor-bred and outdoor-reared, for example? Not many," Jamie remarked in a guardian article.

Learn more about the RSPCA campaign, Rooting for Pigs.

24 hours
How would humans fare in crates that sows endure their entire lives in? Jamie puts a few to the test. Unfortunately, the animals don't get to volunteer where they live, nor do they get a reprieve after 24 hours and a treat to follow.

Flashback to Jamie's exposed on factory farmed chickens, Jamie's Fowl Dinners, and my entry on Jamie Saves Our Bacon.

Check out Jamie's vegetarian recipes.

See more clips of Jamie Saves Our Bacon from Eat Me Daily.

Pigs enjoying life at Farm Sanctuary's Waktins Glen, NY shelter.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Exit 98: Sunshine, Sand and Vegan Pizza

A sunny day at Point Pleasant, NJ. My accessories: plenty of sunscreen, a hat, a frisbee, and my latest book and/or magazines from the library.

I asked on a whim if they had any cheeseless slices at Joey Tomato's, and the answer was yes. Yeah! A tomato sauce and garlic slice, $3.50, with a small Cherry Coke, $1.50.

My usual haunt is this local spot on the boardwalk for a veggie burger with lettuce and tomato, $4.75, and a side of sweet potato fries. I haven't had the veggie burger since last year (pre-vegan), so I'm not sure if it's completely free of eggs/dairy. I doubt the 15-year-olds behind the counter can give you an informed answer. It's still refreshing to see veggie burgers on a boardwalk full of seafood, burgers and chicken wings.

Yes, you can win an Obama doll on the boardwalk.

Italian ices and lemonade will both cool you down on a hot day.

Veganize fudge. Or buy it online.

Swimming in the ocean, I rescued a Skittles packet and plastic beach bracelet from heading out any further. My cleanups with the Hackensack Riverkeeper have made me hyper-aware of waste, even on days of leisure.

Did you know there's a bed and breakfast in New Jersey serving vegan and vegetarian options? Serendipity Bed & Breakfast in Ocean City looks positively delightful.

On the drive on the traffic-ridden Garden State Parkway, you are guaranteed to find a song on the radio from the Boss.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Light Summer Dinner at Le Grainne Cafe

I was back in the Chelsea section of New York City for meetings at my old office, so I treated myself to dinner at Le Grainne Cafe, where I lunched on occasion with a good book for company and Edith Piaf, Vanessa Paradis, and Carla Bruni, among others, providing the French soundtrack on my iPod.

A bottle of New York City's finest tap water, free, and bread (no butter, s'il vous plaît). I was very tempted to have an apertif: Rose Regal, a sparkling wine with notes of roses and raspberries, which I once sampled at Chelsea Wine Vault. But with tax and tip, this would have added about $13 to my bill. Better to pick up an entire bottle for my next picnic or summer meal.

A small organic mesclun salad, $4.50. I love these simple green salads with julienned cucumber and carrots.

Ratatouille is one of my favorite food films, and it's also one of my favorite dishes, especially in the summer. Their version, $6 for a side, went so well on the bread. Learn more about "confit biyaldi," an interpretation of ratatouille by chef Thomas Keller made popular in the film, as well as the traditional version.

Apple tarte tatin with crème fraiche, chocolate mousse, crème brulee: so tempting. But not vegan, sigh. So I went with a trio of sorbets: raspberry, mango and coconut, $6. A delicious way to end any summer meal.

Visit Le Grainne Cafe, 183 Ninth Ave. (between 21st & 22nd St.), NYC.

On the walk back to Port Authority, I passed this billboard.
I cannot wait to see this film. I've actually seen warnings on some eco-sites to stay away from this movie, with an old quote from People magazine referring to Julia Child's dislike of vegetarians.

I, for one, do not want to be exposed to views of the world that are exactly aligned with my own. Child influenced millions of cooks. Is it not worthy to see how she did it, and how we can harness some of that influence for our own path?

Babette's Feast is another one of my favorite food films, and they have the most un-vegan feast you'll ever see at the end. If you can get beyond the food, it had powerful take-away messages, such as enjoying food can be one of life's great pleasures and need not be associated with such guilt, and most importantly, food not only satisfies the physical appetite, it feeds the spiritual appetite as well.

Event Alert: Gene Baur to speak at the New York Public Library on Tuesday, August 18th

Farm Sanctuary President and Co-founder Gene Baur will be speaking at the New York Public Library this Tuesday, August 18th at 6:30 p.m. He will be reading excerpts from his best-selling book, Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food. This event is free and open to the public. Learn more.

You can order his book online, or check it out at your local library. Flashback to his visit to Borders Columbus Circle.

In other news, Farm Sanctuary's annual Walk for Farm Animals to raise money as well as awareness about factory farming is right around the corner. In my area, the walks will take place in Princeton, NJ, on Sunday, September 20th and New York City on Sunday, October 4th. See all the dates. Their new blog Walk Talk follows all the exciting details.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"September's coming soon"

With just over a month left of summer, I'm trying to savor as many sweet moments as I can. Sipping lemonade on a steamy Sunday night while listening to the music of the 1920s and 30s on the Big Broadcast. Enjoying feasts of corn, baked beans and veggie dogs. And one of my favorite summertime activities, swimming.

R.E.M. recorded this sonic poem honoring the simple but so pleasurable act of swimming at nighttime on their Automatic for the People album. I can't think of a lovelier tribute to swimming and summertime.

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night
The photograph on the dashboard, taken years ago,
Turned around backwards so the windshield shows
Every streetlight reveals the picture in reverse
Still, it's so much clearer
I forgot my shirt at the water's edge
The moon is low tonight

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night
I'm not sure all these people understand
It's not like years ago,
The fear of getting caught,
Of recklessness and water
They cannot see me naked
These things, they go away,
Replaced by everyday

Nightswimming, remembering that night
September's coming soon
I'm pining for the moon
And what if there were two
Side by side in orbit
Around the fairest sun?
That bright, tight forever drum
Could not describe nightswimming

You, I thought I knew you
You, I cannot judge
You, I thought you knew me,
This one laughing quietly underneath my breath

The photograph reflects,
Every streetlight a reminder
Nightswimming deserves a quiet night, deserves a quiet night

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Corn and Me: So Happy Together

Back from a few days in the Des Moines-area of Iowa, enjoying sunshine, friendly people, and a more relaxed pace of life.

A summer and Iowan must-have: corn. I love corn's versatility: cornbread, corn chowder, corn flakes, corn tortillas, or just good, old-fashioned corn on the cob.

Even this Iowan cat indulged in some leftover corn.

What to do with homegrown strawberries? Strawberry margarita! Or how about a strawberry smoothie?

My hosts bake their own bread to save money. What a good idea. Check out Chez Bettay's recipe for basic bead and pizza dough.

Picnic time. An assortment of salads, including one with corn, black beans, tomatoes and avocados.

On a hot day, a swim at the lake was so refreshing.

On the way to the Des Moines airport, I lunched at Gateway Market, a gourmet market with a cafe attached. In a state where you can turn on the radio and hear the weekly hog kill read as matter-of-factly as the weather report, it was a breath of fresh air to see vegetarian and even vegan options. They even have a tofu scramble! (Just hold the cheese).

A cup of the soup of the day, vegan tofu and mushroom, $2.95. Not bad, but I prefer creamy soups (thickened with soy creamer) to broth-based soups.

The roasted red pepper hummus platter (leave off the feta cheese to vegazine), $4.95. My only complaint: the pita chips were deep fried. Eesh.

Alternative Baking Company's vegan cookies at the airport, $2.99 each. I indulged in a pumpkin spice one. Very exciting, considering this shop sported t-shirts that said "Al's Roadkill Cafe: It's An Iowa Thing (You Kill It, We Grill It)" and more than one reference to cow-tipping.

Unfortunately, I was not near Madison County, where the famed bridges are that can be found in the movie and novel.

"The old dreams were good dreams; they didn't work out, but I’m glad I had them." -Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County.

Here's hoping our dreams of a better world for animals do work out.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Getting Back to My Roots

Happy Anniversary Switzerland! To celebrate your 718th year since becoming a country, folks gathered in New York City for the Swiss Benevolent Society's annual first of August celebration. I attended with my parents, who were both born and raised in Switzerland.

What a view! The festivities took place on the rooftop garden of 230 Fifth.

A salad and white wine. Swiss, of course.

Why oh why can't they veganize this? Raclette. Well, the potatoes, cornishons, and pearl onions are vegan. Veganize Swiss fondue.

Veganize Black Forest Cake.

Even Heidi and William Tell came to entertain the youngest Swiss generation.

The alphorn.

I don't ski, but I do love chocolate! Swiss Day goers were given a bar of Lindt Dark Chocolate for the road. Yeah, that's how we roll.

Traveling in Switzerland? The HappyCow makes finding vegetarian options there easy.

Know where the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Europe is? Zurich! Hiltl Vegetarian Restaurant has been serving vegetarian food since 1898. Spaghetti alla carbonara (using smoked tofu instead of ham?) Let's leave now.

"Pleasure is the first and most important issue of the food," says Managing Director Peter Vauthier. As we vegans and vegetarians know, there is no sacrifice of pleasure in eating veg.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My First Vegan Donut

A thing of beauty: a vegan strawberry frosted donut from Sweet Avenue Bake Shop. Even more beautiful, it was on sale for $1 (from its regular price of $2).

When I read that Sweet Avenue Bake Shop in Rutherford, NJ, started offering vegan donuts, I had to try them out! The verdict: tasty. Would go great with a glass of chocolate soy milk or coffee with soy creamer. Just a tad greasy, but I guess it is a donut. More cakey than the non-vegan version you will find at Dunkin' Donuts. I took a strawberry and a chocolate frosted donut home for a taste test, and the strawberry was the absolute favorite.

Visit Sweet Avenue Bake Shop, 153 Park Ave., Rutherford, NJ

Compassion Over Killing has launched a campaign to urge Dunkin' Donuts to take the cruelty out of their 52 varieties of donuts, all of which contain eggs and dairy. Learn more about the campaign, including how you can contact them, here. Don't forget to request soy milk too!

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Best Veggie Burger I've Ever Eaten...

is at Houston's, a non-vegetarian restaurant in Hackensack, NJ. Who knew?

The homemade burger is made with brown rice, black beans and oat bran, according to my waiter. He said this meal is vegan, just hold the mayo and cheese, and ask for toast instead of the bun (which contains egg). I've learned that eating out as a vegan often means having faith in what your waiter tells you. Just a tad pricey at $14. Served with choice of sides. I went with couscous with almonds and golden raisins.

The only other veg option: a vegetable plate with couscous for $12. PETA gave both dishes their approval on their Vegetarian and Vegan Fast Food page.

Major negative: there always seems to be a long wait here, no matter what time you go. There was over an hour wait at 7:30 on Tuesday. Browse at Barnes & Noble next door for your next library book while you wait.

Visit Houston's, 181 Riverside Square Mall, Hackensack.