Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Every Farm Animal Deserves

Americans have a bill of rights, but what about the rights of farm animals, 10 billion killed annually in the United States? They live (if you can call it living, it's more like endure) in the shadows, forgotten by most of society who seems to comfort themselves with the notion that if they don't think about the suffering, it doesn't exist, or it's someone else's fault.

Whatever your dietary stripe, here are some basic rights I believe all farm animals should have (and hope you do too).

To never see the inside of a gestation stall, ever.

To not be cramped into a wire cage the size of a filing cabinet with five or six other chickens so we can buy 99 cent cartons of eggs. A chicken's labor should be worth more than 8.25 cents an egg.

For poultry, to be included in the federal Humane Slaughter Act.

To not be de-beaked, de-clawed, de-anything.

Never to be force fed, ever.

To have free range conditions be, indeed, free range.

To be treated with kindness and respect by the farmers raising them. The consumers eating them should not shift the blame to the producers for deplorable conditions if they are contributing to the demand.

They should not be viewed as just another dish on Thanksgiving (or any other time) without any thought to the life of the turkey that ended up on your plate.

All farm animals deserve these rights.

A moment of solitude on a fine summer day at the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary for these animals, who are victims of a factory farming system which have found safe refuge here.

Veganism or vegetarianism may be not everyone's path in life, and I respect people's choices, but know that deplorable factory farming conditions exist because of society's demand to have a meat, milk and eggs so heavily in daily diets at the cheapest prices available. Eating veg as often as possible is the ideal. But at the very least, if everyone ate a little less meat and animal by-products, paid a little more, and wasted less food, the conditions of these animals would improve exponentially. They are living, breathing, sentient beings the same as our cats and dogs and deserve to be treated with common decency - and not viewed just a commodity - especially if they are going to give up their lives for a meal.

That is my declaration for farm animals.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I Heart Rainy Days

Sun go away, just for a few days. Bring on the rain...it just feels so much cozier. Where will you find me?

Perhaps at my favorite Irish pub, PJ Finnegan's, in Westwood, New Jersey.

Of course, I'd be having my favorite Irish beverage: Magners cider, $5.

And feasting on some veg pub grub: a portobello mushroom burger with roasted red peppers on focaccia bread, with a mesclun salad, $8.95.

I will definitely have the kettle on. A good "cuppa" does wonders for the soul.

Whenever rainy weather strikes, it always feels like a good "Tea and Sympathy day" - one of my favorite haunts in New York City. I used to work nearby, and would eat like a queen. Visits here now are less frequent, but just as cherished.

Cream tea: a pot of tea, my choice, their Rosie Lee (half English Breakfast, half Earl Grey) with scones, clotted cream and strawberry preserves, $10.75.

I think Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet!) would approve. My parents introduced me to the campy Keeping Up Appearances, a witty British comedy from 1990-1995, which reruns on public television regularly. I've admittedly seen every one of her crazy candlelight supper antics, and when viewing the sad state of television today often think, they don't make them like this anymore.

Maybe I'll be making a pot of soup, listening to some Celtic music, like WFUV's A Thousand Welcomes archives, watching a DVD from the library, or reading a thrifted or library book under a blanket. Almost certainly, I will hope for a nap, and if home, be indulging in one.

All these things make me wish for the rain to linger just a bit longer.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Forgotten: One Tradition, One War Hero, Now Remembered

This August marked the first time I celebrated Winu Gischuch, the Corn Moon, at a Bergen County Historical Society event.

According to the group, "the Dark Moon of August, Winu Gischuch, was associated with ripened corn, ready to roast. At this time, native farmers pulled cornstalks that produced no ears and sucked out the sweet sap or syrup. Fresh ears of corn in the milk were roasted."

Kevin Wright, author of 1609: A Country That Was Never Lost who was speaking at the event, says such gatherings simply highlight the natural movement of time.

I stepped back in time in the Campbell-Christie House.

I sat in their candlelight, cozy tavern.

You can't go to a corn festival and not partake, can you? A modest donation was asked for the refreshments. The corn, 50 cents.

Corn cakes, two for $1.

On an unseasonably cool rainy day, homemade peach plum crisp, $3.50, nourished both body and soul.

The back kitchen is always a must visit stop. Among items on the menu: corn chowder, potato and leek soup, a side dish of squash and apples and corn cakes with blueberries.

Another highlight was a preview of documentary Lafayette: The Lost Hero. It makes its debut to the nation September 13. A glimpse of the documentary:

Lafayette: The Lost Hero from The Documentary Group

A modest blue sign, on a very car-heavy road, Kinderkamack Road (at Soldier Hill Road), marks where Lafayette and his troops once traveled.

A lifelong Bergen County, New Jersey resident and someone who has traveled Soldier Hill Road thousands of times, I crossed the path those who fought for freedoms we often take for granted had. Thanks to the Bergen County Historical Society, I have a newfound appreciation.

Learn more about upcoming events.

I couldn't help think of the haunting Lydia Huntley Sigourney poem "Indian Names," brought to life by Natalie Merchant on Leave Your Sleep. "Our injustice and hard-hearted policy with regard to the original owners of the soil has ever seemed to me one of our greatest national sins," Lydia reflected. All that's largely left behind are their traditions, resurrected by groups like the Bergen County Historical Society, preserved artifacts, and their names - on lakes, streams, rivers, towns and monuments.

"Ye say they all have passed away,
That noble race and brave,

Their light canoes have vanished
From off the crested wave.

That 'mid the forest where they roamed
There rings no hunter's shout.

But their name is on your waters,
Ye may not wash it out."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How to Succeed in Economic Stimulus, Without Really Trying

"Spending money for an experience — concert tickets, French lessons, sushi-rolling classes, a hotel room in Monaco — produces longer-lasting satisfaction than spending money on plain old stuff," The New York Times reported in an article on changing consumer habits (thanks to Consciously Frugal for her thoughtful blog post on this article).

What a concept that we could enrich our minds and souls, while stimulating the economy - by spending money on experiences. Some news stories leave the impression our economy is doomed if Americans don't head to the mall in droves. Is that what our economy is based on? I hope not.

With that, here are some of the experiences I had, providing an economic lift in the process, on a recent visit to Woodstock and Phoenicia, New York.

I experienced a cool night of 1920s and 30s inspired New Orleans-style jazz music. I saw Tuba Skinny busking at the Woodstock Flea Market last June, became smitten with their music, and am full fledged in love with it now. I have spent many a hot summer night listening to their two wonderful albums, which I whole-heartedly recommend.

I stayed at an adorable bed and breakfast, the Phoenicia Belle, just 15 minutes from Woodstock. Bonus points for cruelty free toiletries (including Kiss My Face) and emphasis on organics.

You can select what you want for breakfast (which I love, reducing food waste). Each guest had a choice of cranberry muffin, plain or vanilla yogurt, homemade granola, toast with jam and butter, orange juice and coffee or tea.

The pot of fragrant Earl Grey: fair trade and organic. Heavenly with cinnamon raisin bread with raspberry jam, fresh fruit and orange juice.

Take your cup with a book or newspaper and read it on their lovely porch. At night, you can take a bottle of wine to the porch and enjoy the candlelight and peace away from the hectic pace of daily life.

Just moments away, the river. One can go tubing, rent a bike (or bring your own), or just take in the view.

Support not malls, but the second-hand market. Check out this New York Times article on the Brooklyn Free Store.

I purchased this blue and white cup for $3. These prints bring me back to eating dinners at my grandparents' house as a child.

I supported a charity: the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. The farm was booming with visitors, including many young children who had their first encounters with farm animals and learned some of the realities. I'll devote a proper blog post to my visit here later on.

I indulged in a cruelty-free veggie dog, topped with mustard and sauerkraut, $2.50 at the Woodstock flea market on Sunday afternoon.

Guess who I stumbled upon again? A perfect ending to the weekend.

Tuba Skinny, He Likes it Slow

Friday, August 13, 2010

Switzerland, Remembering

Picturesque villages. When walking crowded New York City sidewalks, I sometimes consider pulling a Swiss "Under the Tuscan Sun" move.

Farm animals basking in open pastures. No crates, no cages, no lifetime jail sentences. Wondering why all farm animals aren't entitled to such freedom. Factory farming is a crime against the animal kingdom, and a black mark on humanity.

Marveling that even on the highest mountaintops, you will find places of worship.

Being blessed with a clear view of the Matterhorn.

Cozy alpine restaurants.

Swiss chocolate. Need I say more?

Forrest Gump, recalling the humbling beauty of our world, declared it was hard to tell where the Earth ended, and heaven began.

After a tram ride up, taking in the view from top of Lugano.

Walking by the lakeside at Lugano.

Taking the street car in Zurich, as I did often during summer vacations in my youth.

After a cloudy day...

the sun always returns.

The force of nature in Tori Amos' Mountain, "So the city spits you out, rejected. She'll be down when the mountain lets her go." Not wanting to let go of the mountain.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Taste of Switzerland in New York

Generations young...

...and young-at-heart, some Swiss-born (like my parents), some Swiss-American (me) and some honorary Swiss for the day (my sweetheart) were on hand for New York City's annual Swiss National Day celebration.

Some even sported cool cow hats.

In the act of making raclette.

Raclette is a traditional Swiss dish of melted cheese, boiled potatoes, Cornichon pickles and pearl onions. Aspiring vegans struggle with cheese for good reason.

My general rule when deciding to eat vegetarian instead of vegan (remember, I don't strive for unrealistic perfection) is to make sure it's something I absolutely love and will savor. (Note to self: do not eat the horrendous non-vegan sheet cake at office birthday parties. Those lapses aren't worth it).

Black Forest cake, and slices of cake filled with Kirsch, a cherry brandy.

Hazelnut cake.

Swiss wine. Behind it, some very un-Swiss Bud Light.

A $5 donation garnered a Swiss pin, with proceeds going to the restoration of a painting in Geneva.

The Swiss ambassador gave a speech focused on economic discipline, and when he mentioned the importance of living within your means, the crowd applauded. A concept we should all resolve to import.

Flashback to last year's Swiss Day festivities.

Never been to Switzerland? Let's go. More in my next post.