Vegan news you can use, the New Year edition (1/1/12)

by JL Fields on January 1, 2012

Happy New Year, friends!

Did you have a wild night last night? I did, but my night started at 3pm and I was in bed by 8:30 p.m. Lucky for me the neighborhood decided to share midnight revelry with me fireworks, noise makers and other things (there may have been a roaring train) so I actually was up when 2012 rolled in.  I digress.

Today I thought I’d link you up to a couple of news items of interest, share a delicious meal I had with a very special friend, and wrap up this week’s posts (plus give you a teaser on upcoming posts).


I confess, I’m not a big fan of “vegan challenges.” Because I think it implies that it’s really hard to be vegan. I know it’s not.  What’s hard is not giving into cravings — and that’s about the person not about the high accessibility of vegan foods.  But just when I start feeling all high and mighty I read an article like this:  Taking a Vegan Challenge Turned Into a Lifestyle. Okay, I’m fine with vegan challenges because there’s another plant-based eater in the world as a result.  Eating (vegan) humble pie.

I’m not a huge Mark Bittman fan (did I just hear collective gasps?).  He says a lot of good things about the environmental and health benefits of a vegan diet, then he visits some farm in the Midwest and smugly describes eating a locally sourced “humanely” treated farm animal.  I like to think I’m able to see grey in most situations but this simply isn’t one of them.  Then Bittman wrote No Meat, No Dairy, No Problem.

Many vegan dishes, however, are already beloved: we eat fruit salad, peanut butter and jelly, beans and rice, eggplant in garlic sauce. The problem faced by many of us — brought up as we were with plates whose center was filled with a piece of an animal — is in imagining less-traditional vegan dishes that are creative, filling, interesting and not especially challenging to either put together or enjoy.

My point here is to make semi-veganism work for you. Once a week, let bean burgers stand in for hamburgers, leave the meat out of your pasta sauce, make a risotto the likes of which you’ve probably never had — and you may just find yourself eating “better.”

Okay, I’m eating another piece of (vegan) humble pie over here.  He’s got a huge audience and is influential.  Any encouragement of eating more vegan meals (or assuming a vegan diet) is good news.

Lunch with Gena

You all know I love Gena of Choosing Raw.  Her blog helped me transition to veganism.  Her post on the ethics of veganism in the Vegan 101 series helped me transition to ethical vegan.  I finally met her in person in Portland and we became instant friends.  Her friendship brings me joy, laughter and our conversations always give me much to consider.  This week Gena and I had a lunch date at Pure Food and Wine.  It was divine.

Sushi, photo courtesy Gena Hamshaw

Caesar salad, photo courtesy Gena Hamshaw

Gena chose the Make your own Salad + crackers, photo courtesy of Gena Hamshaw

I opted for the portobello mushroom - hemp seed burger, photo courtesy Gena Hamshaw

This lunch rocked! The meal was phenomenal but the time with Gena? Beyond words.

Weekly Round-Up

On this blog:

On Stop Chasing Skinny:  A year ends, a new one begins

Coming up this week:

  • A cross-post for this blog and Stop Chasing Skinny:  The year I didn’t diet.
  • On this blog: A bean and grain stew recipe (with no salt!) that is perfect over raw greens.
  • On Stop Chasing Skinny: I’ll begin the series of community member posts about NOT dieting in January.  Submit YOUR story!

Thanks, as always, for reading!  I hope you’re enjoying this first day of the new year!

  • Ginger

    Agreed! It’s not hard to be vegan if you remember to bring your own food. The only vegan challenge I’m joining this year is my own be a prepared vegan challenge. I simply will not eat another ‘house’ salad of iceberg lettuce and hungrily smile while everyone else praises their SAD dishes. I’ll boldly ask the chef to prepare something delightful with no oil, animal products, salt, sugar (or its derivatives), gluten, soy, etc. If I cannot be accommodated, I’ll pull something delicious and beautiful from my bag and eat away.

    • JL

      Good point, Ginger! Whenever I’m going into a “unknown” situation you can bet that I have nuts, seeds or a protein bar in my bag to enhance the potential dismal experience.  Do you listen to Our Hen House or Colleen Patrick Goudreau’s podcasts?  Both encourage vegans to call ahead and to make a little noise when dining out. The more chefs hear from their vegan clientele the more likely we’ll start getting better options!

      • Anonymous

        I’m cracking up as I read these comments, just having been on SAD Island for 10 days ( aka Marco Island) and then my husband reminded me that the whole country is like this so why am I singling out this island?

  • There’s no shame in saying you don’t like the smug “ethical carnism” thing. I don’t either. I think it’s not an either or an or: I like this one thing Bittman had to say, but I don’t like that he won’t push all of his language about how easy veganism is to its logical conclusion (giving up meat).

    • JL

      Agree! He would make a marvelous vegan! 🙂

  • I have trouble with Bittman and Pollan too but they do have more influence, probably because they are nonvegan white guys with a background of work in things other than food and health. Any vegan recipe in the NYT is a plus for us I think.

    • JL

      I definitely agree. I also make a point to post links to the NY Time blog “Recipes for Health” when they are vegan. I recall commenting to the author, Martha Rose Shulman, once and saying I loved one of her recipes, I would just sub XX for XX to make it vegan. She promptly replied “well I’m not vegan” to which I replied understood, which is why I was offering your vegan readers an alternative. Geesh, we are everywhere, you know 😉

  • Always love these posts, JL.  And happy 2012!  (I am SO impressed that you already have next week’s posts lined up. . .I don’t even know what I’m putting in my next post yet!!).  And I have the same ambivalence about Bittman. . . not sure why, as he is a great advocate for eating more vegan food. More (vegan) food for thought! 😉

    • JL

      I had way too much time on my hands on vacation! Next week it will be back to blog as I go! LOL

  • Ttamler

    Hi JL! I’ve been reading your blog for a while, but have never commented till today. I’m a fairly new vegan too (just over 2 yrs) but I love Mark Bittman’s approach to veganism in contrast, most notably to Michael Pollan’s, who, in my view, seems to glorify meat in a way that is sort of elitist. My take on Bittman is that he fully embodies the view that it’s very accessible to minimize animal products. I guess, in the grand scheme of things, although I’d love it if people went 100% vegan, I also realize that isn’t realistic for many…so I consider any step in that direction as a positive one. I started out saying I would try veganism for a month (after reading Eating Animals in October 2009) and then it just stuck. So, I am happy that there are culinary influencers like Bittman that help show people how accessible vegan eating can be. I’m all for taking the intimidation factor out of the equation (I am one of those people who thought I could never give up cheese. Now the smell of it makes me lose my appetite).

    • JL

      I’m so glad you commented!  I would say that hand’s down most people I talk to feel the same way about Bittman that you do.  We all come to veganism differently and yay for him when he influences someone positively!  He’s just not my cup of tea 😉

  • Anonymous

    While I hear you on Bittman, I have come around to respect him.  No, his message isn’t exactly what I want to hear but if he were a vegan, pushing veganism I wonder if his reach would be as broad as it is or if he would simply end up talking to other vegans? I don’t like the fact that he condones “humane meat consumption” (whatever that is) but I do like that his message of eating mostly plants has a long reach.  And, if it brings a few people closer to veganism and/or better health I think that is a good thing.  Happy New Year to you, too! May it be a prosperous 2012!

    • JL

      And I hear you. I’m still not a fan 😉

      Happy new year, to you, too! Here’s hoping we take more cooking classes together in 2012!

  • Lovely post!

    • JL

      Thank you, Christine!

  • Anonymous

    Dinner with Gena and you? Soooo jealous! And the food looked divine! Putting this restaurant on my list for May! Have a great day!

    • JL

      Wendy, you will LOVE Pure Food and Wine!

  • Awesome post! Happy New Year JL! 😀 

    • JL

      Thank you, friend! xo

  • I think Bittman walks a fine line and it is one that I struggle with daily.  (Though I AM a vegan and don’t share many of his beliefs.)

    As the author of a website  that I started before I was vegan, most of my readers (at least 90%)  are NOT vegan.  That may not be a bad thing because I’ve had the amazing experience of influencing and supporting quite a few people in going vegan. 

    While I will no longer eat or post recipes that contain animal based products, I do struggle with the “How hard do I put my beliefs out there” question.  And it’s not at all because I’m afraid but rather because I wonder if I have a greater chance of influencing people by showing them that vegan food can taste great and gently sharing my beliefs as opposed to being bolder.  For me going vegan was a journey and looking back on my website it really reflects that journey.   One day, I hope to start a vegan website but for now if I can even influence die hard carnivores to try a few meat free recipes a day, that’s a good thing, right?

    Thanks for all that you do JL!  You’ve been a great inspiration to me!

    • JL

      One of the (many!) things I love about your blog is that I read it and I can make your recipes.  No pronouncements from you are necessary!  You clearly have an influence!

      I think mostly my point about Bittman was that, in general, I don’t pay much attention but that I got it with this latest article.  He made much stronger statements. That’s why I gave him a shout-out! 🙂

      Thank YOU for what you do — and for your gorgeous recipes!

      • Aw, thanks JL.  Because I have so much respect for you and because your Vegan 101 series was one of the catalyst for me going vegan, I’ve thought many times of reaching out to you to get you ideas about how I can use my influence best.  When I started on this journey it was all about MY health.  Now, its all about compassion.  My carnivore husband went vegan with me, and  I’ve taken my 5 & 7 year old boys vegan too.  I’m so passionate about this and so are my boys – it comes as such a surprise for me.  Thanks again JL – you are seriously changing lives here.

        • JL

          Wendy, this comment brought tears to my eyes!  You are AMAZING! 

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