Conference Travel and Some Amazing Vegan Food

I can’t believe it is mid-April! The weeks have been flying by. I’ve been working away on the book manuscript, but I also have been doing some travelling.

First I went to the 2nd instalment of the “Living With Animals” conference at Eastern Kentucky University. I went to this conference two years ago, the first time it was held, and just loved it. It was such a great mix of people–a truly interdisciplinary gathering of people who shared common interests. The second version of the conference was just as good. I heard some excellent papers and especially enjoyed hearing Julia Schlosser’s keynote presentation about her artwork.

One of the things I really like about this conference is that there is a good amount of the program dedicated to teaching animal studies, so there were great presentations about pedagogy (I especially liked Jeannette Vaught’s presentation called “Animal Infiltrations: Teaching Animal Studies in Traditional Courses”) and a roundtable discussion focusing on ideas for setting up animal studies courses and programs (both Human-Animal Studies and Critical Animal Studies) at the post-secondary level. As was the case two years ago, we had some excellent discussions!

I also travelled down to Denton, Texas to attend the “Moral Cultures of Food” conference at the University of North Texas. When I saw the call for papers for this conference I knew it was one I wanted to go to. Not only did the topic appeal to me and relate to my current project, but I also knew that the University of North Texas was home to “Mean Greens,” the first all vegan dining hall. Ever since I first heard about Mean Greens I was trying to find an excuse to go to UNT, so this seemed like a conference I had to attend! The conference was great and, like the “Living With Animals” conference, it featured scholars from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds.

Both conferences had such a good, collegial atmosphere–when people asked questions you got the sense that they were genuinely curious and interested to know the answers. (sadly, not at all the norm at most academic conferences) I met some really interesting people and came home feeling enthusiastic and energetic about working in this area. The “Moral Cultures of Food” conference also included excellent keynote presentations by James McWilliams and Carol J. Adams. (sadly I had to miss David Kaplan‘s closing keynote presentation due to an early morning flight)

I had the honour of being Carol Adams’s houseguest while I was in Texas, and it was there I discovered the recipe for the world’s most delicious vegan mac and cheese recipe. Honestly. This stuff is out of this world. It is a recipe that Carol veganized from a cookbook that her family used. She promises to do a blog post with the recipe, so I don’t feel comfortable sharing it here, but keep an eye out for it on her site. [Update: here is the recipe!] It is so ridiculously good. I’ve made it twice since returning home. In fact, all the food she served was incredible–she even cooked up a full vegan version of a Texas barbecue.  Amazing!

And speaking of amazing food in Texas, “Mean Greens” at UNT absolutely exceeded my expectations. I was excited about the fact that there was such a thing as a vegan dining hall on a university campus. I hadn’t stopped to think much about what precisely that would mean, but figured it was the novelty of the experience, not necessarily the quality of the food that I was going for. Let me tell you, the food was incredible! And it was really affordable too! I went with a group of conference attendees at lunch and it was $7.50 for as much food as you wanted to eat. There was a breakfast bar, hot dishes, a salad bar, a dessert tray, and even a ice cream sundae bar. And the food was really, really good! I also loved the environment. It was bright and cheery, and had quotes about veganism and compassion for all species painted on the walls of the dining room. There was even a sign on the door declaring it an “meat free zone.” This was full on, unapologetic veganism gone mainstream, and the place was packed! We even got to talk to one of the chefs who told us how popular the initiative has been and how it is, in fact, saving UNT money when compared to other meal options. I hope to see more campuses following this lead!

Mean Greens was a "Meat Free Zone"
Mean Greens was a “Meat Free Zone”
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No animal products used in this kitchen!
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There was even a sundae bar!

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Time Machine

I’ve been spending some time in the library, working with old newspapers on microfilm. It has been many years since I’ve used a microfilm reader and it took me longer than I care to admit to get the thing up and running the first time. In my defence, there was a bit of a connectivity issue between the reader and the computer that scans and saves pdf versions of the pages. (I don’t recall this additional bit of technology from the last time I used a microfilm reader!) I was very grateful to the staff at the James A. Gibson library at Brock for helping me get this sorted.

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I love reading old newspapers. They are so interesting and so bizarre. I often get distracted by the ads and articles other than the ones I am trying to track down. In some ways it is kind of like I’m playing with a time machine!

Come for Congress, Stay for Niagara VegFest

Our campus is getting ready to host the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences later this month (May 24-30), and I am looking very forward to seeing colleagues who are coming to Niagara from across the country. I will be participating in a few panels, and will also be part of the group hosting the Social Justice Research Institute reception. There is so much going on during Congress!

For those of you traveling to Niagara for Congress, I invite you to consider staying on an extra few days to take in the Niagara VegFest weekend festivities.

Things get started on the 30th of May with the Niagara premiere of the award-winning documentary film, The Ghosts in Our Machine. We are delighted that the film’s Director, Liz Marshall, and the film’s human star, Jo-Anne McArthur, will be in attendance for the screening. They will be joined by Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan from Our Hen House for a Q&A after the film. You don’t want to miss this!

The official festival kick-off party takes place on Saturday, May 31st at Mahtay Cafe. The party will be hosted by Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan of Our Hen House. There will be live jazz (The Shea D Duo), delicious snacks, and beer and wine from Niagara College.

Then, on Sunday, June 1st, the 3rd annual Niagara VegFest takes over Market Square in downtown St. Catharines. There will be over 70 vendors/exhibitors, food trucks, speakers, workshops, live music, a “family zone,” as well as beer and wine from Niagara College. Admission is free and all are welcome!

Introduction to Visual Culture

I’m about to step back in to the large first year class that I was originally hired to develop, “Introduction to Visual Culture.” For a number of years this was my class, but I eventually cycled out of it. This Winter marks the first time I’ve taught it in a while and I’m quite excited about it. I really love the material and the opportunity to introduce students from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines to thinking critically about images.

To everyone back teaching today – have a wonderful term!

Upcoming talk in Guelph

I am really honoured to have been invited by Dr. Sally Hickson to speak at the University of Guelph later this month as part of their art history speaker series. The event takes place on Tuesday, November 19th at 5:30. More details below.

If you are in the Guelph area, please drop by and say hi!

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A Busy Spring So Far!

Spring has been a bit of a whirlwind here so far! The last little while has been one of the most hectic times in recent memory.

I took an quick trip out to Edmonton for the Cross-Pollination workshop at the end of March. This was probably the best professional gathering I’ve ever attended – it was a small, invited group of people which allowed for really good discussions. There were no concurrent sessions and we all were asked to workshop our papers, which had been circulated ahead of time. There were so many interesting topics discussed and it was just amazing to have the opportunity to really think deeply about how “environmental thought and activism” (to borrow from the event sub-title) can emerge from the arts and the humanities. So many excellent papers and so many exciting ideas exchanged. I think I thoroughly enjoyed the entire event, but if I had to pick a highlight I think it would be Lyndal Osborne‘s discussion of her work. Absolutely incredible stuff! (and to think I used to be both a student and a sessional instructor in the same department as Lyndal but did not actually meet her until this workshop. How odd!)

While I was in Edmonton I got to have a quick whirlwind visit with my parents, which was lovely! We went for a celebratory dinner at Padmanadi, one of the most delicious vegan restaurants I’ve ever been to! The food is Chinese food-style, but made with analog meats instead of the “real deal.” Loads of yummy fresh veg too! What a treat it is to be able order anything from the menu!


I also got to spend a fabulous evening with Fiona, a good friend who I haven’t seen in ages because she has been living in places like New Zealand, the UK and Alaska. The stars aligned and we were actually in the same city for the first time in about 5 years! We went to the Hotel MacDonald for old time’s sake (we used to go there for drinks and to restore our sanity when we both lived in Edmonton) and had a blast ordering a ridiculous amount of ridiculously expensive appetizers ($10 popcorn anyone? But it was tossed in truffle oil, so…) We were too busy yakking to take any photos, but it was such a great night!

The week after I got back from Edmonton was the “Thinking About Animals” conference at Brock. It was so amazing to see such a great turn-out for this event. I don’t know the exact count, but people came from all over to discuss, debate and think critically about relationships between species. It was fabulous and I was sorry that I had to miss so many sessions due to teaching and other commitments. (the perils of attending a conference at one’s home institution, I guess)

The 2011 Niagara Social Justice Forum came on the heels of the “Thinking About Animals” conference. I was part of the organizing committee for the NSJF this year, so it was an especially intense time. We had a great day for the forum – beautiful sunny skies, perfect for the nature walks along the escarpment that were booked for mid-day. There were 18 workshops on a wide range of topics (everything from youth homelessness to water access and social media to the rates of diabetes in Aboriginal communities), an “art space” (featuring an exhibition of images to raise money and awareness for Toronto Pig Save, a children’s art competition and a craft table where participants could paint messages of social justice on a banner and make their very own compostable plant pot and then plant an heirloom tomato seed donated to the event by Tree & Twig), a performance by WomEnchant, and a screening of NFB’s Reel Injun. A long, wonderful, rich and rewarding day!


I thoroughly enjoyed all of these events, but I’m glad that the pace is going to slow down a bit now. Classes have ended and it is time to turn my mind to summer research/writing + gardening. I’m looking forward to some new adventures on both of these fronts!

We’re Moving Downtown!

This morning the Provincial Government of Ontario announced $26.2 million for Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts. This money will allow the School to move to the historic Canada Haircloth Building in downtown St. Catharines. This is wonderful news for the university and for the community!

A huge congrats to all who made this possible — especially Marilyn Walker for her most generous donation and Dean Rosemary Hale who has long fought for this to become a reality.

Dean Hale and a number of students from the MIWSFPA celebrate today's announcement.

I can’t wait to see the space transform over the coming months and am looking very forward to being a part of this exciting change for Brock and for Niagara. So excited, in fact, that I’m jumping for joy!