“We Practice the Convictions of our Minds and Hearts”

As the weather starts to turn colder, many of us are thinking about getting a new winter coat. I love that there are so many cruelty-free fashions to pick from! Imagine my delight, then, when during the course of my research I learned about a woman who was making cruelty-free alternatives to fur coats, silk scarves, and “kid” gloves over 100 years ago! Her name was Maude (“Emarel”) Freshel, and she was the co-founder of an organization known as the Millennium Guild. The Guild advocated for a lifestyle that included a vegetarian diet and hosted lavish meat-free Thanksgiving dinners in Boston in the early years of the 20th century. The sale of the cruelty-free outerwear that Freshel sewed helped to fund the activities of the Guild. A number of these fashions were featured in the Boston Sunday Post on November 17, 1912.

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Freshel told reporter that members of the Millennium guild “have found splendid substitutes for furs,  feather hat trimmings and kid gloves, and know we are better off without eating meat. We practice the convictions of our minds and hearts.”

Freshel was also the author of The Golden Rule Cookbook, a vegetarian cookbook promoting the abstention from meat eating for ethical reasons. Freshel defined a vegetarian (remember, the term “vegan” didn’t exist until 1944) as someone who “for one reason or another condemns the eating of flesh.” She saw this as occupying “a very different place in the world of ethics from one who is simply refraining from meat eating in an effort to cure bodily ills.” Freshel’s dog, a terrier named Sister, was also a vegetarian and reportedly enjoyed such foods as lentils, peas, apples, oatmeal, and buttered toast.

*This post was also published on The Unbound Project website.

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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Farm Sanctuary Internship

During the semester break I had one of the best experiences of my life! I did an internship at Farm Sanctuary and spent my holidays helping out with the shelter operations. It was a ton of work, but it was also one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. What a perfect way to spend Christmas! To spend that much time around rescued animals and to be directly working with them and their caregivers was an absolute privilege.

If you care about farmed animals (and why wouldn’t you?), you need to sign up to be an intern. For real. Do it!

I will be writing about my experiences as a shelter intern in a series of columns for Our Hen House in the coming weeks, so I won’t say too much here, but in the meantime here are some pictures of some of the incredible animals I met during my internship.

Maxie!
Maxie!
Baba Ganoush, the handsomest rooster on the planet.
Baba Ganoush, the handsomest rooster on the planet.
Hanging out with Thunder, the gentle giant.
Hanging out with Thunder, the gentle giant.
Dottie is a very curious goat!
Dottie is a very curious goat!
Ormsby
Ormsby
Aunt Bea
Aunt Bea
Dagwood and his stuffed bunny pal.
Dagwood and his stuffed bunny pal.
Sleeping Sebastian.
Sleeping Sebastian.

A Convivial Afternoon of Humane History & Merriment

Next month I will be taking part in a really fun event, an event billed as a “convivial afternoon of humane history and merriment.” This event is hosted by the fabulous National Museum of Animals & Society and will be taking place at the Velaslavasay Panorama in LA.

I will be speaking about the role of visual culture in humane education, with a specific focus on the late 19th- and early 20th- century. In addition to my talk there will be other activities taking place, including temporary exhibits, and crafts. I also hear there will be some yummy vegan snacks at this event.

If you are anywhere near LA I hope you are able to join us for a fun day at this amazing venue!

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Niagara VegFest News

Great news on the Niagara VegFest front! We have received funding from the City of St. Catharines. This will help us continue to build and promote the festival for 2013. A huge thanks to the City’s Cultural Investment Program for this grant.

It may be a cold and gloomy day in Niagara today (apparently it is Blue Monday), but before we know it, Niagara VegFest will be upon us! We are working away getting things ready–much excitement here at Niagara VegFest headquarters! Registrations are starting to come in, the list of speakers is nearly finalized, and we are busy working on other plans for the festival. Stay tuned!

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Happy Birthday, Rise Above!

Rise Above, Niagara’s only fully vegan restaurant, is now two years old! For two years Kyle Paton and his staff have been serving up vegan goodness in downtown St. Catharines. Rise Above started off selling vegan doughnuts out of a small location on Summer Street, but quickly expanded to a full-service restaurant over at 120 St. Paul Street. (don’t worry, you can still get the famous vegan doughnuts that put this place on the map!)

Kyle and the Rise Above team have become a fixture in downtown St. Catharines, participating in everything from a fund-raising Chili cook off to our very own Niagara VegFest. Rise Above’s presence in downtown St. Catharines has had a ripple effect, with several other restaurants, bars, and cafes in the neighbourhood now boasting vegan options.

One of my favourite things about Rise Above are the “tasting menu” evenings, special events where diners are treated to a 5 course meal comprised of dishes not found on the regular menu. These are gourmet courses, edible works of art. These dinners sell out within hours and are among the hottest tickets in town. Keep an eye on Rise Above’s Facebook and Twitter feeds to catch wind of when the next one is happening. (I hear there are 3 slated for early December)

The regular menu at Rise Above is pretty spectacular too. I’m particularly partial to the gnocchi (served with a cashew cream sauce that will blow your mind). And have I mentioned brunch? The brunch menu changes regularly, but is always incredible. With options like banana bread french toast (pictured below), you won’t be disappointed!

Congrats on this anniversary, Kyle, and thank you for making downtown St. Catharines such a great place to be a vegan! May there be plenty more Rise Above goodness in the years to come!

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15 Cups of Kale!

When Jasmin Singer was on the Dr. Oz show earlier this month she talked about one of her “go to” recipes for comfort food, the aptly named Cheesy Pasta Supreme (vegan, of course!). As I’m a fan of both new recipes and kale I couldn’t pass this one up.

Ingredients: kale (15 cups of it! whoa!), sun dried tomatoes, quinoa pasta, nutritional yeast, hot chilli flakes, tahini, shallots, and garlic.

The only regret I have is not running out to get different box of quinoa pasta. The only one I had in the house was a spaghetti and I think this dish would be better with a smaller noodle. However, it still tasted amazing and I’ll be making this one again! Thanks Jasmin!

Niagara’s First VegFest

Saturday June 2nd marked the first ever VegFest in the Niagara Region. I was part of the organizing committee for this event and while we were hoping the day would be a success we simply could not have anticipated the overwhelming response to the festival. Doors opened at 10 am and by about 10:30 we realized that we were going to be seeing some pretty large crowds during the day. The final attendance tally was 1250! This completely exceeded our expectations and at times things got a little crowded. However, everyone was in good spirits and took it in stride. As one of my colleagues remarked, “yeah, it was a little crowded, but it was exciting! It made you feel like you were really part of something.”

We had 30 fabulous exhibitors and vendors who ended up selling out of most everything by the end of the day. We had 4 generous sponsors who stepped up and took a chance on a new festival–a huge thanks to Kindfood, Sestres Coffee Shop, The Naked Sprout, & Bamboo Natural Food Market for their help in making the Niagara VegFest a reality. Thanks also goes out to VegFund for awarding us a grant to help put on the festival. We also were incredibly grateful for the assistance of Niagara Action for Animals and all our fabulous volunteers. What a day! I think more than anything what I took away from Niagara VegFest is just what an amazing community we have here.

I was also so impressed with all of our speakers. Marni Wasserman kicked off the day with a session on green smoothies, and even made enough to give samples to the audience. After that we had Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan from Our Hen House speak on the subject of food activism (one of my favourite topics!). Our third speaker was Chef Douglas McNish who talked about the path that he took to become a vegan chef and cookbook author. (note: Doug sold out of books at the festival–they are a huge hit! Make sure you order one!) Our fourth speaker was local athlete Jennifer Hintenberger, who just happens to hold some world records in kettle bell and who also happens to be vegan. She talked about how she overcame numerous illnesses because of her plant-based diet and I love how people like Jennifer help to shatter the myth that vegans are weak–she is one of the strongest people I’ve ever met! (for more on Jennifer’s story, check out her appearance on this week’s Our Hen House podcast). All of these speakers were so compelling and talked about the many benefits of a plant-based lifestyle. They were funny, engaging, and informative, and I was so honoured that they all so enthusiastically agreed to be part of Niagara’s first VegFest!

We closed the day with a screening of Vegucated, a fabulous film that is getting great reviews all over the world. We had a great audience for the screening and many people have since asked me where they can get a copy of the film for their own collection. It is a must see!

A huge thank you to everyone who came out to the festival and helped make it the success it was. Plans are already under way for the 2013 Niagara VegFest. Stay tuned!

Update: check out Our Hen House’s episode featuring Niagara VegFest!

Yummy, Cheesy, Vegan Potato Skins

The latest issue of VegNews arrived a few days ago. When VegNews shows up in my mailbox I drop everything and read it from cover to cover.

This month’s issue had a recipe for “Cheesy Twice-Baked Potatoes,” and we just couldn’t resist. This may be the most delicious thing I have ever tasted. No joke. Don’t be put off by the number of steps–this is totally worth it!

for the baked potatoes
-8 large russet potatoes, scrubbed
-2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
-1 teaspoon salt

for the cheese sauce
-1/3 c. vegan margarine
-1/4 c. chopped onion
-1 cup chopped potatoes, peeled
-1/4 cup chopped carrots
-1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
-1 teaspoon smoked paprika
-1 teaspoon salt
-1 cup of water
-1/4 c. raw cashews
-1/8 teaspoon Dijon mustard
-1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

for the sour cream
-1 c. raw cashews
-1 c. water
-2 tablespoons miso
-4 teaspoons white wine vinegar

for the mashed potato filling
-1/4 c. vegan margarine
-3/4 c. unsweetened non-dairy milk
-1 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for garnish
-6 scallions, thinly sliced, divided

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a sheet pan, place potatoes and rub with 1 tablespoon oil and salt. Pierce each potato several times with a fork. Bake for 70 minutes until soft.
2. For the cheese sauce, in a sauté pan over medium heat, add margarine and onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add potatoes, carrots, garlic, paprika, and salt and sauté for 5 minutes. Add water and bring to a boil. Cover pan and simmer for 20 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft. In a dry blender, process cashews into a fine powder. Add mustard, lemon juice, and potato mixture. Process until cheese sauce is smooth and set aside.
3. For the cashew sour cream, in a blender or food processor, blend cashews, water, miso, and vinegar until completely smooth.
4. Remove baked potatoes from the oven and cut in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, carefully scoop out potato from skins, leaving 1/4-inch layer of potato. Brush potato shells with remaining olive oil and return to preheated oven for 15 minutes.
5. For the mashed potato filling, in a medium bowl mash potato filling with margarine, milk, salt and pepper. Fold in half of the cheese sauce, half of the sour cream and half of the scallions. Fill each baked potato skin with mixture. Top with a dollop of cheese sauce and sour cream. Garnish with remaining scallions and pepper if desired.
6. Bake loaded potato skins for 15 minutes, until thoroughly heated and tops are browned. Serve warm.

Niagara VegFest

So, I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus. Life is busy.

One of the things that is keeping me busy is planning (with my awesome VegFest planning team!) the first-ever VegFest in Niagara.

Mark your calendars for June 2nd and come celebrate the many wonderful things about a plant-based lifestyle at the Niagara VegFest. There will be delicious food, workshops, vendors, exhibitors, prizes, a film screening, and some absolutely amazing speakers!

Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan of Our Hen House were recently named “Indie Powerhouse of the Year” by VegNews, and you can catch them at the Niagara VegFest!

photo by Jo-Anne McArthur

We are also so excited to welcome Douglas McNish to the festival. In addition to speaking about his role as a vegan chef at places like the Windsor Arms, Douglas McNish will also be doing a signing of his new book, Eat Raw, Eat Well.

Douglas McNish

We will also be joined by the ever-amazing Marni Wasserman. You don’t want to miss her healthy living, plant-based demo.

Marni Wasserman