Inspired Inspirilisation

I’ve been “doing the veggie thing” for many, many years now, but I’ve always felt like I was missing something. Some secret. Some trick. Something that would make me, a long-time plant-eater, into a lover of raw vegetables. You know – salady stuff. Yes, I’m still munching my way through more lettuce than even a salad-lover would like (see the lettuce eat blog from a couple of weeks ago) but it’s more of a duty than a delight. And then it struck me. What I needed to get inspired was a spiraliser!

Last year I tried following recipes in a book called “Raw, Quick and Delicious”, and found that I disagreed with 2 out of those three claims. The recipes were definitely raw, but the quick and delicious components somehow evaded me. Yes, I was severely handicapped by my dislike of salads, and I quickly loose interest in nuts, but I was also hampered by my lack of a magical spiralising machine (and juicer and dehydrator and, at the time, a decent blender).

I bought a really cheap hand-held spiraliser after failing to stick to a raw diet for 36 hours, but succeeded in spiralising my finger and very little else. So, at the recommendation of some of my FB friends, I’ve now bought something more substantial. It came with 3 different blades. It came with suction cups to stop it from moving. It came with a piece broken off. I decided to give it a test drive to see if I wanted a refund or a replacement, and started to play.

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Did you ever see the you-tube “will it blend?” videos? They’re a lot of fun (but don’t try it at home). Anyway, my kitchen turned into a spiralised version of this. Zucchini, yellow beet, carrot, onion, potato, tomato (I think mine was too soft to be successful), apple, pepper…..will it spiralise? Yes it will! I’ve had soooooo much fun that I’ve requested a replacement rather than a refund.

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This is one of my early attempts at a salad. Beet, zucchini, chopped green onion, chopped fresh basil, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and raw corn, all tossed together with a splash of avocado oil, a pinch of salt and lashings of black pepper. I ate the whole dish, even returning to it after a mid-munch phone call. I think I might be on to some thing here.

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An enhanced version of the salad materialized at dinner time, with the addition of spiralised red pepper and carrot. I served it with spiralised potatoes tossed with a drop of olive oil and baked at 425’f for 20 minutes. I thought they would go crispy, but I think being spiralised damaged the cell walls too much and they were soft. Tasty, but not quite what I expected. The fish-patty like object sitting on the plate is a Sophie’s fishless fillet, which really isn’t like fish in any way, shape or form. Gardein makes fishless “fish” in batter which is, in stark contrast, a bit too fishy for me!

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I’m looking forward to playing with my food over the next few weeks – although this may be hampered by my impending trip back to the UK, the return of my Indian book from my editor (no doubt there will be comments that some of my sentences are too long…again), and my current self-imposed challenge to veganise some of my great Aunt’s 1922 recipes AND make them gluten free. Watch this space for all the fun as it unfolds!

Karen 🙂

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Techno Babble

Yes, this week’s blog is late. Tell me about it. Cry me a river. I know…I know. I’ve been having a few technical issues owing to the vast number of photos on my laptop, which rather unfortunately this week cried “STOP!!! I’ve had enough!! I’m not going to play with you anymore!” and demanded something be done immediately. I couldn’t upload any more photos, couldn’t see or edit the ones I already had, and was kinda stuck. No matter how hard I pushed, my laptop refused to budge on the issue. Bummer.

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I had a word with my tech guy (love you hon) about resolving the issue, which is a blog in it’s own right. It involved trips to Staples and Best Buy, heated (for us) arguments with each other and sales assistants about what the best solution would be (clouds? extra external hard drives? back-ups of backed-up backups? wireless? attached? what to do when my laptop and I want to move to a location other than my desk?). But you don’t want to know all the gory details, so briefly put… here are some pictures to help you understand the general concept.

This is what I asked for (note the small size):

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This is what he heard:

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This is what I suspected I would get:

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This is what I got:

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My desk is covered in “techno stuff”, my files are being shifted around and are currently in a state of disarray, but I have hope that sometime soon order will be restored. But, in the meantime…..AAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGH!

So, sorry for the interruption in service, but next week there should be something inspirational. Something which will send you spinning in spirals of excitement. Something grate (pun intended, it’s not a spelling mistake).

‘Til next week!

Karen 🙂

When Doves Cry

For a while now hubby and I have had bird feeders hanging in our yard, supplying our friendly squirrels, rabbits and chipmunks with tasty nuts and seeds scattered around by the birds. We regularly see blue jays, red cardinals, sparrows, crows, a really pretty bright yellow bird or two, starlings and, until yesterday, a pair of doves.
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Our cats sit with their noses pressed against the screens of our porch watching the antics of the wee beasties outside, while the pretty silver grey cat from down the road hides under my patio chair, tail twitching. She likes to watch, but I’ve never seen her try to catch anything. I’m not saying she doesn’t try, just that she never does it while I’m around.

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But yesterday something changed. I looked out of the window during a pause in the torrential rain and saw a bird of prey standing on my lawn. She was beautiful, with flecked feathers, bright eyes and a small, curved beak. She caught my movement out of the corner of her eye and turned her head to look at me before deciding I was harmless and returning to the task in hand. It was then that I realised why she was in my garden. She was standing on the lifeless body of one of the doves, ripping out his feathers and tossing them aside.

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I was totally conflicted. The vegan part of me wanted to run out there, waving my arms (underarms flapping wildly like the arms of old folks tend to do) and yelling “Don’t eat my dove, you murderous beast!” while the other part of me analysed the situation calmly, aided by the engineer standing at my side. “If you take the dove away from her she’ll just kill something else for her dinner. The dove’s already dead, so she might as well keep it.” The falcon (?) decided she didn’t like being watched, picked up her prey and flew off to finish preparing it for supper somewhere quieter. The rain started to fall again, washing blood into the soil and making a soggy mess of the plucked feathers. I need to go out there and remove them at some point. I don’t want a daily reminder of the harsh realities of nature.

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But here’s the thing. The bird of prey was only doing what comes naturally to her. She’s a carnivore. She eats other animals. She has no choice in the matter. The dove was in the wrong place at the wrong time and ended up as dinner. It’s a natural cycle of life and death. Some folks argue that eating animals is also natural, and therefore right, for humans. We, however, have choice. Eating meat isn’t a necessity for humans, it’s a choice. Taking calves away from their mothers so people can drink cow-milk isn’t natural or necessary. It’s a choice. Raising chickens in huge barns where they never see the light of day, then hanging them upside down and electrocuting them isn’t right or necessary. It’s a choice. Putting a bolt into the head of a terrified cow to make into steak for the barbecue isn’t necessary. It’s a choice. Slaughtering dogs and serving them at a festival isn’t necessary – it’s a choice. Killing pigs in the name of bacon…no, it’s not necessary. It’s a choice. Boiling a lobster alive…do you see where I’m going here? Humans aren’t carnivores. We’re omnivores….with a choice.

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Today a lone dove came down to forage for food, and I was sad. Do doves mourn? I don’t know. But this is what is sounds like when doves cry

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Karen.

Tales from my Doorstep

I’d like to take a brief moment to wish my fellow Canadians a belated Happy Canada Day (did you see the photos of our PM in the Toronto Gay Pride parade? He’s been going for years, but this was his first attendance as prime minister), those in the US a belated Happy 4th of July, and those in the UK….well…I’m not quite sure what to say. Congratulations of your Brexit vote? Maybe not….

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I spent Canada Day sitting at home with my beloved and the cats, doing very little. Any thoughts of heading out to see bands or fireworks were thoroughly dampened by the weather even though Mother Nature gave us a nice thunderstorm in lieu of fireworks. It was actually really nice to be home and not working. No laptop, no writing, no research…just chillin’

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Lazing around the house on Canada Day was a nice change from the everyday, even though I work from home. Most days find me slaving away either at my desk or in the kitchen, aided and abetted by my tech-savy cats.  Laundry, cleaning bathrooms, gardening and other mundane tasks are not sufficient to tempt me away from my desk – that’s what weekends and evenings are for. Phone calls (I have call display and an answer machine) probably won’t get answered except for some friends, my hubby or my kids. I love email and facebook messenger, both of which allow me to “chat” without either leaving my desk or having to actually have a conversation. And yes, I prefer to text rather than phone.

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The doorbell, however, is quite tantalising and can, on occasion, lure me away from my keyboard. Not every time mind you. If I’m not expecting anyone, haven’t ordered anything from Amazon, or it’s driveway-sealing-promo-season I’m less likely to budge. But sometimes that unexpected ding-dong (or a firm rap on the door) piques my interest. I’ve met some very interesting people on my front porch. Biggles usually checks them out through the window to make sure they’re OK.

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I think the most surprising porch-encounter happened during the last local election. The doorbell rang while I was washing strawberries, and since I had already left my desk to attend to this task I wandered over to the door to see who wanted to enliven my day. It was somebody from the Green Party – the only political figure who bothered to come a-calling. He told me something about his party’s manifesto and asked me if I was concerned about the environment. “Yes” I replied “I’m a vegan, so I’m well aware of the damage factory farming is doing to the environment.” His face contorted a little. “You’re a vegan???” “Yes” I smiled. “And you?” He looked around for inspiration and found none. “I can see you’re very busy” he stammered “So I’ll leave you to whatever you have to do. I hope we have your vote.” and with that, he fled over the lawn to find a safer place to canvas. I don’t know why the thought of talking to a harmless lettuce-eating veg-head would cause him to flee, and I returned to washing my strawberries feeling bewildered. Yes, I’m vegan…but I’m quite nice when you get to know me.

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A more amusing episode played out last week when a tall, muscular young man knocked on the door. He was holding a clipboard towards his chest and he gave me a big, confident smile. “Hi” he started “I’m Pat (made-up name to protect the innocent) and I’m doing your neighbour across the road.” I couldn’t help laughing out loud. “You’re doing my neighbour?” He nodded his confirmation. “Would you like me to do you too while I’m in the neighbourhood?”  I was trying not to snort at this point and I looked at him closely to see if he was being deliberately funny. Nope. No trace of humour intended. I took a deep breath to keep my voice steady. “I can’t see your clipboard. What exactly are you doing with my neighbour?” Realisation dawned on him and he showed me his clipboard, uncovering the badge on his t-shirt as he did so. “I’m from a lawn company. I’m doing her lawn.” He looked a bit flustered as he turned to look at my grass. “Er….do you do your own lawn maintenance?” We both looked at my lawn in silence for a while, and there was no point in denying the obvious truth. “Let’s just say that I do my own maintenance, but I  haven’t done any recently.” The 39’c days and lack of rain had taken their toll on my grass, and my reluctance to stand there with a hose pipe showed. Pat offered to maintain my lawn for me, for “a reasonable rate.” “I’m sorry” I said “but I’m really cheap. I can’t pay someone to do something I should be doing myself.” He asked if I’m Scottish. Some of his relatives are Scottish and they’re really cheap too “which makes me part Scottish” he continued “and I wouldn’t pay for someone to do my lawn either.” We both shrugged at the irony of his summer job before he set off to see if the Carolyn next door wanted “doing”.

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A couple of days ago I was tempted away from my desk by banging on the door near getting-up-to-make-dinner-time. A man from Disabled Veterans Support Canada was there, doing their yearly door-to-door campaign. We chatted for a while about the charity – they’ve increased funding for the suicide prevention phone line – and as he handed me a receipt he asked if I studied reiki. I shook my head. For those who, like me, have little idea of what reiki is (I’ve googled it now), it’s a Japanese relaxation and healing system which “channels life force energy.” He enthusiastically told me that he thought I studied reiki because I’m “obviously very grounded and spiritually open, and positive life force energy is flowing into me through wide paths”. I said nothing, wanting to neither encourage nor discourage him. He wanted to know what my secret is to being so grounded. I had to say something. “I’m vegan.” He smiled and said “That must be what it is. It’s very important to be in tune with what you eat and how you live.” “So you’re also a vegan?” I asked, thinking it was a fair question at this point. No. He’s trying to give up red meat, but he still eats fish and chickens and pigs. “It’s a good place to start” I told him. “Perhaps next year when you come back you’ll tell me you no longer eat any animals.” “I think you’re right” he replied. “I can see that happening. I thought I would always want to eat meat, but now I can see that giving it up would be the better way. It’s important to follow the positive paths we encounter in our life’s journey. Thank you.” And once this soap-opera-worthy speech had been delivered off he went, hopefully travelling not only towards my neighbour’s porch but also towards a greater connection to his food and a healthy, guilt-free, positive-energy diet.

By the following morning the “positive energy flowing into me” must have run out. I walked into the shower door. I ran over my foot with my office chair (don’t ask). The electronic doors at Canadian Tire wouldn’t open for me. A car nearly reversed into my (big shiny bright red) RAV4. The electronic measuring machine at the optometrists wouldn’t save my data. My environmentally-friendly water bottle flipped its lid and drenched my gym bag. My (thankfully almost empty) shampoo bottle leaked in my gym-bathroom-bag. My perfectly-ripe-avocado was black and soggy inside. My new spiralizer (hopefully more about that next week) arrived with the handle broken off and has to go back. I stepped on an unexpected pile of cat poop in the middle of my dark brown rug. And as for the blue hair dye debacle…..let’s not even go there!!!!! Poor Sparta finds all this negative energy quite exhausting.

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Life is strange. One day might be full of sunshine while the next one has more cat poo than one would like. But we’re always moving into the future, making choices as we go. Some, such as dropping the meat or eating more veggies, are good choices. Some (especially those involving blue dye) are perhaps not so good. But we’re all on a journey of some kind. If your journey brings you to my front porch feel free to ring the bell. You never know, I might actually answer the door. And if  you want to do a little free lawn maintenance while you wait, I won’t object…

Karen 🙂

 

Lettuce Eat

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about the massacre of my edible plants by  cute, furry, long-eared,twitchy-nosed, brown eyed gits. I solved the problem, for some of my edibles at least, by locking them away in a rabbit-proof cage next to my herb garden.

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This has proved to be so effective that I’ve become a victim of my own success. I’m drowning in lettuce. Never one to eat a salad by choice when dining out I now have to find creative ways to munch through unbeleafable quantities of the stuff without turning into a rabbit myself. Fortunately my long-suffering other half likes a lettuce leaf or two and isn’t yet rebelling against the greenness of his dinner day after day.

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I admit he raised his eyebrows at my raw garlic mushroom salad arranged in a retro lettuce-lined bowl, but who can complain when it’s been freshly picked? Me, actually – but not about the lettuce. I tried somebody’s recipe for the salad, and it was….unusual. Kinda slimy. Way too much garlic. But the lettuce was good.

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A slightly more creative dinner was chilli wrapped in lettuce leaves served with a steaming bowl of rice.

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Below is my collection of greenery for tonight’s dinner. Curly lettuce, flat-leaf lettuce, a bit of radicchio, some frilly little leaves (yes, I know all the correct names lol) and a random snip or two of french tarragon, lemon thyme, rosemary and chives. “What? No parsley?” I hear you ask. No……not until the ones now hiding in my cage have grown big enough to harvest. My garden ones got severely munched. My next door neighbour has also lost all his parsley, so I’ll give him a pot of mine if the plants do well.

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I’ve made a dressing to go on tonight’s rabbit food, shaking together 2 Tbsp avocado oil, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, 1/4 tsp coarse salt and 1 crushed garlic clove. I mixed in 1 tsp fresh tarragon, 1 tsp lemon thyme, 1 tsp rosemary and a few chives, all finely chopped. No, that’s not the only thing we’re having…I’ll be knocking up a black bean, red pepper, corn, Italian veg-sausage and rice dish (no recipe, I’m currently on strike til I get my book back from my editor) to go with it.

The strange thing about eating all this lettuce is that other people can sense it, and feel the need to add greenery to my meals. On Saturday Alan and I popped downtown to the flea market and decided to grab lunch in a thai restaurant before heading home. “Which dishes can be made vegan?” I asked our server. She thought for a while. “The shrimp and mango salad can be made vegan, and I’ll ask the chef to add some lettuce instead of the shrimp.” I looked at Alan to check I’d heard correctly. He looked amused. “We can make the vegetarian vermicelli vegan by replacing the fish sauce with a peanut one. That dish already has lettuce in it, but we can add more if you like.”  I swear, I’m not making this up! I have a witness who will confirm the offers of more lettuce. I’m still laughing.

Now that my bunny vs lettuce battle has been won  I can turn my attention to other pressing matters. We have bird feeders in the garden, protected by a “squirrel baffler” to stop the feeders from being emptied by our resident long-tailed fluffy rodents within an hour of being filled. The baffler is a hollow tube which is too wide for a squirrel to hold on to, and blocked off at the top to stop them from climbing up inside. It worked great last year, but this year we have a huge black squirrel who refuses to be baffled. I don’t know how she does it, but she’s emptying our bird feeders at an amazing rate, tossing seeds down to her baffled family and while sitting on top of the squirrel-proof tube to eat her own lunch.

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I’m not sure how we’re going to fix this problem, especially since I can’t put the feeders inside a cage, but she’s emptying them daily so something has to be done. Perhaps I could bribe her with some lettuce?

I’ve just looked out of the window and there’s a groundhog munching on the dandelions in my lawn. I hope she doesn’t like sweet things – I’ve just planted some stevia in the garden. I’ll keep you posted!

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Karen 🙂

 

Curried Out.

In 2014 (yes, it really was that long ago) Alan and I made a once-in-a-lifetime trip to India, travelling around Rajasthan and also calling in at the Taj Mahal and Delhi. It wasn’t “once in a lifetime” because it was expensive and luxurious with palatial suites in grand hotels and gourmet food coated in edible gold leaf (it wasn’t any of these things) but rather because we’re never going back. Like, never. Ask me in 20 years if I’d like to go to southern India and I might, possibly, say “maybe” but as far as Alan is concerned visiting India once is quite enough.

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We’re both glad we went, but…..the smog, dirt and open sewers were pretty much as expected, but being hounded at every step by locals wanting a photo with us or touts selling fridge magnets all became a bit too much after a while. At the Taj Mahal we were harassed so much that a security guard intervened and told people to leave us alone. So much for peace, tranquility and romance!

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If you’re curious, you can read all about our travels in Tall Travel Tales – India. Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan and Rats, available in both paperback and e-book versions. Check out artandsoulinteriors.com for details on where to buy it 🙂

Given that many moons have passed since our return (we’ve been to Jamaica, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and made a return trip to Japan since then) why am I bringing it up now? Curries. That’s why. Curries, curries and more bleedin’ curries. If I see one more spiced lentil / bean / faux meat / tofu / tempeh / seitan / nut  / vegetable I’m likely to do someone an injury. It was all fine and dandy eating curries for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks while in India, but here in Canada I’ve become aware that sometimes Alan and I smell a bit too spicy for comfort. Fortunately I go swimming in a chlorinated pool most days so that helps to disguise the aroma of cumin being emitted by my pores.

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Why am I eating so many curries? Since returning from India I’ve been working, seemingly night and day, on my latest cookbook – HELP! There’s a VEGAN Coming for Dinner – Indian Style. Cooking, tasting, modifying, re-cooking, force-feeding taste-testers with, writing about and photographing curries. I offer my sincerest thanks to my taste-testers without whom I wouldn’t be where I am today.

And where am I? Done. That’s where I am. Done. Almost. Sort of. I’ve drop-boxed the book to my editor for a second time, and hopefully this time there will be more “I like this photo” comments and fewer “did you really add this amount?” “missing ingredient” and “perhaps you should explain what this is in the pantry-items section” comments. Oh….damn……I’ve just realised I forgot to put the page numbers on the contents page. That will earn me a sarcastic comment or two lol.

So, given that the book is off my desk for now at least, what are we having for dinner tonight? Well…..actually we’re having naan bread, tandoori faux chicken and fried spiced vegetable rice.

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I know, I know, but I wanted to do one final check of those recipes before hanging up my spice tin for a while. Besides, I’ve harvested a load of lettuce from my rabbit-proof cage and it will make a nice bed for the tandoori faux chicken. And tomorrow? I’m mulling over the idea of roasted tomato soup with red lentils and tarragon, fresh hot-from-the-oven bread with a marinated mushroom, garlic and parsley salad and fresh corn. I’m drooling on my keyboard. 🙂

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Scratch the parsley in the mushroom salad. I just popped out to the herb garden and the rascally rabbit has eaten it.

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Karen 🙂

 

Can You Spot the Fish?

Last week I told the happy, if not 100% successful as it turned out, tale of my vegan munch-fest in Toronto, Canada. This week you get to join me on a brief flash-back tour of Japan, from where Alan and I recently returned. It’s quite a different story!

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I’ve been to Japan before and am aware that they seem to have an obsession with dashi – a traditional stock made from dried bonito or sardines along with seaweed. At home I make this without the fish, but in Japan it’s fishy, it’s popular, and it’s in just about everything. I made the choice to ignore the presence of dashi in my food in favour of eating in restaurants while in Japan, especially since I wanted to eat Japanese food rather than spend my holiday dragging Alan to out-of-the-way vegan restaurants serving raw food, Indian curries, or macrobiotic vegan dishes. Happy Cow (as great resource if you’re looking for vegan places to eat) lists about 10 vegan / vegetarian places to eat in the huge city of Osaka, none of which serve Japanese food or happened to be close to where Alan and I found ourselves at mealtimes. Some of the cities we visited had no listings at all. Fortunately I like the challenge of trying to find something to eat wherever we are at mealtimes rather than planning my day around the location of veggie restaurants anyway.

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So, having decided to ignore the dashi it should have been easy for me to eat like an almost-vegan in Japan, right? Wrong. Here’s a little test to get you started. This is a breakfast tray I put together in Okayama for the sake of a photo. No, I didn’t eat all the items on it. Can you spot the fish? I’ll give you a hint – it’s not in the small covered pot. That contains natto (fermented, sticky soybeans), which is a bit of an acquired taste. As a second challenge, can you the dashi-free foods?

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The fish are the small dark brown things in the white dish next to the rice. The rice, pickled radish (yellow), natto, chilled tofu and white slimy yuka puree (top left) are vegan. Probably. 

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Our first day in Japan was spent in Osaka, where we were lucky enough to arrive on the opening day of the cherry blossom viewing at the mint. We, along with “a few” other people , were treated to a spectacular show put on by the various types of cherry blossom trees. It was really beautiful (in an very crowded, hot, sweaty kind of way).

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We emerged from the viewing area and headed down to the market stalls by the river looking for something to eat. To my delight one (and only one) of the stalls had tofu, konnyaku and vegetables simmering away in stock (probably dashi), served with a blob of mustard. I’m not saying it was tasty (it wasn’t), and I’m not saying it was good (I didn’t eat the flavourless, glutinous, squidgy konnyaku), but it was the only almost-vegan food around so I was grateful.

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We were surrounded by stalls selling meat or seafood on BBQ grills or being steamed in large pots, but I was still a bit surprised when we came across a stall with a shallow tank containing small, live, goldfish. What appeared to be serving bowls sat next to the tank with a list of prices. “Do you eat these?” I asked the guy manning the stall. He looked at me in astonishment then began to laugh. And laugh and laugh. I know my Japanese is bad, but I didn’t think it was that bad. He wiped tears from his eyes before replying. “No, we don’t eat these. It’s a game for the children. They try to catch the lucky fish.” He’s probably still telling his friends about the hilarious foreign woman who thought his goldfish were food, and laughing every time.

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But, really, why weren’t they food? I’ve lost count of the number of fishy meals I had in Japan after specifically ordering something with no meat and no fish. Chilled tofu with ginger, coated in a thick layer of shaved bonito. Vegetarian noodle soups with a pile of shaved dried fish sitting in the middle. A “romantically lit” restaurant in Kyoto served me a vegetarian meal of tofu, salad and rice. It wasn’t until I ate a mouthful that I discovered the tiny white fish coating the surface of the rice. Oh for goodness sake! Fortunately I’ve mastered the art of spitting food into a tissue.

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It wasn’t all fishy doom and gloom however. On Mount Shosha, where parts of the Tom Cruise movie “the Last Samurai” were filmed, I had a very seaweedy vegan soup, which was lovely. As a bonus Alan might have visited the very same toilet at the top of the mountain which Tom Cruise himself used! It even had a heated seat! Although, as some party-pooper pointed out, Tom probably had his own trailer and never used the public washroom.

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In Okayama we found a cafe serving Japanese style curry suitable for vegetarians! It was fabulous. So much so that when we found a restaurant by the same chain in Takamatsu we went in for dinner. I ordered the exact same curry, but when it came it looked…different. I poked it with my chopstick. “Is this meat?” I asked the server. “Yes, of course” she replied. I showed her the menu. “But I ordered this one. This is vegetarian?” “Yes.” she answered. “But this is meat?” I poked it again. “Yes.” she replied. “But I’m vegetarian. I don’t eat meat.” At last she understood the problem. “Ah. I’ll get the chef.” He came over and looked at the dish. “Shall I make you the vegetarian one without the meat?” “Yes please. Thank you.” And when it came, it was fabulous.

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I learned from this experience, and when I saw a restaurant in Osaka advertising a 12-vegetable curry I asked the server if it contained meat before heading to a table. “It’s vegetarian” she said. “It has 12 vegetables. It’s very good.” “But does it contain meat?” I asked. “Yes, of course.” she replied. We headed back into the rainy streets of the Dotonburi area where I had vegetables on a stick. With no fish. Although, in retrospect, there might have been both dashi and egg in the batter.

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がんばりました. Hey ho. I tried. 私は試した. 

Karen 🙂

 

 

 

Does my Butt Look Big in This?

I’m writing this in sunny Toronto (pronounced trono if you’re linguistically lazy), where I’ve watched my younger son graduate from university with a specialisation in psychology and a minor in biology. As you can see from the photo, he’s matured significantly as a result of spending the last four years surrounded by academics. He makes his parents very proud.

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Hubby and I are staying in our favourite B&B place, which in reality is just the bed without the breakfast. We have access to a shared kitchen, allowing me to bring my own food for breakfast and circumventing the sometimes frustrating B&B conversations about what I do or do not eat, ending up with a bowl of fruit (if I’m lucky). I like to start my day with almond milk on home-made granola so damn healthy it almost makes me want to wear yoga pants or go for a jolly good jog. Almost. I actually only wear yoga pants when I do yoga, which doesn’t happen often, and jogging is something which happens to other people. Alan is happy here too, cooking his oatmeal in the microwave and putting veggie-bacon on his toast just like he does at home.

Yesterday we shared the breakfast table with two Germans, who looked as bewildered by our breakfasts as we were by theirs. Pickled onions, olives, stinky cheeses, thinly sliced meaty things and brick-like bread, served with multiple cups of thick black coffee. A Danish lady has just moved in upstairs, and judging from the contents of the fridge she’ll be having strawberries and cream cheese on bagels for breakfast tomorrow. Different people like different things.

I’ve been on a bit of a mission here in Trono, going to different types of eateries and trying to answer a question people have been asking me. “Now that veganism is becoming trendy is it easier to find restaurants which serve vegan food?” Is being vegan becoming trendy? It would be nice to think so, and I obviously hope that not eating animals will become much more mainstream, but time will tell. At a writers’ workshop recently someone said “Isn’t it great that it’s still socially acceptable to make fun of vegans, now that we can’t tease people because of their race or religion?” What????????? I’m not sure what kind of look I gave her, but I probably looked pretty stunned. Vegans have feelings too.

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No, her comments didn’t drive me to drink. I just needed a spot to insert a photo of some rather…unusual…cocktails hubby and I had recently.

Anyhow, back to the plot. Is it getting easier to eat out as a vegan? In a big city like Toronto, yes it is. I started my munch-fest at a random Vietnamese restaurant at the bidding of a young lady standing on the street waving the menu at passers-by. “I’m vegan” I said. “No problem!” she replied, so hubby and I went in. She took the waitress aside and spoke to her before going back outside to drum up more trade. The waitress came over. “You need meals with no animal in it? Try this…or this….or this…” We selected ma po tofu (with no meat) and soy sauce eggplant, peppers and potatoes along with steamed rice. It was inexpensive, and it was excellent. Well that was easy!

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For dinner I decided to try something more up-market, reserving a table at the R&D restaurant co-owned by one of the winners Masterchef Canada. He works as a sous-chef in the kitchen of this trendy, bustling eatery so I was expecting great things. I made a note on the reservation form that I was vegan, and mentioned it again when we were seated. “Not a problem” I was assured. There wasn’t much on the menu which could be veganised, but I started my meal with brussel sprouts in black bean sauce, minus the Chinese sausage. It was a bit unusual, but I ate enough of it to give myself a nasty case of gas, which is a recommendation of sorts. I followed it up with the bimibap rice bowl, minus the egg, topped with fresh tofu instead of tofu which had been deep fried in the same oil as chicken. Well done to the wait-staff for being aware of that.  The bimibap was nice enough, but not something to write home about. But the point is, it was an expensive, trendy restaurant and I had a stress-free vegan meal there.

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Lunch the following day was at Ryus ramen house, which was recommended to me by someone in the Toronto vegetarian association. It was easy to get something to eat – there were vegan options sitting right there in the menu. Hurray! One bowl of ramen in shitake broth topped with veggies and tofu later I was happy and full. It looked so good that my omnivorous lunch date ordered the same and declared it to be good, although he would have liked some seaweed in it.

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(Edit – I’ve just been informed by someone else in the Toronto veg group that these noodles might contain powdered egg! I’ve contacted the restaurant and they do indeed contain egg. Obviously I should have asked while I was there 😦 Sometimes when something looks too good to be true it actually isn’t true at all.)

Dinner was a family affair at a place called Hogtown Vegan. Between us we demolished not-chicken-wings (sorry – I was a bit too late taking the photo, but they were delicious), burgers, fries with mushroom gravy, pulled not-pork, not-beef stew, gluten-free mac n’ cheese, ice cream cookies and deep fried oreos. Yes, it sucks to be vegan lol.

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Lunch today was a mango bubble tea to give my body some time off before the next onslaught. This came in the form of delicious food at a place called Vegetarian Haven which, despite the name, is a 100% vegan restaurant. As we were seated I heard the guy at the next table talking to the waitress. “I only came here because my girlfriend (who was in the washroom at the time) is vegan and she wanted to come. I can’t believe how good the food was! I’m going to come back and try some of the other dishes. It was just…well….really good….!” And was it good? Damn right it was! My dinning partner for the evening is gluten free, but he was more than happy with the choices he had on the menu. We settled for a bowl of tomato and veg soup, faux shrimp and mushroom tempura (which was so good I have to admit we ordered a second one), veggie California rolls (meh) and the chef’s special of sweet potato stuffed tofu skins with rice noodles and a broccoli salad. I didn’t eat my salad. Afterwards we shared a slice of amazing blueberry cheesecake (yes, it was both vegan and gluten free) then wobbled off on our separate ways feeling very satisfied.

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So, all-in-all, this was a very successful adventure. Cheap, expensive, Vietnamese, ramen, comfort food, gluten free dishes….. I was made to feel comfortable in all the places I ate regardless of whether they were exclusively vegan restaurants or ones which served meat dishes, and I was able to have tasty vegan food in all of them. Happy days.

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Actually, that’s not quite true. I also visited a place called Kupfert and Kim, and I wasn’t at all comfortable or happy. But not because I’m vegan. This meatless, wheatless café serves salad bowls, minimally processed foods, smoothies and healthy gluten free vegan treats, but….it’s not the most comfortable place for curvy middle aged women with wide hips. The chairs were built for people who eat a lot of salad. And, judging from the other diners, wear yoga pants to dinner. Two strikes and I’m out. As I lowered myself into the chair I had to ask hubby the time-honoured question “Does my butt look big in this?” I know that in some cultures the answer “yes” is a compliment, and in others “no” is the socially acceptable reply, but in Kupfert and Kim’s there was no questioning it. My butt looked big.

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I was afraid that when I stood up to leave I would be stuck in the chair and Alan would have to pull it off my behind, to loud laughter from the audience. So I ate my (tasty) buckwheat waffles sitting sideways on the edge of my seat to prevent my wide child-bearing hips from wedging themselves in between the bars. Unless I lose a ton of weight (which I don’t need to or want to) or my hip bones magically shrink, I won’t be going back there. Not all vegans are slim, salad-eating, yoga-pant-wearing young people who actually go for jogs. I’ll stick to places where I “fit in” both metaphorically and literally lol.

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But what’s the moral of today’s story? It’s that vegan food can be totally yummy, and it looks like more restaurants, in Toronto at least, are realising that there’s a market for it. And that’s a good thing for the planet, for the animals and, of course, for me. Why not see what delicious non-animal meals your local restaurants are serving?

I loved the ease with which I could dine in Toronto, especially after my recent experiences in Japan. Tune in next week to find out what happened when I said “ベジタリアン です。魚 や 肉 が 食べません.” in Kyoto, Takamatsu, Kotohira, Himeji and other places. But I’m warning you – there was something a bit fishy going on.

Karen 🙂

Help! There’s a Vegan in the Garden!

Yes, I know it’s been 6 month since my last post, but I’m back 🙂 Where have I been? Oh, you know, here and there. Recently got back from Japan (yes, I have some tales to tell) in fact. And what have I been doing? This and that. You know. Stuff. But, the point is, I’m blogging again. Once a week (or more if something really profound happens), starting today. Hurray?

You’ve probably spotted the blog title by now. The vegan I refer to isn’t me – it’s a really cute, speckled, furry, bouncy, adorable bunny, hereafter referred to as “that damn rabbit.”  I’d post a picture of the beastie if she didn’t keep running away at lightning speed whenever I point a lens at her. Boy can that bunny move! Sometimes she moves so fast that it looks like there’s more than one rabbit in my garden….. Fortunately Biggles let me photoshop her slightly to show you what the damn rabbit looks like. You can barely tell the difference!

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Last year, as some of you may recall, I planted an herb garden (please note the correct use of “an”) at the side of the house. This year I decided to embrace the whole vegan-hippy-gardener thing and added some new crops. Alan’s got garlic growing (which is kinda odd since he didn’t plant any this year) alongside his leeks and carrots. I really pushed out the boat and bought 3 broccoli plants and 4 brussel sprouts. There should have been 4 of each, but one was MIA so I got a discount, saving me a whole 20 cents!!!!! Bargain! Anyhoo, I diligently planted these in the garden, watered them well and went to bed after asking our resident gnomes to keep an eye on them.

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The next morning someone had eaten most of the leaves on my broccoli plant. The small round pellets nearby gave me some clue as to the perpetrator of the crime. It was that damn rabbit. The one who ate my cucumber plant last year within a day of it arriving, and may or may not have also demolished my basil plants. I frowned at the destruction then went inside to have a fortifying cup of tea. When I came back out my sprouts had all been nibbled. Grrrrrrrrr. Something needed to be done. I’m not running a restaurant for feckin’ bunnies, no matter how cute their twitchy noses are.

And then I had a fabulous (?) idea. Alan and I spent a very hot, humid Saturday putting together the heavy metal den our cats enjoyed at our previous home. Our current home has a screened porch with carpet and comfy chairs and a fab view of the bird feeders, so they don’t need their den. We put up a few of the original wood shelves, added some plastic shelving I found lying around in the shed et viola! A rabbit-proof pot house, so called because we put pots in it. I might be turning into a hippy vegan, but the only weed I have here is the type you pull up and dispose of 🙂

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In a fit of madness I rushed off and bought enough lettuce plants to feed a family of 20 for a year, some baby eggplant plants, green beans for growing in a pot and bok choy (spellcheck wants to change that to bonk soy for some reason) along with some kohl rabbi and white radish to plant in the garden where my broccoli and sprouts used to be. Rabbits don’t like kohl rabbi, do they? I’ll go check. Be right back. Phew – so far so good!

I’d like to see those bunnies trash my veggies now! Although, of course, they might bully the squirrels into climbing up the cage and ripping leaves off from them to much on. In which case I’ll have to cover the whole thing in fine mesh chicken wire and ponder the cost of growing veggies when I could have gone to the farmer’s market and just bought some instead….

And what am I going to do with all that delicious lettuce when it grows big enough to harvest? Make a meal or two and probably feed the rest to the rabbits. I’m not a big fan of salad lol.

Karen 🙂

They’re Here!!!!

Yes, I know I’ve been missing from the scene for quite a while, but (for once) I have a really good excuse. I’ve been busy finishing off not one but TWO new books, which are both available as paperbacks AND as e-books. I’ve also created an e-book version of my first book HELP! There’s a VEGAN Coming For Dinner! Not bad, eh? Admittedly when I say “I created” I actually mean “my tech guy created”, but that’s a minor detail. (Thanks Hon. Love ya.)

Let me take a moment to introduce you to my new babies:

HELP! There’s a VEGAN Coming For Dinner – Japanese Style.

I think the title says it all! An entire cookbook of Japanese style vegan goodies, with no raw fish in sight. Learn how to make fish-free dashi. Make your own tofu quickly and easily. Fry up some tempura and serve it with miso soup. Noodle your way to a great dinner. Bake red bean filled buns. Create curry-filled donuts. Who would have thought vegan Japanese food could be so easy, tasty and fun?

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Tall Travel Tales: Japan. Tokyo, Takayama and Beyond. 

Follow in our footsteps as hubby and I, along with a small band of fellow travelers, journey around Japan. With tons of colour photos to show highlights of our trip you can enjoy some time away without having to leave the comfort of your armchair. Visit a ninja temple. Stand at the snow line on Mount Fuji. Eat strange squishy things. Hear crows caw ominously as you approach a shrine. Visit Tokyo, Takayama, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Kyoto, Kawaguchiko and Mount Fuji, travelling from city to city on Japanese trains. It’s fun, fun fun.

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HELP! There’s a VEGAN Coming For Dinner!

For those of you who have not already purchased a copy, let me take this opportunity to introduce you to my original cookbook. This gem contains 100 recipes to tempt even the most ardent meat-eater, all taste-tested by omnivores and given a seal of approval. There’s soups, salsas, tofu, beans, lentils, nuts, veggies galore and desserts! From the easiest curry ever to faux-chicken pot pie, there’s something for everyone in this book!

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These books are all available directly from me (I only ship to Canada and the US) and can also be found on Amazon. They make great seasonal gifts 🙂

Amazon: Paperbacks and Kindle

E-Books

Check them out and let me know what you think.

Karen 🙂