Sarah and I took off from work this past week, which I'd been meaning to do for a while now. You tell yourself you'll take a break when you finish a project and then it goes on for four months and then you say, 'enough.'
We took a few days to recover and relax at home, in Queens. Because sometimes it doesn't feel like we get to use our home that much. We didn't want to just sit around at home for the whole week, though, and Sarah found something that involved the term "vegan brunch," and I was sold.
We spent two nights at the Catskill Animal Sanctuary, which is a nice, vegan BnB that's attached to and supports a rescue sanctuary for farm animals. I haven't really had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with other people who don't eat animals. I had a friend in high school, knew one or two people in college, and otherwise haven't really had too many around. I could do with more people around, period, but the proportion of veg*ans has been historically low. It was nice to have someone else asking me not to put anything not vegan in the fridge. I can do that. That's the way I live, too. It was nice not to be the weird one for a few days.
The first night, we had vegan pizza at the Catskill Mountain Pizza Co. in Woodstock. There were a bunch of people crowded around the bar, watching the baseball game and most were wearing different hats. It was was open and friendly and felt good to be there.
The next morning, we took a tour of the Sanctuary. Goats are delightfully weird and were easy targets for petting. I also got to hold a rooster.
Jailbird was rescued from a meth lab. Some of the chickens were boiler chickens -- the kind that are bred for ovens. They grow so fast and big that they have a fraction of the lifespan of their not-engineered-for-food brethren, and joint problems to boot. The same goes for the pigs and cows. Another popular origin story was the pig who was supposed to be a cute little pet and grew to normal pig size. Some were re-rescued from animal shelters for cats and dogs, where people had left them.
One downside of being around vegans is the popularity of anti-science and, specifically, anti-vaccination. It seems like people come to it from different directions, but it always saddens me. It's strange to discuss with people older than me how terrible the old diseases are. How their unvaccinated children put others at risk; including others who have compromised immune systems and can't be vaccinated, even if they want to be. I think on some level, I see it as a sort of social pact. Sort of like how we try to be polite to each other and don't set each others houses on fire. Putting everyone else at greater risk like that falls into that sort of category in my mind.
People keep telling me that when I become a parent, my whole viewpoint will change. I don't imagine becoming a parent will make me so constitutionally different from who I am that I wouldn't vaccinate my children.
Later that night, we explored Saugerties, which was another little town in the area. We got some yarn for a knitting project I'm going to try and walked out a lighthouse on the Hudson. The lighthouse was also a BnB. It was a little disappointing and the path was soggy.
There were several stores that had vegan options and I was super happy. I had a vegan ice cream sandwich, which I posted about earlier, and we had tasty soup for lunch and dinner at Rock da Casbah, which was very friendly and provided a tempeh burger and vegan mac 'n cheese.
An animal sanctuary is a place that raises a lot of questions. Questions like: 'What do you do with the sheep wool, that you have to cut anyway?' and 'Have you seen a rise in goat/chicken/duck rescues as part of the modern homesteader movement?' and 'What sort of relationship can we aspire to with animals?' They're tough questions, but I missed having real tough questions in my life. They're things that make it feel more meaningful. The real hard problems in my day to day life have been dealing with other people for too long, and it filled me with hope and aspirations for what my life could be.
Tonight is an exciting night. Tonight, I'm making Ethiopian food for the first time. During my time as a grad student, I barely cooked (or wrote) anything, let alone something new. So, I'm very excited to be doing something new tonight.
A few days ago, I started preparing the dough to make Injera, the national bread of Etiopia and, as far as I'm going to count, my first sourdough bread. The recipe is really simple, once you've found some teff flour. All you do is mix it with water and wait for it to start to go bad!
Aside from finding the teff flour, the other difficult part of this (and it gets much easier afterwards) is finding berbere spice mix. I have no idea where to do this in Kitchener, so I found this recipe that suggests how you can make your own. It doesn't contain ground lentils, which another site suggested was part of the mix, but I'm not one to work too hard at accuracy. I'll be using tomato sauce instead of tomato paste, as well, and grinding up my own chilis, probably with a blender (I did end up doing that, and only using half the suggested amount).
I found a helpful article on the Toronto Sun website that contains some vegetarian recipes for the various toppings that go on the Injera, so I'll use that!
After sitting out for a day, covered with a damp towel, the teff mixture smelled a bit odd, which seemed right for sourdough. I had tried to make the batter once before, and it had grown mold, being left alone for three days. That might just be our apartment in the summer, though. I wonder if the wintertime would require a longer fermentation time.
Ideally, the bread is made like a thick crepe, but it didn't run very quickly in my pan, so it ended up fairly thick and misshapen, but it did bubble in a way similar to the bread I've gotten at restaurants. Apparently, many Ethiopian places in North America cut their teff flour with wheat flour in order to make the flavor less intense, and I wonder how that affects the consistency of the dough itself. I might have to try, just to see if it makes it easier to cook.
Lately, I've gotten into the habit of baking my own bread. It always send a little odd going to the store and spending 3 or 4 dollars on something so simple, and I've always wanted to try it, so about a month ago, I gave it a shot.
I was surprised that I didn't need to do any substitutions, but I suppose that bread would be one of the first things people would figure out, even if it were a milk our eggs heavy recipe. I was inspired by Minecraft, which I am currently enthralled by. I will probably have to write about that separately, but the important part was the pride I felt when I finally figured out how to craft bread to survive in the game.
Here's the recipe:
Simple Wheat Bread
1 packet active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup sugar (or honey)
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
1 cup oats
3/4 c. ground (in food processor)
1/4 c. whole
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
Combine the sugar, water and yeast in a small bowl, let them sit and do their thing for 10 minutes or so, and assemble the dry ingredients while you wait!
Blend 3/4 of the cup of oats.
Mix whole wheat flour, oil, gluten, 1 c. bread flour, all of the oats, and salt in a big bowl.
Add the yeast to the dry ingredients and mix. Add in the last cup of bread flour - the dough should be sticky but hold together.
Let rise 1 hour.
Punch down the dough, separate into two equal pieces, put into oiled bread pans, and allow to rise another hour.
Bake in preheated oven for a half hour at 350 Fahrenheit for a light crust, 450 F for a dark crust.
Remove loaves from bread pan and place on cooling rack.
For those of you lucky enough to have not lived in Utica, New York, you may have missed out on a true half-moon cookie. Although I feel like I'm probably perpetuating pro-Utica propaganda, the central New York half-moon isn't usually recreated correctly elsewhere. If you find someone who knows where Rome, New York is, they're probably familiar enough with the area to be able to tell you about the difference between a half-moon and the cookies that are sold around the rest of the country.
A correct half-moon is more cake than cookie on the bottom, and should have a softer icing on the top than many other cookies. That is, it shouldn't be an icing that hardens. Something between a cupcake's icing and the sort of hard icing that is just powdered sugar.
Unfortunately, that's all the icing I knew how to make, so that's what my cookies got. We'll see how it worked in a little while when I finally get to eat them. In the meantime, though, I'm just going to leave this link here. You can go look at it if you want. I'm going to eat a cookie.
When I became vegetarian about six years ago, I started to learn that, while there are meat-substitutes, few of them are really the same. Furthermore, when you're a bit repulsed by the idea of eating meat anyway, why would you want to eat something designed to be like meat anyway?That said, there are some flavors that you just don't get as easily anymore, and that's only gotten worse since I started trying to eat vegan this August. As someone who used to get teased about how often he would suggest pizza, I find myself missing it a lot. I still will eat it if it's available if someone else has purchased it, since then at least I'm not paying a company to keep a cow in a packed factory in terrible conditions (I am not sure if that's an accurate statement, I haven't read up on how cows are kept recently). This post is not about pizza, but rather something I didn't even miss: Wings.
In believing that I am capable of being wrong, I've convinced myself that people around me should be able to do whatever they think it right, too, so I usually don't have that much of a problem with people eating meat around me. Wings, though, have always disgusted me. Watching someone tear flesh from the bone was disturbing even before I became vegetarian, let alone now, when it sometimes makes me feel nauseated. A few days ago, though, I was trying to think of fun things to do with seitan and thought about wings.
A first search for vegan wings turned up recipes suggesting boiling the seitan, which is what I'd learned originally from Isa Moskowitz's Vegan with a Vengeance. In my experience, though, that makes the seitan really spongy and not so interesting, and I prefer some of the methods used by the Vegan Dad, which is where I hit paydirt.
Despite missing a few spices, I improvised a bit and came up with these round balls of fake-chickeny-goodness... or grossness. It's really hard to decide which it is, because they are sickeningly saucy and tasty. I would never have imagined mixing margarine and bbq sauce had I not read that recipe. Obviously I haven't had much experience with barbecue.
Recording tasty chile recipe for future reference:
Make a batch of seitan: 1 c. vital gluten 6 c. veggie broth 1/3 c. white wine (used sake)
Mix the gluten with water (perhaps a quarter cup) until it's sticky and all together in a ball. Put aside for at least 20 min, no more than 30. Knead into strings. In my experience, an inch thick makes them swell up and fill the pot they're cooked in... I don't know of another way. They're still tasty. Bring the both/wine to a low boil, put the seitan dough in. Cover and cook for an hour, turn them over once or twice.
Chile sine Carne con weird spices:
Chop up about a pound of the seitan you just made 2.5 c veggie broth 2 cans (19 oz) beans 1 onion ~3 cloves garlic 1 T garam masala 2 T chile powder 1 T Cinnamon 1/3 c. Honey 3 T Oil
Put oil in a large pot and sautee the onion and garlic. After eight minutes ish, add the seitan. Let that cook a minute and then put in the spices and honey. Mix it up a bit and then add the beans and stock. Cover and boil down the stock until it's a chile texture and let it sit about 20 minutes before serving. Super-tasty.