Thursday, July 31, 2008

Greek Fasting 'Cheese' and a blunt knife, or: The Toastie Postie

So here is my first foodie post, and appropriately it is a simple (as befits my capabilities) toastie.

I first bought some Greek fasting 'cheese' from the Hellenic Deli at the Queen Vic Markets in June, and promptly left it in a hotel fridge, uneaten and greatly mourned. Finally last weekend I got down there again, and lo and behold, not only was there the cheddar-style I bought last time, but also a feta. I bought both, of course.

The feta was very salty and pretty darn close to the dairy version. It would be almost undetectable in a salad or sprinkled on top of something (undetectable except for the lack of prickings of your conscience, that is).

The cheddar was much more soy-like, but I think better than Cheezly for its spongey texture.

I accessorised my fabulous cheese with the following:

2 pieces of Pott's sourdough bread
Truss tomatoes
Fresh coriander
Fresh chilli

I had to admit some semi-defeat when the time came to cut the toastie. At my workplace the only knives are in the dishwasher if they're not blunt. As I hacked through the toastie, sawing and poking and jabbing, I reminded myself to bring a proper knife next time, if not just to make a prettier toastie,then to save me the sweat and rage.

... and here was the result:


It was totally delicious despite the hacksaw job on the slicing. The cheese was semi-solid (and I had cut very hefty chunks) and salty, and lost a lot of the soy aftertaste in the raw version which I'm not so keen on.

The coriander was a great accompaniment to the fresh tomatoes and salty cheese.

The best bit was when a piece of cheese that had fallen onto the grill came out all lovely and golden...

I'm thinking vegan saganaki.

Got Milk? or: Instances In Which I Wish I'd Been Wittier

I went for my morning caffeine injection. I usually go to the fabulous Cafe 53 on Flinders Lane where the wonderful Michelle offers skinny soy milk, a loyalty card (very useful for when I'm broke, which is often enough that I save my freebies on purpose), and has never, ever made me a bad coffee.

This morning, however, I was in a rush so I had to go closer. I won't name the cafe, but let's say that just because you are situated near Government offices doesn't give you an automatic arsehole entitlement.

I asked for a large soy latte (after, I should add, noting the styrofoam cups on offer... very pleb). That is to say that I entered into a parol contract with the vendor for him to provide me with one cup of coffee ordered to my specifications in consideration of a set fee. I did not order any nasty attitude, but it was provided for free.

Me: "Could I please have a large soy latte?"

Mr Smartypants: "Did you know that recent studies have linked soy to an increase in cancer?" (Please imagine this said in a very snotty, smartypants way. It was not at all in a manner that expressed his deep and genuine concern for my health).

Me: "Everything has been linked to an increase in cancer!" (wishing that I had been more cutting and pointed).

Random guy behind me in the line: "And it's been linked to a decreased sperm count in males."

Mr Smartypants: "That's it! A decreased sperm count!"

Now I don't mind discussions. If he'd said "Have you heard about that recent study that linked increased soy consumption to a rise in the risk of certain cancers? Do you have any thoughts, oh paying customer?", then I would have come up with a thoughtful, insightful and very polite answer that might have sparked an interesting discussion about the ethical, health and environmental implications of intensive dairy farming. As it was I wanted to vault over the edge of the coffee cart and karate chop him in the nose. Instead I went back to the office and bitched about it to many many (many!) people, including one colleague who suggested that the appropriate response was "Have you heard that an increase in dickheads leads to a decrease in coffee shop patronage?". Love your work.

A couple of weeks ago I went to an orangey cocktail bar on Brunswick Street. I had a look at their coffee menu, and it said something along these lines:
No soy, no decaf. No bullshit, no heartbreak...

(blah blah etc)

They had conveniently left a feedback form. I pointed out that this kind of attitude might be amusing amongst coffee 'purists', but was otherwise hurtful, pretentious and just a little too cool for school (I actually wrote "too cool for school". I thought it summed it up nicely).

Seriously, get over yourselves coffee people. Use some manners.

Shopping is the Staff of Life, or: How I Eat and Shop, thanks for asking

Although I was an unthinking vegetarian, by which I mean I no longer thought about why I didn’t eat meat, having been vegetarian since early 1990 I was used to scanning menus for what food I could and couldn’t eat. Being vegan is certainly different – my menu-searching skills are laser sharp, I religiously read food labels, and I diligently interrogate waiters. I plan ahead – I read menus online and call restaurants, I think about what I can eat and when and where I can get it, and I have developed a bloodhound-like ability to sniff out good quality non-leather bags and shoes at one hundred paces (oh how I love them!).

I shop at the supermarket and farmers’ markets when I’m out of bed on a Saturday morning on time. I am not forced to frequent health food stores nor am I restricted to wholegrains and dried apricots. I drink some beers but no wines unless they’re labelled vegan. I often take my own food to dinner parties to a) show off my creations when they’re good, and b) ensure that I have something to eat.

I’ll just add this: in almost 20 years of being vegetarian and one year of veganism, across Melbourne, Europe, the UK and India – I have never, ever had nothing to eat. Sure, occasionally it’s chips and salad – but it’s food and it’s there. And I’m not the kind of girl who’ll quietly go hungry.

I do love to shop. A lot. Frequently. And veganism hasn’t slowed me down all that much. I just accept that most coats have wool, most special dresses are silk, most nice scarves are made of silk or cashmere, and designers who design exciting shoes and bags use leather and suede (but stay tuned …. Ellie and Rach change the world with the RoC!). Finding a cruelty-free item that I love now has even more excitement (and it’s cheaper).

I’m off to New York City (avec Buzz) and London (sans Buzz) next Friday for five weeks. Expect me to return laden down with good quality animal-friendly bags and shoes, and fit to burst with a belly full of food.


Hello! or: I take this opportunity to blather on about myself for a bit.

I am vegan, but I’m not much of a princess – I just thought it was a funny name. I did choose Princess though because although I’m not (too much, I hope) a spoiled, bratty, high-maintenance rich-bitch, I’m also not what many people think vegans are: a dredlocked, unwashed, patchouli-wearing, pot-smoking, preachy, feral wearing hemp. I don’t like mung beans.

I would really like for this blog to able to show that veganism is totally compatible with the mainstream. I hope to show that vegan living, while it requires more forethought and planning than that required of omnis or even vegetarians, is much easier than people may think. When I was vegetarian I thought not only was veganism totally extreme Nimbin-only, but that it would also be far more difficult than I could do. It’s not.

I went vegetarian at 9 1/2, when I decided that if I loved animals then I didn’t want to eat them. Over the years it became almost more of a habit than an ethical choice. I said I objected to the ways animals were treated, but I didn’t really think any more about it. I happily (and greedily) wore leather, I’d not worry about the fish sauce or chicken stock in my food, and I swore on my life that I’d rather die than give up cheese.

So what prompted the ‘upgrade’ to being vegan? Was it a deep ethical disquiet, a moment of moral awakening, a light shone upon my conscience?


It was a diet book.

It’s a bit sad, but Skinny Bitch changed my life. Not the ranting about giving up Diet Coke and coffee (I shall never surrender!), or the processed food-heavy Americanised recipes, or the eating disorder-inspiring tone, and certainly not the injunction against alcohol (although the comment “Beer is for frat boys” made me giggle), but the description of research about what really goes on in slaughterhouses.

I had a Moment.

Hormones flowed, blood pumped, cheeks flushed – my eyes opened. I knew I just couldn’t be involved any longer. I spent time reading and learning, replacing food, cosmetics, clothes and accessories (being lucky enough to be able to do so, and having total respect for those who choose to use up their pregan things), and absorbing everything I now allowed myself to know. I will never go back.