Saturday, April 25, 2009

I am a twit.

I've always loved the word twit. It's the name of a fabulous Roald Dahl book; it's silly; it's funny to say and it's vasly underused nowadays.

I'm happy to say that I am a twit. I twit. Here:

Now could someone please tell me how long I have to wait for my phone authorisation code thingie?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Shoot 'em, cut off their heads.

This is what this story is not about:

  • country-bashing;
  • kangaroos as vermin;
  • whether roo culls are necessary;
  • whether farmers are cruel and inhuman; and
  • whether city people are naive, cossetted lily-livered sooks.

This is what this article is about:
  • that there is no such thing as happy meat;
  • that there is no such thing as environmental meat;
  • a legal cull (problematic in itself) being carried out and what its consequences for joeys are;
  • what the flow-on consequences of roo killing are and whether consumers are aware of them; and
  • that people are in general entirely unaware of what happens to animals before they appear shrink-wrapped on platters in the supermarket. One commenter with his heart in the right place but his brains apparently somewhere in the clouds said: "Why do we need to kill all these lovely animals when all we have to do is go to the shops for all our food. Surely getting food from supermarkets is not as cruel as this mass murder. I think it's time we took action against these cruel farmers.".

There is no such thing as cruelty-free meat. It's meat. It's great that this is getting attention. But it's terrifying how little people really know about what happens to all the animals who become their dinner.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A potluck in the south: TexMexxing, y'all

I eat more than I write, and that's why I am finally blogging about the TexMex potluck at Emily's house long after other, more diligent bloggers have done so. You can check out Kristy, Pip , Cindy and Michael (note there's two different links there to two different posts), and Lisa's posts too for more time-appropriate writing! Also, have a look at Lisa's chihuahua companion Kimba in her tequila-chihuahua outfit at Pip's blog. I will preface this post by saying that awesome as the food was, it takes second place to the adorableness of Kim's outfit (Sam wasn't having a bar of it).

The emergence of themed potlucks is, in my splendid opinion, a top hole idea. It gives structure and purpose, and allows us to really concentrate on finding something new and appropriate to cook. For pretendy-chefs like me who are always tempted to crawl back into the hole of easiness and comfort and prepare a boring variation on boring theme - and for me it's pasta five thousand ways - it's a real challenge and one that has the added benefit of expanding my personal repertoire as well letting everyone share in a special event.

Also, Emily bought a new tortilla skillet that she wanted to try out.

Pregan, my sister had made me some quesadillas which I devoured in cheesy gooeyness. I was eager to recreate them as non-quesadillas, and was happy to find that there are more than a few vegan versions floating around the interwebs. Some use soy cheese and some smashed red kidney beans to stick it all together, so I decided to take a bit of an experimental approach (and use up the one lonely can of kiddly beans I had a-mouldering in the cupboard ... no! it wasn't actually mouldy! I did not attempt to poison my friends!) and combine a bit of everything. I didn't take pictures of the preparation though as I was also cooking some food for my friend who recently had a gorgeous little girl (hello Minnie!) so my cookering that day was timed to the nanosecond.

I bought two rolls of Cheezly, the highly flavoured and highly orange nacho and the more neutral mozzarella, and grated the lot. Yep, the lot. I chopped some spring onions finely, diced some orange capsicum, used some sliced black olives form the fridge, sliced some spicy jalapenos, defrosted some corn (it's cheap and it lasts!), and smashed me up some o' them red kiddlies. I mixed it all together, and heated up Magic Pan.

I had a packet of El Paso Light Flour Tortillas - why get the full fat when I was just gonna sizzle it anyhows? - and I spooned the mixture into half the tortilla until it was about 1.5 centimetres high, folded it over into a moon shape, and then whacked it on to a pre-oiled Magic Pan.

Each non-quesadilla required a couple of minutes on each side, and there was a bit of trial and error in working out the boundary between nicely toasted and a bit too sizzled. However, none of them came out in such bad shape that I wasn't happy to present them to the potluck, so they're not really that hard to mess up. After they cooled I garnished them with some coriander.

Pip was kind enough to say she really liked them, and I think they came out ok. The kidney beans were very effective and coalescing all the ingredients, but who can seriously resist a great big handful of melted Cheezly?

I also made gazpacho, something I experimented with over the heatwave in February, and I can never get over how easy it is (and also I think of Red Dwarf so it makes me giggle).

Here's the recipe I tend to use to make a truckload, although there are some faaa-aaaancy variations out there that use black beans or watermelon too:
  • 8 - 10 ripe tomatoes. It's better, although messier, to peel them.
  • 1 orange or yellow capsicum
  • 1 cucumber, sliced any way that your food processor will get at it
  • a couple of stalks of spring onion
  • a few cloves of garlic - I always like more
  • a big slosh of lemon juice
  • a slightly smaller slosh of olive oil if you want it a little less fattofied, but if you like it then feel free to splash it about some more (and use the good stuff; you'll taste it)
  • parsely, coriander or other fresh herbs to taste
  • red wine vingear to taste
Method: in the food processor until you think it looks good. You might like it more chunky and salsa-like than others, or you might prefer it baby-style pureed. Whatevs - you just can't mess this one up folks!

Back on the ranch, there were some truly stupendous TexMex offerings. I loved Lidia's Cowboy Beans which were beans with lots of mock meat including sausages and bacon, and which were accompanied by authentic (I think) cornbread, and Craig's chilli was hot hot hot!

Tim's chilli with corn, mushroom and chickpea was a good contrast in restraint, and the black beans, made by someone who's name I rudely forgot, were fascinating.

Vanessa made a fantastic paella with lemon wedges and artichokes, which I went back for long after I was full to have a little pick at, and a sangria that was, unlike festy sangrias I've had in Barcelona, not at all over spirited and very, very drinkable.

Tara made some unbelievably delicious salsa which I also got stuck into for thirds, and Lisa also made a fabulous dip - the creamiest, smoothest guacamole I've ever had. I didn't get a chance to try Cindy and Michael's green pumpkin seed mole from Veganomicon and I sorely regretted it.

And what would a potluck be without dessert? Kristy and Toby outdid themselves with two types of cupcake - tequila and chilli chocolate. I downed a tequila one and the icing was incredible - not enough to get you pished but definitely adults only!

There were two kinds of Mexican Wedding Biscuits, chocolate ones made by Cindy and some plain from Jo. They were both perfectly crumbly, and were complemented by some raw oatmeal cacao nib cookies which were fantastically sweet and sweetly accessorised with an ingredients list.

Finally, Pip and Tim made some churros. Yep, real, live, fried churros with melted chocolate. And cinnamon sugar. And lots of fatty sugariness - mmm-mmm-mmmm. They were fried and sweet and delish, and, like the sangria, better than what I've actually had in Spain. So there, Iberian Peninsula!

I didn't hang around much long after the obligatory tequila; Sam had had a bit of a testing night after not wanting to play with the other puppies and was clearly rejecting this attempt to introduce he and Kimba to their culture-of-origin.

In any case, I was in a world of stuffed-belly and the introduction of hard spirits might have seen me burst like Bec's awesome pinata after she and Toby had demonstrated their proficiency at various martial arts on it:

But seeing as there was an absolute mountain of lollies from Rishon's inside the pinata, I was glad I did. Ain't they purdy?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Letter to VitaSoy, or: why is the purple pack un-vegan?

Hi there,

I'm writing to voice my concern that VitaSoy Calci-Plus is no longer vegan. I understand that the Vitamin D contained in the soy milk is derived form lanolin, a wool derivative. This makes the Calci-Plus definitely not vegan!

Some companies will say that the production wool, lanolin and its by-products does not harm animals, and that they are therefore of no concern. This is not the case. The wool industry relies on the mass breeding, exploitation and death of sheep, and the cruel practices within the industry, including mulesing and the death by exposure of up to 30% of lambs within day of birth, are of great to concern to vegans. Sheep who have outlived their usefulness as wool producers, which occurs well before the end of their natural life, are sent for live export overseas - a horrendous journey - where it is most likely that they will undergo further traumatic transportation and treatment before they are slaughtered. A bale of wool cannot be produced without the suffering and painful, premature death of sheep, and this is why the inclusion of wool-derived ingredients is not harmless.

Vegans are great consumers and champions of soy milk, and to find that Calci-Plus is not suitable for us is very disappointing. I urge to reconsider the inclusion of this form of Vitamin D, and look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Miss T

Monday, April 13, 2009

Crisps'n'Chips, or: Disappointment in the snack aisle

I'm not a sweet tooth guys. Give me the choice between a bag of crispy, crackly, salty, savoury chips and melty, sweetling sickerly chocolate, it's the Smith's every time.

So as I decided which bag I was going to have for breakfast yesterday (perhaps your Easter comprises chocolating; mine is all about indulging in my favourite naughty foods and that just happens to come in a foil packet) I glanced at the back of the Smith's Salt'n'Vinegar - previously veganised - and saw that both the crinkle and thin cut varieties now contain lactose.

It's my firm belief that the world can be divided into two kinds of people: salt'n'vinegar, and everyone else (and also into cooks and bakers). I have always been everyone else - pre-vegan nothing made me happier than some cheese'n'onion or, joy of joys on a hungover morning, a huge bag of Doritos (in the red packet only and often with a 7-11 egg salad sandwich) - but post-vegan I have become more of a semi-salt'n'vinegar fan, mostly to break the monotony of the plain I usually get as they're almost always vegan except-for-Tasty-Jack's-wtf (I know about Kettle Chilli and the light'n'tangy kind they do, but, like Red Rock Deli, sometimes I just don't want deli style chips - I want rubbish).

So this has come as a bit of a blow and a significant reduction in the range of late-night-drunken-walks-home-past-the-7-11 snacks available to me. Thank God that Kristy recently put me on to the ninja vegan (*(c) Lena) Coles BBQ, but I'm feeling pretty low and rejected by Smith's at the moment.
Frankly, in today's chemical flavoured world I don't really understand why any actual ingredients at all have to go into chip flavouring, but I can academically understand why there might be milk solids in sweet chilli'n'sour cream, or meaty extracts in BBQ, or honey chicken in honey soy chicken - but lactose in salt'n'vinegar? S'n'V is the antithesis of dairy! It's sharp and biting and like an acid drop it should have nothing to do with creamy, smooth cow milk!

Please take it out Smith's. Please consider removing all dairy and meaty flavours from the rest of your chips too - it' s not like you're pedaling a nutritionally sound product anyway so a few more chemicals won't hurt you and you would be saving lotsa animabubbles and you would become the ultimate all-time superspecial ninja vegan company (although perhaps I wouldn't eat dead chicken flavoured stuff anyways even if it was all fake) and especially please consider a vegan cheese'n'onion. I can personally guarantee a significantly embarrassing number of sales.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Vegans of Melbourne: I'm letting the cat out of the bag. We've tried to keep it our dirty little secret for far too long. Miaow.

There's a little place where things are cheap. Cheap, tasty and vegan. Cheap and plentiful. Cheap and delicious. Really, really cheap.

La Panella in High Street, Preston, has long been the northern vegans' secret stash of cheap-as-chips bakery treats. Doughnuts, pies, sausage rolls, apple slices, adorable little jam tarts in two flavours, coffee scrolls, pull-apart fruit buns ... no animal products, no fuss, no sky high prices.

Buzz and recently 'found' ourselves nearby (read: I planned our route that day specifically so we'd be passing by at lunchtime. I make no excuse
s and feel no shame) and the drizzly, rainy day meant that we ended up eating in the car like deros, or Biggest Loser contestants in their application video. Awesome.

Another word about cheapness (cheapery?). I'm not sure if it's the combination of the state of Preston real estate or La Panella's devotion to Supreme Master TV, or perhaps both, but La Panella's prices remind me
of 1986 when lemonade icypoles cost 10 cents from the tuckshop, or 1993 when you could get a little paper bag full of Mates from the milk bar at the bus stop for 20 cents, or 1996 when I could (pregan) get a packet of sour cream and chives chips and a Freddo Frog for $1 from the canteen. Last year I took in doughnuts to work for my birthday, and fed 25 people on $17. As the Birthday Cake Monitor, I can confirm that the usual birthday cake required was about $35, so a win for vegan eatering there!

So back in the car, Buzz and I probably didn't ne
ed a pie and a doughnut each and a sausage roll to share. Shut up please. But my goodness... I'd never had one of the pies before and was more than taken aback at the TVP recreation of gristle and mince - Buzz so much so that he closely examined a number of little lumps in minute detail before declaring himself satisfied. Sweet!

The pie pastry is a little wholemealy and I have to admit that I don't really remember what a meat (bone/sinew/gristle/innards/bones) pie tastes like, but I know that this one made me think about cold days at the footy which is always a positive sign of pie authenticity. The inside was saucey-gravy-like and quite chewy, and I had to stifle an inner urge to start screaming about white maggots and yelling "Baaaaaaallll!" (I do that at the footy anyway; this was just me accessing my inner bogan).

The sausage roll (that's a sossy roll to you) was lighter coloured inside with a lightly chewy texture enclosed in flaky pastry. Unlike the Fry's version which is more pig-in-blanket, this one is all mushy and incorporated. Devastatingly, we hadn't rationed our tomato sauce properly and were left a little unsauced for this one (the picture above is of Buzz's half. When I said that "we" failed to ration the sauce, I meant that "he" failed to ration the sauce and that "I" subsequently missed out), but I found it lightly spiced with a well textured sausagey part, and fantastic flakiness.

And a choc jam doughnut ... let's face it, doughnuts rock. Boiling hot from the fryer with sweet soft dough, the constant expectation of an explosion of dribbling jam at any moment and a cool, sickly sweet icing top to sink your teeth through with purdy lil' sprinkles on the side, they are the best kind of junk food - there's absolutely nothing redeemable about them at all (c'mon. We've all pretended that pizza is bread and veggies and that chips are potato). This one was everything I remembered about them, including the mild sense of regret coupled with a strange sense of sugar-rush satisfaction at the end.

A number of other bloggers have expressed their heartfelt and humble appreciation of the mighty La Panella: Pip, Lisa, and Cindy and Michael amongst others (I'll just note here that Michael is quite right when he says that Cindy's homemade sossy rolls are better; Buzz believes the same and even rates Cindy's over the meaty version). I strongly suggest that you read these blog as well to convince yourselves that I am not over-exaggerating the wonder of cheap, plentiful, vegan bakery goodness.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Brut: Still Brutally Male? Shame.

Dear Brut,

I write to tell you how deeply disturbed I am by your current television advertising campaign.

Using the tagline "Brut: Still Brutally Male" draws a horrifyingly overt link between masculinity and violence. Given the shameful rates of intimate partner violence, sexual assault and physical assault in Australian society, where the majority of perpetrators are men, this tagline is ill-judged and offensive.

The links between performative 'male' behaviour and explicit violence are well established in popular culture. When a mainstream, high profile brand like Brut effectively states that brutality and masculinity are inextricable, this presents a disturbing message for the men and boys who take on board that to be a man they must be aggressive, and a frightening picture of modern masculinity for the women who must negotiate the threat of intimidation and violence every day.

I strongly suggest that you withdraw this advertisement immediately. You may wish instead to consider publicly acknowledging the poor judgment shown in using this tagline, and sponsoring an anti-violence campaign.

Violence and brutality are always inexcusable, even if it is intended to be a play on words. You should consider why you have chosen to perpetuate it with this appalling tagline.

Yours faithfully,

Miss T

PS seeing as you appear to be an entity without contact details, I have made a complaint to the Advertising Standards Board.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Great Vegan Sleepover Potluck continued, or: Himalaya Bakery, Dayslesford, and the Chocolate Mill, Mt Franklin

After more than two hours of yoga, the thought of the promised tofu scramble at Himalaya Bakery caused me to bolt with shameful haste to the car. Emily had talked it up and I, poor vegan, had never had fuscram before. The Himalaya, in the main street of artsy Daylesford, thoughtfully labels all its yummeries as vegan, gluten free, spelt-y or sweetened without refined sugar. The service was friendly and vegan-aware, although the poor girls were perhaps a bit over-burdened on a busy Sunday morning. I ordered the tofu scramble with mushrooms and a side of tomatoes, and a chocy-oaty biscuit. My soy latte was pretty strong but very welcome - I did not feel like treating my body as a temple after the yoga; more like I needed to artificially kick-start it with caffeine and a nice serve of savoury.

The meals took quite a while to arrive, as we shuffled seats and donated chairs to the neighbours who requested them but then didn't use them and wouldn't give them back ... while poor Craig had to sit alone for lack of seating, and Michael and Cindy were placed within waving distance. This is hardly the Himalaya's fault, but a word to parents with toddlers in a pusher who are chair stealerers - you are not cool. Luckily Mike had the presence of mind to whip an outside chair inside so Craig was able to rejoin the circle.

My fuscram finally arrived, with a little pot of what we confirmed was Nuttelex, long after my coffee was drained. I was ready to use 'hunger is the best sauce' to devour my meal with gusto, but it needed a bit more sauce than that. The fuscram was on the bland side, and I was glad of the acidic tomatoes to liven things up. The tofu was chunky and mostly intact, meaning that the large pieces were untouched by the mushrooms and therefore relatively unflavoured. It was presented on some good but not outstanding bread, and all in, the meal was not what it was cracked up to be (Emily swears it was better before .... but I think Lisa's description of her own homemade version will lead to me asking for her catering services!)

Kristy's choice - onion, baby spinach and tomato on toast with a white-bean (?) spread went down well, and I rather think that the fuscram would have benefitted from some of the bright veggies on her plate.

I was more than ready for my biscuit (when I asked for it to come to the table, what I really meant was: you'd better not have sold the last one in the jar because I paid for it 40 minutes ago). I had originally intended to save it for later and leave all my chocolate-in-my-tummy space free for the later trip to the Chocolate Mill, but the fuscram experience demanded rectification. Oaty, sticky, a little bit chocolatey, and very nice - but not better than I've had at potlucks.

Kristy got a pretty damn good-lookin' pastry - can't say how it tasted, but the pastry looked flaky and the fruit juicy. Cindy and Michael ordered a danish - I'm not sure if it's the same as below - but they gave it rave reviews so it's on my list for next time.

After a trip to the markets - where we saw some honest to god Deliverance style families who stared in a spooky slackjawed toothless way at us - we drove to the Chocolate Mill, some 15 minutes out of Daylesford and again, talked up by Emily as offering a hot chocolate that was more chocolate than liquid.

I was pleased to see that, like the Himalaya, the Chocolate Mill clearly marks what is vegan in both blocks and the individual gourmet pieces. The effect is slightly reduced by large signs on every available surface saying something like "no manners = no service, for adults and children". Sounds like they've had some issues in the past ... but I'm not sure that -worthy signs are the way to go.

I tried a little pair of cherry filled lip-shaped dark chocolates and a little mint leaf (no photos; they just didn't live that long). They were made with quality ingredients and it was great to have a number of vegan options available in the fancy cabinets as well as in the standard dark blocks.

The dark blocks came in different degrees of intensity, which Michael is working his way upwards through over here.

The sun wasn't conducive to hot chocolates, but nonetheless Lidia and I were unable to let it go and shared the dark chocolate-soy version, also helpfully labelled (Bec and Craig didn't have as much luck with the vegan milkshakes; and someone overheard the staff commenting that it was little more than flavoured soy milk. Well make it differently then or don't offer it!).

The hot chocolate came in lovely organic handle-less bowls, encouraging a very wintery cupping to sip. The foam was thick and required satisfactory amounts of stirring before we saw the liquid below. It was made with a proper chocolate base and the amount of thick melted un-syrupy chocolate at the bottom was very gratifying. Lidia and I are very proud about the lack of fighting between us to slurp the bottom.

Satiated and satisfied, we piled back into the cars for the trip back home. Despite the improvements that could be made at Himalaya, and the excellent standards at the Chocolate Mill which are on par with but not exceeding that of Melbourne choclatiers, how marvellous that in regional Victoria there are a number of businesses that happily serve and promote vegan options. There aren't many regional areas that could say this, and I'm sure to return for more.