Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pizzas from the Twilight Zone, or: "Yeah, That Vegan Shit" hits the pizza nail on the pizza head

As I sit here stomach a-burstin', stuffed to the full with pizza, I am bemused and surprised by the weird pizza topping goodness filling me fit to burst.

If Kristy and Cindy hadn't assured me that Yeah, That Vegan Shit's caramelised onion, cheddar and apple pizza was not gag-worthy, it would ha
ve remained a slightly icky blog memory. However, on their recommendation, Buzz and I resolved to dedicate our Friday night to odd pizza topping combinations and duly assembled the following ingredients: balsamic vinegar, capers, sundried tomatoes, garlic, red onion, Granny Smith apples, olive oil, pesto and balsamic vinegar? Sound heinous? So I thought.

So the beauty of this pizza is that the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic and red onions are combined from savoury, pungent individuals and alchemied into a sweet complex whole. The onions are caramelised (helped along by my genius addition of sweet balsamic reduction along with the balsamic vinegar), and the apples - tart, sweet, acidic - when baked take on a restful apple pie neutrality (did that sentence sound like a first year Arts Student's EngLit essay? I know it and you know it, but I stand by my confusing and analogy-heavy sentence) .

On attempt number one we used one and half onions, which once reduced provided only just sufficient, and two green apples - about enough but almost too much. We layered our pizza bases with King Valley Thai Basil Pesto (like Kristy, it was the only one available and at least three tablespoons made it directly into my tummy), and then spread the caramelised garlic and onions on top with a sprinkling of capers (which, let's face it, taste a little like bog scum). On top went thinly sliced apple, and, inspired by Cindy's layered approach, I alternated Cheezly White Cheddar and Nacho Cheese on top and sprinkled the remaining (after encountering my snacking) sundried tomatoes.

So, apple and onion go together like a horse and carriage. Yep they do . The onions are sweet, the apples are not, and on Saturday night we did it all again on pita bread bases.

This was a rockin' pizza - surprising but not strange, sweet but not sickly - and has encouraged me to become a Pizza Topping Superhero. boldly going where none have gone before (except the braverer bloggers).

Friday, May 29, 2009

No reason to be snooty, or: The Snooty Fox was not worth the drive

UPDATE: Buzz has located pictures, lovely thing that he is. I've updated accordingly.

You can blame Buzz for the lack of photograph
s in this post. Lovingly taken to record a truly hideous meal, they have failed to make the transition between camera a la Buzz and laptop a la Buzz, and you will therefore, dear Reader, have to accept my descriptions as gospel truth.

My peach of a grandpa, who will for the purposes of this post be called Grampa T, celebrated his 85th birthday at his favourite restaurant, surrounded by most of the Victorian contingent of his children and grandchildren. Miss T, Miss T J
unior, Mr and Mrs T, Buzz, Uncle Biffs and cousin Zacman were thrilled to help bring in the birthday in style.

Grampa T kindly and generously shouted us to lunch at The Snooty Fox in the Dandenongs. Having had a look at the menu online (where I discovere
d I should order dessert because I knew "I wanted too!"), I emailed The Snooty Fox (hereafter TSF) asking if a vegan meal was possible. A couple of days later I received a friendly call from TSF assuring me that anything could and would be done, and to let them know when I arrived. Brill! This I duly did, and was asked to let my server know too. Check. I basked in their warm efficiency.

We ordered, and Uncle Biffs chose to share the vegan option (which remained a mystery despite our waitress' promise to let us know what it was), and then we waited.

And waited.

Annnnnd ... waited.

For an hour and 55 minutes.

Our entrees (chips; not the most labour intensive dish) came and went, as did two rounds of drinks. Crickets chirped. Tumbleweeds rolled by.
We played noughts and crosses. We asked. We were offered a free round of drinks, which was nice but kinda too late as we were all full of the rounds we'd already bought ourselves.

And then the mains arrived.

I was ready to shrug and forgive at this stage. I'd had fun playing Hangman with Miss T Junior, Buzzman and the Zacdude. But I cannot, will not, nor shall I ever, forgive my meal.

A vegetable stack in a ramekin was served accompanied by some acceptable (and heated) pumpkin. But did the electricity get cut off and the gas blow out? I
can think of no other reason to explain my stone motherless cold lunch.

This was a day that reached a maximum of 10.5C at Mt Dandenong. Everyone else ordered a hot meal, yet Uncle Biffs and I were left with slices of day-old roasted vinegary vegetables which, upon poking with a fork, yielded up some slices of champignon and sundried tomato which had seemingly been purchased from the Safeway deli, all of which was plonked in at least an inch of cold oil. An inch. Swimming.

Below: flashed to show up the full depth of oil - note where the tines of the fork hit the yellow grease.

I left it. And, although I hesitate to mention omni food, Zacman's meal came smothered in the spicy sauce that he specifically refused, and most of the other meals were reported as mediocre at best. We felt that we couldn't complain or we'd be there til Kingdom come.

If I had been told that a vegan meal would be a problem, then I would have happily ordered chips and a side salad and got on with celebrating Grampa T's birthday. And that's what galls me most - the sloppy service and gag-worthy meal took away from his day, and no matter how hard we tried not to make a big deal of it, it left more than a literal sour taste in the mouth.

Would you like yours fried, poached, scrambled or boiled?

My blogging of late, as foreshadowed, has diminshed as the follies of renovation provide me with a second full time job.

But here, with emphases added by me for highlighting-of-disgustingness purposes, is an article from today's Mercury.

Horror. Egg production has little to recommend it over slaughterhouses.

Fine for rotting chickens

A MARGATE egg producer has been fined $3000 for leaving decomposing chicken carcases in cages with live hens.

Glen Peter Balke was found guilty in the Hobart Magistrates Court today of doing an act which caused pain to an animal and failing to provide veterinary treatment to a sick or injured animal.

Balke did not attend today's hearing and his guilt was determined on the basis of a written statement made by Department of Primary Industries agricultural officer Colin Jessup.

Mr Jessup did an audit of Balke's Minchins Rd farm on March 4 last year and removed 18 dead birds from cages that housed live laying hens.

"The birds were easy to detect by the smell of decomposing tissues," Mr Jessup said.

It appeared many of the hens had been dead for up to two weeks and one was being cannibalised.

"The carcases had been trodden on and were pressed deeply into the mesh on the bottom of the cage," Mr Jessup said.

"Some had manure on top of them and I noted eggs laid by the other birds in the cage either on top of or against the decomposing birds."

That indicated poor hygiene standards for egg production and threatened the welfare of the live birds, Mr Jessup said.

The hens were forced to roost and sleep on top of the carcases and would have had difficulty feeding and standing at full height in their cages, he said.

Mr Jessup returned to the farm two weeks later and found another five long-term dead birds with a "strong smell of decomposing flesh" in cages with live hens.

He went to remove another apparently dead hen and found it to be alive, but comatose.

"It was clearly well beyond retrieval and needed to be put down to stop it being walked on and suffering," Mr Jessup said.

Another 27 carcases were found on the floor alongside cages in a shed.

"I was baffled over why they were not removed from the shed for hygiene and smell reasons," Mr Jessup said.

In an interview Balke acknowledged that a hen living on top of a dead bird would have experienced pain or suffering.

He said the dead birds were not removed on a daily basis because of "labour pressures".

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Gelato, Joy of Vegan Desiring, or: Carlton offers up some soy dessert in a cup

I'll just put it out there that I'm not a motorsports fan. When Buzz and I found ourselves cruising down Lygon Street, heart of Melbourne's Italian community, with people spilling out of their pavement restaurants onto the street, wandering across the road and posing to have their photograph taken next to the innumerable Ferraris and Lamborghinis that had parked under streetlights on a Saturday night, I swore and began to think that accidental death by motor vehicle was sure to be understandable in the circumstances.

It wasn't until we passed the Ferrari shop with its horses an
d red flags aflying and afluttering, "Feeling' Hot Hot Hot" pumping out of megabass speakers, that I remembered that it was Grand Prix weekend and not only had I broken a personal rule by driving between Victoria and Alexandra, Rathdowne and Lygon on Saturday night, but that Ferrari had taken it out and all the Ferrari groupies had amassed, magnetised, to their spiritual heartland.

What was it that made me venture into Little Italy in the first place? It sure wasn't the allure of doing blockies with the Commodores. It was, as you may have guessed, food.

Casa del Gelato may not appear from the outside to offer anything particular lip-lickering for vegans. There are, after all, almost as many gelato shops along Lygon as there are pasta places and gentlemen's ponytails. Flourescent lights, sparkling white walls and a vast array of flavours, with a queue three deep - check. Fruit flavours made without lactose - check. But wait! What is that illuminated sign in full view? Does it promise soy based flavour, made without lactose or animal fats, and suitable for vegans? Does it loudly, brightly, prominently placed scream out to me that finally, here may be the sweetie dessert that doesn't force me to order acidic fruity flavours that hurt my tummy? Oh yes! And here's a picture of it!

I ordered four soy based flavours, being baci, hazelnut, pistacchio and coffee, reluctantly leaving chocolate and natural alone. And I had no shame in ordering two thirds of the menu. Each flavour had a lingering soy taste, as you would expect, and each was exactly as promised and bloody bewdiful. Creamy, thick, solid flavours which truly vied with the very best dairy-based flavours I ate pregan in Italy. I could barely pick a favourite, but the pistacchio and hazelnut won a special place in my heart for their clear and fulsome taste. We ate in the mock piazza, a piece of urban planning as naff as it is obvious, and again I showed no shame in slurping out the very bottom of the cup.

Full snaps with both hands to Casa del Gelato. Their soy flavours are well-advertised - with the sign showing that they really understand their market - and they back it up with top notch flavours which are totally lick-worthy. Which I did.

Casa del Gelato
163 Lygon Street, Carlton, Vic
Ph. (03) 9347 0220

Friday, May 15, 2009

Go for Ghent! Donderdag is Go! *(disclaimer: I just can't change the stupendo-enormo type. Sorry for shouting)

Oh my! Those Belgians ... first they give us the monstrous city of Brussels (ask me some time), and then they give us the supreme rockin' awesome wonderfulness of Ghent.

Reproduced below is an article from today's Age where the city of Ghent is introducing Donderdag, which as well as being an amusing word to say - for me, anyway; probably not if you're Flemish - is a day when the city places vegetarian food at the forefront. It might be only for one day a week, and it's clearly not compulsory, but the outstanding success of having a city council not only formally recognise the damage that eating meat does to our bodies and to the planet, but then to risk condemnation and ridicule by taking some pretty far-reaching and positive action, is incredibly cheery.

(Although I must say I'm a bit leary of Miss Karien De Temmermann, a member of the Flanders Ethical Vegetarian Association [EVA], who says that "I never touch meat, unless I'm at my grandmother's and I need to be polite". Buck up, Karien. If your grandmother was polite she wouldn't think it was polite to expect you to eat meat any more than she'd expect you to eat a lovely plate of muddy dirt from the garden. Also, the animals don't think you're very polite. There's no such thing as a part-time-etarian.).

A meat-free revolution to help save the planet

  • Ian Traynor
  • May 15, 2009

This Belgian city wants people to go vegetarian once a week to fight just about everything.

THE Belgian city of Ghent yesterday embarked on a radical experiment that seeks to make every Thursday a day free of meat and of the fish and shellfish for which the city is renowned.

"Donderdag — Veggie Dag" has turned the burghers of Ghent into pioneers in the fight against obesity, global warming, cruelty to animals and against the myth that meat-free eating amounts to a diet of soggy lettuce, a slice of tomato and a foul-tasting bean burger.

The city council says it is the first town in Europe and probably the Western world to try to make the entire place vegetarian for a day every week. The Labour Party councillor pushing the scheme, Tom Balthazar, said: "There's nothing compulsory. We just want to be a city that promotes sustainable and healthy living."

Every restaurant in the city is to guarantee a vegetarian dish on the menu, with some going fully vegetarian every Thursday. From September, the city's schools are to make a meat-free meal the "default" option every Thursday, although parents can insist on meat for their children. At least one hospital wants to join in.

A small, dreamy city of spires, bicycles and canals, prospering since the Middle Ages, Ghent may be on to something. It seems to be tapping into an awareness of the cost to human health and the environment of intensive meat and dairy farming. Other towns in Belgium and the Netherlands are making inquiries; there has even been one from Canada.

"We hope that the university, other institutions, enterprises and other towns will jump on the train," the director of the local branch of Flanders Ethical Vegetarian Association (EVA), Tobias Leenaert, said.

The organisers cite UN data arguing that meat production and consumption are to blame for 18 per cent of greenhouse gases — more than cars. "If everyone in Flanders does not eat meat one day a week, we will save as much CO2 in a year as taking half a million cars off the road," EVA says.

"I never touch meat, unless I'm at my grandmother's and I need to be polite," Karien De Temmermann, a young EVA member, said.

"This is not a plan for everyone to be forced into vegetarianism," said Wim Coenen, a vegan who works as an importer of vegetarian pet food from Italy. "But it will reduce our carbon footprint. The basic premise is to introduce a way of lessening our meat consumption."

The revolution began yesterday with a foodie festival at the vegetable market. Ninety thousand town maps listing the best eateries for the meat-shy were handed out. Recipe booklets and food samples were distributed, with fair trade wine to wash down the nibbles.


Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday Funnies, just for giggles.

This one's from Ain't they pithily great?

Kind of like witch-ducking, thinking that the earth was the centre of the universe, and serfdom - cruel, nonsensical and really, really dumb.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Brilliant! Keep up the pressure!,21985,25442562-661,00.html

BREAKING NEWS: RACING Victoria has suspended jumps racing following the deaths of two horses today at Warrnambool.

Jumps will be suspended until at least next week when the state's peak racing body meets to decide the sport's future.

It is understood the suspension is immediate.

More details to come

Vote Now - Jumps Racing Under Pressure

The appalling start to the jumps racing season has at least attratced some media attention, with both The Age and The Herald Sun online covering the rapidly increasing number of horses who have died so far this season - and that's four horses dead in four days. I have previously blogged about flat racing here and here, and Pip has written "Ponies Aren't Playthings".

Each newspaper is also running a poll and a 'your say' section. I urge you to add your voice to ban jumps racing. The links are below. There are some graphic images so be warned.,21985,25442562-661,00.html

For further information on why jumps racing and flat racing are both barbaric and horrific, go to

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

We're all going on a ... summer holiday, or: what other craziness has been taking up my time

Renovations, actually. The T-House (geddit? Oh bwaha-ha-ha!) is undergoing some serious work as of next Monday, meaning that Miss T and all the little fur-Ts have to vacate. My last few weeks have disappeared in a haze of IKEA and sustainable bamboo floating floors, and this week I have been deconstructing almost four years of accumulated detritus and putting it into boxes (I did find one of my good Wusthof Trident serrated knives that went missing some time ago, so that's a tick on the plus side).

This weekend I'll be moving said boxes and a whole lotta furniture down to the garage, where it will stay for four weeks or so while Sam and I retire to my old bedroom at my folks' house (along with Miss T Junior, so we will be sardiney), and Tom and Bertie get an extended stay at a cattery where they get a three level enclosure and about which I have heard numerous rave reviews (including from my parents who swear that their mighty hunter Robie came back an altogether more affectionate cat).

Although I know they'll hate to be away from home and be even more confused when they get back, I chose to put them there for a solid four weeks so that they can at least settle in a bit, rather than disrupt them in two two-week blocks and upset them all over again. That plan would also mean me packing up house, moving out,
moving in, unpacking house, packing up house, moving out, moving in, and unpacking house again. The answer to that is no. Tom and Bertie will also be pretty close to my work and to Buzz's beehive, so they'll be able to get lots of regular visits (as much for my benefit as theirs I think!).

So also while I'm back in the parental abode, I will have to set up WiFi which is a big issue for lil ol' unintentional-Luddite me. I think it's fair to warn you that posts might be:

  1. Irregular if I can't work out the interwebs;
  2. Rapidly increasing in regularity if I can work out the interwebs and have much more time on my hands due to not running a household and caring for three fur-Ts, and wishing to spend extended periods of time alone in my room a la 1995; or
  3. Increasingly nonsensical as I turn to drink to deal with being back home with the whole fam, in my old room, in a single bed, at the age of very-nearly-almost-29.

That said, naturally I'm very grateful that I'm able to own my own home, renovate it as I see fit, stay rent-free and nearby with the fam, and to bring SammyOne along with me, but nonetheless I do see the sales of YellowTail shooting up sharply over the coming weeks.

So stay tuned. Things may be:
  1. Not coming quite so much;
  2. Coming a lot more; or
  3. Becoming a lot more drunkenly hilarious.

Either way, you should stay tuned.

Friday, May 1, 2009

VitaSoy speaks

I received a response from VitaSoy about the sneaky lanolin-derived Vitamin D3 in the purple Cali-Plus packs. You'll note that they are aresearching alternative sources - so keep reminding them that animal-derived Vitamin D is horrible, cruel, icky and unecessary!

Here is the letter in full:

Dear Rachel,

Thank you for your recent email regarding our Vitasoy Calci Plus.

Vitasoy Australia proudly manufactures all of its products in northern-Victoria from Australian-grown non-genetically modified soy beans. We constantly strive to provide our loyal customers with the highest quality Australian made soymilk, ricemilk and oatmilk, and welcome feedback on how we can improve our products.

Vitamin D has been added as it has been shown to assist with the absorption of calcium, which is important for overall bone health. We add vitamin D3, which is extracted from the lanolin in the wool of healthy and living sheep in New South Wales and Victoria. Where possible, we always try to source ingredients that are suitable for both vegetarians and vegans to ensure we provide products for our customers that choose to follow such a diet. In this case, the poor availability of vitamin D2 would have made it difficult to consistently produce and supply Vitasoy Calci-Plus, leading us to choose this source of vitamin D3.

The remainder of our Vitasoy soymilk range is suitable for both vegetarians and vegans, as is our range of ricemilk and oatmilk.

We do actively listen to our consumers, and constantly review feedback to ensure we are meeting their needs. Please be assured we are researching alternative suppliers for Vitamin D and we hope we may find a suitable source. We trust that you will continue to enjoy the range of Vitasoy products, and hope that we can fulfil your needs into the future.

Thank you for your feedback.



Consumer Enquiry Centre