Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Some fruit and veg from the market. Thankfully, bananas are no longer $15/kilo, so we've been buying them. Unfortunately, it is NOT tomato season, and those guys there are floury and tasteless. The pumpkin was big enough to last us for 2 weeks. The honeydew melon deserves special mention. We got it at the market and were really excited to eat it. The next day, a really hot day, I was at uni and Andy was doing some work in the spare bedroom. He heard a weird 'pop' but couldn't figure out what it was. Later on, he discovered sticky, green juice all over the countertop. It got so hot that the melon exploded! He stuck the cracked open melon in the fridge and we tried to eat it later, but it made my tongue tingle--I think it had started to ferment or something. The counter was sticky for a week!
Andy's latest food obsession: veggie burgers. The basis of these patties is mashed potatoes, and we load them up with heaps of herbs and veggies. These ones had spinach, carrots, garlic, sage, oregano, thyme, and some other stuff. The coating is bread crumbs and parsely. The patties here are pre-frying, though they don't look much different afterwards--just a bit brown. He likes this recipe so much because the burger is tasty, but not overpowering, so it makes a good layer when he stacks it with the 'works'--beetroot, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, bbq sauce, and mustard.
Some blurry breakfast oatmeal--or, in Aussie, porridge. It's chock full o' bananas, dried mixed fruit, cinnamon, brown sugar, nutmeg, shredded coconut, and soymilk, and topped off with a healthy scoop of LSA mix (Linseed, Sunflower, and Almond).
A green curry made especially for me by Andy (he reckons I can't cook curry. jerk.). We didn't have any curry paste, so we made our own out of chillis, coriander seeds, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and some other stuff. You can see some chunks of tofu which were coated in curry powder and fried, then stirred through at the end of cooking. There were also potatoes, green capsicum, carrot, zucchini, and peanut butter (Andy is a creative cook).
Burritos! Chewy tortillas, a spicy mix of kidney beans, onion, garlic, carrot, mushrooms and tomato, creamy avocado sauce, sizzling capsicum strips, and crisp salad. And of course the bbq sauce.
Cabbage casserole. I got the recipe from vegweb, though the final product was nothing like the recipe. It has barley, cabbage, potato, tomato, and a bit of Cajun seasoning, topped with breadcrumbs and baked.
One of my favorite things in my house: A carved wooden angelfish from PNG, sitting on top of a scarf from one of the Op Shops there (about AU$0.20) and surrounded by seashells gathered from various beaches around PNG and New South Wales. I love having it at the dining table, because even though it takes up a bit of the limited space, everytime we eat there (at least twice a day) I'm reminded of the ocean.
A mamey sapote. Whole and...
Cut. On it's own, it tastes exactly like sweet potato. Even the texture was similar to cooked sweet potato: mushy and starchy. The lady who sold it to us said it's good in a fruit salad, or even in a green salad. I liked it on it's own, but the most amazing way to have it is to blend it up with some soy milk into a milkshake. Somehow it magically transforms into a strawberry flavoured treat! So yummy.
And last, but not least....
My little bikey in the early morning hours. I've been waking up at 6 to ride to uni, in the hopes that I can get there before (1) traffic and (2) heat. This puppy cost me $15 at a garage sale. The lock cost as much as the bike. She makes my legs tired as, but it's a good way to stay fit, and cheaper than riding the bus.
Coming soon, another mango post.
Monday, February 19, 2007
(usually sold ground as LSA--Linseed, sunflower, and almond)
(ex. butternut pumpkin, kabocha pumpkin. Only yellow summer squash is called squash)
Therefore, I eat Sultana Bran for breakfast aka brekky
Biscuits or bikkies
Those are the main ones for now. I'll update if I can think of more!
Though, cordial in Australia is this concentrated liquid, rather than a powder. It's also less sweet than American kool aid.
Burger King (ack!)
McDonald's (double ack!)
I'm trying to think of more, but I've been here for long enough now that they are normal, and not something that I think about often. Once in a while someone or something will jog my memory. And Australians make fun of Pommies (British people) who call zucchini "courgette" and eggplant "aubergine".
Thursday, February 15, 2007
So, Andy did the laundry and bought some wine, and I got him a little pressie and made a nice dinner. We ate, we drank a bit of wine, we spent hours laying in bed talking about our time together and our time apart. It was really sweet.
The best part of the evening, if I do say so myself, was the food. Over the weekend Andy said he would like to try cannelloni, since he's never had it. I told him I would make some for him, even though I've only had it once myself. We bought the noodles, and I read the recipe on the side of the box. It called for about 6 different kinds of cheese, cream, and butter. I flipped through a few cookbooks, and came up with a recipe for a mushroom cream sauce that was merged together from a few different recipes in the Vegan Gourmet. I wasn't sure how it would turn out, but the results were amazing. The filling was rich and tasty, and the sauce was creamy and delicious--it was strikingly similar to cream of mushroom soup. I'll definitely be using this recipe again. Andy said it's the perfect thing to cook for a non-vegan. (Unfortunately, my camera is buggered up, so no photos.)
Spinach and Mushroom Cannelloni
4 oz (1/2 block) silken tofu
4 0x firm tofu
1/2 block of frozen spinach (fresh would work too, saute or steam it beforehand)
1 tin of sliced mushrooms (again, fresh would work, just saute them with the spinach)
A handful of dried mushrooms, soaked in about 1 c. water and chopped--reserve the liquid for later
3 T. LSA mixture (That's linseed aka flax, sunflower, and almond. Almonds alone would be good, or walnuts)
Fresh or dried herbs (I used thyme, oregano, and parsley)
1 small onion, finely diced
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T. olive oil or vegan buttah
2 T. flour
~1 1/2 c. soy milk
1 tin of cannellini beans, pureed
1 T. cornflour combined with a little bit of water or soymilk
Salt and pepper to taste
To make the filling, blend the silken tofu and spinach together. Crumble the firm tofu into this mixture. Dice half the thinned mushrooms, and mix into the tofu mix, along with half the diced dried mushrooms, the herbs, flaxseed, and salt and pepper to taste. Combine well. Stuff inside of 12 cannelloni tubes and set aside.
For the sauce, saute the onions and garlic over medium-low heat. When they are soft, add the remaining mushrooms. In a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, mix the flour and about 1/4 c. of the mushroom soaking liquid. Shake till well combined. Add this to the saucepan, along with remaining mushroom soaking liquid, soymilk, and cannellini puree. Stir until it starts to thicken. If you get bored, mix in the cornflour to make the process quicker. Season with salt and pepper.
When the sauce is ready, pour half of it into a small baking dish. Arrange the stuffed cannellonis on top, and then cover with the remaining sauce (I had a bit of sauce left over, which Andy and I ate by the spoonful while the pasta was baking). Bake at 180 C (375-ish F) for 40 minutes. If the cannellonis were pre-cooked before stuffing, bake for only 10 minutes. Top with vegan parmesan or Gomasio (from Vegan Planet, 7 T. toasted sesame seeds and 1 T. sea salt, ground together). Serve with salad and garlic bread.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
I had an easy time in PNG, because 98% of the time Andy or I did the cooking. We were staying in a house at the Mahonia na Dari conservation centre; it had three bedrooms, a bathroom, a laundry room, a big lounge area, and this kitchen.
We went shopping weekly. It meant waking up early and catching a ride on the van that brought the kids to school. After we dropped them off, we would visit the market and then a few grocery stores in Kimbe. The market was the place to get produce. A huge pavilion was set up with row after row of tables underneath it, and people set up shop on blankets outside as well. They sold kau kau (sweet potato) in colours and flavours I didn't even know existed--a bunch of 8 or so big ones for 2 kina (AU$1). There were juicy and flavourful bush tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, pumpkins, coconuts, taro roots, green beans, avocadoes, papayas, pineapples, and various other fruit and vege from time to time. The vast variety of bananas was mind-blowing--from cooking bananas to little ladyfinger bananas to long skinny sweet bananas, and everything in between. The other thing in high diversity and abundance was the greens. It looked like people would just walk through the jungle hacking off whatever they found with their machete (a must-have accessory for any New Guinean), though I'm sure they grew them. Pumpkin greens, spicy pepper green, leaves with small radishy roots on them, greens that tasted like celery, greens with crunchy hollow stems... Our main criteria in picking greens was that the stem wasn't too woody, as we didn't like to waste time at dinner cutting them off.
This is just some of the stuff that we ate regularly. There are 3 green (slightly sour) oranges at the back, next to some kau kau. In front of the oranges are some carrot mangoes that Andy picked (more about that in a sec), then 4 creamy avocadoes, some bush tomatoes, a cashew (picked by us as well), a coconut, and a big papaya. And that was just the stuff we didn't store in the fridge.
The market was clearly the centre of our shopping universe. But, for things like rice, bread, noodles, peanut butter, and dried beans, we had to go to a few different shops in town. Papindos was always the first stop, and then Kimbe Mart (aka K-Mart). Coffee and tea were better from K-Mart, pb & j and vegemite from Papindo--we learned to shop around. Processed food was really expensive, even when you converted from Kina into AUD; think AU$15 for a frozen pizza. So we stuck to the basics, because they were cheaper, yummier, and easier. (The real shock came when we returned to Australia and converted grocery store prices into kina. K10 for a stupid bunch of potatoes, I don't think so!)
Most days we had some version of a stir-fry, usually featuring either green stuff on rice, or kau kau on rice. Sometimes noodles. When we got sick of that we would make pasta or something with dried beans, or a curry or satay. Those require coconut milk, which you could buy dried or make from a coconut.
We borrowed the coconut scraper from the neighbours, and then Andy or I would sit and scrape the white flesh from the coconut shell. The first time I tried it, I was struggling on the porch with a coconut half, and one of the Mahonia gardeners saw me. He asked if he could help, and of course I said yes. I expected him to show me how to do it for a minute and then leave me to it. But, in about 5 minutes, he had scraped both halves clean. I managed a stunned "Tenkyoutru" as he wandered off.
After the flesh was scraped, you had to turn it into milk.
We covered it with a bit of water, and then took a handful and squeeeeezed the milk out of it into another pot. The flesh went back into the wok, and when all the water was gone the process was repeated. Hypothetically, you should do this until the water getting squeezed out is no longer milky looking, but usually we got bored and tired long before then. Either way, the result was delicious creamy coconut milk (good on cereal and in coffee!), plus some shredded coconut that made a yummy addition to oatmeal or cookies.
When we weren't diving (1 and 1/2 days out of every 14), we had free-range of the Mahonia grounds. Being situated in a tropical rainforest meant that fruit trees were abundant. There were two guava trees just outside our house, and the kids were out there every day knocking down the ripe ones with a big stick. Behind the office was a mango tree that Andy watched every day.
It wasn't a variety either of us had seen before. We think it's called a carrot mango. They stay green on the outside even when they're ripe, and they're orange and quite tart on the inside. These ones were probably about 8 or 9 inches long, so they were quite a substantial feast.
Near the mango tree was a cashew tree. The red fruit in the middle of the bottom photo is a cashew apple. At the bottom of each fruit is a cashew nut. You can eat the cashew apple (if you can get to it before the fruit bats do), and the nut if you have the time to process it. It's a very complex job, that. First you soak the nut, because under the shell is a caustic liquid that makes your mouth go numb (don't ask me how I found out...). After it's been soaked, you can open the shell, dry the nut, and then toast it in a frying pan. It's a lot of work, and it makes me appreciate how expensive they are. We didn't have many cashews over there.
Banana plants like this were everywhere, too.
This is what the bungalows look like. The walls are made from woven coconut leaves, and the roofs were thatch. The design was brilliant for the tropics--high roofs and no individual ceilings on the rooms meant lots of ventilation and breeze.
My 22nd birthday happened when we were in New Guinea, and Andy made me a cake. He doesn't like to follow recipes, and he gets, shall we say, creative ideas. This time, his idea was for a tri-colored cake.We didn't have any food colouring, so he used plum jam for the purple section; cocoa powder for the brown section; and lime cordial (liquid kool aid mix) for the green. I'm not sure how he did it, but the texture was more like fudge than cake. In between the layers he put crunchy peanut butter, and then the whole creation was topped with a light dusting of icing sugar. The first day, it tasted really yummy, like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It got denser as the days wore on, however, so by the last day I was ready to be finished with it.
Our friend Sophie was adopted by this dog, Blackie. She was lucky to be looked after by a white person, because locals eat dogs. When Sophie wasn't around in the evenings Blackie would come hang out on our porch and we would give her snacks of peanut butter and left-over stir-fry (she picked out the cabbage but loved the carrots).
Now, onto the mumu. Our boat driver and the other researcher's boat driver decided to host a traditional feast for us. They invited us up to Kilu village, where they lived.
We walked up to the village through the expansive taro gardens, punctuated by the occasional betel nut tree (the really tall, skinny palms). The day before, they had a big fire with stones in it.
When the fire died down they took the white-hot stones and made a little oven out of them.
Into this oven they put an earthenware pot filled with taro, coconut milk, greens, cooking bananas, tomatoes, and ginger. Normally there would be chicken or pork in there as well, but since I'm vegan they cooked the chicken separately. They also served noodles and rice, and the juice of fresh green coconuts to drink.
Before dinner, though, it was time to chew the betel nut, or buai. Andy and Joe were the only two white people to partake; I'd tried it earlier that week and wasn't impressed. This picture shows Andy and Joe trying to spit the red buai spit, but mostly they're getting it on their chins. Blasius, in the foreground, was our boat driver--the bright red lips are a result of buai. This picture shows the fresh green bamboo seat and table that the mumu hosts made for the occasion as well.
After the buai was chewed, we all ate too much. Even the baby had some noodles, from the looks of things.
And the pigs wandered around, too skittish to be patted, but happy to eat up people scraps.
After dinner, we all sat around chatting as the sun went down over the garden.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Over the next year and a half I didn't really think more about my diet. I was happy being a vegetarian--I wasn't seen as too 'out-there', I didn't have to try hard to find food, and I had a fair few veggie friends. All that changed when I went to Australia for study abroad, a country with one of the highest per capita meat consumption rates in the world. I was one of the only vegetarians in my dorm of 250 students. Because the dining hall catered to only 1/10th the students that St. Lawrence did, the veggie pickings were slim. I was always accommodated, but the food was usually (1) disgusting and (2) deep-fried, starchy, or otherwise unhealthy. Many meals were either spinach & ricotta phyllo pastries, or deep fried veggie burgers. Some days it was burgers for both lunch and dinner.
Aside from crap food, the other new experience I had in Australia was being the odd one out. People were constantly questioning me about my reasons, my level of commitment, etc. They made 'jokes' as well--at least once a meal (I'm not exaggerating) someone would say "Do you want some chicken, Tez?" or "That veggie burger would be much better if you just put some bacon on it" or some other hilarious statement. As annoying as it was, I'm grateful for the experience. I learned a few important skills that would come in handy when I went vegan: I became good at articulating my reasons for being vegetarian; I learned to to veg*nize meals at restaurants; I got valuable practice dealing with jackasses; and I learned how to survive when not much food was around (peanut butter toast, and lots of soy milky meusli).
When I got back to St. Lawrence in January, Bob had gone vegan (for a few months, or a year, I don't really know), as had his wife Jenna and my good friend Nicole. While talking to Bob one day, he said simply "You should go vegan". Honestly, the thought had never occurred to me. I think I probably said something annoying like "No, I couldn't possibly live without cheese". After leaving his office, however, I thought more about it. I looked at a few websites, and realised that if I wanted to truly live by my ideals, it was the only logical choice. Anyways, I hated eggs and preferred soy to cow milk, so really, what did I have to lose? Like when I went vegetarian, I don't actually know the date, but I was definitely fully vegan by early Feb. I nearly didn't tell anyone when I made the decision. I figured I would break down and eat pizza or something, and I didn't want people looking at me like a slacker. But I let it slip to Nicole, who of course told Bob and Jenna and our friend Dan, and I had a full blown support network to keep me from slipping.
With so many experienced vegans around me, I quickly learned the ins and outs of ingredient reading. I phased out the wool and leather from my wardrobe, since wool was itchy and uncomfy anyways. It took a bit longer to make the switch to vegan beauty products (I used what my mum bought me), but I eventually did and now I only buy vegan dishsoap, laundry detergent, shampoo, soap, etc.
Contrary to popular belief, I didn't lose weight or feel super healthy immediately after dropping animal products from my life. I blame that on the uni dining hall diet. Most meals were mock meats on white buns with fries or onion rings on the side. When I graduated from uni and started cooking all of my meals, though, I did notice a change. Fresh foods and whole grains make me feel healthy from the inside out.
Now, I'm living in Australia with my non-vegan boyfriend (which has presented its own occasional challenges), still loving my lifestyle. Over the course of the past two years, my convictions have grown even stronger. When I first went vegan, I had a hard time explaining it to people. I felt attacked if they asked, and couldn't verbalize what I was thinking. Now I don't have such a hard time. Veganism, for me, isn't just a diet, but an ethical lifestyle. I'm fundamentally opposed to systems of capitalism and exploitation. Rather than hypocritically analysing the situation while munching on chicken nuggets, I've chosen to live by my principles. Just like I avoid WalMart, I try not to consume animal products (as food, clothes, products, etc.). Veganism is the logical culmination of my political and ethical beliefs. My only regret is that I didn't become vegan sooner.
Monday, February 05, 2007
When I was in Papua New Guinea for two months, we lived in the JCU house at the Mahonia na Dari conservation centre. This is also the housing for the resident JCU researcher. For 5 weeks Andy and I shared the house with Naomi and her assistant, Joe. Both are devout christians, a fact that they made known early, by leaving bibles and other religious books around the house. Both Andy and I, however, try to steer clear of religion as much as possible. Discussions about the subject (luckily) never came up between us, except for a few times when Joe talked about his plan to move to the Solomon Islands as a missionary--which he did as soon as he left PNG.
There were a few things about both Naomi and Joe that made me wonder--about their commitment to christianity, and about the religion in general. First of all, there was a tine, quite cute, black mouse living with us in the house. Naomi saw him on her first day and came out screeching about the "rat" in the laundry room. She wanted it dead, so Joe set about baiting some traps. I thought it was completely unnecessary. What's the harm in the little guy being there, except for a few little poops on the counter? Plus, being so close to the jungle in a house that had woven palm fronds for walls, I knew it would be about two days before a new one moved in. Andy snapped the trap and chucked out the bait a few times (isn't he wonderful??), and luckily the little rodent didn't fall for their tricks. He still had the run of the house when we all left, so Andy and I left a few Fruit Loops on the floor for him just before we left for the airport.
A deep red feather star perched atop a Porites coral.
Now, onto Joe. Although in general a nice guy, he is an avid spearfisherman. Instead of a speargun, he had a metal dart that he shot from a really big rubber band. He would brag about how he shot big trevallies, only to have them keep swimming despite the blow. The bragging was mostly about how he retrieved his spear from the fish, and then watched it swim away in a daze.
A school of trevally on Joel's Shoals in Kimbe Bay.
There was one night when Joe couldn't sleep, and he could hear the mouse running through the kitchen cupboards. He ended up going crazy trying to shoot it with his makeshift speargun. Joe knew that I'm vegan, and knew that it was an ethical lifestyle choicee rather than some fad diet. But still, he gave a detailed play-by-play of this crazy mouse chase. After I told him I don't mind sharing the house and a bit of rice with the little guy, he kind of laid off, but it took a while.
So, how is it that two strict adherents of a religion that preaches love and compassion can have such utter disregard for non-human life? I understand that christians are just like anyone else in that they don't automatically make connections between the food on their plate, and cruelty and exploitation. But, to go out of their way to kill animals, either for sport or fear (of a tiny litte mouse!) seems antithetical to the bible, in my opinion. And, possibly the most egregious offense in my mind, Naomi's laughter at the death of her study fish--fish that she is spending three years researching and getting to know and understand--seems just plain un-christian. How do they reconcile their belief in the teachings of Jesus with this aspect of their lives?
Saturday, February 03, 2007
This morning we had flax-seed pancakes for breakfast. Since there are no maple trees in this country, maple syrup is freakin' expensive, so we don't buy it (my mom is sending some in her next package, though, and it's homemade by my auntie). A very aussie thing to do, however, is to sprinkle sugar on the pancakes, and then squeeze some lemon juice over it. I was skeptical the first time I tried it, but it's actually quite good on plain pancakes (banana pancakes are another story).
At the market last week we found these green lemons for super cheap so we grabbed them. They taste very similar, but lack that bitterness that yellow lemons have--almost like a very tart lemonade flavor. When mixed with a bit of raw sugar, they made a delicious pancake topping. There were also a few banana pancakes in the batch, and we smothered those in peanut butter. I <3 breakfast!
Since we had such a big brekky, we weren't too hungry for lunch, so we just had some tropical fruit. Andy and I shared a pineapple, two mangos, and two abius.
The mangos are a different variety than the ones I've mentioned here before; they are a special Thai species with a tiny seed and very very sweet flesh.
The abiu are yellow on the outside and green-ish at the bottom, and you cut them open and scoop out the insides with a spoon. They are usually a bit whiter than this (I think it oxidised from being in the fridge too long) and they have a very delicate, sweet flavour. I've heard them described as tasting like caramel, but I don't really taste that when I eat them.
We got three little white eggplants from the market last week as well. They are milder than their purple cousins, and turn brown when they're cooked. This week we put them in a lemon risotto (based loosely on the recipe from Vegan Planet, though with heaps more veggies, and lemon thyme as well as lemon juice), and in pasta sauce.
I haven't been posting in the past week because it has been pouring buckets--it's seriously rained non-stop since last Saturday. I came to check my email on Thursday and I had to ford a stream to get to the computer lab on campus. Unfortunately, the markets will probably be cancelled this week because of all this rain, and I'll have to eat stupid grocery store veggies and fruit.
If I ever find those other pictures, I'll upload them. From memory, there were pictures of a whole, uncut abiu, our tray of Thai mangos, some of the aforementioned pasta sauce, and I don't know what else. Don't get your hopes up or anything, though, because uni networks are lame.