Thursday, March 29, 2007

Vegan Voice

A few days ago I received a copy of Vegan Voice, an Aussie vegan magazine, in the post. It wasn’t a surprise or anything; I’d ordered it earlier in the week and had a few personal emails back and forth with the editor. I would have read it all in one go, but there was just too much—it ended up lasting me 3 evenings, in which I did nothing between dinner and bed but read this. It’s that good.

I am so glad I found out about this magazine. I’ve read VegNews, but knowing all the advertisers and products mentioned are based in the US was a bit disheartening. I have been craving a good vegan network here, and I found a bit of one in this mag. It’s not as visually impressive as some magazines, because it’s in black and white—but really, who needs colour when the focus is largely on the articles? Because that is where the focus lies. As Andy said when he flipped through, “it’s very text-heavy”. That is not to say that there were no photos—there were actually quite a few, especially some gorgeous photos of animals.

The March-May issue seemed to be centred on the theme of climate change, and many articles and news briefs focused on the environmental repercussions of a meat-centred diet. But, it wasn’t pushing veganism solely for its environmental benefits; rather, most (if not all) pieces highlighted the ethical and health implications as well. There were a few interviews with activists, a few book and movie reviews, and some news pieces about animal rights and veganism, among heaps of other things.

I would recommend a subscription to this magazine (very cheap, especially considering what you get, and compared with some other magazines!) even to people outside of Australia. I think it’s good to keep an eye on what is going on in terms of animal rights globally, as well as just in the US. But definitely, if you’re in Australia, pick this up.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Charlotte's Web

Last night I came home from uni in a bit of a cranky mood. Instead of trying to do more work in the evening, Andy and I decided to watch some TV shows or maybe a movie on his laptop. We watched an episode of The Office, the original BBC version and not the crappy American knock-off. That is a funny show. I was still a bit of a cranky-pants, so I got to make all the decisions about what to watch. It was getting a bit late, so I figured we would stick to TV shows rather than movies, but then I saw Charlotte's Web. It was only 90 minutes, and when I skipped ahead to see the quality, it was a scene where an adorable little pig is talking with some geese. I decided right then that we were watching it.

What a good movie. I've read the book ages ago, and I've seen the animated film many times (as recently as last year), so it's not like I didn't know the plot. But every time I see it I'm surprised at the vegan-ness of the message. The very first scene involves Fern (Dakota Fanning) telling her father that there is no difference between her and the pig--"The pig couldn't help being born small, could it? If I had been small at birth, would you have killed me"? I had tears in my eyes from the start (okay, mostly because I was in that kind of mood, but it was really good)--Fern loves her porcine friend and will do anything for him. But, unfortunately, her mum and dad get in the way of things. Her mum goes so far as to consult a doctor, finding it unhealthy for Fern to spend so much time in a barn and--*gasp*--to believe that animals can actually talk to her.

I think the message that should be retrieved from this movie is an important one: all animals are worthwhile for their own sake. Unfortunately, it takes a pig that can garner media attention for the Zuckerman farm to see this. But the beautiful relationships between Fern and Wilbur, between Wilbur and Charlotte, and between the rest of the animals in the barn were moving. Even Templeton, "the rat", is lovable for his seeming selfishness. The relationships really seemed to highlight the fact that all animals are beautiful, complex creatures--even an ugly spider.

So, although it was simplistic in its critique of animal exploitation, I thought Charlotte's Web was freakin' awesome. Of course it's simplistic--it's based very closely on a children's book. The movie was beautifully done, and I think that young and old alike will really appreciate it. Do yourself a favour--if you haven't seen it yet, watch it. If nothing else, it's a nice trip down memory lane.

Monday, March 26, 2007

vegan relationships

As many of you know, I am in a mixed relationship—that’s right, Andy is an omnivore. I know this is quite common these days, but it is still a hotly debated issue. Hell, I’m still sometimes torn over dating someone who can consume animal products. On the one hand, I haven’t always been veg, and not everyone progresses at the same rate. On the other, how is he okay with taking part in so much cruelty and exploitation?!

First, a bit of background on my situation. I met Andy nearly 3 years ago, when I was a mere vegetarian. We lived on college together (that’s Aussie for “in the dorms”), so what we ate was never really an issue—I got the veggie meal from the dining hall line, and he didn’t. When we went out to eat, we checked the menu before going to a restaurant to make sure there was at least one veggie option. Basically, it was not a big deal. Though I was vaguely aware of the ethical implications of not eating meat, it wasn’t something that had clicked for me yet (obviously, I was still eating dairy and eggs) and so I wasn’t bothered by his diet.

After a semester together, I went back to the US and he stayed in Australia. I had 18 months to finish my degree and whatnot, and then I was planning on coming back for grad school. (We didn’t plan on a long-distance relationship, it just sort of happened.) About 2 months after I got home, though, I went vegan. I think I told Andy about it, but it was never discussed heavily.

Fast-forward to last May—the first night I was back, when discussing what to have for dinner (and breakfast the next morning, and the rest of our meals), it really hit Andy that I am vegan. He realised how serious I was about animal rights and how committed I was to a cruelty-free lifestyle. It also really hit me that I was going to be living with an omnivore. I realised that, though Andy is compassionate and does care, he was not willing to commit to a vegan life.

Luckily, there was never much question of cooking separate meals or anything like that. No WAY was I going to be touching meat for him, and he didn’t expect that. He was willing to eat vegan meals so that we could eat together (isn’t he wonderful?). The only non-vegan items were milk in his tea and cereal, and sometimes poached eggs for brekky. And, whatever meaty dishes were offered when we went out to eat (which is practically never) or to a friend/family member’s house.

I must admit, it bothers me to no end that he is still not vegan. He’s read some of the books I have, he’s watched most of Earthlings, and he knows all of the reasons for a plant-based diet. He’s transitioned slowly to soy milk in his cereal, and now his tea as well, but he just “isn’t willing to give up his breakfast”. I try not to push—nothing is worse than a pushy vegan. I try to be patient and encourage him when he does make shifts. I try not to get pissy when he eats meat (imagine how hard this was at xmas, with meat at every meal). I try to convince myself that I am okay with his diet. I think that’s the best thing to do. He may never come around, but I will always hold out hope that, maybe, he’ll become vegan someday. And I always appreciate the changes that he’s made to accommodate me.

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I hadn’t been partnered up when I went vegan. Would I limit myself to dating other veg*ns? Realistically, I don’t think it would even be possible. Plus, it would probably close doors on some very worthwhile relationships. Sure, dating a vegan would be easier, but then, what relationship is easy?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Mango Sorbet

I had some people over for dinner the other night. Andy and I made a green curry, and some mango sorbet from our frozen stocks. It. was. so. freakin. good. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures (the camera is still stupid, and I haven't gotten around to getting a new one yet), but this is what I did:

About 3 or 4 cups of mango, frozen. Cut it into blocks (with my handy Forever Sharp Knife that can cut through frozen items, tin cans, and even a hammer! Yes, that's right, a hammer! Order now and receive a free forever sharp paring knife...) and chuck it into a chopper or food processor and get it so it's roughly chopped. Then, I whipped it up with one block of silken dessert tofu (almond flavoured) and a leetle bit of soy milk. It could have been eaten on the spot, but I stuck it back in the freezer for about 4 hours and it was perfect. PERFECT! (However, the little bit that was leftover and sat in the freezer for 24 hours was hard as a brick, so let it sit out for a while if you make it too far ahead.)

Things I might do differently in the future: orange juice instead of soy milk; whip in some banana as well; use coconut milk instead of soy milk; add some shredded coconut to the mix. I think this is something we'll be playing around with for the next few months, especially considering the vast quantities of mango we currently have in the freezer.

Monday, March 12, 2007

International Women's Day

Thursday* was International Women's Day. Townsville had a number of different events marking the occasion, most celebrating the theme set down from on high by the Queensland government--Women at Work: Know your rights, it's your future. The only event that I attended was the march and rally organised by the Women's Centre (where I'm a volunteer) at the beach/city centre. There were speakers (most speaking about various forms of work: unpaid labour, an older woman talked about how things have gotten better but are still not great, a union representative talked about industrial relations), singers, Aboriginal dancers, and poetry. Somehow, despite my stagefright, they managed to convince me to speak at the rally. This is what I said:

I was born in 1984. The major struggles for women’s rights were over by then, either already won or forgotten by the public. I grew up in a household where both of my parents worked. There was never a doubt in my mind that women should have the exact same rights as men.

In many senses, my generation has been lucky. We can take the hard-won equalities of earlier generations for granted. But because of that, many of us suffer from a bad case of apathy. We didn’t have to struggle for things like reproductive rights or the option to work outside the home, so we don’t really appreciate how valuable they are.

These days, it seems like feminism is a dirty word—it’s the F word that makes people uncomfortable. I don’t want to be too negative; there are plenty of young women who do care, even if they don’t identify as feminists. But what I’m suggesting is that we try to remove the stigma that surrounds the F word. Because feminism is far from done.

We live in a country that pays women 83.5 percent of what males earn. We live in a world that ignores and sometimes condones violence. This happens in homes, on the streets, and between countries, and women and children are too often the victims. We live in a world where people are treated as second-class citizens if they aren’t the right skin colour, sexuality or gender, or if they don’t have enough money. We live in a world where we are judged based on our appearance, and where women are continually treated as objects. We live in a world where millions go hungry every day. This isn’t just some faraway problem of ‘over there’, but right here in Australia, in Townsville even.

So today, we’re celebrating the wonderful work that women are capable of. But we should also look ahead at the work that is in front of us. We need to stand together and demand a better deal, without worrying if people think we’re crazy feminists.

It isn’t radical to expect and end to gender violence, racism, and poverty. It isn’t out of line to expect to be valued as human beings rather than sex objects, or equal opportunities for everyone, no matter what. It isn’t shameful to think that women’s work inside the home should be recognized and appreciated.

All these issues are inseparable—racism, sexism, violence, poverty—to fix one, we really need to look at them as a whole. Because really, women’s rights are human rights.

To this list of isms, I would have liked to add speciesism, but I just wasn't willing to stand in front of a crowd of meat-lovers and bring that in. Call me weak, it's probably appropriate, but I don't think most people are ready to make the connection with various forms of human oppression and animal exploitation. But, I do think they are completely, 100% intertwined. Maybe next time I'll go there.

*I meant to post this on Friday morning, but, in a rush to leave the house, I left my keys at home. I couldn't get into my office to use my computer, and since I had a workshop for half the day I didn't bother getting someone to unlock it. I am an idiot sometimes.


In other exciting news, today when I was walking from my office to the library, I saw a sticker on the bridge railing that said "Meat is Murder". It brightened my day, knowing that there are other people who care on the same campus as me!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The end of mango season

It's true, mango season is nearly over. Our mango man at the market said he picked the last batch off the trees 3 weeks ago, and he was hoping to have enough to last him till tomorrow at the markets. Other varieties have been a bit more prevalent, though I'm not convinced that they are as nice. Some are good, others are okay, relatively speaking, but regardless: they are all mangos, so they are all delicious.

I'll try not to repeat what I said about mangos here and here, which should be easy since we haven't bought Bowen or R2E2 mangos in a while.

This is a new variety of mango, and the mango man said they don't even have a name yet. Andy and I called them Piangos, because near the seed they taste like pineapple, and near the skin they taste like mango. The size was similar to the R2E2, though not quite as big as my head, and these were handsdown the sweetest, juiciest mangos I've ever eaten. The juice dripped all down our faces and arms, and the counter was covered with sticky sweet orange drips. This mango is one that I will be seeking out again next mango season.

This is the ngon-tan, a Thai variety with a small seed and non-stringy flesh. Yummy, but small and mild in flavour. Good, but not my favourite.

Dragon's tooth mango, similar to ngon-tan but a slightly different flavour.

Palmer mango, all frosty from the fridge. Better overripe rather than underripe.

Keat mangos. These guys were hard to tell if they were ripe or not, and they kept going half ripe-half underripe. We let some ripen fully, and then they were half-rotten. The same thing happened with the Palmers. Methinks that's why they aren't really for sale in stores. Bowen's are by far the most popular here (also called Kensington Pride), probably followed by R2E2 (flavourless in comparison), though I think the Piangos are where it's at. If you could buy stock in mangos, and if I had any money right now, I would invest heavily.

I'm very, very sad that tomorrow is likely our last day to buy fresh mangos at the market. After that, we'll have to survive on the hundreds of kilos worth we have in the freezer. Should last us about 3 weeks...