Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Peter Singer and human battery cages

I listen to the ABC news on the radio every night (I don't have a TV). Usually we time dinner so we're eating when the headlines come on. Monday night I tuned in a bit early, because Peter Singer was the feature of the show Talking Heads. I have only just started reading a book by Singer (In Defense of the Animals: the Second Wave which came out in 2006), and I know he's a slightly controversial figure, but it was interesting to hear him speak about his life and his philosophies. He also showed off his cooking skills. The transcript of the interview is here, and if you scroll all the way to the bottom, you can find his recipe for dahl. Andy made it last night, with a few minor adjustments (no bay leaves, extra ginger, cumin, cloves, etc.). The camera batteries died, so I didn't get to take a photo, but it looked like dahl, so it's not that exciting. But it was tasty!

So, blog readers, what are your thoughts on Peter Singer?


Now, on to the human battery cages. Vegetation discusses them, so I'm piggy-backing off her post, but I got really excited when I looked through the website. I shouldn't get ahead of myself, though. A human-sized battery cage is travelling around Australia, setting up in public places, and providing information about battery eggs. They are also distributing a petition which aims to stop the use of battery cages in Australia.

I looked through the tour dates, and although Townsville isn't specifically mentioned, they are coming to the "North Queensland Coast" in July. Surely they're coming to Tville, right? They are asking for volunteers in each city to sit in the cages for a few hours to demonstrate how cramped they really are. Volunteers can also collect signatures, or even house some of the people touring while they're in town. I don't have space for anyone at my house, but I've signed up to sit in the cage. I'm really excited about this. In a nerdy way. I hope that the message hits home for a lot of people, but I'm also hoping to meet some other Australian vegans, in person.

Anyways, check out their site, and if you're in Australia, consider helping out in any way you can. And I'll update this issue if they do come to Tville, with pictures and stuff.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Long Weekend

I don't know why, but it seems like this weekend lasted for about a month.

Friday, Andy and I spent half the day at uni. We came home and made some sandwiches for lunch, and then worked from the comfort of our spare room/office. I spent the afternoon in the beanbag, reading the new issue of Vegan Voice magazine (yay!), while Andy sat in front of his laptop writing and re-writing his thesis. We had half a pineapple in the fridge, as well as a grapefruit and some kiwis that needed using. One of my favourite things about Townsville is the cheap, abundant, colourful produce you can get:

So Vegan Voice--this issue seemed to centre on vegan children and families. I don't have children, and I absolutely never intend to have them, but it was really good to see that there are some ethical adults out there who are raising sensitive vegan kids. In addition to the vegan families, there are a bunch of dessert recipes I'll be making soon (apple cake, pineapple fruit cake, tropical carrot cake, etc), some book reviews, a few health columns, and lots of news recaps. Once again, I highly recommend checking this magazine out.

For dinner, we mixed the leftover beet green/rocket pesto from Andy's birthday into twice-baked potatoes. The filling is just the baked potato insides plus a bit of milk, then pesto and a tin of borlotti beans. Not pictured is the sauce I made to go on top--avocado and half a tin of tomato soup (leftover from something else), plus parsely and heaps of pepper. The sauce was weird but good, though avocado has better uses. On the side was simple sauteed veggies.

Saturday I had to wake up early to go help out at Sorry Day. Townsville's Sorry Day events were held at a park on the ocean, and there were a few tables and entertainment and food and stuff. I was helping out at the Indigenous Human Rights Group table, where we were selling shirts, raffle tickets, and wrist bands to raise money for some actions around Sgt. Chris Hurley's trial in June. He is the first police officer ever to be charged for an Aboriginal death in custody. His trial is in Townsville in June. The first police officer EVER.

After 6 hours at the park (watching amazing dancers, kids running around, and just a general good feeling of community), I was pretty tired. We went shopping and got some mushrooms for half-price, so Andy made stuffed mushrooms for dinner. I guess I reminded him how much he likes them, so he made them once again. We also made spring rolls, filled with rice vermicelli (I like bean threads better), baby wombok, carrots, capsicums, and thai basil. We baked them, so they got a little crispy without all the fat.

Sunday morning we went to the markets, as per usual, and then found out that a new organic food store has opened. It's called BlueWater Organics, and most of their produce is from their own property which has been certified organic for 10 years. They also have bulk bins (the only place in Townsville, as far as I know)! It's a bit pricey, especially on certain items, but the woman in charge is going to see about getting some wheat gluten and nut. yeast in for me. We got some quinoa, and a date/coconut roll.

For dinner, Andy mixed together a few leftovers (fried rice, sauteed veggies and spring roll filling) with some soy sauce and garlic, and stuffed it into tiny pumpkins. We toasted the pumpkin seeds for a snack, but they didn't come out the way I remember. How do you all roast your pumpkin seeds?? The little stuffed pumpkins were served with tofu skewers--tofu marinated in chilli/ginger/lime/soy and then baked, plus mushrooms, green and red capsicum, and cherry tomatoes (all tomatoes were 50 cents at Woolie's this weekend!).

So, there was a nice long post to describe my looooong weekend.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Birthday Feast

Andy's birthday was yesterday. I had to tutor for 4 hours in the earlier part of the day, and Andy ended up staying at uni till after 5. (His honours thesis is due in a week and a half, so I think there will be a few long days coming up.) I wanted to have a nice dinner for him, but didn't want to spend all night cooking and cleaning, so I decided to make something simple.

First, I made some simple stuffed mushrooms. Andy loves mushrooms, but we rarely buy them fresh ($9 a kilo... yeah). So on the way home I stopped at the shop and picked up some flat mushrooms. I pulled out the stems and chopped them up finely. I sauteed them with two cloves of garlic, one tomato minced up, and some italian herbs. To that, I added bread crumbs (made from stale crusts) and veggie stock, and heaps of black pepper. Just enough veggie stock to make the bread soggy and stick together. Then I scraped out the gills from the mushroom caps and filled them with the stuffing. I made these a few hours ahead, and left them sitting in the griller/broiler (not turned on) until I was ready to heat them.

The mushrooms went along with some gnocchi (store bought) covered in pesto. The gnocchi is great because you just boil water and they take less than 2 minutes to cook. The pesto was pre-made on Saturday. We bought a bunch of beets which were starting to go wilty, as well as a small bunch of rocket (a spicy herb). These were chopped up in the mini-chopper and combined with some garlic, olive oil, and pre-ground LSA (linseed aka flax, sunflower seeds, and almonds).

I also stopped at the bottle shop to buy some wine on the way home.

Neither Andy nor I are wine connoisseurs, but we both seem to like Semillon Sauvignon Blanc. This is Yellowtail, a vegan Australian wine that is pretty widely available in the US.

Dessert was tricky, since Andy insisted that he didn't want a cake. I looked through some cookbooks, and settled on the Coconut Mango Bread Pudding from Vegan Planet. I had never eaten bread pudding, so I didn't know what to expect, but we have a fuckton of frozen mango so I thought it would be good.

It was really simple to prepare--cut up bread, pour over coconut milk. Blend together more coconut milk, brown sugar, vanilla, mango and soft tofu. Pour over coconutty bread, and bake. It came out of the oven 10 minutes before Andy got home, so it was the perfect temperature for him to eat straight out of the pan as soon as he walked in the door.

We shared a bowl after dinner, topped with tofu-whipped-cream (also from Vegan Planet) and some raspberry coconut sauce I made last weekend as a pancake topping.

I gotta say, I wasn't super pleased with the whipped cream recipe. I may have done it wrong, but it just didn't seem to come out right. It was more the texture of pouring cream, but it still tasted nice.

Andy gave himself the gift of an evening off from working, so we watched a few episodes of Grey's Anatomy. Presents and birthday phone calls made a nice end to a quiet night.

Happy 24th, Andy!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Killer Kowalsky and Leo Tolstoy

I've started field work for my PhD. I can't technically start researching yet, since I don't have ethics approval, but I am attending meetings of the Townsville Indigenous Human Rights Group every Tuesday evening to meet people, get an idea of what sort of activism is going on, and that sort of thing. The meeting goes from 5:30 to 6:30, so this week I made some soup before I went so it just needed to be heated for dinner.

We got some beetroot marked down at the grocery store on Saturday (I used the leaves for pesto, which I will post about soon), so I decided to combine two recipes from the book Famous Vegetarians and their favourite recipes. It's a cool book that I got for xmas two years ago. It gives a few pages of bio on each person, and then a few recipes. I haven't actually tried any of the recipes yet, but I was definitely pleased with the results.

For this soup, I combined Leo Tolstoy's recipe for "Russian Beetroot Soup" with Killer Kowalski's recipe for "Vegetarian Vegetable Borscht". Basically, beets and potatoes chopped in match sticks. Carrot sliced. Add 6 cups of veggie stock, bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Saute some onions and mushrooms, and mix those in to the soup along with half a tin of tomato soup, and then stir in juice from half a lemon.

The results are colourful and delicious. The only drawback to this soup is that it is messy! My chopping board is stained pink, I went to my meeting with red hands, and the tupperware containing the leftovers managed to leak all over my backpack the next day! But, I think, it was well worth it.

I'm looking forward to testing out some recipes from other famous vegetarians. Maybe I'll try one of Ghandi's favourite foods, or maybe Jesus Christ's. Yep, that's right, Jesus Christ is in this book. There is also an appendix at the back explaining why Hitler was not a vegetarian. And, though most recipes are originally vegetarian, the author has veganised them, or offered suggestions on how to make them vegan. Pick this book up!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

3 Dinners

How many meals can I make from one pot? Lots of broccoli, half an eggplant, some carrots, onions and garlic, sauteed and then mixed with condensed tomato soup, BBQ sauce, and spices. On Friday night, It served as the base for burritos. This picture is muy blurry, but there were grilled strips of red capsicum and zucchini, the tomato-veggie mix, guacamole, and some chopped cucumber and tomato.

Saturday night the leftover veggies were mixed with some lentils. I added a bit of extra tomato paste, and some more BBQ sauce, and served it over 4-grain buns. Voila--sloppy joes! The presentation is courtesy of Andy. Green coral lettuce makes a plate look really pretty!

Last night (Monday) we were stumped for dinner. We had two bunches of asparagus that we wanted to use, and we felt like something from the oven, to warm the house up. So we mixed the leftover sloppy joe filling with a tin of refried beans, and layered it between tortillas. I roasted the asparagus with olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon-myrtle. We also baked up some potato wedges and a bit of garlic bread (loaded with parsley) which we had frozen a few weeks ago.
Not pictured is the dipping sauce I made for the asparagus. A bit of soy mayo, marked down to $1.50 at Cole's the other day (from $5!), mixed with lemon-myrtle, Tasmanian pepper leaf, a squeeze of lemon juice and some salt and pepper. It was really nice!

Friday, May 18, 2007


It's getting cold. I have well and truly acclimatised to tropical summers. I love warmth. On the bright side, cooler weather means more and cheaper variety at both the markets and the grocery store. Last week broccoli was on special for $2 a kilo, and bunches of broccolini were marked down to 50 cents. We've been having lots of broccoli this week.

Last night, Andy and I were both feeling a bit rundown--not quite sick, but certainly not healthy. Earlier in the week I saw a recipe for Barley and Cannelini bean soup with Broccoli and Tomatoes, from The Vegan Gourmet cookbook. I figured soup would be a good way to warm us up from the inside and get us back to healthy. I mostly followed the recipe, with a few changes. I didn't have dried cannelini beans, so I used one tin of borlottis and one (small) tin of butter beans. I added a bit of zucchini and red capsicum, and used parsley and rosemary instead of oregano. The results were hearty and delicious:

Broccoli, barley, butter beans, borlotti beans, and broth. That's a lotta bees, yo. The recipe made so much, too! I have some for lunch today, plus we have enough for another small meal for the two of us. Maybe next time I'll cut the recipe in half, or squeeze some in to my teeny freezer. We served the soup with whole grain toast and lemon-ginger tea, to complete the warming effect.

By the end of dinner, I didn't notice the cold!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Saturday we found some TVP on special at Woolie's, so we grabbed it. (It was still $2 for a small-ish box, which is pretty dear, but Andy wanted to try it.) I tried to think of the best use for TVP crumbles, where it would add the right kind of texture without being creepy or overbearing. I thought about pasta sauce, or the yummy TVP + vegannaise Chick'n Salads I used to make at home, when the idea hit me--Chilli!

I flipped through Vegan Planet for inspiration, since Robin Robertson has a pretty substantial chilli section in there, and I found a few, but I knew that the Back Yard Barbecue Chilli was the perfect recipe. Andy <3's BBQ sauce, this recipe was easy and looked flavourful. I mostly followed the recipe, except that I used a few more spices, and I added 1 carrot and a handful of raisins. We served it over rice, topped with Green Onions and Parsley:

It was pretty good--the brown sugar in the recipe complements the spiciness perfectly. If we'd had a ripe avocado, I would have put that on top to add a creamy element, but alas, they were all rock-hard.

I found out dinner that the TVP contains milk, a hidden ingredient in the 'flavours'. So Aussie vegans, don't buy Sanitarium brand TVP. Jerks.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Guilty Pleasures

Friday night. After dinner, we had a bowl of chocolate and vanilla ice cream, topped with a hot coconut-milky-banana-mango concoction. It melted the ice cream just a little and was sooo good.

After dessert, we watched a few episodes of Grey's Anatomy. This show is like crack. I got totally addicted in my last semester of uni. The drama just pulls you in! After two episodes Andy was a bit tired of it, but the next day he wanted more.

If you have never seen the show, be warned--it will suck you in, too.

Friday, May 11, 2007


I've had a pretty hectic few days. I started tutoring on Wednesday, but tutoring here is not the one-on-one help that it is in the US. It's more like running a small class. Most subjects here have a lecture for 1 or 2 hours, with 50-300 students all taking notes as they are talked at. Then they get together in tutorials, which are groups of 5 to 20 students and their is discussion, or activities, or whatever. I got hired for a casual tutoring job, for a health science research methods subject. After 9 weeks of quantitative methods, I get to tell them about qualitative methods for 3 weeks. I have four tutorial sessions, with varying disciplines (speech pathology, occupational therapy, and physiotherapy) and varying numbers of students. Most of them are about 3 years younger than me--but some are probably my same age.

In addition to the health science stuff, on Wednesday I filled in for the Intro to Soc tutor, and I'll be doing that for at least another week (probably for the rest of the semester). So Wednesday, I tutored for two hours in the morning, did a bit of work, tutored in the afternoon, then had to go to a writing program that all international students are required to attend. It's mostly teaching you how to write in a non-native language--but English is my first language, so it's a bit of a waste of time. Thursday I tutored, then had a department seminar that lasted FOREVER. And I had to ride my bike home afterwards. I've been tired.

I was really happy when I came home to the smell of cooking yesterday. Andy was planning some wraps, since we had some Lebanese flatbreads that needed using. He roasted up some potatoes, eggplant and zucchini tossed with olive oil and lots of herbs. I made a quick avocado spread. Andy chopped some salad vegetables, and threw together a tabbouleh-like-dish using couscous. The breads were hard to wrap and made a mess, but they were yummy.

For breakfast, I had the pinkest grapefruit I've ever seen:
It was super juicy, too.

Monday, May 07, 2007

5 May Weekend

The 5th of May lasted three days in my house this year. Why? Well, a lot of stuff happened on that day in history! Really, though, I looked up events to celebrate that justified trying new recipes. I know I don't need a reason for that, but there's something about connecting food to a specific event that I find so appealing.

We started on Friday (I know it was actually the 4th, but in my house it was the 5th), celebrating the day in the year 1260 when Kublai Khan became the leader of the Mongol Empire. I took a class all about nomads during my last semester of uni, so I felt a little connection to Kublai. He went on to start the first Yuan Dynasty in China, but was ousted from power when he got a bit ambitious--he tried to start a navy and take over Japan, but a cyclone or something stopped him from ever landing. Since Mongol cuisine is nearly completely centred on meat and milk, I made some bastardized Chinese food. This meal was *so easy*. I had a few beers before making this, and still had a delicious meal within 30 minutes that even Sober Andy said was great. Fried rice:

Topped with Lemon-Ginger Tofu:

Happy Kublai Khan Day, everyone!

Saturday the celebration continued with Cinqo de Mayo. Not Mexican Independence Day, as many people think, but rather a celebration of victory over the French during the Battle of Puebla in 1862. However, my camera crapped itself for a while, so I didn't get any pictures. I nearly went out and bought a new one that day, but decided to do a bit of research online before making a purchase. We had enchiladas full of veggies and refried beans, with a side of spicy black beans with mushrooms. Try to imagine it. Stupid camera...

Sunday we celebrated the day that Emperor Haile Selassie liberated Ethiopia from the Italians during World War II. That was in 1941, so I guess we celebrated them chronologically. I did my honours project on Rastafarians in Ethiopia, and Haile Selassie is their deity, so I felt like we should commemorate that day. Ethiopia was never colonised, only occupied for 4 years, and Haile Selassie kicked out the white oppressors on 5 May. That's one of the things that made him so appealing to the Rastas, who are in a constant struggle against "Babylon".

So to celebrate, some Ethiopian food. Sorry for the crappy photo. Stupid camera.... Anyways, it's a bastardized version of shiro, which uses yellow split pea flour. I used red lentils. But the spice combination is really what makes it taste authentic. I made my own berbere paste, which has cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, black pepper, garlic, fenugreek, cumin, paprika, and red chillis. This was slow cooked with the lentils and some kidney beans. On the side I made some cumin-spiced veggies--potatoes, carrots, rainbow chard, and capsicum. Shiro and fried potatoes was a common meal when we were in Ethiopia, and afterwards when my Ethiopian professor invited me over for dinner. Last night, we ate ours on wholemeal lavash bread, which was nothing like injera. It was still yummy, though!

Happy Haile Selassie Liberates Ethiopia Day, everyone!

So, does anyone have any suggestions on buying a new camera? Should I buy online or in shops? Any specific brands that you love or hate? Any features I would be stupid not to buy?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Twice-baked potatoes with Andy

A week or so ago we saw a recipe for really non-vegan twice-baked potatoes. Both Andy and I started thinking of ways to veganize the recipe (especially considering that it is near impossible to buy vegan cheese in Townsville). Tofu ricotta was a must. But beyond that, our ideas were very different. Andy wanted to make them Mexican-inspired, I wanted simple herbalicious taters topped with roasted capsicum dressing. We were planning a cook-off. Three potatoes meant that we would each get three halves to play with. But, life gets in the way of plans. A candlelighting ceremony at the Women's Centre honouring victims of domestic and sexual violence was on (a QLD-wide event, I think) was on, and it ended much later than I thought it would.

But, I came home to find dinner nearly finished, cooked by the lovely Andy. This is what I saw when I walked in the door:

The potatoes, which we'd baked the night before, were cut in half and scraped to perfection. The insides were mashed with some finely diced red capsicum, black olives, and mushrooms. The tofu ricotta was mixed in, as were some herbs and salt and pepper. The oven was even pre-heated. What a guy!

These are the pre-stuffed potato shells. Andy thinks that baking them a day early was a very good idea, since they are easy to scrape when they're cold. He put some BBQ sauce in one shell, and a bit of leftover tomato sauce from the lasagna into two others. Then it was time to stuff them. We baked them for 20 minutes or so at 200 (about 400 f). While they were baking, we quickly sauteed up some zuchhini with onions, threw together some guacamole, and made some garlic toast out of stale bread. The final result:

Perfection! And the best part--I had an extra half leftover for lunch today! So, even though I didn't get to make them my way, they came out wonderfully. We'll have to save the cook-off for next time, I guess.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Toads, tots and tea

Australia has a serious problem with cane toads. The problem is that someone thought it would be smart to introduce them--when they introduced sugar cane, they accidentally introduced cane beetles, so they thought that introducing cane toads would stop the beetle problem. But, as with basically all well-meaning transplantations of wildlife, it was a stupid idea. Cane toads have no natural predators over here, and their poison tends to kill birds and dogs and things that try to eat them. (Though, I have heard that one type of bird, the ibis, is starting to flip them over on their back before they try to eat them, to avoid the poison. See how good nature is at correcting itself, despite human stupidity!)

They're everywhere, it's ridiculous. A lot of people kill them on purpose, even more people unknowingly hit them with cars, they are preserved and dressed in hats and sold to tourists...

The other day Andy and I came home to find a gigantic cane toad in a bucket of water on our back stoop. It's water from the fishtank, so all full of poop and brown from the driftwood, so probably really appealing to a cane toad.

This is a 22-litre bucket, to give you some idea of the size of this thing. Its body, not including its legs, was the size of my hand--not just my palm, but my entire hand. Because the bucket is deep, I don't think it could have gotten out on its own, even if it wanted to. So we gave it a boost, and it sat in the backyard trying to blend in with the surroundings until it got dark and hopped away. Even though everyone hates cane toads, and they're really bad for the eco-system here, I did not want to have anything to do with the death of this innocent guy. It's not his fault humans did something stupid.

Anyways, I just wanted to share that picture, to show how freakin' big that thing was! Last night for dinner we had lasagna. We used wholemeal noodles that were on clearance at Cole's. We layered those with tofu ricotta and veggie-licious sauce. It had onions, garlic, zucchini, carrot, green capsicum, red capsicum, mushrooms, black olives and a few capers. It was good. On the side we had tater tots, since the oven was on anyways. I realise this picture looks strikingly similar to the 'mexican lasagna' from last week, but the tastes were totally different!

And now for the tea. You may have noticed that, in a lot of pictures I take, there is a cup or pot of tea in the background. We are tea-drinking fiends. I've always liked tea, and Andy has grown up drinking it heavily. When his parents went to China a few weeks ago, they brought us some Chinese tea. It's called Concubine tea, apparently it was the favourite of some emperor's concubine. It's a black tea, but it has a naturally sweet flavour. It's not really a breakfast beverage, but more like an after-dinner drink. The trick is to let it steep for only a few minutes--then you can take the tea leaves out and even re-use them again. It just doesn't taste very nice when you let it stew for too long.

We have yet to try it with soymilk; we've only had it black so far. If you ever see concubine tea anywhere, give it a try!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Confession: I am a huge sociology nerd.

My camera batteries are dead again (again!! it's ridiculous!), so while they're on the charger, I will leave you all with a few quotes I have come across in my research. I love them, so much so that I printed them out and tacked them onto my bulletin board. Some are a bit heavier than others, because they come from theoretical books, but I like the point they are trying to make.

"We could then suggest: revolutionary action is any collective action which rejects, and therefore confronts, some form of power or domination and in doing so, reconstitutes social relations--even within the collectivity--in that light. Revolutionary action does not necessarily have to aim to topple governments. Attempts to create autonomous communities in the face of power (using Castoriadis' definition here: ones that constitute themselves, collectively make their own rules or principles of operation, and continually reexamine them), would, for instance, be almost by definition revolutionary acts. And history shows us that the continual accumulation of such acts can change (almost) everything."

That is from David Graeber's Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (2005) on page 45. That book is very good, and short and funny, so I highly recommend it, even to non-anthropologists and non-academics.

"Unlike revolutionary struggles, which seek totalizing effects across all aspects of the existing social order by taking state power, and unlike the politics of reform, which seeks global change on selected axes by reforming state power, these [autonomous, non-hegemonic] movements/networks/tacticts do not seek totalizing effects on any axis at all. Instead, they set out to block, resist and render redundant both corporate and state power in local, national and transnational contexts. And in so doing, they challenge the notion that the only way to achieve meaningful social change is by way of totalizing effects across an entire 'national' or 'international' society."

That one is from Richard J.F. Day's Gramsci is Dead: Anarchist Currents in the Newest Social Movements (2005) on page 45. I just noticed that both quotes come from page 45. Weird...

"Because when people only talk and don't listen, they end up thinking that what they say is the only thing that is worth anything. ... Because whoever takes themselves seriously has stopped with the thought that their truth should be the truth for everyone and forever."

Those two quotes are from Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, from the EZLN. All his things are available here.

Enjoy the nerdy social movement quotes, everyone, and Happy May Day!