Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A request

A new group is starting up in north Queensland which I am very excited to be a part of—Animal Rights Townsville (ART). We are still in the very early stages of formation, and we’ve only got a few members. But we have a google group, so the few of us have been sending lots of brainstorming emails back and forth to one another. We’ve got big plans, which I’ll tell you more about as things progress.

But the very first project we’ve set ourselves is to design a display. It may be put up in one of Townsville’s libraries (which have display cases and areas), or we might just bring it to markets and shopping centres, along with vegan treats. The information we’d like to convey will show four ‘pillars’ of animal rights: veg*nism/welfare, health, the environment, and human rights/economics. I’ve taken on the task of gathering information for the economic and human rights facet.

I have a few things in mind, especially a comparison of costs for tofu, beans, grains, etc. and animal products. That will cover the individual side of the economic argument. In terms of more global aspects, I’m asking you all, dear intelligent blog readers, for some assistance.

I’m wary of making claims that veganism will solve world hunger. Although there is a lot of food that goes into animal agriculture, and that food could be distributed to the needy, capitalism means that is not likely to happen. There is already enough food to go around in the world; the problem is with distribution (and the need for profits). But, sources for concrete statistics about just how much food goes into raising food animals, where companies like McDonald’s source their meat from, and any other economic arguments to veganism would really help me. Sure, I could do a google search myself, but it takes time to find quality sources. So if you know of any off the top of your head, please send them my way!

And if you’re reading this and you live in Townsville, you should join our group! Send me an email, and I’ll send you the info.

To say thanks in advance for any help I receive, I will leave you with a series of Nacho photos, taken a few minutes apart from each other while she was lounging on her cattree.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Try everything twice.

In addition to being a song lyric from a cool band, I think it's a good philosophy to have in life.

When trying new foods, I like to give second (or third) chances to food items that don’t immediately strike my fancy. This way I can make sure that I didn’t just have a bad version of something, and it gives my tastebuds a chance to adapt to the new sensation. If it weren’t for second chances, I would have a hole in my life where vegemite currently resides.

Last week when I tried Brussels sprouts for the first time since childhood, I wasn’t sold. I didn’t hate them, but they were too hard and the flavour just wasn’t that special. But on Thursday I was offered a free bag of them (a big bag). I have a hard time turning down free things, so of course I took them (free vegetables!).

So I tried them again, trimming the ends a bit better and cooking them in a hotter oven (210) for a touch longer (about 20 minutes). And they were good! Roasting them this way really brought out their flavour and made them a little crispy on the outside but oh so tender for the most part.

That was only half the free bag, though. I wanted to try them another way. I pulled out the Sunset Vegetable Cook Book from 1983, which I picked up from a book fair for 50 cents. There were two Brussels sprouts recipes in the book, but both had ham or bacon. I didn’t feel like veganising, and anyways, the recipes didn’t sound that great anyways. But at the beginning, in the book’s description of individual vegetables, the suggested seasonings for Brussels sprouts include butter, basil, chives, dill weed, minced parsley, rosemary, and thyme. I cooked my sprouts in a skillet with a bit of water until they were tender and the water was evaporated. Then I mixed through some butter, chopped fresh basil, and dried parsley. They were really good this way, too.

I’ve come around to Brussels sprouts.

It just goes to show—everything deserves a second chance.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Happy belated earth day

Until I read a bunch of earth day themed blog posts, I sort of forgot that it was earth day at all. In my defence, it wasn’t earth day in Australia. Australians focused more on earth hour, which was started last year by Sydney. But reading everyone’s earth day posts got me thinking about the environment, consumption, and those sorts of things. And I know I’m preaching to the converted since most of my blog readers are already very eco-conscious, but hopefully I’ll mention one thing that you haven’t yet thought of. Plus, considering some of the random google searches that lead people to my blog, someone may have no idea about these issues (hard to believe, but…).

From the sounds of things, the US is similar to Australia in the push to ‘buy green’. The focus is on recycling and reusing, with little attention paid to actually reducing what we consume. I think they’re all important and I try to think creatively about all three Rs, but I think the possibilities for real change lie in that last R.


Andy and I recently bought a worm farm. We haven’t had it long enough to get much more than a feel for it, but judging on first impressions alone I think it’s just great. Since most of our waste is food waste (and all plant-based and therefore compostable), we have seriously cut down on the amount of stuff that goes out to the bin. It doesn’t smell, and it’s quick: I’ve already taken a few scoops of dirt out of it. Plus, each week when we change the water in the fish tank we dump the bucket through the whole system. This has two effects—it keeps the worm farm moist, and it provides us with rich liquid fertiliser for all of our plants. I highly recommend a worm farm to everyone, regardless of whether you have a back yard or not. We’ve got a tiny patio, and it would work on balconies, fire escapes, or even laundry rooms.


The majority of my wardrobe is second-hand (thanks especially to the amazing op shops in PNG). Everything except our mattress and Andy’s desk is second-hand, a combination of op shops, freecycle, garage sales, and side of the road finds. We also try to reuse food packaging whenever we can. Empty jars become containers for pressure-cooked beans or veggie stock. Plastic bags full of produce are reused as sandwich bags for lunches. Aside from reducing the amount of waste, and the amount of new stuff that needs to be made, reusing has the added bonus of monetary savings—or at least, it keeps money more local (i.e., garage sales) rather than supporting transnational corporations.


As I said before, and as The Little One eloquently summed up on actual earth day, reducing is the most important of the three Rs. There are a number of ways we can reduce…

Energy usage—Andy and I only realised how much energy is wasted in the form of phantom load after visiting the Sustainability Expo in January where we saw a meter plugged into a stereo that was switched off. Since then we’ve been reminding each other to turn things off at the power point. (Australian outlets are greener than their American counterparts because of one simple addition: a switch. Instead of unplugging everything, we just need to flip the switch to cut off the power supply that constantly flows, even to appliances that seem to be turned off.) An added bonus is the semi-naughty jokes we get to make when we forget: “When I woke up this morning, the kettle was blowing its phantom load all over the kitchen.”

Waste—This one is a no-brainer. Buy in bulk as much as you can. Use green bags for groceries and anything else you buy. Reuse whatever you can—turn old sheets into rags for cleaning. Fix things when they break. Learn a bit of sewing so you can patch clothing and furniture. Make things from scratch. Freeze leftovers, bread and tofu to avoid throwing away food. And when you do need to buy something, spend the extra money to buy something of a higher quality—it will last longer and thus cost less in the long-run. The other thing that has cut down considerably on the amount of rubbish we have is a ‘No Junk Mail’ sign. This probably won’t apply for Americans, but in Australia the junk mail doesn’t go through the post. A simple sign that says you only want Australia Post to put anything into your mailbox will cut down on the amount of crap you have to throw away each week. Another benefit of the ‘no junk mail’ sign is that I don’t have to see fliers full of raw meat photos. Plus, I’ve found that looking at junk mail makes me want new things that I don’t need. Which leads me into the next thing we should reduce…

Consumption—When I was preparing to move to Australia two years ago I realised I had to fit a life’s worth of stuff into about 70 pounds of baggage. I really took stock of what was important to me (I really shouldn't have wasted so much space on socks. I never wear them.). Some of it, like shoes, I expected to replenish with Australian goods once I got settled over here. But, the first few months were really very rough financially, and we just couldn’t afford to buy stuff. In that time we spent two months in PNG where the lifestyle is much simpler and at some point, we just adjusted to a life without clutter. And without a television. I highly recommend this option to everyone. No tv means less energy usage, less advertisements enticing you to buy excess stuff, and better conversations and relationships with the people around you. We listen to the ABC tv station on the radio at night, and music during the day, and if we really feel like vegging we put a movie on the laptop. Instead of watching tv, Andy and I talk to each other, play with the cat, watch the fishtank… and when he’s gone I read in place of conversation.

When I do need to buy new stuff, I practice what I’ve come to think of as ‘considered consumption’. That is, I think before I buy. I don’t think I’m hardcore enough to identify as an ecotarian, but I try to choose items that are high quality, come from companies that are local and/or with good labour and social practices, and especially from small-scale operations. For instance, I prefer to buy dried beans from the Asian grocery rather than the big corporate supermarkets. If I do need to buy something from far away, I try to support vegan, anarchist, or small-scale businesses like AK Press, the Cruelty Free Shop, or The Purist Company.

Luckily, the greenest options are the cheapest—a very important consideration for a student surviving on a scholarship. But they require a bit of lifestyle changes; in short, we need to simplify. Because the world simply can’t support the lifestyle of the global north. Obviously we’re not all perfect, but everyone can make changes to reduce their impact on the planet.

Now for my earth day resolutions: to reduce our household water consumption (we take a lot of long showers), and to further lessen my reliance on plastic bags.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


This past week I’ve gone back and forth between cooking semi-elaborate meals and really having no energy for that sort of thing.

With the rest of the boiled seitan I made on the weekend, I made the ‘Belgian-style seitan stew with dark beer’ from Vegan Planet. I used a bottle of homebrew that we made on St Patrick’s Day, a Dublin Pilsener. We weren’t sure that beer was going to turn out well, because it fermented wrong—I think it was too hot out. But, I was pleasantly surprised when I opened it up to find a perfectly fizzy, deeply flavoured beer. The seitan stew was really good, but a bit on the sweet side.

The next night I had a meeting and didn’t get home until dinner time, and I seriously considered eating a bowl of cereal. But instead, I remembered a ripe avocado in the fridge so I made a lazy guacamole. The avocado was just the right ripeness so it mashed to a creamy consistency, and then I just added some lime, salt & pepper, fresh coriander and diced tomato. Some crackers and toast were the perfect accompaniment.

The one downfall of eating such simple meals is the lack of leftovers to have for lunch the next day. So last night I put in a bit more effort, used up a few things that needed using, and made enough for two meals. Ready-made falafels, which Andy picked up on markdown before he went diving; Moroccan-spiced fava beans and rice with tomato-tahini sauce; spicy olive hummus; stale tortilla wedges; and a pickle. This meal left my quite full but without a heavy feeling, plus, I have beans and rice and falafels left for lunch.

That meal almost left me too full for dessert. Almost.

A few days ago I saw a photo of banana bread made by Textual Bulldog and I realised I love banana bread, but I literally cannot remember the last time I had it—probably upwards of three years. I had two ripe bananas in the freezer, and one in the fridge, so I made the ‘Banana Bread’ from Alternative Vegan. The only change I made was to use tahini instead of peanut butter. For the chopped nuts, I used macadamia pieces. Sweet mother of all that is good in the world, this banana bread was amazing. The outside was crunchy in a good way, and the inside was delicately sweet. I only wish I had cream cheese to have on top.

I’m looking forward to the upcoming three-day weekend, which conveniently rolls into a week long lecture-recess. No teaching means more time for blogging (and, well, research and stuff) so I hope to post about more than my hum-drum single gal meals.

Have a good Anzac day, everyone!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Aha moments

I've always had the idea in the back of my mind that when I'm riding my bike between uni and home, I'll have lots of time and head-space to think. I envision myself clarifying thoughts, coming up with great ideas, and otherwise developing my genius as I ride.

The reality, however, has been much different. I've been riding off and on for over a year. Throughout that time I've had bursts of riding regularly and bursts of riding only once a week. Regardless of how often I ride, though, I never have deep thoughts. Instead, my mind is focused on the road or path, on not falling off my bike, and on singing songs to myself as I pedal along the river (yes, I really do this).

But yesterday something was different. As I was riding, a thought came out of nowhere about my methodology chapter. In my head I worded a sentence just perfectly. I had to keep repeating it to myself so I didn't forget it, and the first thing I did when I got home was to write it down.

The 'aha' moment may have stemmed from my immediate pre-ride activity: a Social Justice Research support group. The conversations there must have really got my mind working. Or perhaps it was the glass of wine that said conversations occurred over. Regardless, I hope I have more of those moments, because that sentence was really, really good.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Weekend grub

Remember my lament about living with a breakfast grinch? Well, since I’m home alone I’m taking advantage of my weekend mornings and having breakfast foods galore. I started the brunch extravaganza this weekend with Fronch Toast, from Vegan with a Vengeance (with the addition of some cinnamon to the batter, because that’s how I roll). This really brought back memories of my pregan days; it really is good. I used a big bakery hot dog roll, which I left in the fridge overnight to dry it out. I realised after soaking the bread slices in the batter that I should have sliced it before drying it out—the outside was nice and crusty but the inside got a little soggy.

I spent my Saturday writing a grant application, which, if you’ve had any experience with, you will know it totally sucks. For instance, I’m expected to provide a brief methodology of the research, an abstract of my two planned conference papers, and justify 9 separate budget items, all in 10 lines of text. And those ten lines are weighted at 25% of the total application. To keep me nourished for all that fun, I made a nice big lunch.

I made a chickpea, corn and tomato salad. Instead of combining it all with mayo, I used a mixture of avocado, apple cider vinegar, tahini and rehydrated wakame. I put the salad into a tortilla, and it was interesting and tasty.

The salad kept me going through the tedious process, and some wine helped to ease my frustrations. In the afternoon I tried my hand at boiled seitan for the first time. Despite the long boiling time, there is really very little hands-on time. But texture-wise, I think I prefer baked seitan.

A late afternoon bike ride worked up my hunger for dinner, so I turned some of the boiled seitan into ‘Jerk Seitan’ from Vegan with a Vengeance, and served it with a side of coconut rice and veggies sautéed in the jerk sauce. Even though it’s getting a bit chilly here, this dinner tasted like the tropics.

On Sunday morning I rode to the markets and stocked up on produce for the coming week. While I was there, I saw some fresh-looking Brussels sprouts, so I grabbed them. I’ve tried them once before, when I was very young, and they were frozen and boiled and not very nice. But I’d noticed a recipe in VwaV that intrigued me, so I gave it a try for dinner. Since I had the oven on, I baked some sweet potato rounds with just a touch of sea salt. Leftover rice rounded the meal of quite nicely. The Brussels sprouts verdict? I liked them okay, but I didn’t think they were fantastic.

After a day of reading, transcribing, gardening and cleaning house, at about 8:30 Sunday night I remembered that I signed up to bring food to the postgraduate morning tea this morning, so I quickly threw together some ginger biscuits. Two didn't fit in the container, so I had to eat them...

I thought weekends were supposed to be relaxing?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Cooking for one: the first two days.

I’ve spent occasional weeks by myself since moving back to Australia, but they were only a week at a time—so I usually either ate like crap for a week, or tried to be uber-healthy. But this time is different for two reasons: one, it’s for a month rather than a week; and two, it’s the first of many months like this over the course of the next three years. So I’m trying to eat normally, even though I’m on my own.

So, Wednesday I woke up before the sun to see Andy off, then laid in bed for a little while before getting up to a bowl of muesli. I biked in to uni, where I had some pumpkin and hummus wraps for lunch. After biking home, I was pretty hungry even though it was early, so I decided to have a two course meal. First, the soup course. I made a lot, and am planning on having leftovers for the next week or so.

For this soup, I just boiled one potato and one carrot in 3 cups of veggie stock, with a bit of wakame thrown in. This was all blended up, the heat was turned off and I threw in the kernels from half an ear of corn. In my bowl, I mixed in a little scoop of miso (I’ve heard it doesn’t reheat well, so I only added the miso to a single serve). Creamy, flavourful, and healthy!

Then, my second course was quick. I simply sautéed some sliced zucchini and some sliced portabella mushrooms. After they were cooked I mixed in some balsamic, and sprinkled on salt and pepper. Notice the small plate? I eat much less when Andy’s not around.

Thursday was not a good day. I woke up, did a bit of interview transcribing (tedious would be an understatement), and then went to pump up my bike tires to head to a feminist group meeting—but my back tire was 100% flat. So I walked instead. Later on at uni, I had the leftover sautéed veggies, combined with half an avocado.

I came home a bit early so I could get my tire fixed. I don’t know the first thing about fixing bike tires, so I decided I would just take off my back wheel and walk up to the bike shop. Unfortunately, removing the back wheel was not as easy as I thought it would be. Some greasy fingers and a few f-words later, I made it to the bike shop to find out I had a big chunk of glass in my tire. The guy patched the tire, changed the tube, and sent me on my way after warning me to keep an eye on it, since it will need replacing soon. When I got home, I realised getting the stupid wheel off the bike was the easy part—getting it back on, now that’s where the f-word was really needed. I eventually got it, but then screwed up the gears somehow. I was riding around the driveway, swearing and changing gears, then comparing my bike to Andy’s to see where I’d gone wrong. I still don’t know what I did, but it’s fixed, anyways. I felt a little proud of the grease all up my arms and the fixed bike.

Whinging aside, I definitely worked up my appetite for some comfort food. So I pulled out my well-used copy of Hot Damn and Hell Yeah and made his recipe for Taco and Burrito Filling. A base of TVP mince makes it really meaty, and I added portabellas for extra flavour. I turned the other have of the avocado into a quick guac, and opened some corn chips and had a really yummy, filling, and comforting dinner.

I think I can handle this cooking for one business. And I (semi) successfully fixed my bike without any help. I rock!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The last suppers

Andy left for his dive trip this morning—at 5.15 am, to be exact. That’s pretty early. Now I’ve got a month of cooking for one. I’m planning to eat lots of the stuff he doesn’t love, like corn bread, bagels, and muffins. It sounds very carb-y, and that’s okay, but I expect I’ll eat a lot of veggies as well. I haven’t cooked for one since I left the US two years ago, and I had a giant freezer for leftovers then, so it will be a bit of a challenge, but Andy has a few more trips over the next three years so I’d better get used to it!

Anyways, these are the last few meals-for-two that we had.

Monday night we made a last minute decision to have pizza. Luckily, I had a ball of dough in the freezer, so we thawed it out in a sink of hot water and then loosely followed a recipe from the newspaper. The original was called “Pumpkin, Spinach and Ricotta Pizza”. Ours was roasted rosemary pumpkin, baby spinach, green capsicum, a few capers and olives, and then whole fresh basil leaves on top. I sprayed the whole pizza with oil so the basil leaves semi-fried themselves in the oven and got all crispy. Yum.

Then, for the very last meal before going to an island with no grocery store, Andy wanted mushrooms. Every fortnight a barge delivers food from the mainland, but mushrooms don’t weather the trip so well. And luckily they were marked down at the shop yesterday afternoon, so he got three or four containers. When I came home, one container of portabellas was marinating in a mixture of soy sauce, orange juice, and garlic, to be baked later. Another container of pre-sliced mushrooms became part of a simple tofu scramble. We got a very cool white-skinned, purple-fleshed sweet potato from the market, so we tossed that with oil, cinnamon and brown sugar to make sweet potato fries. And to add in some more fresh veggies we had a salad of avocado, raw corn, and cherry tomatoes.

The sweet potato fries, pre-sugar’n’spice.

The whole meal. I couldn’t decide whether the flash photo or the no-flash was better, so I’m putting up both! Click for a bigger version.

PS—Remember this day in 2000 when upwards of 20,000 people protested and blockaded the spring meetings of the World Bank and the IMF? Me either, I was in 10th grade and was more focused on my assignments than on global issues. But there were puppets, there was street theatre*, there was communal housing, there were bands and games and fun and protest, and, most importantly, there were 20,000 people! 20,000 people who gave a damn about the way the world was going. When I went to protest the spring meetings of the World Bank and IMF in 2005, there were probably 2000 or 3000 people there. What happened to everyone? The optimist in me would say they are off fighting where it really matters, on the local level. That's where I prefer to do my activism. But I am aware that a lot of people get burnt out and/or jaded--which reminds me: we all need to relax every now and then and just take some time for ourselves. So tonights plan: hot bath with essential oils and a non-uni related book!

*That's right, theatre, not theater. Although I'm from the US with our -er and -or endings, I have changed to -re and -our endings of the British and Australian spelling, as Alec astutely noticed last week. My reasoning is mostly practical, since my academic writing is viewed by other Australians and the local spelling is easier on their eyes. But I also sort of just like it better.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Veggies, please. Also, money and politics.

Today, I bring you two veggie-full meals, and also a rant.

First was an oven meal. I marinated some tofu in a combination of lemon and lime, turmeric, and lots of cumin. Then I baked it, and halfway through I added some broccoli. In another pan, radishes and green beans roasted away with garlic, salt and oil. And, still another pan had pumpkin roasting with fresh rosemary and black pepper. Roasted radishes are the bomb-diggity.

And this was a stove-top meal. Plain mashed potatoes topped with fresh parsley. Sautéed spinach with onion, grated carrot, sesame and soy. And a mixture of steamed veggies—carrot, zucchini, green beans and capsicum—toasted sunflower seeds, and raw sprouts—alfalfa, mung bean and snow pea—tossed with olive oil and lemon juice.

On the ABC last night there was a big story about political bribes and developers and MPs. They said that the 2007 Australian election was the most expensive ever. One person interviewed said that was because of things like TV ads which cost lots of money—so they source the money from developers and other interested parties. And I can only imagine how much money Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton have spent on slagging each other in the US.

The concept of money in politics is something that has always pissed me off. It removes any semblance of democracy from government. First of all, if campaigning costs lots of money (and it does, even at the local level) then only a select few people can run. That cuts off the political voice of a fair few people.

Then you add in ‘private contributions’, also known by some as bribes. Politicians cannot exist without these donations which fund their muy expensive campaigns. Thus, those who can afford to give money to politicians have more of a say in how the government is run than those who can’t.

It’s simple, but I think it’s wrong. I’ve been aware since high school that what America calls democracy is actually very far from democratic. Things like the electoral college just strike me as silly. But political donations is wrong on so many levels; unfortunately, those with the most to gain from said donations are the ones making the laws. And it's not a new issue, nor is it particularly controversial, so a lot of people would rather not think about it. But I think we should!

So what do we do about it? Well, ultimately I would like to see State governments as we know them to disappear. But I don’t really think that’s likely to happen very soon. Until then, how 'bout publicly funded elections? Sure, the initial costs might be a bit expensive, but we could always take that funding away from some useless pursuit, like military expenditure. That way, anyone could run for office, regardless of whether they are rich or poor. That would probably see a more representative body of elected officials, since most people can't even dream of the sort of money John McCain, Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama or Kevin Rudd make. It would also reduce the influence of small but well-funded special interest groups like the NRA. Hopefully, another effect would be that money we give to causes we support (AR, environment, etc) would go to practical solutions and mass education rather than being wasted on lobbying politicians.

Those are just my two cents--two cents which will never be donated to a political party, but will more likely be spent on tofu or cat food or second-hand clothing.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sharing the kitchen

As regular visitors to this blog know, I by no means do all the cooking in my house. I have been blessed with a partner who likes to cook creative meals. This weekend Andy made lunch for me both days and made some new creations both times.

Saturday’s lunch was a sandwich on nice bread. Not just any old sandwich, though. This one had leftover sweet potato and red bean burrito filling, hummus, spinach, tomato, beetroot and bbq sauce. And a dill pickle on the side. It was a tasty and satisfying midday meal.

The Sunday he took some leftover pumpkin and peanut stew out of the fridge, mashed it up and stirred in hummus, a dab of oil, soy sauce and some gluten flour, and then formed them into patties. A quick spin on the stove and the patties were put on a bun with slightly sautéed spinach and capsicum, alfalfa sprouts, tomato and beetroot, and then topped with a dab of almost sour cream. Uh, yum is pretty much all I had time to say between bites.

To say thanks for all the delicious lunches, I made an orange-berry no bake pie. This was inspired by Tofu for Two’s recipe, which I tried and failed once before. This time, I took some tips from Urban Vegan on using agar effectively—so I cooked the fruit before mixing it with the agar. But first, I made a biscuit crust with Cole’s brand ginger nut biscuits, melted margarine and golden syrup. Then I combined a package of frozen mixed berries with the juice from one orange, a tablespoon of cinnamon, and about ½ cup of sugar. While it was coming to the boil over low heat, I soaked about ¼ cup of agar flakes (mine are cut really big so take up a fair bit of space) in enough water to cover them. When the fruit had boiled, I mixed in the agar and let it bubble away for a few minutes. Then I whizzed in a block of silken tofu and poured it into the crust, and voila! After a few hours in the fridge, we had agar success!

Unfortunately for me, I won’t have anyone to share the kitchen with for the next month. Andy is off to Lizard Island on Wednesday, for 33 days of diving, watching fish eat coral, and other stuff for his PhD (which officially started two weeks ago).

View Larger Map

He'll be at the green arrow--14 degrees south of the equator--and I'm at the red dot at the bottom of the map.

So it will just be me and Nacho, and she spends too much time lying around on her cat tree to do much cooking.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Busy in Brissie

Well, I'm obviously back from Brisbane. It was a great trip--full on, but lots of fun. I spent four days in the state archives, then 3 days in the Fryer Library at UQ, in both places flipping through folder after folder of letters, forms, pamphlets and newspaper clippings. My eyes were tired and my brain was full, but it was really interesting stuff! Plus, I had a bit of extra time for vegan meet-ups, relaxing, and lots of vegan food. Rather than relating my trip chronologically, I'm going to go suburb by suburb.

This is the suburb I called home for my trip. I stayed with a former JCU post-grad, and her energetic cattle dog Pat.
Most of my meals were in Fairfield, but were nothing special. Meusli for breakfast, pasta or soup for dinner. My host was incredibly accommodating of my veganism and even ate vegan with me on most nights.

This suburb is the farthest I got away from Brisbane city. A ten minute walk to the train station, a 20 minute train ride, and then a 40 minute walk from the train to the archives meant I was a tired researcher before I even started! But I found tons of interesting stuff in the state archives, and most of it was stamped 'Restricted' in big, red block letters, so I felt pretty special looking at it. In addition to the restricted material, there were tons of newspaper clippings (the government really wanted to keep up to date with public opinion, I guess). This cartoon was printed before the 1988 Bicentennial of white australian settlement.There was a kitchen at the archives, so my lunches consisted of veggie burgers and nut&raisin mix. And lots of black tea to keep me warm and energised.

This was perhaps the most exciting suburb I went to, not so much because of the place but because of the company. I met up with Amy and Cam from Iron Chef Vegan, and their friend 'Larry' to gorge ourselves on Chinese-style mock meat dishes. The restaurant was Magic Wok. For an entree, we got 6 BBQ 'pork' dumplings, .3 turnip cakes, and 6 dim sim. My main meal was 'Chicken and Cashew' which was covered in that yummy generic clear sauce. Amy and 'Larry' got 'Bean sauced crispy chicken' which was also really yummy in that way that only fried food is good. Cam got 'Mongolian Beef', which was good... but something about the texture of mock beef puts me off. We all shared 'Gai Larn with oyster flavoured sauce'. The food was really very good. The restaurant itself was a bit stark, and squeaky clean (which I guess is a good thing). It just lacked ambience, in my opinion. Luckily, it was more than made up for by the excellent company. We talked about cookbooks, blondies, cats, and life. Amy and Cam are lovely people, as I had guessed from their blog.

Here's me, eating a dumpling.
St Lucia
This is the suburb the university is located in, so I spent three days here while I worked in the Fryer Library. The library itself was interesting, because it had heaps of documents from activist groups themselves--an entirely different perspective from the government papers I'd seen in the state archives. Housing a university also means cool cafes, including My Heart Garden, a veg*n cafe. I went midmorning, dreaming about coffee and cake. But when I got there, the display case only had 1 cake which wasn't vegan. No worries... I got a chocolate cookie instead, along with a 'Tropical Paradise' smoothie.
The cookie was SO hard. Which I know some people are into. But I prefer chewy cookies, so I wasn't totally impressed. But the smoothie was delicious. And the feel of the place was fantastic, with old homey furniture on the sidewalk and plenty of vegan propaganda for perusal while eating.

Since I was flying out that night, I decided to get a sandwich to eat in the airport. But at 4 pm I was starving so I ate it early! It was a 'Neatwich', or turkish bread with Neatloaf, salad and veggie mayo. It was very good, but so messy! I'm glad I didn't try to eat it in the airport like I'd planned, because it went everywhere. I had to eat it in non-sandwich form, so it was lucky that all the individual components were tasty.
West End
This was probably my favourite suburb. I took a day off from archiving on Wednesday to meet up with a Brisbane activist for lunch and an interview. We ate at Indian Kitchen at the corner of Boundary and Vulture Streets (directly across from Krishna's Cafe). For $5.50 I got a plate of rice with three veggie curries--garlic dhal, chickpea and zucchini. The place was hopping, the food was great and the staff were lovely. I highly recommend this place.

The suburb of West End was a bit strange--I think it used to be quite a hippy place, but it's turned hip instead. But there are still a lot of cool little places, like the Green Grocer health food shop. I went in and got some rainbow chai and some organic silverbeet seeds.And there are still vestiges of hippy-ness, like this poster on a telephone pole inviting people to Converge on Canberra in February.West End also features a completely vegan eatery, The Forest Cafe. I stopped in during the afternoon and got a mango smoothie (that didn't taste very mango-y) and a chocolate peanut butter cookie. There were huge, gorgeous looking vegan cakes, but at $6 a slice I really couldn't convince myself to buy one. I sort of liked the feel of this place, with the old furniture and the bold colour choices, but it felt a bit too cool for me.

And, of course, West End is a very important place to local Murris (Aboriginal people). The location of the Water Rat Dreaming, it is sacred ground. And, after Brisbane was settled by white people, Musgrave Park was an important camping and gathering place for Murris from around Queensland. It became a political space, with tent embassies and rallies regularly held there. For 20 years, there have been plans for a cultural centre at Musgrave Park, but the government is still stuck in red tape.
And Saturday mornings, West End hosts a big market.It was insanely crowded, most likely because it was set up in a very narrow place. But it was full of variety, with veggies, nuts, breads, meat and fish (ew), clothing, second-hand stuff, and food vendors. One of the vendors, called Why Kill a Moo Cow, sell vegetarian and vegan junk food like dagwood dogs (after 10 am) and 'No Bull Pies'. This was my first proper Aussie pie experience, and the crust was beautifully flaky but the filling was a bit sparse. It was yummy, but there was a big space between the top of the filling and the top crust.
South Bank and the City
Since the river runs straight through the middle of Brisbane, the two most urban suburbs are connected by bridges and ferries. Wednesday morning saw me in the city to look through an old exhibition on protest by The Museum of Brisbane. Then I walked across the river to the Brisbane Cultural Centre (library, theatre, etc)... where I luckily found an art exhibit on protest posters from the 1970s to the 1990s. South Bank also had some cool artwork on a bridge...For a while one afternoon, I simply sat by the river, wrote up notes from my full-on day, and watched people walk by. It was lovely.
Then I wandered along the South Bank park area, and found this cool little pagoda.
Then it was back across to the city to have dinner at Govinda's, a hare krishna restaurant. For $10, it was all-you-can eat vegetarian. They change their menu each night of the week, so I feasted on rice, dhal, chickpea curry, pakoras and chutney, and green salad. And with the buffet comes free ginger-mint juice or tea or something, which was SO GOOD. The food was pretty good, and it left me feeling satisfied and healthy. The atmosphere wasn't what I expected--it was less yoga-studio and more uni-dining-hall.

Not a suburb, but the end of this post. I learned (or was reminded of) many things during my trip. For one thing, I am not a city girl. The masses of suited men and women talking on mobiles and running to catch buses and trains really didn't make me feel at home. I prefer my slow life in the tropics. Another thing I realised is that, compared to the tropics, Brisbane is FREEZING. I had to buy an extra sweater from an op-shop because I was so chilly. I was reminded of the fact that I'm a bad food photo taker--I usually didn't think to, or didn't feel comfortable taking out my camera in restaurants. I learned that I'm glad I don't have vegan and vegetarian restaurants and cafes near me, because otherwise I would spend way too much money! And mostly, although I really had a fun time, I was so glad to come back home to my man and my kitteh.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Two years old...

Hi everyone! I'm back from Brisbane, and I've got a few photos and stories to share, including a meet-up with another blogger. But I haven't had time to sort through said photos, so I will leave that post for another day. But I definitely wanted to post today becuase...

It's the two year birthday of the Tropical Vegan blog! When I started this blog two years ago, it was actually called the Travelling Vegan (hence the url), and I intended to document my journey to Australia and then to other exciting places... but I ran out of money and didn't get to many other exciting places! So I changed my focus to a vegan food blog that also discusses politics, life, and other things that I feel like discussing. It's been a fun two years of getting to 'know' lots of other bloggers, and even meeting a few in real life.

That's as gushy as I'm going to get here. Now, onto a few before and after photos from my trip.

Before I left, I had about 24 hours to mark 35 essays. They were only 500 word assignments, but they are by first year students and so some were very difficult to get through. The difficulty was exacerbated by Nacho, who decided the stack of essays looked mighty comfortable...

Luckily I got the essays done with plenty of time leftover to pack and get ready to go. I even had time to make some Tofu, spinach and soysage Canneloni in a mushroom cream sauce for dinner. Since the oven was on, we threw in some potato gems as well. The canneloni was good, but next time I think I'd leave out the soysage.

During my 9 day trip, Nacho turned 6 months old, and she had grown up noticeably when I came back. For starters, she was bigger. And she was able to jump to places she's never been before, like the top of the kitchen cabinets or the fish tank. This made for a bit of a headache for Andy, since the kitteh was trying to catch guppies and splashing water everywhere before I came home (heh, I'm glad he had to deal with it and not me).

I love coming home to my own kitchen, even when the fridge and cupboards aren't super stocked. For dinner the day after I came home I made a variation of 'African Sweet Potato and Peanut Stew' from Vegan Planet. Instead of sweet potato, I used a combination of pumpkin and regular potato, and I added some more spices. I really like this dish.

And for dessert, Andy made me a lovely carrot cake, an amalgamation of two recipes. The result was a gooey delicious cake full of crystallised ginger... yum!And now I'd like to share some news that I think you might be interested in... Last week I posted a few stories about a kangaroo cull in Canberra that was being protested by a coalition of AR activists and Aboriginal elders. I was pleased to hear that the cull has been put on hold while they experiment with moving the kangaroos... what a revolutionary idea.

And since I'm sharing news, I saw this article yesterday that I really liked. It talks about how a vegan diet can be the cheapest around. Granted, it was written by Peta so it's not like an 'unbiased' reporter has come to our side, but still. It's a well written article and it makes some very good points.

I'll post about my trip soon!