Thursday, September 25, 2008

New Calves in the Field

My husband and I live directly across from a "cow and calf" operation. On the surface the farm presents the perfect pastoral scene: green rolling hills fall away to a creek that meanders along the edge of some woods. Birds flit in and out of the trees, deer emerge and browse. We've seen 5 kinds of woodpeckers, Indigo Buntings, Redstarts, Blackpoll Warblers, and enough other kinds of birds to wear binoculars many days that I walk with my neighbors and our dogs through the woods. There are even nesting owls and hawks within the little forest.
Cattle navigate in the sea of grasses, content to eat, sleep, chew their cud and tend to their young, who are born right there in the field. Sometimes you can see them minutes after they enter the world. You could even see them being born, if you knew when to look.
The cows udders swell with milk for their babies...just a little though, not like those hideously stretched, distended and painful looking udders on the poor milk cows. The young calves play amongst each other, literally kicking up their heels, nuzzling faces and forming friendships. Sometimes they follow us, as we walk the dogs along the fence line, the bolder ones making a big show of coming closer and closer then suddenly, expolsively, eyes rolling wildly, losing their nerve and wheeling off, arcing clots of dirt, grass and manure through the air. These "meat" cattle enjoy a relatively peaceful and natural existence, until the calve are "weaned ": rounded up and herded onto a transport trailer and hauled off to feedlots or other "finishers". The mother cows bawl heart-breakingly for days, calling for their calves. The calves are all of 4-5 months old. Where ever the calves are , they must be terrified. The cows are already pregnant with the next calf. This process will continue for several years until the mother cow herself will hauled off to a feedlot or slaughterhouse.
The latest mass calf removal happened to fall on the day we hosted the Vegan 101 class on the 7th of September. ( see previous entry by Tanya...thanks for taking and posting the pictures, Mark ! ) I was unaware of the frantic calling, bawling, crying of the mothers...calling their babies over and over and over....until i stepped outside to walk one of our dogs in the early evening. I was all aglow with how well the class went... we had shared stories, recipes and food completely animal-free, and got to introduce some of the great food to people new to veganism. So it took a few minutes for the mothers' cries to penetrate.

Inside my head I wailed, " I am SO, SO SORRY ....." over, and over and over again. I can still hear them, and my own voice.

Scratch the surface of any food animal enterprise, no matter how "humane", and you will find an endless stream of needless suffering imposed on creatures whom we feel entitled to use. Going vegan alleviates the direct connection to the meat, milk and egg industries ( and going vegan is a direct action ), but it heightens your awareness of a horribly skewed food culture that views a simple, peaceful, nutritious plant-based diet as radical and extreme.
I'm only two years into being vegan, and every single day delivers new ( and many distressing old ) examples of why I continue to advocate for a vegan diet on behalf of the animals.

This evening I noticed down where the hill levels out and meets the stream , at the edge of the woods, 8 brand new calves and their mothers resting in the sea of grass. A few of the babies stared at us with wide-eyed curiosity as we walked by.
To the cows and their calves whom I share the sky, the rain and the Earth with, I can only say, again, I am so, so sorry.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Photos - Vegan Cooking 101

Photos from the Sept. 7 Vegan Cooking 101 demo are posted on our Picasa album. See for yourself all the great nibblies, like those in this photo. Delish!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

playing with graphics

Playing with stuff in Photoshop again....

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Vegan 101 Class

On September 7th, a Vegan 101 class was given by several New Leaf Vegan members, and held at my home. Tanya and Mark came early, bringing plant and nut milks to sample, taco filling ( for a dip ) homemade Hickory Bits ( where's the recipe, Tanya ?? ), chips, plates and bowls ( that are awaiting their entrance into the compost heap ) and some good ideas on setting up the event. We had 12 great "students" attend who spanned the range from committed vegan mothers raising their children vegan to a certain mother-in-law who gamely came along to "see what it's all about". It was really nice to see so much enthusiasm, curiosity and a willingness to try new ways with food !
We made a very simple seitan,tossing it into the oven to bake ( wrapped in foil )while I demonstrated making Eggless Egg Salad and Chickpea Of The Sea ( recipe to follow ! ) We also sampled 2 other types of I had made the day before ( a 'chicken' type)and J brought some fantastic chewy BBQ seitan that she had made at home. All 3 seitans had different textures, flavors and nutrition...and all very cheap to make at home. Good news when a little tub of it costs close to $4.00 in a grocery store, if you can find it! Homemade seitan is can slice it up for sandwiches ( hot or cold ) brown it up and use it as you would ground beef ( before you went vegan :>) in any number of ways. maybe we should have a seitan contest at some point...just to get the creativity going !
The plant and nut milk table was a hit...rice, almond, hazelnut, hemp, soy, oat were standing in for cow's milk. All were offered chilled with chocolate syrup on the side for those who wanted it. Hemp is my current's got lots of protein, calcium and some omega-3's. Oh, and it tastes great, too !
Gina brought some fantastic brownies and the recipe for them, and we made ( with the help of 17 year old V )and baked some Oatmeal Chocolate chip cookies to demonstrate that beaten ground flax seed can replace a hen's egg very nicely, adding fiber and omega-3's.
We talked about beans and grains (and sampled some Quinoa and Blackbean salad )and I wish we could have covered more nuts and seeds...nut butters, too ! So much to cover, because there is so much food that is just have to look beyond what's being pressed on us through clever advertising. The following is from Appetite For Profit
.." the food industry spends upwards of $36 billion annually to market its products.." and " corporations spend roughly $12 billion a year directly targeting children with junk food marketing. If parents are supposed to be the ones making decisions for their children, then why are companies bypassing parents altogether and marketing directly to kids? Because corporations such as McDonald’s aim to undermine parental authority by getting children to nag their parents. And it’s not only marketing for junk food that parents must contend with, but also for toys, video games, clothing, CDs, cell phones, computers, you name it."


OK, here's the Chickpea recipe. It's lifted and altered from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's fabulous cookbook : Vegan With A Vengeance. In her book it's called Chickpea-Hijiki Salad Sammiches. You'll be amazed how much it tastes like tuna !

I call it : Chickpea Of The Sea.
1 tablespoon dried hijiki, dulse or wakame granules, or other finely ground sea veggie
1 can ( 15-ounce) chickpeas, drained
2 tablespoons Fresh lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons finely minced onion
1/4 to 1/2 cup finely diced celery
2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast ( Red Star Vegetarian Support )
salt and pepper, seasoning salt to taste.   I like a little ground cumin, too.
3-4 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise
Stir the lemon juice or vinegar into the celery ,sea veggies, onion, nutritional yeast,salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Set aside for a few minutes to soak.
Then mash the drained chickpeas into the stuff with either a fork or potato masher  until no whole chickpeas remain. Add the mayo, and mix it all up.
Use in sandwiches, wraps, lettuce cups or as a dip.