Monday, March 23, 2009
One Lucky Vegan
OK, so this isn't strictly vegan, but watch how it ties in.
I had the good fortune to go on a National Geographic/Lindblad's Among The Great Whales cruise in Baja California Sur with my intrepid 80 year old mother ( thanks, Ma ! ) from Feb. 28th thru March 7th. We shared the ship National Geographic Seabird with 60 other passengers, about half of whom we're either from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, or were big supporters of their work. My love for birds and birding grows every year, so to find myself amongst some serious ( and generous ! ) birders was an unexpected bonus. And wow...birds galore ! Pelicans, egrets, cormorants, ducks, geese, coots, shearwaters, boobies, sea gulls, frigate birds, verdin, grey thrasher, cara caras, cactus wrens.... and the elusive Belding's Yellowthroat thanks to the persistence and patience of several people from the Cornell group.
I had come aboard prepared to "make do", food-wise. Peanut butter, good bread, homemade date/nut/coconut balls, Primal Strip Jerky traveled in my suitcase all the way from Virginia...just in case. And even tho I had filled out and sent my 'special diet' inquiry weeks before, I wasn't sure how 'vegan' would be interpreted. Turns out that a vegan staff member, Erin Tenille, from Portland , Oregon had just been promoted to the kitchen that week. She made fantastic vegan sandwiches, pilafs, risotto, soups and desserts all week long...it certainly made my trip a pleasure, knowing there was a vegan in the kitchen watching out for me. There were a few others that requested vegetarian, and the whole kitchen and dining room staff were very accommodating. Most of the vegetarian options offered were vegan- based and could have cheese added if wanted. Their salads were gorgeous. One salad even had fresh flower blossoms scattered over the tender young greens. There were vegan salad dressings at each lunch and dinner ( and not just oil and vinegar ). My only gripe is that things that could have ( should have :> ) been vegan, were not. Take mashed potatoes...no reason to introduce dairy to that...leave out the butter and heavy cream ! Use vegan margarine and soy creamer ! Also the morning's hash browns or fried potatoes...why butter ? Why not olive, sunflower, safflower, walnut, avocado, or any number of other wonderful oils ? Amazing how many dishes are ruined through mindless additions of cheap, plentiful animal products.
I was thrilled to see that the Lindblad Expedition company left cards in our rooms explaining why they don't serve shrimp on board ("... the shrimp industry is one of the most destructive processes of the industry." ). However, modern industrial dairy practices have got to be one of the most destructive "farming" methods of all time. Yet they get a pass. Hmmmm. Our society really is addicted to dairy, isn't it ?
We saw Blue Whales off Cabo San Lucas. Blue Whales ! The Grey Whales were inexplicably friendly, considering how close we came to wiping their whole population off the planet...rendering their bodies down for oil to burn. A mother Grey repeatedly presented her baby to us humans, who were reaching their hands out of the Zodiac boats, splashing the water...hoping to touch the sweet immense creatures. What an exhilarating and conflicting experience. Part of me shrank from bothering these animals at all, even tho they approached our boats,on their own, once we were in the area. I only wish that people would value the lives of cows, pigs, chickens and all the other animals that suffer at our hands as much as the whales of the oceans. A life is a life.