Thoughtful Revolution

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Vegan/Vegetarian Food category.

Things that Taste Better than Skinny Feels (and Why This Post Is Worth Writing)

As I’m sure everyone is, by now, probably aware, Kate Moss (waiflike model of ’90s fame) was recently quoted as saying this: “Nothing tastes better than skinny feels.”

Come up with at least 5 problems with that statement. In 30 seconds. And if you can’t — which is highly unlikely — I’ll supply a few: use of pro-ana rhetoric that smacks of garden-variety “thinspiration,” reinforcement of a single attractive body type, reinforcement of the artificial [fat=gluttony-laziness-disease]/[skinny=glowing-with-perfect-health] dichotomy, refusal to acknowledge the diversity of female experience, unoriginal repetition of a retrograde diet mantra that has existed, in some form, for decades.

And finally: I believe, with all my mind, body and soul, that a hell of a lot of things taste better than skinny feels.

Before I start enumerating those culinary pleasures, there’s a word or two left to say. Posts on the subject by fellow bloggers have raised enough questions that I figure I ought to attempt some answers preemptively; below is a reflection that I hope will address any qualms.

Disclaimer. The last time I could reasonably have been accounted “skinny,” I was three years old. I have struggled with my weight all my life; the only way I could return to a state of skinny — much less Kate Moss skinny — would be through full-out starvation, and indeed I was at my thinnest when, in tenth grade, I stopped eating for extended periods of time. Ergo, for me, skinny feels lousy and unhealthy and unnatural. Would someone who was naturally pencil-thin feel the same way? Of course not, and it’s insulting to assume so. But I don’t mean to relish the pleasures of food as a covert way of saying “eat a sandwich”. I also don’t mean to imply that those who suffer from eating disorders could just cast all their troubles away if they wanted because this food tastes so darn good. Because that’s been a major concern with many “Things that Taste Better than Skinny Feels” posts, and justifiably.

But feminist blogging is meant as a safe space for everyone, and a safe space not only to take on problems but to embrace pleasures that patriarchy has traditionally withheld from women. Yes, I realize that it is triggering for folks with eating disorders to read list after list of favorite foods — I’ve been there, I know. So, too, is it triggering for women with vulvodynia or other physical barriers to sexual pleasure to read about the joys of sex. Does that mean that, for an arena to be properly sensitive and feminist, all positive discussion of food or sex must be scrapped? Such a move seems counterintuitive to me, even as I understand the motivation behind it. Food, like sex — though arguably more so — is something that society discourages women from enjoying; in what might be colloquially called “the real world,” visible enjoyment of food is too often suppressed or accompanied by the requisite fat talk. A feminist blog is designed as a safe space, and in that vein should be a haven not only for complaints but for pleasures that we are, as a general rule, not supposed to express. I can’t talk about food when I sign off the computer — my ability to discuss it online is as much a prerogative, and a feminist prerogative, as yours to avoid discussion of it. That has been an operating principle of this blog, and if it seems repugnant and hyperprivileged, please feel free to call me out.

And without further ado, a few “Things That Taste Better Than Skinny Feels.” (These are not all vegan. I am not all vegan. And that’s that.)

1) Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream.
2) Fried rice, browned all over and slightly burnt on the bottom, or coconut rice.
3) Alfajores. I had about thirty of these in Argentina: a pair of cakey sugar cookies, sandwiched together with oodles of dulce de leche and smothered in coconut shavings. Mmmm.
4) Hot chocolate with vanilla extract and whipped cream.
5) Fettuccine pomodoro.
6) Crusty Italian bread with olive oil and cracked pepper.
7) Spring mix salad with oil and vinegar.
8) Sauteed mushrooms.
9) Cucumber tea sandwiches.
10) Pumpkin anything. I’m a big fan of pumpkin soup.
11) Panang tofu.
12) Green curry over seitan and broccoli.
13) Crepes stuffed with grilled vegetables.
14) Vegan With A Vengeance’s coconut cupcakes.
15) New Mexico-style vegetarian Frito pie, with plenty of green chile.
16) Yuan Fu’s “chicken” with cashew nuts.
17) Shahi paneer.
18) Really excellent pad thai.
19) Sourdough bread with avocado, lettuce and red pepper hummus.
20) Potbelly’s Vegetarian Sandwich, hold the American cheese.
21) Cherry pie.
22) Pumpkin pie.
23) Any other kind of pie.
24) Red bean buns.
25) Eggplant in garlic sauce.
26) Nutty brown rice, tossed with the leftover sauce from any given main dish.
27) Veggie pizza, with an emphasis on the roasted tomatoes.
28) Guacamole with corn chips.
29) Burritos.
30) Black beans, rice, and salsa, all scrambled together and microwaved: the most satisfactory “quick lunch” out there.
31) Stoned Wheat crackers, despite (or because of?) the unintentionally hilarious name.
32) Chocolate-covered raisins.
33) Honey-roasted cashews.
34) Asparagus.
35) Avocado sushi, topped with pickled ginger.
36) Fondue.
37) Symphony bars.
38) Freshly baked sugar cookies, topped with a handful of rainbow sprinkles.
39) A toasted plain New York-style bagel with chive and onion cream cheese. Anything less is blasphemy.
40) Tabbouleh salad.
41) Acorn squash.
42) Beets.
43) Ripe figs, on their own or stuffed with goat cheese.
44) Sweet potato latkes with cardamom applesauce.
45) Kung pao tofu, complete with crushed peanuts.
46) Blondies, which I maintain are far superior to brownies.
47) Black bean soup in a bread bowl.
48) Spanakopita.
49) Trader Joe’s Masala Burgers.
50) My mother’s matzah ball soup.
Feel free to add your own!


Back to Normal, and a Fabulous Meal

So after that brief lapse in self-worth, I swear I’m returning now in full force. What can I say — no matter how terrible my posts may be, they’re very rewarding to write. And if I make any outstanding mistakes, please feel free to call me out; hopefully, a loyal reader will be able to see my intelligence and social consciousness gradually raise. Finally, don’t expect a polemic every day. I don’t have that much anger in me!really!and I think this blog could do with a little more celebration.

In the meantime, it’s been a while since I did a food-related post — and what better way to stave off self-hatred and depression than with home cooking?  I figure I ought to take advantage of this exquisite, ephemeral fall weather before it turns to inhospitable winter; here, below, are a couple of perfect fall meal ideas, pulled from the archives of the wonderful PPK blog, among other gems of the blogosphere.  Prepare these to warm any vegan/vegetarian acquaintance’s heart, and enjoy them together amidst piles of crisp leaves (or, napkin-wrapped and balanced in one hand while trying to catch a bus, which better describes most of my autumn meals so far). If not, at least enjoy the pictures.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls. I believe, with complete conviction, that there is no food in the world that can’t be improved with a little pumpkin.
Ginger Chocolate Chunk Scones.
Scrambled Tofu. One of those “basics” that I’ve never had the resources to try. But it looks wonderful.
Pumpkin Waffles. See above for my beliefs on pumpkin.
Fried green tomatoes.
OHMYGODOHMYGODCREPESOHMYGOD. There is nothing in the world like a crepe. Period.
Finally: Hashbrowns with the works. I have this little dream of sauteed zucchini, asparagus, and/or mushrooms on the side, in an earthy melange of sorts… but it’s only a dream.

Chickpea noodle soup. For all the oft-congested vegetarians out there.
Blackened Tofu Sandwich. Back-to-school lunch, here we come.
Simple fried rice with Japanese seven-spice: easy to prepare, easy to munch from a rubber-band-fastened Tupperware container in your backpack.
Roasted Butternut Squash. Perhaps in an autumnal veggie wrap? Or a salad? The possibilities are endless.
And anything from Vegan Lunch Box, all of it hopefully served with a little fresh salsa on the side.

Chipotle chili. For those I-wanna-move-to-the-Southwest-and-start-an-alternative-school-in-the-middle-of-the-desert days. I can’t be the only person out there who has those…?
Eggplant and pine nuts and lasagna, oh my!
Thai yellow curry, one of my favorite things out there — second only to Panang tofu.
Beer-battered chicken strips. In my teetotaling, strictly kosher household, I’m not sure I’ve ever had a beer-battered chicken strip, but these fake ones sure sound good.
Southern fried tofu, complete with marshmallows. (Though I’d advise enjoying them separately.)
Deconstructed green bean casserole, because that’s something that desperately needs deconstructing.
Isn’t this squash bisque a thing of pure freaking harvest beauty?
Ditto on the asparagus pesto tart.
And have a happy meat-free Thanksgiving! Check the bottom of the page for a true feat o’ culinary awesome.

In conclusion, a bit of sugary forshpeis:
Plum Kuchen,
Daifuku mochi,
Mexican hot chocolate Snickerdoodles,
Magical Coconut Cookie Bars,
and, in honor of Halloween, homemade candy corn. No, really.

So, for this evening, revel with me in the simple pleasures of good food; tomorrow, I’ll be back and as opinionated as ever. Or maybe, if I’m not quite as pissed off as readers might hope, you might be in for another round of blogging, warm-fuzzy-style.

I Dare You.

I’ll say it right now: I am suffering from an acute case of political burnout, also known as banging-one’s-head-against-the-wall syndrome.  Sometimes (and I hope this isn’t just a particular neurosis of mine) the problems in the world just seem so vast, and the solutions so insignificant, implausible, and willfully ignored, that any and all political thought feels like a miserable waste of time.  This feeling has been hovering just below the surface for me for a good long time; yesterday’s National Equality March, an enormous, revelatory event that nonetheless is almost impossible to find on and is unlikely, given the minimizing media coverage, to have any profound effect,* exacerbated it into full-blown depression.  I am in no mood to go on a self-righteous crusade right now.  The prospect of meaningful change, in any form, for any cause, seems implausible, unachievable, and unappealing.  I’m sure, given a couple analysis-free hours of recovery, my passion will be back in full force; in the meantime, I leave the pontificating up to readers.

As anyone who knows me can tell you, I am a great lover of food writing — the industry of food, the preparation of food, the global personalities of food, recipes, you name it — and I consider myself fairly well-read on the subject.  Yet not once have I been able to find a cogent defense of the modern upper-middle-class American carnivorous diet: countless chefs and writers, including the outspoken meat-lover Anthony Bourdain, have either made a joke out of the subject or avoided it entirely, writing it off as an inalienable fact of foodie life.  Even Michael Pollan, whose “Omnivore’s Dilemma” I genuinely admired, put forth a half-assed, logically weak argument that mostly embellished on “meat tastes good.”  So, carnivores, I challenge you to a mini-debate.  Why do you eat meat when physical/financial survival is not at stake?  How, on an intellectual level, would you defend it to yourselves and others?  Please speak up — this is a respectful, hopefully welcoming forum, and I’ll be interested to hear what you have to say.

Addendum: I should have been clearer — I’m primarily interested in responses from people who can physically and financially afford to sustain a meatless diet. If allergies, diseases, money, and so on make meat a necessity, I understand that completely and wouldn’t dare pick on you. ^_^

*I was also disheartened by the profusion of stereotypes at the march, projected mostly by straight marchers/supporters; apparently, an LGBT event is a disappointment if the lesbians aren’t all adorable, busty and non-threateningly androgynous and the gay men aren’t all reminiscent of Project Runway’s Christian Siriano.  Maybe it’s just me, but I find talk of “cute gay people!!” (in the same tone one would use for a toddler or pet chihuahua) genuinely problematic and dismissive of/condescending towards legitimate anger.

Vegan DC

First order of business: Why does DC not have a vegan blogger?

We’re arguably the American capital of political activism, of putting our actions where our mouth is — at least, that’s been my experience.  So it surprises me that, even with countless animal rights groups headquartered in Washington, the vegan community has so little in the way of publicity.  DC Vegan is the closest we get — but, as an erratic and not-always-helpful anthology, it can’t rival the entertaining, all-encompassing, personalized vigor of a Stumptown Vegans (Portland) or a Vegan Score (Seattle).  Even the fairly rural Shenandoah region has a fabulous blog of its own.  So I call on DC vegans, members of what I am sure is a sizable if under-the-radar community, to start their own DIY restaurant critic services — and if they don’t, I just might, student budget be damned.  (P.S.  If anyone chooses to ask me about veganism itself, I may write a nice little post on the issue.  Take that as encouragement or threat, whatever you will.)

On that note, I feel it’s time to add my meager information to the pot.  These places all hover in varying degrees of fantastic; if someone happens to lend their valuable patronage to one of them because of this post, I will personally find said person and give him or her a gigantic hug.

Sticky Fingers Bakery: probably the worst kept vegan secret in DC, and for good reason.  The entrees, stored in plastic containers in a large refrigerated shelf, may look about as prepossessing as your average airline cafeteria food — but don’t let that scare you off, as they’re uniformly delicious (I particularly recommend the faux-chicken wrap, bursting with lettuce, black beans and that cool, summery flavor).  But the reason to come to Sticky Fingers is the baked goods, especially, in my humble opinion, the cookies.  As someone who is, by parents’ and cardiologist’s mandate, not-quite-vegan,* I have the authority to say that these cookies are the best in DC, better than any you’ll find in a mainstream bakery.  The Sweet and Salty cookie may sound a little intimidating, but after a bite of one exquisitely chewy, intensely flavorful disk, you’ll be a convert; the same effort and inventiveness is poured into every cookie.  And if, on the day you show up, there happens to be a flavor with “lemon” or “coconut” in the title — go for it.  No matter what, it’s worth your while.

There are a couple of excellent vegetarian Chinese restaurants in the region (Harmony Cafe in Georgetown, Sunflower in Vienna and Vegetable Garden in Rockville are both worth visiting, though the latter is certainly overrated and overpriced) but the best, in my opinion, is Rockville’s locals’-paradise Yuan Fu Vegetarian.  Entirely vegan and MSG-free, nearly all the dishes at YuFu have something to bring to the table — particularly when you avoid the tofu-and-mixed, vegetables comfort zone and plunge straight into the fake meats.  Faux-chicken, so often gluey and disappointing, is the restaurant’s specialty, with a texture and flavor that lends itself beautifully to frying, steaming and braising alike; the mundane-sounding Chicken with Cashew Nuts is outstanding, as is the unusual but lovely Curry Chicken with Potatoes.  “Beef,” “duck,” veggies, and a variety of hot pot dishes are equally appetizing, though not as authentically meaty; the only disappointment comes in the pork, overseasoned and a bit on the tough side.

Other favorites are a pair of Korean-American-Italian-vegetarian-everything-but-the-kitchen sink establishments — the ubiquitous and much-acclaimed Java Green in DC proper, and the homey Takoma Park mainstay Mark’s KitchenElla’s Wood-Fired Pizzas and Pizzeria Paradiso both offer vegan pies, and any of the Chipotle/Burrito Brothers/California Tortilla/etc. burrito establishments stock plenty of dairy-free options.  If you’re interested in something a little different, try out the fabulous Malaysian cuisine downtown at Malaysia Kopitiam.   And, of course, most of D.C.’s plentiful and excellent Ethiopian restaurants (Addis Ababa in Silver Spring is a not-too-busy personal favorite) have many a dish for vegans.  And if it’s late at night and you need nothing more than a quick bite, Amsterdam Falafel Shop has falafel and (unbelievable) French fries enough to serve the most urgent oil craving.

If anyone has a burning recommendation that I’ve missed, please tell me!  Or, better yet — start your own blog.  You have at least one avowed reader.

*Still trying for it, though!

Fabulous Jewish (Vegan) Food

And I’m not just talking your average latke, either.  The awesome vegan chefs out there have come up with a whole plethora of recipes, from a world full of distinct culinary traditions — and don’t tell me this stuff doesn’t look terrific.

Vegan knish.  Step-by-step and totally illustrated. (flaky dough pocket filled with potatoes, onions and whatever else you’d like)

Vegan challah. (yeasty, braided traditional bread)

Vegan cabbage rolls, for those five people out there who actually miss them.  Myself included.  (cabbage leaves stuffed with “meat,” tomatoes and other goodies)

Vegan kishkes, halfway down the page.  Never thought it could be possible… (meat-stuffed intestines.  Seriously.)

Vegan, totally Pesadic matzah ball soup(A fairly thin broth, usually chicken, with soft, dense dumplings)

The inevitable falafel. (Fried chickpea mush in cute round shape.  Served in pita bread, preferably with hummus and tabbouleh salad.)

Gourmet burekas! (Sephardic savory pastries filled with potatoes, mushrooms, spinach, etc.)

Vegan latkes, though no latke should EVER be served with ketchup. (Fried potato patties, which ought to be served with APPLESAUCE.  and SOUR CREAM.)

Carciofi alla Giudia (there’s a pretty interesting story behind the alla Giudia thing) (fried, seasoned artichokes, sometimes with a tomato sauce)

Meatless, eggless Shakshouka.  I don’t know how they did it. (A Moroccan breakfast dish, traditionally a melange of eggs, onions, peppers, and sometimes meat.)

CHOLENT. (A rich, filling meat-and-potatoes stew.)

KUGEL. (I don’t know how to describe kugel.  A large, comforting block of starchy goodness?)

Blintzes, tzimmes and babka, oh my! (Blintzes: egg-roll-shaped wrappers filled with cheese, fruit or potato and lightly fried.  Tzimmes: A sweet, caramelized carrot dish that generally incorporates fruit.  Babka: Cake.)

And finally: a sufganiyah. (A jelly donut.)

In Defense of “Top Chef”

Full disclosure: “Top Chef” is one of my favorite TV shows of all time (and — as is evidenced by the show’s 6 seasons and multiple spinoffs — a whole lot of America agrees with me). So I always get a little snippy when people mistake this rich chocolate torte of a show for a fluffy, insubstantial beignet.

I’m honestly not kidding. It’s easy to label the show as “trashy” or “a waste of time,” easy to write it off as having no redeeming value whatsoever. Yet besides being entertaining — and it is very, very entertaining — “Top Chef” is one of the most enlightened, and enlightening, shows on the airwaves today.

Of course, the first thing that any loyal “Top Chef” viewer will mention in response is this season’s candid treatment of misogyny — and they would be right.  Anyone who thinks that feminism is no longer relevant might be in for a rude awakening when they hear Mattin assume that Jen, a highly accomplished chef and one of the season’s frontrunners, can’t possibly do anything but make dessert (“Where are you a pastry chef?”).  Or perhaps, if they didn’t catch that moment, their ears could perk up when the borderline-megalomaniacal Mike Isabella says that “a girl shouldn’t be able to do anything as well as I can.”  Highlighting these moments only underscores one of the show’s major crusades: to point out, and smash, the glass ceiling in the restaurant biz.  Every season, at least three of the competitors (men and women both) discuss at length the hostility that many women find in the upper echelons of professional cooking; Tom Colicchio, who shows strong positions and has done admirable work on numerous contemporary issues (see also: participation in eco-friendly food movement, volunteerism at Ground Zero, collaboration with Freedom to Marry), makes a point of vocally taking a stand against it at least once per season.  And the very setup of the show is a step forward in breaking that aforementioned glass ceiling: every season is about half male and half female, a much more even ratio than can be found anywhere else in the chef-restaurateur level of the restaurant industry.  Needless to say, the women who make it onto “Top Chef” get an extraordinary chance to prove themselves and show their talents, far more than they would necessarily be granted in the old-boys-club-esque top tier of cookery.  Unlike Bravo’s guilty-pleasure “Project Runway,” in which fashion-industry sexism is alternately muted and accepted as a fact of life that comes with the territory (e.g. execrable treatment of models), “Top Chef” could potentially be a warrior for good in the fight to raise awareness of contemporary sex discrimination.

Tom Colicchio, as well as erstwhile judge Tim Allen, have been known for their activism against homophobia; this commitment is evident in the show that they spearheaded.  Again unlike “Project Runway,” “Top Chef” neither fetishizes its LGBTQ participants nor silences them.  It certainly doesn’t force them into the kind of stereotypes or molds that “Project Runway” participants are encouraged to take on.  Numerous participants on every season, of every shape, size, and background, have been openly gay — and, in one of the most inspirational features of the show, it has never been a big deal.  Those competitors, gay or straight, who want to use their position on the show as an opportunity to advocate for LGBTQ rights (Ashley, I’m looking at you, and I admire you for it) are welcome to — but not every gay participant is forced to speechify on their “gayness” every time they face the cameras.  “Top Chef” understands that every competitor is there to cook (and to win), and sexual orientation doesn’t automatically change that.

But I think the greatest, and most powerful, strength of “Top Chef” lies in its revolutionization of the way we view food.  Sure, it’s a show about the people who cook in our restaurants, but ultimately, it’s about the cooking, not the restaurants.  And it makes cooking look so exhilarating, so artful, so much darn fun, that any viewer would be tempted to try it out themselves.  Watching “Top Chef” inspired me to start cooking, and, judging from the testimonials on the website, that’s not an uncommon reaction.  This power is only enhanced by the power of the individual challenges, which (while setting “impossible” tasks for the chefs, who always seem to rise to the occasion) effectively tell the viewer that no matter your money constraints, no matter your allergies or dietary variations, you can cook for yourself, cook freshly and healthfully, and cook well.  In an era where food — particularly fast food — has been industrialized for profit to the point where it is actually damaging every link in the vast chain of our ecosystem, and in an era where that industrialized food is sustaining us three meals a day, a knowledge of homemade cookery is not only precious, it’s revolutionary.  “Top Chef”‘s emphasis on fresh and local ingredients encourages us to eat healthfully and sustainably; its “budget challenges” and delegated sums of money teach us to do that cheaply; the sheer fun of it, the breakneck pace and the cheesy music and the oddball kitchen ethos, makes us want to do it ourselves.  Not everything is perfect about “Top Chef”: its embrace of meat without any acknowledgment of where it came from is disturbing, and so, conversely, is its reflexive nose-wrinkling at vegetarian or vegan dishes.  But if everyone adhered to the major lessons of “Top Chef,” our entire system of food would require a radical overhaul — and maybe, instead of killing us, it would start keeping us alive.

The Thoughtful Revolution

This blog may or may not be interesting.

This blog may or may not be well-written.

This blog may or may not be about the following: feminism, politics, childhood toys, economics, food, global human rights, theatre, educational philosophy, electric cellos, DIY crafts, Emma Goldman, yoga, theology, dried flowers, collages, songwriting, Kurt Vonnegut, bellydance, acrylic paint, swimming, environmentalism, linguistics, Amanda Palmer, Michael Pollan, farming practices, rubber ducks, and/or my charming little heartland hometown, Washington D.C.

This blog may or may not be one of those dreaded teen poetry sites.  Or one of those dreaded teen art sites.  Or one of those dreaded teen catharsis sites.

This blog will sadly not blast the entire Rasputina discography if you find the right Easter egg.

But this blog will be religiously updated, very pretty, and even — sometimes — insightful.  It will always involve a good deal of thought, hence The Thoughtful Revolution.

Before we get started, I need to define my terms.  To change the world (and it’s a world that desperately needs changing, on countless levels and topics), there needs to be thought.  That little Captain Obvious moment is step 1.  But more importantly, that thought can do nothing but fester if it isn’t communicated.  That’s step 2.  Eventually, for it to achieve importance, it must (I think) be worked into something greater than itself, a new, tangible, productive way of sharing it with the world — step 3.  This blog is, I hope, step 2: a place to communicate thoughts, to keep them from rotting inside my skull.  Some of them may be rotted and worthless on arrival.  Hopefully not all of them will be.  But if I have a place to put them out, and if I can get enough feedback and trolling and interest and discussion and devil’s-advocate criticism, maybe together we can hoist them up to step 3.

And I hope dearly that any readers I can find will feel free to send or post their own thoughts, to be processed and shared in the same manner.  Send me things that occur to you, with or without provocation from anything on this blog, and they’ll take their place in the exchange.  Because that, that marketplace and development of ideas, is the thoughtful revolution — and a revolution of thought might be its own step 1 in finding and implementing the solutions that our world craves.

In conclusion, read.  Think.  Write.  Explore.  Treat this blog not as a vacuum — as the solitary writings of one teenage girl — but as a constant game of mental tug-of-war, or cyberspace give-and-take.  And if you figure out how to get the entire Rasputina discography on here, please feel free to let me know.