Saturday, 30 April 2011

SITS Girl's Comment Hour

Last Thursday morning, I took part in the SITS Girls Comment Hour, a Twitter Party which takes place every Wednesday night/Thursday morning at 6:30pm PST, 9:30pm EST, and 2:30am in my timezone, GMT.  You can see the permanent link to this in my sidebar.

Essentially, during Comment Hour, 25 blogs are linked to, by the SITS Girls, osvme and UnicornBeauty, and everyone goes to explore them (and hopefully, doesn't crash the servers).  The blogs are selected randomly from those which were submitted in the days beforehand (details are all in that post I linked to waaaaaay back in that first sentence).

A lot of bloggers seemed to be mommy bloggers this week, and, while it's interesting to get a glimpse at a totally different life, I probably won't be checking back regularly.  I'm just not the target audience.  Several people were talking about religion, due to Easter, and, again, I'm just not the right person to be reading those. It was great fun having a nose around, though!


I found some nice recipes I want to veganise over at Skinny Mom's Kitchen (those mini freezer pops!  Strawberries, soya milk, and soy yoghurt?  Cornflour-thickened rice milk?  Just plain non-dairy milk and berries?  Shouldn't be too hard!).  She has some great tips on freezer cooking, and eating healthily in a variety of situations, too.

Another recipe I want to veganise is Miss-ology's savoury oats.  I'm thinking those spices will work with seitan sausages.  It'll be interesting to find out!

I also quite liked a Book for My Daughter, a blog about one lady's experiences as a parent.  I'm nowhere close to being a mother (which is why you got such a quick overview of most of the mommy blogs!), but there are some lovely sweet moments described here.

My Life is a good read, too.  It's written by the hopefully, soon to be, midwife-in-training, Rose's daughter, about her life in general.

Amy's Assorted Adventures in Africa is an excellent blog, written by Amy, who runs an orphanage in Zambia.  It's such a keen insight into a world that I, at least, haven't had much exposure to.

Chloe's Mom is just starting a project on depression, Project Optimist, and it'll be interesting to see how that comes out.

Finally, I really like It's Blogworthy.  She's so funny that I just don't care that I have no experience with what she's talking about.

If you want to take part in next week's Comment Hour Twitter Party, then just be on Twitter at 6:30pm PST, 9:30pm EST, or 2:30am GMT next Wednesday night or Thursday morning, and look for people using the #CommentHour tag.  Personally, I use TweetChat, but there are many other programs designed to help you keep up with Twitter Parties.  If you want to sign up for a chance to be featured, then you'll be able to find the right thread in this forum early next week.

Girls Gone Wild

This post covers incidences of rape and sexual assault. Please be aware that this may be triggering for some readers.


Dan Ariely, while Professor of Behaviour Economics at MIT Sloane School of Management, performed a very interesting experiment.  In this, he was assisted by George Loewenstein, Professor of Economics and Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University.  The objective was to see if, while in a 'cold' state (essentially, calm, not-aroused, sober, etc), we could predict our behaviour while in a 'hot' state (ie, drunk/aroused/furious, etc).

This experiment was performed by asking thirty-five male MIT Student volunteers to answer a series of question, in calm states, as the control, and while aroused.  You can read a rather better, and more formal, description of the experiment here.

You can also read their full findings there, but, the short version is, they found that people made different decisions while aroused than they did while calm.  The test subjects showed that they knew the risks of sex without a condom...but, while aroused, they simply cared less about the danger, and showed a decreased interest in using protection, especially if it was thought that their partner might change her mind.

You can read a full description of the experiment and the results here, but for now, I'll just quote a small part of the results below.



As you can see, most of the answers changed dramatically.  The young men in question were more likely to find 'just kissing' frustrating, and to indulge in generally 'kinkier' behaviours.

Below, is an image of the results of the coercion behaviours questions, from the same link.


I've talked about this experiment to make the point that people make riskier decisions, that they wouldn't have expected of themselves, while in a 'hot' state, as opposed to a 'cold' one.  Ariely believes that these kinds of changes in rational behaviour extends to anger and drunkenness, as well as to lust.  I'm sure many of us have anecdotal evidence of doing things we wouldn't have expected of ourselves while in any of those states.  Anecdata, of course, is not evidence, and the sample size for this experiment was very small, but still, I feel it is worthy of consideration in light of the event I want to discuss.

And that event is?   Girls Gone Wild coming to the UK.

Girls Gone Wild is a series of films/an event staged by Mantra Films Inc, which is lead by Joe Francis, a man who has served prison time, after pleading no contest to charges of child abuse and prostitution.  Essentially, the camera crew enter bars and clubs, on evenings agreed upon by the management, and coerce young women into performing sexual acts and stripping for the camera.  These young women - traditionally, university aged, so under twenty-five - will normally be drunk, and will be encouraged to drink more.

Of course, women can make their own decisions.  They can choose to strip for a camera, if they want to.  They can choose to be filmed performing sex acts, if they want to.  But, my feeling is, that they should not make these decisions while drunk, while being coerced into drinking more than they'd intended, or under a strict time limit, like in a Girls Gone Wild evening.  Both of these things will make someone more likely to make a decision she'll regret.

You can read a full article from Clare Hoffman for the LA Times here.  In it, she accompanies Joe Francis, who truly believes that the 1st Amendment covers his right to produce pornography, under-age or otherwise.

On a side note; the 1st Amendment does not cover Joe Francis in this regard.  It covers the right for people to worship how they like, as long as this does not infringe on the rights of others, and covers the right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press regarding government.  Unlike the people on message boards and forums, Francis is, technically the press (message boards and forums, on the other hand, are private property, and they can censor people however they like, legally speaking.  It's their forum, they don't have to let you say anything at all).  As the Press, Francis can say what he likes about the US Government.  He can film whatever he likes about the US Government (as long as, for instance, it's not hate speech).  On the other hand, the 1st Amendment does not, in any way, cover his right to produce pornography, or to coerce young women into appearing in it.

That said, it has been hard for young women to convince judges and juries that they were unwilling to be filmed.  As some of the images were filmed in public, Francis has argued his right to use the images in his films, and has sometimes won these cases.  In a case in St Louis, it was ruled that the lady in question gave 'implied consent' simply by being in the area, despite the fact that her breasts were exposed against her will, and she gave no verbal or written consent whatsoever.  Her protests are clearly audible on the video.


Clare Hoffman's article includes the following;

Above the dance floor, the stage is full of girls who rotate, twist and shimmy their way up and down three strip poles. One of them is Jannel Szyszka, a petite 18-year-old who prances around the stage like a star. At her feet, a crowd of hundreds is gyrating to the pounding house music. Dozens of polo-shirted boys shout up to her, making requests like "shake your titties" and "get crunk" (meaning crazy-drunk).

Szyszka tells me later that as she was spinning around the strip pole that night, Francis appeared, grabbed her arm and pulled her toward him. "You are so going on the bus later," she recalls Francis saying. "I was like, 'Um, OK.' I was shocked. I was like, 'Whoa—Joe's, like, trying to talk to me, like out of all the girls in here.'" Francis invited her back to the VIP area to do shots with him, she says, and she said yes.


Szyszka says the more shots she drank, the cloudier her judgment became. She says she agreed to join Francis and his crew on the "Girls Gone Wild" bus. "I thought 'Girls Gone Wild' was like flashing, and I thought I would flash them and be done. And so when I'm walking to the bus, that's all I'm thinking is going to happen."

At first she felt comfortable, she says. Inebriated and excited, she says she was led to the back of the bus, to a small bedroom. The double bed, with its neatly folded iridescent purple sheets, takes up most of the room. A flat-screen TV faces the bed, and cabinets are filled with remote controls, lubricants, condoms, sex toys in plastic bags, baby oil, a DVD called "How to be a Player" and a clipboard full of waivers for girls to sign. A small bathroom is off to the side, with a half-sized shower with faux marble tiling, and on the floor of the shower is a crate holding cheap and fruity-flavored rum, whiskey, tequila and Kool-Aid.


Footage from that night shows a close-up of Szyszka's driver's license, proving she's not a minor. The camera then captures Szyszka lying on the bed. Her nails are chipped, her eyes coated with makeup. Following a camerman's instructions, she shows her breasts and says, "Girls Gone Wild." She seems shy but willing. She smiles. The unseen cameraman asks her to take off her shirt, her skirt, then her underwear. She sprawls on the bed, her legs open. At his suggestion, she masturbates with a dildo, saying repeatedly that it hurts but also feels good. Francis enters the room at certain points and you hear his voice, low and flirtatious, telling her, "You are so adorable." When she says she's a virgin, he responds: "Great. You won't be after my cameraman gets done with you."


When I talk to Szyszka seven days later, she says she "didn't quite realize" she was being filmed. "But I didn't care because I was drunk and who cares?" Then she adds: "It didn't feel good to me at all, but I was totally faking it because I was on 'Girls Gone Wild.'"


Eventually, Szyszka says, Francis told the cameraman to leave and pushed her back on the bed, undid his jeans and climbed on top of her. "I told him it hurt, and he kept doing it. And I keep telling him it hurts. I said, 'No' twice in the beginning, and during I started saying, 'Oh, my god, it hurts.' I kept telling him it hurt, but he kept going, and he said he was sorry but kissed me so I wouldn't keep talking."


Afterward, she says, Francis cleaned them both off with a paper towel and told her to get dressed. Then, she says, he opened the door and told the cameraman to come back, saying, "She's not a virgin anymore."


Szyszka says Francis told her that what happened had to stay between them. She says she agreed, and they walked to the front of the bus. Szyszka remembers that one of the crew returned her driver's license. Another asked if she wanted to hang out on the bus. She declined, she says, but asked for three pairs of "booty short" underwear that Francis had promised her for appearing on camera. "They gave me a weird look like that was too much," Szyszka recalls. "They were, like, 'Three of them?' and I was, like, 'Yeah, three.'"


Within days, Szyszka says, she told her father, who was angry about what she said had happened but kept quiet at her request. A month after the incident, she says, she told her sister and mother.


She's confused, she admits, about what happened. She feels guilty, she says, for getting herself into the situation in the first place. She says she never would have undressed for the cameras if she hadn't been completely drunk. And she is adamant that she said "no" to Francis. She says she's haunted by that night.


"I feel like it was planned," she says. "Sometimes I'm driving along, and I think about it and all of a sudden feel weird."


Six weeks after that night outside Chicago, when I call Francis on his cellphone and ask him about the incident, he says he doesn't remember Szyszka and that he didn't have sex with anyone that night. He seems to lose control, repeatedly referring to me by a crude word for female genitalia. "If you print that, I will [expletive] sue the [expletive] out of you. If you print that, baby, you just put the nail in your own coffin," he tells me. "You are a [expletive expletive]. You decided to blast me . . . You are a [expletive] bitch . . . I will get my last laugh on you. I will get you." He then refers me to Burke, his lawyer.

The article goes on to describe Francis' accusations towards Hoffman; that she had a crush on him, that she was drunk, and that she does not stand up for freedom of speech.  His lawyer states that, although Francis did have sexual relations with Szyszka, these were consensual, and that the discomfort was due to Francis' endowment.

To return to the topic at hand; I'm not saying that women shouldn't do pornography, or strip, or do whatever they choose to do, if it is legal, hurts no one, and, if they truly feel empowered by it.  But, I think women should make these decisions in their own time, with no coercion from anyone, and certainly not under the circumstances described above.

In our culture today, drinking is seen simply as 'what young people do'.  I'm twenty-two.  I've had people tell me that I 'should' be out drinking every night, or at least every weekend.  I'm met with confusion when I explain that, while, yes, drinking and dancing can be fun, it's just not what I want to do every night.  Why on earth, they seem to think, would a twenty-two-year-old girl choose not to drink every evening?  (I use the word 'girl' purposefully here, as all of the things I've described make me feel far too young for this shit).

Popular music encourages us to drink, to get 'crunk ' (crazy drunk).  Have a listen to Tik Tok, a song which broke the record for the biggest single-week sum of all time for a female artist, which talks about how much fun it is to wake up and start drinking immediately.  Turn on the radio and listen to any modern song.  Four times out of five, I bet it will talk about drinking and partying, as the ultimate 'fun' experience.  For many young people, it is the only 'fun' they know of - there's this idea that only losers are home on Friday or Saturday nights, among certain groups.

We're also encouraged to be famous.  There are shows like X-Factor, which encourage fame as the ultimate dream.  Hoffman's article talks about women who believe their exposure on Girls Gone Wild will catapult them into the kind of fame and fortune enjoyed by Paris Hilton, or, for a more British example, Jordan, AKA, Katie Price.  There are young women who grow up, dreaming of being Page 3 girls.  And, my point is, if you must do those things, do them because you've made a sober, well-researched decision, because you know the risks - not because you're drunk, sold false dreams of fortune and fame, or because you've been told that this is the ultimate wild partying experience, and that's what you should be aiming for.

This is the kind of situation where self-defence, and even Krav Maga, will not save you.  It's a lot easier to learn how to physically defend yourself, than how to mentally defend yourself.  If Szyszka had known how to kick Joe Francis off her, would she have?  Knowing that everyone around her would have acted as if she'd commited some terrible faux pas, and overreacted?  Knowing that even other women she knew might have wondered what on earth she was thinking, to attack Joe Francis - the Joe Francis - like that?

These events resonate deeply with me.  I've been raped and sexually assaulted in the past, and I know that, even if I'd been able to fight then, the mental part of it would have been at least half the battle.  Deciding when it's okay to fight, it's okay to go against the will of those around you, and be the 'bitch' who 'overreacted' - that's harder than it sounds.  Learning Krav Maga does help me feel able to defend myself, to have more confidence in saying that I want something to stop, before it reaches that point, and to know that I can back it up.  For those who are interested, you can find information on Krav Maga Birmingham here.  For ladies in London, there is a female-only introductory workshop taking place on the 8th of May.  Sarah Brendlor often does female-only events, and women-only six week courses, so its worth checking back if you can't make that one.

Girls Gone Wild has, so far, been a purely American phenomenon.  However, the company is planning a UK wide tour in May.  So far, the areas targeted are not known, though planned locations do include all of Britain's major cities and some smaller towns.

A spokesman for the company claimed the following; "Girls Gone Wild is an American phenomenon and a real household name in the States where the tours are always really well received.

"We are really excited about bringing the brand and its road show to the UK and we expect British young men and women to have a fantastic time at the events which are a really fun celebration of freedom and youthful expression."

It's untrue that the tours are always well-received.   Ashurst Wood Parish Council have already ruled that Girls Gone Wild is not an appropriate activity for the Parish to be involved with, and some smaller bars in the US have made similar rulings.  A state senator in Tennessee is working on banning their advertisements, but, sadly, all discussion on the subject seems to be along the lines of "why is he wasting his time on that?  Don't senators have better things to worry about?"

Many feminist groups - including the one I attend, the Birmingham Femms - are campaigning against this tour.  Object.org has a form letter you can download and send to your local MP or city council.  In Birmingham, that's Gisela Stuart (bagshawl@parliament.uk), and Birmingham City Council (contact@birmingham.gov.uk), respectively.  For other areas, you can find your local MP here, and your local Council hereMake the decision, while you're sober and calm, that you don't want to meet this camera crew while drunk and hyped up.

Thanks for listening.

Please feel free to comment if you disagree, have more information to add, or wish to discuss the issue.  I reserve the right to delete all insulting or inflammatory comments - keep it clean and polite, please!

Friday, 29 April 2011

Nin nin! ♥

Birmingham has a surprising amount of vocal Free-Runners and Parkour enthusiasts. By a surprising amount, I mean two.  It surprised me.

They like to talk about it loudly at bus stops or on buses. A few weeks ago, a young man was showing off his parkour skills to his girlfriend, with the memorable line "I'm basically a ninja!". They were being loud, so I felt able to join in with, "to be a ninja, you'd want parkour and krav maga". (There was a lot more conversation before this point, I didn't just randomly dive in).  So then we chatted a bit about PK and Krav.

Anyway, yesterday, I was on the bus home from krav, and this girl got on, talking loudly about free-running. So I said, "excuse me, I'm really nosy, have you ever tried Parkour?"

She hadn't heard of Parkour, so I described as being like the next step up from free-running, and she said she'd check it out.  That description wasn't entirely accurate.  Free-running is a competitive form of movement, and so involves moves aimed to confuse or distract your oponent, while Parkour is more about efficiently getting from A to B, using the power of your own body.  I like to think of it as the Krav Maga of movement (the point of Krav Maga being, of course, for A to disable B as quickly and efficiently as possible, normally with a kick to the balls).  Both emphasize the use of training with your own body, rather than machines.  Nerd Fitness is quite big on Parkour, and on calisthenic training.  I've used some of his fitness plans to help raise my strength for Krav, as the drills can be quite similar.



Ryan Doyle makes some excellent PK videos.  I use the one above to practice rolls, as that's something I want to be good at before it comes up in class.  I don't fancy getting stuck ass up, thank you very much.  Plus, it's a pleasure to watch someone so graceful and well-practised.

Then we talked about ninja skills, which got us on to krav, before I had to get off the bus. Apparently, I look far too sweet and innocent to go around talking about kicking people in the balls with so much clear enjoyment. Heheh.

Nin nin! ♥

Thursday, 28 April 2011

But I don't want to go among MAD people!

130lbs, in January.
I'm still rocking Alice in Wonderland a bit, yeah.  But mostly, I just love my top hat, which I happen to be wearing in all these pics.

When I first stopped eating meat, my weight went down from eleven stone to ten and a half. When I dropped dairy and eggs too, it went right back down to nine and a half. And when I started paying attention to the nutrients I got, doing krav, and eating around 1600 calories a day, it dropped right down to my current weight of eight stone, eleven pounds (that is, about 123lbs, or 56kg), which is the lowest weight I've been as an adult. My body fat percentage also dropped from around 23% to 18%, and you can see a lot more muscle definition (in a feminine way - strength workouts will not give you body builder arms, ladies, I promise!).

It feels great. At 5'5 and a half, with a small frame, I was never actually overweight, but I was always a little pudgier than I'd have liked.

About a month ago.
You can't see my top hat or belt, but trust me, they're there.
I don't have any full body shots of me at eleven stone. I didn't post them on facebook, and since I'm on a new computer, they're probably lost forever. Good. Again, although I was never overweight (just borderline, at my heaviest), I felt fat.

Last night, I tried on some of my old clothes (yes, I am purposefully obscuring my features a little in these pictures).  A red corset I wore in Cardiff (due to a bet about Wales vs Scotland), which looked a little obscene, and gathered a lot of attention (I never actually took my coat off, and it got really annoying).  My halloween costume, Death of the Endless.

My dear child, this is NOT a birthday party!
Of course not!
This is an UNbirthday party!
The corset, which used to squeeze quite a bit, is now loose.  I lace it up as tight as it will go, and it's still comfortable.

The Halloween costume, which used to be skin-tight, is still skin-tight.  But in a more comfortable, more flattering way.  And, of course, my top hat still fits perfectly.

I knew I'd lost weight.  I even knew I'd lost inches.  But it wasn't really driven home until I did this.

I didn't become a vegan, or start studying Krav to make me look better.  But I'm really glad that it did.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Off With Her Cupcakes!*

*Title must be shouted imperiously.

I made this recipe for We Should Cocoa, a monthly event for food bloggers focused around chocolate.  This months is hosted by Choclette, while last month's and next month's will be Chelle's.  The idea is, to create some dish using both chocolate and the special ingredient, which, for April, is...marzipan!

Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!

I only found out about this last night, so I'm technically too late to enter (entries need to be in my the 25th).  I figured I'd have a go anyway, because it looked fun!

I did want to make little marzipan bowls, with chocolate mousse inside, and delicate marzipan flowers on top, like little lotus blossoms, but we're all out of coconut milk, and we had no waxed paper, which would have made the marzipan so much easier to work with.  So, instead, I decided to use the chocolate cupcake recipe I've been testing everything on this week, add some vanilla buttercream, and make little marzipan roses for the top.  Since I wanted a smooth surface for the icing, I made three cupcakes from that mixture, so they didn't quite come to the top of the cases.

Clearly, the cards have not finished painting this one.
Off with their cupcakes!
Now, I've never worked with marzipan before, but how hard could it be?  I decided to make my marzipan from scratch too, just for the heck of it.

I went with this recipe from Jeena's Kitchen, which was SO easy.  I halved the quantities, since I was only making a few cupcakes, then dyed a bit of it green, and the rest red.  All you need to do to colour it is knead in some food colouring.  Gel would be easier, but we only had liquid, which got...messy.

I look at the video below for tips on how to fashion marzipan roses, then totally ignored it (due to the aforementioned lack of waxed paper), and did it a slightly easier way, which made them come out more cartoony.  Why am I posting it if I totally ignored, you ask?  Why because this is a much better way of making them, and what I would have done if I weren't poor, and feeling a bit lazy today (I have a cold; don't worry, I washed my hands LOTS).



What I did was, unwrap the marzipan from its clingfilm, then folded the clingfilm back over it, and rolled it out gently. I used a butter knife to cut a strip, and to gently flare the edges, before rolling it up in a tube, like if you were making a rose from a piece of ribbon. It ended up quite thick at the bottom, so I pinched that bit off (and ate it), and then gently flared out the petals.  For the leaves, I rolled out my green icing in the same way, cut out rough diamond shapes with a serrated knife, then used the butter knife to gently draw veins on.

Make a remark.
It's ridiculous to leave all the conversation to the pudding.
 The icing was a very simple vanilla buttercream.  I mixed one tablespoon of vegan margarine with 1 tablespoon of soya milk, then kept adding icing sugar for the desired consistency.  I used about six tablespoons of sugar, and it was still a tad thin.  Better idea would have been to add in some icing sugar, then drip the milk in, but I got impatient.

I made the marzipan first, then put that in the fridge while I made the cakes.  Once the cakes had cooled, I simply poured the icing on, up to the rim of the cases (silicon cases, SO handy, saves a fortune), and put them in the fridge to set, while I made the flowers.  I stuck those on while the icing was still a little damp, then put them back in the fridge.  Et voila!

Help, help! The omnivore's trying to feed people vegetables!

I just read this New York Times article on Yotam Ottolenghi, an omnivore famous for his vegetarian dishes.  He writes a column, formerly known as The New Vegetarian for the Guardian, and he is part owner/creator of the Ottolenghi chain, a modern deli with vegetables as the focus.  He's a fan of appreciating those neglected or unloved vegetables like kohlrabi, and some of his techniques are close to raw foodists (though for taste, not some belief about enzymes).  There's been some debate over whether or not his recipes are suitable for inclusion in vegetarian magazines (ultimately, they were included), and he's generally a relatively controversial figure in the vegetarian community.

Ottolenghi's vegetarian cookbook.
I suppose an omnivore vegetarian chef is something like a male gynaecologist.*  It's possible, it's even possible to be good at it, but you do always suspect that they're missing something, that they can't quite understand.  Take this passage from the article linked;

In an interview with a London reporter last month, Mr. Ottolenghi was quoted as saying, “You can be vegetarian and eat fish.” No, you can’t, the faithful raged. He later recanted via Twitter. (“To all, fish eaters are NOT vegetarians!”)

Firstly; the 'faithful', really?  It's not a religion, it's a way of eating.  So, yes, whether fish is included is an important distinction; I don't want to see something labelled as 'vegetarian' or 'vegan', and get a mouthful of fish.  I'm especially suspicious of any restaurant - or, I guess, any chef - who lists fish amongst the vegetarian options.  It makes me suspicious of whether they're going to be able to accurately tell me whether an item is vegan or not.  I don't mean that I think they'll lie, I just mean I think they might go "yes, it's vegan!  Butter's vegan, right?".  Or honey, or some other ingredient.  If you're going to tell me this food is vegan, I want to be confident you know what a vegan eats.  And I don't mean that 'vegan' I used to know who used whey powder and ate dairy ice-cream because "my cravings don't always match up to my desires".  You're a vegetarian, stop confusing people.

I don't think this definition failure makes Yotam a bad person, especially as he graciously took the correction.  It just sets off my "this food might not be veg*n" sensors, which means I really don't want to eat it.

The inclusion of his recipes in magazines is a totally different issue.  I suppose some of it is, should we give our support to a non-vegetarian chef?  Personally, I veganise a lot of recipes I find on omni blogs, or those I see made by omni chefs like Gizzi Erskine or Nigella Lawson, so I don't think that's so very different.  As to the actual vegetarian-ness of his recipes, that should be apparent by reading them, so presumably they'd be checked before inclusion.  I don't see a problem there.

Try it yourself - here's a recipe for Ottolenghi's Chard Cakes with Sorrel Sauce. Picture taken by Evan Sung for the NYT.

I also think that his view of omnivorousness - to summarise, he likes meat, but thinks it's important to enjoy all the other kinds of food out there - is refreshing, and a nice gateway to opening people up to enjoying more vegan or vegetarian meals.  It can be very difficult for someone to say "I'm never going to eat meat again", especially if they have that dreadfully common mindset of "OMG, HOW CAN YOU HAVE A MEAL WITHOUT MEAT?!" (that can be so tiresome, especially when you get those people who are belligerent about it).   If there's somewhere nice you can go with an omni, and get a veggie meal, and it doesn't have to be unusual, or a special option, or weird, if it can just be totally mainstream for omnivores to go somewhere with a vegetable focus...well, that's a pretty good start, in my opinion.

What do the other vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores think?  Agree, disagree, see another point I haven't considered?  Don't be shy!

* Incidentally, my mirena was fitted by a male gynaecologist.  It wasn't as awkward as I expected.  I don't recommend googling 'mirena' unless you have some idea of what it is.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

I WILL FUCKING CUT YOU!

I'm the only woman in my regular Krav class.  It was a little awkward at first, but now it's mostly okay.  I asked the instructor not to nod at me whenever he said "and ladies", avoid vest-tops or v-necks, and wear a very good sports bra (pros, reduced bounce, cons, nipples clearly visible when cold).  I know they know I'm female, but I try to avoid sending off obvious 'chick' signals.  I don't want my gender to be at the forefront of someone's mind when he's on top of me, trying to choke me.

Generally, in class, we need to pair up, and I've now found five or six people I'm good with working with (the instructor I normally work with is quite protective about this, especially since one guy asked me if I was a porn star).  These guys, for the most part, aren't in my weight or height range, which can be a problem.  It means it's harder for them to practice the technique well, since I'm not really a viable attacker.  It's good for me though, especially since these guys aren't afraid of hurting me, or actually physically choking me until I do the technique properly.  This is a good thing, seriously - if they don't do it with real force, I won't know if I can actually defend myself until someone tries it for real, and they won't stop when I tap them.

I actually find other women harder to work with, but I think this is because, the twice I've trained with women, they've been brand new to the classes.  Like anyone new at it, they don't want to use real strength for fear of hurting their training partner.  That's something people get over quickly, once they realise that training half-assed does no one any favours.

I was kind of a jerk the other day.  I was practicing 360-Defence with a fairly new guy, and I pointed out that his guard was repeatedly being broken by a 120lb girl with pigtails.   Not the most polite way of putting it, really.  Bit mean of me.

I find people expect less of me, since I'm female.  Some people will go easy on me, or be astonished when they can't break my guard, or stab me during a certain drill.  The drill in question has one person holding a fake knife, and the other person holding their wrist, and locking their arms out.  The objective is to try to stab.  Last time we did that, I actually tripped over someone's foot, and fell.  I didn't get stabbed though - I kicked the guy I was working with in the groin guard instead, and got a cheer.

I've been thinking about this, because of a dream I had last night, about one of the people I work with regularly.  Nothing happened, but there was a ton of sexual tension, which just doesn't exist in real life.  I was dream-texting Anthony the whole time, like I love you baby!  I'm not doing anything!.  It'll be fun trying not to think of that next time I work with this guy.

Oh, the title for this entry comes from something else that happened in a class once.  We were practising knife attacks, and to make it seem more real, we had to say things as attackers and defenders.  Like "give me your money," or, "hey, back off man, I don't want any trouble".  I suck at improv, so I stayed quiet, until the guy I was attacking started saying "hey, what do you want?".  To which I replied, at the top of my lungs, "I WILL FUCKING CUT YOU!", and everyone burst out laughing.  It was hilarious!

Reeses* Peanut Butter Cupcakes

*(Not actually supported by Reese).

Anthony came home last night, so I went to meet him at the station.  I brought enough chocolate cupcake batter for two cupcakes, and they were SO good, fresh and warm from the oven.  Anthony insists that I make him some cupcakes with warm custard soon.  I will when I buy some rice milk, so we can taste test it against Worthenshaw's new release.

Anyway, later on, I wanted more cake.  Anthony has some baking ingredients, so I made up another quick batch.  There was no cocoa powder, and I couldn't find the vanilla essence, so I used peanut butter instead.  It kind of worked.  The cakes were slightly savoury, despite the sugar, and I made this great icing to go with them, that really set them off.

The icing was going to be a basic butter cream, like the one I've described below, but we found out one of his flatmates had been salting the icing sugar, so I just mixed some peanut butter with granulated sugar and cinnamon and called it good (it was).

Back home today, I decided to make yet more cake, with creamy, delicious, peanut-butter butter icing.  The peanut butter isn't as sickly as the basic sugary icing I originally tried.  I don't quite have the chocolate-peanut-butter combo perfect yet, but bear with me!  The basic peanut butter butter cream is as follows;

Ingredients (enough for two cupcakes)

  • 1 Tbsp Peanut Butter (any kind you like).
  • 1/2 Tbsp Vegan Margarine (I used vitalite).
  • 1 Tbsp Icing/Confectioner's Sugar.

  1. Mix together.  Try not to eat it all before you get it on the cake.

If you want more, then these are the quantities to make half a cup of icing.  It multiplies pretty easily - for instance, if you want a cup of icing, double these quantities.  For more cake, Chloe Coscarelli's original recipe (which I miniaturised, in an attempt to not be greedy about it) can be found here.

1/4 Cup Peanut Butter
2 Tbsp Vitalite
1/4 Cup Icing Sugar.

If your icing doesn't come together well, add some drops of water or non-dairy milk until desired consistency.  If it's too thin, add some more peanut butter or icing sugar (taste to decide which to add).

We had pad thai too.  It was a good evening.  Yes, those are my legs reflected in the window.

Monday, 25 April 2011

In Soviet Russia, Cupcakes Heart You (for Two)

This is another recipe that makes a very small amount of cake.  My reasoning for this is as follows;

  1. Doing the conversions was a fun challenge.
  2. Sometimes, I only have a bit of flour left, and I don't fancy shopping.
  3. I'm the only vegan and the only cake-eater in the household, so a huge amount of cake will go stale, unless I live off it for a few days.
  4. ...I don't fancy living off cake for a few days.


I love you!  Please enjoy my chocolatey goodness!


This is a scaled down version of Chloe Coscarelli's strawberry shortcake cupcakes.  You can experiment with microwaving them if you like, but I baked them.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp Plain Flour
  • 2 Tbsp Demerara Sugar
  • 2 Tsp Cocoa Powder
  • 1/8 Tsp Baking Soda
  • 2 Tbsp Non-Dairy Milk or Water
  • 1 Tbsp Oil
  • 1 Tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/4 Tsp Vanilla

  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4.  Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the wet ingredients in another.  Add one to the other.
  2. Mix, and separate into two cupcake cases.  Go ahead and lick the bowl, you're not about to get salmonella from vinegar.
  3. Fill cases 2/3 full, and bake for 15-20 minutes.

As you can see, I iced my cupcakes, but, honestly?  The cakes are so sweet that adding the icing is just overkill.  Like, seriously, I-feel-really-terrible-from-all-that-sugar overkill.  Do it if you like, but I really don't recommend scaling down the icing from the original recipe.  Make up your own, in smaller amounts.

That said, I've noticed that cupcakes in the US have a lot more icing than we have in the UK, so it's probably a personal thing.

The original recipe calls for coconut milk, which is lovely, but I don't want to suggest that you open a tin of coconut milk only to use two tablespoons.

If you don't lick the bowl, you can probably scrape together three smaller cupcakes, by half filling the cases instead of three-quarter filling them.  Do that, make up some red icing, and pipe "I <3 U" on them.  Do it!  It'll be awesome!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Want to Know a Secret?

I liked meat.  I liked cheese, too.  Never that big a fan of eggs, but I did like meringue.  Now, I admit, I find the smell of meat a bit gross, but I certainly didn't give those things up because I didn't like them.

I like the hunting mini-game in Final Fantasy IX, and fishing in the Breath of Fire games.  I like killing things in most videogames.

I also have rape fantasies, and my point here is, just because you're not totally opposed to the fantasy of something doesn't mean you'd ever want to do it in reality.

While I'm ranting; twice today, I've heard "eating fake meat is cheating", or "doesn't serving fake meat defeat the purpose of a vegan restaurant?".

My only response is total bafflement and annoyance.  Cheating at what?  What do you think the point is?  etc.

In Which Anthony is a Total Genius and Invents Delicious and Easy Pizza Sauce

Anthony texted this picture to me the other day, with the following message;  It tastes like pizza!



When I went over the next day, he made me some.  And guess what?  It tastes like pizza!

I don't know why this is.  There's no cheese on it, obviously, vegan or otherwise.  No, my guess is...well, mozarella, by itself, is actually kind of tasteless.  It's mostly fat.  So, the taste I associate with pizza comes from the tomato and the spices more than the cheese, which really only contributes grease.  Or, y'know, I've forgotten what cheese tastes like, though that doesn't explain Anthony (he's not vegan, though he is a poor student away from home, and doesn't buy cheese often).

What that tomato sauce is, is simply double concentrate tomato purée, mixed with garlic purée, with a bit of flour to thicken it.  A bit of salt, some lemon juice, paprika, and a bit of vegan margarine.  That's it.  We added some fresh parsley too, which is so much better than the dried stuff (we got a basil plant for 89p from Tesco, and the parsley for 50p from Aldi).  It really brings out the flavour of the garlic.

Later in the evening, Anthony made this;


That is, homemade garlic and rosemary foccaccia (I say homemade, it was Wright's breadmix, though we did find a from-scratch recipe for the same stuff, so we'll try that next time), with fried mushrooms, mixed with that pizza sauce, with fresh basil on top.  I'm not the world's biggest fan of mushrooms, but it was absolutely delicious.  And the basil on top made it look really appetising.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Ice Cream Syrup!

Lyle has a new range of syrups out - strawberry, butterscotch, mint-chocolate, and chocolate.  They're £1.25, and three of the four are vegan - all but the chocolate flavour.  And what I really like about this, they've gone ahead and put "suitable for vegans" right on the back.

I love it when companies do that, instead of making me search through the ingredients least, and look for the vegetarian simple, and then go through the allergens.  Just a nice, simple "suitable for vegans".  Wonderful.

I bought the butterscotch one, since I hate mint, and I've got some askey's strawberry in the cupboard.  I haven't tried butterscotch since I left Oregon, and it's still yummy.


I got some more Chocolate Freedom, too, which has gone down to £3 in Tesco now.  And then I ate quite a lot of ice cream and syrup, and felt a bit sick.  It was worth it!

See?  Right there!

Friday, 22 April 2011

Ranty McRantPants

I've noticed that a lot of omnis seem to think that the vegan goal is to save every single life in the world, and that anything short of this is pointless.  I've seen people point out that vegans will often accidentally kill insects, or argue about yeast, or point out that rabbits and other creatures will be accidentally killed while wheat is harvested, as if this will make us realise that veganism is futile.  This tends to leave me baffled.  No, of course I can't save everything in the world.  That's not why I'm a vegan.

I'm not a vegan because I'm utterly horrified at the idea of ever coming into contact with animal products, either.  I live with omnivores.  I date an omnivore.  I'm okay with using the same cutlery, and cooking equipment.  Some people aren't, and they are very difficult to cater for.  I've never actually met someone who insists on separate kitchen equipment, though Alexendra Jamieson mentions it in Living Vegan for Dummies (don't read that, that woman's writing is impossibly pompous and self-congratulating).  These people obviously have very different reasons for being vegan than I do, which is fine by me, just don't ask me any questions about it.

For some reason, some omnis seem to believe that vegans will run away screaming if they go near animal products.  Take a look at this comment, from here.



...I'm a bit baffled by why that last paragraph is there, to be honest.  And I guess I'll be ordering the vegetarian.

Okay, low blow, I know.  Couldn't help myself.

She's wrong, incidentally.  You can generally find an accidentally vegan item on quite a few menus.  The trick is, find them when you're not hungry, because when you are hungry, you won't have the patience to look properly.

In areas you go often, like where you work, or your nearest high street or city centre, have a quick look at all of the cafés, shops, and restaurants, while you're not hungry, to figure out what's vegan.  Ask someone in the store for the vegan options, if you like.  In Birmingham city centre, for instance,  you could get the sweet potato and chickpea curry from Wetherspoons (no naan bread), chips from the chippy, the veggie burger without cheese from The Loft, or a baked potato with beans from Spud-U-Like in Martineau, a veggie bean burger with no cheese or mayo from burger king, or a fruit salad from Tesco or Pret-a-Manger (lame, I know.  Cheaper option; McDonalds fruit bag).

Sorry, I went off on a complete tangent there.

My point is, I'm not a vegan because animals are icky, or because I think I'm doing something fantastic.  I'm a vegan, purely and simply because I couldn't meet my eyes in the mirror if I wasn't.  I think the exploitation of animals is wrong, the idea that we can own another living being is fucked up, and that factory farming is cruel, and I want no part in any of them.  I am opting out.

I started writing this post because of this tweet.


It really annoyed me.  I've been veganraging quite a bit today, due to this DailyVegan post, so I wasn't in the best mood to start with, but I think this would have bugged me whatever mood I was in.  I'm trying to figure out why this annoys me so very much, and I think I have it mostly figured out now.

Veganism and Medicine are not comparable.  One is a passive lifestyle choice, an opt out.  The other is spending quite a lot of time and money (as the tweet points out) to go out and help other living beings.  Yes, some vegans are this dedicated, and do dedicate their lives and careers to helping other creatures, like doctors and vets do.  But, that doesn't apply to all vegans.  Some of us just don't eat animal products, and that is nothing at all like being a doctor.  Show some respect for someone who actively dedicates their lives to saving others, don't just try to hog the glory for yourself. 

That's the other thing that annoyed me.  This post is so self-congratulatory about veganism, and that's the attitude I really hate.  Okay, we are saving the moo-cows and the cluck-clucks, we don't need to hold a bloody parade about it.  And it's exactly this kind of speech that gives that kind of omnivores fuel to hate those 'sanctimonious whiny vegans'.  If you really want to help the animals, don't pull shit like this that makes it worse, that riles people up more.  Give veganism a new kind of image, don't just fill out the old stereotypes, otherwise no one's going to want to join! 

Finally, this tweet makes it sound like doctors are fools, for taking the hard option when they could do just as much good by going vegan.  That makes no sense whatsoever.  No matter how vegan you are, how much you live the dream, you are going to need a doctor at some point.  You can't compare the 'good' in this case - you're working in two totally different systems.  It's not an either/or kind of thing.

I missed my double krav class last night.  I really need to go kick someone in the groin-guard, too.

Vegan Kitchen Basics

When I first started going vegan, almost a year ago, I couldn't cook, and didn't regularly.  I live with my grandmother, who is an old-fashioned kind of cook - big slabs of meat, and veg boiled brown.

I liked cooking occasionally, and would sometimes whip up some fancy little thing, mostly cakes, but I didn't do it regularly.  In fact, some of the first vegan recipes I made were cakes (these, if you're wondering).

What I'm getting at is, I only learned to cook when I realised that no one else was going to be able to make yummy vegan foods for me.  I actually found vegan cooking a lot more fun than as an omnivore.  I had to be more creative, which was pretty fun, and I've found that vegan recipes tend to be more interesting.  Vegan communities too, I've found to be more supportive, presumably because we're doing something outside of the norm.

Anyway, since I started cooking for myself, I've found the following items to be essential.

One thing that isn't essential is a rolling pin.  Highball glasses work fine.
A good set of knives.  You don't need many.  One little sharp one and one serrated one are the only really essential things, and you can probably omit that second one, too.  I just find it easier to cut onions with a blade that grips them.  Otherwise the little suckers fly across the kitchen like woah.

A saucepan and a frying pan.  The saucepan is for cooking pasta, rice, quinoa, potatoes, sauces, or chilli, or whatever.  The frying pan is for sautéing onions, and for pancakes, or pan fried potatoes, things like that.  Generally speaking, if I'm sautéing onions, they're going into a larger recipe, so I do it in the saucepan anyway.  It's probably easier to fry pancakes in a frying pan, but I bet you could do it in a saucepan if you really wanted to.

A vegetable steamer.  Good for steaming vegetables.  And seitan.  With seitan, you're probably going to need to make smaller loaves, or sausages or patties, and swap the layers of the steamer halfway through cooking, to cook evenly.  Or you could get another larger steamer, too.

A good set of spices.  I picked these up piecemeal, as I made recipes that called for them.  I mostly use salt, pepper, and garlic granules, but things like sage, cumin, and onion powder show up in a fair few seitan recipes, and paprika tends to show up in anything 'cheesy'.  Ginger, cinnamon, and all-spice can really brighten up a PB&J, or some oatmeal, too.

An oven-proof tray.  You will probably want more than one of these.  It's easiest with a tray or a cookie sheet, and a cake tin.  Maybe a tray with edges if you fancy drizzling things in olive oil.  I use these for baking bread, cakes, and cookies, making chips (fries), cooking some kinds of seitan, and making pies.


Some kind of seive.  This is to drain pasta, rice, or whatever, so get a fine one.  We actually have two, one that's good for rice, and one that's good for bigger things like potatoes.  You can live with just the smaller one, though.

Scales, and a set of measuring cups and spoons.  These really are important.  Why?  Because most vegan recipes you'll find are either American or slightly modified from American recipes, and use cups and spoons.  It is possible to cook without them - for instance, knowing that pancakes call for equal amount of flour and water, I just poured the flour into a jug until it hit the 150ml mark, then topped it up to 300ml with water.  That probably won't work as well for more complex recipes, or recipes you haven't made before.

The Internet.  I still don't own any vegan cookbooks.  I'd like to, and there's a few non-vegan ones I picked up in charity shops, but I just can't justify the cost right now.  Not when there are so many google-able recipes out there.  You could try searching for 'easy vegan recipes', but I prefer to have an idea in mind first, just to narrow the search results down.  Even if you can't find a good vegan version of something, have a look at omni recipes, and then google 'egg replacements' or whatever, and experiment.  Look at a few different recipes, and try to get an idea of which bit does what, so you can replace things more easily.  Over time, you'll accumulate more ingredients and confidence, and once-complex recipes will start to look easy.

Most of these things go for omni or veggie cooking too, naturally.  We're really quite similar in some ways.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

More on VegNews and QuarryGirl

Since the VegNews scandal broke, there's been a fair amount of debate among vegans.  The CEO of VegNews issued an apology, and QuarryGirl reports receiving hate mail.



Seriously people?  Not cool.

Whether you're okay with the idea of meat stock photos or not, all QuarryGirl did was give you the information to make your own decision about it.  What's so dreadful about that?  If VegNews does tank because of this, that won't be QuarryGirl's fault, or the fault of anyone who decides that no, they are not comfortable with it.  It's an entirely personal decision.

If you're cool with it, great.  If you're not, and you decide not to support the magazine, equally great.  Don't we get enough second-guessing and judgement from certain kinds of omnis without doing it to ourselves?

There's an interesting analysis of the situation on the DailyVegan.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Cherry Maple Cupcakes For Two

The quality isn't great, no - it's nearly midnight, and I'm hungry!
I'm a big fan of the idea that you can eat as much junk food as you like, as long as you make it from scratch (come to think of it, I think I got that concept from Rachel Wilkerson).  On that note, I was pretty excited when this recipe from the Happy Herbivore popped up on my twitterfeed.  It's for a single serving blueberry muffin, and it's what I would have made if I'd had a muffin case, or pastry flour, or blueberries, or agave syrup, or the energy to go to Tesco.



This is what I actually made.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tablespoons Wholemeal Plain Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon Soya Milk
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 20g Glacé Cherries (8-10)
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1.  Preheat oven to gas mark 4.  Mix all ingredients together, and divide between cupcake cases (I got two).
2.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.

I liked that the Happy Herbivore's version served one, since that stops me eating cake for a week straight, but I also like that I get two cupcakes out of it.  That way, I can give one to Anthony, if I want.  I didn't today, so I ate both of them.  They were absolutely yummilicious.

Mine came out to 85 calories each, 18g of carbs, 2g of protein, 1g of fat (from the flour), 13g of sugar, and 1g of fibre.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Worthenshaws Rice and Oat Milks

I've talked about Worthenshaw before, as the company behind the range of Freedom Frozen Desserts.  The lady behind them, Kirtsy Henshaw, came up with the low-fat, allergen-free, additive-free, fruit sugar only "ice-creams" due to her child's allergy issues, and appeared on Dragon's Den with the idea.

(Incidentally, the chocolate is delicious, but I find the strawberry and, especially, the vanilla, to be a little thin).

I'm going to give you this review of the program and ice creams, too, because Amy is interesting and has a cute accent, and explains it rather better than I do.



There y'go.  They are available in Tesco now, by the way, for £4.99. I'm told that elsewhere, they're £3 or two for £5, so I think Tesco is ripping me off.

So, Kirtsy Henshaw announced earlier on Twitter than Worthenshaws will be coming out with Calcium-fortified Rice and Oat milks.  They're named Original, so presumably other flavours will follow.
  
Now, with the Freedom frozen desserts, there did seem to be a gap in the market.  I haven't seen any other vegan ice-creams in supermarkets, although, to be quite fair, I found Freedom quite early on, and so didn't really look for any alternatives (though I did make one).

This isn't the case for rice and oat milks.  I've never bought oat milk, though I do keep seeing Oatly and So Good in Tesco.  I have bought rice milk, specifically Rice Dream, and it is absolutely delicious, especially the chocolate and strawberry versions.  I only stopped drinking it because it has no protein and 10g of sugar per portion.  Unsweetened soya milk tends towards the opposite ratio, and I needed that switch.

I did tweet Ms Henshaw, and asked what her products offer over Rice Dream, and the oat milks already on the market, and received the response "taste!".  I asked about nutritional information and allergens too, but it seems that info just isn't available yet.  Apparently, the website will be up in two weeks, and the products will be in Asda in May.  I'll have to blindfold Anthony and do a taste test, as well as compare the nutrition and ingredients from other brands.   It'll be interesting to see what Worthenshaws can offer here that other brands don't.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Confessions of a Twenty-Something Formerly Fussy Eater

All this week, I've been eating junk food.

I haven't really pigged out since February, when I started using MFP to track my nutrients, to make sure I was getting the right kinds of things in my diet, mainly, enough protein.  Also, to drop like ten pounds.

Last Tuesday night, I just got sick of logging everything, and decided to take a week out, and just eat whatever.  And 'whatever' has been junk food.  Chips, crisps, vegan ice cream, vegan pork pies, chocolate syrup, jammie dodgers, bourbon biscuits...

To be quite fair, these are probably the healthiest chips possible.
Do you want to know the stupidest thing about it?  It doesn't even taste good.  It doesn't make me feel good.  I don't know why I want to eat it.

A part of me is going "binge now!  Quick!  While you have the chance!  Of course sugar will taste good and make you happy, it's sugar!".

Thing is, that's not true.  Sugar just doesn't taste that good.  It's moreish, and it doesn't so much taste bad - it's just not amazing.

Plus, as I said, it makes me feel bad.  I feel lazy and lethargic.  I woke up with a terrible stomach-ache this morning, and felt sick and awful.  I had a headache all of yesterday.

I don't know why I can't just snap out of this.  Why I didn't just eat well all week, or why I can't just decide to start eating well right now, why I have to wait for my designated date of tomorrow.

This week, junk food was there, and available, so I ate it, because everything I know tells me that it will taste good, that it will make me happy, even though I know it won't.

Some of it's comfort food.  I was raised on chips (fries).  Growing up, we had chips at every single meal.  It's familiar.

Some of it's fear, I think.  I used to be a really fussy eater.  Carrots and peas would make me gag.  Tomatoes too.  Lettuce.  Any vegetable you can think of.  I only started to get over it when I decided to become vegan, and realised I was fully and heartily sick of chips.  A bit of perseverance, and now I can eat pretty much anything.  A part of me wonders what the hell I was thinking, all that time I was omnivorous, and could eat anything, and I just didn't.  All of those things I just didn't try.

That said, even now, I'm a bit afraid of vegetables.  If I'm feeling delicate, I worry that they'll make me feel worse.  I remember the feelings I used to have about veggies, and the way they used to taste to me.  I'm afraid.

So, I get stuck in this vicious cycle.  I feel bad, because I make unhealthy food choices...and, because I feel bad, I'm afraid to make unfamiliar, good choices, and carry on making familiar bad ones.

It's stupid.

From tomorrow, I'll be right back to logging again, and, for those of you who are interested, you'll get an example of what vegans eat.  I'll get over this rough bit, and then, hopefully, it'll be smooth sailing.  I'm looking forward to it.  I never thought I'd look forward to vegetables.

Last week, I tried a cucumber sandwich for the first time since I was eight-years-old.  I used to hate cucumbers - the wateriness bothered me, and so did the crunch.  I enjoyed this sandwich, though.  I made it on white bread with vegan margarine and salt, and it was delicious.  I normally use wholemeal bread, but white, thinly-sliced bread with the crusts cut off is traditional for cucumber sandwiches.

I'm glad of this week, even though I feel awful.  Maybe because I felt awful.  I didn't notice how much my diet had changed, and I never realised how bad unhealthy choices make me feel.  I didn't realise I felt better until I let myself lapse back.

Onwards and upwards, eh?

Easy Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream

Okay, technically it's frozen custard, not ice cream.  But, seriously?  You won't care.
 
I first made this about a week ago, and it came out pretty good, but not great.  So Anthony and I made some more last night, with a few changes. Let me assure you, this batch came out perfectly.

This ice cream is chocolatey, smooth, glossy, velvety, creamy, vegan, and SO good.  It's also a lot cheaper to make it yourself than to buy commercial vegan ice-creams.

Oh sweet jesus, look at that shine.


Ingredients

  • 75g (1/3 Cup) of Demerara Sugar
  • 400ml Tin of Coconut Milk
  • Vanilla Essence
  • 60g (1/4 Cup) Cocoa Powder (Bournville is vegan)
  • 3 Tablespoons Cornflour/Cornstarch

    Student kitchens are fun, aren't they?
  1. Melt the sugar in a sauce pan.  Keep stirring (use a spoon) so it doesn't sick.  Be careful with this, and make sure it doesn't burn.
  2. Add half the coconut milk.  Be aware that the sugar will solidify again when the coconut milk is added, and may bubble and do other alarming things.  Keep stirring, and it should all mix into a liquid again as the coconut milk heats up.  Once it has, add the cocoa powder, and whisk (or stir, but whisking is easier) until smooth.
  3. Mix the cornflour smoothly into the remaining coconut milk, till there are no lumps.  This is your thickener.
  4. As the mixture in the pan starts to boil, keep whisking, and slowly pour in the thickener (I whisked while Anthony poured; this made it all much easier).
  5. At this point, your mixture should thicken - ours went like mousse (and, honestly, we were tempted to eat it all like that, but we resisted).  Turn off the heat, and stir in some vanilla essence.  
  6. Pour your mixture into a tupperware container.  Chill in the fridge for an hour or two, then freeze.  This tends to come out quite thick, so you can eat it at any point, but it will be closest to ice cream after three or four hours in the freezer.

This was delicious.  So gorgeously smooth and creamy, and insanely good.  I really wanted to try it with some of Askey's Chocolate Crunch Crackin' (a chocolate syrup which sets into a solid shell), but we ate it all before we could get some.

A few ideas for changes and additions;

  • Leave out the cocoa powder, and make it vanilla (although, if you use demerara sugar, like I did, it also has a nice caramel hint to it).
  • Replace the vanilla flavouring with almond essence, and added chopped almonds, and/or amaretto biscuits, and raspberries.
  • Add chopped glacé cherries.
  • Swirl some toffee sauce/raspberry jam (jelly for Americans)/peanut butter through it.
  • Use no cocoa powder or flavouring, and add dessicated coconut instead.
  • Make gooseberry ice cream!  (I bet no one ever has before.)
  • Add chocolate chips.  Tesco sell dairy-free chocolate buttons.
  • Add frozen orange segments, and candied orange peel.

Vanilla and Strawberry?  Banana and Apple?  (Actually, an easier way to do that is to freeze bananas, let thaw a bit, mash them, and add chopped apple/apple sauce).  Maple and Pecan?  Go mad!  Let me know what you come up with.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Testing

I'm trying out an app that lets me blog from my phone. Seems to work pretty well.

Garlic bread with tomato purée.

Earlier today, I made pork pies, which came out brilliantly, and Anthony and I made chocolate ice-cream, which came out even better. I have a definitive recipe to post now, so yay!

We also made garlic bread, and, later, we'll have homemade chips, and the little samosas, onion bhajis, and pakoras from the tesco Indian selection. I like cooking from scratch, but sometimes I just can't be arsed.

The garlic bread was simply some vitalite dairy-free margarine, mixed with some garlic granules and parsley, and spread over hot Tiger Bloomer toast.  Anthony added tomato purée, too.  It does give it a nice zing.

Lazy Sundays are lovely, aren't they?

Friday, 15 April 2011

The Economics of Self-Defence for Women

My reasons for learning Krav Maga (and a brief description of it) are on this page.

I think that all women should learn some kind of self-defence.  Now, I'm not an economics student (just maths), but I'm going to use a simple economic model to explain how some of us learning to fight helps other women who don't.

Say you're a mugger.  Just a mugger, nothing else - we're not concerned with hopes and dreams in this model.  Like everyone, you want an easy life.  You're not going to pick on a target you don't have a good chance of taking down.  Say you're male and strong, and you've got 50-50 odds of winning in a straight fight against the average, young, fit, male.

Those are not good odds, not if it's something you plan on doing more than once.

You'd probably want to go for the easier targets.  Elderly people, who tend, on average, to be less fit and strong, or women, who tend, on average, to be smaller and have much less upper body strength.  Let's say you've got an 80-20 chance of defeating the average woman in close combat.

Now, those are nice odds.

Now let's imagine that 1 in 20 women decide to take up a martial art.  That's 5 out of a hundred.  Let's say one of them was in the 20% you couldn't take down before, which still means that there are now odds of 76-24.  Still pretty good odds.

Now let's say that 38 women or so out of the 100 study a martial art.  That takes the odds up to 50-50, assuming those 38 are evenly spread across the 20 we previously said could kick your ass, and the 80 who probably couldn't.

Suddenly, the odds aren't as good.  You don't know which women are in which 50%.  It's not obvious.  Sure, my deltoids and biceps have become more pronounced since I started Krav Maga, but they're still rounded and feminine, they're not obviously strong.  And sure, my ass looks great, but that could be from a basic cardio workout, not from repeatedly kneeing people in the groin guard and running three times a week.

So, not knowing which women can kick your ass, and which women can't, but knowing that about half of them can (presumably, discovered from a series of beatings), which one do you pick?

It's probably easier to go do something else instead.

My point is that learning martial arts helps other women, because, from the outside, it's not obvious that it's you who does it.  One woman out there is a little powerhouse of a firecracker, just waiting to get medieval on a mugger, and there is no way of telling from the outside which one it is.  So, everyone gets a little bit of the safety that comes from one woman learning the most efficient way to make grown men cry.

Score.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

The Krav Vegan

So, I changed the name of the blog again.  The Krav Vegan is much snappier than RaVeganous.  And it means I can talk about kicking people!

I'll write a proper post about Krav Maga in the morning, as it's half past midnight now.  I just didn't want to leave the new name totally unexplained.

In other news, oatmeal with golden syrup, cocoa powder, cinnamon, all spice, and raisins is absolutely delicious.  I bet a banana would be good too, and reduce the need for the golden syrup.  Yumyum.  Might make it from scratch and post the whole recipe up.

The VegNews Scandal

Short version; VegNews is a vegan magazine, which has recently been found to have been using non-vegan stock photos for their recipes.  This was revealed on QuarryGirl and has caused a huge blowout on Twitter, which began with lots of people talking about how they were going to cancel their subscription and is now at the point where everyone is telling everyone else to calm down.

Pictured: Random selection of #VegNews comments.  Paraphrased:  "Calm the fuck down, y'all!"


I can kind of see why it makes people uneasy.  You could interpret it as, vegan food does not look as yummilicious as omnivore food.  Or, perhaps you could be suspicious, and believe that VegNews has been making non-vegan food, taking photos of it, and passing it off as omnivore food, or that the pictures were only created for this purpose.

The explanation, I gather, is simpler.  There are few stock photos of vegan food, and it's cheaper to use stock photos than make your own, if you're a large publication.  Or, at least, that's the explanation they offer in their apology.

(I believe it; that's a lot of time and effort to put out, just to play a practical joke on the vegan community).

Personally, while my reaction was 'ick', I guess this comes under my second-hand rule (I will buy fabrics that I'm unsure are vegan if they're second-hand), so I'm morally okay with it in that sense.

At least one person has pointed out that vegans often eat mock meats or cheeses, so it's hypocritical to be angry with VegNews over this.  I feel that this is a totally different issue, and I'm also very sick of hearing that point made by omnivores (never heard it from a vegan before - first time for everything!).  I did not give up meat and dairy products because I didn't like the taste, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.  Those first few days would have been so much easier if I had.

The only way that applies in this situation is if you think VegNews was trying to get people to salivate over pictures of meat.  Like porn.  Which they were not, because that would be silly.  Dead bodies are not sexy (to, y'know, most people).

That said, I don't VegNews had a very good excuse for what they did.  But, the issue isn't "omg, they killed a picture of meat!".  That's a vacuous, unintelligent argument.  It's more about honesty.  For a start, I'm concerned about the fact that they weren't actually making the recipes themselves, if they're going to be recommending them to other vegans.  Other people are concerned with the trust issues involved in showing pictures of meat next to vegan recipes.

Personally, I never read VegNews, so I don't feel personally betrayed or insulted, as many seem to.  I guess it's not really my place to say what other people's opinion should be.

RaVeganous

So, I just changed the name of this blog from Vegan2011 to Raveganous.

Originally, this blog was intended to chart my year of veganism (2011).  It also had quite a nice little rhyme to it (if you pronounced it twenty-eleven).

However, the blog isn't about that any more.  A name with the year in it will date very quickly, so I wanted to pick something else.  I wanted something which instantly indicated 'vegan', but preferably without using the word 'vegan' (like the Happy Herbivore managed to do).  That proved tricky.

I also wanted the name to be catchy, and something personal to me.  I did think of Krav Vegan, or some variation of it, but I don't often talk about Krav Maga, or even sports nutrition.  I eat more calories on days when I work out more, and up my protein content by a proportionate amount, sometimes with a hemp smoothie - that's the extent of my sports nutrition.

I have a love of classic British and English food, but I don't always focus on those, and anyway British Vegan is taken.  I'm lazy, but the Lazy Vegan is also taken.  So, I just went with a portmanteau of my surname, ravenous, and vegan.  Simples!


Have a mildly artistic picture of Anthony and I, and my Ridiculous Sunhat (love that hat).

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Kali's Seitan Sausages

This is a recipe I made up all by myself, so I'm quite proud, and will cry if anyone copies it without credit and linkage.



Ingredients
(Makes 8)


  • 1 400ml Tin of Cannellini Beans
  • 2 Medium Mushrooms
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon Tomato Puree
  • 1 Tablespoon Garlic Puree
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Onion Salt
  • Other Seasonings; All Spice, Mace, Cumin, Pepper, Chilli Powder.  A dash of each.
  • 200ml Vegetable Stock (I used one Oxo vegetarian stock cube)
  • 1 1/2 Cups Vital Wheat Gluten

  1. Put everything except the Vital Wheat Gluten into a blender, and blend till smooth.  Taste, and add more seasoning if necessary.
  2. Mix with the Vital Wheat Gluten to form a dough.  Scoop out quarter cupfuls of dough, form into sausages, and wrap in tinfoil.
  3. Steam for forty minutes.  You can do this in a vegetable steamer (which is all I have, to be honest), just swap the layers around halfway through.  The seitan will swell, and press against the foil.
  4. Unwrap from the tinfoil, and allow to cool and dry out slightly.  The seitan is cooked, and can be eaten as is, but can also be cooked further - for instance, grill it, and put it on a bun.

I love this recipe, and not just because I invented it.  The sausages are low-fat, and good to snack on and make sandwiches with (which I do often, because they're very high in protein).  I baked some of the last batch into bread rolls, like bagel dogs.

I'd never heard of bagel dogs before I started reading Fed Up With Lunch, but Mrs Q was given some a couple of times.  She seemed to assume that everyone knew what they were, so didn't include an explanation.  I gather that they're sausages baked into bread, which seemed like a good idea to me, if the bread and sausages were homemade and delicious.  So I made some for that picnic Anthony and I had.  They were yummy, and so filling.

With this batch, I'm going to make pork pies.  I've never done that, even as an omnivore, so it'll be a fun experiment.  I'm planning an English themed picnic for the Royal Wedding Day, and pork pies seem quintessentially English to me.

I'm not an ardent Royalist.  I wish William and Kate well, but I'm not particularly interested in them.  I just love British food, and themed picnics - it means I challenge myself more to come up with interesting foods.

I could also make some sausage rolls.  That'd be fun.

According to MFPs recipe calculator, each of these sausages contains 143 calories, 10g of carbs, 20g of protein, 3g of fat, and 1g of sugar.
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