Monday, December 5, 2011


I think my favourite thing to cook is popcorn.

The first person I ever saw cook popcorn was my Uncle Charles. My Uncle Charles was from Cape Cod. He met my aunt while he was in Invercargil flying aeroplanes. My aunt was working as a dentist's receptionist. My Uncle was one of the only Americans I ever met as a child - I thought he was a rock star. He was an air traffic controller by the time I knew him. He'd had lymphoma. They'd given him six weeks to live and he lived for another 18 years but they wouldn't let him fly any more. He worked shifts so most of my interaction with him was keeping quiet while he slept during the day. One afternoon, when I came into the kitchen at my cousin's house he wasn't asleep. He had a saucepan on the stove and was holding the lid down. I asked him what he was cooking. 'I've got some rats in here,' he said. 'They'll get hot soon and start trying to get out.' I was pretty sure he was lying but I wanted to hear those rats freaking out more than anything, so I stuck around. I can't remember what that popcorn tasted like but I remember the noise it made and think I fell in love with making it then.

A couple of years ago, I really wanted an air popper. I went on and on about it. 'I want a popcorn maker.' I would say until one day Brent said, 'You have one,' and he handed me a saucepan. I'm really glad I didn't buy automagical popcorn make because I love popping corn so much. We have glass lids on our saucepans and I love watching the corn explode.

My friend Keith (he of the premium bread-making skills) taught me a new way to make popcorn which is working really well. He puts the oil in the saucepan and one kernel. When that kernel pops he puts in the rest of the popcorn he wants to cook. It works really well. The first time I did it some of corn popped out of the saucepan before I could get the lid back on - which was awesome! Keith's method means almost no unpopped kernels and no burnt popcorn.

Things we put on popcorn:

Icing sugar
Smoked paprika
Kelp powder with ground up toasted sesame seeds
Yeast flakes
Maple syrup
Chili powder and lime juice

I just found this recipe for Agave Popcorn Balls over at Gluten-Free Soy-Free Vegan. I've never made them but they look like fun. After all, it is the season for outlandish sweet things!

Image: Whitecap Fluff CC licensed by Flickr user ckschleg

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sesame and Asparagus Tofu

Yesterday was a hot and sunny day in Wellington. We were invited over to our friends for lunch. They have a beautiful backyard and it was so nice to sit in the sun and eat and talk.

We went to the market in the morning and it was so exciting. As the season changes all the delicious spring fruit and veg are arriving. We bought large punnets of sweet, strawberries for $5 and huge bunches of asparagus. I love asparagus. I think it's because it's only out for such a short time. My ayurvedic practitioner suggests only eating what's in season and I find it a really nice way to eat - things are at their best but also, I find there is this off thing that my body seems to need what's in season at the time it's in season. Like how citrus fruit tends to come into season when there are a lot of colds and flus around. Also, apples seem to be at their best when I am at my sleepiest (the end of the year) - I find apples really wake me up if I am having a low energy afternoon.

Asparagus is a bit of a wonderfood I reckon. It's is very low in sodium. It is a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fiber, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, rutin, niacin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells. The amino acid asparagine gets its name from asparagus, as the asparagus plant is rich in this compound. It's a good detoxifier, which I always need after those winter months of being inside in heated offices. It can reduce reduces pain and inflammation and I reckon it tastes really nice.

My friend Natasha mentioned to me last week that she has been stir frying asparagus in sesame oil and that got me thinking about how nice asparagus would be in a light Japanese-esque stir fry. So I gave it a go yesterday for our lunch out. I wanted to try and make something which would be okay cold because I knew we were eating outside. My test kitchen was our friends and Brent and the kids and they said it tasted nice, which hopefully they weren't lying about. Anyway, here's the recipe.


1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp olive oil
A sprinkle of Braggs
Three or four stalks of Spring onion
A bunch of asparagus, cut into bits an inch and a half long (I think it was about two cups worth of asparagus)
1 tsp miso paste
Optional: chili flakes (I reckon this recipe was hanging out for some heat, but I as I was making it for kids I didn't put any in - but oh, the red in with the green would have been awesome and a bit of a kick is always nice with tofu I reckon)
One block of firm tofu
2 tblsp sesame seeds (toasted)

In a frying pan or wok heat the oils and Braggs.
Add the spring onions and cook until shiny (don't cook them soft)
Add the asparagus and stir fry a wee bit (the key I reckon to this whole recipe is don't overcook the asparagus - I like it still crunchy)
Add the miso paste and 'dissolve' it - it will thicken everything a wee bit.
Add the tofu and really I just heated it through
Take it off the heat and sprinkle the sesame seeds over it.

A note about miso: I have a lot of trouble buying miso paste because I I'm allergic to alcohol and I don't eat fish. My miso shopping experience is usually a rollercoaster of products that don't have alcohol but do have fish and ones that don't have fish but do have alcohol. I've found a couple that work for me and I'll post those if anyone is interested. I actually found it easier to shop for miso at the organics/health food shop. I have been known to replace miso with Marmite (thanks again Sanitarium) - which is not exactly the same but sometimes does the trick, especially in pumpkin dishes.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Not like us

In Aotearoa we are served extremely well by exceptional public radio. There aren't many days when our house doesn't have Radio New Zealand National on in at least one room of our house. As well as delivering really good real-time broadcast RNZ has an excellent website from which you can download most of the programmes after they have been aired. The website also offers some extended programmes and full interviews which had to be edited for broadcast. RNZ is 100% non-commercial and I often wonder if it is because of this that they broadcast such a wide range of opinions and perspectives.

Last Saturday there was an interview with Dr Annie Potts, Associate Professor and Co-Director of the New Zealand Centre for Human-Animal Studies at Canterbury University, in which she talked about her new book Chicken. Dr Potts' new book is the latest in a series distributed by Reaktion Books each of which looks at one animal, it's history and relationship with people.

You can listen to the RNZ interview with Annie Potts here.

Now, I probably need to admit that I don't like Chickens. I'm terrified of them. I'm a really jumpy, nervy person and chickens seem to be the same, so when we get together it's really, really uncomfortable. I've never been around a chicken and felt, 'Oh, that was nice.' When people talk about how nice chickens are I just don't get it. But, I found the interview really interesting. I always like hearing people talking about our relationship with animals and I particularly enjoy listening to people talk about animal rights, mainly because it often helps me challenge and reassess my own thinking about these things.

Ironically, I listened to the interview in the carpark of Arohata Women's' Prison in Tawa. I was waiting for a volunteer training session to start. It really did something strange to my thinking to be sitting outside fences and barbed wire listening to someone talk about animals in cages. I often wonder what would happen to our human to human relationships if we challenged our species to species relationships more. For me animal rights are so often about power and I see so much of the same use of power leak into other parts of our relationships with our own species. I remember a psychologist talking about a link between violence against animals and non-verbal humans (children and the aged). Dr Potts talks a bit about how we often judge sentience on a human scale. I have always found this really interesting especially when it comes to communication and intelligence. After the interview Brent and I had a discussion about how we often feel much closer to animals that look like humans or act like humans than we do to ones that don't resemble us. We both reflected on how fish was the last meat we gave up. I said how I still have trouble with shell-fish and insects, how in I'm pretty sure I could easily eat an oyster or an ant and not feel too bad about it. I always have to remind myself that shell-fish are animals not plants. We talked about what 'animal' actually is. About where the line is drawn. It was a good conversation that left me kind of confused which I think is a really good place for me to be. Any time I get really sure of something I reckon I'm in trouble.

Anyway, I really appreciate RNZ for continuing to broadcast really interesting shows that offer a variety of perspectives. I thought Kim Hill was awesome, as usual. Years ago, like probably ten or more, I heard Kim Hill talking about a book called 'The Single Vegan' and she said, 'Oh my God. This is the saddest book in the world!' It always makes me laugh.

Image: Licensed under Creative Commons by Flickr user kusabi (looking for this image I saw a lot of chicken meat on plates and it reminded me that while chickens freak me out I would far rather look at one alive than one fried or roasted).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


'Wow, Pip did you try and find the most awkward family photo you possibly could?'

'Why, yes I did because it's World Vegan Day and everyone deserves a giggle.' (I think I may have even managed to make a Bailter Space t-shirt look nerdy - and that's not easy!)

Today is the end of Vegan Month of Food. I've enjoyed doing this blog a lot more than I thought I would and thanks everyone for your comments and awesome information. I'm going to carry on with the blog but after a month I feel like I have pretty much said everything I have to say about being vegan, so I might wait a week to post again. But yeah, thanks again.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Today is Halloween in Wellington. My friends in New York say that it's snowing there - which is odd. Here it is a muggy overcast day, which is pretty uninspiring.

Each year the Wellington City Council put on a big Halloween event in the city centre. There are usually inflatable castles and slides, entertainment and a scary haunted house for the brave kids to go through. I really like it because it saves us a bit from trick or treating, which I'm not that fond on. I'm like the Grinch that stole Halloween.

I thought that today would be a perfect day to do a post on Vegan junk food. I have had some really kind comments about how we eat as a family and, well, I am pretty sure I have made myself out to be better than I am. Which may be the purpose of a blog like this. Toki eats HEAPS of junk food. She has a very sweet tooth and I have definitely been guilty of using candy to bribe and coerce her, often away from non-Vegan food which would probably be 'healthier'. Toki, has already had one filling, which shows just how erm, sugary our lives are.

Now, I also need to come clean on me and junk food. I have a super salty-tooth, if there is such a thing. My favourite thing in the world is potato chips and corn chips and bhuja mix and slated peanuts and salted cashew nuts and crackers and salty dips. As far as sugar goes, I don't really eat it. Chocolate gives me wicked migraines and sugar plays havoc with my as far as the spike/drop thing goes. I think I've said before here that I am really trying to break my salt-thang and that goes pretty well most of the time, but put a plate of potato chips in front of me and boyo, I will probably eat all of them. So yeah, all the salty stuff comes via me and all the sugary stuff comes via B & T and what they like. I guess the other thing is, after all my high-faluting notions of fair-trade, I'm not really sure how many of these products have ethical practices also, a lot of them are vegan because they are so un-natural. Yeah, erm, anyway, here's a list of some of our go-to junk food options:

Chupa Chups: The name for these comes from the Spanish word 'chupar' which means to suck. They are Vegan and great for in the handbag bribes baha. My mother was a dental nurse and she says they are pretty bad for kid's teeth because they sit them in one position and suck and suck and they stay there for ages. Toki's decay was exactly where she sits her Chupa Chup baha.

Mentos: These come in a couple of different flavours. The packets seem way to big for me, so we normally make them last a week or so.

Skittles: Again, a good go-to candy. I have no idea what is in the colouring - I suspect it's not vegan. These are really good for decorating cakes and cupcakes.

I've already mentioned Whittaker's so I won't do that again but yum!

RJs Natural Soft Licorice: RJ's do single logs of licorice which are great and they also do packets which are also good. They are great for decorating cakes (cat's whiskers, spider's legs that sort of thing). When this licorice first came out the labelling didn't specify whether the gelatin was plant or animal based. Quite a few vegans I know wrote to RJs and they changed the label of all their products so you can tell which are the vegan products. We have pretty lazy labelling laws in New Zealand so they didn't need to do that. But they did which was nice.

So Good Soy Ice Cream: I've always thought there is a movie to be made about Sanitarium. I often joke about how much vegans owe to the growing prevalence of lactose-intolerance, the 1980's BSE outbreak and many religions. All these factors have given greater exposure to being vegan or vegetarian and they have given rise to some amazing products. Sanitarium has some amazing vegetarian convenience products and this ice cream is great!

Lite Licks Soy Ice Cream: I just want to put in a bit of a plug for another vegan ice cream which is Lite Licks. There is another great advocacy story associated with them. Lite Licks brought out a hokey pokey flavoured ice cream about six or seven years ago - which was pretty exciting - but the hokey pokey used an animal-based gelatin in it, so it wasn't vegan. Several vegans write to the company and they changed the recipe so it is now vegan. I really like remembering that something when you do something things change.

Vegan Jelly: Okay, I couldn't find a link to any of the products we buy but we get agar-agar jelly from our local Asian Supermarket Yans - we sometimes but it in powder form and mix it up with sugar and colour it with beetroot juice or turmeric (I know, hippy sweets). We also buy these little tubs of jelly which you can eat like candy. Yum.

Okay, now onto the salt! I really don't know where to start and I could go on all day. But I will just give you my top five:

Indian Snacks: Baha. See what I did there? I am a sucker for all things asafoetida and salty. I love bhuja I love bhaji I love poppadoms! Here is a list from Wikipedia. I have no idea if they are all vegan but I have found heaps of vegan snacks at Indian suppliers.

Corn Chips: Again, any kind virtually. My all time favourite is a Signature Range Chili and Lime flavour. Oh boy!

Potato chips: Here in New Zealand we have a milk mountain and milk powder is put into pretty much everything. It is used heaps in flavoured chips for 'mouth texture' which I think means, it holds the flavouring to the chip. So up until recently we had mainly eaten imported flavoured chips but recently local companies have been missing out the milk powder on some of their flavours. I am positive this has nothing to do with veganism and everything to do with lactose intolerance. But yes, we can now eat Bluebird Salt and Vinegar chips - and we do baha.

Crackers: Another thing I really like is crackers. I really like Griffins Sesameal - they are very old-school and have poppy seeds and salt. I love them with baba ganoush and sundried tomatoes.

Bagel crisps: I really like these and look Abe's are having a promotion where you can win six-months supply!

Okay, that is me. I feel a bit sick after writing about all that stuff. I guess it really is only sometimes food.

Have fun.

Tomorrow is World Vegan Day!

Friday, October 28, 2011


This week at Toki's school a notice came home saying the school was going to be selling chocolate bars for their yearly fundraiser. Since Toki was born I have been thinking about this day, not constantly, not fretfully, just every now and then, when I see a child with a box of these chocolates, I think, Shesh, that is going to be tricky. The chocolates aren't vegan, which is fine, we don't expect the whole world to change for us, but they are also made by a company who uses non-sustainable palm oil and won't confirm that child labour isn't used to produce the cocoa it imports to make the chocolate. Also, the school has a healthy food policy, so, ironically, the children can sell the chocolates anywhere except on school property. Each child is expected to take $60 worth of chocolate and there is a competition to see which class sells the most chocolate. Some families have four and five kids at our school and one mother complained that in her street there are about 50 houses and at least 10 of those have students from our school living in them. It's fraught.

The day the notice came home an email and Facebook discussion started among some of the parents who were not keen to sell the chocolate and now there are quite a few kids in Toki's class who aren't selling the chocolates. Still, it has been quite hard on Toki. There is a lot of pressure for her class to 'win the prize' and yeah, I can really relate to how hard that sort of thing can be. This week felt like one of those moments when I feel like my beliefs make her life hard. It made me feel really grateful for the community we have. We are able to say to Toki, 'Yeah, some people are selling the chocolates because they believe in what they believe in and we're not selling the chocolates because we believe in what we believe in. There's plenty of room at school for everyone.' But it made the whole thing a lot easier to be able also say, 'M. isn't selling the chocolates either, or E. or M. and L.'

Political trickiness aside, we really wanted to give the school some money and Toki really likes selling. No, really, when we do the Xmas tree fundraiser every year she is right there, showing people the best trees, talking the talk - she is a born salesperson. So we are going to sell some chocolate - some vegan chocolate! Our options are huge.

Trade Aid offer an amazing fundraising scheme using their fair trade chocolate. The dark chocolate in this range is vegan and delicious, according to Brent and Toki. We probably won't be able to take advantage of this fundraising deal because its just the one of us but we may use Fairtrade Chocolate to sell.

Then there is the wonderfully stupendous Whittakers range. I am pretty sure that one day God thought, 'Hm, those vegans deserve a break, I'm going to invent Whittakers!'

Whittakers is a New Zealand family-owned company who makes its chocolate in Porirua, about a thirty minute drive from where we live. Whittakers uses Fair trade Cocoa beans and butter from the largest cooperative in Ghana called Kuapa Kokoo. Fair trade sugar comes from a cooperative in Costa Rica called CoopeAgri R.L.

And the make the following vegan chocolate blocks: Dark Ghana, Dark Chocolate, Dark Orange, Dark Cacao, Ghana Peppermint, Dark Almond, Dark Mocha, Rum and Raisin. They also make dark chocolate peanust slabs and these skinny wee bars called Sante bars.

I think what we will probably do is go to Moore Wilsons, which is a local wholesaler open to the public and buy us some Sante bars which Toki can sell to her family and then we will donate the money she makes. It won't be counted for the competition but it will help the school out and that seems like the main thing.

Image: Licensed under Creative Commons by Flickr user sapheron - thank you!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I woke up this morning thinking about Kitchari (or kitcherie, kedgeree, kedgaree, or kitchiri). That wonderful meal in a pot. I think traditionally Kitchari has fish, eggs, butter and cream in it as well as rice, vegetables and legumes - but because I first met the Kitchari through the Hare Krishnas I have always thought of it as a vegetarian dish.

There is something really magical about beans and grains. My understanding is that when a legume and a wholegrain are eaten together they make a pretty good protein. There are a lot of ways to combine grains and legumes: baked beans on toast, red beans and rice, edamame and soba noodles, chickpeas and rice or breads or couscous, those old school pearl barley and split pea soups. And then there's Kitchari. I usually adapt a recipe from a Hare Krishna cook book I have but I found this great recipe on Frenzied Vegan blog. I love the way she's teamed it with a spinach salad. I did notice that she says add the beans and rice and I think at that point you also add the water (the lots and lots of water, as she puts it). I also found this one on the Ayurvedic Institute website. It used ghee but I replace ghee with olive oil. I also like the idea of soaking the beans and brown rice over night. Quite a few of the Kitchari recipes I looked at use a slow cooker. I love my slow cooker. I quite liked this recipe from Planet Green but again it uses butter which I reckon you could replace with oil. I found a couple of recipes that use different grains as well. I like this quinoa and red lentil recipe from Albion Cooks.

One other thing I found out about Kitchari while I was looking around: the word means 'mixture' and one website translated it as 'mess' - I quite like that. Also, again, I thought, What a great lunch idea!

Anyway, happy Kitchari-ing.

Image: This is from my old, old, old Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking. It's a bit of a bible for me. It has some great recipes and two of them -Sambar and Swadisht dal - I use every week.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Blame it on the Boogie.

I just whipped up some muffins. This never usually happens at this time on a Tuesday evening. I tell you this blog has been great for remembering that I can do things like make muffins while Toki has her bath. I used to be really good at that sort of thing but then I got busy and tired and on Twitter baha.

I love this recipe. I have no idea where it came from , so if it's yours please let me know. I like how it has no eggs but it doesn't use anything to replace the egg, it just kind of blazes a new trail in the muffin frontier baha. These muffins were the first baked good Toki had. They have hardly any sugar - if you don't count the molasses. I think you could easily make them sugarfree by replacing the sugar with maple syrup and the molasses with 1/2 a banana.

Oh, and speaking of baking. My friend Sarah, asked about the bread and where it sits overnight. Brent leaves the bread in a bowl on the bench overnight - not in the fridge. Our friend Keith mixes his bread on the bench directly and leaves it on the bench to rise - he covers it with a damp tea-towel. Wellington has shitty weather baha so maybe you can't leave bread on the bench overnight in warm places.

Okay here's the recipe:


Preheat over to 200 degrees Celsius

1 orange (peeled and cut into quarters)
1 tbsp sugar (OR 1 tbsp maple syrup or agave)
1 cup wholemeal flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk-like substance (rice, soy, almond)
1/2 cup of oil (I tend to use canola oil for baking)
1 tsp molasses (OR 1/2 a mashed banana)
Pinch of salt (optional)
Handful of dried fruit: sultanas, cranberries, that sort of thing)

Put orange in food processor and whizz it up with molasses (OR banana) sugar (OR maple syrup or agave), then milk, then oil. Whizz. Whizz. Whizz. (But not too much - you want it fluffy but not mayonnaise).
Pour this runny mixture over the dry ingredients and lightly stir. (Sometimes, like tonight, the mixture is quite dry, so I mixed in a bit more milk-ness or add some yoghurt if I have it on-hand, I guess you could also use orange juice).
Put into greased muffin tins.
You could place a piece of glazed ginger on the top if you wanted.

Cook at 200 degrees Celsius for 12-15 minutes.

Powered by Idli

We had a great day yesterday. It was a public holiday. We were with Brent's brother in the morning, we all stayed the night at his place because he has a TV and we wanted to watch the RWC. Chris, Brent and I were sitting round trying to work out ideas for this week's blog (nearly there). I wondered if there was a vegan All Black so Chris googled it and although we didn't find one we did find heaps of other vegan sportspeople from around the world - NBA players, football players, tri-athletes, hockey players all sorts. And although we haven't yet found a vegan All Black there is a vegan body-builder who was Mr New Zealand 2001, 2007, 2009.

After all that talk about sport we decided to go to the pool for a swim. Kilbirnie Aquatic Centre is awesome! Anyway, we stayed to late, which we always do and then we went for a drive round the south coast which was lovely and so, by the time we got home it was really late for making dinner. Toki was really hungry so we through some kebabs in the oven for her and while I was reading her stories Brent popped out to get us some take-aways.

We are so lucky living where we are living. We have so much choice when it comes to take-aways. Last night Brent went to Roti Chenai . Roti Chenai makes amazing South Indian and Malaysian cuisine. I've found that each city has a type of food which is does better than any other: Auckland is Thai, Christchurch is Japanese and Wellington is Malaysian. Roti Chenai is the only place I know of in Wellington that makes idli.

Last weeks post about cheese replacers made me think a bit about idli. It has a great salty, slightly fermented taste that really seems to satisfy that part of my appetite which used to be satisfied by cheese. I first tasted idli at Roti Chenai and I loved it. When Toki was a baby, because we didn't have much money and we didn't get out much I started making idli at home. I've never made it from scratch. I buy the Git's Idli mix which comes in a box. Here's an TV commercial for it staring Vidya Balan and Udy Tikekar (two big names in Hindi flims). To make idli you need idli steamer. The one I have has frames like this which sit on a stand which sits inside a normal pot of shallow boiling water. I got the steamer and the mix from a small Indian supply grocery which is in Lower Hutt and I've seen both the mix and the steamers in other suppliers.

Idli is fun to make, well, my cheats, from a packet idli is and it is delicious - especially with chutneys and dahl. My understanding is that it is traditionally eaten at breakfast time and I reckon it would make a great start to the day. It also occurred to me while I was searching for images that idli would make a great lunchbox filler.

Image: Breakfast 4: Idli, dal and coconut chutney. Fort Cochin, Kerala Creative Commons licensed by Flickr user Adam Klinger. Thank you and also YUM!

Friday, October 21, 2011

JustineJoeKeithBrent Bread

I popped down to the Occupy Wellington action this morning before coming to university. I just wanted to put in a 'hoorah!' for those fellas and all the other occupiers around the world. They were in fine spirits, there was a wonderful atmosphere down there this morning. I dropped off some chocolate, bread and fruit. Which seemed like an odd food parcel - I meant to bake! I'm thinking one day I'll write a memoir called 'I Meant to Bake'. I am constantly taking odd food to things because I run myself out of time. It's hard sometimes to find vegan treats at local dairys. Maybe 'hard's not the right word - it's just that you can never really guarantee what vegan food will be at the dairy that is local to where you're going. When I was vegetarian, I could safely think - Oh, they'll be some potatoe chips or biscuits - but yeah, you can't always say that with vegan food. Once I took a jar of capers and some carrots to an afternoon tea. But anyway, thank you everyone involved with the Occupy movement - I really appreciate your time and energy.

Last night, Brent dictated his bread recipe to me. So I've put that below here. Just as some backgorund. One of the things I eat as part of my Ayurvedic doodad is daily-made wholemeal bread. So for about three years we have baked bread most days. To start off with we used a bread-maker, which was good, but we couldn't quite get the hang of it and most of the bread we made was a bit blurg. Then our friend Justine gave us the most amazing recipe for bread which we pretty much used every day. At that stage I was home most days so I would mix and knead the bread in the morning and the bread would be ready to bake at lunchtime. Then I started working and going to school so we started mixing and kneading the bread at night and putting it in the fridge to rise slowly over night - then we could bake it in the morning (this was our friend Joe's idea he's a biologist and another amazing cook). This worked pretty well but then we had a bit of revelation thanks to another friend of ours who is an amazing baker and breadmaker. We asked Keith to teach us how to make bread so ours and another family got together one weekend at Kaith's place, the kids played, and he taught us everything he knew about breadmaking - which was heaps. So the recipe that appears below is the final incarnation of Justine's recipe through Joe's suggestions with Keith's advice and Brent's experience. This is a really simple bread, it isn't a loaf we make it flat and put oil and herbs on it before we bake it, so it is sort of a bastardised foccaccia. I am pretty sure it would work as a loaf but I love the oil - baha. We still make other breads sometimes - bagels, cornbread, manoush - but this is the one we make for the everyday.

We still buy store-bought bread. We had a go at making all our own bread but it was just too much for us. If you're interested in bread I've found some the information on the Real Bread Campaign website really helpful. I heard an interview with one of the founders of this campaign and it was a bit scary but the website seems a lot less daunting.

Okay, so here is the recipe. The science behind it is that you let time do your kneading - which sounds like a self-help book which I will write as soon as I finish 'I Meant to Bake!'.


2 tsp active yeast
2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup hot tap water

Mix the water, yeast and sugar together. Leave for 5 minutes or until you get back to it (in our house at the moment usually one episode of 'Downton Abbey). You want it to bubble and froth.

Add 3 cups whole meal flour
1 tbls olive oil
About a tsp of salt

1 1/2 cups of hot water tap water
Mix it together so that everything is well mised. This mixture will be way runnier than a regular bread mixture - there is no way you could knead it.

Cover the mixing bowl with a teat towel and go to bed.

In the morning:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celcius

Place the mixture on a baking tray. We use a reuseable silicon baking mat which seems to work well. Wit our hands we spread the mixture out, it is still pretty sticky, like you couldn't make buns probably. When it is all pressed out flat we poru a bit of olive oil over it and sprinkle some herbs on. We use: rosemary, oregano, parsley, sometimes we make za'tar and put that on.

Bake in the oven until brown on top and bottom, then cool on a cooling rack.

Yeah, it's yum.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


On Sunday we had a great day at a friends 6th birthday party. It was a really sunny day. One of those ones that reaches into the evening and makes me want to stay out. By the time we looked at the time it was nearly six o'clock so we decided to go into town for dinner. Toki's favourite place to go for dinner is Midnight Espresso a cafe on Cuba Street. She really likes the cakes and other sweet things they do. We also like Midnight Espresso. Recently I was asked to talk about my favourite place to eat in Wellington and I chose Midnight. It was pretty exciting for me to talk about veganism but also a bit scary. Everytime I say I'm vegan I instantly question 'how vegan?' - has any leather snuck into my wardrobe, did I read that last label right, did the restaurant think 'vegan-enough' when the recommended what I should eat. And the prospect of saying I'm vegan in a semi-public way was really scary. It is always scary to stand up and say, I believe in this. I guess what I aim for is trying my best.

Anyway, we went to Midnight and ordered some nachos. They make the best vegan nachos I've tasted in Wellington: beans, humus, aioli, olives, whole jalepenos and salsa. Mmmmmm. Toki was pretty tired by the time we got there and she had eaten quite a few vegan cupcakes so a peaceful sitting down dinner looked less and less likely - she finds Midnight really exciting, there is pinball and space invaders and loud music. So we asked if we could take our nachos over to the playground outside the architecture school. The playground is relatively new but it is fantastic. There is also a basketball hoop which gets heaps of use from students coming out for some fresh air and a run around. I love the way the architecture school, which also trains town-planners and landscapers has such a great area outside it. Architecture and design students work really hard and the space is such a great place for them to come mid-assignment. Three students arrived while we were having dinner and began to play basketball. Toki really wanted to play with them but didn't quite have the bottle to go and ask. Brent and I were nervous to ask as well. We laughed about how we kept saying to her, 'Just go and ask them, they'll be happy to let you play,' but both of us were a bit nervous to ask. Finally, Brent went over and asked and of course they were thrilled to give Toki a couple of shots. Boy, it was a nice night. It reminded me that summer will come, and maybe it be perfect weather but there will be some nice days and eating outside rocks.

My friend Helen Lehndorf said I could use some of her Flickr images and I chose these ones because they are from her garden and sometimes when it is cold and wet I look at them because they look so bright and sunny. Helen is an amazing photographer. Thanks Helen!

Images Creative Commons licensed by Flickr user stripy sock studio

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hiding variety

Yesterday I was singing the praises of variety but I thought last night about how hard it can be to get that variety into a diet. Last year, we watched the movie Food Inc. Which was terrifying. The thing I found really hard to take, as a person who eats what doctors call a 'limited diet', was the lack of variety in a lot of the foods on supermarket shelves. The film included a shot of a supermarket aisle which was full of different products but when you looked closely all these distinct products were made from the same two ingredients: soy and corn.

So I was thinking about how our family spend a lot of time hiding ingredients in food. Especially for Toki but also for ourselves because I find it hard to eat a whole plate of sunflower seeds or almonds or to face a pot of quinoa or amaranth. As I mentioned before, Saturday at our house is pancake day, but what I failed to mention is that what we actually have, usually, are hotcakes made from a recipe from May All be Feed. The recipe includes: wholemeal flour, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, orange rind, rolled oats and no sugar (so I don't waste the orange I also replace the water needed for this recipe with orange juice). I love this recipe because it hides so much stuff in a small thing which tastes great with maple syrup. On the mornings we don't have hotcakes I make the Banana pancakes from How it All Vegan (the first vegan cookbook I bought on the recommendation of my good friend Sarah) or we make blueberry pancakes or buckwheat. So yeah, I thought I would take some of the things I listed yesterday and talk about where we hide them.

Almonds - I smash these up and put them in almost anything - baha. Muffins, stir-fries. When Toki was first eating we used to soak almonds over night and make them into milk the next morning. They are really nice soaked.

Amaranth - I put this in bread a lot and nobody notices

Bran flakes - Brent makes some really nice bran muffins

Buckwheat groats - I grind these up and make flour. Then - Buckwheat pancakes!

Bulk Olive oil - we use a lot of oil in our baking.

Cashews - Again stir-fries, muffin, muesli - YUM!

Chai seeds - I replace poppy seeds with these often.

Coconut - Sambal! Also, coconut is the trickiest sweetener I know. Toki has a mean sweet tooth but she really loves chopped up banana with lemon juice squeezed on it and coconut sprinkled over the top. Coconut and cinnamon also make it possible for me to miss out processed sugars in a lot of other things she likes like pancakes, muffins and muesli.

Linseeds - I worship at the feet of linseeds, they are such a great source of those EPAs and Omega oils that we don't get from fish. I grind these suckers up with sunflower seeds and almonds and sprinkle them on just about everything - Marmite, LSA and lettuce sandwich anyone? Smoothie with LSA? The oils are always best fresh so having whole linseeds suits me cause I can grind as I need (can you tell how much I love the small bullt-type food processor we have on our bench?) Linseeds make an excellent egg replacer for cooking so they can be hidden in all sorts of cakes and biscuits. One of my favourite recipes is chili and onion cornbread which I use linseeds in as an egg replacer. All hail the mighty linseed!

Quinoa - I've also put quinoa in bread. I've never tried putting ancient grains in other baking but it would probably be great.

Rice milk - Toki really like soy milk and she really doesn't like rice milk. I kept buying it she kept not drinking it. Then my friend said, why don't I do half and half soy milk? She said with her daughter she started with more like 3/4 to 1/4 and then she slowly pushed up the amount of rice milk. It worked really well. It's a bit of a faff having too boxes open at the same time but yeah, it really works.

Rolled oats - I often grind rolled oats into flour and replace some of the wheat flour in recipes. I also have a great recipe for biscuits which have rolled oats as there sticky ingredient. Also, Helen Lehndorf's amazing slice! Look dried dates AND rolled oats!

Sunflower seeds - Again these are awesome in just about anything. I was just remembering how we used to make a lot of scroggin-type snacks for Toki when she was young and she used to sit for ages picking out the things she wanted to eat in order - scroggin as hand-eye co-ordinator.

Sushi Nori - I love this stuff. I often throw it into soups at the last minute and it goes yum. We also make sushi with it. Sushi and summer rolls are a great way to hide things.

So yeah, happy hiding! Oh and Helen Heath put up a delicious curry recipe yesterday - oh yum! I tell you there is a poets do vegan food book waiting to be written. Thank you Helens!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

In our food cupboard

As a librarian, I love lists. I thought it might be interesting to inventory everything we have in our pantry. What I found from this exercise is that we have ALOT in our pantry. Variety is one of my obsessions. I have this belief, which may be misguided, that is I can eat as many different grains, vegetables, fruit and protein as possible I have a better chance of getting the nutrients I need. I am under absolutely no illusion that I get everything I need from my diet. You will be hard pressed to get me to argue on the side of 'veganism is a natural way to eat'. I am totally aware that my diet is not perfect but it isn't about diet for me, it's about rights, and well, as a good friend of mine said once, 'If I don't reach my evolutionary potential but some animals don't suffer it is worth it.' I am also extremely grateful to science teehee - as you can see, as well as food, our cupboard also contains several vitamin and mineral supplements that keep us all humming along. Anyway, here's my list - in alphabetical order.

Bran flakes
Brown rice
Buckwheat groats
Bulk Baking powder
Bulk Basmati rice
Bulk Canola oil
Bulk Cumin
Bulk Dill
Bulk Marmite
Bulk Olive oil
Bulk Wholemeal flour
Chai seeds
Corn chips
Corn crackers
Cream of Tartar
Custard powder
Dried Black eyed beans
Dried Brown lentils
Dried Chickpeas
Dried Mung beans
Dried pasta – spaghetti & penne
Dried Pinto beans
Dried Red split lentils
Dried Split green peas
Dried Split yellow peas
Evening Primrose
Gluten Flour
Gluten-free pasta
Hazel nuts
Hundreds & Thousands
Ice cream cones
Icing sugar
Iron supplement
Jelly Beans
Lasagna strips
Mapo Tofu sachet
Orgram Dinosaur Cookies
Pic’s Peanut Butter
Rice bubbles
Rice milk
Rolled oats
Soba noodles
Soy chunks
Soy Milk
Sunflower seeds
Sushi Nori
Sushi rice
Vanilla essence
Vitamin B12 spots
Vitamin C

Monday, October 17, 2011

The continuing stoooory ... linky-link-link

Check out these amazing vegan fair-trade shoes that wee forks just let me know about! You can buy them here.


Thank you.

And also, awesome recipe for Za'atar Spiced Spaghetti Squash.

A post I didn't plan which I think is quite apparent.

Okay, so this has nothing to do with food. It's Monday, there's two weeks to go, I'm getting a little desparate for topics and one of my Converse All Stars has a hole in its sole which made my walk here really unenjoyable. Ah, Converse, you are so very, very comfortable when I first get you, then I walk and walk and walk and you become so very uncomfortable. I love Chuck Taylors - I know exactly what size I need and they are one of the few shoes I can walk miles in straight away. They also look okay, I reckon.

Most winters, I move out of my canvas sneakers and into synthetic boots. The winter before last I lucked on a beautiful pair at the tip shop in Happy Valley. They were awesome and I loved them. This year, they fell apart. I don't know if it's true, but vegan shoes seem way less robust than leather shoes. I kept meaning to get a new pair of boots this year but I just never got round to it, so I wore my Converse all winter and they were okay. But I had cold feet pretty much all winter and they are not the most waterproof but they did okay. So know that it's summer I have three pairs of converse all with holes in their soles. I should get them re-soled but it costs slightly more than it would to buy a new pair of converse - which is of course, well-worth it for the planet and workers' rights but man, I find it really hard to do. What I usually do is plug them up with shoe-gu for a couple of months and then buy new shoes.

Whenever I think about shoes I think about the early 90s and how Vans were first available in New Zealand. I am pretty sure people were getting them sent from America but I remember my first pair of Vans and how much I loved them.

There are quite a few vegan shoes available in New Zealand now. Oddly, Number One Shoe warehouse has heaps - I guess because maybe vinyl is cheaper than leather. Hmm. But it's really hard to find locally made or fair-trade vegan shoes. Trade Aid used to do an awesome Chuck-Taylor-esque boot but they don't stock it any more. Safe has a small but groovy range of vegan shoes. And I guess now you can get almost anything online - how great if Herbivore!

Okay, so, this was not about food, I have been trying to work out a way of bending this back into food somehow, erm, how about this, here's a picture of some vegan food pyramid:

And here's a recipe for vegan haggis - no honestly. Try and fit that in your food pyramid!

Chuck Taylor Creative Commons licensed by Flickr user Virginia Lin Photography
Food Pyramid Creative Commons licensed by Flickr user glue&glitter

Thank you again for CC licensing your picture!

Friday, October 14, 2011


When we kids out parents would let us chose our birthday dinner. I always chose pizza. Cheese was one of my favourite things in the whole world. When I became vegetarian it formed a massive part of my diet. I became vegetarian in the 80s in Auckland. If I wanted to buy tofu I had to take a bus into town and go to a health food shop, where they would fish it out of a bucket filled with water. I remember the guy in the shop saying, 'It tastes really good with a light layer of mould on it.' I never tried that. It has taken years for me to like tofu but cheese! Oh, boy. During the 80s a book came out written by Alison Holst and he son called Meals Without Meat. I still have a copy and I always joke with Brent about it being the 'Meals With Cheese' book. For me cheese was the vegetarian default.

Despite my love affair with cheese it caused me a lot of problems. I suffered really badly from migraines as a kid and when I didn't eat histamine-rich food: chocolate, cheese - my migraines stayed away. I also have this memory of always having a sore stomach and feeling slightly ill. But there was no way I could imagine giving up cheese. Then I read an article and it kind of changed my life. I think my friend Sarah gave it to me and it was called something like 'The Sexual Politics of Eating Meat'. I found this on Amazon and maybe it was a chapter from this book. Anyway, it changed the way I looked at dairy and eggs forever. In those days we had quite a few vegan friends, there wa sa bit of animal rights action going on and a few of our friends were straight-edge punks. I thought I'd avoided veganism, I felt okay about the dairy and egg industry and felt really good about being a vegetarian and then I read this thing. It kept talking about our 'sister cows and hens' which at first I thought was dumb but then some how, as I read it, it made perfect sense. So at some stage I stopped eating animal products and the hardest to give up, the one I would look at and dream about and sniff at, was cheese. The main tastes that left my diet as I restricted it more and more were fat and salt and cheese just fits that bill perfectly. I missed it so much.

Someone, I think it was someone on a Vegan Freak podcast said, 'People shouldn't try vegan cheese for at least four years after going vegan.' And I reckon that is so true. I don't think vegan cheese tastes much like dairy cheese. I reckon it's true that the longer you can stay away from it after going vegan the better. I think I've pretty much forgotten what real cheese tastes like, so vegan cheese is great. I don't eat that much of it. For years, it was cost-restrictive, we just didn't have enough money to buy it but now we can probably afford it I'm sort of out of the habit of buying it. Toki isn't that keen on it and yeah, I feel like I can take it or leave it. It is nice every now and then sprnkled on nachos or on a pizza but yeah, strangely we just don't have it much any more. What I think might have happened is that I lost my love of real cheese at some stage. Real cheese smells really unappealing to me now. One of the things that first turned me vegetarian was I heard someone say that being vegetarian can change the way you think and yeah, I wonder if it changes the way you smell as well and your appetite?

What I much prefer to the commercial vegan cheeses are a few recipes I have which I makes at home. For instance, we make like a vegan parmessan out of toasted sesame seeds, salt and nutritional yeast. I whizz all the ingredients up in out bullet food processor and it is really nice sprinkled on italian style lentils and pasta. I also make this really strange cashew nut erm spread maybe? It's got red capiscum, cashews, nutritional yeast, miso, tahini and some other stuff in it and again I whizz all the ingredients up and it's done. It's great for dollapping onto pizza and cooks really nicely. I also have a great recipe for macaroni-no-cheese which makes a sauce with pumpkin, nutritional yeast (seeing the pattern) and miso. It is a really nice winter meal with crusty bread. Yeah, I think most of these recipes come from a book by John Robbins called May all be Fed: A diet for a new world. I find John Robbins really interesting. He's been writing about veganism for a long time and with a passion and certainty that I find really admirable. His books are really interesting and May all be Fed has some great recipes in it.

Image: Vegan Cheese (Portland, Oregon) CC licensed by Flickr user Todd Mecklem Thank you Todd for CC licensing this picture.

PS: I'm pretty sure every vegan in the world wants to live in Portland, Oregon teehee. I do anyway.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Birthday Crackles

Every year since her first we have a had a birthday party for Toki at the local pre-school. Toki started going to a parent-run playgroup held at the pre-school when she was about six months old. When she was three she started going to pre-school three mornings a week. It's one of my favourite places i n the valley we live in. The pre-school is run as a co-operative. Parents and teachers work together to organise the pre-school. I say, parents, but that's only a bit of the story, all sorts of people help out: grandparents, nannies, uncles, older sisters and brothers. It's not unusual to find a bunch of care-givers sitting around long after pre-school has finished chatting while the kids play in the playground. I found looking after Toki quite isolating at the beginning and the pre-school was a real hub of community. We've made a lot of good friends and a big part of that is because of the pre-school. Toki is at school now, with a lot of the kids she went to pre-school with, and she still likes to visit pre-school every few days to see how things are getting on there. Every time I'm there it occurs to me that there aren't many places where people can just hang out and talk. Often I've found solutions to all sorts of problems there.

It was at pre-school Toki first found out that not everyone is vegan. I have no idea how we managed to miss out that vital piece of information, she'd sat at tables where people were eating meat, but one day I picked her up and she said to me, 'Pip, I don't think Bev's vegan.' Raising a child in a vegan family is a pretty exciting thing and we have had awesome support from our community - Toki's pre-school teacher Bob adapted most of his recipes to be vegan. The most common comment I get when people find out that Toki is vegan is, 'What would you do if she wanted to eat meat?' Most people (probably including myself) assume that one day Toki will become a dedicated carnivore because that's what most people do, eh? Completely rebel against everything their parents hold dear. I often joke that the best things we could have done to insure her vegan future would have been to raise on meat at every meal.

I never have a good answer for when people ask me. The question scares me and I've had to do a lot of 'letting go' about it. I guess the only veganism I'm responsible for my own. A couple of months ago I heard Brent come up with the best answer I've heard yet. My brother and his wife were asking us what we were going to do if Toki wanted to eat meat. Brent said, 'I always figure she's just vegan for today. I mean, hell, I am.' I really liked that.

I'm posting a recipe for Chocolate Crackles. As a kid there's were the quintessential party food. It wasn't until Toki's first birthday that I found out they are also 100% vegan. Every year we make a pile of them - it's a job me and my mum often do. I love baking and cooking with other people and my mum and I often have a giggle while we're baking these. When you put the rice bubbles in they pop and that is always pretty funny for me. 'It's alive!' I always say and someone always laughs.


4 cups of rice bubbles

1 1/2 cups of icing sugar

1 cup desiccated coconut

3 tbsp cocoa

250g Kremelta (the recipe is actually on the Kremelta package. I have never used Kremelta for anything except these - great word though, eh?)

Hundreds and thousands

Cupcake cases

Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl, then add the coconut and mix.

In a saucepan melt the Kremelta over a low heat.

When the Kremelta is completely melted, add the sugar, cocoa, coconut mixture and the rice bubbles and stir gently until everything is mixed together.

Spoon into cupcake cases.

Sprinkle with hundreds and thousands and leave to harden.

Chocolate crackles can be made a day or so in advance as long as they're stored in an air-tight container. I can't remember how long they take to harden but it is probably best to allow for a couple of hours.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Today, I've posted another story I wrote. This is a version of a piece of fiction that appeared in Metro magazine over summer this year. It pretty much comes in tact from my life, well, my experience of my life (it's my lie about the truth). My mother reminded me after reading it that my brother and I did indeed have pets (we a cat called Tiger who makes an appearance in the story Shopping which is published in Everything We Hoped For and another cat called TC - who I am yet to write about). I'm sure there are several other contestable events in the story as well. But, yeah, basicially, I have an awful time trying to deal with the pet question and this was one of the ways I tried to wrestle with it - pretty much to no avail. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.


By Pip Adam

After sex we talk about the goldfish. Lying on top of our bed and each other, naked, we’re dopey and slightly invincible. We start by talking about how great the sex was, which leads us to talk about how great we are, which leads to silence, which leads to how lonely our four-year old daughter is, which leads to all the reasons we have for not having another child, which leads to all the reasons we have for not having a dog, which leads to why I hate cats, which leads to the goldfish.

‘She'd still be unhappy if she had a brother or a sister,' you say.
'She'd still be unhappy if she had a cat,’ I say.

Then we talk about what it is, exactly, giving her goldfish would teach her about ownership, about animals and about rights. We're vegan so it’s complicated. It’s more complicated than usual because it looks like I’m becoming a Buddhist. Not on purpose but by degrees – a little reading here, a little meditation there until eventually, and now, on our bed after sex, I’m wanting to reduce the suffering of all sentient beings and can’t believe in individualised self existence any more. I’m trying to hide all this so I temper it and at length the conversation comes to the place where you say, 'So fish?' raising your arm in a lying down, sideways, let's-shake-on-it gesture and I shake your hand.
'Let's not mention it until she whinges about it again,' I say.
'Is that how we play it?' you say.
'Not "whinges",' I say, 'I didn't mean "whinges"'. Sometimes I say things just for the effect of them – so nobody thinks I care about anything too much – as much as I do. So I appear unphased and like everything I say is off-hand, coming from an easily intelligent mind. 'Not "whinges".'

The simple rule is that the first goldfish needs 20 gallons of water and every goldfish after that needs 10 gallons each. I don't know what a gallon is. On the way to the supermarket, in a tunnel, my daughter tells me she wants to be a big sister. I say I understand. She starts to cry and talk about how much she wishes I was pregnant. I say she sounds sad and I understand how sad it is and how her father and I don’t think we can look after any more children. Through the crying, she says, ‘Why can’t we have a dog?’ I think about the gallons and gallons of water and say, in an off-hand way, ‘Oh, it’s complicated – owning animals – it isn’t very vegan. What about the animal’s brothers and sisters?’ It’s the lowest blow. As we arrive at the supermarket she’s crying for all the animals who don’t have brothers and sisters because of the people who want pets.

My younger brother and I weren’t allowed pets until, at some point, we were given two goldfish in a small round bowl. Goldfish are the only pet fish that can live in cold water. Round bowls are no good for goldfish; gasses don’t escape and there is no way of getting 30 gallons of water into them. Our goldfish died a lot. We sank tiny shell-shaped things that would bubble to the bottom in the stones and oxygen weed. I expected that if I called my fish Gretel my brother would call his Hansel but they ended up being Peter and Gretel – over and over again. We ate fish every Thursday night and my grandmother opened small salty tins of sardines and tuna for our lunch. We never ate Peter and Gretel. Someone from down South sent us whitebait one year and we ate that: heads, fins, tails, bones – in an omelette.

Our daughter likes to go into the attic. We get the ladder and she climbs up onto our flat roof and we walk to the attic window and open it and she climbs in. It’s always warm and cramped and close. There are boxes. While we’re up there we move the boxes, checking in each one to make sure we really need what’s in them still. Paper is heavy. While we are up there she tells me about electricity and how the roof stays up and the chimney. The floor of the attic is broken into by the glass skylights that let light into the back part of our lounge. We tell our daughter to be careful not to stand on these. She is careful. She is smart and healthy.

One day the heavy outside attic window falls and jams two of her fingers. It’s awful. We take her to the afterhour’s doctor. A nurse dresses the raw meat of her fingers. Tallulah watches closely and asks questions like, ‘What’s that?’ When the nurse goes she says she wants to be a nurse. At home she has several anatomy books and a human skull with eyes she can take in and out and half a brain.

At the supermarket, while I’m at the bulk bins buying, pulses and nuts and dried fruit, I often lose her. She’s usually standing beside the plastic boxes that are filled with ice and dead, whole fish. She’s usually put on the latex gloves the supermarket supplies and is gently pushing an eye or opening a fin or a tail. When she sees me, she usually stops and says, ‘Poor fishy’ to me. She could stand there all day. She looks at the live mussels. The water sprays start and, sensing my impatience, she says, ‘Poor mussels.’ I tell her about a friend of ours who came with people from his temple and bought mussels and let them go into the sea down the road from the supermarket. She asks, Should we buy some mussels? I say it’s complicated that if we buy mussels the supermarket will get more mussels and then more mussels will be here, trapped. ‘It’s capitalism,’ I say, ‘there’s no care in it.’ Tallulah takes off the gloves reluctantly and we go and buy tofu and bread, me reading the labels while she looks at the brightly coloured soft drinks, singing to them, ‘Poison, poison, poison.’

Image is Creative Commons licensed by Flickr member tigerweet . I believe thay are Scottish fish.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My lunch

I haven't talked much about it but about two years ago I went to an Ayurvedic practitioner and he prescribed me a way of eating each day which he believed would help me be healthier. I've been following this prescription the best I can and he was right - I do feel a lot better. Basically, this means I eat pretty much the same thing every day. When I say 'the same thing' I'm probably mis-representing. I eat my meals at the same regular intervals and they tend to look pretty similar. Maybe I should talk about lunch.

For lunch I eat tofu, salad and freshly-made wholewheat bread. But I've found that for me to stick to this way of eating I need heaps of freedom around how I eat these three things. Yesterday, I had marinated tofu and today I'm having tofu cream cheese which I whipped up this morning. My salads vary heaps depending on what is in season. I've been doing a pretty good line in spinach salads lately, because lettuce has been really expensive. My main aim with salads is always to get as many different colours in them as possible. I usually have wholewheat bread which Brent sets going the night before and we bake as we have breakfast but some days I might have Chapati or Morroccan daily bread or bagels. I've even been known to make scones when I've left it to the last minute. I also don't always stick with wheat. My practitioner said I can use any grain - quinoa and barley are my go to grains and I am loving the Scarlet Barley recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Appetite for Reduction.

I thought I'd give you a link for some great bread recipes. They come from a Hare Krishna sight. Hare Krisha's in my experience love dairy products almost as much as they love and worship the cow. I used to go out with a devotee and I spent a lot of time at temple and man, it is a hard place to be vegan. One of the interesting things about Krishna milk is that they only take the fore-milk of the animal leaving the aft-milk for the calves. Anyway, what I do if replace any butter or ghee with oil or margarine and any cow's milk with soy milk.

PS: I spoke to Brent this morning and he said he will do a guest post next week about how to make the famous 'bread that Brent makes'.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sunday Lunch

My favourite meal of the week is Sunday lunch. On Sunday B and T go to the markets which are held in a parking lot about ten minutes walk form our house (on the corner of Vivian and Victoria Streets). I think most of the fruit and vegetables come from up the line and there is always heaps of delicious stuff there.

There are two markets in central Wellington on a Sunday and on Saturday morning there is one in Newtown, about half and hours walk from town, and another in Thorndon, which is about twenty minutes walk from where we live. I also understand there are similar markets in Poritua, the Hutt and Kapiti Coast. We are so luck!

We eat heaps of fruit and vegetables. I have juice every morning then fruit. Toki usually has a couple of pieces of fruit before she goes to school and in her lunch box she usually has fruit or maybe a carrot or some broccoli. For lunch I have a salad and we often have one cooked starchy vegetable (potatoes, pumpkin, kumara) for dinner and another salad. For dinner we also have dahl, and usually in the dahl there is eggplant and spinach and some other vegetable. Then Toki usually has a piece of fruit while we read her stories.

The market is the cheapest way for us to buy our food but also the produce is really fresh. The market has a great atmosphere, we often bump into people we know there. Toki has been going since she was a baby in a front-pack and some of the stall-owners know her by name. As well as out fruit and veg we get locally made tofu there, which is yum. Toki likes to shop at the market and often Brent gives her some cash and she chooses some of her own fruit and veggies. She likes trying new stuff and often comes home with things I've never seen before. Thank you Google! People often say veganism must really lack variety but it astounds me that after a long time I am still finding new vegetable and fruit and new ways of cooking the ones I already knew about.

Sunday lunch yesterday was; marinated and grilled tofu, an astounding salad, avocados, tomatoes, bread made by Brent, sunshine and a discussion about a tree house.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Vegan-Friendly Friends

My friend Helen Lehndorf is an amazing poet, she also writes beautiful fiction and non-fiction. In December, her book of poetry The Comforter is coming out on the wonderful Seraph Press.

Helen is a great friend to the vegan baha. She's even done a special Vegan Month of Food post on her Helen Lehndorf blog. It includes a delicious Fruity Bars recipe. They look very yum.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Library Meals

I'm writing this from the Victoria University Architecture and Design library. I reckon academic libraries are one of the best things about being a student. I love libraries almost more than anything else. When I feel sad about the way we treat each other, I think about libraries. When I was 14 years old I heard The Police sing about Nabokov and I went to the St Heliers Bay library and got out Lolita.

When I was at Otago University I got a job in the Medical and Dental libraries. It is still one of my happiest work memories. The Medical library was busy, the materials were amazing and the students were awesome. My favourite shift was late night. The library was open until about 11 o'clock I think and I would often work late with Elvira. She was a third year medical student and as the library got less and less busy, eventually we would be the only staff on. One of our jobs would be to go and 'pick interloans' which meant finding the journals and books on the shelves which people from other universities had ordered articles from. We could come back and report what we had seen on our travels: a pizza being eaten up near epidemiology, people making out in the stacks behind opthamology, people asleep in the warm. Elivira and I became firm friends.

We always had a dinner break on late night. One at a time we'd go into the staffroom, heat up our dinner and eat it reading whatever magazines were in there. Elvira always had really nice food and one night I asked her about it and she wrote out a recipe for one of her favourite curries. I've still got it on the piece of paper she wrote it on in the soft lead pencil we used to keep at the issues desk. I love making it because it reminds me of Elvira and the library and people kissing in opthamology.

I usually put chickpeas in Elvira's curry. Dry pulses require a bit of a rhythm to your day. What I normally do is put them in water to soak before I go to bed the night before I make this curry. Does that sound like a faff? I can never tell, I'm sure it did the first time someone told me they did it. Anyway, it doesn't seem like too much trouble now, although, yeah, I can see how it takes some planning. A friend of mine cooks all her beans for the week on the weekend and then freezes them or puts them in her fridge - I'm not always that organised. Anyway, if I wake up to soaked chickpeas I put them in the slow cooker with a bay leaf and yeah, let them cook until dinner time. I love my slow cooker. It used to be my aunt's. It's a very old-school one and it works really well for cooking pulses. I really like cooking my own pulses rather than buying canned ones mainly because of the salt. My heart has never been in great shape, I smoked for years and I have really low blood-pressure, so, I try and minimise salt any chance I get and canned food is one things I try to avoid. Anyway, however you get your chickpeas, you have them and now you can make:

Elvira's 3 people curry

2 tbsp oil
1 large onion
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp garlic
1 tbsp ginger
4 tomatoes
1 tsp turmeric powder
(Elvira wrote '1 tbsp chili (or none)'. I have never been game enough to put this much chili into it - I think she was joking)
1 tsp salt (or as much as you want)
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garam masala

Optional: 10 peppercorns, 2 cardamon pods

600 grams chickpeas

Enough water to cover everything.

You can also add vegetables

Fry the onion, garlic and ginger in a heavy bottomed pot.
Then add the tomatoes and spices and a bit of water if you need it and cook these on high for 3 minutes. Simmer for 10 minutes - you might need to keep adding water and it's a good idea to stay close for stirring.
Add chickpeas and vegetables and enough water to cover everything cover and boil for 15 minutes. Then remove the lid so the curry can thicken - if you like it thick.

This is good with rice or bread or potatoes and it's great if you're working late night.

Photo: Opthamology case study: Eye with severe peacock-ism. CC licensed by Quinn Dombrowski (Flickr user: quinn.anya)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

One cake well

I had a really nice afternoon yesterday with some people who are doing an MA in creative writing. I had a great conversation with a couple of novelists about revising long works like novels. How you have to hold the whole thing in your head and if you try and attack it piecemeal it often falls apart. A solution which looks perfect for the chapter or the paragraph undoes the novel as a whole. One of the novelists talked about it as like, 'Trying to make afghans out of something that started as a cake mixture - adding some cornflakes, adding margarine and you don't have afghans and you don't have cake, you have a mess.' The other novelist said, 'She is a great baker.' And she said, 'I can bake one cake well - and really, that's all you need.' The other novelist said, 'Ah, keep the cake, alter the audience.' We laughed at that point because it was starting to sound like the kind of extended metaphor which makes no sense but eventually becomes a self-help book.

I really liked the idea of baking one cake well. I am pretty sure that when I did my MA I did exactly the same thing. I have one great vegan cake recipe and it seems to work for most audiences. My mother first made it when I went vegan. The story is that she got it off a woman that lived in the same old-age home as my grandmother. There are heaps of variations of it around and most of them come from around the time of rationing in the Second World War. There are some really good vegan baking recipes from the Second World War. The New Zealand Electronic Text Centre published the War Economy Recipe Book written by 'Housewife' for the 'benefit of those who desire to economise, or for those who unfortunately, owing to a shortage of supplies, cannot secure the sufficient ingredients to do their usual baking'. It has some great recipes for things like: Tripoli Biscuits, American Fingers, Cairo Nutties, Victory Gems and Allied Cake.

Anyway, here is the Adam family version of a wartime vegan chocolate cake. We use this cake for a lot of things by the way. I've put it in muffin trays and cupcake tins, I've served it warm with sauce and ice cream as a pudding and last Christmas, we made it a couple of days before and used it instead of sponge in a triffle.


Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

1 1/2 cups of flour (I've used wholemeal flour but if its a special occasion I'll use white flour or a mixture of both. Oddly chapati flour works quite well. Oh trap I fell into once, if you're using self-raising flour, you don't need the baking powder)
2 tbsp cocoa (I usually use carob powder)
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup dry sweetener (if I use brown sugar the cake isn't quite so smooth - but it's still great)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence

1 tbsp vinegar

5 tbsp oil
1 cup cold water

In a large bowl sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add sweetener, vanilla, vinegar, oil and water and mix together gently until 'just mixed'. Pour into a lightly oiled cake pan (I find it works best in a ring tin) and bake for 45-50 minutes. Test with a knife to see if done. When cooled ice and serve.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

You might be right.

Today my post is a version of a story which is included in my collection Everything We Hoped For published by Victoria University Press in 2010. I've never attempted it, but here is the New Zealand Heart Foundation's recipe for palusami.

By Pip Adam

‘We’re vegan.’ He says it, kind of waving his hand to indicate he means all of us: me, him and the baby. ‘We don’t have any animal products.’ They smile. We sent an email earlier. Before we got here – to Samoa – we sent an email to the hotel to check we could eat something. The person we sent it to sent it to the maître-d’, who sent it to the chef, who sent it back to the person we sent it to, who sent it back to us, saying ‘This should be fine. Not a problem.’ The manager, the person we sent it to originally, forgot to delete the messages underneath his. He had forwarded our email to the maître-d’ with a message saying ‘Get a load of this *grin*.’ The maître-d’ forwarded our email and the manager’s message to the chef saying ‘Sorry – this is bound to be a pain in the arse.’

We feel bad before we get there. We take silver packs of soy protein and vegetarian luncheon sausage. I feel like a spaceman. Everyone we know who was vegan is freegan now. People say we care more about animals than people. I watch a documentary showing someone killing baby cats – kittens. One of the last vegans I know says she can’t watch it. She says vegans should be exempt from watching it. Someone else says that’s shit, if she expects other people to watch it she should watch it herself. I hate cats. I watch about ten seconds more of the documentary and I can’t watch it. They poison some dogs with cyanide. The dogs look like frightened children. I don’t particularly like children either. When I meet people I try to wait as long as possible before I tell them – about the vegan thing. Most people don’t like children particularly – or cats.

We go for a drive. We rent a car, pack up our vegetarian luncheon sausage and some white, bouncy bread and we go for a drive. There are dogs everywhere. I send an email home, saying ‘We’re having a great time; there are dogs everywhere in Samoa.’ A lot of the dogs have bits missing: ears, eyes, legs. On Savai’i, while we’re waiting for the ferry, a group of them surround us like a 1980’s horror movie. The baby teases them from her car seat. She shows them her vegetarian luncheon sausage and they growl. We say, ‘Don’t worry the dogs.’ They look like they have rabies. Neither of us have seen a dog with rabies, but we agree these dogs look like they have rabies. We wind up the windows and drive somewhere else to wait for the ferry.

For dinner we eat palusami and taro chips. We stay in a fale on Savai’i and eat curry and rice. We eat more palusami. Palusami quickly becomes our favourite food. I have my photo taken outside the Marlon Brando fale. We meet Aggie Grey’s granddaughter – she dances for us. There is fire every night: fire-dancing, fire-twirling, and jumping from the top of a palm tree into the swimming pool holding fire. We eat more palusami and lots of star fruit. We see pawpaw growing on trees. Anywhere else I’ve been I hate pawpaw, but I can eat it in Samoa with pleasure. Everywhere we go it rains – big, fat, warm rain. I had a different holiday in mind. I thought it would be sunny all the time and I would be lounging by the pool, getting brown, but it rains and often isn’t swimming weather. We try to go snorkelling. We take the baby out a wee way, and I see a fish and panic and don’t go snorkelling any more. I think of Jaws and Piranha and Piranha 2, where they could fly. I don’t like fish. I don’t like animals where I can’t see them – where they can creep up on me. On the way to the snorkelling beach we see a dead dog – stiff, with its legs up. We agree someone will come for it. On the way home it’s still there, only fatter. It’ll burst if the sun stays out. It’s in a ditch.

They have a huge banquet that night, and Aggie Grey’s grand-daughter dances again. There’s fish everywhere, raw fish marinated in coconut milk and fresh limes. I think about the fish that were there while we were snorkelling – how sneaking up on someone and frightening them isn’t a nice thing to do. There are shellfish. Shellfish are like vegetables to me. ‘No central nervous system,’ I say to the baby. I order palusami and a vegetarian pizza with no cheese and can they check there is no butter or milk in the pizza base. The waiter smiles. I feel elite in the worst way. We all eat palusami and taro chips.The baby gets some of it in her hair and tries to feed the rest of it to a cat that lives in the hotel. The pizza has parmesan on it, so I order some more palusami. The parmesan is a test, an accident or a misunderstanding. I leave the pizza untouched hoping that someone will eat it in the kitchen. Waste, food miles, hypocrisy, reliance on capitalism, elitism – someone mentions one of these things to me most days. In New Zealand the doctor says ‘restricted diet’ a couple of times and I figure sooner or later someone is going to take the baby off us. The Plunket Nurse says, ‘Just a glass of milk a day would do it.’ I think about a million cows in pain and all the rivers drowned in shit and say, ‘Yeah, that would do it.’ I start lying to the Plunket Nurse. I say, ‘Yeah,’ when she says, ‘Is she having any meat?’ The baby has never seen meat. I stop going to see the Plunket Nurse. Someone asks me if I’ve ever given the baby a choice to eat meat. While we’re in Samoa the baby eats pigeon shit and some weird fluffy plant. I say, ‘Yeah, nah, I haven’t done that.’ I say I see their point, but I don’t, not really. I pretend to cooperate. I say, ‘You might be right.’ It’s my secret way of not getting into a fight when I don’t agree with someone. The nutritionist at the hospital tells me I have to go back to Plunket. I say ‘Okay’ but I might as well have said, ‘You might be right.’ The baby and I walk back through the hospital car park, there’s a cold and dry wind. ‘It’s warm enough in Samoa to grow beans and wet enough to grow rice,’ I tell her. ‘That’s a perfect protein – pulses and grain.’ If I could catch a wild pig with my bare hands and kill it with my bare hands and eat it raw I probably would.

One overcast day in Samoa we go to Robert Louis Stevenson’s estate. There are fireplaces in most of the rooms. We walk up the hill in Roman sandals to the memorial. Black lizards move as we walk close to them. At first I think I’m seeing things, from the lack of protein and iron, and the humidity, and the long walk uphill, but then we see them and they join us and the baby laughs and tries to catch them with her bare hands.