Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Voting and Vegetarian Festivals

Attending a vegetarian festival

I went to a vegetarian festival this past weekend. I'm not a vegetarian in the slightest, though I do eat vegetarian food frequently. I haven't had much experience with vegan food. So I went to the festival with a vegan friend and her vegan sister. It was an experience! Some of the interesting stuff -

1. It's possible to make some really tasty vegan food. I was most surprised by the vegan cake. Because I couldn't figure out how you make a cake without using butter, milk, and eggs. But what with new technologies, they now have butter made out of oil instead of dairy, and some of those cakes came out really well. I honestly wouldn't know the difference.

2. DO NOT think that if you're eating a soy slim jim flavored with "pepperoni" flavor, then you're not going to need to wash your mouth out immediately afterwards. Ok, maybe if you're a veggie/vegan, and you haven't had meat in a while, then it might taste better (kind of like if you don't eat a particular food for a long time even the worst version of it starts to taste good). It managed to be sweet and chemically pepperoni flavored at the same time. Blech.

3. Goldenberries are AWESOME! Ok, so apparently I'm the only one who thinks so. They're also called gooseberries or incanberries. They're reallllllllly tart, like the tartest grapefruit you've ever eaten mixed with something sweeter like papaya, and they look like big round golden raisins. I gave a taste I think to about three people and all of them looked at me like I'd officially lost my mind for having spent $4 on a small bag of them. Hey, more for me, right?

4. I do not understand the fake meat the Chinese stand was cooking up. I'm trying, but I can't remember what it's called, begins with a G. It's basically soy, but cooked with "meat" flavor, for those people who enjoy the taste of meat without the animal-killing properties. It doesn't taste like meat, I just can't quite get around the weirdness of it.

5. The tofu empanada was incredible! The best thing there, by a long shot. It was spicy and it tasted real, not like it was full of substitutes.

6. Hemp milk, while intriguing, really is not all that good. If I were to go vegan, I'd definitely stick with soy milk. I have, actually, tried hemp milk in the past and managed to get it down in the chocolate flavor. But this was original flavor. I can't really describe what it tasted like, but it wasn't very good.

7. The sense of community there was awesome. I swear my vegan friend knew half the people there. It's really a bonding experience, how people come together over food and its advocacy.

8. Teese is the new vegan cheese. There's also Sheese, but that booth had already run out, so I didn't get to try any. I tried the Teese just for the hell of it. I didn't expect much. It was nacho-style cheese, in a big squeeze pump. It wasn't near as bad as I expected, and if I were a vegan I might like it. But I've never been a fan of nacho cheese, even when it's full dairy.

9. Vegetarian or vegan doesn't necessarily mean all natural and healthy. Sure, there are no animal fats, so not as much saturated fat, so that's a plus. But I feel like in making a lot of that food, they're adding quite a few unnatural elements to it to make it tastier. When I cook, I use as many natural ingredients as I can, and I don't buy much prepackaged food at all. So while I understand the abhorrence some people have of meat and animal-based products, my personal abhorrence is for chemicals and unnatural ingredients.

10. There was a great variety! I was surprised by just how much vegan food there was, and I was pleased because I've never really tried that much of it. I tried chinese food, latin food, pastries, "milk," "cheese," dried fruit, power bars, and I'm sure many other things I'm not remembering. It was awesome in it's variety and it's great that the movement has come to a point where there can be such variety. Vegetarianism isn't fringe anymore, it's mainstream.

I'm glad I went and it was a great experience. It didn't change my mind about eating meat, but I now know about a greater variety of vegetarian foods, and I bought some cookbooks there as well (Jamaican and Greek).

Getting on the Soapbox

I voted this morning. Considering the reports I've heard about insanely long lines and people queuing up at 4am, I'm incredibly lucky that my line was only about 15-20 minutes long. My ballot was pretty easy to understand too, just take the marker and fill in the bubbles. Some of you might remember that whole big butterfly ballot brou-ha-ha from 2000 (in the link, take a look at the 3rd image from the top). I've heard lots of people say that the people were stupid who voted for Buchanan instead of Gore because of the butterfly ballot. But let me tell you, I almost voted for Buchanan until I realized at the last minute my mistake and punched the right hole. And I was in a swing state at that point, so it mattered.

What I don't get is the people who've said they don't believe in voting. I understand the negative reaction to the 2000 election, when the popularly elected candidate didn't actually win the election. But how often does that happen, really? If you're in a swing state, then I find it socially irresponsible not to vote, because you really do make a difference. If you're in a state which always goes in one direction (like me, for instance, in MA), you vote does still count. It won't come down to the wire like it would in Ohio or Missouri or Virginia. But the more votes cast and the better we get a view of what the American people really wants. Either it's really close (like 2000) and we're biting our nails watching the returns, or those extra votes just affirm that the president elect has the decided support of the people.

But hey, if you're not into voting, then you're not interested in complaining about any of the decisions the ensuing government makes, right? I'm not gonna twist your arm, but I will look at you askance if you then hold them to account. Because our society runs on elections. The system may not be perfect, but it's what we've got. So until we have a system of direct popular election of president, we still need to hit the polls even if we think the electoral system might leave something to be desired.

Getting off the soapbox now


JavaChick said...

Thanks for the opinion on the hemp milk. I see it mentioned often on food blogs, but have never seen it in the stores around here. Now I know that I'm not missing anything.

I have to admit - I don't quite get the vegan thing. Vegetarian, yes. But I can't see what's wrong with dairy and eggs? Assuming the animals producing them are well treated?

But perhaps it depends on your reasons for choosing the lifestyle.

The Lethological Gourmet said...

Yeah, I think different people have different reasons. The friend I went to the festival with is a vegan not for any animal rights issues, but because she feels like the body processes plant matter more efficiently than animal matter (and she's a doctor). Other people don't like the treatment (how chickens are kept all cooped up and not allowed to roam free, that kind of thing).

But for me, I don't really understand the dairy and eggs thing. Because it doesn't actually harm the animal to get it.

Charlotte said...

Your point about vegan food not being very close to natural is the number 1 reason I quit being a vegan. You can't eat an organic egg but supposedly a preservative-packed packet of soy and who-knows-what-other-crap faux meat is healthier?? Ridic.

And I loved your soapbox today! I already voted and even took my kids with me so that they could see how important it is to me.

The Lethological Gourmet said...

Charlotte, I always loved voting when I was a kid. The polling place my mother took me to had these really cool machines that were all black and had these long thin flat switches. She'd tell me which to flip, and I'd get to flip them all. Props to mom for instilling a sense of civic duty early on! She's now big into politics, canvassing and making and handing out buttons for her chosen candidate. So definitely keep bringing your kids to vote with you! Do they let you bring 4 kids into the booth?

Romny said...

In California we just passed a measure that farms have to let animals raised for food consumption roam around. Yay!