Small-Bite Sundays: September 17, 2017

Small-Bite Sundays

Friends, apologies for the radio silence! VeganMoFo begins in October (!), and I’ve been prepping for that. Steven and I will be out of the country during the first few days, so I’ve been getting my mock ducks in a row before we leave. (That aphorism doesn’t quite hold up to veganization, does it?) I’ve also gotten back into freelancing after the summer lull, leaving me less time for blogging. Expect a little more quiet on the blog front until October, when I’ll be posting every darn day, just as I have done for the past six MoFos. Yeehaw.

In the meantime, I’ve had a frustrating weekend. I’m 0.5 for 2 with the recipes I’ve been working on for VeganMoFo, leaving me frustrated and disappointed. Oh well. Onward!

Small bites: to read

Wow. I was unfamiliar with the Michelle Jones story until a college acquaintance shared this article on Facebook. (If you are equally unfamiliar, I really suggest reading the story — any summary I could give wouldn’t do it justice.) There’s so much to unpack here, and the question of where we as a society draw the line when it comes to redemption is something I haven’t thought much about.

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A poignant read from the perspective of a physician who has to share heartbreaking, devastating news with the families of patients who pass away. What stood out to me here was how incredibly important empathy is in situations like this. It’s a core principle of my own life (or at least, I aspire for it to be), and it serves this doctor well.

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As someone who grew up with Deaf family members, I really enjoyed this piece about how the sign language used by black Americans differs from that used by white Americans. In my experience, folks tend to think of “sign language” as a monolith, but it’s so very not. American Sign Language and Signed English are very different, and as this article points out, Black American Sign Language is another dialect entirely — one that’s historically been ignored and downplayed. It’s fascinating but not surprising that people who are deaf code-switch just like their hearing counterparts.

Small bites: to watch

Profanity ahead, but holy smokes — this video of an Irish family dealing with a bat in the kitchen is pure gold. Stuff like this usually doesn’t appeal to me, but I could not handle this video! And I’m glad the batty got out safe. :)

Small bites: to eat

Thes berbere-spiced jackfruit tacos feature finely chopped jackfruit, which is… an embarrassingly obvious preparation method that I somehow haven’t used! Leave it to Vegan Richa to come up with this fantastic idea.

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Garden tomato haulTOMATOES FOREVER. Here is my haul from a single day this week. My cherry tomatoes just won’t stop producing, and my larger slicers are finally ripening. I think those are Mikados on the right, but I’m not entirely sure… my labeling fell by the wayside at some point this summer. Last year I had tomatoes well into October; I’m crossing my fingers for that to happen again!

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Speaking of tomatoes… I saw a recipe for roasted tomato pasta recently and it has been a weeknight staple ever since (and a great way to use up my massive supply of cherry tomatoes!). You simply halve a bunch of cherry tomatoes, drizzle them with olive oil, add salt/pepper/vegan parm/nooch/whatever, and roast in a high-walled pan or casserole dish for about 20 minutes at 425˚F, until they’re juicy and falling apart and a saucy mess. In the meantime, boil pasta. When it’s done, just mix the drained pasta into the dish with the roasted tomatoes. Add more spices/nooch/vegan parm to taste and enjoy!

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If you’ve got a little cash to spare, here are two crowd-funded projects that look neat. The first is a Spain-based startup that’s creating vegan “leather” bags out of biodegradable cork bark. They’re committed to sustainability, ethical production, and vegan products… the trifecta of conscious consumerism, perhaps?

The second is closer to home (for me, at least): a vegan burger joint in Baltimore. Maybe it’s just because I’m hungry for dinner right now, but their food looks great.

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Let me know if you’ve read/watched/eaten anything noteworthy this week!

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Small-Bite Sundays: August 27, 2017

Small-Bite Sundays

First things first: Have you entered my giveaway yet? Win a handmade vegan-emblazoned mug here! (And if you have a recommendation for another vegan small-business interview, drop me a line.)

I spent last weekend in Rhode Island, visiting with family, meeting my sister-in-law’s family (they’re visiting the U.S. from their home in Thailand), and celebrating my mom’s 60th a bit belatedly. All visits to RI give me the chance to spend lots of time with my two little nephews… meaning all visits to RI include about a 50/50 percent chance of me coming home with some kind of terrible kid-transmitted illness. This time, I ended up with a killer cold and spent about three days glued to the couch with my trusty tissue box by my side.

Luckily, though, the cold didn’t strike until later in the week, or else Steven’s and my eight-hour drive home on Monday would have been pretty miserable. During our drive, we stopped in a state park to watch the eclipse — what we could see from northern Maryland, at least. We had about 83% coverage, and I was (naively) surprised at how little change there was in the light. At least we had eclipse glasses to see what was happening, and we were able to share them with a family who was taking a mid-day hike but didn’t have any glasses. Anyway, the experience left me wishing we’d driven somewhere to see totality, and I think we’ll attempt to do so during the next one — just seven years from now. :)

Small bites: to read

Fellow vegan blogger Jenny has a brief piece on Medium about how a nasty vegan weight-loss site stole an image of her and used it to promote their vegan diet program. Ironically, the image was originally used on another piece she wrote… about the intersections (or frequent lack thereof) between veganism and fat acceptance.

The incident stands out to me for a few reasons. One, it’s an example of the bizarre way folks seem to think images on the internet are fair game for reuse, even when they’re not marked as creative commons. Two, it highlights the continued problem of fat-shaming within the vegan community and the icky idea that veganism should be/is a weight-loss tool. Third, it’s actually heartening to see the way people responded to Jenny when she put a call out on social media for others to demand the site take her photo down. Thanks to the folks who mobilized on her behalf, not only did the site remove her photo, but they deleted the entire post in which it was used.

If you’re interested in reading more about vegan body positivity and weight inclusivity, check out Jenny’s Big Fat Vegan Zine Tumblr.

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I am so intrigued by the thought of cooking with so-called “roasted sugar,” sugar that’s been slowly, well, roasted in the oven until it develops a deeper and almost caramelized flavor. I’m looking forward to experimenting with it! (I contemplated putting this in the “To eat” section, but even I, a lover of sweets, would not sit down to a bowl of roasted sugar.)

 

Small bites: to watch

It’s a bit long, but I enjoyed this video demonstrating the absurdly long process of getting dressed as an 18th century Western woman. Fans of 18th century British novels in particular (guilty!) will likely appreciate this visual; female protagonists in these books frequently reference their dress.

Small bites: to eat

I am always on board for cashew cream, and these adorable creamy tomato-basil tartlets from Vegan Yack Attack feature a basil-infused cashew cream in spades. I’d sub in a gluten-full crust, and I’d probably make a full-size tart (alas, I have no tiny tart pans), but otherwise this recipe is a perfect way to do justice to your end-of-summer tomato stash.

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Aquafaba is a seriously versatile ingredient — not only has it revolutionized vegan meringues and macarons, but apparently it makes an amazing caramel. I love the inclusion of macadamia nuts, too; I can imagine them adding a perfectly rich and buttery element to this caramel sauce.

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As I mentioned earlier, we celebrated my mom’s 60th in RI last weekend. What I didn’t mention was that my dad basically catered a three-course fully vegan meal for 20+ guests all by himself. He’s always been the star cook of the family, but he really outdid himself here. We enjoyed appetizers (Texas caviar and a seriously incredible three-bean dip), a soup course (spicy sweet potato and kale), and a main course featuring twice-baked potatoes (augmented with mashed cauliflower!), a light salad, and grilled veg sausages and veggies. Plus, Dad made three original cocktails to order, including an incredible chocolate drink that was perfect for my chocoholic mom. Oh, also? Nearly everything was gluten-free so my celiac aunt could enjoy it. Yeah, my dad should probably go into the catering business.

We followed everything up with a vegan cake from a local bakery. They decorated it like a barbell weight as a nod to my bodybuilder mom’s favorite hobby. :)

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What was your eclipse experience, if you’re in the States? What have you  read/watched/eaten lately?

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Vegan Small-Business Interview + GIVEAWAY: The Vegan Potter

One of the most under-rated aspects of being an ethical vegan is the sense of community it offers. I love meeting other vegans and gushing about the best new dairy-free ice cream on the market or swapping recipe tips. I especially love meeting vegans who bring their passion for animals and a cruelty-free lifestyle to work with them. Even better? Meeting folks who create a business that centers around and celebrates being vegan.  And I love connecting vegan consumers with businesses that they can feel good about supporting.

So today I bring you the first in what (I hope!) will be an ongoing series, where I’ll chat with vegan small-business owners to share their stories and help bring a little publicity to their good work. I’m starting with the Vegan Potter, a fabulous Connecticut-based small business run by Lyndsay Meiklem.

I first learned about the Vegan Potter from my mom, who encountered Lyndsay and her pottery pieces at New England VegFest earlier this year. Mom enthusiastically shared what she’d learned about this fantastic business and gifted me with a small appetizer plate (see left!), which now has pride of place on my counter. With any luck, you, too, can own a vegan-emblazoned piece of original pottery!

Read on for my interview with Lyndsay, and don’t miss the giveaway at the end.

Interview with Lyndsay from the Vegan Potter

Which came first: the veganism or the pottery?
The veganism came before the pottery.

I went vegetarian at age 17 when I was still in high school. Vegan at age 19 in my second year of college, and I started taking pottery classes at age 20.

Why did you become vegan?
I became a vegetarian after researching the food industry and animal rights for an opinion paper in a high school English class. Two years later I came home from college and worked at a health food store. The owner was well-versed in many health and wellness issues (keep in mind, this was in 1994!). She encouraged me to read a book called Diet for a New America by John Robbins, son of the Baskin-Robbins ice cream empire. Each chapter focused on an animal and recounted in a very factual and non-inflammatory manner how our food industry processes the animals for human consumption. When I got to the chapter about how milk and eggs are produced, I felt like a total hypocrite for claiming that my reasons for being a vegetarian were motivated by animal rights, because the conditions that laying hens and milking cows endure are equally as deplorable as those in which animals are raised for slaughter. When I went back to college that year, I went vegan.

The Vegan Potter: spoon rest

Your spoon deserves a beautiful resting spot.

How did you get started as a potter?
I studied English and Creative Writing with a minor in Art History at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. I always loved the arts and had taken many metalsmithing and photography classes in high school but actually dropped a ceramics class in my senior year because I didn’t like getting my hands dirty.

During my final year of college, paint-your-own pottery studios were just starting to pop up and I went to one and painted a plate with a friend. After that I couldn’t stop thinking about how I wanted to learn how to actually MAKE the plate. I sought out a summer pottery course at another Montreal college but the enrollment was too low and they cancelled the class before it began. Shortly after, I discovered an art gallery owner who had a third floor studio space in an industrial building and had a small pottery studio in the back of the gallery to hold “classes.”

I signed up with my boyfriend at the time, and in the first class it was very clear this was not a teaching studio. The teacher gave us a quick demonstration and then left us on our own. I found out a few weeks later that the ‘teachers’ simply got use of the studio in exchange for teaching a class. During the pottery session my relationship ended, and as a result I spent ALL my free time in the clay studio, which was open most nights and weekends for practice. I watched and I practiced and after just a few weeks I remember calling my parents in Connecticut and having a conversation with my dad in which I recalled something he always told me: “Find what you LOVE to do and then find a way to make a living doing it.” I knew I had found what I love.

The Vegan Potter: cheese board

Cheese board and knife, complete with vegan cheese.

I continued to practice at that Montreal studio for another year when I had a thought: to open a pottery-teaching studio back in my hometown of Norwich, Connecticut. I tested my skills and endurance and spent the next two summers teaching 7- to 15-year-olds at a residential camp in southern Maine. I got a TON of practice teaching and honed my own throwing skills over the next two summers and then moved back to CT and spent the next year making pottery in my parents’ barn, which had no running water. I lugged 5-gallon pails and used a wood stove for heat and I threw pots on a partially motorized kick wheel.

In 2002 my dad rented me a small building next to his furniture craftsman shop, and after a few weeks of renovations and using a good portion of my savings buying 10 brand new pottery wheels and a kiln, I began my business. I’ve been teaching ever since, and in 2006 I purchased a property with two buildings on it and renovated one into a 2,500 square foot art studio, gift shop, and office. In the years following I renovated the building next door into a yoga and wellness studio and we’ve been thriving ever since.

How do you describe the type of pottery you create?
Functional one-of-a-kind stoneware made with love.

What does a day in the life of a full-time potter look like? I imagine it varies greatly depending on where you are in the process for each piece!
You’re right! Each day is very different, but in the past 15 years since starting my studio, a TON of time has been devoted to running the business! For the first 10 years I had my wheel in the main studio space where classes were held and over 40 students a week filtered in and out. When I added on to my building and created a 12 x 12 dedicated studio space for my own private workspace, things began to change. I was able to spend more time diving back into my craft and have fallen completely back in love!

The Vegan Potter: sloth life tumbler

Fabulous “sloth life” tumblers in lots of colors.

The making cycle often goes like this: Throwing pots on Tuesdays, trimming and finishing Tuesday’s pots on Wednesday/Thursday, and sometimes finding a few hours of hand-building time. Saturdays are often glazing days. I also teach four adult pottery classes each week, and loading and unloading kilns eats up at least a few hours each week. When I’m in the studio, I work 12- to 13-hour days. When I’m not in the studio, I’m thinking about what I’m going to do the next time I’m in the studio! Coming into the holiday season I’m in high production mode, and some weeks are devoted to packing and readying for weekend shows and events like veg fests!

If you visited the home of someone who’d purchased some of your pieces, where would you hope to see them?
Typically my work lives in the kitchen or dining room! I absolutely love seeing my work in use, filled with home-cooked food.

As you create new styles and lines, what inspires you?
I’m equally inspired by nature and function. I’m obsessed with drinking vessels and most recently began experimenting with a new clay body. I thought I was going to use it on its own but realized I could combine my white and brown clay and it gave me the opportunity to play with techniques that leave wonderful swirls and organic lines throughout the pieces. This encouraged me to want to leave the exterior of the pieces as raw clay. The finished work reminds me of wood grain AND swirled ice cream all at the same time.

When I have time to play and vary from tight deadlines or set projects, I’m able generate new forms or ideas for pieces. The medium has held my attention because I’m constantly learning and honing my skills making new forms or playing with new colors.

What motivates you to include overtly vegan messaging in your work? I’m thinking both of your pieces that include the word “vegan” and your social media accounts, which show lots of vegan love. Do you consider your work a form of activism?
I’ve always made a few pieces here and there that said “vegan” or “ahimsa,” a yogic word for “non-violence,” but in recent years I’ve had many more people ask me about my food choices and I’ve run a few vegan-eating info programs at my studio. Last winter I had a revelation when I discovered a holiday gift bazaar that was ONLY for VEGAN vendors — Compassionfest in Hamden, CT. I created a few pieces of pottery that said “vegan” and they were the first things to sell. I realized I had found my tribe and I got much more serious about the Vegans Unite collection. Since then, it has grown to include bowls, bread plates, mugs, tumblers, ornaments, and magnet sets.

The Vegan Potter: vegan bowls

No one will think your ice cream is dairy-based when you eat it from this bowl!

I’ve always used my social media accounts to discuss my food choices in non-inflammatory ways by simply posting pics of delicious food, which are often enough to spark discussions with folks about veganism. In the past 20 years, I have seen a tremendous amount of change here in the Northeast. 20 years ago, the only brand of milk alternative was soymilk in tetra packs and it tasted terrible. Health food stores were far and few between and bulk food was just making an appearance. There were NO meat replacements or protein sources outside of tofu (which you certainly couldn’t find in a mainstream grocery store). We have come a really long way in the past two decades BUT I have also noticed a trend for new vegans or vegan curious to lean heavily on the vast array of “fake” meat and protein replacements that are so abundant now in mainstream stores.

When you’re not eating delicious vegan food or creating beautiful pieces, how do you spend your time?
I love taking day trips with my husband to explore New England towns and seek out vegan restaurants. I can also be found taking photos of the local cover band my husband plays in.

And finally, do you have any companion animals? Who are they?
Living in a very tiny studio apartment we don’t have any pets but our dream is to build an earth berm home and we have big plans for several companion animals when that happens!

The Vegan Potter: garlic keeper

The perfect vessel for your garlic.

Five quick-fire questions

Favorite vegan indulgence?
Any vegan dessert! I’m a sugar-holic!

Favorite restaurant?
Crazy Burger in Narragansett, Rhode Island. Although they are not exclusively vegan, they have an extensive vegan section on their menu and they catered our wedding!

Favorite vacation spot?
Vacation? What’s that? When you do what you love, there is little time for time away!

Favorite kitchen tool?
Vitamix for smoothies, and I love my microplane for zesting and grinding fresh nutmeg and herbs.

Favorite animal?
I can’t think of any animal I don’t love! Someday I’d love to meet elephants!

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Find the Vegan Potter!

Main site // Facebook // Instagram //

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GIVEAWAY TIME!

Vegan mug giveaway by the Vegan Potter

Giveaway closed!

From 77 entries, the randomly selected winner is Judith Rontal. Judith, I’ll be emailing you to get your information. Thanks for entering, everyone!

Lyndsay has graciously agreed to give a lovely mug from her vegan collection to one lucky reader! Enter below to win the vegan mug with turquoise trim. The only thing you must do is visit the Vegan Potter website and leave me a comment saying which of her pieces appeals to you most. Then fill out the Rafflecopter form below. (Only Rafflecopter entries are eligible!) You can rack up extra entries by completing a few other tasks.

>>> Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway! <<<

This giveaway is open to both U.S. and international readers! Giveaway closes at 11:59pm, EDT, on Tuesday, September 5. Good luck!

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Small-Bite Sundays: August 20, 2017

Small-Bite Sundays

Last weekend I was in Austin, spending a quick couple days with friends and spending less time on social media. It was like a little break from the news, which is almost universally shitty and painful. And then I saw something about what was going on in Charlottesville and realized how lucky and privileged I am to be able to disconnect like that.

I have so much to say (and so many feelings) about this, but who needs to read another white girl’s thoughts. Here are some other things to read instead.

Small bites: to read

Ijeoma Olua has some of the best, most provocative pieces on contemporary race issues in America. Her piece about fighting white supremacy is timely and well-worth your time. Anyone can make a Facebook post expressing outrage or shake their head at the water cooler and talk about how horrible the Charlottesville situation is, but we have to do more. White people have to do more. We’ve enabled and been complicit in perpetuating white supremacy, and we have to be the ones to take it down. Olua’s list gives concrete ways to start.

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I was planning to share Jaya Bhumitra’s “Celebrating the Globalization of Animal Advocacy — and Avoiding Imperialism” before Charlottesville, and it seems extra relevant now. This piece is a crucial reminder that as wonderful as it is to see many U.S.-based animal protection groups expanding internationally, we need to be mindful of how we work with  other nations. While her tips are geared towards organizations doing this kind of work, they’re also applicable to other endeavors that expand across the globe.

Bhumitra’s piece is hosted on the Encompass blog. If you haven’t heard of it, Encompass is a timely new organization dedicated to building a more racially inclusive animal welfare movement. While there are absolutely vegans of color doing amazing work, the movement as a whole has not prioritized diversity. Encompass wants to change that. As they say, “If we want our collective mission — to reduce suffering — to take hold, our movement must reflect the country we are trying to change. We must be the change.

What really excites me about Encompass’ work is that it’s not just rhetoric. Instead, they’re grounding their philosophy in concrete work. On an individual level, they plan to “empower advocates of color by cultivating leadership potential.” On an organization-wide level, they will “work with professional farmed animal protection organizations to maximize staff impact, recruit more people of color, and more authentically conduct outreach to communities of color.” Yes.

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On another topic… if you interact with any millennials, you’ve probably heard at least one of us complain about adulting. I’ve probably done it myself, but to be honest, I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable with the phrase — even if I couldn’t articulate why. This piece from Sian Ferguson at The Establishment shares one reason that resonated with me: The way we use the phrase is often classist.

Ferguson’s argument, in brief, is that many children (those who grow up in poverty; those who grow up with mentally or physically disabled parents) have to “adult” at a young age. Ferguson speaks poignantly about her own childhood and how she had to worry about adult things at a young age.

The idea of “adulting” also rubs me the wrong way because people seem to use it to tacitly beg for praise. “Look at me; I paid a bill! Hey, I did <a thing> on my own! #adulting!” Big deal. Maybe I’m revealing my own misanthropy here more than anything, but, yuck. It’s also bizarrely self-infantilizing phrase, one that exempts the speaker from responsibility in anything other than the single task they’ve managed to accomplish. Again, yuck.

Small bites: to watch

I both want to watch and dread watching the Vice News Tonight episode on Charlottesville.

Small bites: to eat

Vaishali’s carrot almond breakfast pudding. Maybe I just love the phrase “breakfast pudding,” but this date-sweetened dish has me salivating.

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Vegan Haagen-Dazs ice cream!The new vegan Häagen-Dazs ice cream — specifically, the chocolate salted fudge truffle flavor. This is really, really good. Absurdly creamy mouthfeel with a really wonderful, high-quality chocolate flavor. I did not expect to enjoy this ice cream as much as I did! And as far as I can tell, it’s a water-based gelato — pretty darn allergen-friendly. Available only at Target for now, but worth your while to seek out. I loved this ice cream so much that I ate it from the container, a practice I generally find distasteful. Here is a picture for proof (a rare selfie, and rarer to post it here!).

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Let me know if you’ve read/watched/eaten anything noteworthy lately.

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Ethical Product Review: Oka-B Taylor Flats

I am not exactly a shoe fiend. Sure, I like shoes, I admire different styles, I enjoy wearing everything from cute heels to kick-ass boots, but I’m not the type of person who gets buried under an avalanche of footwear when opening her closet. I prefer to keep things minimal and to identify gaps in my footwear wardrobe before buying another pair. My desire to purchase only ethically made, cruelty-free, vegan footwear* certainly helps; there are fewer options that fit those criteria, especially affordable ones.

So when I realized I was sorely lacking in work-appropriate shoes for summer, the search for a pair of flats commenced. I have very few light-colored shoes (beige or tan), so I focused my search on that color.

Oka-B Taylor flats in blush. Image copyright Oka-B.

Oka-B Taylor flats in blush. Image copyright Oka-B.

Eventually I settled on the Taylor ballet flats by Oka-B, and here’s why. Oka-B is a woman-owned company that produces affordable shoes in the United States and has a real focus on sustainability. What I really love is that they’re recyclable: You can send your worn-out Oka-B shoes back to their factory, where the company will recycle them and use the material in new products. This sort of closed-loop production really gets me excited. What makes this possible is that the shoes are made of a patented plastic blend. Yes, I know — plastic shoes. I realize that for many folks, this might put you off if you try to avoid plastic altogether or if you’re worried about sweat. I am #blessed with feet that are never particularly sweaty, so I wasn’t too worried about any stink. And the plastic does have an up side: You can wash these babies in the sink or in the dish washer with just water and soap.

Although there are some reviews of the Taylors floating around the internet, none are particularly comprehensive. So I ordered the Taylor flats in blush and tried them for myself. Here’s my experience.

How do Oka-B Taylor flats fit?

The best I can say is, “They fit OK.” Unfortunately, Oka-B does not offer half sizes. This is a real bummer for those of us whose feet fall smack-dab between two whole sizes! I typically wear a 7.5, so first I ordered a 7. I’d read that the shoes can sometimes stretch, and I have narrow feet, so that seemed like a safe bet.

It was not a safe bet. I should not have taken that bet. Oh man. The first time I wore these all day long, I was in pain by 5:00. They squeezed, they pinched, and I was in agony. Instead of stretching, they seemed to contract, while my feet swelled in response. The result was… not good. That night, I gave the pair a thorough cleaning and immediately exchanged them for an 8.

Oka-B Taylor flatsAhh, [relative] bliss. Or so I thought.

Unfortunately, the 8s are just a smidge too big for my feet, just a little bit too loose. They’re serviceable, though, so I kept this pair. But when I’m walking downhill they sometimes slip off my heels, and overall they just don’t feel perfect.

If Oka-B would only offer half sizes, this would not be an issue. I hope they consider doing so in the future!

How comfortable are Oka-B Taylor flats?

My experience with the Taylors has been mixed, even aside from the sizing issue. Although the site’s ad copy touts “soothing massage beads” and “premium arch support,” anyone with high arches (me!) will unfortunately not notice these perks. My arches sit well above the massage beads, although they do look comfortable. To be clear, though, these shoes are definitely more comfortable than cheaper ballet flats I’ve owned in the past, the ones with totally flat footbeds and no cushioning to speak of.

Unfortunately, I also experience toe pain with these shoes. Although these flats are somewhat flexible, the tops of the shoes dig into the bone of my right big toe. Though the pain isn’t acute, after a full day of wear, I’m definitely ready to take my shoes off. This seems to be a very specific problem though; if you read the reviews for the Taylor, many people find them absolutely comfortable.

One aspect I do like is the sole: These shoes have nice grippy soles; no slipping here!

Are Oka-B Taylor flats a good value?

With a list price of $40 (less on Amazon), I’d say the Taylors are a great value for made-in-the-USA vegan shoes! They come in a ton of colors, so if you find a size that fits, you could get a few pairs.

Oka-B Taylor flats

Would I buy them again?

Honestly, no. The size is not perfect and my stupid toe anatomy means these are comfortable only up to a point. (A day in the office is fine; two days in a row, not so much. And I would not walk long distances in them.) I’m disappointed; I’d hoped they’d fit well so I could buy a second, more colorful pair at some point.

I might experiment with another Oka-B style. I think I might be able to get away with a 7 in the open-toed wedges, for example.

Would I recommend the Taylor flats?

I recommend at least giving them a try. Thousands of positive reviews should count for something, and perhaps you can find a size that fits.

Note that Oka-B has a sister company, Okabashi, that makes casual sandals; I have a two-year-old pair that’s still going strong. So the quality seems good.

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All in all, I’m glad I tried the Taylor flats, even if they weren’t a perfect fit for me. Let me know if you’ve tried them or other Oka-B styles!

*I’m not perfect. Desperate for shoes to match a specific dress for a wedding, I’ve purchased heels that were likely not made ethically. Vegan, yes, but not necessarily cruelty-free if you consider unfair working conditions a form of cruelty (and I do).

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PIN IT

Oka-B Taylor flats: an ethical shoe review on govegga.com~~~

Disclaimer: I was not provided with free shoes from Oka-B nor compensated in any way for a review. I simply bought the shoes and wanted to share my thoughts in an Oka-B shoe review. This post does contain affiliate links, which come at no additional cost to you.

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Make-Ahead Vegan Breakfasts to Save Time and Keep You Full!

Moment Cafe PragueBreakfast: allegedly the most important meal of the day, and almost definitely the most easily skippable. As a reformed chronic breakfast-skipper, I can sympathize with anyone who just isn’t hungry enough to eat in the morning. (And don’t let the breakfast evangelists get you down — it turns out that the science behind breakfast’s importance has been over-stated and misinterpreted.)

These days, I nearly always eat something within an hour or two of waking up. On weekdays, that means I’m eating at my desk; I’m just not hungry enough to eat before I leave for work. (And, to be honest, I simply don’t want to get up early enough to make and eat breakfast at the house!) So I’ve come to rely on to-go options that will give me a burst of energy and keep me full.

If you, too, are in search of vegan breakfasts that you can make ahead of time and take with you, I have you covered! Here are some of my favorite ways to eat breakfast without digging into that stash of Clif bars you keep in your desk. (Save those for afternoon slumps!)

Top-down view of a metal baking dish filled with a casserole-like baked oatmeal studded with blueberries. To the right is a tan baking mitt, and across the top of the dish is a wooden spoon.

Make-ahead oatmeal breakfasts

There’s a reason overnight oat recipes are still popular: they’re awesome! Overnight oats are portable, dead easy to make in advance, and quite healthy. (As long as you don’t sweeten them into oblivion.) Put together your jar of ingredients before bedtime and by morning, you’ll have breakfast ready to go. You can even make a large amount and parcel it out for a few days’ worth of breakfasts!

Here are my favorite easy overnight oat recipes:

If cold oats don’t appeal (especially during the winter), you can always heat up your overnight oats. Or you can make fresh hot oatmeal in the morning, provided you have access to a microwave at work. I do this frequently — before I leave for work, I’ll fill a jar with a big scoop of quick oats and a handful of frozen berries. When I get to work, I’ll pour everything into a bowl and add some soy milk and hot water, then cook it in the microwave. The berries add flavor and a little extra nutrition; I don’t need to sweeten my oats when I use them. No, quick oats aren’t as nutritious as rolled or steel-cut oats, but they’re certainly better than no oats at all!

Baked oatmeal is another oat-based breakfast favorite of mine. You’ll need to prepare the baked oats in advance, but then you can reheat portions for a hot, oat-y breakfast that’s not quite oatmeal and not quite a breakfast bar. My banana bread baked oatmeal or baked blueberry oatmeal would both work here!

(Semi-)healthy breakfast bars or cookies

Pumpkin Spice Baked Oatmeal BarsIf you’ve overdosed on oats or just want something a little more indulgent, a batch of breakfast bars or cookies might fit the bill. (They could also be a great option if you’re used to eating sugary muffins or pastries for breakfast and want to transition to a slightly healthier baked good.) What moves a bar or cookie into breakfast territory? Well, my completely unscientific definition is that if it contains less sugar than a normal recipe and has other redeeming factors (whole grains; extra protein to keep you full), it counts! Perhaps best of all, you can make a batch on the weekend and it’ll sustain you for the entire week.

Here are a few options to get you started. I’d pair one of these bars or cookies with a piece of fruit for a rounder meal.

Easy vegan pudla

My love for pudla (savory chickpea-flour omelettes) never wanes! Although I typically enjoy pudla for dinner, you could make a double batch and save one for breakfast. Just reheat and serve with your favorite toppings. My basic recipe is here, but you can also make them smaller and thinner, like crepes. Play around with flavor profiles and mix-ins for infinite pudla fun!

Leftovers for breakfast!

Greens & Grains Bowl // govegga.comWhat? Last night’s dinner for today’s breakfast? Why not?! Plenty of folks enjoy savory food for breakfast, and you can too. If last night’s kale and grain bowl was particularly tasty but didn’t leave enough leftovers for a full lunch, why not just eat it for breakfast? There are worse ways to start the day than with veggies. You could even purposefully make extra roasted or pan-fried potatoes and call them home fries the next day. Now that’s thinking ahead!

Filling breakfast smoothies

Although I prefer to make my smoothies right before eating them, some recipes handle overnight refrigeration just fine. I personally wouldn’t do it with a banana-based smoothie (because I find that the banana flavor and texture get a bit odd), but any other fruit and nondairy milk smoothie should work OK! Add protein powder for even more staying power.

PB granola and vegan yogurt // govegga.com

Other easy vegan breakfast options

Let me know if I’ve missed any other great make-ahead vegan breakfast recipes!

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Small-Bite Sundays: July 30, 2017

Small-Bite Sundays

Hello, hello! I began writing this post at 11:30 this morning from my bed as I enjoyed a Lazy Sunday morning. I slept in (a rare treat), and then Steven brought me coffee (I’m spoiled) before he left to go see a movie. I read for a while, then got up to make myself some breakfast — coffee on an empty stomach never ends well. Although I’m pretty lukewarm on Follow Your Heart’s VeganEgg, I somehow always seem to have some in the pantry, so I made myself a scramble for breakfast. By itself, the “egg” is pretty bland, so I doctored it up with garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, black beans, and some Daiya cheddar. Not bad!

Back to the Lazy Sunday concept. I often have difficulty accepting that I “deserve” a lazy day of doing almost nothing. It’s not like there are rules writ in stone for what a 30-year-old woman must do on the weekend, yet I feel guilty if I’m not spending time outside or accomplishing household tasks or working on one of my side projects. Overall, I keep a pretty healthy work-life-physical-activity-side-project balance, so there’s nothing inherently wrong with tipping the scales in favor of restfulness for a single day, right?  A week of indolence might be cause for concern; a single day (morning!) is not.

(And, for what it’s worth, I spent the early afternoon weeding the patio and then went thrifting with a friend. I couldn’t even allow myself a full day of laziness!)

Well. On to this week’s small bites, and here’s to taking time out of your day to read, watch, and eat the things that make you happy, even if you feel lazy while doing so!

Small bites: to read

First, a science-based review of What the Health from the incomparable Ginny Messina, aka the Vegan RD. It’s so crucial to have folks like Ginny in the movement, people who are willing to speak out against the frequently unfounded claims that veganism is the only way to eat, in terms of healthiness. I haven’t watched What the Health (and, to be honest, I don’t plan to do so), but many of my fellow vegans have been absolutely gushing about it all over social media. Ginny provides a rational, science-based counterpoint to the movie, arguing that it’s harmful for quite a few reasons: for the overblown claims about how veganism affects one’s health; for its reliance on cherry-picked and even willfully misunderstood data to support those claims; for presenting an unrealistic picture of veganism that ultimately hurts the movement.

I am vegan, first and foremost, for the animals. The health benefits are secondary for me, and I do not believe we can say that veganism is the “healthiest” diet with a good conscience. Nutrition is a complex and misunderstood science, and when folks try to simplify it and sway the data in favor of a single way of eating, it’s harmful in many ways. I appreciate Ginny’s review and wholeheartedly agree with her sentiments.

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Jennifer Weiner’s piece in the NYT Sunday Review section on the men who “never have to grow up” is a reminder of the ways in which our society makes excuses for (white) men and paints their misdeeds (criminal or otherwise) as “youthful indiscretions.” Pegged specifically to Donald Jr.’s dirt-gathering meeting with the Russians — and his dad’s attempt to excuse it by saying that Don Jr., a 39-year-old man, is “an honest kid” — the piece briefly covers other (white) men who benefit from this phenomenon before pointing out that women and black men never receive that benefit. It’s short and surface level, but if you’re unfamiliar with this concept or haven’t really thought about it much, it could be worth a read.

Small bites: to watch

Umm… I’ve got nothing. We just finished a Parks and Recreation rewatch and have started in on The Office. The latter is basically the television equivalent of comfort food for me. :)

Small bites: to eat

Doughnuts, always doughnuts. We have a fabulous vegan doughnut shop about 30 minutes away up in Frederick, but I’d been hearing about a Baltimore-based do[ugh]nut bakery for a while now. Donut Alliance had a booth at Baltimore VegFest this spring but were sold out by the time Steven and I realized it. So when I heard they’d be peddling their sweet, sweet wares at a small vegan marketplace event this weekend, I decided we had to check it out. We did! And we bought doughnuts!

Clockwise from top left, that’s strawberry margarita, birthday cake, Samoa, and maple bacon. YUM. These were super light and fluffy doughnuts, and I enjoyed them all. That lime-infused strawberry margarita might have been my favorite!

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Since we’re talking  vegan junk food, how about this cheesy pull-apart pizza bread from Vegan Richa? I feel like maybe I need a kid or two to come visit as an excuse to make this, but then again, I’m an adult! I can do what I want and eat what I want!

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Let me know if you’ve read/watched/eaten anything noteworthy!

Editor’s note: This post includes an affiliate link. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies. I’m not looking to make a fortune, just to cover hosting costs.

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Vegan in… Bethel, Alaska?

If you haven’t heard of Bethel, Alaska, no worries — you’re not alone. Until a few weeks ago, neither had I. Located in the expansive state’s southwest coast, nestled into the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Bethel is 400 miles from Anchorage and feels worlds away from the tourist-filled hotspots of Denali or the Kenai Fjords. Inaccessible by road, the only way in is via plane. Some folks are lucky enough to get on a 737, but I made my way from Anchorage to Bethel on a prop plane. The clip-clip-clip of the propellers became background noise as I watched soaring snow-capped peaks give way to marshy, flat tundra, with a series of increasingly frequent rivers snaking their way through the Alaskan bush.

Flight from Anchorage to Bethel -- propeller over marshy tundraAlaska was not on my already-extensive travel list for this year, but when I had an opportunity to travel there for work, I responded with an immediate “Yes, please, when does the plane leave?” I won’t scoop my own story, but I was there to report on (and help with) our work providing vet services and supplies to three villages in the Y-K Delta. It was a surreal six days, easily the most unique and unforgettable week of travel I’ve ever had. We traveled by boat, by 4-wheeler, by large jet, by tiny Cessna, by our own two feet, and — once — by bicycle.

Because all groceries and supplies must be flown in to Bethel and the surrounding villages, you’ll pay a pretty penny for nearly everything, even more so than in locations closer to Alaska’s “big” cities. Plus, the villages themselves have only small general stores with limited provisions. So our team came prepared, with suitcases loaded full of veg-friendly staples. I personally packed my weight in bars: Clif, Luna, Lara, and all their friends. I fully expected to subsist wholly on processed proteins for six days.

"Be Healthy in Bethel" public artwork on a dumpster in Bethel, Alaska

But! Bethel had some surprises in store. While on a group food run at the local grocery-cum-hardware-cum-everything-else store*, I was flabbergasted to see not one but two brands of vegan yogurt: Daiya and, absurdly, Kite Hill. (I can barely find Kite Hill around here!) Next to the yogurt was a row of Daiya’s new-ish farmhouse block cheeses. A few rows over, we found Califia brand almond milks, along with the more common Silk and Almond Breeze. And there were two — two! — types of tofu. Yes, everything cost more than you’d pay in the Lower 48, but darn it if we didn’t buy a block of Daiya Gouda. Voting with our dollar, indeed. (One thing we could not find? Hummus!)

I didn’t snag a photo of the nondairy display, but you can use your imagination. Just include an image of me, jaw dropping Home Alone-style, and you’ll have an even more accurate picture.

So, vegans: If you’re heading to rural Alaska, you might just get lucky when it comes to nondairy delights. It never hurts to look!

*I can’t remember the name of the store with 100% certainty, but I’m pretty sure it was Swanson’s. It was definitely not the flashy, new-looking grocery store, though — that one had an “organic/natural food” section but did NOT have nearly as many nondairy treats!

Small-Bite Sundays: July 16, 2017

Small-Bite Sundays

Just popping in briefly tonight. I’ve been in Rhode Island visiting family for two days, and I’m heading out on a six-day work trip tomorrow. It’s a busy summer. And a busy past week — I haven’t spent too much time  on the ol’ interwebs, so I have just a few bites to share today.

Small bites: to read

From rock-star feminist Lindy West, this piece about how men can truly be there for women. It’s not exactly groundbreaking advice; in short, she’s telling men to stand up for us and use your voice to fight against sexism. But West also candidly acknowledges the risks men take when they do so: that they’ll be considered “a dorky, try-hard male feminist stereotype;” that they’ll “lose their spot in the club.” I think it’s always helpful to honestly acknowledge what’s at stake when you ask someone to use their privilege for you, and I appreciate West doing so. I’m also excited that this is just the first installment of West’s new weekly column on the New York Times’ Opinion Pages. Get it, Lindy.

(P.S. Her piece introduced me to the new (?) concept of the “dirtbag left,” which makes me sigh loudly and want to go to sleep for a million years.)

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Amey’s wrap-up of her time in Tallinn, Estonia, has me itching to book a flight! I’ve been reading great things about Estonia, and Amey’s post about the incredible vegan options in Tallinn just helped this country rocket up my travel bucket list.

Small bites: to watch

This clip has been making the rounds, but it’s too good not to share. The inimitable Andy Serkis brings back his Gollum voice to… read a few classic Trump tweets. He’s a great sport about it, too.

Small bites: to eat

Vaishali’s cauliflower makhani dosa crepes are going on my to-make shortlist. Creamy makhani gravy and a quick dosa recipe? I’m there.

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Colorful rainbow saladSalad days. I’m finally becoming a master of the kitchen-sink salad. Salads don’t need a theme; who knew? This one features mixed baby greens, tomatoes, roasted Turkish eggplant slices, sautéed paprika chickpeas, and a zesty lemon-turmeric-tahini dressing. I also added a crumbled veggie burger and hemp seeds for extra protein. Side note: those Turkish eggplants (also called scarlet or Ethiopian eggplants) are a new favorite. I spotted them at the farmer’s market and had to try them. They look like persimmons but taste like  a slightly milder version of the regular ol’ eggplants we all know and love (or tolerate).

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Right! Now to sleep. Expect some radio silence for the next week or so; I’ll be off the grid. :) Happy Sunday!

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Vegan in The Hague

I had grand plans for my trip to Amsterdam: I was going to take SO MANY DAY TRIPS to the little cities and towns dotted around Amsterdam proper. Delft, Utrecht, Leiden, Haarlem, The Hague… they’re all just a quick and inexpensive train ride away! I could be there and back in an afternoon! I would see it all!

…yeah, no. Sure, I technically had the time to fit in all (well, most) of those little jaunts, but I would have had to travel every single day. And I would have missed out on the absolute best parts of this trip: wandering around Amsterdam, savoring meals slowly, and leisurely strolling through museums. I’m glad I lifted the burden of trying to see it all from my shoulders and opted instead to do what I wanted to do in the moment. I ended up taking just one day trip and decided on the destination with pure pragmatism: I was going on a Sunday, and many of the museums in my potential destination cities would be closed.

View from the Mauritshuis in Den Haag, the Netherlands

View from the Mauritshuis in The Hague

The Mauritshuis in The Hague, however, was open for business. Considering that the Mauritshuis is home to Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, two special Rembrandts (The Nightwatch and The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp), and a particularly charming Jan Steen (As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young), The Hague (or Den Haag, if you prefer the Dutch name) seemed like a fine choice.

And it was. The Sunday crowds were sparse, the sun was out to counteract a chill in the air, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time in this internationally important city. My only real disappointment? The Den Haag location of De Vegetarische Slager (the Vegetarian Butcher) was closed! This purveyor of vegetarian and vegan meats runs a “concept store” in The Hague, with a fully vegan menu of deli sandwiches and other lunch specialties. Sigh.

De Vegetarische Snackbar

De Vegetarische Snackbar, Den HaagMany of the other vegan places on my list were also closed, so I meandered through the city to De Vegetarische Snackbar instead. The walk took me through some more residential neighborhoods, which I always enjoy, and led me to an unassuming storefront in a little row of restaurants.

In my experience, old-school veg joints go one of two ways: There are the hippie-inspired, sprouts-n-tofu, peace and love joints (see: De Bolhoed in Amsterdam), but there are also the more hardcore, punk-inspired, surly-tattooed-server joints as well. De Vegetarische Snackbar falls into that latter category (minus the surliness).

The massive menu is all vegetarian and heavy on the junk food, with lots of burgers and fake meats. Clearly-labeled vegan options make ordering relatively simple, although it took a few tries for me to communicate my order (the lupine burger) to the server. Whereas almost all vegan-friendly restaurants in Amsterdam had staffers who spoke very good English, there was a little language barrier in The Hague. (Not, of course, that that’s a bad thing; just something to be aware of. I tried learning some Dutch before I went but found it bizarrely tricky. I usually have a knack for foreign languages, so that was a bit of a surprise.)

My lupine burger, though impressive to the eye and just fine to the palate, was nearly impossible to eat as assembled. I am developing something of an aversion to these massive buns. Honestly, can anyone actually fit that whole thing in their mouth?! It’s impossible and painful, like you’re going to either dislocate your jaw or rough up the sides of your mouth. So instead you have to deconstruct it and either shovel bits and pieces into your maw or weirdly eat it with a fork and knife, which is somehow nearly as inelegant as using your hands! I think menus should come with a warning if a given burger features a massive bun. Then you could ask for a smaller, softer one instead.

Anyway, my experience at De Vegetarische Snackbar was clearly marred by my discomfort and irritation at trying to eat a giant burger without looking like a total fool. I should have gotten the bitterballen instead.

Other options

I truly wish I’d had more time to try some of the other vegan joints in The Hague, because this seemingly buttoned-up city has plenty to offer.

  • De Vegetarische Slager: The aforementioned vegetarian butcher. Closed Sundays and Mondays, alas.
  • FOAM: The name stands for “Fresh Organic And Meat-free.” All-vegan restaurant open for breakfast and lunch only… maybe dinner if you eat on grandparent time. :)
  • Quinta Verde: Vegan “lunchroom” open from 9 am to 6 pm, serving breakfast, lunch, and even a prix-fixe brunch.
  • Veggies on Fire: Vegan restaurant serving dinner nice and late, from 5 pm to 11 pm, Wednesdays through Saturdays. Great reviews and lots of creative raw options.

Along with De Vegetarische Snackbar, these four eateries were the ones that caught my eyes and made it on to my shortlist. But check out the HappyCow listing for The Hague: This city has tons of veg-friendly establishments! It’s really quite impressive.

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Vegan in The Hague // govegga.com

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