Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Report: Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr

I like to read vegan literature when I get a chance to. I generally find myself gravitating more toward books on animal rights, welfare and advocacy than anything else, but as of late I've been trying to incorporate more health and wellness into my literary diet. Most recently, I selected Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr, who is probably more commonly known for her books Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips and Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor. Crazy Sexy Diet is a follow-up to these and is an exploration of how a mostly raw, whole food and plant-based diet took her from a terminal cancer patient to energetic, positive and thriving.

From a health perspective, I'm not sure there exists is a more sound argument for veganism than Kris' story. Kris was in her early thirties, fueling her body via the Standard American Diet (SAD). Put simply, the SAD is mostly comprised of highly processed convenience foods and it is generally the diet of choice here in North America. Typical of SAD enthusiasts (myself included, for a large portion of my life), Kris' concern was less with what was in the food she was eating and more with whether or not it would make her fat. Like many of us, under the SAD she suffered from chronic ailments that sadly have become normalized in our society - acne, frequent colds, allergies, depression, eczema and fatigue, to name a few. All of these can be typical byproducts of SAD participation. When combined, however, they can very quickly go from annoying to life-shattering.

When the symptoms got bad enough, Kris visited her doctor. Soon afterwards, she was told that her liver was filled with so many tumours that it looked more like Swiss cheese than it did an internal organ. There were also ten more tumours found on her lungs. Adding insult to injury, the cancer was deemed inoperable and radiation/chemotherapy were not considered options.

Because she was SOL when it came to the more popular western medicine options, Kris really had nothing to lose by looking into an alternative that most oncologists would probably roll their eyes at: the supermarket.

Crazy Sexy Diet is a documentation of all that she learned in doing so.

The story of how Kris saved her own life isn't really all that complicated. To think - if she achieved the results she did with cancer, imagine the positive impact following this kind of diet can have for the rest of us?

I think what I like most about this book is that it is very informative, but at no point is it pushy or demanding. I like to think of it as a friendlier version of Skinny Bitch. Skinny Bitch is one of the more controversial vegan-oriented books to ever hit the market and one that I personally didn't respond all that well too. I appreciate the effort, and I do believe that anything that gets people "talking vegan" can be considered a good thing. All the same, I worry that it perpetuates misguided vegan stereotypes and furthermore, I don't really think that berating and degrading people into a certain line of thinking is the best course of action in the struggle for long term change. I understand that Skinny Bitch was written with a hint of sarcasm and even silliness to it, but even so I found the dialogue to be patronizing and downright insulting at times - and I am vegan! For me, education and empowerment always do and always will trump intimidation.

With Crazy Sexy Diet, you get the tools required for change without the added attitude. The chapters are thorough and informative without being completely overwhelming. It is the perfect book for a curious carnist or a novice vegetarian/vegan. Long-term vegans may have already discovered some of Kris' secrets (which is one of the reasons that sustaining our veganism is so darn easy!) but there are a lot of little helpful hints and suggestions that even the most seasoned vegans will find useful.

"Genes load the gun, but environment pulls the trigger." (p. 10)

Kris Carr's diet and lifestyle revolve around maintaining the delicate acid-alkaline balance in the body, measured via the pH scale. The last time I interacted with any kind of chemistry information it was the eleventh grade and in that class I spent far more time making googly eyes at Paul than I did making googly eyes at the periodic table of elements. To say that I have no working knowledge of the pH scale and the acid/alkaline components of substances is an understatement.

Thankfully, Kris walked me through it, explaining why alkaline-rich foods are so important to body functioning and just how alarmingly acidic the SAD is. She also explains why, when it comes to keeping it alkaline, the food preparation process is just as important as the food itself, with raw, living foods maintaining more of their nutritional integrity than those that are (literally) cooked to death. Sad news for a raw veggie hater such as myself.

She goes on to highlight how the body compensates for our own lack of diligence when it comes to maintaining balance - mainly, by mining integral minerals from bones, teeth, tissues and organs, thereby hindering their functioning and in turn encouraging a multitude of acute and chronic impairments as tame as a runny nose or as serious as an immune disease. This could explain the seemingly ironic correlation between countries that consume the most calcium (via dairy products) and the increased incidence of osteoporosis: cow's milk (and cheese, and butter, and ice cream), like other animal proteins, is highly acidic, thereby forcing the body to leech alkaline from from bones in an attempt to neutralize the imbalance, in turn contributing to their deterioration.

Kris covers alkaline-rich foods while also exploring the importance of phytonutrients, chlorophyll and enzymes among other things - terms that, strangely, you never hear in our nutrient-starved, diet-obsessed and generally quite ill society. We can tell you the number of calories in a bag of potato chips but very few of us know why kale is so good for you. How many of us even know what chlorophyll is? Honestly, the last time I thought about clorophyll it was while writing a fifth grade science report on plant photosynthesis.

Listen, I'm not saying you're going to buy into all aspects of this book. Admittedly, she lost me a little bit in the meditation section. Not that I'm somehow opposed to meditation or reiki or spirituality or religious dialogue. It's just not as much my scene as superfoods and paraben-free face wash and learning about how the digestive tract works. For others, spirituality is as integral to their health and wellbeing as the pesticide-free apple they have in their lunchbag, and that's fine too. Whatever works.

The great thing about this book is that you can adopt it all, or you can adopt some of it. You can make small changes here and there, or you can book yourself for a colonic, do a juice fast and make a meditation corner in a quiet room in your house all in one day. At no point does Kris demand that you integrate every last exercise and recipe into your life - she is just telling you what she did, what worked for her, and what might work for you too. I love a little bit of advice without a side of guilt.

Furthermore - and this is what I really, really love about this book - Kris at no point demands that you stop living your life. Not once does she ask you to stop participating in the occasional bender of fried tofu and bottled wine. The best part of life is living and she doesn't want to take that away from anyone. Sometimes it's the binges we go on and the nights we lose track of how many beers we've had because we're laughing too hard with our buddies that are the ones that keep us going. They are healthy while being so disturbingly unhealthy. The key, just like when it comes to pH, is keeping it balanced. This quote sums it up the best, I think:

"Consistency is important but you don't have to be perfect. Health is about keeping in an overall right direction...You may have a beer and chips in the afternoon followed by a shot of tequila for dessert. This is life - it's sweet, fun and unpredictable. I am not perfect and I never will be. Perfect is beige. I am red hot! So are you...You don't politely sit at tables - you dance on them. And after last call, you get back out on the health highway." (p. 17)

A lot of us don't have cancer, but some of us will eventually. It's scary to think about a group of all the people that we love and care about, and when cancer will affect it. Not if cancer will affect it. But when. Or maybe it already has. Too often. I'm not saying this to be alarmist; I'm saying it because it's true.

"We've been brainwashed to believe that we no longer understand our bodies." (p. 15)

My bottom line is this. We could do absolutely everything right - eat all the right food, get the right amount of exercise and remove all the toxins from our environments. And the cancer (or the heart disease, or the stroke) could get us anyway. Fit and healthy people get sick everyday and I don't want to take away from that or somehow victim-blame those who are already sick, regardless of how they fueled their bodies before or during their illnesses. These things make terminal disease no more or less tragic.

I'm just one of those people who believes in stacking the deck in my favour, regardless of whether or not it works out. I think it is time that we all began empowering one another to fight for ourselves and our right to live long and healthy lives. We need to start holding our own, because sadly, no one is going to take care of us for us. Instead there are actually many forces out there intent on doing the direct opposite: misguiding us into a false sense of wellbeing via marketing, advertising and those ridiculous "SmartCheck" labels they put on cheap cans of salt with soup labels on them. This book is part of the journey toward this kind of self-empowerment, and I encourage you to check it out!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hidden Valley Farm Vegetarian Bed & Breakfast (Chatsworth, Ontario)

Hidden Valley Farm is located in the Grey-Bruce region of southwestern Ontario. It is an organic farm that welcomes Bed & Breakfast visitors during the summer and early fall months. The farm is owned and operated by Erika and Wilfred, both of whom are vegetarian (mostly vegan) and have been for longer than I myself have been on the planet at all - their participation in a plant-based lifestyle is related to health reasons that stem from certain religious convictions.

Sadly, upon leaving I did learn that there are some animals present on their farm that are eventually sold to slaughter and in the name of full disclosure I want you to know this too. I wasn't aware of this before I visited, and after finding out I wasn't sure how appropriate it was for me to blog about my time there. My main concern being that it might be construed as my granting permission to acts of violence against animals.

In the end, I've decided that not blogging about it makes little to no sense at all. Through a little self-reflection I've determined that my conflictual feelings are nothing but an extension of the dilemma that we vegans expend considerable amounts of energy exposing and it involves the notion of food disconnect. For example, I visit and blog about non-vegan restaurants with vegan options all the time. Some (maybe even most) of these restaurants have fifty shelves of meat and cheese to every one shelf of vegetables and soy burger patties. Fifty shelves of meat and cheese from unknown origins and unknown abuses.

And yet when it comes to talking about my visit to this farm, a red light went off in my head. What I learned from this crisis of conscience is that I'm just as susceptable to food disconnect as the many carnists that I often struggle to find common ground with.

This conflict of mine seems to be the result of the precise point in food production under discussion: the one where the animals are killed. This ugly component of food production is just as present in the restaurants I visit and blog about. Probably even more so in terms of the abuses incurred as a result of the mass production of the animal product required to sustain a standard restaurant. And yet because it's already occurred and has been so neatly cleaned up, made into something that looks so very un-animal in its plastic wrap, it creates far less of a mental and emotional reaction within me. What a strange realization that I made about myself this weekend!

I've been vegan for quite some time now and I like to think of myself as equally outraged at all levels and stages of violence against animals. This experience and subsequent reflection have been nothing short of humbling and educating - I've realized that I have a lot to work on in terms of the biases that I didn't even realize I still subscribed to. It has rendered me a little bit speechless, quite honestly, so I apologize if this documentation lacks a bit of the zazz I like to think my other posts have.

Now that I've gotten the disclaimer done and over with, as conflicted as I am, I do want to share my time at the farm with you, with the realization that some of you may be outraged by it and that I may very well lose some readership and some of the confidence that you have in me as an ethical vegan. At the same time, I hope it contributes to an awareness of veganism as a lifelong learning process, replete with many shades of gray, with each and every one of us defining veganism for ourselves.

Part of the reason I want to go ahead with posting is because I want to acknowledge Hidden Valley as one of the very few B&Bs where those eating a plant-based diet can feel completely and totally comfortable with all the food options available. Guests can rest assured knowing that Erika will accommodate all of their diet restrictions and that all food served is healthy and mostly organic with no concern about cross-contamination when it comes to kitchen equipment. More often than not, your meals are even fresh-picked from the farm's very own garden, full of flavour without much sugar and other not-so-great additives.

Having gone vegetarian in the early 1970s, the farmhouse is lined with book after book about vegetarian diets, many of which are classics that have long since been out of print but mark veganism as its meant to be: vegetable and grain-based. I am obsessed with pre-1990s vegetarian cookbooks, so if you ever want to see me freak out with excitement, hit up a second hand store and find me a cookbook that predates premade, mass marketed vegan sausage links.

Erika is so open about the items she uses as well as the preparation process that she even spent an hour of her time dictating recipes to us so that when we got home we could replicate that which we enjoyed so much of at the farm.

Dinner was served at 6pm on Saturday night and we indulged in organic field greens straight from the garden, topped with a lovely lemon and grapeseed oil salad dressing and what we now affectionately refer to as "Erika sprinkles" (made mostly from sesame seeds and nutritional yeast). We also had a pesto and butter bean pasta and the most wonderful fresh-from-her-garden ratatouille.

Dessert was an incredible apple crisp!

We enjoyed great conversations about veganism, sustainable farming and the quest for long-term health, and Erika even joined us for a few rounds of Mexican Train in the living room after dinner! It is evident that both she and Wilfred are gentle and kind-hearted people and I learned so much about how they personally participate in a plant-based diet. Erika is also a vegetarian cuisine instructor (as well as a fitness instructor, on top of running a small nursery school!) and we spent a lot of our time asking her about her tips and tricks when it comes to preparing vegetarian meals.

Breakfast was served on an almost unbelievably beautiful fall Sunday morning, and it was gluten and flour-free, oat-based waffles topped with maple syrup, date butter, an apricot spread, and the most amazing all-natural organic peanut butter that I must locate here in KW. I lost count but I totally ate four or five and I regret nothing.

It's so rare that I come in contact with the animals that I am so adamant on getting people to eat less of. Seeing them interact with one another and protect and play with their young as well as the trust they showed not only when they approached us, but also when they let us reach over and scratch their furry heads, will always re-affirm my choice to not and to never again consume animal products. It is disheartening to learn the fate of these incredible creatures after the fact, but I am comforted knowing that I have nothing to do with what happens to them or the million others like them.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Raw Baja Cheeze Tacos, Raw Mexican Squash "Rice" (& the winner of the New Moon Cookie Giveaway!)

This is my first attempt at an entirely raw meal, recipes courtesy of Ani's Raw Kitchen. I wanted to get in at least one decent shot at a full raw meal from this book while fresh, local produce is still available.

I want to preface this by saying that I'm actually not all that great with raw vegetables. Those of you who have been reading my blog for years are well aware that I am a known Salad Hater and I really dislike that about myself because I really and truly believe that the less cooking you do the better the nutritional integrity of the meal. It's been proven time and time again and I would never dream of disputing it. I'm just a baby when it comes to the taste of a lot of raw vegetables, so I advise you not to take any of my personal opinions on taste as any sort of fact or even any sort of typical reaction to something. If you like raw vegetables, you will love this meal. That's all you need to know.

One of the really strange things about this meal is that it took me well over an hour to make it. All the peeling and chopping, oh my word! I need a sous chef if I continue on this raw journey. The actual time in the kitchen probably doesn't differ all that much from meals that are cooked, it's just that the hands-on time required for it is much more demanding. This really isn't a problem though; it only becomes one in our demanding modern world. Good food isn't really meant to be ready super quickly.

The reason this meal takes so long is because it's actually a combination of four separate recipes. Tiny, little recipes that take up about a third of a cookbook page each, so I didn't think anything of it. It was a Sunday afternoon, though, so I really had nothing but time to fuss about with my chef's knife.

First up, I made the Mexican "Squash" Rice" (click for recipe, half a page or so down) and I'm doing this one first because this absolutely did not work for me. I've never had raw squash before and I think it was a bit too ambitious for someone who is very timidly exploring raw foods. Again, this would probably be delicious to lots of raw foodies out there and I don't want to deter anyone from trying the recipe - it was just too adventurous for a known Salad Hater like me.

Next up, the raw taco "nut" meat and this we both liked a lot (click for recipe, first on page). It's made by pulsing raw almonds and raw walnuts with spices, soy sauce and extra virgin olive oil. Savoury and delicious, it was!

Then, the Raw Pepper Corn Salsa (I can't find the exact recipe, but the one listed here is pretty darn close). I'd never eaten raw corn straight off the cob before - it's so sweet and juicy this time of year, cooking it almost seems wasteful!

And finally, the Baja "Cheeze" (click for recipe), made with brazil nuts, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro and lemon juice. It was also pretty good - would probably make a great sandwich spread for those that aren't completely raw.

And now I come to my next fatal error - using cabbage leaves as the wrap, as opposed to pretty much any other leafy entity.

I hate cabbage. But for some reason I keep forgetting just how much I hate it. Like a stubborn child, eating it makes me gag profusely. It's probably all psychological, stemming from the torture I thought I was experiencing growing up in a Croatian house with cabbage rolls on the menu at least once a week. Regardless, as an adult, in order for me to tolerate it, the cabbage has to be in a tiny amount and not at all the main flavour of the dish. I think I thought it wouldn't be a problem because I usually find raw cabbage more palatable than cooked cabbage, but still, it was just too much. I should have used collards or maybe even bok choy in an effort to not stray too far from cabbage without having to actually consume cabbage.

If you like raw vegetables you will love, love, love this recipe. I can't state that enough. I think I just got a bit over zealous with what I could handle and I should have stuck to vegetables that I actually like. Except squash, which I normally love, but evidently do not care for in its raw form - it tastes kind of like carving a jack-o-lantern smells. Does that make sense? It's just too much for a girl who just a couple years ago lived on nothing but french fries and white pasta. Baby steps are required, here.


Much thanks to everyone who sent in comments, facebook posts and tweets! We had 28 entries. Each entry was assigned a number and into the Random Number Generator they went!

And the winner of two boxes of New Moon Kitchen cookies is...

Fatally Yours, of The Spooky Vegan, who entered via blog comment!

Congratulations! Contact me by email at with your mailing address and the chocolate chip and ginger snappers will be in your hands shortly!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Morty's Pub, Waterloo (and my 28th Birthday)

To say that I don't handle birthdays appropriately is a pretty big understatement.

A lot of people don't like getting older. There's nothing weird about that. However, there is something weird about the way I break into a cold sweat every September 13th, in anticipation of the big day to follow. I don't know why I'm like this, but I always kind of have been, even as a kid. It's just getting worse the older that I get.

I suppose it's just another one of the quirky neuroticisms that my patient and understanding friends have come to accept about me.

Anyway, this year I wanted to spend September 14th moping around the house, possibly dragging a bottle of wine behind me. Paul was having none of that. So we met somewhere in the middle - a relatively calm night of burgers and beers with friends at Morty's Pub in Waterloo.

When I was in university, and not yet vegan, we pretty much existed solely on Morty's chicken wings. And admittedly, it's not the first place you would think of for hosting a vegan's birthday dinner. But from my pregan days I know that the staff is really friendly and helpful and the place itself has a relaxed, laid back feeling. Plus, they have lots of beer. This makes it a prime location for marking the dreaded 28.

Also, I'd heard great things about their veggie burger and hadn't yet had a chance to get out there and try it.

As promised, it was a great night full of wonderful friends and pitchers of beer and yes, delicious veggie burgers. The one I got is pictured at the start of this post, buried under a whole lotta hot peppers. Paul got the veggie double stack, because he is a bottomless pit:

After a few hours at Morty's and more beer than I thought I actually drank, it was home to pajamas and the PVR'd Big Brother 13 finale - I'm such a wild child!

With one more thing -

Paul made me a half batch of my most favourite cupcakes - Dulce sin Leche from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World!

I wish I had some more pictures to share, but I managed to sneak my adorable little 7-week old goddaughter into every shot we took, just to give it that extra cuteness bump, and I don't like posting pictures of other people's kids. Or any kids, for that matter. I tend to watch a lot of Dateline; it fuels the paranoia.

I guess I can share one more of me, with a couple of my birthday gifts, because you'll all benefit from them - two new vegan cookbooks!

Thanks to all my friends who came out and who sent wishes and thanks to Morty's Pub for taking such good care of us. And thanks to whatever powers may be as well as the Gregorian calendar for making my birthday only come around once a year.

EDIT - FEBRUARY 29, 2012
Just received a comment from a blog reader. I have not been to Morty's since this visit last September so I am not able to confirm the information in the comment. While I obviously prefer to avoid restaurant cross-contamination with non-vegan food items, this is not something I really stress much about, as long as the food that I am actually ordering is 100% vegan (especially considering that I eat at restaurants all of five times a year). Similarly, if I'm told it's vegan and then ends up not being so, I try not to stress much about that either. Veganism is about intent and if I did the best research possible at the time and made a decision that ended up being incorrect, I don't beat myself up over it. I just won't make the mistake again.

This is something every vegan decides for herself/himself and I believe there is no right or wrong. The truth is, anytime you enter a non-vegan establishment the vegan food you order is likely cooked near non-vegan food and your risk of cross-contamination is great. You're also running the risk of misinformation now and again as well. It's something I've chosen to not stress out over, but completely understand why some people do as well as their decisions to not eat at these places. For now, I concentrate more on accessible veganism and encouraging businesses to incorporate more vegan options into their traditionally non-vegan menus, and when they provide these items I like to support them in hopes that they will continue to expand their options. Five years ago you could barely get a single veggie burger in this town, and now there's at least one veggie option at pretty much every restaurant. That's because of consumer demand and interest, not threats of boycott. I just believe that veganism will never be taken seriously unless it is accessible by the public and their varied lifestyles. I'm all about baby steps, but totally understand if you are not.

I will let you know if I get further information regarding this matter. For now, please read the comment below and decide how to proceed with regard to your own needs.

Anonymous said...
Just to let you know, as a former employee of Morty's pub, I have to inform you that your meal was most likely contaminated with meat product during the cooking process. As the kitchen staff does not have a devoted place on the grill for cooking Vegan or vegetarian food.

So there is a good chance that there was trace amount of meat your food. if that is of any concern to you.

also if you eaten any of their fried food, the same can be said, as they don't have a devoted deep frier for Vegan or vegetarian food, Not that any of their fried food are Vegan or vegetarian friendly.

Morty's Pub
272 King Street North
Waterloo, Ontario
(519) 886-0440

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival 2011

It's so hard to believe that it's already that time of year again, but this weekend marked the 27th Annual Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival. Held the second weekend of September every year at the Harbourfront Centre right in the heart of Toronto, this is an event that is a must see for all plant-strong and plant-curious folks. This is evident by the fact that even Paul and I hit the open road and headed into the city, something we don't do very often because we are typical suburbanites who panic over collector lanes and $20.00 parking.

It was our second time attending the event (this was our experience last year) and somehow it managed to be even more chaotic than the first time. First of all, my car is kind of a death trap lately and started making some seriously questionable noises somewhere around Milton. Secondly, our dog is still recuperating from that serious illness that almost took her from us a couple months ago, so we don't like to leave her alone for too long. This means that this year we couldn't stay for lunch and dinner, and instead had to concentrate our efforts around one "meal" halfway through the afternoon. Naturally, this lead to some panic because honestly how do you choose from that many options?

Which takes me to the next chaotic element: the festival itself. It's takes about an hour and a half to get from our front door to the festival and we fill the time by talking about what we are going to eat. I know this sounds insane. But if you are vegan, you understand that we never get to do things like that. All you carnists out there have your ribfests and your lobsterfests and your charity BBQs. It seems like every weekend of every summer features some sort of gorge-fest for carnists. We get one. And it's the Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival. And it was this weekend.

The problem is that we get so jacked up for it that once we actually get there we experience a bit of meltdown due to over-stimulation. Seriously! There are so many booths, so many options and you can eat pretty much all of them, except that you can't because you don't have enough time and the pants you are wearing can only stretch to a certain point. And then you freak out thinking about all the food you can't eat, especially if you're like us and you drive in from out of town. So then you find yourself second-guessing the choices that you finally make. When you are limited by both time and digestion, you have to choose carefully or you will be mad at yourself until the next festival comes around.

I let myself panic for a minute, and then I get started. I may not be able to eat everything there but I sure as hell can try.

The festival is this crazy mess of hungry vegetarians running from stand to stand grabbing as much food as their little paws can hold. This is no time to try and operate a camera for blogging purposes. You stop to take one pictures and the next thing you know the stand you're at is all out of butter tarts. This is a tragedy that I have come to know all too well - so bear with me as I share some pictures, but not as many as could have been possible had I hired someone to hold my camera and an extra cupcake while I attempted to navigate the grounds.

Disclaimer: Please note that TIV does not condone eating this much brown, fried, glistening food all in one afternoon on a regular basis. But this is the Veg Food Festival for God's sake and sacrifices will be made. As Paul said as we were getting ready to head out: "This is vegan Christmas. You will not restrict me."

Our first stop was the Green Earth stand.

I got the chow mein (something I haven't had in years, believe it or not!), the Green Earth rotisserie and two chick'un nuggets.

Paul got the fried rice, the Green Earth rotisserie, a chick'un nugget and some spring rolls.

The rotisserie was alarmingly authentic!

Next we found the LPK's Culinary Groove stand.

Where they had peanut butter Nanaimo bars!

And they were making little mini sweet potato donuts right on site!

We may have sampled a sandwich cookie too.

After all that we figured we'd better walk it off a little bit - until we found the wonderful folks from Kindfood in Burlington. It's nice to see they have recovered from our buying their entire restaurant a couple weeks ago.

Paul couldn't resist trying one of their newest creations - the Bounty (like the chocolate bar) cupcake!

Four different people took four different bites out of this cupcake which is weird I suppose but this is just how we roll at the festival. Things move so quickly. There is no time for cutlery or concern over contagious diseases.

During our first spin around the grounds I didn't spot the kebab guy from last year and I was pretty sad about it. But the second time around - there he was! In all his kebab glory! Still as amazing as ever.

I'm not going to lie, at this point I was starting to feel a little bit unwell. This is my own damn fault because there were plenty of non-fried non-dessert options available and I was selecting none of them. Instead we got more fried food via King's Cafe, owners of our beloved Zen Gardens restaurant.

The plan after that King's Cafe plate was to walk around a bit more and then get some of the little tacos we enjoyed so much last year, but by this point in the afternoon I was starting to see spots and my breathing was becoming a bit laboured. It was time to call it a day. But I couldn't. Until I had one more thing.

My beloved Sweets from the Earth carrot cake.

This is a weekend we look forward to all year long, and this year's Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival did not disappoint. The food is obviously the main draw at an event like this and there is something for every type of vegan out there. Paul and I are vegan because we don't want to harm animals, not because we never liked the taste of meat. So for us, the food festival is one weekend a year where we can indulge in our pregan favourites while staying true to our belief that animals exist for their own reasons, none of which are to satiate our human palates. For those vegans that are completely put off by something that even resembles meat, fear not, because there's plenty for you too - fruit and vegetable-based concoctions in all the colours of the rainbow. There are also plenty of cooking demonstrations, presentations and speeches (I really wish we could have stayed to hear at least one of them - hopefully next year).

While the food is what keeps us talking about the Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival all year long, it's the experience of being there that contributes greatly to our return every September. It is so very cool to see that many people enjoying veganism that much. It's chaotic and frantic and you end up with icing all over your purse because you confuse which is the cupcake and which is your camera but that's kind of what makes it so awesome - everyone is so enthusiastic about the vegan lifestyle that we just run wild through Harbourfront Centre with our hands outstretched, waiting for the next delicious thing to make its way into our bellies. And the animals get to live.

There is no denying that today is a very difficult day for a lot of people, myself included. I was 17 years old on September 11th, 2001. I was on the brink of adulthood and I was ignorant and self-centered and when the planes hit I didn't get the panic. I just remember my teacher's face drain of colour as she gripped the blackboard ledge and said to the class, "You do know what this means, don't you? Someone is declaring war on the United States." Over the following weeks we came to terms with the fact that the world that we were promised as kids was not the world that we would get to live in. At the time, and for many years afterward, peace and compassion seemed an impossibility.

For me, it's no small coincidence that this vegetarian food festival always seems to coincide with September 11th. Each year as we are inundated with images of that tragic day, when our pulses begin to race, and the anger resurfaces and threatens our compassion, our patience and our understanding - there is the festival, filled with so many people who not only believe that above all else, peace and compassion trump violence, but who also live that philosophy every time they eat, every time they purchase something and every time that they interact with the world around them. It is both humbling and uplifting to interact with these people, particularly at this time of year.


We may not have been able to eat everything that we wanted to at the festival, but we did pick up some goodies to bring home! Just to spread the Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival love a bit beyond festival weekend, I'm going to do a little giveaway.

I managed to wrestle these two boxes of New Moon Kitchen cookies and they will be shipped off to one lucky reader of This is Vegan!

There is one box of Chocolate Chip and one box of Ginger Snappers, both 100% vegan and made with organic spelt flour.

Each person can enter up to three times by commenting with the phrase "C IS FOR COOKIE" via...

1) Blog: Comment on this entry with the phrase posted above. You can use your Google/Blogger ID. If you don't have one, comment as "Anonymous" but include your name and a working email address.

2) Facebook: Join the Facebook Group and post the phrase above on the group wall.

3) Twitter: Post the following on your Twitter: "C IS FOR COOKIE! Enter the @ThisIsVeganBlog @newmoonkitchen cookie giveaway at".

Contest closes on Sunday, September 18, 2011 at 12pm EST. A winner will be drawn by random number generator and posted shortly afterward. Feel free to email with any questions. Good luck!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

KW Raw Food Group Meet-Up at Marbles, Waterloo

I don't have all that much time to blog this morning, but I wanted to share some pictures from last night's KW Raw Food Group Meet-Up at Marbles Restaurant in Waterloo! I blogged about Marbles a couple months ago and I'm happy to report that they are still offering raw items on their regular menu and you can get them anytime. Last night, however, they made up a special menu for our group of 20 or so raw food enthusiasts!

I apologize for the poor quality photos. I don't have a fancy camera and even if I did I would not know how to use it. Lucky for me, the food is pretty enough on its own that my crappy photography skills are rendered irrelevant.

Here is a little bit of the food we sampled:

Famous Pad Thai
From the menu: Asian style local veggies in a ginger almond butter sauce, abundance of fresh herbs, cashews, shredded coconut and ripe mango.

Sweet Beet Ravioli
From the menu: Paper thin slices of sweet red beets, with cashew cheese filling, fresh tarragon, raw pistachios and drizzled yellow pepper puree.

Pure Raspberry Cheesecake

Mega Mango Cheesecake

Midnight Chocolate Mousse

If I had to pick two favourites, I think it would have to be the sweet beet ravioli (which I really really hope they will put on their regular menu!) and the chocolate mousse, which is funny because I am not typically one for super rich chocolate desserts. I scraped that glass so clean they probably didn't even need to wash it.

As I did last time, I will again stress that if you are vegan, be sure to ask your server which options are honey-free. Last night there was some concern about honey in the desserts, but our server assured us that the chef used agave because of the varied diets/allergies present. They are very friendly and helpful at Marbles and I know they will assist you in finding something that you can not only eat, but that you will enjoy every bite of.

Our Kitchener-Waterloo Raw Meet-Up Group meets once a month or so. You can find details on our next event here!

Thank you to Marbles for hosting, to Sasha of Blyssful Health for organizing and to all who came out for the great company and conversation!

Marbles Restaurant
8 William Street East
Waterloo, ON N2J 1K9
(519) 885-4390

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