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I was invited to a screening of this inspiring documentary last week, and I think you should see it.
Forks Over Knives primarily features the revolutionary careers of Dr. T. Colin Campbell, co-author of The China Study, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. It really affected me, as both a vegan trying to live a healthy and responsible life, and as the daughter of a cancer patient.
As a twentysomething liberal vegan living in Portland, OR, of course I shake my head at most lobbyists and assume that many government connections are corrupt in some way. I’m glad that Forks Over Knives mentioned the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s (who are currently suing over the absence of a vegetarian alternative to the USDA endorsed food pyramid) historic lawsuit win in 2000. That was, and is, a huge deal! There are conversations about governmental responsibility and why we’re eating what we’re eating and what’s being served and taught in public schools that should be happening in all circles. This film, amongst a rise of documentaries, the growing popular awareness of veganism and television programs (albeit not vegan) in recent years contribute to these discussions and lifestyle adaptations that people should be having.
There are huge dietary misconceptions pointed out in Forks Over Knives in appalling but almost comedic live-on-the-streets interviews. Sure, as a vegan I’m aware that you can get calcium from kale, and protein from beans, but what about most Americans?
What really upset me deeply were hearing the numbers – the millions – of people who have been diagnosed with, and are dying from, cancer and other grave illnesses in the past 50 years. I admit that my own medical knowledge is limited and that I haven’t opened a science textbook since high school, but this film made me want to learn more, and made me want the world to learn more. I remember a period when my mom, who was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was a senior in high school, was sick and exclusively eating primarily vegetarian and all organic food. She had already undergone chemotherapy, and would suffer through it again, with hope, until her passing in 2005, but there was a time when all she wanted in her body were organic whole foods. I recall being newly vegan at the time, and wondering, why the fuss for organic? And why the fear of soy? I’ve since read much more, and heard more stories from those who have rejected chemotherapy and thrived – and became less frightened of the soy connection. My life was changed by my mom’s pacing, and naturally, I thought of her while watching this documentary. I’m not playing the what if’s game, but thinking of so many people dying of preventable, marketed diseases (type 2 diabetes, ugh) over the decades makes me so angry. I regularly do my independent research when I’m sick, be it on webmd.com or googling what tinctures I should drink and just where I should put that clove of garlic, but so many people just listen to their doctors. I’m fortunate (ba da bing) to have regular health insurance, and I have caught misinformation and lack of familiarity more than once. You should know, and believe in your body! The stories in Forks Over Knives of individuals embracing whole foods and exercise and overcoming degenerative diseases are near unbelievable; they’re that awe-inspiring. I hope there’s bonus footage in the works so we can learn even more, and hear just how someone learns to dig the flavor of quinoa over chicken nuggets, or shop in coops and Whole Foods vs. Walmart, for example.
The “V” Word
I did find it interesting that the ‘v’ word, vegan, wasn’t muttered, and then only briefly, and personally guarded in a way, by professional UFC fighter Mac Danzig. There are larger issues at stake than wearing witty vegan pins (which I totally do, of course) – throughout the world, particularly in fast food obsessed and marketed North America – not enough whole foods are eaten, or available, or considered normal, or delicious!
The Compassionate Sidenote
There’s more than one reason to go vegan, and I appreciated that compassion and respect for all creatures – the beliefs in a way, to counter the scientific facts, were briefly discussed by Gene Bauer of Farm Sanctuary and his animal friends. Need more heavy duty animal rights inspiration? Check out Earthlings.
Such a large part of the vegan community has been working for mainstream acceptance, and respect, for years and years. I’ve heard a lot of gripe about this – Are we selling out? Won’t this be another fad diet? Isn’t Silk owned by Dean Foods? Don’t I have enough vegan cookbooks?
All understandable worries, but with the message of Forks Over Knives, the true results of this growing field of ‘alternative’ medical research, and the rest of our reasons for being vegan, it’s our responsibility to spread the message. You should take your parents to see this. You should wonder why salads, of all things and of all all places, often suck in hospital cafeterias. Veganism is becoming a trendy diet and therefore, corporate industry, in North America and beyond. But – vegans have the best taste buds around, and when done right – eating style, too – and I won’t be complaining about people introducing more vegan, whole foods into their diet (I’ll just roll my eyes a little).
So, the Food
As I mentioned earlier, Forks Over Knives recommends a vegan diet, but doesn’t shout that. It’s more so about eating whole and raw foods, and getting the rest of the fast food eating world to realize just how flavorful and nutritious they are.
With that, I’ll cease my semi-educated, personal ranting, and repeat what I said at the start:
You should see it.
Now playing in Portland, OR for another week, thanks to sold out shows, and select cities soon.
Although I’m currently sitting here, patiently waiting for my tester copy, (hint hint) the latest cookbook from my favorite vegan superhero & author, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Appetite for Reduction has hit the shelves – so it’s time for a fond look back.
This marks the fourth Post Punk Kitchen book I’ve been a recipe tester for – which is so.much.fun. While I didn’t have as much time on my hands or mouths to feed as I used to, and didn’t test every single recipe, I did made a bunch of satisfying dishes that I’ll round up below. Whether you’re looking for more responsible, vegetable dominated entrees, oil-cutting tips, healthy meal plan inspiration, or straight up, great and usually gourmet vegan cuisine, you should pick up this book! And try to do it from a vegan business, like Herbivore, Cosmo’s, Never Felt Better or Food Fight!, if possible. Is free shipping really that enticing? Does Amazon offer this shirt, or this one?
Some of my favorites:
- 40 Clove Chickpea & Garlic – I’ve seriously made this countless times, and usually up the garlic even more (spoiler alert: there’s not actually 40 cloves in the recipe)
- Surefire Seitan – This was my go-to seitan recipe this past year.
- Braised Seitan & Cabbage – This one surprised me in how much I liked it. Plus, it’s super easy if you have the seitan already made, and cabbage contains fiber and vitamin c and you should probably be eating more of it!
- Pasta con Broccoli – Simple and great – especially topped with one of the baked tofu options in the book. Like I’m not going to love a healthier version of a classic Italian dish full of more broccoli & garlic…
- Thai Green Beans – Again – so easy, but so flavorful.
- Jerk Asparagus – Ditto! You should have these spices in your house anyway, and await the countdown to one of spring’s first contenders.
- Curried Tofu – One of those recipes you’ll find yourself making semi-weekly after trying it.
- Apple Miso Tofu – because it’s another one casserole dish entree, and it’s just so unique!
- Ginger Soba with Bok Choy – it’s literally ginger, soba, and bok choy, and that’s so, so right.
- Black-Eyed Peas & Greens – purposely reminiscent of the Bye & Bye’s dish, and another I find myself making regularly. With the buzz about the book popping up over the last week, it was the first recipe that came to mind and that I just had to make this past weekend.
And these are just a few favorites. Crazy, but I don’t have photos for everything. Sometimes I forgot, or the lighting was awful, or the dish was being transported elsewhere, or I was just…really hungry. Off the top of my head, I know the Ethiopian Mushroom Tibs are missing, and probably a few others…
Without further adieu, my Appetite for Reduction photos:
40 Clove Chickpea & Garlic
Pasta con Broccoli (pictured with red wine roasted mushrooms)
Smokey Split Pea Soup
Pineapple Collards - oh, I really dug this, too!
Broiled Blackened Tofu
Curry Baked Tofu and Orange Scented Broccoli
Curried Chickpeas and Greens - hello, delicious lunch for the week!
Apple Miso Tofu (pictured with a chiffonade of miner’s lettuce and brown rice)
Curried Cabbage and Peas
Red Curry Tofu - how pretty is this?! bonus = it’s baked!
Thai Green Beans
Fussilli Roasted Veggie Primavera – okay, more and more favorites
Herb Roasted Cauliflower and Breadcrumbs
Cashew Miso Mayo - yeah, you read that right!
Surefire Seitan (pictured baked with chickpea breading)
Silky Chickpea Gravy (pictured with whole wheat biscuits)
Hoisin Tofu Lettuce Wrap (pictured with cabbage shells)
Red Wine & Kalamata Tempeh (pictured with mashed potatoes) – hello, classy!
Ginger Soba with Bok Choy
Vietnamese Salad with grilled tofu
Quicky BBQ Tofu
Curried Summer Loving Corn Chowder
Black Eyed Peas & Greens (pictured with cornmeal baked tofu)
Braised Seitan & Cabbage
Now, I’m sorry there are no before and after shots of my butt to show my own weightloss progress during this round of testing. Truthfully, some of these dishes were made over a year ago, I wasn’t focused on hiding my oil – because that can be crazy, and I make a point to be comfortable with my weight, my body, and myself, no matter what. Vegans come in all shapes and sizes, too!
That being said, I’m currently on week 12 of a new workout/activity plan, where there’s less beer, laziness, and more vegetables and whole grains in my diet lately, but I just hate using that word, so back to my point -
This book is not only full of wholesome, creative, special-diet-friendly recipes – it’s full of truth one can relate to, and a whole lot of healthy inspiration.
For sample recipes, check out the PPK book page.
If you have the book already, I’d love to hear other recs. And while you’re at it, leave Isa a review on Amazon and Goodreads and spread the word!