Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Black-eyed peas and cawwn bread

What is this "black-eyed peas are for New Years" bullshit? I ate black-eyed peas at least once a week for pretty much my entire childhood. Growing up in the South, black-eyed peas are not special occasion food. They are cheap, good, and actually fairly healthy, even when flavored with bacon fat or ham, so my family ate them pretty  much constantly. My grandmother used to make black-eyed peas ALL the time, and pair them with cornbread. She used a pretty simple combination of ingredients to flavor the peas -- garlic and onion powder, salt, and pepper.This would be pretty much the sole vegan dish that was at the table on a regular basis, since she rarely used pork to flavor it. This flavor combination worked, but I like to jazz mine up a little more. 


This will make a really big pot, which is great because now you have leftovers that heat up very easily in the microwave. Or you can just halve everything and make a smaller batch.

I like to serve this over a slice of cornbread. For this is use a basic recipe from the Veganomicon, which I remember by heart:


  • (Dry)
  • 2 cups of cornmeal
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • (Wet)
  • 2 cups plain soymilk
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar 
Preheat your oven to 350F with a greased cast-iron skillet in there. Mix the wet together and let it curdle while you mix together the dry is a large bowl. After you mix all the dry stuff thoroughly, make a well and add the wet. Mix it together and then pour the mixture into your how cast iron skillet. Bake it for about 35 minutes.

I like to use brown sugar instead of white. There are also some variations you can do with the cornbread, like saute onions of but I like to keep mine simple. I like to eat this with something green, fried okra, something meat-like (a MS Farms bbq strip for example). 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My approach to veganism

I’m not very good at being an animal right’s activist. I support animal rights, but I’m not on the front lines protesting (much), handing out literature (much), taking part in direct action (at all), and the like (at least not on a regular basis). I do volunteer for things that I think improve my community, but I was raised in the South, and was taught that you don’t make a show out of the good things you do. Contrary to popular belief, the wave of self-righteous Evangelical Christianity is a relatively new thing. My great grandparents were very religious, devout Christians, but lived by the Biblical principle that you don’t make your piety and your self-perceived righteousness the first thing people notice about you.

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
 -Matthew 6:5-6 

I’m not a religious person, but I do think that there is some wisdom in this principle. You can do something because you truly believe in it, or you can do something the show everyone else how great you are. I’m far from a perfect man, and I have had my self-righteous moments, but I can genuinely say that I try hard not be a holier-than-thou douchebag when it comes to my support of animal rights.

I’m not big into animal rights philosophy or ideology. My support for animal rights was a journey of self-discovery based on one fundamental truth I could not ignore: the animals we consume are sentient beings, capable of feeling pain, happiness, and fear, and that no matter how much I liked meat or dairy, their right to live free from undue suffering FAR outweighs my craving for a double bacon cheeseburger and a strawberry milkshake. (And I LOVED double bacon cheeseburgers and strawberry milkshakes!)

I try to be openminded, but I am skeptical of notions like speciesism and abolitionism. I know there are some very dedicated and good people that strongly believe in these concepts, and I don’t want to question their motivations in any way. I do, however, question the efficacy of some of the more hardline approaches to animal rights. Getting people to change their minds about something is one of the hardest things to do, period. And one thing I think most vegans – the more and the less ideologically inclined – can agree on is that in almost every society today (especially American society) we are raised to ignore the suffering of animals. Overcoming this socialization is, to put it bluntly, really fucking hard! It took me a long time to come around to finally embracing veganism as a lifestyle, so who the fuck am I to judge someone who hasn’t?

People are often surprised when they find out I’m vegan. In many ways I’m a normal guy. I like to drink more than I should. I have a sick, twisted, and caustic sense of humor. I appreciate Kenny Powers on a more than ironic level. Unlike “typical” (stereotypical) vegan men, I’m not into eating healthy – which is kind of the point of this blog. I’m not anything close to being a hippie or a metrosexual. Politically, I don’t consider myself a liberal or a leftist, and I don’t think to appreciate the sentience of other species you need to be. I also have a huge college football problem.

I once posted a joke on one of my favorite sports message boards about my recipe for vegan eggnog. It was two ingredients: Johnny Walker Black in a coffee mug. It was (obviously) meant to be a joke. I got a response something to the effect of, “That’s the first vegan recipe I’ve ever seen that sounds awesome.” I’m under no delusions that I converted anyone to veganism with that silly post, but I possibly did make someone (or maybe even more than one!) think that vegans can be likely anyone else. Veganism can and should be relatable to most people. 

I think the best way to help end animal suffering is to make people think and understand that consuming animals is a choice, as that is best accomplished by being a salient cultural force. Vegans being present and visible, but not in-your-face is the best way to do that. What we need is not more animal rights ideologues. What we need are more vegans!

Okay -- the rest of this is a bit tangential, but relevant. This has become longer than I intended. I have tried my hand of humor writing before (here and on an LSU blog) I kind of think what veganism needs is a good humor writer, as opposed to yet another blog on animal rights philosophy. I'm not saying I'm up for this, or good enough, but this is my idea – a brief snippet where I will point the guns away from my vegan brothers and sisters and toward the meat industry. The subject: fast food chicken nuggets. Go!

What the animal right activist says about them to a non-vegan:

They are usually made from chickens who are kept in cramped conditions, with beaks chopped off, unable to move, genetically modified, sad, suffering, and hopeless. They are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, then brutally slaughtered by people who work in subhuman conditions with no safety standards, mechanically separated, portioned back together piecemeal, and artificially pressed into nugget shapes. This process is cruel, inhuman, and a sad commentary on our society.
Oh, how inter-uhhhhhh

Now all of that shit is true, but I would put it a different way. Check it:

Most people think chicken nuggets are made of actual chickens. This is true in a nominal sense. They are more like blind, crippled, suffering creatures that happen to remotely genetically resemble what we casually think of as a chicken. These miserable things are shot up with that same shit that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens took for decades (so it’s gotta be safe, right?), while having their DNA fucked with to the point that they have three heads while being able to be successfully grown upside down in a garbage can right outside the basement of an unsavory rural Chinese train station. After being “harvested” they are then pureed into something that resembles soft-serve strawberry ice cream. 

Mmmm.... Delicious! 

That's how I roll bitches.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The art of whipping up a good marinade

I've noticed that I'm actually getting more and more pageviews on this blog. God only knows why, but hey, I'll take it. I feel obliged to actually write a little something, and I guess I will touch on something that's actually a little topical as we head into the summer months: marinade for grilling stuff.

The first thing you need to know about making a marinade, or pretty much anything else food related that isn't baking: this shit ain't science. I've posted a marinade recipe before, but sometimes I think that by focusing so much on recipes that we forget that just winging it sometimes can work. I made a marinade today with my friend Karla to use for portabellas and brussel sprouts, and it was a lot similar to the one I made before, but with a few differences. I decided I would try apple cider vinegar instead of white, since she had some, and I added some cayenne pepper. I didn't measure anything and my friend told me it was some of the best I'd ever made. I know everyone doesn't feel comfortable just "eyeballing" stuff, but I think a lot of cooking is about confidence and trusting your instincts. If you make something that's not so good, well that's fine -- we've all done it. I think it's good though to not be afraid of screwing up a bit. Also, it's hard to really screw up a marinade to the point where you make bad food. That's because you can (and should!) give it a taste before you actually use it. If it's good, you know to use it. If it's not, throw it out and try again.

Some thoughts on making good marinade:

1) Keep the ingredients list small. I subscribe to the idea that we should be as simple as possible in cooking. Never use seven ingredients when three will get the job done. Don't add stuff just for the sake of adding stuff. I think of this kind of like mixing paint. If you want to get a good color, keep it simple: yellow and blue will make green, for example. If you want a lighter green, carefully add some white. But you have to exercise some caution. If you insist on mixing in more and more colors you will just end up with an ugly grayish-brown.

2) Think of complimentary flavors. Brown sugar and cumin go very well together. Vinegars and fats work well together (especially balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil). Think of your favorite complimentary/contrasting flavors. There, you already have an inspiration for a really good marinade. Also keep in mind that not everything goes well together (which I why I discussed above that you shouldn't keep adding stuff, because if you do eventually you find two ingredients that don't like each other, or more likely, add an ingredient that conflicts with several of the ingredients you already added).

3) Don't go for subtlety. Marinades aren't about nuance. They are about hitting you over the head with "holy shit, that's really good" flavor.

4) Don't be afraid to experiment. This is how I found out that beer works really well in a marinade. You can always whip up small batches and give it a quick taste to see how it works. I'm doing to try doing something with red wine soon. (Suggestions always welcome.)

5) Soy sauce be salty, yo. It's great, don't get me wrong, and is a nice starting point for lots of marinades. But it's potent shit, so don't go nuts with it. I find it's good to cut soy sauce with broth or beer. (I don't think wine would work though. I have not tried it, but I feel pretty confident in that.)