Sunday, 30 January 2011

Hello Sunny Vancouver

Inukshuk, English Bay

View off Second Beach, Stanley Park

Heron on Lost Lagoon, Stanley Park

Diurnal raccoon, Stanley Park

um... ducks.

Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Well, that was nice.

Warning: this post isn't strictly about being a veggie. Sorry about that. Well, I suppose that if you are the kind of person who believes in the interconnectedness of every single act in the universe, it might be.

I started 2011 on a bit of a mission: live consciously and kindly (Yes, that's where the vegetarianism comes in). But it goes beyond that - putting others' needs before mine, and being aware of how my actions impact the world around me. Sort of a bass-akwards self-centered approach to life, I guess.

It's easy to be kind somewhere like Vancouver. People smile, make eye contact, and generally engage with others. What happened to me this week has been sort of extraordinary, even still...

After a long day, I stopped by the bank to get some money out of the machine, then headed to the bus stop (I usually walk, but it was raining and I was feeling tired and pathetic). As the bus drew up, I folded my umbrella and prepared to board, only to be met on the step by a young guy in an obvious hurry somewhere. He shot off, and I found a seat. Well, to be precise, I found a wallet on a seat. He had been the only one on the bus apart from the driver, so it had to be his. A cursory inspection revealed this to be the case. When I asked what the protocol was, the driver actually told me it would be more likely that I would find its owner than Translink, whose lost property process is "very slow" (good PR, bus driver man!). Urged on by my fellow passengers, I had a quick dig through the pockets and discovered a bus pass, bank card, cash, gym membership, an ID card from Venezuela, various mementos and a card to a local language school, but no telephone or address details. I resolved to call the school in the morning and try to track him down.

Arriving home, I realised that the $120 I had withdrawn from the bank machine was not in my bag or my coat pockets. Retracing my steps, I couldn't recall removing the money from the machine, as I could my card. In all likelihood, I had left the sodding cash in the sodding cash machine. Palm, meet forehead.

Here's the philosophy bit.

There have been times in my life where I have had no money. Like, $10-to-buy-a-week's-food no money. Thankfully these times have been very few, and more than balanced with times when I haven't had to think about money too much. And, standing at my kitchen counter swearing to no one, I realised that it's my own stupid fault. My attitude to money (for better or worse) has always been a bit easy come, easy go. So, I didn't get any more upset, and although it nagged at me that $120 represented a nice new pair of shoes or jeans, it wasn't a life-changing sum of money for me. But it could have been for someone else - or indeed me, at a different point in my life. The conclusion I drew was that someone might have taken it, ultimately because they needed it more than me, and it was the universe's way of balancing things out. Or, by some tiny miracle, it would come back to me. Don't ATMs suck the money back in if it's not taken after a couple of minutes? Not one to dwell, I fired up Netflix and put my feet up.

On Tuesday morning, I called the language school and reported the found wallet, and was told that the message would be passed on. I kept meaning to pop down to the bank to ask if any cash had been returned, or at least check my statement to see if the money had been magically returned to my account by the ATM. The day got away from me, and just after lunch, my phone rang. It was Jose, the owner of the wallet, calling from the lobby of my office building. I met him and returned the wallet, met with profuse thanks and blessings. He said that I had saved his life, as that was all he had to live on. Then, he left - my part in helping another human being was over.

Several hours later, an ATM statement revealed that the original $120 withdrawal had indeed been subtracted from my balance. Dang it. I made a mental note to avoid book and shoe stores for the next few weeks to counteract the hit on my chequing account, and withdrew another $120.

Home, sleep, new day at work. My phone rang at around 10.30am. It was the bank (CIBC, who have never done anything except ROCK, imo). Apparently, $120 was left in an envelope by 'a middle aged woman', who had found it sticking out of the ATM. She left no contact details. The bank had looked through the ATM's history and narrowed the withdrawal down to my transaction immediately before hers.

The cash is back in my account, and there's a smile on my face. There's also a smile on Jose's face. There's probably a smile on my Good Samaritan's face. Not even a month in to this new way of thinking, result! Everybody wins!

Okay, so my decision to be nice may have had nothing at all to do with that cash coming back to me. But it did profoundly affect Jose's. And that kind lady's decision to be nice made my week. So, here's to being, well, nice...which brings me back to the vegetarian thing.

I read an article this weekend which gave me pause to think about my decision to go veggie. The argument is essentially that by going meat-free, I am opting out of the conversation around the improved treatment of farmed animals. After careful thought, I have to disagree; surely it's a matter of supply and demand on the largest scale? Yes, choosing ethically reared meat is a better option than eating cheap, factory farmed meat - for all involved. I wholly support the decision to eat 'happy meat'. But in reducing total demand, fewer animals are needed as 'supply' (a horrible thought). I used to comfort myself with the thought that the delicious steak on my plate had a good life. These days, I like the idea that it's still running around somewhere. Nice thought, no?

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Taste Test: Yves Veggie Nuggets

Like anyone, I get into my little ruts with meals, especially when I'm short on time. Part of my decision to stop eating meat was driven by my desire to eat a wider variety of higher quality food. That's why I wrestled with the idea of vegetarian 'convenience' foods, or meat replacements - it wasn't the point.But I was picking up my weekly shop on the way home one night and Choices Market were giving out free samples of these little guys. They look and feel like any chicken nugget I've ever eaten (the breading is more crumbly than fast food ones, but similar to comparable cook-at-home varieties). A tip of the hat is deserved for the thought put into their shapes - oblong and "the boot" (or, as it was noted on the web, "Minnesota", which is just delightful).

Taste-wise, they're somewhere between a chicken nugget and a mozzarella stick with the cheese missing. Crunchy on the outside, tender in the middle, they're a great alternative to any processed chicken product of dubious or fast-food-chain origin.

Nutritionally, we're on to a winner... I compared the nutritional info available on Yves, McDonald's and Bell & Evans websites and calculated that Yves is appreciably lower in fat and cholesterol, and higher in fibre than both of the chicken varieties. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Yves Veggie Nuggets contain more protein per 100g than McDonald's "all breast meat" nuggets do (curious, considering Bell & Evans "all breast meat" nuggests had considerably more).

It's worth mentioning that the Veggie Nuggets contain eggs, so they're not vegan. I wasn't able to read anything on their website about the origin of their eggs. More research to come!

At this point I'm still enjoying the novelty of veggie cooking, but it's safe to say that may wear off in time, or at least on occasion. Having a few 'cheater' items is a sort of insurance policy, especially after a night of G&Ts.

Final verdict: tasty, nutritionally and ethically angelic, considering the 'fast-food' category. Four out of five zucchini!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

No cravings, just controversy

To the vegetarians before me: As I've said, if I've not openly mocked your abstaining from meat, I've at least challenged it. And I know I'm new, but sweet Jesus, don't people have an opinion about others' dietary choices! So for any offense or weariness caused by having to justify yourself to me, I am sincerely sorry.

I've made two references to going veggie on Facebook in the last week, both generating a flurry of comments from friends on both sides of the meaty fence. I'm sure commenters' intentions were nothing more than lighthearted jest, but it didn't take long for my omnivore friends to incite the rage of their herbivore counterparts.

One comment hit a chord - "politics has no place in the kitchen". Is vegetarianism political? I suppose it depends on someone's reasons for it. I'm not sticking it to The Man here. I don't have any immediate urge to hold up a placard outside the Art Gallery or an abattoir, or lobby the Legislature to ban burgers. As a proclaimed vegetarian, am I putting up my tent in the patchouli-scented, tie-dyed section of the political landscape? Nonsense. Using that logic, as a woman who expects equal pay, I should be burning my bras.

I have not done this to set an example or make people feel guilty for eating meat. I have control over my impact on those around me, human and animal, and I want to do better by my fellow beings, as well as my own body. My decision is, well, mine. That's the beauty of where and when we live. It strikes me as odd, therefore, that people should get so riled up about the choices of others.

I'm through the looking glass here, suddenly very aware of the pressure placed on someone who doesn't fit the norm. Don't get me wrong - I'm not stupid enough to suggest that this is anywhere in league with actual discrimination. I mean instead that I have a newfound respect for those who have forged the path that I am now walking. And a little more perspective on the knowing looks that long-time vegetarians give me when I say I've been veggie... for a week.

So, a call for respect on all sides. Meat-abstaining friends, continue to show patience to the meaties. Vegans, long-time and occasional vegetarians: we newbies thank you and need you. There's strength in numbers, and we're only trying to join in the fun. Meat-eating friends, be tolerant of us veggies. We're not hurting anyone. In fact, that's kind of the point.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Big Ol' Mouthful of Humble (Veggie) Pie

I am a vegetarian.

I never thought I would say that, let alone commit it in writing. I've been a happy omnivore for my 30 and a half years. But as of 31 December 2010, I am gonna try really, really hard not to eat meat.

"Meat" being beef, pork, poultry, game, and fish. I'm still clinging rather desperately to the dairy-and-egg lifeboat, reasoning that shocking myself into veganism will be at best unsuccessful, at worst potentially unhealthy. I'm still learning to love legumes, for Pete's sake.

I've met a lot of vegetarians. The subject usually rears its head at meals with colleagues or new friends. When someone casually mentions that they abstain from meat, you can count the seconds before someone (usually me) asks "Why?". A lot of people would give a lot of different answers, and for a long time I would nod respectfully and then order the steak, 'rare enough that a good vet could save it'. I mean, we have canine teeth for a reason, right? I suppose you could define my opinion of vegetarians as somewhere between really missing out and just plain sad.

I'll probably get into my reasons for making the switch at a later point. Suffice it to say that it's a combination of things, ethics and health being the two main ones.

I know it's not always going to be as easy as the first few days have been. I will face temptation and (most likely) willpower reduced by the consumption of a beer or two. It's early days, I've already faced my first few jibes and jokes, and for the most part, incredulity. I am, after all, the girl who started Meat Club at work.

Why blog about it? Blogging is kind of 2008. I'm going to use this as a support mechanism for weak moments, or maybe a confession booth for when I do give in (I can't imagine I won't). It might give my friends and family a chance to understand why I would make such a heinous decision. Heck, maybe someday it just might inspire someone to eat less (or no) meat! Alas, a lofty goal. In the meantime this'll be somewhere to hang my interwebs hat, share recipes and cool Vancouver veggie finds, and occasionally moan about really wanting a burger.

Thanks for reading :)