In my latest piece for Ecorazzi, I challenge rejoicing in human suffering.
I made a large batch of minestrone earlier this week. Minestrone is a staple of cucina povera. It has existed in one form or another since Roman times. This is the Neapolitan version and it always contains a base of tomatoes and potatoes, which, despite their being fundamental today, were only introduced in the mid-16th century.
Minestrone is a staple of cucina povera, which literally translates to poor kitchen – peasant food. The word minestrone is the augmentative form of the word minestra or soup. It has existed in one form or another since Roman times. The Neapolitan version always contains a base of tomatoes and potatoes, which, despite their being fundamental today, were only introduced in the mid-16th century. It is a dish suitably served hot in the winter and chilled in the summer.
You can adapt this recipe to your liking. See below for a spicy, North African version.
Recipe after the photo. Serves four, with leftovers, of course.
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I have been listening to the new Tribe Called Quest album a lot. It is basically on repeat. I heard that line and it is a question I ask myself all the time. Here is my latest piece on Ecorazzi
Happy World Vegan Day!
The most important thing we can do to stop the relentless injustice against animals is to go vegan and make more vegans through creative, non-violent advocacy or education. But what does creative, non-violent advocacy mean?
It means engaging with people in any way we are comfortable. It might be through talking to people we know or meet during the day, through song or drawing, or making videos, tabling in our community, cooking for friends and family (and learning to cook!) or writing articles or blog pieces. It can be whatever we like that gets us out there engaging with others in a meaningful way.
Before we start advocating, it is essential that we educate ourselves and and think about how to approach answering questions and discussing veganism.
Whenever I face answering a question about veganism or writing about any aspect of it, I do two things. First, I identify what are the issues and second, as much as possible, I keep it simple.
Identifying the issues is important because it keeps us focused on what is really at stake. Sometimes we get questions that roll many other issues into one. This is because people are overwhelmed by our rejection of something that the vast majority of the world does on a daily basis; at other times, questions that conflate issues may come from fellow vegans.
Three examples of identifying the issues come to mind, two of which I have written about for Ecorazzi before. The first is the conflation of poverty and veganism; that is, veganism as an obligation versus income inequality/poverty as ”impossibility” to going vegan. These are two separate issues and they should be addressed separately. Sure, there are relationships between these issues, but that does not mean that one negates the other.
The second example of identifying the issues is when we hear people talking about veganism as a journey. We all went vegan as a result of some experience, but veganism is not about us. “We” are not the focus of our veganism. Sure, there are aspects about veganism that are about humans, but it is not all about humans. We are not the ones losing our lives.
The third example, is in relation to questions or discussion relating to welfare standards – the so-called humane treatment, or organic, happy, cuddly, dreamy exploitation. Any of these topics boil down to one issue: whether we have any good reason to use animals in the first place.
Ultimately, the critical point is to keep the animals as the focus of our vegan advocacy. Imagine a wheel, where the animals are the hub and all the other issues are the spokes. The spokes emanate from the hub. However, each element is simultaneously individual and interconnected.
Once we have identified the issues, keep the conversation simple, short and straightforward. We may have occasion to go deeper into the issues even within the same interaction. Often, however, we only have a small window of someone’s attention and we should capitalise on that moment.
Being educated on the issues is of paramount importance because it will give us the confidence to handle any situation. When we discuss issues that we fully understand, our voices become a very powerful tool because we are able to deliver the message in our own simple and authentic manner. We may not convince people all the time, but at the very least, we will plant the best and strongest seeds possible.
To get us started, there are two books that I always recommend. They are short, indispensable and thought provoking, and both written by Gary Francione and Anna Charlton: Eat Like You Care, which explores, in the simplest way, why we should go vegan and answers all the frequent questions about veganism (it is available in over a dozen languages); and Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach, which explores why we need a paradigm shift in how we view nonhuman animals in society (and/or have a look at the website for a plethora of essays).
So, let’s get reading and let’s get talking.
In July 2016, I had the pleasure and privilege of being invited to speak on a panel about activism at World Vegan Summit at UC Berkeley in California. The video below is from that day. You may also find all the videos for each of the speakers on that panel here.
Vegan fish pie with cheesy mashed potato top.
This is a perfect dish for autumn or winter Sundays.
Fish pies in Britain have their origins in the Christian practice of “fasting” days, particularly during Lent, when “fasting” did not necessarily mean not eating, rather it meant not eating meat. Fish was the substitute for those who could afford it. Traditional fish pies were made with rosewater, sugar, spices and wine. Thankfully, this fish pie isn’t made with any of those ingredients, other than spices!
Fish pies are generally made with a white béchamel sauce derived from the dairy milk in which the fish was poached. I did not find that poaching the tempeh/tofu combination yielded optimum results in terms of flavour and texture (the tempeh/tofu reabsorb the non-dairy milk), but I wanted to remain true to the method and that is why I now boil and infuse the non-dairy milk separately. Recipe after the photos. Serves 4.
For the filling
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In my latest piece for Ecorazzi, I take a look at the ballot initiative in Massachusetts concerning cages. If the question were “is it necessary to kill animals for humans to live happy, delicious and healthy lives”, then this would be something to get excited about. However, as a vegan and an advocate, the size of the cage ultimately does not matter when the end result is still death.