Category Archives: Books

Melisser Elliott’s Handy New Guide

These days it seems like a new vegan cookbook hits the market every week.  It’s awesome that the vegan population is large enough to support all the new titles but I’m noticing that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for authors to find a vegan niche that hasn’t already been covered in print.  There are already vegan books on everything from Caribbean cooking to  gluten-free baking and everything in between.  I was delighted to find that Melisser Elliott a.k.a. The Urban Housewife’s new book, The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life, is so unique and is a welcome addition to my kitchen bookshelf.

Melisser’s book is a hipper version of “Living Vegan for Dummies.”  It covers every aspect of veganism ranging from what one eats and wears to crafting and even gardening (shout out to SoCal’s Adriana Martinez!).  Sprinkled throughout are profiles of cool vegan chicas, many of whom have cool vegan blogs.  I wish this book had been out when I first went vegan—it is chock full of  handy info like how to make your pet’s diet cruelty-free.

I love the chapter on nutrition where Melisser’ defers to Choosing Raw’s Gena Hamshaw.  Despite spending an ungodly amount of time reading vegan blogs and books about health, I still find that I have trouble remembering all the vitamins and minerals I need to be getting.  Gena writes a concise yet comprehensive run-down of the basic info every vegan needs to know about proper nutrition.

Of course there is no such thing as a vegan book without recipes.  The book has a collection of recipes both from Melisser herself and from other vegan notables.  I have an affinity for the Tangy Cabbage Beet Slaw, so much so that I’ve eaten it for lunch the past three days in a row.  It’s healthy, simple, and delicious—just like I like it.

The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life is the perfect gift for a new vegan but also for an old vegetarian—you know the kind…the ones who have been off meat for years but just need that extra push to go all the way.  It’s also very useful for more experienced vegans will want to whip up the inventive recipes.  I’m looking forward to checking out the sites of the some of the featured bloggers that I’m not already familiar with–they all sound amazing.

Now for the best part for all my fellow Angelenos…Melisser will be in town tonight Friday January 14th, signing copies of her book from 7pm to 9pm at Doomies!  Pick up a copy of the book, get it signed, and have some delish vegan goodies.  Sounds like the perfect start to a long weekend (MLK woo woo!) to me!


Yay, it’s a give-away! Get your copy of Eating Animals here!

Update: The 5 lucky winners have been chosen and notified!  Thanks for entering!

The fine folks at Hatchette Book Group have offered up 5 paperback copies of Eating Animals for me to give away!  This is arguably the most important book in all of animal rights/food science.  It’s objective stance gives it instant credibility and it’s a very accessible read–one that the average person is more likely to read than dense alternatives like The China Study.  You can read my review of the book here.

Enter to win a copy and then pass it along to a friend when you’re done!  I am thrilled to say that two of my closest friends became vegetarian after reading the book, including my dearest, Kirby Von Scrumptious.  You really should enter…partially because your chances of winning here are far higher than on the other, bigger blogs that are doing the giveaway 🙂

To enter, simply:

* Leave a comment on this post (make sure to enter your e-mail address so you can be contacted if you win)

* For an extra entry, find my tweet on Twitter about the giveaway and retweet it.  Then post another comment here saying that you did so.

Winners will be chosen at 5 PM on Wednesday, September 1st. (Which happens to be the day the paperback version will be available in stores.)

Good luck!

Give Away! Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

I am giving away a brand shpankin’ new copy of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals.  Win it. Read it. Pass it on to people who NEED to read it.  To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post.  For an extra entry, find my tweet about this give away and retweet it, then mention that you did so in your comment!  The winner will be chosen with a random number generator at 5 p.m. on Wednesday November 25th. Bonne chance!

Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals


By now, you–being the reader of vegan blogs that you are–, have likely ready numerous posts about Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals.  I will try to keep my thoughts on the book relatively brief.

Foer’s book is a broad look at the debate over whether or not we should consume meat. It is not a manifesto against animal consumption, as some reviews might lead you to believe, but is actually more of a debate. It is not exhaustive in covering every case for or against vegetarianism; he focuses mainly on ethical and environmental issues but he does briefly go into health and human welfare (i.e. the deplorable conditions for slaughterhouse workers.)

I wouldn’t go so far as to agree with Erik Marcus who calls the book a masterpiece, but I do believe that this book is written in the best possible way to appeal to mainstream America on the issue of animal rights. Foer did not approach the topic as a hard-core vegan activist (and in fact Foer is just now transitioning from vegetarianism into veganism) and I think that gives him more credibility with an audience of meat-eaters. He gives room in the book, via entire first-person passages, to several people who believe that eating animals is ethical so long as we provide them with a good life before slaughter.  By doing so, Foer genuinely provides the reader with all sides of the story, making it a much more valuable resource than if this were merely a proclamation of the author’s beliefs.

A good portion of the book is dedicated to debating the merits of those who advocate animal welfare versus those who advocate animal rights. It is a compelling debate. We vegans would obviously prefer that, if animals are going to be murdered, they be treated humanely beforehand. But the question is, do we work with animal welfare advocates because their work could help improve the lives of animals, or do we oppose them because in the end they still believe killing animals is just?

I love love love that throughout the book, Foer takes every opportunity to point out the flaws in Michael Pollan’s arguments. I personally believe that Pollan is an idiot who chooses to selectively conduct research that will always produce conclusions that match his hypotheses. Michael Pollan likes eating meat and while he is an anti-factory farm activist, he chooses to ignore the many problems with eating “humanely-slaughtered” meat so that he can go on eating his pork chops guilt-free.  I give my kudos to anyone who exposes Pollan’s misinformed thinking so three cheers to Mr. Foer.

Foer’s two absolutes are that factory farming is inhumane and that it has atrocious effects on the environment. I hope Al Gore is listening when Foer states, “Most simply put, someone who regularly eats factory-farmed animal products cannot call himself an environmentalist without divorcing that word from its meaning.”  And I hope every reader pays attention when they hear, “No jokes here, and no turning away. Let’s say what we mean: animals are bled, skinned, and dismembered while conscious.”

I don’t eat animals, so I don’t have to go to bed feeling guilty about partaking in this cruelty, but what does keep me up at night is knowing how many intelligent, rational people will read facts like these in Eating Animals, and go right on eating meat at every meal. As Foer laments, “It’s always possible to wake someone from sleep, but no amount of noise will wake someone who is pretending to be asleep.”

Eating Animals is not the perfect animal rights guide, but I believe the facts and arguments it contains has the power to change the way a lot of people think about eating meat.  In a way, its measured approach might actually be the best way to reach a mainstream audience.  If you care about changing animal rights, go to a (local independent) bookstore, buy a copy, and pass it along to all your omnivore friends.


Click here for a great interview with Jonathan Safran Foer including questions on his looming veganism.

Foer will be making three appearances in the L.A. area this weekend.  One at a sold-out event at the Skirball Center, one at the Santa Monica Public Library and one at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena.  Click here for the nationwide tour schedule.


Exciting not-so-new news!

I dont know how I didn’t read about this earlier, but I am very excited about Jonothan Safran Foer’s new book Eating Animals. Foer is one of my favorite authors, having written the uber excellent Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and his new book sounds right up my alley. Eating Animals is a non-fiction work about Foer’s choice to be vegetarian. From the blurbs I’ve read it sounds like he visited factory farms as part of his research. One of my favorite authors is writing about my favorite issues! What could be better? I normally get all my books from the library but I already pre-ordered this one because I won’t be able to wait for the library processing time. Eating Animals comes out November 2nd. There’s a little more information here.

A Vegan Night with Jana Kohl and Rory Freedman

Holy cannoli! I have been M.I.A. for quite a while! No, contrary to popular belief, I have not been smuggling coke from Tijuana where I joined forces with the drug lords to bring down the Mexican government. No instead I have left the ranks of the gainfully unemployed and rejoined the work force. Readjusting to the working life has taken some time. Gone are the days of soaking up vitamin D while swinging around in my hammock all day and here are the days of driving east side to west side in rush hour. Oh well, at least I get free lunch again!

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a unique event hosted by First Tuesday Los Angeles. FTLA describes itself as “a women’s group dedicated to creating and sustaining a sense of community with like minded women through social connectivity, professional networking, and social service.” The theme of the group’s February meeting was animal rights and when I heard that Skinny Bitch author Rory Freedman would be there I signed up to attend right away!
The event was staged at a gorgeous home in Pacific Palisades and began with a vegan dinner catered by Great Taste Catering. The food was good, but to be perfectly honest, it was very Vegan Version 1.0. The menu included pesto asparagus, a very basic salad, an under seasoned wheatberry salad, some vegan cookies from Trader Joe’s, and a tofu dish that made me chuckle. This casserole was just so obviously made by someone who has no experience with tofu at all. It was whole blocks of tofu covered in tomato sauce, served with roasted potatoes. The tofu hadn’t been marinated at all, so you can imagine how plain it tasted.
With that said, everything was tasty and god knows I ate everything on my plate. It’s just a tad unfortunate that everyone probably left thinking that veggie food has to be bland. It probably would have been a better choice to have a vegan restaurant like Real Food Daily do the catering but everyone seemed to enjoy the food.
We all packed into the living room–there were probably about 50 ladies there–to hear from the night’s speakers. First up was Jana Kohl who wrote A Rare Breed of Love about her adventures with her three-legged pup Baby and their trek across the nation to promote pet adoption. Baby was rescued from a puppy mill and had to have her leg amputated because it deteriorated so much in the mill. As I am already vegan and an advocate of pet rescue, I didn’t really learn anything that I didn’t already know about the horrors of puppy mills and eating meat. But one thing Jana said that I was not aware of was that rescue groups that are based around one type of breed (like poodle rescues, lab rescues, etc.) sometimes buy dogs from puppy mills–which is good because it gets the dog out of that cruel environment, but it still lines the pockets of the puppy mill owners. The lesson there is to do your homework before adopting a pet. Here is a cute shot we got of Jana and her Baby:
And just for shits and giggles, here is one of Baby with Monsieur Obama!
Mama pajama I would KILL to get a picture of my Hayley (who, by the way, I adopted from an awesome rescue group in my old North Carolina, the BBCRA) with our awesome new prez. In the meantime I’ll have to settle for this shot of Hayley with The Food Monster.
Next up was Rory Freedman. I have talked about how much I liked her Skinny Bitch before. I forced my lovely boss Canada to read it at work one day and I suspect it was major factor in her becoming a pescatarian this year. Anywho, Rory was great. She started by admitting that choosing such a sassy title for her book was a total ploy to make people read a book about animal cruelty. Again, I didn’t hear anything I didn’t already know, but it was obvious that most of the people there were hearing about cruel farming practices for the first time. She ended the night by asking everyone to do a 30 day veg pledge. The April First Tuesday meeting is also going to be vegetarian because hopefully a lot of members will be trying to take meat out of their diets for at least a month! Here’s a shot of Rory and I at the end of the night.
I had a great time and met a ton of really cool girls. I definitely recommend checking out both Jana and Rory’s books and if you want to hear all about First Tuesday’s many events, check out the site!

Animal, Vegetable, Meanie

I recently picked up Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The book follows Kingsolver’s family’s year of eating as strict locavores–they farmed a lot of their own food and sought to obtain all other food items from sources less than 100 miles away from their home. I enjoyed the book but was highly perturbed by Kingsolver’s attitude towards veganism. She describes vegans by relating a story of she and her daughter reading about a vegan starlet in a gossip magazine. She basically equates all vegans with moronic, superficial, stereotypical Hollywood types. Her argument is that it’s crazy for the celebrity (or any vegan) to expound the advantages of a vegan diet and the benefit to animals while buying products such as tofu that are shipped from god knows where and wrapped in loads of packaging, thereby having a big ecological footprint.

She also provides all the scientific evidence that humans are not designed to consume milk after infancy and completely acknowledges the adverse health affects of eating dairy (According to a Cornell study, between 30 and 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant), and then proceeds to describe the great lengths she goes to to make her own dairy products that her lactose-intolerant-self can stomach. Of course it is her prerogative to knowingly consume something that she knows her own body rejects. It’s also my perogative to find it irritating when someone is educated about an issue and doesn’t have a proportional, sensible response. It’s kind of like if you knew John McCain was terrible but voted for him anyway.

I cannot fathom how Kingsolver, who is so conscious of the major environmental and social impacts of what we eat, someone who went to such extremes as to be a complete locavore–which is not an easy task in the slightest–could fail to acknowledge the environmental and social benefits of veganism. This uninformed view of the vegan diet really bothered me and made it very difficult to relate to the book’s main message.

A few days after I finished the book, I got to thinking. I realized that, although I’m still annoyed by Kingsolver’s vegan stereotyping, she actually has a point. I thought about all the vegan products I buy like tofu, tempeh, canned soups, soy ice cream, et cetera and started thinking about the fuel and packaging they require to be shipped from wherever the product originated (which I’m sure in most cases is nowhere near my L.A) So I have made a conscious decision to, from now on, be as local of an eater as possible. I have stopped buying all the pre-made meals that I have relied on from Trader Joe’s and I am ready to start eating seasonally, even if that means I can’t have my beloved watermelon year round. Our world is in dire straights and it is simply irresponsible to blindly contribute to our own demise.

Ok this is sounding a little intense for my happy vegan blog. I know I won’t be able to stay totally locavore–there are gonna be times when I’m working long hours and just need to nuke some veggie patties for dinner. But I am making a conscious effort to get all my produce from the farmer’s market and to never ever buy those fruits and veggies at TJ’s that come in tons of totally unnecessary plastic packaging.

On my first trip to the farmer’s market after returning from Michigan, I was thrilled to find these yellow bell tomatoes. I really don’t like eating regular raw tomatoes, but for whatever reason I can eat these little yellow suckers like candy. I was first turned on to them when our on-set caterer had them one day at the salad bar. They advised me how best to prepare them: slice them in half, splash them with red wine vinegar, some olive oil, salt, and pepper. I could eat a whole carton of these babies for a meal.

Unfortunately, I haven’t seen these at the market since, so I guess I’ll have to wait until next summer to have another heavenly bowl! I’m ok with that–it’s getting to be root vegetable season and potatoes will hold me over until next year. Hopefully the return of the yellow bell tomatoes will coincide with the Dodger’s pre-season so I can bring them to the stadium for a snack. Oh my Dodgers…so close, so close. But I sense that 2009 is our year!