Artisan cheesemakers: Don’t hold us to FDA standards! A little listeriosis is fine!  »

It’s the retort of many a locavore/slow-foodie: “But I only eat meat/dairy/eggs from small, usually local producers who produce it ethically and safely.” There are a million reasons that that isn’t true, but most of them take a long time to explain, and people won’t agree with you anyway, so I’m happy (sort of) to report that today, finally, we can just say, “oh yeah?”

As it turns out, “small, local, artisan” food is no guarantee of either quality, safety, or a caring producer, looking out for his/her customers. The New York Times ran an article the other day about the Estrella Family Creamery, and their defiance of the FDA. The people at Estrella make artisan cheese. They make it in relatively small batches, and then (sustainably, one assumes) ship it all over the U.S. to snooty restaurants where people who really care pay lots of money for it, eat it, and feel superior—before they start to feel sick.

You see, in February 2010, F.D.A. inspectors found listeria in Estrella’s cheese, and all over the building where the cheese is produced and aged, including in the humidifier that blows air all over the production and aging area. Gross. Kelli Estrella, owner and principal cheesemaker at Estrella, recalled some cheese and cleaned the production facility. Later, follow-up tests by the F.D.A. showed there was still listeria in Estrella cheese. Listeriosis causes fever and muscle aches and vomiting. Nausea and diarrhea are less common symptoms. If the infection spreads to the nervous system it can cause meningitis, an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord. It can also cause miscarriages.

This time, though, Kelli Estrella’s fighting back. She refuses to throw out the contaminated cheese, saying essentially that regulators should go after bigger operations and leave small producers like hers alone—despite, apparently, the fact that her small operation has now twice tested positive for a bacteria that can cause serious illnesses. It turns out this kind of entitled attitude is pretty common among artisan cheesemakers, which isn’t all that surprising considering that it’s also pretty common for them to fail their inspections. In the last year, nine small cheesemakers have had to recall their products due to contamination. From the Times:

“If the F.D.A. wanted to shut down the U.S. artisan cheese industry, all they’d have to do is do this environmental surveillance and the odds of finding a pathogen would be pretty great,” said Catherine W. Donnelly, co-director of the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese of the University of Vermont, referring to the listeria testing at cheese plants.

So, wait, WHAT? Artisan cheesemakers think they should be exempt from the standards imposed on all other producers, even as they admit that most artisan cheese is probably contaminated with something gross? How does that make any sense at all? Yeah, yeah, you’re all raw-milk crusaders, and we should be allowed to put whatever the damn hell we want in our mouths, and blah, blah, blah, but come on! You are really fighting for your down-home, small-batch right to sell a product that you know is contaminated with a dangerous bacteria?

OK, small, artisan cheesemakers, let me tell you about how food contamination works. I’m not a microbiologist, but I’ve taken a food safety class and had a whole glass of wine, so I think I’m qualified, particularly given how you guys all apparently interpret it. First, bacteria doesn’t give a shit whether you are a faceless corporation or a chock-full-o-personality-and-gumption artisan. Second, bacteria doesn’t give a shit if your customers are wealthier foodie assholes as opposed to poorer, food-desert nomads; they will get EQUALLY SICK—though I suppose you could argue that your rich foodie customers probably have more money for doctors and so are less likely to die from the listeriosis they contract from your artisan cheese. Third, bacterial contamination (particularly by bacteria that causes fever, vomiting, and MISCARRIAGES) is bad! It’s not folksy or character-building. It’s bad! It’s also gross! In sum, artisan cheesemakers, your failing inspection grades are neither government persecution nor badges of honor. Food safety regulations are important because it’s important to NOT KILL PEOPLE WHO EAT YOUR FOOD.

Reading this whinefest made me wonder how many other “artisan” food producers think they should be exempted from food safety regulations. I’d sure think twice before putting that “small batch” brie in my mouth.


Happy Thanksgiving from Kathryn and her chocolate-pumpkin bread pudding! This recipe came from the New York Times' veg Thanksgiving series.

Happy Thanksgiving from Kathryn and her chocolate-pumpkin bread pudding! This recipe came from the New York Times' veg Thanksgiving series.


The New York Times presents a veg Thanksgiving!  »

Check it out cuz, the New York Times' Well blog is doing an entire vegetarian Thanksgiving series. Huzzah! There are lots of vegan recipes and many vegetarian recipes that could easily be converted, like the orange-scented sweet potato and fruit gratin above, just switch out the honey! They have one post with some awesome recipes from Chloe Coscarelli, the vegan chef that totally dominated Cupcake Wars, including a recipe for chocolate-pumpkin bread pudding: GIVE IT TO ME. I’m not sure what god looks like but I imagine it’s pretty close to chocolate-pumpkin bread pudding. Otherwise, what’s all the fuss about?

[Photo from the New York Times]


Dairy Management using tax dollars to sell you cheese!  »

Dairy Management, essentially the marketing arm of the USDA, has had one purpose since its creation in 1995: to get everyone to buy more dairy products! According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times, Dairy Management has been helping with and paying for the marketing of cheesy foods since 1997. Apparently, “if every pizza included one more ounce of cheese, we would sell an additional 250 million pounds of cheese annually.”

Most recently, Dairy Management consultants met with Domino’s Pizza “to develop a new line of pizzas with 40 percent more cheese.” Dairy Management also paid $12 million for the marketing. What $12 million? Our $12 million, citizens! Who do you think funds the government? Yeah, we’re collectively paying for the “Got Milk?” campaign, too.

“Clinical studies show that people on a reduced-calorie diet who consume three servings of milk, cheese or yogurt each day can lose significantly more weight and more body fat than those who just cut calories.” Do you remember hearing that? It came from a study commissioned by Dairy Management that turned out to have no basis in reality. Yes, it was a lie! A lie perpetrated by an arm of the government! For four years these ads ran, until the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine challenged the study in 2005 and got the Federal Trade Commission to finally pay attention and suspend the campaign in 2007 “pending additional research.”

Please read the rest of the article—you will love all the fun techniques Dairy Management uses to turn us buffoons into cheese-devouring zombies, and just how much more cheese the country has been eating since Dairy Management’s inception (hint: a whole lot!).

Should you ever find yourself craving an eight-cheese pizza—like the new “Wisconsin” by Domino’s, with two cheeses in the crust and six on the top—your Vegansaurus would like to remind you of all the vegan alternatives available today. For this generic melting dairy cheese that Dairy Management tries daily to shove down your throat, there are equally delicious vegan analogs without the taint of the dairy industry, obscenely high levels of fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, and no one is sneakily marketing it to you.

Vegan cheese; it’s basically good for you! OK that’s a lie, but it definitely won’t kill you tomorrow.


When it comes to Michael Pollan take-downs, Adam Merberg is truly the champion  »

Sometimes your Vegansaurus feels like the only sane Michael Pollan critic in the world—we try to exercise restraint, but can you blame us? It’s Michael Pollan, one of our sworn enemies! Who can be calm around a sworn enemy?

Happily, we are not alone: our internet-pal Adam Merberg has an entire site dedicated to Michael Pollan’s hypocrisy, inaccuracy, and general bad attitude, particularly toward vegans, as Adam is both clever and vegan—and has extra time on his hands, we’re not entirely sure but the point is Say What, Michael Pollan? fills a niche vegans and vegetarians were dying for.*

Adam’s most recent post addresses Pollan’s most recent piece for the New York Times Magazine, a 4,000-word feature on a 36-hour dinner party with his family and a few of his chef and baker friends ["well, one of my homes”] and their families, and just how amazing and wonderful it is to eat good, local food prepared by talented local food professionals, not to mention the local wine, oh isn’t my life the most? We cooked in an outdoor oven that’s really a hole in the ground, it was such a “primitive…cooking device” just like they use in the Mediterranean, O glorious!

Beg pardon; we cannot, do not, will not help ourselves. Adam, taking a studied and serious approach, draws more interesting conclusions:

"To reconcile Pollan’s published accounts of his own diet with his advocacy for eating ‘mostly plants,’ it is helpful to consider something he said in a CBC interview in June:

For better or worse, we’ve democratized meat-eating. Meat-eating is something that was a special occasion in most households for many years….The poor got very little animal protein. So one of the nice things about industrial meat production is it makes this human desire—because it is a widespread human desire—something that even the poor could satisfy, and if we eat meat more responsibly, you know, it is going to be less democratic.

"Putting everything together, the underlying message seems to be something like this:

We need to move to a system of meat production that I consider acceptable. That’s going to make meat more expensive, so you are going to have to start eating mostly plants. I, on the other hand, have so much money that I don’t need to have even a single animal-free meal.

"Happily, those of us who don’t make as much money as Pollan don’t have to miss out on the carnivory altogether, as Pollan has thoughtfully shared his account of  the dinner party in a prominent publication. Maybe we can’t afford to buy good meat, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have the privilege of reading about two accomplished chefs ‘giving the baron and the saddle a deep-tissue massage…and then wrapping them in a beautiful white lace of caul fat.’"

We strongly suggest—no, we REQUIRE, Vegansaurus requires you to read Adam’s entire post, and then read all the rest of Say What, Michael Pollan?, and subscribe to it in your feed reader so you never miss another soundly reasoned argument against Michael Pollan’s anointment as the Savior of Eating Habits, or whatever.

*or at least this vegan; I really can’t stand that guy.


Opinionator vs. opinionated: swing and a miss, Jeff McMahan  »

The New York Times Opinionator blog asks: Why should we have carnivorous animals? Your Vegansaurus considered the question, and, of course, had something to say about it.

Certainly we shouldn’t have carnivorous people; our big evolved brains learned ethics, and we’re past thinking of animals of commodity or property. We want to do as little harm to animals as possible, including preserving their lives and their land. But how how can we say that and then say that we want to genetically modify carnivores to evolve into herbivores? A strong argument against eating animals is that it takes away the animals’ choice to live or die—genetic modification of carnivores would deny them a choice as well.

I understand the concept of wanting to protect herbivorous animals, to create a peaceful world, to eliminate violence. But it makes me uncomfortable to meddle with animals’ genetic makeup. You can give your dog exclusively vegan food, but your dog will still want to eat basically everything, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. It’s much more disgusting to feed chickens grain and cow brains. It’s much more offensive to pump cows full of rBST. Even simpler, it’s fucking disgusting to have bred eating-animals to obscenely large sizes, sometimes, like turkeys, so big that they can’t even walk. That’s genetic meddling, and it’s gross.

Favoring one species over another is another one of our pro-vegan arguments—specifically, up with humans, down with every other animal. It’s still speciesism to actively work to create herbivores out of carnivores. We’re not “better” than other animals; we’re better able to reason, and act against our instincts, so we choose to live cruelty-free. We have to maintain perspective, though. We’re oughtn’t go all Margaret Sanger on the animals. No, nature isn’t fair or kind, but hasn’t humanity already done enough to mess with the Earth?

We appreciate Jeff McMahan’s messages of anti-violence and veganism. That’s about it, though.


Harvest Home Sanctuary has a great blog post up about Tracy, an ex-battery hen. It’s touching in the crying into your keyboard type way. But also inspirational and makes you want to get really upset about shit and change things. I dunno…read it. While you’re at it, Nicholas “is that a toupé?” Kristof has a great piece up in the New York Times about abolishing battery cages. The mainstream heat behind this is building; I hope the momentum keeps up. I want a rallying cry behind the abolition of battery cages that rivals, “DONNA! MARTIN! GRADUATES!” (Happy 90210 Day, btw!). Any ideas???

Harvest Home Sanctuary has a great blog post up about Tracy, an ex-battery hen. It’s touching in the crying into your keyboard type way. But also inspirational and makes you want to get really upset about shit and change things. I dunno…read it. While you’re at it, Nicholas “is that a toupé?” Kristof has a great piece up in the New York Times about abolishing battery cages. The mainstream heat behind this is building; I hope the momentum keeps up. I want a rallying cry behind the abolition of battery cages that rivals, “DONNA! MARTIN! GRADUATES!” (Happy 90210 Day, btw!). Any ideas???


Does this article make me look like an asshole?  »

Even though Chelsea Clinton’s wedding wasn’t as vegan as it was made out to be, it was vegan enough to prompt the New York Times to tackle the pressing social issue of vegetarian weddings; specifically, whether or not a vegan or vegetarian bride should serve meat at her wedding. Not to miss an opportunity to add their reasoned opinions to this important discourse, both Gawker (The Vegan Wedding Article the NYT Doesn’t Want You to Read) and Jezebel (Is It Selfish to Throw a Vegan Wedding) followed suit. Oh goody—I can smell the bullshit from here.

First up, The Times. In what is the most reasonable article, The Times actually doesn’t say much beyond giving a few examples of vegan/vegetarian (or half-vegan/-vegetarian) couples who have either had or not had meat at their weddings, and then thoughtfully relating the story of one poor soul forced to endure a vegetarian wedding back in 1999 (which he is still talking about—can we say first-world problems?). Thankfully, this mensch was able to sneak out and find a chicken parmesan sandwich mid-reception, so he didn’t wither away and die. What a trooper! Unfortunately, the experience scarred him so much that he’s still sore about it 11 years later. Isn’t that just like vegans—forcing you to eat their stupid vegetables and then refusing to foot the bill when you have to spend the next decade dealing with your PTSD in therapy!

Next up, Gawker. Oh, Gawker. First they say vegans are a good lay because we’re, um, “sinewy”? And then they say that the food “dilemmas” that inevitably occur when vegans get married are boring (and then write an article about them). A couple things come to mind: 1) Those dilemmas pretty much ONLY come from butt-hurt meat-eaters who can’t handle eating a single veggie meal; 2) “Sinewy”? Yeah, I guess I don’t expect much better from Gawker on the topic of veganism, but still. Couldn’t they at least be snarky in a way that makes some sense? I’m the one who’s supposed to have the B-12-deficient brain fog, amirite?

Finally, Jezebel. Jezebel thoughtfully posits whether or not having a vegan wedding is selfish. Hmmm. What a good question! Let me riddle you this, Jez: is it selfish to have a feminist wedding? I mean, why would you impose your kooky beliefs on your wedding guests who spent ALL this time showing up for the free food and booze? HOW INCONSIDERATE THAT YOU EXPECT THAT THE GUESTS AT THE WEDDING YOU’RE PAYING FOR TO RESPECT ONE OF YOUR DEEPEST-HELD BELIEFS! Jesus fucking Christ! So it’s okay to ask/demand that folks refrain from imposing their gender-role fuckery on your wedding, but it’s totally selfish and unrealistic to serve vegan food. Ooooo-kay.

Maybe I’m not the best person to be writing about this, as while I am married, I have little tolerance for weddings (mine was 10 minutes long at city hall; the bride wore Levi’s). I don’t really see why it’s so hard for the vegans getting married to lay down the fucking law and tell people what’s what in the same way all couples tell people what the dress code is or where to sit, and I don’t see why it is apparently such an offense to ask a meat-eater to eat a single vegan meal. Are all meat-eaters such huge whiny babies, or just the ones who write/comment on the The Times, Gawker, and Jezebel? Do their moms still cut the crusts off their bread for them? What do they do when the vending machine is out of their favorite beef jerky? How the fuck do they survive when they are only able to function when every single thing in the universe is perfectly tailored to their preferences?

In the end, I know these kinds of articles are cheap comment/page-view grabs by blogs/publications that should be able to do better but usually don’t bother to. I know that responding to these kind of cheap blood-pressure-raisers doesn’t really do much except probably garner me a few more uptight comments (hi, commenters!), but whatever. Vegans, go forth and have vegan weddings. Fuck the haters, and make ‘em eat broccoli. The New York Times will see them in 11 years for their story.


Well I say! It’s time for the adorability and tragedy of this week’s link-o-rama!  »

BUNNIES BUNNIES BUNNIES! Adopt yourself a bunny from the East Bay SPCA—4651 Gleason Dr. in Dublin—at tomorrow’s Adopt-a-Rabbit Day, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.! Five different rescue groups will have rabbits there for you to fall in love with, because rabbits are like cats for a dog-person: they’re super-cute and loving, but also neat and tidy, and they like to have time for themselves, and when they tire of your adoration they will just hop away, but their displays of affection are ridiculously exuberant. You guys if I don’t get to adopt a rabbit soon I WILL EXPLODE WITH YEARNING. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Back to the matter at hand: please contact Anne with questions.

Did you know that Mission Mission features adoptable animals of the SF SPCA every Friday? This week’s future-best-pals are Shortstop and Sassy!

Super-duper vegan-friendly events!
Tomorrow’s Beehive Market is having a free ice cream social, featuring Scream Sorbet and Rocket Ship Vegan Ice Cream! Get over there sometime between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. because missing free ice cream would be SO STUPID, goodness.

OK, it’d be cool to miss it if you were attending Animal Place’s Barn Warming, instead! It runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at AP’s new facility (600 acres!) in Grass Valley; you can meet the animals, shop at the Compassionate Marketplace, turn your children—should you have any—loose in the Kids’ Corner, and buy a vegan lunch for $5. You cannot bring your own food or animals, however. Details and driving directions here.

Hello, Bijou the bunny! What’s that? You’re available for adoption at tomorrow’s Adopt-a-Bunny event at the East Bay SPCA? My word!

Vegan-pertinent articles for perusal
The FDA released a set of guidelines on the use of antibiotics in eatin’ animals this week; unfortunately (and as usual), they’re late to the party, fucking weak, and only offering them for “comment,” anyway, because the FDA is ineffectual. KQED addressed the subject on Forum as well, though the conversation mostly gave me the angries. Do you think, with only four companies controlling THE ENTIRE MEAT MARKET—and becoming bigger conglomerates daily—that they are going to change any of their business practices without being forced?

Well at least the state of Ohio isn’t totally rotten: the Humane Society made a deal with Governor Ted Strickland to implement a number of the demands that were moving toward becoming a ballot measure (like our Prop. 2 in 2008) in November, which HSUS will put on hold while the state phases out veal crates and gestation crates, and bans things like strangling farm animals and transporting downer cows for slaughter. More details here.

What’s new in the ocean (besides the great big fucking oil spill, coverage of which by The Rachel Maddow Show has been quite good, incidentally)? They’ve got magic-science salmon soooo close to FDA approval. These fish have been genetically engineered to “grow to market size in 16 to 18 months” instead of the usual three years! HOORAY! Other magic-science water-breathers include Paul the octopus, who lives in Oberhausen, Germany; described by Der Spiegel as “cuddly,” Paul is nationally adored for his “ability” to “predict” Germany’s World Cup wins. Nothing in that sentence was a lie. Now, would you like to cement your hatred of SeaWorld, and keeping orcas in captivity? Read this article about Tilikum in Outside magazine; it’s unbelievably heartbreaking (also, enraging).

Clementine, you darling! Are you looking to get adopted as well? Any time between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., at 4651 Gleason Dr. in Dublin? You got it!

It’s summer, and that means composting! Seattle now requires all takeout containers and cutlery to be compostable, and Serious Eats has an at-home composting guide. Seems simple enough, really. Plus it’s good to try to reduce your garbage, considering our obscene carbon footprint.

It’s summer, and that means eating (kidding, every season means eating, duh)! Jeremy Fox will include charcuterie—with an ear- and skin-focus!—with his “plant-based” cuisine at Plum when it opens in September. GROSS and BOO. Spice Kit opened in the FiDi and looks to have decent veg options; Mission Chinese Food is open and is offering (apparently) four vegan options, plus THEY DELIVER, OH MAN; the Village Voice even did a little roundup of delicious NYC-area veg dishes.

Miss Tisha! Is it true that people can bring their rabbits for introductions to potential new best friends at Adopt-a-Bunny day as well? And the East Bay SPCA is offering free bunny nail trims, too? How wonderful! [all photos courtesy East Bay SPCA]

Hey the Richmond, would you like your own farmer’s market? Richmond District Greens is working hard to set that up—help your neighbors and everyone wins! Fun fact: part of the Richmond used to be known as Beer Town, and it was quite wicked.

Our own Sarah E. Brown was on the radio, discussing veganism, the Tree of Life, the Healing Patch, and your Vegansaurus! We’re the famous-est, you guys.


I’m totally jazzed about this video of David Rothenberg and crew jamming to the smooth sounds of humpback whale songs (that was my radio disk jockey impersonation! Genius idea: I could be a radio disk jockey for Halloween! That way I could stay home and send a radio to the costume party in my place)! There’s an interesting interview with Rothenberg, a professor who "explores the world of interspecies music," over on the New York Times' Dot Earth blog. When I say interesting, I mean it was short enough so even I could finish it. They talk about the different issues surrounding whaling. Rothenberg stays pretty lame diplomatic on the subject. He makes some good points about the need to navigate cultural differences in the matter.

There was one statement that sounded particularly odd to me: “No one NEEDS to eat [whale meat], but it is possible to eat such things and also love them and want to save them. That’s part of the paradox of being a human being.” Is that really possible? It sounds less possible and more ridiculous than an alligator barbershop quartet. I’m not trying to take a hard line on this but loving something and eating it? That’s kind of a totally perverse idea and it just makes me think of cannibals and zombies.

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