Interview! Rory Freedman on her new book, Beg: A Radical New Way of Regarding Animals »
New York Times bestselling author Rory Freedman is a living legend in the animal rights/vegan world. After launching a revolution with her Skinny Bitch and Skinny Bastard series, Rory Freedman has continued to work tirelessly to promote animal rights issues in Los Angeles and worldwide. The charismatic animal rights champion and kind-hearted dog mom took time out of her hectic book tour schedule to discuss her wonderful and unique new book, Beg: A Radical New Way of Regarding Animals (Running Press).
Vegansaurus: I loved the book! I read it overnight and was really impressed by the depth and feeling you’ve put into this work. How do you consider Beg to be different for readers who may be familiar with the Skinny Bitch series?
Rory Freedman: I think that the good news for fans of Skinny Bitch is it’s the same heart that drove me to write Skinny Bitch that had me writing Beg. I had a spiritual transformation while writing this book, and I’m no longer swearing. The good news is the book is still funny and deep in the way Skinny Bitch is. This language is a lot gentler, for people who might have been offended. Funny.
What inspired you to write Beg?
In Skinny Bitch, I found thousands of people whose lives had been changed and now went vegan. I thought great—now what? Great, these people now know about the animal issues, but will they understand about rodeos, zoos, circuses, animal testing, and other things that cause deaths and misery and torture of millions of animals per year? I thought that people were primed and would get it, so I think it’s a natural follow up for Skinny Bitch. Skinny Bitch is really a vegan manifesto cloaked in a diet book. I wanted to write this book once and for all to document everything that happens to animals.
What can animal lovers learn from Beg?
Researching and writing this book was an important part of my transition from a regular-human animal lover to more aware animal lover. It is about learning each of the ways we can do better for animals. As much as I knew about things in broad strokes, as an animal lover and vegan, I had to ensure details were correct and accurate. It’s always eye-opening to think about things that go on so easily and are so pervasive.
Even still, a lot of people who are dog and cat lovers don’t understand what happens in order for animals to look a certain way we’ve deemed appropriate for breeds. Tail docking and ear cropping, which I discuss in Beg, are examples of this. I didn’t know about this as a child or as a younger adult. Then one day when I was 30 I met a dog that opened my eyes to this. I grew up with a mini schnauzer, and when I was 30 I met a schnauzer that was strange—it had bigger ears than the childhood dog I knew. I didn’t know some had bigger ears, but it turned out they all have bigger ears naturally, it’s just that some when puppy breeders will have the dogs’ ears chopped off or tails dropped off. I stood there astounded when I found this out. I didn’t know what they were talking about. Doberman pinschers normally have floppy ears, but they covet that mean, agressive look in breeders. That will come as a shock to animal lovers.
What are some animal activism tips that might surprise Vegansaurus readers?
I’ve had a transition that’s been happening lately and gradually over many years as an activist and vegan. It’s evolving so I’m becoming a better activist. I am still as passionate, but I am feeling more diplomatic. I’m allowing this journey for many people to come from where they are now from where we’re hoping they’ll end up. Animals are suffering each day. I’m really getting that everyone is on their path and I have to love and accept everyone while on this work, and allow that people will find their own way. By the grace of God I found vegetarianism, animal activism, and veganism when I did. It doesn’t say anything about me. It just works out the way it did. I have to allow that it will be by the grace of God for others to find their own path. It is important to take action while also being loving. The most attractive thing we can be as activists is loving.
The author with her three dogs
Vegetarians and animal lovers often love seeing animals in films and in cute Internet videos/websites. You discuss animals and entertainment at lengh in your book. Care to elaborate?
We’re always being accused of anthropomorphizing animals, of giving animals human qualities we don’t have. Sometimes they’re wrong. We just understand that animals feel pain, like humans do, but as moviegoers, some might be confused when we see a chimp that seems like he or she is smiling in a movie or TV commercial. Chimps don’t smile in the wild. It was something that was new to me when speaking to primatologist while doing research for the book. Chimps have what’s known as a “fear grimace.” Even though it looks like a smile because it seems like our own, they’re actually scared because in the wild when chimps are frightened, they grimace. They don’t do it when they’re happy. There is also no way to provide for them in entertainment the way mother nature could. We can’t provide for their unique needs. We’ve seen time and time again that movie sets are dangerous for animals.
Some of my friends want to adopt pigs (myself included). You have a pretty intense section about pigs and what happens to them on factory farms. Have you ever considered adopting a rescue pig, and how easy is it to adopt?
I’ve never been asked that. Adopting a pig has crossed my mind, but not in my adult years as someone in the animal rights movement. I’ve had dogs now for 12 years. It’s such a big responsibility, it’s so all-encompassing, I can’t imagine adding to my brood right now. I can see the temptation. They’re darling animals. They are so smart and individualistic. I can imagine having one would be great fun and it’d be beautiful for anyone who is committed to taking care of one.
What is the “Beg for Change” campaign?
The Beg for Change Challenge Campaign is an exciting way to get people involved, for vegans and activists and “normies.” You can hashtag #BegForChange and/or share a picture of your adopted dog. You can brush your dog and share a pic after you’ve bushed him or her, you can tag a photo of their pile of hair. Then, we can notice leather or animal skins, and use social media to document what we notice. If you spend 15 minutes on peta.org, you can tell the world what you see that is shocking. You can watch “What skin are you in?” and share your experience. This starts off easy to get people involved and becomes more interesting, challenging, and eye-opening, and activists can spread the world.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us, Rory! Thank you for putting this great book out there.
To learn more about Beg and get involved with the Beg for Change Challenge campaign, check out Rory’s website.
Book review: Scott Jurek’s “Eat & Run” Plus, run with Scott today! »
This dude running with his dog is Scott Jurek. Scott Jurek could basically kick your ass any day of the week, including days where he hasn’t slept the night before, has a broken ankle, and already ran 75 miles. See, Scott is an ultramarathoner, which means he’ll run a marathon as a warmup, then run another one, then figure that the race is just getting started. He’ll run over mountains and through lightning storms and never stop. “Hallucinations and vomiting, to me and my fellow ultrarunners,” he says, “are like grass stains to Little Leaguers.” Shit yeah, that shit’s for real. Oh yeah, by the way, just in passing, he’s vegan, and has been essentially the whole time he’s been doing this. (!!!!)
Scott, you’re my new hero, I love you! Thank you for writing this book so we can all learn about how amazing you are!
Scott’s publisher sent me a copy of Eat & Run and I was like, “Hey, I kinda like running, I’ll check that out,” despite David Foster Wallace having brilliantly explained, athlete memoirs are pretty much guaranteed to suck. I was prepared to read two pages, tell y’all the book existed, and move on.
Except the book is good! I kept wanting to read it! I read two chapters out loud in the car and my husband wanted me to keep going, even though I was gonna puke because the road got curvy! (See, right there, you can tell I’m not an ultra-athlete: I avoid things that make me puke). I wanted to read the book so much that I almost posted this review too late because I wanted to finish it first!
Too late for what, you ask? FOR YOUR CHANCE TO MEET SCOTT JUREK!
Wednesday, June 13 (that’s today!!) in San Francisco:
- 7 to 8 p.m.: Fun run with Scott at Fleet Feet San Francisco, 2076 Chestnut St.
- 8 to 9 p.m.: Eat & Run Experience with Scott at Fleet Feet
Check out his full calendar of events; he’s in L.A. soon, and San Diego, and he’s even coming to Colorado a couple times, though on days I can’t be there, BUMMER.
Even if you’re not a runner, you should totally go meet this dude. He’s just amazing. And inspiring. I literally got off the couch after reading this book for two hours, put on my shoes, and set off into the sweltering heat the weekend before last, because Scott made me want to.
Oh, one other thing about his book? It’s got recipes. Here’s one that’s also on his website. I haven’t tried any of them, but even if they suck I’m still gonna love him.
Green Power Pre-Workout Drink
Hippie Dan first taught me the importance of greens like spirulina and wheatgrass. Spirulina is a green algae said to have been carried into battle by Aztec warriors. Used for centuries as a weight-loss aid and immune-booster, it has lately been studied and shown promising results as a performance enhancer for long-distance runners. Because spirulina is marketed as a dietary supplement rather than a food, the FDA does not regulate its production; buy it only from a health food store and a brand you trust.
Packed with protein (spirulina is a complete protein) and rich in vitamins and minerals, this smoothie is an excellent source of nutrition. For a little extra carbohydrate boost, replace 1 cup water with 1 cup apple or grape juice.
1 cup frozen or fresh mango or pineapple chunks
4 cups water
2 teaspoons spirulina powder
1 teaspoon miso
Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend for one to two minutes, until the mixture is completely smooth. Drink 20 to 30 ounces (2 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups) 15 to 45 minutes before a run.
Cookbook Reviews by Rachel: Love Soup »
This cookbook changed my life. Well, at least my cooking. The recipes in Anna Thomas’* 2009 Love Soup not only make dishes so good you’d sell your babies to eat more of them, but they demonstrate techniques and strategies that can make all your cooking better. It’s been one of my main go-to cookbooks for nearly three years. Even if you think you’re not into soup, this book will change your mind.
Case in point: the Roasted Turnip and Winter Squash soup I made the other night (those are roasted pine nuts floating in there; Thomas is big on garnishes). As usual, the recipe calls for roasting the key veggies before pureeing them into liquid ecstasy. Stellar trick! Everything tastes better roasted! This soup is divine!
This photo sucks because I took it with my iPad while eating leftovers in my cubicle. These soups don’t stick around long enough for pro-looking photography, pshaw.
Another trick she often recommends is to slowly brown onions until they’re caramelized and savory. This is so reliably delicious that I pretty much sneer now at any recipe with onions that doesn’t have you do this. Translucent, schmanslucent.
Roasting veggies, browning onions, and otherwise coddling your top-quality ingredients does take a while though, which why this is neither a weeknight nor a beginner book. But it’ll take your cooking to a new level without requiring you to go all kitchen-wench, either. Usually her extra steps (and the extra dishes to clean) are totally worth the effort and well explained. She might even convince you it’s worth making your own stock (it is).
All the Love soups are vegetarian. The majority are vegan and labeled as such; many more of them are a snap to adapt (leave out a garnish, or replace milk or butter).
Thomas organizes the recipes by season and relies mainly on what you should be able to get at the farmer’s market that time of year. That strategy makes the book especially useful to, say, someone with a CSA share in Berkeley. So often I’d get a veggie box and wonder, “What can I do with celery root, turnips, and leeks?” or whatever, and Thomas would have the perfect recipe using that exact combo of seasonal ingredients.
This book is best if you own an immersion blender. It’ll probably make you want to buy one. And a stock pot. And a CSA share. And you’ll want to move to California, though my mother in D.C. loves this book even more than I do, so that’s not actually a requirement.
Some family favorites: Caramelized Cabbage Soup (my mom has served this at Christmas dinner), French Lentil Stew with Roasted Carrot and Mint (to die for), and the cohort of Green Soups that involve pureeing things like kale, spinach, and chard (my husband is obsessed).
The non-soup recipes are less spectacular; I’ve made some of her breads, but that’s not her strong suit.
Final Verdict: A fantastic staple for the kitchen library.
Overall Rating: A
Level of difficulty: Intermediate
Best for: Any home cook willing to put a couple hours into making something bomber, especially those who like cooking seasonally.
*For those of you following along at home, why yes indeed, that is the same Anna Thomas who wrote The Vegetarian Epicure back in the olden days. Ten bonus points for you!
Cookbook Reviews by Rachel: Big Vegan »
This is the first installment in a regular series in which Rachel gets opinionated about cookbooks both classic and new. If you’ve got one you’d like to see her cover, hit her up at rachel [at] zurer [dot] com.
Chapter 1: Eh
There’s a new vegan cookbook in town and it’s enormous. But as your mom always says, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, size isn’t everything, don’t judge a book by it’s cover, and get your elbows off the table (what?).
Case in point: Even though Robin Asbell’s Big Vegan is so full of intriguing recipes that I ran out of room for my little slivers of post-it notes, when the olive oil hits the skillet, the book doesn’t always deliver. Asbell’s instructions sometimes feel wrong, other times arbitrary, and don’t leave you with a sense you’re in good hands, despite her creativity.
Chapter 2: In Which We Get Deep
As Descartes once inquired, “What’s the point of a cookbook?” Or maybe that was Plato. Anyway, the question is even more important now, with the interwebs bursting with free recipes and people trying to sell you special kitchen-friendly iPad cases. Why pay for dead trees?*
One word: relationships.
A cookbook is more than just a collection of ingredients and instructions. Like an art gallery or record label (remember those?), a cookbook curates the vast world of possibilities according to a certain sensibility. Find an author whose taste you like (HAHAHA PUN!), and it’s like finding a foodie best friend.**
Except cookbooks go beyond curating. They also teach. And as sappy Hollywood flicks have proven time and again, good teaching matters. A good teacher sets clear goals and articulates the rules. A good teacher anticipates challenges and gives you the tools to meet them.
A good teacher is someone you trust.
Chapter 3: What smells like burnt fish?
I got a free copy of Big Vegan from Chronicle Books in September, and worked hard to test it as much as possible before writing this review. Some stuff, with minor modifications, came out great, like the version of “Lemony White Beans with Fresh Rosemary Vinagrette” I posted for Vegan MoFo and that both Meave and I found orgasmic.
I also used Asbell’s recipe for Avocado-Lime Cupcakes as the basis of my entry to the Denver Avocado Takedown. The Jamaican Tofu Chowder with Collards made a hearty addition to a soup potluck, and the Veggie Sandwich Loaves (bread with veggies baked into it) was definitely GOOD. And I should know, I’ve been baking bread like mad lately.
But here’s the thing: If I weren’t already an experienced cook, the book would have definitely led me astray. The Tofu Chowder recipe had me put the collard greens in at the end and cook them for just 10 minutes. I thus ended up with tough, icky collards.
The Crispy Sesame Kale was divine (KALE CHIPS!!), but the recipe told me to discard the kale stems. Seriously? You can’t give me a hint as to what to do with those besides throwing them away? (Hint: Put them in stock, or chop them up and add them to stir fries. For example.)
The Veggie Loaf called for “bread machine yeast”, with no explanation of why or what that was — I couldn’t find it at 3 stores, and finally used normal yeast, while ignore Asbell’s rising times, with good results.
Worst offense: The “Millter, Ginger, and Edamame One-Pot” called for adding a sheet of nori, “toasted and shredded” at the end. No further instructions. I put a sheet of nori in toaster oven. It caught fire. I put it in for less long. My husband walked in and asked, “What smells like burnt fish?” Against my better judgement, I added it to the food (trying to really TEST this, you know?). ICK. The dish was decent otherwise, but picking out shreds of nori made it way less fun.
Chapter 4: The Bottom Line
Other pros I should mention: A whole chapter on grilling (though I didn’t manage to try any); recipes for cultured vegan cheese (still on my to-try list); the paperback has flap at the front and back that are great for saving your page. On the flip side: The majority of the recipes are beyond-weeknight complicated, and many use ingredients I don’t tend to have on hand (shao xing rice wine? Kitchen Bouquet? semolina flour?). Very few photos.
Final verdict: This is a book I’ll keep using, but it’s not a kitchen staple, and I don’t trust it.
Overall Rating: B
Level of Difficulty: Intermediate/Expert
Best for: Experienced cooks looking for a challenge and wanting to expand their repertoires.
*That phrase is going to be outdated as soon as someone invents the iTunes of cookbooks and it’s worth it to buy these books digitally. But I’m sticking with it for now.
**Maybe “guru” is a better term for it, since the admiration only runs one way (as much as I like to pretend Isa’s my new BFF because I follow her on Twitter).
Book review: The Vampire and the Vegan, Book l: Food »
Jeez, it’s like I’m in grade school all over again with my book report, but without all the blacking out and forgetting to breathe due to a very real fear of public speaking. Fuck, just talking in general is sometimes too much for me to handle. Fortunately for me, my social anxiety meds come over the counter in the somewhat inexpensive form of
PBR vitamins and exercise.
All right, let’s do this so I can get back to
watching Twilight VERY IMPORTANT other things I have to do! The Vampire and the Vegan is by first-time novelist Merlene Alicia Vassall. Her writing style is fast-paced and easy to read, yet she is a writer that spoon-feeds! I always get the impression authors who do this have no faith in their readers to remember any details, so they must keep repeating themselves over and over and over again. I dislike it immensely. I WANT STRONG CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT! I WANT MYSTERY!
The Vampire and the Vegan takes place in Washington, D.C., through the eyes of a vampire named Pearl. I wish I could give you some background into her character, but there isn’t much. It seems her (undead?) life revolves around her dinners, which consist of men hoping to get lucky with her. Pearl chooses her victims based on their “necromantic energy,” which lingers in their bodies from the animals that they eat—the more horrifying and hideous the death/slaughter of the meat consumed, the more appealing the energy is to her. Pearl can actually visualize, while feeding on these men, the deaths of the animals they have eaten in their lifetime. This is where Vassell shines as a writer, illustrating in very descriptive terms the inhumane and terrifying ways that factory-farmed animals (even a lobster in a tank) are treated and killed. When it comes to veganism, Vassell can intellectualize it! Unfortunately, that makes parts of this book read more like a “Why Vegan?” pamphlet than a novel.
When Pearl meets her neighbor Salaam, he invites her up to his apartment to share his Thai take-out, which happens to be…VEGAN! She begrudgingly joins him, all the time wondering why she doesn’t want to make him dinner, but—OH! his body isn’t saturated with the “necromantic energy” she so craves. Tofu just doesn’t do it for her—I get it Pearl, I’m a seitan girl myself.
Soon enough, Pearl and Salaam become friends, as Pearl lives a very lonely, isolated life. Salaam begins to teach her everything there is to know about being vegan! She feels so guilty as she keeps consuming human animals!
This book got pretty good reviews on Amazon, and from watching this video featuring Vassar, I have to admit I like her. I just don’t think horror/fiction is the right genre for her. The book is not scary, not funny, the sexy times are neither hot nor sexy (maybe because the term “making love” totally freaks me out), the characters are pretty one-dimensional and there is NO VAMPIRE LORE, traditional or made-up (Stephanie Meyer, I’m talking about you and your “vegetarian” vampires). Vassar’s background is in grant-writing, and I feel it shows in her writing style. She’s excellent at addressing the hows and whys surrounding veganism—describing the slaughters, espousing nutritional information and explaining how to live the lifestyle. Unfortunately, she falls short at transforming and flowing that knowledge into a work of fiction.
Even though I didn’t particularly like this book, I still want to applaud Vassel for finding a new and creative way of addressing and promoting veganism. According to most of the reviews on Amazon, her readers want to stop consuming as much meat, even abstain altogether. That, my friends, is a job well done! Admittedly, when I’m drunk on
PBR the wonders of vitamins and exercise, I do things like judge a book by its title. In this case I was hoping for a work of camp-filled horror or lust, ideally BOTH. I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve seen every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, more than once (culty, not campy—yo, I know my horror genres). Don’t take my word for it, I’ve got an R. Patz calendar hanging by my bed. (My bed covered in Twilight sheets from Hot Topic! JK, I have no idea if Hot Topic carries Twilight sheets. I’m also not almost 30 and sleep in a twin bed. Covered in Edward Cullen sheets.)
Vegansaurus got a hold of this book for free. I don’t know how, Laura sent it to me. If you are a single, hot male I will give you my addy as well. J/K, I’m holding out for Robert Pattinson.
Book Review: Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows »
As I vegan, I know very well why I love dogs, don’t eat pigs and don’t wear cows. I would just as easily adopt a nice pig or sheep or cow if it could fit in my tiny NYC apartment. But for those of us who ever wondered how it became OK for some to live this way—to choose to eat one kind of animal and not another—there’s Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows by Melanie Joy, Ph.D. In her book, Melanie sheds light on a belief system she calls carnism, which allows us to select which animals become our meat (not us, but those other idiots who eat meat), and how it is sustained by complex psychological and social mechanisms. She compares carnism to other “isms” such as racism and sexism, saying that it is most harmful when unrecognized and unacknowledged.
Unlike other books that explain why we shouldn’t eat meat, hers explains why people do and how we can make more informed choices as citizens and consumers (i.e., not eating meat!). It was this reverse-psychological aspect of the book that made me really enjoy it. Dr. Joy explains that we have been conditioned to act and feel a certain way toward animals, and different kinds of animals at that—hence the title. She touches on different aspects of carnism, explaining not only how meat is a harmful ”mythology,” but also how it can be destructive to our bodies. In addition to the really smart narrative, the book contains resources like websites, movies and books for those looking to further explore veganism and animal rights. This one will be going on my shelf right in between Diet for a New America and Face on Your Place. That is, after I pass it along to all my non-vegan friends.
[image via Cute Overload]
Book Review: The Better World Shopping Guide »
The other day, Laura and I were shopping for tomato sauce or something. We ended up spending a ridiculous amount of time researching various organic brands on our phones to see who owned them, and weighing the consequences of our purchase. Rainbow Grocery, where we were (and where there is terrible phone reception—is the building lined with lead?) used to have some kind of chart displayed that showed this information, but it seems not anymore.
What we needed was this! The Better World Shopping Guide is a super-convenient, pocket-sized handbook, which ranks brands with grades from A to F, according to their performance in terms of human rights, environmental sustainability, and animal protection. The content is organized into categories, covering everything from airlines to wine. A lot of vegan brands are included, as well. Under meat alternatives, for instance, we discover that Tofurkey wins a B+, while Gardenburger gets only a C, and Boca scores a dismal F (they’re owned by Kraft). I was heartened to learn that all my favorite beers earned a B+ or higher, while Guinness and Red Stripe, two beers I know offhand aren’t vegan, were both down near the bottom with a D (ha!). I’m sure a lot of this is information that many people already know, but it’s nice to have that assurance in your pocket.
Where the book falls short is that it’s merely a quick reference guide. There is no real info as to why each company earned the ranking they did. That data is starting to become available on the website’s research page. In the meantime you have the assurance that “data is collected over the past 20 years from a wide range of nonprofit sources on the social and environmental responsibility of more than 1,000 companies.”
In addition to the book, all of the content is readily available on the website. There is also an iPhone app available! It’s $1.99, and makes getting the info that much more convenient and very swanky.
I give this book an A+*!
* [Ed.: ADORABLE].
Guest post: Book review: Vegan Brunch! »
Apparently Laura was too busy “working” on more “important” things like “making the world a better place” this weekend to come to my birthday brunch. Okay, I guess that’s fair. But as Isa Chandra Moskowitz asserts in her dedication page of her new cookbook Vegan Brunch, “Scrambled tofu saves lives!” So I was doing my part as well in testing out a few recipes from the book.
I had already learned that when invited to a vegan potluck brunch, inexperienced omnivores will bring fruit—they don’t know what we crazy vegans can eat for breakfast! So I needed to wow them with some savory dishes.
Diner Home Fries (pg. 177) did the trick. It’s a good solid potato dish that may not be fancy, but it’s the perfect anchor to any good brunch. I upped the “wow” factor with Sauteed Collards and Spinach (pg. 143) complete with homemade Italian Feast Sausages (pg. 140).
The sausages were my favorite part, as you feel a little bit like a mad scientist or magician creating them. I recommend making them the night before, as it’s a bit of a time investment. I won’t give the recipe away [Vegansaurus respects copyright laws!], but it involves vital wheat gluten and all kinds of spices. You form your dough into mildly obscene sausage shapes, wrap them in foil, and steam.
When they’re done, slice them up, fry them in oil, and serve with mixed with greens or potatoes. Or, just gobble them up as is, by the fistful.
The overall fan favorite dish was the Pesto Scrambled Tofu with Grape Tomatoes (pg. 26); but then, it’s really hard to go wrong with fresh basil.
Vegan Brunch has no shortage of sweet dishes as well. If I hadn’t run out of pans, I would have also made the Brazilian French Toast (pg. 102), which sounds contradictory, but looks amazing. And there are so many waffle recipes I’m thinking of investing in an iron.
Vegan Brunch is worth it for the food porn alone, and the recipes are solid with some old favorites, and inspired new ideas. Next up I want to try the Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes (pg. 132)!