Happy holidays from Brianna and her hot latkes!
A Vegan in Central Europe: One week in the Holy Land! »
December 17 marked the end of my four months living in Prague (sad face), but marked the beginning of a cool weeklong journey to Israel. While all of my friends heading back to the states were dealing with this load of bullshit, I was flying almost worry-free to the Middle East. What do I think about this paradise? Yeah, lots of tension, especially in Jerusalem, but some of the BEST FUCKING FOOD YOU WILL EVER TASTE. If you ever make the trek, you need to try some authentic Middle Eastern yum-food. Some key phrases: Ani tivoni (“I’m vegan”); blee beitzim, khalavi, kharvi (“without eggs, milk, meat”).
If you make it to Jerusalem, you will probably hang out on Ben Yehuda, or at the Shuk, which means you’ll be within spitting distance of a Moshiko. BEST FALAFEL EVER. The ironic thing about eating vegan in Israel is that you’re best off going to a place with meat, because then you know that all of the veg accoutrements are parve, i.e., without dairy. You can ask about eggs with yesh beitzim? If you’re vegetarian (boo), you can probably find some good dairy eateries in the mostly kosher city. In the lovely bad boy pictured, you got the delicious fried falafel, hummus, red cabbage, tahini, spicy-ass-muhfuckin-sauce, and salat. SO FUCKING YUMMY, and it costs like ₪14 ($3.88 U.S.).
Haifa, an ancient sea port, also has much by way of delicious dining. I made it to Café Louise (the sign of the place is in Hebrew), an organically minded café in the Mount Carmel area of Haifa, very close to the Baha’i Gardens on the 23 bus. Pictured is their Indian-style sandwich, filled with roasted parsnips, yam, and cauliflower with tamari-tahini sauce, and a side-salad with balsamic dressing. The total: ₪45 ($12.50 U.S.). I also got a yummy shake made with melon, mango, coconut, soy, and originally honey—d’vash in Hebrew, so say blee d’vash for “without honey”—but they were able to substitute maple syrup in for me. It was Uhhh-mayzing with a capital U. Damn, those Israelis know how to make a good shake.
Probably my favorite city was Tel Aviv. My first time stepping into the Mediterranean was so pleasant; in December, the water is still warm enough to walk through, and the weather was about 70 F—beats the 20 F/snowing/icy in Prague! I recommend is the Dizengof and Ben Gurion instersection, accessible by the 5 bus from the new bus station. There, you’ll see a smoothie shack on the corner (YUMMMM). Go a few stores west on Dizengoff and you’ll get to this amazing all-hummus place. ALL HUMMUS. JUST HUMMUS AND PITA. They put paprika, olive oil, whole chickpeas, tahini, and lemon salt in mine, topped off with some cut parsley, for ₪22 ($6) including unlimited pita. While I couldn’t finish the whole plate for fear of exploding, I definitely got my fill. And it felt great. Sort of. Back to the shake-shack thing: YOU NEED TO GO. They have these places all over, and their shakes are entirely fruit-based and yummy as shit. I tried the coconut/pineapple/banana mix and the pineapple/banana/orange mix, and they were both awesomeasfuck. And vegan as fuck, too.
Another food-related note, regarding Israel in general. Pictured to the right is a shuk, or market. They have these in almost every major city, and they’re all great. This one is the shuk in Jerusalem; you will definitely go there if you ever visit the city. They have stalls filled with the freshest vegetables and fruits all grown locally (Israel doesn’t import for the most part), dried fruits and nuts, small coffee places, yummy juice places where you can get yummy aforementioned shakes, and even ceramic artist collectives. This is where you can attempt to haggle, taste everything you see—mostly—and experience mayhem like you’ve never experienced before. I’ve heard it gets especially crazy on Friday mornings when everyone’s trying to get their shopping done before Shabbat.
[Hebrew translations and all photos by Brianna!]
GIVE! Vegansaurus’ favorite charitable organizations »
Your Vegansaurus loves giving! Especially with the internet, it is as easy to give money to an organization doing awesome work that you can’t do as it is to buy a bunch of hot-stuff underpants (for example. Nothing’s on my mind!), and really, do you need fancy new things more than people need to learn to read, or elderly animals need rescue and support? OF COURSE NOT, YOU MONSTERS.
In between the Christmas-present-buying and cookie-inhaling, let’s get spirit-of-the-season-y and donate to some extremely worthy charities. Charities don’t care whether you celebrate a religious holiday in December! They want your money, maybe your time, nothing else. So, as we finally put an end to 2010, annus horribilis, Vegansaurus offers you a short list of charities we especially love.
We each chose one local and one inter/national group, which was difficult! They all accept monetary donations online; all you have to do is choose an amount and your method of payment, and BAM, you’ve helped. Give $10, give $100, whatever you can—it’s so easy and so wonderful, and it makes you feel like $10 million.
My mom is on the board of directors for this wonderful organization called Haven Hills that provides immediate shelter for victims of domestic violence as well as longer-term transitional housing programs, a 24-hour hotline, counseling, etc. It’s something that both my mother and I really believe in, and since the financial crisis the organization has been struggling a lot and unfortunately might have to cut back on some services. It’s located in Los Angeles. Donate here.
In Defense of Animals is an animal welfare advocacy organization that campaigns against animal cruelty worldwide. One of their causes that is especially close to my heart is their marine conservation campaign against the senseless dolphin slaughter in Japan. You may recognize this conservationist effort as the impetus behind the “controversial”/mind-blowing movie The Cove. Currently, all donations up to $100,00 made here will be matched. Otherwise, donate here.
Home At Last Animal Rescue is a local animal-rescue that rescues animals from shelters where they’re likely to be euthanized. That means that they have a lot of older animals or ones with behavior problems. My husband and I adopted our dear problem cat, Lucy, from Home At Last, and they were a pleasure to work with. Lucy, who is so shy she spent her first month with us hiding under our bathtub, only emerging when we were asleep, needed someone to advocate for her and make sure she got a loving home, and Home At Last did that for her. I know I’m grateful! Donate here.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund do great work. They are a group of lawyers, legal professionals, law students, and volunteers who use the law to improve animals’—and animal activists’—lives. Some examples of the good work the ALDF has done includes filing a petition to prevent the permit renewal of a truck stop that kept a live tiger in inhumane conditions; filing a suit against BP to prevent the burning of live sea turtles as part of the BP spill clean-up efforts; petitioning the Department of Transportation to require airlines to report on the deaths of companion animals who fly as cargo; providing scholarships and internship opportunities to law students interested in animal law; and filing countless legal briefs in cases involving animal cruelty or the unfair prosecution of animal rights activists. Donate here.
The Southern Poverty Law Center basically uses legal jujitsu to fight for everything good and against everything bad, and are super effective. basically, they go into areas where it’s still all mississippi burning (figuratively and literally) and attempt to set shit straight. Also, they’re matching donations up to $800,000 through the end of the year, so do it up! Donate here.
There are lots of really great rescued farm animal sanctuaries to choose from but this year, Harvest Home Sanctuary will get my dough. They’re superheroes; I can’t believe how much they do with so little. Plus, it’s in Stockton, so it’s close enough to visit and cuddle those cute-ass animals! Donate here.
The Women’s Community Clinic in San Francisco offers what is perhaps the Holy Grail: free health care for uninsured women delivered by a team of fantastic female practitioners. They focus on gynecological health but also have acupuncture and counseling for you hippies and sad girls. Donate here.
I know there’s controversy about micro-loans, but personally I think it’s a great idea and I love lending money to small businesses in developing nations through Kiva. It takes a very small amount to become a lender—the minimum is $25—and it’s so rewarding to get reports of how the business is doing. Some vegan suggestions: A Cambodian lady grows soybeans and produces tofu; an Ecuadorean man grows cocoa beans; a Lebanese man runs a coffee shop; a group of eight Ugandan people sell bananas. Find a partner here.
I nominate Save A Bunny: you know I love a bun! They’re local, so their ambassadors get to go to all the awesome events, like VegFest, which is where I petted my first rabbit. Like cats and dogs, rabbits have unique personalities and make wonderful companion animals; like cats and dogs, rabbits are very frequently impulse-bought and quickly abandoned, making them the third most frequently euthanized animals at shelters. SaveABunny rescues rabbits from death rows all over the Bay and places them in loving homes. If you can’t adopt me a bunny for Christmas, help out some of their biggest supporters. Donate here.
Room to Read works in developing countries—so far, seven countries in Southeast Asia, and two in southern Africa—to establish libraries, and publish children’s books by local writers and illustrators in their local languages. They build schools, and focus especially on helping girls successfully complete secondary education. Vegansaurus: we love animals, food, and literacy. Reading is the best! And all kids deserve access to great books. Donate Here.
Founded in SF in 2002 by author Dave Eggers and educator Nínive Calegari, 826 Valencia (the name AND the address!) is a nonprofit program that helps kids with writing! Writing is very important! Plus, San Francisco’s 826, the OG, has a Pirate Supply Store! ARRRR you paying with cash or credit? (Ha!) I know 826 is super-awesome because it is my friend Lizzy’s favorite charity and Lizzy is a genius and probably our future ambassador to China. I wish I was kidding! Lizzy, come home! The program has proven very popular and now there are 826s in eight different cites, so we can donate on the national level, or locally in San Francisco and New York.
I like Born Free USA because I HATE circuses and I LOVE elephants! The circus abuses elephants who are the super-sweetest, awesomest animals ever. They are family animals but the circus takes the babies when they are just two years old; in the wild, they aren’t even weaned until they’re four to six years old, but the younger they are, the easier they are to bully and beat into submission. You can read more about how great elephants are and how they shouldn’t be held in captivity in my previous posts here, here and here. Donate to the elephant defense fund or the organization in general; I’ll be happy with either!
We give money out of love, guilt, hope, terror, habit—not for recognition or praise, of course. We love you if you give $1 to one place, $50 to all of these organizations, and if you’re just too broke, send this link to all your friends and family with money to spare. Add your own favorite charities to this list in the comments! Thank you for being caring, thoughtful activists. We’d cover all of you with baby animals and delicious vegan baked goods if we could. And kisses, big wet grateful kisses. Happy winter holidays, everyone!
[photo by Lawrence OP!]
A Vegan in Central Europe: Thanksgiving in London! »
Visiting London over my Thanksgiving break was awesome thrice over: my cousin lives in London, so I got to spend a lovely Thanksgiving with family, despite the fact that I’ve been living 5,000+ miles away from home; I got to eat hella vegan food; and I saw items in the produce section of Whole Foods (!!!!) that I honestly forgot existed—Prague grocery stores carry tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and potatoes; kale? fuhgeddaboudit. Japanese eggplant? nowai. Fresh herbs if you’re lucky. While I have a shitty camera, and didn’t keep it with me the whole time, I still managed to take some photos of the damned good food I ate.
For Thanksgiving, I went to Manna with my cousin for the Thanksgiving special. For £27 per person, we got one of the yummiest dinners ever. It started off with a cranberry cordial aperitif, which my cousin and I fucking devoured the hell out of despite neither of us being cranberry fanatics. I was expecting it to taste like old grandma, but it was really refreshing and I downed it quicker than I should have, I’m sure. The first course was a pumpkin soup with rosemary spelt foccacia. I love pumpkin with rosemary, so I was a little let down when my bread ran out and the soup tasted bland in comparison. Then was the wilted spinach salad with walnuts and pomegranate in an apple-cider vinaigrette. Can I just say they know how to make salad dressing? I could have guzzled that shit by the gallon. I could have drained all of the blood from my body and replaced it with apple cider vinaigrette. I don’t know what they put in that other than apple cider vinegar and oil, but they know what the fuck they’re doing, lemme tell you what. The main course (pictured) was an herbed tempeh roast with wild mushroom gravy, garlic mashed potatoes, sauteed green beans, and stuffing. I, in general, fucking hate mushrooms. The mere fact that I ate everything on this plate, including the gravy, was a fucking feat in and of itself. Licked our damn plates clean, we did.
The last—and most impressive—course was the warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream. You can’t tell how delicious the ice cream is from here, but it should officially be renamed to “buttercream” flavor or something; they did NOT wimp out on the rich vanilla. I was so impressed with the texture I asked them what it was made out of, I was sure it was cashews. The manager/owner assured me that no, it was soy. SOY! Who knew?!?!?! She then gave me a sample of their truffles and petits fours ON THE HOUSE. Because we were chatting about the awesomeness of Booja Booja and she liked me, I guess. I got SO fat that night, and left the chocolate gift till breakfast the next morning.
I also had a chance to go to the posh and happenin’ Mildred’s restaurant in Soho. It was too hip and expensive for me, so naturally I pigged out shamelessly. By myself. In the midst of this bustling restaurant that reminded me a lot of Angelica Kitchen in NYC, without the wholesomeness. To the left, you’ll see my starter. It was grilled artichoke with crostini, some basil-soy dipping sauce, and a small green salad (it cost £5.50, not too bad for a starter). I think this was better than what I got for the main course, to be honest; maybe because in my opinion artichokes are the best vegetables of all time and goddamned it all to hell if the Czech Republic needs to get on that shit and zomg you must order this dish if you go to London. My second course (below) was basically this Middle Eastern creation with a harissa sauce on the side, a cupful of almond-scented couscous, and a chickpea-eggplant stew, served with some crispy-ass pita (£8.50 if I remember correctly). It was a real winner, but I think they put too much coriander in it or something.
Also on the list of amazing places to go in London is the pricey but delectable all-vegetarian Italian/Mediterranean restaurant Amico Bio. All I can say is that they really celebrate the vegetables they use, and don’t dress them up that much. It’s perfect. I started with a zuppa di fave secce e brocolli de rapa (£5.50), then had the seitan scallopini on a bed of the most delicious sauteed spinach I have ever had the pleasure of eating (£8), with a side of sauteed kale (could have left this one after all, for £2.80) and finished off with frittele de mele con salsa al ciocollato (£5). The last dish, the fried apple pastry, had the same aroma as every fried pastry that lures you in with its smell but you know isn’t vegan so you cry a lot, but they’re vegan here. GO. Also, go to Pho. I thought the pho I got from Loving Hut here in Prague was baller; clearly I was mistaken. The place is hella cheap, I think £7 for the tofu-mushroom—again, I managed the dish with the mushrooms, it was THAT GOOD.
Lastly, MAKE IT OUT TO THE GREENWICH MARKETS TO TRY SOME FUCKING VEGAN CUPCAKES. This is a picture of me devouring the hell out of a vegan chocolate chip cupcake I got from Ms. Cupcake (£2 each and I bought four). It was one of three that I ate; my cousin was the lucky recipient of the fourth. I ate the Ferrero Rocher-style cupcake as well as a banana cream one, in addition to the chocolate chip one here. I don’t wanna toot my own horn, but I make some fucking amazing cupcakes, and Ms Cupcake here makes them better than me. I know, impossible, right?! BUT SHE IS THAT GOOD. GO HERE PLEASE GET FAT FOR ME. Also, Ms. Cupcake, if you’re reading this, can you move to NYC or LA for me pretty please?!
My last suggestion: if you should find yourself in Camden Town, which you will, go to Inspiral Lounge. I went there and ate some HELLA amazing lavender ice cream AND had a pint of beer with it. They also have free internet for you to use, and even a computer if you’re a weary traveler like yours truly.
Happy Thanksgiving from Manna in London! I had a chance to nosh on this delicious apple pie with a side of vanilla ice cream (though the ice cream was so rich and flavorful I think it’s more of a vanilla buttercream ice cream… positively the best scoop of my life!).