Eating vegan in the South Caucasus: pastry from Luca Polare, and tofu from Picasso!  »

I went to Tbilisi last weekend; it’s a pretty all-right city. Maybe if my semester of “volunteering” here in Georgia hadn’t totally burned me out, I’d appreciate it more, but never mind my bad attitude. If you’re ever in the area (ha), definitely spend a few days in Tbilisi. The people-watching is amazing, and if the weather’s nice I highly recommend drinking some cheap beer in a park. If you act extra-ridiculous, the police officers will applaud you.

This is vegan apple strudel from a gelato cafe called Luca Polare in old Tbilisi (34 Leselidze St.). It’s adorable. They had two vegan items in their case, and I bought them both and shared them with a bunch of my omnivore pals later; they loved them too. It’s good to get confirmation from disinterested parties, as being deprived of vegan cuisine for so long can make you believe everything you’re eating is the best thing ever.

This is (most of) a cherry tart. Isn’t it the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? The filling was quite delicious. I took these pictures with a Blackberry, because I left my actual camera’s USB cord at home! I’m forgetful! We’re lucky I remembered to photograph these little treats at all before they were devoured, frankly. Lots of drinking in Georgia! It’s the birthplace of wine!

And bonus! Two reviews in one. More vegan food in Georgia, freaks!


It’s “doufu” from a Chinese restaurant in Tbilisi! Nearly all of us from the February 15 volunteer group met up for one last time together in Georgia (awwwww) and on Friday night we ate at this Chinese place—I believe it’s Picasso—that had like four tofu dishes in its “vegetables” section. AMAZING. Two of my friends and I split three dishes, and one of them was this tofu and it was so good, oh man. Those green things are totally cucumbers! There were also peanuts! Everyone at the table who tried it was totally envious of us and our bean curd, which was the first I’ve had since February 12, oh I miss it so much you guys.

[Thanks to Gina Catallo for the photo!]


Vegan travels: eating Mexican food in the South Caucasus!  »

I’ve been living in the Kakheti region of (the country of) Georgia since late February of this year, and though there’s plenty to eat, it’s rarely “foreign” and it’s never explicitly vegan. Well, once I walked by a gelato place in Tbilisi whose sign said (in English) “Coming soon, vegan ice cream!” but that was in March and I haven’t been able to check it out since.

Some of my friends had spoken of a Mexican restaurant in Sighnaghi (სიღნაღი)* called Pancho Villa, saying that not only was it good, it had vegetarian options, as in “fake meat in your burrito” vegetarian options, so of course I had to go. For Vegansaurus, and for myself.

Sighnaghi is the City of Love, for reasons unexplained by the country of Georgia. It is also really small and cute and on a bunch of hills with terrible cobblestone-esque streets that trip you like they were designed to cause maximum ankle damage.

I was not feeling much like beans when we went, so I ordered the “fajitas,” and also a margarita despite its being super-expensive because you know who loves tequila? ME.

Here, “fajitas.”

It came with a basket of fresh warm tortillas! And tasted a little bit like really Americanized Chinese food! Which was weird! Like, there was no cumin or chili powder or anything in the spice mix, mostly a lot of hot pepper flakes, and the nationally mandated gallon of oil. But you know what? Still good. I wanted it to be better, but after four months without a single soy product, it made me happy.

The restaurant is pretty adorable, too; painted up all “Mexican” with blankets and sombreros and (prints of) photos of Pancho Villa on the walls. The view was typically spectacular. Maybe my experience was soured by the 90 minutes I spent smashed into the back of a taxi to get there. Georgia is a small country, but because the public transportation is almost all minibuses and taxis, getting places can be a serious hassle and take a really long time. It’s smaller in theory. I miss home.

My gorgeous, delicious, lemony margarita. The rim of the glass was salted and spiced!

If you ever find yourself in Georgia—let me know if you’d like to! I’m helpful!—and you’re tired of potatoes and bread and vegetables called like tchintchris (nettles) or jonjoli (pickled elderberry leaves? I will eat any vegetable)—because every vegetable wears out its welcome, let me tell you—maybe go to Pancho Villa and eat some vegan Georgian Mexican. Sighnaghi is adorable, anyway.

*I know another alphabet! Those “gh”s are pronounced like “rh.”


Humans: selfish, murderous, totally gross  »

Hearst Castle (one of the most beautiful places in California!) has zebras on its grounds. They’re descendants of the original zebras that comprised part of ol’ William Randolph’s enormous private zoo during his castle-dwelling years, and they’ve been there for over 80 years.

Occasionally the zebras wander off the 128-acre property, which two did last Wednesday, Jan. 5. Usually, according to current ranch owner Stephen Hearst, when someone finds a zebra somewhere it doesn’t belong, the finder calls him up to fetch them home. These particular zebras must have been of the carnivorous variety, however, because a cattle rancher called David Fiscalini shot both of them about as soon as he noticed them on his land. The zebras “spooked his horses,” you see, which gave him “the right” to just kill them. Even better, after murdering the lost zebras, he took their bodies to a taxidermist and had them skinned and tanned. The taxidermist, naturally, obliged, and now David Fiscalini has himself a lovely zebra-skin rug. Charming!

Humans are seriously the best sentient beings to ever have a thought. In Las Vegas, tiger-collectors Siegfried and Roy have a Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat in which visitors can gawk at “white lions, white tigers, panthers, leopards, and [Siegfried and Roy’s] family of Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins.” What are all these animals doing in the city of neon lights? Living it up in “serenity,” duh. Dolphins love “extreme temperature changes, from extreme cold (snow flurries) to extreme arid, dry conditions and pollution from a nearby highway.” The constant sound means they’re never bored! And only, what, 13 have died so far, that’s like a baker’s dozen, barely even counts. Especially when you can pay $4,000 plus $125 to throw a party “with” the dolphins and tigers! That’s eminently reasonable, certainly no reason to sign’s petition to get rid of this “exotic, enchanting and wondrous world.” It just sounds so great!

If we’re not doing things, let’s not stop shooting at super-endangered whooping cranes. They might spook the horses! Or look remarkably like chupacabras from far away! Whatever seems best in the moment, you with the gun; you’re the king of the world.

[zebras by marlin harms; whooping cranes by DaseinDesign]


One-person trend stories: Depression 2.0 Americans love them some squirrel!  »

A reporter in the BBC Washington, D.C. office ran into a dude from Georgia who hunts squirrel, and the next thing you know, squirrel is “the perfect austerity dish.” Ms. Katie Connolly, one presumes, must’ve been really hard up for a story to have posted this piece of crap journalism.

You can hear "Dueling Banjos" in the background as soon as the article starts. Connolly uses standard BBC diction except when directly describing her subject “outdoor enthusiast” William Hovey Smith. His family has lived and hunted the “critters” in Georgia since the 18th century—less frequently, one presumes, during the years it was a cotton plantation, but today it’s “an ideal hunting ground.” Delightful! Smith takes Connolly on a hunt, where she learns he even has a “‘faithful hound’” to bring his kills back to him.

Maybe, Connolly acknowledges, some people might find eating squirrel a little icky, but Smith says it’s been an American tradition since “the early settlers…cleared the virgin forests for agriculture in the 1700s.” No, really. And because there are so many squirrels shooting and stewing them “raises fewer of the ethical and environmental questions that industrially farmed meats do.” You guys, guilt-free meat! Why aren’t we making squirrel-fur hats and whatever, like the nutria?

What am I saying—we probably are, or at least, one person in the country is; it’s just that no one’s told us about it yet.*

*Unless both these trends were totally invented by foreign journalists making fun of poor Southern Americans and their plantation-owning, rodent-eating ways. Considering how nonsensical these ideas are—“Feed your family on a dozen squirrels a day!” “Nutria: the bayou’s foe is your dinnerplate’s friend!”—don’t you think it’s likely someone’s playing a gross practical joke on the poor and backwoodsy?

[headline theme; photo by Vicki’s Nature]


Operation Second Chance: Dogs behind bars!   »

Is that not an awesome mental image? Just some rad female pit bulls in a Caged Heat 3000-type movie? No? OK, well here’s something even better!

In Kwame Anthony Appiah’s excellent Washington Post piece, “What will future generations condemn us for?" he said that our children’s children would be ashamed not only of factory farming, but also of our current prison system. We couldn’t agree more, and we’ve got an example of one place that’s putting a Band-Aid on the gash that is our fucked "correctional facilities." Woohoo!

Karmalized Pictures is an eco-friendly, vegetarian film company—awesome in itself, but then their name also makes me think of caramelized onions, which makes me happy! Good job, guys!—that has put out a film called Jail Dogs in 1C about Operation Second Chance. Operation Second Chance is an excellent program created and run by the Society of Humane Friends of Georgia and the Gwinnett County, Ga., Sheriff’s Office. It pairs death-row doggies with carefully selected inmates at the county jail, allowing them to give back to their community while still incarcerated. Dogs helping prisoners helping dogs. So wonderful.

(This is Jake and his trainer Reed; they’re best buddies now!)

The dogs live with the men 24/7 while the inmates are training them. This helps the dogs learn social skills, making them more adoptable, and teaches the men valuable skills and responsibility. It’s also been changing a lot of lives. Some of the men are learning to love someone for the first time and others say that these dogs have really raised their self-esteem and make them feel that they are worth something. You can’t put a price on that!

It’s also delightful to know that Gwinnett County Sherriff Butch Conway not only pushed to institute this Operation Second Chance, but has been a proponent of it for many years. It’s nice to see a sheriff who recognizes the value in rehabilitation, rather than focusing on punishment! Just all-around awesome good times. My only issue with the program is that they don’t seem to involve the female inmates. Is there even a women’s jail in Gwinnett county? Google? What’s THAT? Who’s he? Anyway, I bet since it’s so successful they’ll expand and include rehab for ladies, too.

(That’s Rex! We’re told “he’s one happy dog and everyone loves him!”)

For more information about the program, visit the Society of Humane Friends or Operation Second Chance websites.

[can’t see the video? watch it at!]

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