Homeless kids and animals take care of each other in Philly!  »

Warning: tearjerker!

[Can’t see the video? Watch it on!]

How clucking sweet are the pictures in that video?! I just found out about this awesome organization Hand 2 Paw in Philly that gets homeless kids to work in animal shelters. It’s mutually beneficial! The animals get much-needed attention and the benefits to the kids are numerous. For one thing, the unconditional love of an animal can be very therapeutic, especially for a kid who maybe never received a lot of love. Also, the most difficult thing about getting a first job is not having work experience. In a shelter, there are all kinds of opportunities to learn about office work, management and general operational skills.

Go here to see how you can help! They are always looking for supplies. You can also “like” them on Facebook to show your support and keep up to date with the organization’s goings-on.


The End Dogfighting campaign: the HSUS helps ex-dogfighters with education and looooove   »

Stereotypically, your Vegansaurus loves public radio. We also love dogs, DUH, and pit bulls particularly. Today’s Morning Edition returned that love hundredfold, with a story about personal and canine redemption.

The End Dogfighting campaign began in Chicago in 2006, expanded to Atlanta in 2008, and has just begun in Philadelphia. It “recruits former dogfighters and young, at-risk pit bull owners to take weekly training classes with their pets.” And you know what happens when people take their dogs to quality training classes on a regular basis? MAGIC—or, you know, the humans and animals develop mutual respect and love. According to Chicago program leader Tio Hardiman, “there’s a connection between fighting pit bulls and struggling to live in a violent society…. [K]eeping guys out of the world of dogfighting is good for them, their dogs, their families and the rest of the community.”

They also say that Michael Vick’s “testimony” about his former dogfighting exploits is really helpful, as he shares a socioeconomic background with many of the programs’ participants. Look at multimillionaire, making a difference!

What you need to do, though, is go to NPR and listen to Elizabeth Fiedler’s report—like all dogfighting stories, it’s got some horrific elements, but hearing the people talk about their experiences themselves, while the dogs bark all happily in the background, is way more valuable than reading a description.

[photo of official Vegansaurus mascot and best beloved pit bull Hazel by Laura!]


Mike Vick wants a dog. For serious.  »

This is my dog Figaro, in his Eagles jersey. It was the first piece of clothing I ever bought him. When I adopted him in Philly, he weighed a measly ten pounds—he should be twenty-five or so. Everyone was staring at his skelator body and making comments so I got him the Eagles jersey, 1. to cover up his ribs, 2. to ingratiate him with the sports-obsessed city of Philadelphia. I put the shirt over his bony ribs, took him to our favorite dive and a star was born! He was a hit. Everybody welcomed a new Eagles fan into the world.

Figgy has not worn his Eagles Jersey since Micheal Vick became a member of the team. We were not pleased, to say the least! How could my beloved Eagles throw morality to the wind and hire this dog-murderer? BECAUSE PEOPLE CARE MORE ABOUT SPORTS THAN ANIMAL CRUELTY. This isn’t that big of a surprise to me but it’s still disappointing. I guess you just hope people will pull through for you when they are faced with an issue like this but Vick scores touchdowns and that’s the bottom line for many.

I’ve written about Vick on vegansaurus before but the issue seemed to have died down recently. When I was in Philly for Thanksgiving, I saw that Vick is more popular than ever. Guess we’re over this whole dog torture thing! Now we can get back to football. Hu-freaking-za. But just when you think we’re done with it, Vick announces to that he wants to own a dog again! (there’s a lame commercial at the beginning, sorry!):

Yeah, he really said it. And now we have to reevaluate the situation. Has Vick redeemed himself at all? Of course he can’t get a dog yet anyway, the judge ruled he can’t have a dog for at least three years. But if he could, is that really a good idea?

Since his release, Vick has been working with The Humane Society to educate kids about dog-fighting. The Humane Society’s president Wayne Pacelle, who has worked with Vick, had this to say, from “He’s been going through counseling, he’s been speaking to kids twice a month, and he needs to interact with animals,” said Pacelle. “If he continues to hit these markers, then if his daughter wants a dog two or three years down the line,… I’m saying that we should be open to that possibility.”

PETA also weighed in on the issue; from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Just as convicted pedophiles aren’t allowed free access to children, anyone who is responsible for hanging, electrocuting, or shooting dogs and who causes them to suffer in other unimaginable ways should never again be allowed access to dogs,” Lisa Lange, vice president of the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, told the [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]. “All things considered, it is a very small price to pay, especially compared to the suffering endured by the dogs who were abused and killed in the Bad Newz Kennels.”

Yeah, I’m not really sold on this pedophile-comparison. The “small price to pay” comment is definitely on point though. But what about redemption? Has Vick made up for some of the damage he did? When asked about the HSUS work with Vick, Pacelle makes good points. From

"What he did is terrible, there’s no question about that," Pacelle said. "But this is an issue of protecting animals in the future. And endlessly flogging Michael Vick is not going to save one animal. But putting him to work in communities to save animals and educate people about the problem of dogfighting — especially with at-risk kids — is the way to help the problem."

What Vick is doing with the HSUS does seem like the right thing to do. He can’t make up for what he did but what he’s doing now could go a long way to preventing dog-fighting in the future. Just telling kids it’s “wrong” is a positive step for the movement. Though I don’t think it’s an excuse, when Vick says no one ever told him dog-fighting was wrong, I believe him. You can’t underestimate the influence one’s childhood has on them. But still, as an adult, you have to know electrocuting an animal is not OK, right?

Ultimately, if you want my opinion (and I know you do!), should Vick be allowed to get a dog? HELL NO. Why does he even have to ask? It’s annoying. It’s like, you’re doing good with your community service, don’t rock the damn boat. I love dogs and if I was touring around the country talking about how great dogs are, I’d probably want one too, but big deal! You know why you can’t have a dog, suck it up. And sorry you look like a jerk to your daughter but guess what: you are a jerk! And that is one of the consequences. I do think it’d be great for him to volunteer with shelter animals and donate every last cent he has to help abused dogs. Maybe if he did that and maybe if his reason for wanting a dog was, I don’t know, because he wants to help a dog, then maybe I would feel differently. But he wants to play hero for his daughter and show people he’s changed—those are not good enough reasons to let him get a dog. If he ever mentions anything about ending suffering or changing a dog’s life, then we’ll talk.


Review: Sweet Freedom Bakery in Philadelphia!  »

There’s a new vegan bakery on the U.S. scene! Sweet Freedom recently opened it’s doors in Philadelphia (up the street from the famous Govinda’s!). Fear not, San Franciscans and beyond, they ship! It’s a $40 minimum but you could do it for something special or, you know, a Tuesday.

I went to the bakery with my sister and Fig. I know, they are a thousand times adorable, but he’s spoken for and she’s too young for you! Sweet Freedom is not just vegan, it’s also gluten-free and allergy-friendly (like no peanuts and stuff). It’ll please the lot of us!

I got a chocolate chip banana cupcake with chocolate and vanilla frosting, pictured above. I also got a chocolate cupcake with mocha frosting AND a slice of the cinnamon sugar loaf. You know how I do! The cinnamon sugar loaf was AMAZING. It has a gooey cinnamon sugar layer on top and swirled within. YUM. It’s not beautiful like the cupcake but it was delicious. The chocolate chip banana cupcake was a bit disappointing. It was good—had good flavor—but it was kind of grainy at the end, a bit of a protein bar flavor. Not sure what was going on there. I preferred the mocha cupcake; ooh the frosting! SUPER!

The day I went they didn’t have any donuts, which I had totally been looking forward to. They also didn’t have the pumpkin loaf on their menu but I think that may have been excessive with the cinnamon sugar loaf. JUST KIDDING! I would have gotten both. Ah well! I will just have to rely on cupcakes to get chunky. Le sigh.


Be still my heart: Love Bar vegan chocolate!  »

You know I’m the resident Philadelphian around here—well I live in New York but I’m still a Philadelphian at heart—so I was super-excited when I saw this chocolate! Love Bar chocolate and I are basically the same person! Just look at the stats: Love Bar, like me, is vegan, from Philadelphia, artsy, and full of fair-trade chocolate. OMG twinsies! I thought Mast Brothers chocolate had some nice wrappers but hot damn, Love Bar is on some next-level sheezy. And now all their wrappers are being printed at Space 1026, the ultra-cool screen-printing collective/studio. They also say they’ll do custom wrappers—is a Vegansaurus series in order?!

From their blog:
We Love: food, community, art, youth, Philly. You’ll find a little of all of those flavors in our chocolate—Love Bar is a community-supported chocolate project believing in the possibilities of business nourishing communities as opposed to exploiting them.

They have two chocolate bars that are both vegan and gluten-free (I know we have some gluten-free peeps in the crowd—I’m always looking out for you! Jeez, I’m the best). To top it off, “10 percent of profits go back to programs that support urban agriculture and/or youth development in Philadelphia.” Um, color me impressed!

I haven’t tried the chocolate yet but trust that I will be picking some up when I’m home for Thanksgiving. They are available at the Fair Food farm stand in the Reading terminal market. Oh, if you go to the Reading terminal market, make sure you stop by Basic Four, the vegetarian spot. Tell them Megan Rascal sent you! Just kidding, don’t really do that.

[Photo of wrapper designed by Joshua Mays via Love Bar blog]


Happy Thanksgiving from Lauren and Eric in Philadelphia! Displayed on one of their plates here are, clockwise from the top, mashed potatoes, stuffing, mac ‘n’ cheese, brussels sprouts and garlic-sauteed green beans, a seitan cutlet, and a dinner roll in the center—and everything was homemade by the two of them. Can you stand it? Their adorable blog about their adorable life being adorably vegan together is almost too much, I mean honestly. Happy Thanksgiving, Lauren and Eric!

Happy Thanksgiving from Lauren and Eric in Philadelphia! Displayed on one of their plates here are, clockwise from the top, mashed potatoes, stuffing, mac ‘n’ cheese, brussels sprouts and garlic-sauteed green beans, a seitan cutlet, and a dinner roll in the center—and everything was homemade by the two of them. Can you stand it? Their adorable blog about their adorable life being adorably vegan together is almost too much, I mean honestly. Happy Thanksgiving, Lauren and Eric!


Vegan Thanksgivings taking over newspapers across the country!  »

Well, at least in Philadelphia. The above-the-fold (newspaper talk!) article in the Philadelphia Inquirer food section on Nov. 11 was all about accommodating guests with different dietary needs—namely, VEGANS! They featured several vegan recipes from Skinny Bitch and whatnot but I’m kind of more interested in this vegetarian cornbread-stuffed squash pictured left from The Adaptable Feast by Ivy Manning. Care to veganize? Looks like it’d be pretty easy; most of the non-vegan items are in the corn bread and I find baking goes well with the replacements.

Oh! There’s also a vegan wild mushroom and asparagus risotto recipe that sounds BANGING but there’s no picture. I love risotto!

So how about other cities? Anybody spotted any of the local papers with some vegan Thanksgiving-related articles? Holler at your girl!

[photo by Ivy Manning via]


Let’s go Flyers! Also, adopt a dog!  »

Philadelphia sports fans are kind of crazy. Whether they are pummeling Santa with snowballs or rioting for joy, they have a special kind of sports fever. Now with the Flyers in the Stanley Cup finals, even the animals aren’t immune to the excitement! The Pennsylvania SPCA, where I got my dear animals, is honoring the Flyers by lowering adoption fees for black adult dogs, and orange, black, and orange-and-black adult cats. Those are the Flyers’ colors, silly West-Coasters! Through the end of the Stanley Cup finals, you can adopt animals like Roger here for $20 off the normal adoption fee. How cute is Roger? SO CUTE I LOVE HIM! And I was just talking about What’s Happening! yesterday so it’s basically destiny.

The Philly SPCA is very nice in my experience. Having a special promotion for adult black dogs is good too since it’s widely believed they are the last to get adopted at shelters. Hopefully Flyers fever will totally kick Black Dog Syndrome’s ass! GENIUS IDEA!: the Giants’ colors are orange and black, yeah? The San Francisco SPCA should totally do the same kind of promotion! IF THE GIANTS EVER MAKE IT TO THE WORLD SERIES AGAIN.


Road Trip: the Great Vegan Cheesesteak Debate!  »

Here ye! Here ye! This time I’ve really done it! I took my Philadelphia holiday as an opportunity to seek out and compare the vegan cheesesteaks available in the cheesesteak Mecca, and boy are my arms tired! I’m kidding, I’m just fatter.

I want you all to know, this is an important debate! You know how some well known cultural icons are just for tourists? Like how Hawaiians don’t speak Hawaiian and stuff like that? Cheesesteaks are not like that. I know plenty of Philadelphians (generally men) who eat a cheesesteak just about every day. It especially cracks me up when one of these people is concerned about my health as a vegan. Cheesesteaks are basically heart-attacks in an Amoroso roll! But they are concerned about my health. Hilarious!

Two themes that arose in my search were taste and legitness (apparently that’s not a real word. You can’t fence me in, spellcheck!). Some of the sandwiches were good but didn’t really resemble a cheesesteak. I grew up eating meat cheesesteaks, so I have that to compare these veggie versions to. So just keep that in mind. Now, let the games begin!

The P.O.P.E. (pub on passyunk east)
imageI was pleased to find out that the POPE offered a vegan cheesesteak. This is a great bar, popular with my homies. It’s one of many Philly bars that specialize in beer. Philadelphians love them some beer. OK, so this cheesesteak was fairly legit. But it wasn’t that great. I give it 2 out of 5 Veganstaurs (see what I did there?) for sheer edibility. They go with the vegan cheese whiz route. Though some people swear up and down that cheese whiz is the authentic cheese of choice, I prefer the provolone cheesesteaks I grew up on. In this case, the sandwich was too gooey already and the whiz just added to that. The cheese was also a little sweet and a little tangy, which I wasn’t into. But this cheesesteak was more legit because the meat wasn’t super chunky—the meat is supposed to be fairly shredded or chopped up.

imageThis is the only steak sandwich I’m including that doesn’t come with vegan cheese. I was going to ignore those but people love Sabrina’s and it’s a nice place, so I decided to give it a shot. The meat was too chunky but the sandwich was pretty good. It was a little spicy in a good way. The standard way to order cheesesteaks is with grilled peppers and onions and that’s what I asked for, but instead of the sweet peppers you’d normally get, they gave me hot peppers. That’s kind of crazy, but whatevs. It gets 3 out of 5 Veganstaurs because it was a really good sandwich, just not really that legit as a cheesesteak. If you find yourself at Sabrina’s though, this is definitely a safe bet to order.

imageGovinda’s, the well-known Philadelphia vegetarian spot. How cute is this? I told my omnivore brother and our friend Randy about my vegan cheesesteak hunt and we had some time to kill so they suggested we head to Govinda’s! How sweet! Randy even got the vegan steak with vegan cheese and everything. I love it! What’s also amazing, my brother got the chicken cheesesteak and didn’t realize it was vegetarian chicken until I told him several hours later. So cute. We all had similar reactions: the sandwiches were very fresh-tasting and good, not greasy at all. Again, for me the meat was too chunky; it was kind of more like chicken chunks than cheesesteak meat. The sauce on it also gave it sort of a teriyaki flavor? Something to that effect. Not overpowering but just not super-cheesesteak-like. This sandwich was definitely good though and gets 3 out of 5 Veganstaurs.

imageIf you want greasy vegan food, Gianna’s has greasy vegan food. This cheesesteak was eerily real-looking except kind of mushier than the real thing. Though this sandwich was pretty legit, it was also pretty gross. I’m sorry to say it but it was not that edible. It had a real sodium flavor to it, and was gross and as I said, mushy. Upside: solid roll. That’s about it. One Veganstaur.

imageThe picture is not that beautiful, but that’s just how it looked. This sandwich was a little odd because it was just made with your average tofu instead of seitan or whatever else people use. So from the get-go, it does not resemble a cheesesteak. The grilled onion, peppers and mushrooms are a must. It would be boring without it. Big points off because they put mustard on it—WTF? That’s weird. So I guess you have to know and ask for it without mustard. But this is a totally edible sandwich, good even if you’re looking for something light. Cheesesteaks aren’t known for being light. I give it 2 Veganstaurs. It was good, just not much of a cheesesteak.

Basic 4

imageThis little kitchen in the middle of Reading* Terminal Market is a goddamn slice of heaven. 5 out of 5 Veganstaurs! This cheesesteak was A++ delicious! This is not just an OK alternative to the real thing, this is a damn good sandwich. I would eat this every day, no joke. They even have an awesome vegan mayonnaise they can put on—I highly recommend it! This is like a totally legit cheesesteak except it’s not tough and chewy the way real meat is, know what I mean? The one thing was they didn’t have the Italian rolls you normally get, they had these healthy-looking rolls. I thought it would be a problem but it ended up being fine.

Well my friends, dishes are done! Basic 4 is the winner by far. With these other places I reviewed, it’s like if you’re there, maybe you get the sandwich; with this place, it’s like, crawl across the city on your hands and knees if you have to because this is worth it. I am dead serious!

I thank you, I thank you, and I thank you. It was a rough journey but I was brave! Megan Rascal knows no fear! Now you have it, your Philly cheesesteak guide.

Disclaimer: there was one place I wanted to try that I wasn’t able to: Mi Lah. I had never heard of it but some people online were raving about it. So if any one has any opinions about the Mi Lah cheesesteak, please share in the comments.

*rhymes with “Redding.”

[all photos by Megan Rascal]

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