SF Vegan Drinks is back! This Thursday!  »

Happy New Year! Along with other things that are inappropriate to say at the end of January, such as, “Why is the Christmas tree still up?” and “Why isn’t there a WHITE History Month?”

It’s 2011, the holidays are a distant memory, fake summer is here, and it’s time for the triumphant return of SF Vegan Drinks. I bet you forgot all about it! I did too, until Lyndsay sent us this boss press release that I’ve thoughtfully cut and pasted:

Just a heads-up that the January installment of Vegan Drinks is Thursday, Jan. 27 at Martuni’s (Valencia @ Market Streets). It’s been two months since our last meeting, and is the first Vegan Drinks of 2011, so let’s make it big! As always, there will be a great drink special (this month: $5 Vegan Bloody Mary’s), a host of nonalcoholic beverage options, and all-you-can-eat vegan hot dogs and popcorn!

SF Vegan Drinks is, as always, sponsored by VegNews and Vegansaurus, and runs from 6 to 8 p.m. Have something to say? The mic opens at 7:45 for announcements about any veg projects you’ve been working on. Don’t worry, no bad open-mic poetry, we promise!


Don’t miss Miyoko Schinner of Now & Zen tonight!  »

Anyone who remembers the UnTurkey, HipWhip, and all those other Now & Zen products (like the UnChicken cutlets with fake crispy skin, SO GOOD) that mysteriously disappeared from the shelves in 2006 won’t want to miss this tonight. Miyoko Schinner will be presenting her latest cooking DVD and giving out samples at the Mission Station Community Room, 630 Valencia St. at 17th Street, at 6 p.m. Here’s the press release that I’m too lazy to summarize:

Author, chef and cooking instructor Miyoko Schinner has created and promoted healthful, vegan cuisine for 30 years. As the founder of Now and Zen, initially a restaurant and then vegan food manufacturer with nationwide distribution, she developed products such as the UnTurkey, HipWhip, a line of gourmet vegan cakes, and a low-fat vegan chocolate chip cookie that is still enjoyed by customers on United Airlines. She is the author of three vegan cookbooks and is a former contributor to publications such as Vegetarian Times magazine.

Along with the presentation, enjoy a fabulous vegan dinner handcrafted by Patricia Allen Koot, NC, certified Nutrition Educator. Patricia’s dinners continue to receive excellent reviews. This totally health-supporting vegan dinner will be made without eggs, dairy or honey, and prepared without oil or added sugars. Patricia makes a real effort to accommodate food allergies and intolerances, so do email or call her if you have a special need.

Best of all, the dinner is all-you-can-eat. Don’t worry about serving size, fill your plate several times over, and take some home for lunch and dinner the next day.

The event asks for a $15 minimum donation, which covers the all-you-can-eat dinner and whatever else you can stuff in your pockets. RSVP to 707/ 774-1904 or send an email. I just called and there are still a few spots left, so hurry!


No but for real: Simon Fairlie thinks eating meat can save the planet  »

There’s nothing the media love more than an “everything we thought was bad is actually good!” news cycle, and the latest comes from Time, discussing Simon Fairlie’s new book Meat: A Benign Extravagance. We have yet to receive the book for review, but the argument, that eating moderate amounts of meat is better for the environment than going vegan, is an eye-roller we just can’t get enough of. Whether it’s from the touchy-feely “slow food” movement or in more dangerous screeds like Lierre Keith’s Mein Kampf for carnivores (no, seriously: The Vegetarian Myth calls for both violent struggle and a swift reduction of the human population down to 600 million), justifying society’s bad habits is the most direct route to love-hearts and unicorns from the mainstream media.

By asking, “To save the environment, should you go vegan, or should you eat small amounts of grass-fed, humanely raised meat?,” Fairlie and others are fundamentally misreading the society we live in. Even in a veg-friendly city like San Francisco, ask people to maybe optionally consider taking Monday off from eating meat, and they show up with pitchforks and torches. Fairlie wants to pull out the calculator and compare the micro-efficiencies of our utopia vs. his utopia (“Animals kept on small farms also produce benefits, such as fending off predators and pests and fertilizing soil”). But when the rest of Western world is still eating pink goop spat out from factories that blend animals fattened up on soybeans as fast as industrial farms can grow them, the whole exercise seems pointless.

If we really want to save the environment, squabbling over a few chickens on the family vegetable farm isn’t going to cut it. We do know a few things: factory-farming animals and growing the feed to raise factory-farmed animals is wrecking the planet. And titles like How Eating Meat Can Save the Planet and Meat: A Benign Extravagance send exactly the wrong message. Keep doing what you’re doing! It’s fine. And if eating some meat is good for the environment, then eating more meat must be even better!

Unfortunately for Simon Fairlie, that is exactly how his message will be received. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt: I’m sure he sincerely believes that a small amount of family-farmed animals would benefit the environment in a mostly plant-based future, and he isn’t only trying to assuage his own guilt over becoming a “born-again carnivore.” 

But nuanced arguments like his have no place in today’s world, especially when they come packaged in “what you like doing but feel guilty about doing is actually GREAT.” The message people need to hear, over and over again, is stop eating animals, not “Let’s all eat meat!” with two paragraphs of fine print. Whenever omnivores finally get it into their heads that eating meat is no good, most will at least cut back. And less meat is better for the planet. Simple, right? If we’re sincerely wanting to Save the Planet, how about we get to the point where everyone is cutting back on the worst of their planet-destroying habits before worrying about the details.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go chain-smoke around some pregnant women. I hear it helps fetal brain development, didn’t you know? I read it in Time.


iPhone app review: VegScan makes late night junk food shopping easier  »

If you’ve been vegan for longer than a year or two, you probably already have your own tricks for picking up packaged food and deciding if it’s vegan in two seconds or less. My first trick is to look for cholesterol. If there’s more than 0 mg, it’s automatically not vegan (it doesn’t go both ways; plenty of non-vegan food has no cholesterol). Then I look for the allergens in bold at the end: “Contains milk, eggs.” Finally, I scan the ingredients from the middle out, where the whey is usually hidden. After being vegan for long enough, you want this go as quickly as possible. You want your Oreos and you want them now.

But, what if it’s 2 a.m. and you’re plastered? Nothing makes sense, labels are blurry, and you mostly don’t care if those Cocoa Rice Krispies are fortified with D3 or not, because who can remember if D2 or D3 is the wrong one, anyway? Really what you want is a simple yes or no. Enter the VegScan iPhone app: stop thinking, start scanning.

To test this out under real world conditions, I decided to get drunk and go for a Safeway midnight junk food run. Because do we really need VegScan at Rainbow or Whole Foods? Probably not. I have two beers, two shots of whiskey, and two shots of vodka, and I’m ready for Safeway. For me, that’s plenty, but not too much; I still need to be able to operate my phone/not lose or drop it.

Using VegScan is dead simple. After you sign up, you can start scanning right away. All you do is hold the camera over the barcode, and press the button. Done. The app immediately tells you if the product is vegan or not.

Or at least it would, if they had enough data. VegScan is still pretty new, and all the data is crowdsourced, meaning that if a product isn’t in there, it’s up to you to type it in and mark if it’s vegan or not. To their credit, they make a game out of it with badges and points (I’m already ranked #11!) but if you’re not the kind of person who enjoys sorting your bookshelves by color on your days off, this could annoy the hell out of you.

Of all the products I scanned, only one matched (Top Ramen Oriental Flavor). Others that didn’t match: Thomas’s English Muffins, Yellow Tail Merlot and Chardonnay, Munchos, PrimoTaglio Provolone Cheese, Chex Mix Original, Doritos Salsa Verde, Guinness, Tostitos Hint of Lime, Baken-ets Pork Rinds, Skippy SuperChunk, bulk Safeway bread rolls, Silk Original Flavor, Hostess Donettes (powdered). So, if you ever scan any of those, you’ll see my opinion of whether or not they’re vegan, and you can vote on whether or not I was lying.*

If you’re a seasoned vegan with the Accidentally Vegan list practically memorized, VegScan probably won’t be too useful. But if you’re obsessed with organizing data—and you know who you are—hurry up and start scanning. Future drunk vegans need you.

*I wasn’t.


Drown your end-of-coupon-days sorrows TONIGHT at SF Vegan Drinks!  »

Yes, it’s the last coupon day at Rainbow, ever. You were already planning to camp out in line from dawn till dusk to save 20 percent off a barrel of flax seed oil, so why not follow it up by drinking the pain away at SF Vegan Drinks? Or show up early, and drunk-shop for the final two hours of crazy. And speaking of drink specials, I hear we have those? Here are the details, from Lyndsay (who said “hi” as I walked by on Valencia Street yesterday and didn’t realize until it was too late who it was SORRY LYNDSAY I THINK YOU’RE GREAT I AM JUST BLIND):

Just a heads up that the September installment of Vegan Drinks is Thursday, Sept. 30 at Martuni’s (Valencia @ Market). This a fantastic chance to mingle with other interesting vegans while enjoying drink specials—this month: $5 Rock Sake Pomegranate Lemonade Martinis—a host of non-alcoholic beverage options, and all-you-can-eat vegan hot dogs and popcorn!

A representative of Rock Sake will be joining us and will provide a variety of free samples. Looking forward to seeing you! 

Here’s the thing. Coupon day is hell, but 20 percent off everything you could ever want has been hard to pass up. I hate waiting in lines, and I complain bitterly about it, but I’ll also miss getting all that free stuff without having to shoplift. Not that I would ever shoplift from Rainbow in a million years. There’s a lot of love in the people who make that grocery store happen, and they’re still worker-owned; how great is that? While other people are busy with wage theft and exploiting immigrant labor, places like Rainbow give me hope for humanity. 

Also giving me hope/dulling my hopelessness for humanity: drinking. SF Vegan Drinks is sponsored by Vegansaurus and VegNews, and we’ll be there tonight! So show up! At Martuni’s! From 6 to 8 p.m.! Sí se puede!

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