Monday, July 27, 2009

Time's up, pencils down. And now, the answers you've all been waiting for.

Well! As I'm sure all you faithful readers know, last week I challenged you all... with a challenge! Until midnight last night, I accepted answers to my vegan pop quiz. Everyone did wonderfully, and I hope learned something in the process. But what's the use of having knowledge if we don't share it? I say we bust it on out.

Question #1: The origin of "vegan". I think most everybody had to look this up, either for a name or a date or maybe even for the full story. And what is that full story? It goes like this. Around 1944, Elise Shrigley and Donald Watson were really irritated that people were running around calling themselves "vegetarians" and yet were still eating animal products. They decided that clearly there needed to be a different word for people who abstained entirely, and coined vegan - the beginning and end of vegetarianism. (Get it?) They also then founded the Vegan Society. They defined the word vegan like so:
The word "veganism" denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.
And there you go. Vegan in a nutshell.

Respondent Laura C., a spiritual reverend (!) from the Maryland area, also contributed this definition which also purports to have come from the founders of the Vegan Society:
The term "vegan" is derived from the Latin word vegetus, which means "full of life," which the founders hoped their system would be.
I'm supposing that anything with the "veg" root can have a similar explanation, and I like it. And then we have my friend Rosie's (completely made up) definition:
It's a medieval curse word meaning, "Goddammmit I stubbed my toe!" which over time came to mean, "Goddammit, stop killing the weebeasties!"
Shur, why not?

Question #2: The conundrum that is "non-dairy" soy cheese that still isn't vegan. What is that mysterious milk protein that the industry is just so hooked on? That's right kids, iiit's CASEIN! Casein is what makes dairy cheese do that funky stretchy elastic thing. This is apparently a desirable trait. So they isolate this protein and throw it into a soy cheese and expect it to act the same way that dairy cheese does. Does it? No. Does this really do anything but make this a stupid, non-vegan category of fake-healthy product? No. But you know, that's OK, foolish icky caseinfilled cheesemakers, we have Follow Your Heart and Teese, not to mention Tofutti for our cream cheese and sour cream needs. We need not your casein nonsense.

Question #3: They make shellac from WHAT now? Yes, it's bugs. You thought it was only silk that came from bugs, didn't you? Didn't know they're actually FEEDING YOU BUGS, did you. But they are, oh yes. Where? Well, mostly on candy. Why do we force feed our children the most terrible things? High fructose corn syrup, gelatin in the form of gummy candies and jello, and of course the bugs. Ah yes, but I must explain. You see, shellac is made from the secretions of the female lac bug. Now you're thinking, isn't shellac what they put on wood paneling and stuff? Yeah, that too. But it goes under another name: confectioner's glaze. Doesn't that sound sweet? Here's my favorite bit from the Wikipedia entry on the subject: "This coating may not be considered as Vegetarian as it may, and probably does, contain crushed insects. In the tablet manufacture trade, it is sometimes referred to as 'beetlejuice' for this reason." Simply charming!

Insects are used for many human purposes, above and beyond the making of fancy cloths and shiny candies. One of my Vegan Etsy team mates was kind enough to share this story with me of a firsthand experience:
I went to Mexico and visited a place where they made natural dyes -- one of which was carmine (another byproduct of a scale insect). The owner asked if I would like to see the insect they used, and being a lover of bugs, I couldn't say no. He dropped a tiny white bit of fluff in my hand. And as I was holding it and trying to figure it out, he abruptly smushed it into the palm of my hand with his thumb, leaving behind a smear of what looked to be mammalian blood. :*( This craftsperson used some kind of vegetable or fruit (wish I could remember what it was!) to clean their hands of all the dyes, and it sat in a big tub of water. As I was cleaning off my carmine blood with the soapy vegetable, I noticed a really cool Mexican roach (it was totally different from the creepy ones we get here) taking a mis-step and landing in the water. The craftsperson watched in horror as I scooped it out with my bare hands (it was a fairly sizable insect) and set it free.
Johanna, you're a braver soul than me.

Question #4: Veganize it, and get those eggs outta here. Who doesn't love vegan baking? Trust me, when it's good, everyone loves vegan baking! And you don't even have to find already vegan recipes - you just have to learn to veganize it. When baking, there are plenty of options when it comes to replacing eggs. The type of recipe often determines what your best replacement option is. Cookies? Flaxseed meal and water all the way! It makes the cookies chewy and delightful. The secret there is to mix it in a vegetable chopper for a few minutes. For muffins and loaves, I like to use soy yogurt. And for some things like waffles, we find that Ener-G Egg Replacer really does work best. Other options include apple sauce and bananas, though go into it knowing that your end result will be a bit fruity. Sometimes this is a very good thing!

One respondent gave what I believe to be a home recipe for egg replacer, except without measurements: tapioca, potato starch, baking soda, xantham gum, water and oil. Perhaps she'll be so kind as to provide them? That'd be awesome, says I.

Everyone was in agreement on this one I think. Hooray for unanimity!

Question #5: The dangers for a vegan at an Indian restaurant. Everybody pretty much nailed this on the head the first time. Why? Because Indian food is awesome! And vegans can eat at pretty much any Indian restaurant as long as we know what to avoid. Some of the biggest culprits are ghee (clarified butter), paneer (a sort of soft white farmer's cheese) and raita (a cucumber yogurt sauce). There is also cream used in many dishes, but it's usually noted simply as cream so it's much easier to spot. If you're interested in making some vegan Indian food at home, this web page might entertain you as well as getting you started.

Yes, everyone came up with the same three or four answers - everyone, that is, except for my friend Thom. He came up with "eggs". And I was all, what the hell Indian food has eggs in it? And he was all, naan. And I was all, nuh uh. So then he sent me a recipe. Naan with eggs! I knew that it was sometimes (OK frequently) made with ghee, so it's pretty much off the list anyway. But eggs? That was a big surprise. Learn something new every day, I guess.

So there you have it. Questions answered and prizes won. Hopefully a good time had by all, and a thing or two learned. I certainly enjoyed reading all of your responses. A big thanks to everyone who participated - I hope you enjoy your prize packs! That is, as soon as I get them mailed. ;)

Until next Monday,

Melissa Bastian.


melissa bastian. said...

I think I can hear the crickets. (You know, like Bugs Bunny.)

TheAwesomestPossum said...

Shut up, crickets! We're supposed to be quiet on this page! ;)

Vegan said...

I'd never heard of Teese!!! Thanks so much for the heads up!! I'll have to give it a try!! Is tofutti still made w/hydrogenated oil?? Anyone know??
:) Candy

TheAwesomestPossum said...

Tofutti does have a nonhydrogenated version--look for the yellow tub.

melissa bastian. said...

Seconded - Tofutti definitely makes things sans the partially hydrogenated nonsense. I think they do still sell both versions, which strikes me as just silly. They may be phasing over to the non-hydrogenated - aka no trans fat.

As far as Teese, yeah, it's the big hot new thing from Chicago SoyDairy. I'm not sure how widely available it is yet, but it's getting pretty big here on the East Coast (and I imagine it's made the scene pretty well around Chicago!). Eating it straight, it tastes better than follow your heart. And it does melt - but only at extraordinarily high temperatures. As far as I'm concerned each product has its benefits. I actually did a blog post a while back with an in-depth comparison of different presentations of Teese:

Candy at VeganBride dot com said...

FANTASTIC! Thank you! Checking out that other blog entry now..(oh how I LIVE for a vegan cheese that can accurately mimic the original!!!:)

Shannon Mackie said...

Soooo... does this mean High Fructose Corn Syrup has Shellac in it, or was it simply mentioned because it's bad for you?

melissa bastian. said...

Oh no, simply a pet peeve of mine - not only do we pump them full of sugar, but it's also a terrible form of sugar.

Shannon Mackie said...

Phew. I was getting panicked because that's not necessarily an ingredient I look for! I should avoid it nonetheless, but glad to know it's still "vegan" albeit unhealthy.