Posts Tagged ‘vegetarian’

Eating Our Way Around Montreal

A recent 2-day, part-family visit, part-honeymoon trip to Montreal turned mainly into a tour of a few of the many excellent vegetarian, vegan, and veggie-friendly restaurants. Montreal is a great place to be in early June – warm, but not too hot, and everyone is outside, enjoying a drink on the patio, even in the middle of the day on Monday.

Aux Vivres
Aux Vivres BLT

Aux Vivres BLT

A fantastic place for a lunch when you’re really hungry. The portions are huge, and the service is quick. We had the gyro and the BLT, and both were amazing. I’ve never had vegan sour cream before, and they did a great job, and the coconut bacon in the BLT, while not something that would be mistaken for real bacon, was really tasty. If I lived in Montreal, this would be a frequent destination until I’d tried everything on the menu.

Zyng

Not a solely vegetarian restaurant, I remember this place from previous visits, and although my standards may have been a bit lower in my younger years, it’s still pretty good. You choose your own noodles, sauce, and protein from the menu, which includes 2 veggie proteins, tofu and “zoya.” Then you fill up your bowl with veggies of your choice, and they fry them up on a big grill. I forgot to pay close attention, but I’m pretty sure there was a separate grill for the meat and vegetarian fries, which is different from the Mongolian grill. I like this style because you always end up with exactly the veggies you want!

Commensal

This place was recommended by a friend, and had good food. Buffet style, but you pay by weight, and there was a huge variety of different foods, hot and cold, from all over, including a lot of desserts. If you came to this place often, you would know what were the best dishes, and what not to bother with. With this style, it’s easy to take too much food, and focus on heavier stuff like pasta and potatoes, instead of salad, which can get the price up pretty quick. Ended up eating a lot of food, and didn’t get a chance to taste the desserts, but have heard they’re amazing.

La Banquise
Poutine at La Banquise

Poutine at La Banquise

We asked the person at our hotel when we arrived where we could get vegetarian poutine, and she recommended this place. They have a large menu of a lot of different poutine options, pretty much anything you can imagine. Most people ordered a regular for themselves, but not being Montrealers with arteries made of steel, we split one. It was great. Having spent many summers in Quebec eating poutine, I have a snobbish attitude towards poutine in Vancouver, where I once worked at a grill that called cheddar cheese on fries with gravy poutine (or “pooh-tine” as people call it), although I admit that it seems to be getting more authentic these days. In any case, this hit the spot.

L’Escalier

This hole-in-the-wall on St. Catherine’s was a good stop, especially since it was close to our hotel and there was a downpour. We had a sandwich and a pizza. The sandwich was good, the pizza was so-so, and the atmosphere was fun – seemed to be a lot of hipster students on a Tuesday evening. We almost missed the place going by.

Crudessance

We met a friend for lunch at this raw-vegan restaurant, our last proper meal in Montreal. Between the 3 of us, we tried the Pad Thai, and the Champion and Nirvana wraps, all excellent, along with a couple of tasty kombuchas. I’m somewhat wary of raw vegan cuisine sometimes, but this really was tasty.

We did a few other things while in Montreal, including visiting the environment museum at the Biosphere, which was an excellent use of a rainy day, and drinking a lot of beer. Also impressed with the bike sharing system in the city, with cyclists everywhere, albeit without helmets. But enduring impressions were definitely of food!

Bixi shared bike system

Bixi shared bike system

View from the Biosphere

View from the Biosphere

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Location, Location, Location

The hinge in the wedding planning was where it was going to happen. Two main considerations for choosing our venue: environmental considerations, and simplicity. Luckily, the two go hand in hand. We also worked with a tight timeline, about 5 months in the planning process.

Eco-Friendly Considerations

We wanted to pick a local business, with a preference for a local brewery, since beer is going to be a main staple of our reception. We also wanted somewhere central, and close to a place we could host an outdoor ceremony, to reduce the driving that people will do to get there. Somewhere that will take care of all aspects – food, drinks, decoration, AV, etc – reduces the transportation costs of bringing those things in. And a place that looks nice in itself won’t require decorations and flowers, things that are produced just for one day, and then discarded. Also, somewhere with good vegetarian food options was key.

Simplicity

Neither my partner nor I are the type to go crazy for the trappings of weddings. Decorations? Nope. Seating chart? No thanks. Flowers? What for? All of those details just make planning the event work, instead of fun. So it was important to us to find somewhere that would take care of as much of the details as possible, without that becoming crazy expensive. Finding a place that just looks nice all on it’s own is key, and that provides as many of the details as possible, just reduces our stress about things we don’t care about. Although I may have loved having an outdoor wedding at a farm, in the end, having to deal with things like catering, chair/tent rentals, liquor licenses, transportation, and everything else just wouldn’t make it worth it.

Ceremony Reception Combo

Ceremony location

Ceremony location

We were keen to have our ceremony outdoors. Both M and I are outdoorsy types, and, at least to me, it just seems right to say our vows outside, in a park. But we didn’t want to have to deal with people driving to one location, then driving to another (bad carbon footprint!), or renting some kind of bus to move everyone along. The ideal was somewhere that had both a reception location and ceremony venue within walking distance. We also want to keep the ceremony short and simple, with guests standing and no walking-down-the-aisle.

Where We Landed

After some wandering, exploring, and a pub crawl in Gastown (I know, the hardships), we narrowed it down to two locations. Granville Island Brewery was a fantastic option, which would have been funky and allowed us to get all sustainable, veggie catering from Savoury City, but unfortunately, their liquor license currently restricts them to 6 such events per year. So we’ve ended up at Steamworks Brewery, on the edge of Gastown.

Keeping the Eco-Theme

Steamworks Harbour View Room

Steamworks Harbour View Room

Although Steamworks’ veggie menu was limited, the event manager worked with us to provide an all vegetarian menu, with a few vegan options, and is a local brewery. A 5 minute walk (through Waterfront station) will connect us to Crab Park at Portside, an oceanside park in the city with great views of the mountains and city, where we will have our ceremony.

In our invitation and follow up directions, we have encouraged our guests to take transit where possible. Although I have no idea how many of them will take me up on it (I take buses to other people’s weddings, but I may be in a minority), we made the venue accessible by being very central. Also, parking is expensive downtown Vancouver, so hopefully that discourages people! Most of our out of town guests are staying at a hotel across the street.

Although I do think that we could have found somewhere that fit our bill a little better, I think we’ve done a pretty good job in keeping with what is important to us. I will work on keeping waste low by hopefully limiting straw use!

Behind the Mystery of Cheese

There are some things in the world that we have been convinced is so difficult to make, we could never make it ourselves, so we’d better leave it up to the professionals. Building a rocket ship? Oh yeah. A computer? Definitely. But most of our food, like cheese, it appears, it not as difficult to make as I thought!

Until I moved to Cameroon in 2008, I never would have thought of making homemade tortillas – why would I, when I can buy them from a store? But I had to improvise over there, and discovered quickly that tortillas are just a combination of flour, oil, salt and water, and super easy (if not as flat as the machine made ones). I’ve also become a homemade bread convert. I’m not saying that cheese is as easy as that, but last week, I attended an introduction to cheese making workshop that demystified a lot of it.

In this workshop at the Eat the Rich Community Kitchen, we got to learn how to make 3 different cheeses from David Asher Rotsztain. My favourite, and the easiest to make, is a chevre – a basic creamy cheese made from goat’s milk yoghurt.

Happy cows at Farm House Cheeses in Agassiz, BC.

Since I went vegetarian just over 4 years ago, I have struggled with the question of cheese. I love cheese, I admit it. But I know that most of it comes from cows that are kept in those same kind of factory farms that ensure they live miserable lives, and contribute hugely to climate change. Through this workshop, I also learned the details of where rennet comes from, a key ingredient in many (but not all) cheeses. Rennet is taken from the 4th stomach of a calf that had to be slaughtered to get it. This definitely makes many cheeses not vegetarian.

I have tried to come to terms with my cheese conflict in various ways, including buying cheese that came from “happy cows.”

It can be difficult, and expensive. I would like to be able to switch more of my cheese eating to this kind of chevre, with the base coming from organic goat’s milk or yoghurt. And I want to explore the vegetarian options that apparently exist to

replace rennet.

I’m not saying that I will instantly switch to making all my own cheese, as sweet a dream as that may be. But I do believe in taking steps, and I will do my best.

For someone who very eloquently and effectively explains why reduction is worthwhile – why you don’t have to necessarily become a vegan overnight, but take steps to reduce meat (and, in my extension, dairy) consumption, see Graham Hill’s Ted Talk, Why I’m a Weekday Vegetarian.

What kind of things did you used to think you could never make, then found out it wasn’t so hard? I encourage you to try to make something unexpected – then maybe not have to buy it again!

Top ten easy changes you can make towards sustainability

Change can be hard. Trying to break old habits and form new ones does not come easily. But it can be done! Here are my top ten changes everyone can make on their journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

1. Make smart commuting choice

  • Do you really need to drive there?

    Biking on Salt Spring Island

  • Try walking, taking the bus, biking. It might take a bit longer, but you get exercise, it’s cheaper, and no road rage.
  • When you’re ready, try giving up the car entirely. If you live in Vancouver, it is so easy to get around by public transit and bicycle, and when you really need one, there are loads of car shares available (car2go, Zipcar, etc)

2. Switch to 100% recycled products

  • You might be really proud of yourself for recycling, but if you don’t buy recycled products, then where do you think all of that recycling is going?
  • Toilet paper, paper towel, notepaper are easy examples of paper recycled products that are just as good as the non-recycled kinds. And no rainforest gets cut down.
  • Some clothing is made from recycled plastics. MEC carries such products. There are also things such as chairs, tables. This leads into my  next point:

3. Reduce! Stop buying things in plastic!

  • Do you still drink bottled water? Here is an excellent video stating, in 3 minutes and 30 seconds (in an entertaining way), exactly why you should NEVER DRINK BOTTLED WATER. Ever.
  • Besides that, look to buying things in bulk, like beans, rice, nuts, and all sorts of other things. Save-on-Foods usually has great bulk sections. So do some of those mom-and-pop shops on Fraser Street.
  • Bring your own containers and bags. You do not need styrofoam containers for that little bit of leftover Chinese. You do not need that plastic bag for those 3 products. Get one of those little pouch bags you can keep in your purse/pocket, and have containers every time you go out for food.

Not good for turtle digestion

4. Support local food systems

  • Some potatoes and greens grown right on our tiny patio.

    Buy from your local farmers market or food that is locally grown. It reduces food miles, and thus carbon footprint.

  • It supports people who work pretty damn hard.
  • Food tastes better when it’s picked and consumed within days, instead of traveling across the globe.
  • When you can’t buy local – and I know, it’s tough – choose organic and fair trade.

5. Give good gifts

  • Give experiences. Tickets to a sporting event or theatre, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
  • Choose things that last a long time, not something that will break right away.
  • Get things that people actually want and need, not just something random because you feel like you’re supposed to get them a gift (no one needs another bath set or scented candle).
  • Edible or otherwise consumable gifts are great – a bottle of nice local wine, some excellent fair trade organic chocolate, some homemade cookies or candles show that you spent more than just money on the person.
  • Don’t wrap it! Seriously, how pointless is wrapping paper and ribbons?

Green Angel campaign from Metro Vancouver

 

6. Save power

  • It’s good for the environment, and it saves you $$.
  • Turn off you computer, turn off the lights. Seems so simple, but it can make a big difference.
  • Did you know that your electronics still draw power, even when the power is off? You cell phone charger, your laptop, your TV, are all drawing vampire power, even if you think you’ve been diligent and turned everything off. Easiest thing to do is plug everything into a power bar, then turn that off at night. BC Hydro tells us, “Standby power can use up to 10% of a home’s energy consumption.”
  • Hang dry your clothes. A dryer is a serious waste of energy.

7. Save water

  • In a rainy city like Vancouver, water seems endless. But we don’t harness the power of the rain in most places, so it’s important that we are conserving water, so that we have clean water sources for generations to come.
  • Take shorter showers, and lower water use in toilet by putting something solid in the toilet tank (i.e. a filled water bottle), which will reduce the amount used when flushing.

8. Compost

  • Food waste rotting in landfills is a major source of greenhouse gases.
  • You might be thinking this isn’t very easy. But it actually is. If you’re lucky, you live somewhere with curbside pickup. But most of us don’t.
  • You can get a worm composter, which is small enough even for small apartments. The City of Vancouver even offers subsidized bins for residents.
  • Drop off your food scraps at the Farmers Market. The Winter Farmer’s Market at Nat Bailey Stadium collects them, and I hope to see all the farmers markets this summer doing food scrap collection.

9. Eat less and choose better animal products

Happy cows in Agassiz, BC

  • Raising animals for food has huge impacts on the environment, considering everything from waste, land use, feed, and greenhouse gasses.
  • Eat less meat (try Meatless Mondays)
  • When you do eat meat, try to choose happy, healthy meat – grass fed beef, organic free-range eggs and chicken, oceanwise fish. Why? Watch this fun video.

10. Support green initiatives

  • Lots of local and international businesses are trying to reduce their carbon footprints. Support businesses that are doing that, and tell them that’s why you’re supporting them.
  • There are lots of great local green businesses in Vancouver. The Soap Dispensary lets you fill your own shampoo and detergent bottles, and Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. offers sustainable food and social initiatives (not to mention fantastic pizza), to name just a couple.

Soap nuts are my own choice for laundry detergent

 

So, to sum up, there are lots of things you, as a single person, can do to make small changes. And once you start to make a few, you will start to realize it’s not so hard, and we can all create a wave of more sustainable lifestyles!

Testing your plan

The realization of the environmental impact of meat – the methane produced by the livestock, the amount of food grown to feed animals that could go to feeding people, and the amount of land that goes to sustaining those animals (not even to speak about the horrific conditions that agri-business forces animals to live in) – is what made me first give up red meat, then finally go vegetarian (and flirt occasionally with veganism) 4 years ago. My own experience in moving towards vegetarianism has been interesting. The first reaction from my parents was, but what are you going to eat? Shortly after I became vegetarian, I moved to Cameroon. That’s where I really cut my teeth in learning how to explain vegetarianism. In response to my saying I don’t eat meat, the answer was often an astounded look, and “Why?” or, “But you eat chicken, right? What about goat? Fish?” By the end, I had co-workers helping me to source out what foods were vegetarian in front of me, and them sticking up for me by announcing wherever we went that I didn’t eat meat (which was helpful, so I didn’t have to try to explain myself). I didn’t convince any of them not to eat meat, but at least it seemed less weird to them.

This week, for my social media course, I am creating a mock test that could be used for a social media campaign, based on an organization that’s in the realm of my blog. I have chosen to test a part of a social media campaign for the organization, Earthsave Canada. As an organization that promotes a move to a more plant-based diet, one of their campaigns is called Meatless Monday, whereby they encourage people to take the first step towards a more earth- and animal-friendly diet by cutting out meat just one day a week, then hopefully moving on from there. I have chosen to focus on this campaign for my mock test because this kind of conversion can be challenging, as you are talking to people who may not know or may not be receptive to your message.

If Earthsave wanted to expand their outreach on social media based on their Meatless Monday campaign, they would need to figure out who their target audience is, and where they are found on social media. The target audience for this type of campaign would probably be mostly families (including children and teens), and more specifically, the main meal-planner and shopper of the family. In which case, in order to test out this campaign, the organization would want to find blogs where parents discuss food, nutrition and child-raising. By joining a few of those type of blogs, the organization could engage in discussion with parents, testing out to see if certain words or approaches work better. Is it better to target only the health angle, or to incorporate some of the environmental facts? What are the main concerns of parents when considering their meal planning – convenience, price, taste, health (including organic, enough protein, the right vitamins, etc.), and morals likely all play a role, but which would have the most influence? These are the kinds of answers the organization could get by targeting certain discussion boards, and trying different angles, to see how people responded. It would be important to make sure that the conversation is relevant to the blog post, and not coming out of the blue, so as to appear relevant and interesting, and not come across as a marketing ploy.

Since blogs where eco-conscious parents frequent would be like preaching to the converted, a good way to break into new markets would be to find other blogs that parents frequent. Since the organization is also based in Vancouver, they would probably want to start by targeting blogs in the area. This blog lists some of the top Vancouver parenting blogs, which can be a good starting off point.

Earthsave could also test their campaign messaging by conducting a conversation on their own website, and encouraging people to join and contribute through their Twitter and Facebook. This way, they can also include discussion from some of their own members, and other vegetarians/vegans who have had successes and failures in convincing others to move towards a more plant-based diet.

The benefit of the Meatless Monday model is the idea of giving people a tool to start eating less meat, and thus lowering their carbon footprint. By making a transition to a more plant-based diet, people feel empowered and capable, rather than being bullied or guilted into the switch, as other approaches may cause them to feel.

I, personally, am a bit of an extremist. When I decided to become a vegetarian entirely, I just quit cold turkey. My last meat meal was a pretty uninteresting cold-cut turkey sandwich (ha!), so I didn’t exactly give meat a big send-off. And, believe me, it’s much easier to be a vegetarian in Vancouver than it was in Cameroon!