Mar & Mark as Volunteers

musings on our lives as volunteers….

Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Prepackaged Japan

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Sometimes we buy our dinner meal at a supermarket, as a way of keeping costs down, getting fresh fruit and veg, and trying local foods. There are many pre-packaged meals that are ready to eat, healthy and delicious. However, enjoying these meals certainly comes at an environmental cost. The Japanese love their packaging.  
Everything is wrapped. Bento boxes, rice balls, salads. All in plastic. Soy sauce, wasabi? Available. In tiny little plastic sachets. Chopsticks? Yup. Wrapped (think also massive deforestation, as the takeaway business is big business here. Thats a lot of wooden chopsticks that get chopped down from trees). Plastic spoons and forks. Plastic wrapped in plastic.  

The Japanese also love their beautifully wrapped presents, often food stuff from specific regions, highlighting the specialty of the area. They make great looking gifts, but inside is _______ (insert whatever the food stuff is here), often again individually packaged. Think a dozen sakura (cherry blossom) shaped biscuits. All in a gift box, wrapped in plastic, then put in a plastic bag, and EACH INDIVIDUAL biscuit is also wrapped, once you get inside the box! It seems crazy to us.

Even when we go to checkout at the supermarket, and bring our little reusable shopping bag, it is often met with some disbelief. But hey. We are kind of getting used to that look. Because it is very similar to the look we get when we tell people here that we are vegetarian. On, on! 

Even the bananas are individually wrapped! WTF?!?

A note on Japanese Food Culture

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We are currently enjoying a month in Japan, taking in the amazing shrines, soaking in onsens, admiring Mount Fuji, and chasing the cherry blossoms. But one of the most enjoyable parts of our holiday in Japan has been enjoying the amazing diversity of food here. Virtually every region has its specialty, and we haven’t had a bad meal yet.

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Although we have had a few large meals (pictured), even here you can see that the individual portion sizes are quite modest. Each meal has a lovely blend of the various tastes: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and that most ubiquitous of Japanese flavours: umami. Each small dish is savoured, and with the enjoyment of these diverse tastes, you don’t need a lot to fully appreciate the dishes themselves.

This strikes me to be in marked contrast to many Western cultures, (and I am thinking North America here in particular), where I am always horrified at the portion sizes. Its not rocket science to see the correlation between portion size and obesity. And I do wonder about the lack of varied tastes in so much Western cuisine (the major tastes leaping to mind are sugar, salt and fat).

Other things that perhaps contribute to the overall healthier diet in Japan include the following:

  • Soft drinks are not widely available. Vending machines are everywhere, but fizzy drinks do not feature largely. Common cold drinks are iced teas, most served without any sugar.
  • Meals are largely based around vegetables (again, refer to the picture). When animal protein is served, the focus is on fish and seafood, rather than meats. But even when meat is served, portions stay in control. Tofu and soy are widely consumed. Fermented products are commonly eaten. Breads and pasta are not widely consumed. Rice and noodles feature regularly.
  • Presentation of each dish is as important as the taste of the dish itself. Some of the dishes are truly like works of art. Balance, harmony and simplicity is demonstrated in both the tastes and the presentation of the meal.

It has been a joy thus far sampling the wide variety of foods and tastes in this most magnificent country. Highly recommended destination for the foodie.

Written by Mar(k)

April 23, 2017 at 8:26 pm

Post Veganary: Where to from here?

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On Sunday we will have (successfully!) concluded our month of Vegan living.  So where to from here?

Well, that is a bit of a tricky question. Are we “ready” to embrace veganism as our default diet at the moment? Probably not. However, our lacto-ovo vegetarian diet will probably be amended somewhat based on our experiences during Veganary.

People choose veganism (or vegetarianism) for a variety of reasons. For us, harm to animals is a key driver. Which is why this article was of particular interest to us. If you are also driven by animal harm (and how to reduce it), you can also read this more detailed (but not overly long) article here.   In reading this article, I realise that the life I have been living for the past 22 or so years (and for Mark, about the last 8 years), actually has a name!   Go figure.  Environmentarianism.   Who knew?

It has been great engaging online through the Veganuary website with others, and their journey during this past month.  For us, it hasn’t been hugely life altering.  But I have used this month to learn more about vegan substitutes (my vegan friends who enjoy coming over for meals will thank me!), and getting more knowledge on the environmental damage that animal husbandry causes.

Did we die from lack of cheese?  um…. no.   Did we think we would miss it more than we did?  Definitely.   Although Mark is probably going to be happy to get back in the (bicycle) saddle with his cappuccino apres bike ride, we aren’t going to be rushing out to gorge ourselves on a cheese omelette just yet!   However, we WILL be changing up some staple items in our pantry, such that our already vegetarian lifestyle is more vegan friendly at home.  We have an added incentive to shop at our local all-vegan shop, as we love to support local small businesses.   So that will probably keep us using things like bio-cheese and other staples.   And all the online research has turned up some fabulous recipes, which have been real winners!   Always good to add those into the arsenal of yummy eating options.

Finally, we don’t feel like we need to be evangelical about anything – vegan diets included.  We aren’t really turned on by fanatical preaching in any form – religious, vegan or otherwise.  We are also clear that our choices are exactly that – our choices.  We don’t need to make a big deal out of it – and we do listen with wry amusement when others feel they need to comment on our dietary choices.   What they say, says much more about them, than it does about us!   We will leave you with this lovely sign that really embraces what we try to practise on a daily basis.   Happy Veganary everyone!

 

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Written by Mar(k)

January 29, 2016 at 5:07 pm

Veganary Update: Week 3

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We are trucking along quite nicely. Interestingly, we don’t really feel “deprived” (like we thought we might, missing out on cheese, in particular!). Mark is probably still missing his cow’s milk in his coffees, though. But overall, we are doing well.

I was trying to think of what is “different” this month in our diet, and some observations I have noticed (coming from a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet), is this:

Mexican food – one of our staples during Veganary

  • we probably eat more Mexican themed meals – the refried beans are a great and easy source of protein, along with the avocado. We don’t miss the cheese addition much, because the Mexican flavours pack a punch
  • a bit more of a focus on snacking to include protein sources. So for me, that means having a handful of nuts every now and again. Mark is already pretty nuts about nuts, so probably no difference for him!
  • way more diligence about label reading at the grocery store. Some surprises in the ingredient lists on some staple items – like olive tapenade. Was hard to find one that didn’t have anchovies as an ingredient!
  • bought a chewable B12 supplement. Probably not a huge deal if we revert back to our vegetarian diet, but you can’t be too sure! A good (vegan) friend of ours has pernicious anaemia, and requires B12 injections, so we are aware of the necessity to have enough B12 in our diet.

Was pleasantly surprised to hear that other friends of ours are also having a go at Veganary. Word is clearly getting out! And much love to our dear militant vegan friends (who shall remain nameless), who have been delightfully supportive of our attempts. We love ya!

We watched the great documentary “Conspiracy” last night.  It has been on our “to watch” list for quite a while now, but we thought it a good idea to make sure we viewed it while we were actually vegans!   Both of us thought it would be quite brutal re: graphic shots on animal cruelty.   And although there were two moments when both of us closed our eyes, overall this documentary is great, and it ISN’T all about abattoir shots, caged hens, etc… it is all about the number one causes of climate change (spoiler alert:  it ISN’T what you might think).  Highly recommended.  Particularly if you call yourself an environmentalist!

Finally, I feel “lighter”.   And I know this probably won’t be a surprise to fellow vegans.  But I was a bit surprised at this change.   Have to assume it is associated with the lack of cheese in our diet (rather than the eggs).   A good friend has suggested that when we re-introduce cheese and eggs into our diet, we do it one at time, just to see what it is that causes the heavier feeling.   A good idea!   Will let you know how it goes.

Written by Mar(k)

January 22, 2016 at 3:59 pm

Veganary Week 2 – finding an all vegan shop

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Well, we have finished about half of our Veganary month. In my last post, I mentioned a real score, which was finding an ALL VEGAN store literally just up the road from where we live. We had actually known it was there for a few weeks, but hadn’t gotten around to dropping in to check it out. Mighty glad we have now, though!

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The shop is called La Vita Vegan Grocery, and you can check out their Facebook page here. Natalie (pictured in the shop), is the owner, and was super friendly, helpful and pretty much just amazing!

This small place ticks a lot of boxes for us, Vegan or not! Here are just a few:

  • It is small, local place to shop for groceries.   We already boycott Coles and Woolies, and enjoy getting most of our fruit and veg at the local farmer’s market.   Whatever we can’t find there, we buy at the independent grocery stores (IGA or Farmer Jack’s).   But this is also going to be a go-to place for us.   Small businesses only succeed when people vote with their pocketbooks.
  • It is wonderful to see a niche like veganism being filled!   Perth doesn’t have the “big city” options like our other big cities do, so we are always going to support ventures that open up Perth’s doors just a little bit wider to the wonderful world out there!
  • Go the girls!  Love to see young women succeed in their business ventures.  Natalie is ambitious, friendly and happy to share her experiences as a vegan with her customers.  I can see that she will be a success in this venture.

In other news with our Veganary journey this week, Mark is slowly expanding his world view of soy milk with coffee.   He has now tried (two successes, one failure) a soy long macchiato.   So options are opening up for the man.  Yay.   But we did have to turn down two beautiful looking bites of yumminess yesterday at a coffee shop who gives you little bites of delightfulness when you order your coffee.   Alas, no vegan options there.   On the plus side, it probably saved some calories.

Two weeks down, two weeks to go.

Written by Mar(k)

January 15, 2016 at 9:32 am

Week 1 of being Vegan – the good, the bad, the ugly

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Well, week one is now behind us.  No major dramas, but thought I would quickly summarise some of what we experienced:

The good:

  • Success at our dinner out on Saturday night with friends.  Went for Thai, and had no dramas with ordering.  Pretty much everything in the vegetarian section was also vegan.  Hint:  if ordering Pad Thai, just order it without the egg.
  • Major score!  Finding a Vegan store only a few blocks from our home.   I won’t say any more in this post – because I plan to write it up for NEXT week.
  • Had one of our (militant) vegan friends over for dinner this week.  She was so stoked that we are doing the vegan thing.   AND loved the Mexican themed meal.   (sweet potato quesadillas and vegan chilli served with homemade vegan sour cream – which was a real hit).

The bad:

  • Mark went on a long (100 km) cycle ride, and they stopped at a small cafe for coffee and breakfast.   No more cappuccinos for him!  Bugger, because he doesn’t like soy milk, so he will have to rely on long blacks for the month, I guess.   The breakfast options were there, but not in abundance.  What he WANTED was eggs, but alas!  No can do.   So he settled for a muffin, although he didn’t realise that it probably wasn’t vegan (eggs, butter, possibly milk).  Oh well – he was at least conscious of TRYING to make the right choice, so that counts as OK in my book!   Mushrooms on toast would have been an option, but they weren’t available.   And no toast and avocado, either.   Never mind!   Onwards and upwards.
  • Update on the coffee situation:  Mark continues to be traumatised at the end of week 1.   I think this says more about how addicted we are to our coffees outside of the home.   Oh well – this is definitely a First World Problem.
  • We inadvertently “slipped up” the other night for dinner.   Prepared a yummy lentil salad, and had prepared a simple green salad to go with it.   Feeling a bit lazy, so just drizzled some pre-prepared Japanese sesame salad dressing on it.   After drizzling, I then thought to read the label (note to self:  read label BEFORE drizzling).   Yup – hidden “powdered egg yolk”!   (yuck).   Oh well.   We did our best!

The ugly:

  • Sheese.   For the uninitiated, this is one of those “dairy free cheese substitutes” that is a cross between sh*t and cheese.  Ha ha.  Only joking. We bought it, and we are using it in sandwiches, etc…   We just need to get past the mindset that it will taste like cheese.  Because it doesn’t.  Because it isn’t.

    Not our cup of tea.  Or block of Sheese.   Or whatever.

    Not our cup of tea. Or block of Sheese. Or whatever.

That’s all for now!  Week 2 is now underway.  Bring it on!

Written by Mar(k)

January 8, 2016 at 11:22 am

Going vegan for January = Veganary!

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Greetings everyone and welcome to 2016!  As we welcome in the New Year, Mar(k) have decided to embrace Veganary for the next month.   If you haven’t heard about it, it’s basically a “thing” where you become Vegan for the month of January.

So!  Our plan is to document our month and see how we go.   We all know that we are more likely to “succeed” with a goal or objective if we are accountable, right?  So blogging about it will help us to highlight our challenges, successes and frustrations (if any!).

Our first rule is that we aren’t going to be the “militant vegans”.  Ha ha.  We are already pains in the a*se because we are already vegetarian.   So for us, the journey to veganism is a shorter road than for many others.   So it should be easier, as we often eat vegan anyhow, and have more than a few vegan friends.   Nonetheless, before we decided to embark on this journey, we did talk about it a fair bit.   For us, the two biggest “hardships” for modifying our diet for the month will be cheese and eggs.   We have already found it hard, in fact, as we had some residual cheese in our fridge (and also a non-vegan dip), so we consumed both of those today (Jan 1), and will officially start “now”… (as in, for dinner on 1 Jan).

We made our first vegan-only shop at the supermarket, and are now stocked up for the next week or so.   Pictured here is a few of the things that we bought that we wouldn’t normally buy.  (NB:  Well, the veggies are all in the “usually buy” list, but I added them for some colour!)   Focus on the front row, people….

Veganaisse (vegan mayonaisse!) - who knew???

Veganaisse (vegan mayonaisse!) – who knew???

  1.  Vegan friendly “spread”.   Good thing we are already label readers.   Because the first couple of what we thought were going to be OK spreads actually had milk solids in them!  But this one passed our vegan friendly scan.
  2. Vegan mayonnaise.   (who knew???)
  3. Soy yogurt.   We don’t eat a lot of dairy anyhow – other than cheese!  But we do occasionally have dairy yogurt in the fridge, so it was time to pop an alternative in there.

So we are off and running.   It will be interesting to see how we go, and if (when?) we fall off the wagon.   It isn’t about doing this perfectly, but more about the conscious awareness that it will generate for us in the next month.

If you are interested in knowing a bit more about it, you can read a great Guardian article here – about Veganary, or else learn more about Veganary and perhaps take the challenge yourself!   Feel free to start anytime!

 

Written by Mar(k)

January 1, 2016 at 6:52 pm