Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Vegan Wine and Organic Food

The original title of this entry was "Vegan Wine and Organic Food: Unicorns of Southern Italy" because these concepts are truly foreign to these people. Early in the trip, Gretchen mentioned how the vegans see met on the first vegan tour and their lifestyle opened her eyes to new ideas. For example, she never knew

Monday, June 25, 2012

Catskills Animal Sanctuary Shindig

I had the great joy of finally going to an animal sanctuary a few weekends past. It was the Catskills Animal Sanctuary in upstate New York. It started off as a rainy, dreary day. After an hour or so,

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Perils of Dealing with Vegans and Non-Vegans

I am always at a loss for words when it comes to speaking to people about the veg lifestyle and not have them look at me with either severe confusion and/or pity. While it is probably one of the hardest decisions to make, it is the most rewarding and self-affirming decisions ever. Period.

Recently I saw a friend post on FB a picture of a frozen vegan meal that was mofongo. (This is a dish that  is meat, seafood, chicken, and/or pork laden.) Being Puerto Rican she felt that no one should 'mess' with a traditional dish by 'veganizing' it. She said that if you wanted to eat vegetables, then eat vegetables, but don't touch her food. I really had no idea how to respond to that. She probably doesn't remember I am vegan so it wasn't like she was daring someone to respond. But, I did feel like I had to say something, even though the words failed me.

After giving it some thought I realized that it wasn't that "we" were interfering with her food so much, but rather we were trying to get back a little of what we'd traded for the ethical life chosen. You miss home cooked meals that bring back nostalgia. You're not trying to have a tradition ripped away from someone else. I never did add to the comment. (Let's face it, on FB if you don't respond within minutes it's at the bottom of your timeline before you know it.)

Another experience I had was a highly charged "discussion" with a vegan on LinkedIn. I added a comment to a discussion thread agreeing about having empathy for those who don't see eye to eye with you as a vegan or vegetarian. Out of nowhere a man begins to verbally attack me with a rage like I'd just eaten a plate of osso bucco in front of him! He hurled several arguments my way, almost identical in form to the logic used by non-vegans who come up with arguments like 'If we stop eating meat, the earth will be overrun with cows.' It was just so preposterous and he became more and more detached and venomous that I left the discussion. He ironically was the type of person I COULD NOT STAND as a non-vegan who felt they were the Messiah on Earth and their rage and disgust at your omnivore flaws would instantly cause you to see the error of your ways and go veg.

Two very different people. Strangely enough the non-vegan would have been the more worthy human to engage in a mature beneficial conversation. For me it is not about sitting on a throne a vegan righteousness condemning people who will just stick to the guns harder, even if you are starting to make sense to them. It is about having intelligent discussions that change peoples ways of thinking that what they've always done or always eaten doesn't make it right.

Am I wrong?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Finally In Roma!

The month of May found me in Rome, Italy. This trip was six years in the making because my then boyfriend and I had heard enough great things that made us want to go. It was fortuitous that my hubby came across Tierno Tours on LinkedIn. Not only do they do personalized small tours of southern Italy, but they added a vegan one as well. We were on the second outing. More on that later...

The tour was of southern Italy, but there was no way we were flying all the way to Italy and not see Rome. For that reason we started and ended the trip there. Based on the recommendation of a friend, we chose to stay our first nights in Rome at the Hotel Art by the Spanish Steps. The hotel is trendy and well laid out with a funky open area garden within the hotel with access to it by some steps near the back. Everyone was genuinely warm and helpful.

It is a kitschy hotel in that each floor has illuminated hallways that only come on once you open your room to leave or step off the elevator. The rooms are small, but containing great decor and the essentials. Besides, you are not in Rome to hang in hotels, they are a place to recharge so you can get out and see more of the city later.

There was so much done in such a short period of time...I can't believe I am back. I miss Italia!
To Be Continued...

Friday, June 1, 2012

Vegan Survival Guide in Rome

I have just come back from the trip of a lifetime. There are countless entries to follow on how great this adventure was. It will take me some time to accept joy in writing these posts and not severe depression at the fact that I am no longer breathing and living the blessed lifestyle that is led by those in southern Italy.

HRH (His Royal Highness) and I went on a Vegan Tour of Southern Italy via Tierno Tours—more on these wonderful people and their tour business later!

Because Italy has been a dream of ours for about six years or so, we couldn't go all the way there and not do Rome, so we bookended the Eternal City on either side of our tour. I admit I was very nervous about staying in Rome. The whole reason HRH selected this tour was so that I wouldn't have to worry about my meals (The tour is 100% vegan and even teaches you to make a few traditional dishes too). But while in Rome I was on my own. I compiled these tips and hopefully they come in handy for anyone blessed enough to be going to heaven on Earth anytime soon.

1) Do some research! Find out the traditional veggie friendly dishes of the area you are going to. Ask friends and family who have traveled there. Toss the question out on FB (just, for security sake, don't broadcast when you will be leaving thereby telling thieves the dates your home will be unattended! It has happened.)

2)  Get a translator app for your smart phone. They usually cost at most a few dollars and trust me, you will need it at one point or another if you don't speak the language and are straying away from the big cities. Don't be cheap.

3)   Toss a few snacks into your suitcase. Sure you will find their versions of (veggie) snacks eventually, but in a pinch on that first day or night in the hotel when you're feeing for a snack you'll be loving on that Lara Bar!

4)  Pack a water bottle if you can. You will never be thirsty in Italy, especially Rome. There is a water fountain at almost every turn with an ever constant flow of natural spring water that could put Poland Spring to shame. You don't want to dehydrate on your adventure do you?

5)  Learn key words/phrases in a pinch. This will help when you are stocking up on snacks once the Lara Bars are gone and you must ask for something at the market or cafe. You will feel a sense of accomplishment being able to read ingredient labels in another language so that you know which items don't contain eggs, dairy or animal by-products. It is easier to do than you think. (Hello, I did it!)

6)  It's how you say it. They say to avoid restaurants that have English on the menu. I didn't live that dangerously. (I've read that if the menu comes in 4 or 5 different languages, YOU.WILL.PAY.MORE. Basically should back away slowly from that establishment with your meager dollar to euro funds in tact.) I say all this to say this: learn to ask "What can you give me..." rather than coming out with the well-meaning but arrogant and off-putting "I don't eat..." and our long list of vegan no-nos. Italians take serious pride in the food they make and present to you. Some establishments are small and have no menus because what they make that day, is what they have in the kitchens fresh! Be a good traveller and keep that in mind when you make a request for dietary adjustments.

7)  And how ironic is my last tip—When in Rome, do as the Romans! I was on a short cruise and was given the tastiest of multi-course meals. Halfway through my second (or third?) course I saw cooked egg yolk hiding the in nooks and crannies of other food on my plate. Needless to say, I finished my meal because the woman who had tried to adhere to my dietary needs had slipped up in making the dish, but overall the entire meal was tasty. If it were something like milk in my gelato, then I would have spoken up, as I would have been worshipping the porcelain throne within a matter of hours. This error wouldn't kill me and respect and appreciation for my hostess' efforts were more important.

There you have it. Hope my adventure makes your adventures a little more worry free.

Salute! Chin-chin! (Cheers)