Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Learn to Speak Chinese

We have a newly opened Chinese restaurant in our neighborhood. Our meat eating friends have had good things to say about it, so we gave it a try the other night. It was Rick's choice for his birthday dinner.
Veggie Chow Mein
Duck House Chinese Restaurant doesn't appear to have a website, but I did find this page on Eater. We wandered in on a Monday night, and were greeted warmly and seated right away. I'm not sure if there's a cultural thing we don't know about, but we eventually had to flag someone down to take our order. No problem. Just something to know.

There was not a lot of English spoken, which was a good sign we'd get real Chinese food, rather than an Americanized version. And because of that, it seemed like one of those situations where it would be best to ask for "vegetarian" rather than "vegan," to avoid having to explain too much, or being misunderstood.

The word "vegetarian" worked perfectly, and our server pointed out several things on the menu that were already veggie, or could have tofu or vegetables subbed for the meat. Perfect. We ordered mixed vegetables in garlic sauce, kung pao tofu, and veggie chow mein. We also ordered rice, which we didn't need, but we like it. It was all way too much food, but when that happens, we just take it home and think of it as "grocery shopping."

Mixed Vegetable in Garlic Sauce
Everything was delicious, and I'm fairly confident it was all vegan. As I talked about in my last post, making a big ol' stinky deal over ever tiny ingredient can actually be counterproductive to the number one vegan objective of helping our animal friends. So stop it already. Be a little bit imperfect. Do your best. It's good enough.

Kung Pao Tofu
And wouldn't you know it, when it came time for the fortune cookies, the kind with a fortune on one side and a Chinese lesson on the other, I got the one that taught me how to say "vegetable!" I asked our server to tell me how to say it properly, and it turns out I would have mangled it terribly if I'd just read it phonetically.

Good Chinese food just steps from our door is going to be a great thing. Welcome to the neighborhood, Duck House. I won't be ordering the duck, but I do plan to do a lot of "vegetarian" grocery shopping there!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Salad and French Fries

You're at a restaurant with friends. Everyone is deciding whether to order the salmon or the cheeseburger or the chicken caesar... and you begin to panic that you're not going to get anything to eat until you go home. You know there's a granola bar in your bag, but you can't figure out how to smuggle it discreetly to your mouth. Everything, everything, everything on the menu has meat in it - even the salads, which just seems wrong, doesn't it?

We gotta deal with it. It's kind of a vegan nightmare, and it happens all the time. But you can get through this gracefully if you're willing to be open minded and not too bunched up about your "vegan purity."

Let's remember that we're vegan because we care. About animals, ourselves, and the planet. However, we should never expect saintly perfection from ourselves or others. Working with what we've got, the best way to be a good, compassionate vegan ambassador, while not being a big fat jerk, is to be creative, and to make the most of every dining situation.

It's good to have a fallback meal you can depend on just about anyplace. For me, when all else fails, it's salad and French fries to the rescue. You can get this satisfying combo just about anywhere. Instead of sending your server to the kitchen with a list of questions for the busy chef, simply ask that the chicken and the cheese be left off your salad, and the creamy-ranchy-whatever dressing be replaced with a nice vinaigrette. Sub ketchup and mustard (my fave), or bar-b-que sauce for mayo based dipping sauces for your fries, and you have a really good meal with minimal fuss.

I know this, because I did it about 17 times last week while staying in a lovely resort in the San Juan Islands of Washington state. Family and friends had gathered from near and far to celebrate the wedding of my daughter and her awesome now-husband. The place was gorgeous, and the restaurants had a nice selection - for everyone but Rick and me. The bride and her gracious new mother-in-law took care to see that Rick and I had beautiful vegan meals at the rehearsal dinner and wedding reception. Other than that, we ate salad and fries pretty much the whole time. It was fine. No problem. We were in a fancy resort with lovely people and incredible views. There was really nothing to complain about. And besides, we had wine!

I know what some of you are going to ask. Did they have a separate fryer for the fries? I'm pretty sure they didn't! And you know what? We didn't ask or care. While I used to boycott fries that were cooked in the same oil as meat, I now have a different point of view on this.

Sure, there might be molecules of fish essence in the oil, and therefore in your potatoes. But honestly, it's not any worse than breathing in that burger smell from your neighbor's bar-b-que. I can't prove it, but I'm sticking to my story. In my hasty research, I found a snipet from the book, I Can't Get Sick by Angelica Joy, which supports my theory that smelling something is in some ways the same as eating it. It makes sense to me that we absorb molecules from the things we smell. If there's second hand smoke, why not second hand food?

My point is not to have you all grossed out and wearing a gas mask when you go out to eat. What I'm saying is, we live in the world, not in a pristine vegan bubble. If you want to glitch out on the fries being cooked in the same oil as the fish, I will gently suggest that you get over yourself. Really.

When we order fries that are cooked in the same oil as the chicken, it's not ideal, but let's go back to the biggest reason for being vegan - compassion for our animal buddies. Whenever we buy something, we're saying, "make more of this." But ordering, eating, and paying for potatoes cooked in popcorn-shrimp-tainted oil is not saying, "make more popcorn shrimp." It's saying, "make more potatoes." Sometimes we just have to forget about our little personal vegan purity issues.

I do have backup on this. Check out this short video from the Vegan Bros (serious potty mouth warning), in which they quote from a great article by Farm Sanctuary's Bruce Friedrich. To paraphrase, our often-perceived-as-obnoxious pursuit of personal purity can actually be more harmful to animals than if we ate a tiny amount of an animal product in something like a veggie burger with egg in it, or fries cooked in meat-shared oil.

When we make a big fat hairy deal over every little ingredient and cooking process, our servers, kitchen staff, and fellow diners see veganism as prissy and difficult, which often closes their minds to the possibility of trying it out for themselves. We do a much better job of helping animals if we make veganism look fun and delicious and easy, so other people consider going vegan because of our shining example.

I have a whole chapter planned on this for my new book (Yes!), because I think it's really worth discussing. For now, if you find yourself in potentially hostile restaurant territory, order a salad the way you like it. Don't be a stingy jerk and ask for a discount because you're not having the chicken on top. And order the fries without asking about a "dedicated fryer."

You'll be doing the best you can do, you'll get to eat (yay!), and you'll be more likely to have the people around you ask you thoughtful questions about your food choices. Really darlings, that's more than good enough.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

From Hot Dogs to Fabulous Falafel

The old Der Wienerschnitzel a-frame on Meridian Ave in San Jose has started a new life as Flying Falafel. It's all vegan and gluten free, and it's a terrific addition to the Bay Area vegan food scene.

The guys running it are cheerful, speedy, and generous. The food may be fast, but it's also real, and really, really good. I went there for lunch two days in a row, and saved half of my second meal for lunch the third day.

The falafel sandwiches start with a gorgeous, soft, fluffy, warm, whole wheat pita, which is stuffed to the brim with tasty falafel, fresh and pickled veggies, tahini, and hot sauce if you want it. A similar dish (called Plate Me) is all the above on a plate, with pita on the side. The simple menu also includes a couple of other configurations of falafel, hummus, and pita, as well as dolmas, fries (added as a garnish to one sandwich, on a whim it seemed), cinnamon baklava, and banana milk shakes. Pretty darn heavenly.

Ignore the goofy old building and funky freeway neighborhood and just go there. You will be happy. I'm quite sure of it.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Wedding Week!

My daughter is getting married over Labor Day Weekend, and as MOTB, I really can't focus on anything but the wedding and the big magic bubble of happiness that surrounds all involved. It's my job to keep that intact, which I wrote about today in TakingTheLongWayHome. Read it if you want to! Link above!

I have a post scheduled to pop in next week, about some fabulous falafel I enjoyed recently. Once I come off the wedding high, I'll turn my attention back to my work. For now, I'm all about being the best MOTB ever! (And I have the best daughter ever, who is making sure Rick and I have beautiful vegan food throughout the weekend. More on that later!)

See you soon!
xoxo Kim

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

No-Fuss Lunch

I have a shelf full of vegan cookbooks. I love them. I'll keep buying them. I'll keep writing them. And... confession of a real-life hungry girl here... I hardly ever use them. While I technically have the time to make all the fancy food I want, my choice is usually to do other things, like write and make things and share whatever wants to be shared on any given day.

When I'm at home, cooking just for me, or for both Rick and myself, I really don't love to spend endless hours in the kitchen. Most of the time, I want to eat something that's really good, really good for me, and really easy to make.

Lunch seems to kerbobble people more than other meals. Entire books are dedicated to lunch, for sandwichsakes, but honestly, there's just no need to fuss about it so. Especially when you're vegan. Bring your own, and make it something you can practically throw together in your sleep.

Leftovers from the night before are always good for lunch. Favorite stand-by sandwiches, like my Baked Tofu Birthday Sandwich, or Chickpea Tuna Salad take a little more effort, but you can usually get at least a couple of lunches out of a batch.

My current favorite grab-it-fast lunch is even faster than going out for take-out. Behold the Salad Roll! A whole salad's worth of green goodness, all wrapped up in a lovely, humble tortilla. It takes about two seconds (ok, maybe 15) to make, it's infinitely variable, it's easy to stuff in your face, and it's good for you.

Spread hummus or vegan cream cheese (or both, half on each side) all the way to the edges of a flour tortilla.
Pile on a big handful of fluffy baby salad greens.
Add other veggies (chopped small) if you want to.
Drizzle with a little salad dressing and maybe some hot sauce.

Roll it all up, nice and tight, squeezing the greens in as you go.
Leave an inch or so at the edge so the hummus/cream cheese can act like glue and hold the whole thing together.
Cut the roll in half.
Eat it!
You don't need a dipping sauce, but nobody's going to tell you you're wrong if you cozy up next to a little bowl of extra dressing.

That's it. Keep it simple. Keep it good and full of goodness.
Vegan life is easy if we let it be.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Changes. Change is.

Notice anything different around here? (No, not my new dress.) It was time to change things up, in order to make way for other changes that I'm not quite yet clear about. You know how that is? Making anything different has the potential to make everything different. And I'm ready for some differentness.

The old PV logo was fine and lovely, but it was never what I really wanted. I just kept it because I had it, and because a friend designed it for me, but those are both really lame reasons. So poof! Gone are the cute vegetables and the colors I never got comfortable with. If you loved it, well, sorry. I'll send you a picture.

Part of the shift I'm instigating here is a merging of my blogs and my website. I have one site now, which offers links to all the stuff I do. I do a lot and the fragmentation was making me feel all energetically scattered and queasy.

If I can figure out a way of merging this blog in with LongWayHome I'll do it.  For now, it feels like they still need to each be their own thing. Go ahead and subscribe to both. There might be some cross-blogging now and then, but mostly, PV is food related, while LWH is more personal. Having said that, I might even post the very same thing on both of them when it applies.

Like this.
It's going on both, with only minor changes.

You know, it's really like one blog in two different rooms. It's all me and my stuff. Hang out in which ever room you feel the most comfortable, or in both, if you like. I'd like that.

So here are the links. If you get lost or confused, and you remember my name, just go to KimMiles.com. It's the hub, with links to everything else, including blogs, books, beads, and handmade finery from my very own fingers.


See you out there. Somewhere.
Here's to changes!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Mom's Kitchen

As I write this, I'm in San Jose, in the backyard of the house I grew up in. My parents' house, my family home, most recently just my dad's house, and now, the house that belongs to my sisters and me. My father passed away in June of this year, after living here alone for the last 26 years. Mom passed in 1990, leaving us all, but mostly Daddy, to wonder how in the world we could ever be normal again.

He never quite recovered from losing the love of his life, but staying in his beloved home, his mansion, he called it, meant more to him than anything else in the world he might have wished for. We were somehow miraculously able to grant him the only thing he ever asked us for. He got to live to the very tippy-tail end of his life in his own house. My sisters and I, just the three of us and nobody else, were here with him when he left us. It was the hardest thing I've ever done, and maybe the most honorable. I wouldn't recommend it, but I'm so grateful we were able to be here for him.

After a month at home to catch our breath, trying not to deal with any more than we absolutely had to, we're back now, sorting through our family-specific mountain of things that accumulate in a house over 54 years. We've emptied every drawer, every closet, every box, every cabinet, every shelf. We've touched thousands of pieces of paper and countless assembled objects, housewares, and photographs. We've claimed what we want to keep, and given our kids and a few family members mementos and heirlooms. Next on the list is an estate sale, for the furniture and daunting pile of things that will all be treasures to someone who hasn't found them yet.

The paper sorting was torturous for me, and the gear and tools didn't interest me much. My father interested me greatly, but his things were man things. Our husbands and sons happily went through every bit of all that, while I wandered off to the kitchen. Mom's kitchen, where I first learned to cook, and where she worked her magic to the delight of anyone lucky enough to be invited to our table. Over the years, we began referring to the house as Dad's, but it will always be Mom's kitchen.

This time though, I wasn't there to cook, but to clean and sort and discard. It was kind of terrible, and kind of fun. It was whatever I wanted to decide it was, and I flip-flopped back and forth a lot until I decided to just quiet my head and enjoy the process. Very little had been brought in since Mom passed, and very little had been tossed out.

My little stack of take-homes is still growing. I keep plucking things from the sale pile and smuggling them down the hall to my room. The little copper bottomed Revereware saucepan needs me. The banged up mixing bowls are dimpled like steel drums, and are so much heavier than any I've had in my own adult life. I actually spoke to the white and pink (once red) Pyrex casserole dish, saying, I've known you my whole life. You're coming home with me. And the gently stained 1970's aprons, in my opinion, are simply not give-up-able.

The sorting continues, things leave for their new homes, papers are shredded, trash is tossed, and memories bubble to the surface like a lake full of champagne. I'm not the first one to go through this, but for me this is new territory. Dad was a hiker, an outdoorsman, a reader of maps, a carrier of a good compass, both in his heart and in his pocket. He guided us through life in his strong and certain way. But he couldn't leave trail markers to help us with what we're doing now.

Every so often, one of my sisters or I will notice what feels absolutely like a message from our parents. We all feel them both sticking near us right now, as we tidy up for them this one last time. I like to think we're doing all this in a way they're happy with. On the other hand, they might be off romping around Eternity, caring not a hoot about their earthly goods. Either way is OK with me. And I know we're doing the best we can on an unmarked trail.