Monday, January 08, 2007

Not-so-melty sandwich, and a (good?) read

When I was a cheese-eater, I used to really like veggie melt sandwiches. I haven't really missed them that much, but when we got the Vegan Gourmet cheese I thought it would be fun to make a nice, dairy-free veggie melt. Mushrooms and spinach are a must. Sprouts, if we have them on hand (which we didn't)... and a tomato, when we can get them. We actually had a tomato. Sauté the mushrooms until they are slightly tender, spread one side of the bread with dijon mustard, pile everything on, and grill it on low heat until the cheese melts. Voilà!


As you can see, the VG cheese didn't really melt very much. It's hard to get the sandwich hot enough all the way through on the stove, especially when you're using dense homemade bread. I would have probably transferred it to the toaster oven, but I was afraid it would fall apart. That's okay--tasty lunch. I opted for sweet peas to go with it, just to make sure there were enough veggies in our meal.

Last night Bob knew I had Indian food on my mind, so he took me to Bombay Cafe for dinner. Probably the most vegan-friendly restaurant in Athens, and maybe the tastiest (if you like Indian food, which I am really beginning to appreciate). Bob ordered aloo mutter, which was potatoes and green peas in a curry sauce, and I had bhindi masala--okra cooked with onions, garlic, and lentils and curry spices. It was so very tasty, and definitely the best manifestation of okra I've ever had. It makes me long for summer when okra abounds. When the time comes, I will definitely learn how to cook this dish. I brought home half my meal and had the leftovers for lunch today, and thought to take a picture:


Bhindi masala with some spinach roti on the side. Yum....

That's all for food. On another note, I got this book for Christmas:

Jane Goodall's Harvest for Hope, which came out in 2005. It's so easy to read that I've nearly finished it in just a couple of days. I wish I could recommend it highly to every one of you, but I don't know if I feel that strongly about it--particularly the chapters that address factory farming. I would say that she does a wonderful job of bringing attention to the horrible conditions on factory farms; I actually cried when I read her description of the life and death of a factory-farmed pig, even though I knew the truth already. The problem I have with the book is her solution to the problem.

She is not a vegan, though she says in her book that she would be if she didn't travel for about 10 months out of the year. She seems to look very favorably at buying organic meat and animal products, as if that will be a definite solution to the problem. One quote from the book that bothered me was:

We can now go to just about any grocery store and find products from animals who were raised humanely, safely, and in ways that caused little or no harm to the environment. (p. 99)

I'm sorry; I'm just not that trusting of the industry to buy this completely. Yes, I think that buying organic, free-range, cage-free, grass-fed is better, but the animals that are raised for those products, unless we're talking a very small family farm or something, are still going to be subject to some form of cruelty during their lives--still going to be treated as profit centers rather than living, beautiful creatures--still going to be deprived, in some way, of their natural behaviors. I mean, the USDA, which sets the standards for organic certification, do they really have the best interest of the animals at heart?

Basically, I really wish I could recommend to non-vegans the chapters in this book that expose the practices on factory farms, and not the chapters that outline Goodall's proposed solutions. I think it is too bad that she does such a nice, in-depth job of outlining just how these farming practices hurt the animals, destroy the environment, and pose an enormous risk to human health, and then seems to water down the solution. If I were an omnivore and I read this book, I would probably be shocked and horrified, and then I would read "Buy organic meat and dairy products" and believe that I would really be doing my part to fight back if I did.

All the other topics she addresses--avoiding GMOs and pesticides, buying local, seasonal produce--I think are beautifully handled. There are some stories about farm animals that made my heart melt with affection. Goodall is very insightful and very thorough in her coverage of all the topics related to "mindful eating." So I hesitantly recommend this book. I wish I could recommend it to my non-vegan friends, but I don't know. Thoughts?

Wow, that was a long rant. Thanks for reading it all!

14 comments:

Midwest Vegan said...

Your sandwich looks great. It looks like it would be good even without the cheese. I haven't tried any of the vegan cheeses yet but I do miss grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thanks for the book review. I was wondering if it worth reading/buying.

theONLYtania said...

I agree, the sandwich does look great! I miss cheese as well, hehe.

I haven't read it, but this sounds like the kind of book that I would file under: books that I didn't like a whole lot, but am glad I read. If that makes any sense.

Personally, I think people should make their own decisions. This woman's opinion and personal choice to eat organic meat and dairy probably shouldn't affect what other people do.

Dori said...

I read this book this summer and loved what she had to say about organic veggies and farming practices - that's why I checked it out.

I wished she would have been pro vegan more also. My thoughts were that if she wanted a wider appeal and to motivate people to make a step in a better direction then telling them to go organic is better than them passing her off as an extremist (vegan) then ignore the important message of help the environment.

Vicki said...

hi laura! thanks for this thoughtful review & food porn. i might borrow the book from the library, but don't want to buy it. it sure would be nice to see more high profile & well respected people take a stand against animal products (gore & goodall) it's disappointing that she doesn't given her compassionate background.

bazu said...

Thanks for your review, Laura. I understand where your frustration is coming from, when the author clearly sees the problem, but doesn't seem to push for the logical conclusion. (There's no ethically raised animal if it ultimately gets slaughtered! Jeez!) I felt the same way about the book "Omnivore's Dilemma" that talks about the serious health, environmental, ethical, economic, etc. problems with U.S. food production, but can't seem to bring itself to point to veganism, which is certainly one form of resistance against these problems.

Johanna3 said...

i love how the sandwich looks, thanks for the book review too!

Melissa West said...

Love the sandwich.

I took that book out of the library. I didn't get too far through it. I found it pretty unexciting and uninspiring. Good premise though...

Megan the Vegan said...

mm..I just love indian food. looks great.

Urban Vegan said...

Looks wonderful. I find that the vegan individual slices melt decently for grilled cheeses.

I do love jane goodall and have been eyeing that book. (I dressed as her for Halloween when I was in college--about a zillion years ago!) I think she raises awareness--but is either blind to some of the issues, or feels the public would be more receptive to the info in baby steps.

Kris said...

I enjoyed your critique of that book. I haven't read it and was surprised to see what you quoted. Interesting to say the least.

Aloo mutter is my all time favorite food of anything on the planet! I could eat it all day, every day. And with a side of vegan naan... Oh my...

Gaia said...

Thank you for the review Laura.
I will not be reading it. I'd be too disappointed. I am now, just by your description.

Veg-a-Nut said...

Your sandwich looks wonderful. I bought some of the vgc, mozzarella flavor and loved it. I used it on some little pizza's (you can see them on my blog). I found if I cut the cheeese into tiny, ( i mean tiny) pieces it melts. This worked well on the pizza.
As far as the book goes, your review made me sad. You would think working so much with animals and having such strong views on their care and the environment she would at least be vegetarian. I wonder what her stand would be if gorilla's were part of factory farming? hmm

Pixie said...

That sandwich does look amazing. I have had no success with finding a good tasting vegan cheese so I've been without any of my melt-type sandwiches. Oh well....

Thanks for sharing your review of the book. I may check it out from the library. It's a shame about her statement on the buying of organic meat and animal products. Unfortunately, her statement is very untrue for where I live. I'm glad, though, that you said other topics were well-presented. I'll put it on my "to read" list. Thanks.

Aarwenn said...

No brilliant discourse about Jane Goddall here--we engineers can barely read actual books, you know--but I've found that vegan cheese melts better when you FREEZE it first. Now I do it every time I bring FYH home from the store--just freeze it, thaw it, and then it'll melt better. Also I second the notion about cutting it into smaller pieces, although it's not a perfect solution. In fact, I've found that putting f.cheese on any *complicated* dish, as in, more than just bread and cheese, significantly increases the time and temperature needed to melt. I thought it was just the microwave, but since you didn't use a microwave, I don't know what to tell you. I wish we could melt the cheese first and THEN put it on sandwiches!