Immersed in Nature

The swamps surrounding my house beckon. Here I am, all I’m on a Boat in my head, but sometimes one needs to embrace the more budget-conscious choice. Besides, a canoe enables you to get into those tiny swamp alleyways, up close and personal with nature. Ah, nature. It’s so not my bag, baby.

Truth: I’m a city girl through and through. My earliest memories involve being awed by skyscrapers. The frenetic buzz of the city is what best lulls me to sleep at night and I feel most inspired when I wake up to the sounds of activity: store gates being thrown open, trucks making deliveries, the old man sitting on the stoop drinking his coffee and greeting rushed commuters. Just thinking about these things make me a little homesick and I haven’t lived in Brooklyn for 7 years.

That said, I’m striving towards embracing my outdoorsy side (rather, desperately trying to find that almost nonexistent outdoorsy side). While this doesn’t mean I’m going to go camping anytime soon (or, likely ever again, seeing as I couldn’t even handle camping in the Hamptons when I was a Girl Scout), I have been known to hike, kayak, and oh, there was that disastrous attempt at rappelling down a waterfall. I truly appreciate nature and now I’m kind of living in the middle of it and it’s really fucking gorgeous.

Danny, my boyfriend, is the absolute opposite of me. Nature is totally his thing. When we were first dating, he had these absurd visions of us going camping. He loves to fish. He loves to work outside. And the impending zombie apocalypse? He’s got this. He’d fight off zombies and catch fish for him, nuts and berries for me. What would I be doing besides complaining (typical New Yorker)? Failing at the Michonne workout. Pure. Zombie. Bait.

I was planning to get Danny a tattoo for his birthday, but instead I got him this canoe he’s been going on about for a year now. Living on the water, seeing all these boats going by, it inspires some real boat envy. I liked the idea of a canoe because it’s a little more active than a motored boat.

I’ve kayaked on Bayou St. John in the heart of New Orleans before, but for some reason that seems less infested with alligators than my current situation here in Bayou Sauvage (will you look at that main image?!) Or Bayou Savage, as I like to call it. I’ve actually never been in a canoe, which feels a hell of a lot more stable than a kayak, but I still was paranoid about tipping the thing over and falling into what is surely alligator and snake-infested water (NB: I exaggerate a lot).

This is us pulling away from our house… and possibly even civilization

Check us out! I’m digging these new adventures

 

 

 

Farewell to (a Travel-Filled) August

I’m in town for a spell. Speaking of spells (insert ghost, alien and demon emojis here), it’s officially Halloween season, baby! Not that it’s anywhere near cooling down here in New Orleans, but hello Labor Day Weekend and the banishment of white linen to the back of the closet (not that I own any white linen. Or white clothes). Yeah, that pumpkin spice latte may be truly disgusting but I like the idea of it being back on the scene (just don’t call me basic). My obsession with all things Autumnal is the subject matter for another post, but just know that I am terribly excited to receive a rather large order of fall-scented candles any day now (especially Yankee Candle Witches’ Brew  which is not only seasonal, but sells out by mid-September).

So, where have I been lately? August was a pretty travel-packed month for me. Early in the month, I had a couple nights in Memphis. I was home for 10 days before heading off to Toronto, then NYC to see my family, then San Francisco for our annual Yelp Community Manager Week, and finally to Nashville. I worked. I saw friends and family. I explored my beloved Coney Island with Danny. We walked the High Line one day. We went to a lot of bars. But the best part? I ate. I really ate. Each of the cities I visited boast great variety for vegans. Standouts include an abundance of greens at my favorite casual healthy joint in Toronto, Fresh on Queen, vegan pizza at Pauly Gee’s in Brooklyn, and a decadent sandwich at *gasp* Cinnamon Snail in Manhattan.

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Buffalo Chickpea Sandwich at Cinnamon Snail=Bliss
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Gorgeous Superfood Salad at Fresh on Queen, Toronto
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Hot Chicken-style Tempeh at Graze in Nashville

This is the truth: when I landed in Nashville last week, I literally dropped my bags off in my hotel room and immediately headed over to Graze so I could indulge in their famous hot chicken-style tempeh biscuit. It’s that good.

Let it be known that I’m positively giddy just thinking about all the great food I ate over 10 days out of town.

So, about all that sightseeing I did… but wait, let’s talk about food again! I jest.

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After all these years, still terrified on the Wonder Wheel at Coney Island PS. Back to Bangs

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A visit to NYC is not complete without a visit to Decibel

I have no plans for trips longer than a couple nights until early October and I’m going to make the most of my time home. Painting may even be on the horizon (dare I attempt to get my office in order?!) It may not feel fall-like in NOLA for about two more months, but that’s OK. I’m counting the days until I’ll be able to open all the windows in the house and let in cool breezes and the spooky sounds of huge swamp birds squawking in the middle of the night as they fly over the dark canals behind my house.

My So-Called Vegan Life

*Written at my house in the swamps of the Crescent City

What the hell is wrong with me? I let almost a year go by without blogging and that just ain’t right. A lot has happened over the past 11 months, but this isn’t going to be a catch up post, rather I’m gonna go and give you some vegan insight. Lucky you!

I’ve come to realize that I often try to push the fact that I’ve vegan under the table a bit. Sometimes I’m even apologetic about it. Why? In part, this is due to the fact that I don’t like to put people on the offense (sometimes admitting that you’re vegan will do this for some bizarre reason and no, I don’t announce my lifestyle choice unless I’m trying to order at a restaurant). The reality is, I’m sick of the same old questions and accusations I’ve been hearing for 25 years now. Sure, while I don’t mind answering the occasional curious question or two, if I have to hear, “what the hell do you eat?” or even worse, the dreaded, “where do you get your protein?” it may be time to break bad for me. I wish people would stop being so annoying. These cliché questions have even become t-shirts for fuck’s sake!

Back story: I made the decision to become vegan about a month after my foray into vegetarianism way back in late ’91. My reason had most to do with preventing the suffering of animals. I had always felt disgusted by meat and seafood so it was pretty easy to make the change. I lived in the East Village in NYC and while brands like Daiya, Field Roast and Earth Balance were not even yet a glimmer in anyone’s eyes, it wasn’t exactly a food desert either. I ate a lot of brown rice, black beans, soy burgers at Dojo, falafel and hummus… and what we now call “unintentionally vegan” shit like licorice, graham crackers and jelly beans (and yes, I was obsessive about checking that the ingredients didn’t include casein, albumen, gelatin and the like). I was really young, really broke and I didn’t yet have an expensive wine habit. Black coffee made me feel invincible.

Back then, the books that changed my life: Fit for Life (proper food combining, no animal protein, fruit until noon and/or entire fruit days), Diet for a New America (the first version). Perhaps reading Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle in 8th grade was also an influence. Books were always my everything, and while I’d have my first exposure to the World Wide Web in late ’91, let’s just say there wasn’t a ton of accessible information on there just yet.

Damn, we’ve come a long way, baby! I don’t need to answer your damn banal questions (note: I do however love to help people go vegan, but that’s different. Annoying question people are the type who inevitably then turn around and tell you why your diet sucks). Educate yo’selves! Anything you need to know about the lifestyle is accessible at your fingertips. There are blogs galore. There are local vegan groups on Facebook. Finding vegan options in restaurants is a breeze thanks to Yelp. There’s a whole slew of vegan Youtube channels and looking at the comments there, I’m just amazed at how many teenagers are down with becoming vegan. It’s pretty cool, considering that Millennials are so hell-bent on the irony of eating pedestrian shit like bacon on bacon and duck fat fries. This Gen Xer is digging the Zs coming up and out something hard.

Having access to things that make this way of life more delicious and fun is just so priceless. I’d say I don’t miss the 90s in New York City, but that would be a lie and a topic of another post. There’s all kinds of vegan products available that make eating at home an utter pleasure. While I’m hardly at the Isa Chandler or Vegan Yack Attack level of vegan creations, I sure can follow their recipes! There’s a few things that I make thanks to my own experimentation that seem to make even non vegans pretty happy. I’m especially good at vegan cream sauces and queso (can you tell it’s cheese I miss the most?) I can make these super rich with nuts or low fat with potatoes and cauliflower.

With clothing and accessory lines like Matt & Natt, Vaute Couture, Melissa, Cri de Coeur… Stella McCartney if you wanna get real fancy, I don’t see myself getting tempted by leather ever again. Leather shoes were my last hold out because until the last decade or so, the good non-leather shoes were out of my price range and the cheap ones just sucked. And well… I have a John Fluevog problem and he stopped making vegan shoes unfortunately. But, but… Cri de Coeur is kind of my everything right now.

Full truth: I was vegan for about 16 or 17 years when I decided I needed more food options in my life again, so I switched to ovo-lacto vegetarianism for several years (emphasis on lacto. The ovo part only came into play when hidden in some kind of item because I actually have always been grossed out by eggs). And by “lacto,” I mean cheese. Drinking milk is absolutely disgusting and I don’t recall ever having done so, even as a child because I had a milk allergy.

When I was around 5 years old, I hated cheese and used to wipe it off my pizza (the horror, right?) But I soon fell in love with cheese, possibly thanks to my mom working in a gourmet cheese shop. I acquired a particular taste for Brie, Bleu Cheese and even more mild stuff like Jarlesburg. Suffice to say, I’d loved cheese a long time and although I pretended it was easy to give it up, every time I was faced with my favorite food, that being pizza, well, it was never easy to give up cheese. I made the decision to have cheese again several months after I returned from a trip to Italy where being vegan admittedly made me feel deprived. I had made the decision late one night that I wanted to have cheese again and so I did. I didn’t exactly eat it every day (maybe once a week). I am glad I had around 3 years where I wasn’t 100% vegan. I don’t miss cheese at all anymore.

I can’t lie and say it’s not frustrating sometimes to eat out and have to get really watered down dishes because some chefs don’t have the ingredients (or the desire) to make something up on the spot that’s vegan, filling and delicious. Some days I get downright cranky. Last year I was in San Francisco, of all places (surely a vegan paradise), and ate at a French restaurant (never a good idea for vegans) with a large group of friends. There was not a single thing on the menu I could eat, so I asked the waitress for some help. I was offered “the peach Burrata without the Burrata.” Seriously? You’re going to serve me a peach? And I knew damn well there wouldn’t be a discount for leaving out the main ingredient of the dish. This is where I get cranky. It was late. I was hungry. And had had several glasses of wine. These situations don’t come up a lot, I mean, I try my best to avoid them, but when they do, you can’t help but feel frustrated. And then go back to your hotel room and dive into the overpriced can of Pringles in the mini bar.

Restaurant frustrations are very common here in New Orleans, the city where it’s expected for vegetarians to eat fish. When you say you don’t eat seafood, well, then you’re vegan. And if you god forbid don’t eat eggs or dairy? You may be met with an expression of pity and sincere confusion. When I used to visit back in the 90s, there were 3 or 4 restaurants that I could eat in. I’m happy to report that now there are about 5. Kidding. I do tend to stick to the same 5 places, although there are options at roughly a dozen or so restaurants and about a dozen more will make you something off-menu that may or may not be that great. Like I said, I cook at home a lot. And of course, I travel on the regular so I get plenty of options in cities like Dallas, Nashville, Toronto, New York, SF and Montreal.

I’ll be going home to NY very soon for a short visit and Dr. Cow is on my list (as well as a repeat visit to By Chloe). Vegan cheese shop… who ever would have thought this would be a reality? After New York, I’ll be in San Francisco for a work trip. I plan on eating a lot y’all! Stay tuned…

On a final note, I’m done apologizing for my lifestyle choices. I’m not hurting anyone, just sometimes inconveniencing people. You do you, I’ll do me, as the saying goes. My diet means that my carbon footprint is baby-sized and I’m not directly causing the torture and death of animals. I’m also not supporting the very fucked-up meat and dairy industries in this country either. If you want to talk more about this with me, I’m all open to reasonable discussion but I’m not open to you trying to put me on the defense with your ill-informed bullshit that I’ve been on the receiving end of for 25 years. Ciao!