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The m-word’s coming back in style, apparently!

Voor een Nederlandse vertaling van deze tekst, zie het bericht op de Zus&Zo website.

 

To whom it may concern,

For a while now, I’ve been growing more and more tired of discussing my personal situation with strangers. I am surrounded by people who love, support and understand. So I’m often apprehensive of venturing out into the world where things do not always turn out pretty. It’s not well-suited for someone like my sister, who is perceived to have an intellectual disability and falls somewhere on the neurologically atypical side of the spectrum. That by extension means it is also ill-suited for me, both because our minds sometimes work in the same mysterious ways, and because ensuring her care as well as the comfort of the people we interact with is a concern. I tend to forget society sees her as different when it’s just the two of us. So when I’ve been out of touch for a while or have only hung out in the spots where people already know and accept us, I can forget how shitty (i.e. discriminatory) generally held opinion on ability can be.

The past few years, I’ve been working on not being one of those people who responds with “All lives matter” when clearly the lives in peril are black. Not that I ever was the kind of person to take “All lives matter…” in any way seriously or have ever had the urge to hijack a conversation and utter things like “Not all men…” But we all grow up in a culture with biases and sometimes harmful norms and I internalised those to a certain degree and so they’re part of me even if I don’t want them to be. This means they sometimes come back out. It means that I need to hold myself accountable for them, and let others hold me accountable as well. It also involves apologising and owning up and then changing who I am and how I look at things. Point is: I’m trying my very best not to be that person who makes the world unsafe for others. I’m not gonna avoid specific topics or hold my tongue for fear of causing offence by saying something insensitive, because the world will never change for the better if I don’t engage or learn by fucking up. But I’m also trying to be basically decent and not a dick.

I’ve found it helps to be ok with disagreement and to accept that many opposing and contradictory views can be equally valid and true at the same time. To be ok with that multiplicity. To go along with people when they tell you of their experience, and to try and be open when you recount yours. And to try to not forget that subtle and less subtle power structures that shape society and shape us all are also present in these conversations and in our connections with others. But in the end, even with all the inequality and history we’re saddled with, I’d argue that people are people, that all beings are beings of equal worth.

I provide this lengthy preamble in three parts to explain my shock at being on the receiving end of the most bullshitty conversation I’ve had in ages (and that’s saying something). It’s not that I don’t know how people judge our situation. It’s just that I can sometimes forget because my lived experience is so much more positive than the generally held view of that experience in society at large. Or sometimes I’m just at yoga and my thoughts don’t stray far beyond my body and trying to be at peace with it. But to others, my personal situation can be more relevant than it is to me in that moment. Still, I had not expected someone to utter the word “mongoloid” in a conversation with my mum in the changing room. Nor had I expected to then, two weeks later, hear this person complain about the brusque reaction she got as a response to said conversation. A conversation in which she used abusive slurs and expressed views that I can only describe as deeply discriminatory to me and the people I love. So I was naked in a fucking shower and this person wanted to let my mother know that she’d been deeply offended that my mum could have considered her ableist, and how much this had confused and unsettled her. It took me a while to process this second verbal ambush, during which I tried to explain that such a thing as discrimination of people, including people with varying levels of ability, does in fact exist and has been experienced by me also. And then it suddenly struck me that we just got “Not all normatively-abled-people…”d something fierce. With a heavy dose of tone-policing thrown in for kicks.

I did not respond how I would have wanted to, I was caught of balance. Hence this open letter. What I should have responded with was: “Dear intrusive person who started this unwanted conversation in the first place, your taken offence is irrelevant. Firstly: I’m not discussing this with you buttnaked in a changing room and would prefer not to discuss it with you at all. Secondly: I’m not gonna tell you that you’re a nice person who doesn’t discriminate. You did and you stereotyped my mum in the process, which angered her and hurt me. You’ve also said some things about the person closest to me that I’m very glad she won’t able to understand due to her being non-verbal. But I do understand them, and I do think you’re being at least ignorant if not outright ableist. And frankly, it’s not my job to fix that or to educate you, it’s yours. You’re experiencing discomfort and you feel hurt. Maybe it’s time to consider why you feel this way. Why are you so offended? And why do you feel your taken offence is in any way pertinent and worth sharing? What does it matter if I consider you ignorant and ableist when you apparently know you’re not? Why does this resonate strongly with you, so strongly in fact that you’d prefer for me to give you a false apology rather than to investigate the value judgements you have regarding ability? Have you considered that us removing ourselves from a conversation might purely be out of self-preservation? And why does your feeling hurt by that rejection matter more to you than my need for safety and keeping distance from discriminatory remarks?

Also, kindly do not admire me for what you perceive to be my martyrdom as a carer, because that’s just pity dressed up in a nice frock. Especially don’t put that on my mum before basically reducing her to nothing more than pitiable/admirable suffering parent. My parents (both of them!) raised two (two!) kids with equal care and consideration regardless of their perceived abilities. My mum’s been working on the topic of ability for decades, way before my sister or I even existed. So I think you owe her some shutting up and listening to rather than ‘admiration’ for what is basically just loving your kids for the individuals they are. And finally, please, for the love of fuck do a google on what terms haven’t been in use since the 1950’s, because I’m pretty sure “mongoloid” is up there with the n-word. And you, my unwanted and unpleasantly close-minded shower-companion, are not the Kanye West of Down syndrome. I’d suggest that it’s time for some rigorous introspection, but if my previous attempt at explaining the existence of discrimination was unsuccessful, I hold out little hope for that. So at the very least respect my not wanting to talk to you and I’ll try and refrain from pointing out that differently abled people, some of whom are my kin, are still actually, you know, people. Apparently you’re shocked that this is a sentiment that needs saying. You’re offended that I think that you’re someone to whom it needs being said. Then again, you confidently started these conversations off with an offensive and outdated slur, so that should have been a clue. Now can I please just go put on my pants in peace.”

I’m just more than tired of having these unwanted intrusions over and over again in the weirdest of places in varying states of undress. I don’t often go looking for this conversation, but here we are. Writing this, at least I’m fully dressed. For ages, I have not spoken out on the topic and my personal connection to it because discussing the ways in which I’m on the receiving rather than the giving end of ignorance can feel rather self-serving. But apparently, we’re not discussing this enough or at all, when the conversation is forced upon me in a shower. So consider this my two cents.

Yours,
Aster

Belated bday reflection part 3: Edible Jurassic Park.

This story comes to you in 3 parts (and I suspect it will get better with each one). All are over half a year late. All are birthday related. They have been edited in a little bit of time where it seemed the computer would not give out. I hope to get back with new posts asap, depending on when the computer works again. Forgive the long wait. If anyone is still reading this. Anyway, 3 parts: Breakfast, Cake and Edible Dinosaur Landscape.

Part 3: Edible Jurassic-period birthday surprise (a.k.a. the best gift éver).

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I had not expected any presents this year, because we are all broke and at some point in February my parents had been gracious enough to buy me the fucking expensive waterproof ebook that I am now reading Dune on because I had corroded the butt of the Kindle through frequent use in the bath. I was just really really grateful to have an ebook. But my mum would not be my mum if she did not come up with some outlandish idea that didn’t cost anything more than what was already in the house, but that was on a less pragmatic and purely emotional level about 30.000 times better than an ebook. Like that time she found a discount night light in the shape of a cow and thought that was a bit of a sorry gift so she bought a pair of pajama’s that happened to cost 4 euro and I still dream of those pajamas and wish I had them again. She was somewhat embarrassed to present this as a gif, but I cannot think of a time that I have received a nicer one. Though this dinosaur-landscape is much much cooler and impressive, if not for sleeping in.

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Yes, there are dinosaur crackers in the shape of a tyrannosaur, stegosaur, brontosaur, spinosaur (no, hadn’t heard of that one before either) and triceratops. And while the brontosaur might now be fictional, I will never stop loving it, if only for that part in the Simpsons where Lisa says “Brontë sisters” and Maggie shows her a picture of a brontosaur and Lisa answers “Oh, Maggie, don’t ever turn two”. If only the pterosaurs could have circled pepper-tomato-eruption-volcano.

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But seriously, these picture don’t do it justice. I think this might be even more exciting for 3 year olds, but that could very well not be true. I honestly doubt if it is possible to be more excited by this than I was. I came downstairs unsuspectingly, although there was some shouting of “don’t come down, we’re busy, you can’t come down”, and then I had to pee so there was some secrecy as I got to the toilet without looking in the kitchen, but I was not quite prepared for the full effect of suddenly being served this thoroughly convincing landscape (at least for a non-geologist/archeologist) full of animals/crackers I had, and let’s be fair here, been obsessing over for wééks. It was also really delicious, especially because despite the sheer number of cakes posted here, I am more of a fiend of savoury food.

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There were actual mayonnaise puddles, people. Herbed mayonaise puddles. Which crunchy dinosaurs could be dipped into before their sad and untimely extinction <3. Accompanied by a volcano erupting spicy tomato sauce and red peppers. And lots of arugula. I love arugula. And baked potatoes, which are the best thing I can imagine. There was also some tempeh. I don’t know what else to add. I would suggest anyone just buy some animal cookie cutters and go nuts, be it in cake-form or in giant salad. I don’t think there is a limit to this formula of building landscapes and adding animals. Next year Star Trek cake with actual Enterprises?

Ps. My mum keeps saying that this would be a great way to cater children’s parties, and I disagree: it is also a great way to cater parties for adults.

Kokosyoghurt voor Melk, je kan zonder!

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Ingrediënten:

  • 2/3 cup geweekte cashewnoten
  • 800 ml kokosmelk (2 blikjes)
  • 200 ml sojamelk
  • 1/2 tsp guar gum (optioneel)
  • 1/4 cup yoghurt (sojade of van vorige)

Blend alles behalve de yoghurt, tot het helemaal romig is. Warm op tot 43 graden (als je geen thermometer hebt: dat voelt lauwwarm). Klop de 1/4 cup yoghurt erdoorheen. Doe in glazen potten met fijne deksel. Ik ben begonnen met sojade omdat daar geen suiker of verdikking in zit. Sindsdien maak ik, als ik de yoghurt in de potten doe, alvast een mini-potje van 1/4 cup dat ik mee laat culturen met de grote potten en de volgende keer gewoon direct door het lauwe kokosmengsel kan roeren. Laat de cultuur 8 uur ontwikkelen in een dehydrator op 43 graden. Dit werkt uitstekend omdat de dehydrator een constante temperatuur heeft die ideaal is voor yoghurt. 

Schommelingen in temperatuur of te hoge of te lage temperatuur, waardoor de goede bacteriën niet groeien, zorgen voor gedoe. Ik vermoed dat de oven kort voorverwarmen, op de laagste stand en dan de yoghurt daarin laten beginnen, ook een optie is, of langer wachten, dus het is even zoeken naar wat er het beste voor je werkt met de spullen die je hebt. Een collega maakt yoghurt met sojamelk in de koelkast, wat een paar dagen kost, maar dat is misschien handiger als je verder geen stabiele temperatuur buiten de koelkast hebt. Na het culturen kan ie gewoon in de koelkast en is ie hetzelfde als iedere andere yoghurt.

Wil je meer iets kwarkigs, gebruik dan een theelepel guar gom. Geen guar gom? Ik vermoed dat xanthaangom ook zou werken, maar zonder kan ook prima, alleen is het dan meer drinkyoghurt. Het kan nog steeds goed over muesli en fruit en in smoothies en er zitten nog steeds supergezonde bacteriën in! Is ook heel erg lekker met appels, kaneel, rozijnen en een theelepel palmsuiker, net appeltaartyoghurt. En andersom is het als sausje over appeltaart ook heerlijk!

Ps. Dit recept is geïnspireerd door het recept in Miyoko Schinner’s Artisan Vegan Cheese. Er staat ook een yoghurtrecept in haar andere geweldige boek The Homemade Vegan Pantry, en het boterrecept is ook briljant. Ik heb nog geen bladerdeeg ermee gemaakt, maar de boter an sich is veelbelovend. Zie ook het volgende recept voor ‘buffel’ mozzarella.

Belated bday reflection part 2: Cake.

This story comes to you in 3 parts (and I suspect it will get better with each one). All are over half a year late. All are birthday related. They have been edited in a little bit of time where it seemed the computer would not give out. I hope to get back with new posts asap, depending on when the computer works again. Forgive the long wait. If anyone is still reading this. Anyway, 3 parts: Breakfast, Cake and Edible Dinosaur Landscape.

Part 2: Cake.
I not just bungled my sister’s birthday. I also baked her an enormous cake. One for her, one for me. Hers was without nuts, because we differ of opinion. I think they add much needed texture, she thinks they ruin whatever they are in. We regularly catch her sneaking raisins out of the muesli, simply because raisins are great but nuts and oats are crunchy bits of uselessness. So I made her a cake especially. And then she was sick and threw up. Which is sad on any birthday, but especially if your main gifts is a large elaborate Comfort-Food inspired Swartzwalder Kirsch. She did eat a frightening amount two days later when she had recovered.

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I also can’t seem to get the hang of chocolate curls, which annoys me to no end. One would not expect this cake to be the picture of health. It is not, but it also isn’t that bad. It is the low-fat bundt from Veganomicon with some cherry puree instead of apple, and the fillings are all from Vegan Pie in the Sky, but in such a way that they are now largely sugar free and sweetened with stevia. People have commented that it tastes not necessarily healthy, but less like a brick on the stomach than the regular Schwartzwalder, so they were not sad about the healthy. And a professional baker at the local market, I repeat, a professional baker  complimented me on it. He especially liked the cream filling, and he tasted the prototype that had some raspberry pips in there that I thought ruined it. So it must be really good. He had not expected the answer to “what is that cream made of?” to be tofu.

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I just need to check how it is with copyright on recipes, because I cannot simply copy here the recipe from a book with some tweaks and then go “yes, that is my recipe”. I have shared it with many many friends in an unofficial capacity, because the chocolate mousse was a bit of a hit. And while I may be getting close to accomplished chef territory, one really does not need to be to blend some tofu with some chocolate and then top that with whatever berries they have lying around. In short, all parts of the birthday cake inspired by Jamie Oliver were a smashing hit! And he has a recipe for tofu-mousse as well.

Belated bday reflection part 1: Breakfast.

This story comes to you in 3 parts (and I suspect it will get better with each one). All are over half a year late. All are birthday related. They have been edited in a little bit of time where it seemed the computer would not give out. I hope to get back with new posts asap, depending on when the computer works again. Forgive the long wait. If anyone is still reading this. Anyway, 3 parts: Breakfast, Cake and Edible Dinosaur Landscape.

We could today discuss how I am struggling with big questions of life, the universe and everything and am sometimes forced to answer 42 to keep sane, or how while I should delve deeper into the academic theory that is making me ask the questions I may or may not have lost myself a bit in reading Dune. Dune is awesome! I love Dune. I have just finished God Emperor of Dune and the whole nature-mysticism-futuretelling-sandworm thing (and this picture, which has nothing to do with the book but is always in my mind) is enthralling. I think there might be a lot of inspired use of dramatic irony because of the prescience. 

Part 1: Breakfast.

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We could also discuss how I now have an unethical phone that is so large that I can barely fit it into my tiny people hands and that I really cannot afford as my computer is still slowly dying on me. Or we could discuss how this is all totally irrelevant given the state of the world and the stories about refugees in the news, and then I’ll cry. But I’ve done what little I can and will think about that more privately and crying or guilt over phones will help no-one. So instead I will give you lots of picture of what was, after a pair particularly comfortable pajamas, the best present ever! E-VUR! Also, despite how conflicted I might feel about the new phone, I did start instagramming again. And leaving aside the terrible ethical implications of that: the app is excellent at editing tiny pictures without photoshop and I am first and foremost unreasonably proud of the food photography I put on there. So instead we’re doing a little series on something that happened over half a year ago.

This is the birthday-breakfast(/dessert) my sister had in February. I don’t think I ever mentioned on this blog that my sister and I were born a day after the other. Not as in twins, but two years after me, she arrived the day before my birthday. We could argue she was a special present, or that specific curse similar to being born close to christmas meaning you’ll never have as cool a birthday as everyone else. We have two days of birthdays, and for some reason that just means it is half the fun. Luckily I don’t give a toss about birthdays, and she is as far as I can tell not capable of grasping the concept of birthday and is just intensely thrilled and pleasantly surprised that people come to her bed and give her her favorite cheesecake and sing to her. Mind you, she’s also super happy that every Saturday morning my mum brings her toast and tea as she watches videos of babies on the iPad, so it is all relative.

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She’s also impossible to buy gifts for. I have decided that next year I’ll buy her two of her favorite bath sponges, two plastics lobsters and a few glossies for a grand total of 20 euros, because I didn’t, after a very long search of HEMA, manage to make her happy this year. I did scare her with those roll-out party-whistle thingies though, so that wasn’t good. It’s like with balloons (which she now loves but used to hate): I sometimes forget what makes her very happy and what terrifies her. The striped wrapping her gifts came in was actually the best present of all. She did not mind being showered in confetti after we blew out the candles per se, but the only family members I managed to thoroughly enthuse were the kittens. But we look quite cute, unwashed and in the middle of blowing out candles at 7.30 a.m., so I wouldn’t want to deprive you of the picture above.

Round-up of 2014: glowing in the dark!

As always after a year of blogging there were some pictures taken and ready to be posted without them being enough to get their own post. So were are, once again, doing a round-up.

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First of all: DIY glow in the dark star-ceiling. Over the summer holidays I got some glow in the dark paint and created a starry ceiling above my bed. It is completely invisible in the light of day, but as soon as the light goes off it is actually rather pretty. I know now what I’d do different next time. I’d use a few more teeny tiny brushes as well instead of 3 more uniform medium ones, perhaps get a red star or 3 for contrast, but on the whole I’d recommend it to anybody. I first sponged a galaxy-shapes nebula and then dotted with the brush. Anyone who’s seen galaxy nail art video’s will know how. It cost me 40 euros in total, which I thought was steep, but worth it. It is lovely to look at at night.

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Secondly, I found this picture of Fatty. I am also partly in it (as the camouflage-colored sweater-wearer, my mum took it). She looks really pretty and content and how I’d like to remember her: a pocket sized lion basking in the sun with an awkward ratty tail.

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Then we got this pasta from Ikea, which made me smile. I am not very pro-Ikea, being a designer and an environmentalist (though they do offer some good things with regards to design and environment, but mostly not). I try to buy second hand furniture or recycle the stuff we have, but Ikea is very convenient every now and again. It’s like unethical underwear: how I wish I could quit you, but how horrible my life/backpain would be then. Anyway, as soon as I saw pasta shaped like elk, I knew we had to have that. The taste was unremarkable, but it was funny none the less.

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I also figured out that if you make gluten-free non-fat vegan macaroni and cheese (it is surprisingly delicious and non-cardboard-like, I use the recipe from Appetite for Reduction), top that with some herbed bread crumbs and freeze that in tiny dishes, you always have something to eat late at night when you arrive home hungry. If you happen to have a microwave. We only got a microwave last year, and I don’t use it often (I have so far only managed to burn chocolate in it), but sometimes it is a lifesaver. And 3 1/2 minutes on full and you have steaming hot healthy pasta when you are suddenly really hungry but have nothing but a carrot to munch on. The Magic Mac ‘n Cheese recipe (with some nutritional yeast added) from one of my favorite ebooks, Comfortably Yum, would also be really nice this way so I wholeheartedly recommend you get that book. A non-vegan friend enjoyed that recipe as part of a burrito immensely.

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Last but not least: silken tofu. I still need to perfect the silken tofu in chili dressing, it’s a remake from something I ordered at a restaurant around the corner because it was really good. The other dish is just a variation on the already very familiar “recipe” for whenever stuff needs to be fast. Adding some silken tofu marinated in soy sauce is very very tasty. Silken tofu is my favorite thing of 2014. I had had it before of course, many many times, but I am finally getting the hang of using it properly. It works as a chocolate mousse, as a savory dish, as addition to soup, as an egg replacer, something cold on a very hot day, in the best tiramisu ice cream ever and according to Great Chefs Cook Vegan also as a base for brûlée instead of crème. I love it to bits!

The Last To Die…

This is just a quick post. But you should listen to both of these. I don’t know what to think as a huge Pet Shop Boys fan and more of a “liker of Bruce Springsteen in theory because of his political activism and messages in his songs” than someone who actually listens to his music on a regular basis. But this was incredible to hear together, I love both of the songs, and everybody should get Electric and listen to it. It is their best album in years and years! And the differences with the Springsteen original are remarkable. It’s exactly the same song, but also, as Python would have it, “something completely different”. I guess that’s the point of covers, but I thought this was an especially good and inspiring cover.

Italian Partyplanning (and maybe a bit of Greek food as well)!

When I throw parties, it’s usually Italian food, because pasta is the best! And so is pizza. And caprese salad. And minestrone. Did I mention you can serve caprese on a stick? It’s very easy once you make the mozzarella I yammered on and on about in a previous post. It is one of the easiest but also tastiest vegan cheese recipes. I went to Rome once, in my pre-vegan days, but I did eat a lot of soy-gelato, because it’s everywhere there, and it was the first time I tasted a non-dairy gelato that was good. Not “tasting like bean” good, but actually properly good. Rome is also the place where I saw the most inspiring or spiritual place I have ever seen in my life, so I guess I owe the city a little something. Or maybe the Italians are just my kind of people, both in looks and temperament (we have a lot in common). I may have had the cliché, let’s generously call it “polyamorously inclined” Italian fling way back when, but I can’t find too much fault with him, because he’s one of the two people who ever properly cooked for me with love and affection and without me having to lift a finger (or get out of bed and into clothes). In my defense, I cooked for at least ten people without expecting anything in return, so don’t accuse me of being high maintenance, sometimes it’s just nice to share the maintenance and romance in turns, ok! And then we haven’t even started on Italian movies that involve food (and Tilda Swinton and men with unscrupulously depicted, beautiful bodies), just WOW!

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Another recent international discovery is spanakopita. I got to know it because in my teens (think age 13/14) I had a shameful love of the sisterhood of the traveling pants, and in it spanakopita is mentioned (because one of the main characters is Greek-American). So I guess the book taught me that awkward underage teenage sex is only interesting when you are yourself an awkward pre-teen, but that pastry lasts forever. Just like the thing I took away from Veronica Mars is that I will gladly take Leo D’Amato off her hands if she is not interested. Ok, rambling. Spanakopita! This one is approved by Terry Hope Romero’s Greek husband, has been since updated by her in an episode of Vegan Mashup, but the classic tofu one is still ridiculously delicious! I could not stop eating it even though they are quite heavy and about 80% olive oil. Which is precicely what makes them so good. I would definitely recommend this recipe to people unfamiliar with filo pastry, because it as a nice way to get acquainted. Before you go #GBBO crazy and make it yourself. I am not quite there yet but planning to.

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Last but not least I will give you what happens when I see Nigella Lawson do something with whipped cream and decide to combine my meringue recipe with store bought rice whip. Freeze it and use it the next day, otherwise it will develop ice crystals. This should work with home-made coconut whipped cream but I can never get that to work. I gave you a meringue recipe way back when, make sure to really dry them out for this one though. I always add some lemon zest to the sauce, which is basically blitzed raspberries with vanilla and agave strained to remove all of the seeds. Really, nothing could be easier. I love it with chocolate chips and vanilla, but if you are a coffee fan it would certainly work with some instant espresso powder, some chocolate meringues or some completely different kind of sugary-cinnanon-cookie (and even more chocolate chips). The possibilities are endless, and all you need is a reliable (can be store-bought) vegan whipped cream and whatever you’d like to add to that. This recipe’s an oldie but a goodie. You can make it as simple or as fancy as you want.

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Kombucha Smoothie Pick-me-up!

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Happy New Year! Just a quick one! I found out that if you use kombucha and frozen fruit, you can recreate and ice cream treat I used to get at a local ice cream store years back. I wasn’t a fan of milkshakes back then either, but they did make a thing called a fruitshake, where they blended fizzy water with lots of sorbet. Especially strawberry was good. Last week I was craving ice-creamy dessert and had left-over frozen mango. And so I blended it with some mint and frozen strawberry topped off with kombucha. It tastes almost exactly the same (with a vague hint of kombucha-soapy-taste, it’s actually really nice) as the fruitshake and with a little stretch of the imagination, you could call it healthy. But even if it wasn’t, you should go and make this, because it tastes really, really good! You do need kombucha for this, but I already gave you all the info you could ever need with that.

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You just add the frozen fruit until the glass is filled and then top off with the kombucha, you can make it in any size container, or even directly in your blender, and it won’t taste very different. Isn’t that super smart? I use the same method for my morning-smoothies. A tiny bit of vanilla, or mint is also quite delicious. I sometimes add some drops of stevia if it isn’t sweet enough.

Thank you Ms. Schinner!

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So this will be a post with lots of pictures. I have made quite some recipes from Miyoko Schinner’s Artisan Vegan Cheese by now, with varying degrees of success, and I can honestly say there’s no other vegan cheese book that can hold a candle to it. The Cheesy Vegan has a really nice though somewhat runny silken-tofu-based cream cheese that was gorgeous on bagels with chives, but the cheese I used as pizza topping and the blue cheese were both close to revolting. I will keep trying, see if I can find recipes in the book that work, because there are a lot of them and I have to applaud the comprehensiveness of the book, but it just pales in comparison to Artisan Vegan Cheese. So does the absolute classic The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook. That’s one of the first vegan cookbooks I ever tried, it was one of the three available in the library, and it put me off veganism for 3 years, until I decided that animal welfare meant more to me then the taste of cheese.

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One should probably not triple Miyoko Schinner’s recipe for mozzarella, especially not if it is used to make mini-mozarella, resulting in so many tiny mozarella-balls half of one’s fridge is filled with them. Also, making them in those quantities means that it is hard to sufficiently heat the mixture, which results in a more spreadable, less melty mozzarella than something that would be ideal for putting on sticks. If you heat it properly it will become scarily similar in texture to dairy mozzarella (and in taste as well). The badly-heated one does make for a spreadable sandwich filling that is absolutely delicious though, and it actually reminded me of fresh goat’s cheese. So “Elk nadeel heb z’n voordeel” (“Every con has its pro”) as our famous Dutch soccer coach Johan Cruijff would say (I hate soccer). The cat, as you can see, agreed.

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I am still getting the hang on most of the cheese-recipes, culturing things is a tricky business, and I am much better at kefir and kombucha then I am at rejuvelac, yoghurt or cheese. The mozzarella and brie are a happy exception, but most of it is tricky and many is the time that I’ve found moldy cheese, or forgotten about perfectly fine cheese and then have it turn angry and sour on me. One of the things I did manage to tackle in the end though, were rolls of chèvre. I desperately wanted to put those on top of a pizza with Daiya mozzarella, because it is the closest one could even come to my favourite pizza from pre-vegan days. This one, dare I say it, is better, if only because the sauce and dough on my version is actually handmade, proper, garlicky delicious, and not something dropped by a machine on something that’s more cardboard that pizza-crust. Both my own coconut-milk-based cheesy spread and the cashew cheese on top of that are better than the original.

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I don’t want to be too negative about other vegan “cheese” books, they might work for you, but both with the Cheezy Vegan and the absolute classic Uncheese Cookbook, I pretty soon decided that I’d rather not eat anything then the things they claim will substitute cheese, maybe with the exception of a tweaked version of tofu feta. And it’s unnecessary to eat bad cheese as a vegan, because there’s lots of creamy sauces and cashew fondue and baked marinated tofu to be had that is not cheese per se, but that is tangy and delicious in its own right. Maybe even better then the original (and not just because it’s healthier, definitely because of the taste as well)! If you are on the fence about Artisan Vegan Cheese, buy the VegNews Cheese Issue and see how it goes. It went amazing for me! Then you can decide if it’s worth buying. The difference between that book and the others is of course the fermentation, because however much nutritional yeast, miso, salt, garlic, lemon juice or vinegar, it just won’t be fermented like cheese, and Miyoko Schinner’s recipes actually are fermented like cheese! And especially with the lighter cheeses, like mozzarella and brie, that culturing adds precisely the right tang. I am currently air-drying a parmesan, so I’ll let you know how that went. I am very excited about it, because it would be a great addition to my almost instant Nigella Lawson herb-lemon-cashew-sauce for recipes to make in a pinch. I should share that with you some day, as well as the fondue, but then you might realize how deceptively easy it is and no longer buy it from my sister, and that would be a shame. She really deserves the customers.

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Of bats & bees and insect homes…

I have tried to make my balcony more insect-friendly, mainly thinking about bats and (solitary) bees needing a place to crash for the winter, but this did not go exactly as I intended. While the bee-flowers were a huge hit, the bee-hotel was not a succes because it is still uninhabited. The same seems to be true for the bat-mobile (actually it’s more of a bat-cave, should have called it that instead). From as close a distance as I dare examine it only spiders seem to be living there.

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This could also be because of the killer (formerly: killers) also living on the balcony. The cat(s) ate quite a lot of the mosquitos and flies. In one case, Betty ate an entire bee to leave only its wings in the dirt. Could have been a fly, but the wings looked like a bee’s to me. Don’t even ask me how, but she seemed content with her achievement. She always does, even if she is too stupid to catch the huge mosquitos in my room and instead tries to catch fruit flies with an open paw. The fruit flies always win.

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Mystery Berry and the Tree of Enigma

Back when it was spring, my parents decided to remove a few things from the yard because they were taking up too much space. So I ended up rescuing one of the berry-plants on the balcony. So far it has produced five berries and seems to be a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry. It is quite delicious, if a bit sour. I think the English word is loganberry.

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The tree of enigma, also rescued from downstairs, has produced nothing at all so far and now seems to be slowly dying because of winter. So that’s a bit sad. And I don’t even know what it is yet.

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The Japanese wineberry however turned out perfect! Little bit sour, not that many berries yet, but good. As you can see this was before the death of Fatty. She loved the balcony. I miss her coming in damp from the rain and then making the frog-like croaking noise as she wobbled or trotted up to you.

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I hope the plants all survive the winter and produce more berries next year. Same with the mint. I did try to make everything winter-proof, but since this was the first time I tried to do so, I have no idea how that will go.

The Wall Live in Berlin

I wrote my final assignment for the brilliant course Audience & Spectatorship on The Wall (just as I did my Theatre Design graduation on the topic), but this time it was on the 1990’s Live in Berlin version. It was a breath of fresh air after having to design a thing I was, in the end, not quite satisfied with. Not because I was unhappy with my work, but because there were a few problematic flaws with my plan and the way I looked at the original piece. In this assignment I remedied that. Besides the word count being way over the limit (yet not enough to connect the dots in the way I wanted to), my article did finally conclude that in the translation of the original concept album to performance, something was lost. But because of the transformative, almost ritual quality it gained by being performed in Berlin on top of an SS bunker in no man’s land only shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall, it gained a meaning it never before or since had in live performance. I argued that the piece was, if not sight-specific, then something very close to it. There was also a lot of discussion of the visual elements of the piece (masks, wall, lighting, Hitler-esque satire) and I really enjoyed writing it, even if I wished I’d had even more time and definitely more words to spend on it. In the end I could not add my final note. So I have added my final note here for you to read because I enjoyed writing it so much. Imagine a 4000 word piece on the mechanics of audience perception and framing through the use of masks in The Wall prefacing this final extra note.

Ps. I love Bryan Adams and when I grow up I want one of my own. I think his rendition of “Empty Spaces/What shall we do now?” is the best version of that song ever performed and one of the high points of the performance in Berlin. I also think that the lyric I mention in the note from “The Tide is Turning” is terrible and problematic, and very anti-climactic if compared to the rest of Adams’ performance. It might all have been with the best intentions en within the spirit of the age, but the more I think about it the angrier I get about not being able to structurally eradicate problems like hunger and war on the planet. That said, Live Aid, Band Aid and USA for Africa (on the name alone a piece on solidarity and (post-)colonialism could be written) were very effective in immediately alleviating a lot of suffering and raising money. So I am a cynic, but a happy one who has a lot of respect for what people tried back then even if I think we need to find a more structural way to combat global inequality and even if I totally agree with Depeche Mode’s Alan Wilder’s view on charity. Also, Geldof once slagged off The Wall in a cab driven by Roger Water’s brother. It’s a small world.

    Final Note:
    I have decided forgo analysing the extra song that is not on the original concept album but that is added to this performance (“The Tide is Turning” ),(1) because an entire book could be written on it within its socio-historical context. I would gladly analyse how it is somewhat problematic given the current state of affairs regarding the relationship between ‘the East and the West’ (“…who owns the aces, the East or the West? This is the crap our children are learning, but oh, the tide is turning”).(2) And how the overly positive spirit surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall and the naiveté of the early nineties make it nearly unwatchable for someone my age. The people who have been protesting walls and divisions within nations in my youth have been people like Banksy,(3) and Merlijn van Twaalfhoven,(4) who make a different kind of statement. I was barely conceived at the time of The Wall Live in Berlin, so I have trouble pinpointing how this must have worked for the original concert-goers swept up in a fever of times changing and borders opening up. They were probably less cynical than I am now. Much could also be said, in the context of this song and performance, about the Bob-Geldof-Roger-Waters-connection, with Live Aid organiser Geldof portraying protagonist Pink in the movie-version of the Wall,(5) with Waters having written “The Tide is Turning” for Live Aid (but Geldof turning it down),(6) and with the at best ambivalent relationship the two have.(7) If we see the song in the context of its kindred charitable efforts like “Do They Know It’s Christmas”,(8) and “We Are The World”,(9) there is also a point to be made about a troubling missionary-like attitude towards Africa in the 90’s, similar to the point Aydemir makes in his excellent discussion on staging colonialism in the Africa Museum in Tervuren.(10) But then it would need its own three-thousand words and I have neither those words nor the tools to analyse the song properly with regards to spectatorship at this time.
  1. DVD: Roger Waters, “The Tide is Turning” in The Wall (Live in Berlin), DVD, (1990; Universal Music, 2003).
  2. Ibidem.
  3. Book: Banksy, Wall and Piece, (London: Random House UK, 2007).
  4. Online lecture: Merlijn van Twaalfhoven, VIDEO: Merlijn Twaalfhoven on reconnecting art and life, online lecture (30-10-2014) http://www.tedxamsterdam.com/2009/12/video-merlijn-twaalfhoven-on-reconnecting-art-and-life/
  5. DVD: Alan Parker, Pink Floyd: The Wall (25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition), DVD, (Sony, 2005).
  6. Roger Waters, “The Tide is Turning” in The Wall (Live in Berlin).
  7. DVD: Julian Caidan, “Pink Floyd: Behind the Wall”, Pink Floyd: The Wall (25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition), DVD, (Sony, 2005).
  8. Online video clip: Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, Do They Know it’s Christmas ~ Band Aid 1984, online video clip (20-10-2014) http://youtu.be/bjQzJAKxTrE
  9. Online video clip: United Support of Artists for Africa, USA for Africa – We are the World, online video clip (20-10-2014) http://youtu.be/M9BNoNFKCBI
  10. Article: Murat Aydemir. Staging Colonialism: The Mise-En-Scène of the Africa Museum in Tervuren, Belgium.

Yet Another Sad In Memoriam

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So things on the whole are going really well over here. I’ve been very busy with studying, also playing a bit of cello. I was too busy to go to yoga, let alone post stuff about food. But I have some stuff to post soon, even if it isn’t all about food. And now that I finally have the time everyone in my family is ill. We are all combining a terrible cold with some, well, puking. I don’t know why I just shared that, I only hope you are not not suffering from this flu yourselves.
This is not the saddest part of things happening, unfortunately. While I was making new friends and getting terribly good grades (I am proud!) and finding happiness in work, the cat started making this wheezing noise. We thought she was unable to cough up a hairball. Four days ago in the evening she stopped wheezing and looked really weird when she was breathing, laboured and gasping. The following morning she was still doing that so we took her to the vet. The courageous little animal was actually quite well-behaved, there wasn’t even any scratching or rolling over to hiss. But the vet couldn’t pinpoint what it was so she had to take a x-ray.

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They then saw that her breast-bone was broken and that her lungs were surrounded by fluid. Even now it is unclear if this was because of an infection that had been there for years, separate from the broken thorax, or if it was because the thorax had punctured a lung and then fluid started collecting. A bacterial infection was almost certainly happening, either aggravated by her being kicked, or suddenly inexplicably worsening. The break could have been there for years and so could the infection. The only thing we know for sure is that the symptoms started two weeks ago and that she must have been kicked really hard in the face/chest at some point in her short life to cause the break, either recently or quite some time ago. It was a lot to take in and she had to go to a fancy cat-hospital to see if something could be done. She spent the night with us being very still on the couch, in the morning I petted her a bit to soothe her, but she didn’t even protest when I lifted her to put her in the basket and she looked completely out of breath. Also her tongue was hanging out of her mouth with some slime, we thought she might die on the spot. She didn’t but we did decide that euthanasia was the best after hearing how she would have to spend 3 weeks in hell with a big tube in her chest (she’d already protested against the small tube) to see if she was one of the 5 percent of kitties who live after being reanimated. Well, I have a do-not-resuscitate at the doctor’s because I myself don’t want to face better odds, let alone have my completely non-understanding cat face even bleaker ones while suffering. We made sure the other cat got to spend some time with the body and she is now very distraught, following me everywhere, and seems completely lost. She keeps smelling stuff that has Fatty’s scent on it. It’s not as quite as bad as the face of evil was after her brother died, but similar.

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I am still somewhat troubled by the fact that my cat gets really expensive health care that we can barely afford. And that there’s places on this earth where people don’t get half of the care my cat gets and babies go unvaccinated or don’t even have food. But I also figure that this should not mean that the cats that we’ve taken responsibility for should just go without and have their necks wrung when they seem to be getting as much as a sneezy cold. Within reason, they should get the care and the death I would hope other people would give me if I was not longer able to make that decision for myself. There’s a document I made up with my family to agree to that for myself and I urge everyone to make one of those! Anyway, I will miss the fluffy bundle of joy that used to waddle up to me and open her mouth as wide as possible and go “me-ieaw” in two distinct high pitched tones as though she was a demented frog. And I wish we could have given her more than the two extra years she got because we took her in. I am sure she was happy, she seemed incredibly content and sought out contact with us often. It has been a joy to watch that fat, eye-infected ratty monstrosity of a kitty (she really was more of a personality than a looker), turn into a healthy, only slightly tubby marvel of beauty with a well-taken-care-of coat! <3

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Balcony gardening and the black thumb of death.

If there’s plants, I will probably kill them. A friend asked me to plant-sit last year, and you can imagine my relief when it turned out he himself had already killed the rosemary (he just hadn’t thrown it out yet). It got so bad I got a cactus. I have not killed it (yet), I am careful about not over-feeding it, but it has hurt me many many times already. It feels like the cactus and I have an honest relationship.

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But there has been some progress with regards to my black thumb. It would be way too soon to call it the emergence of a green thumb, but the plant-casualty-rate has been low this year. I pilfered part of the indestructible rosemary bush from downstairs (it will grow back), and so far it hasn’t died on me. These pictures are from a month or two ago, and it’s summer, so everything has been growing like mad since then. I also received some plants from friends, and the tomatoes did bear fruit, as can be seen in previous posts, so I am really happy. My balcony looks, there’s no other word for it, lush.

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What has helped immensely is my choices of plants this season. I won’t say all of those were fortunate, I got a Japanese wineberry, and while it is delicious and I will post about it in the future, it has hurt me even more than the cactus has. There were also some plants with an unknown (and one with mistaken) identity. Point is, except for a few tomatoes specifically meant for growing in flowering pots, I just got tough, woody, difficult to kill plants. I also sprinkled random seeds over the rest of the empty pots and waited to see where that got me. It worked 50/50: endless bee-flowers and weed-like plants, but almost no violets. Turns out it is nearly impossible to kill things like mint (I have 3 kinds of mint!) and raspberry bush-like plants. I’m considering getting small trees. And if you thin seedlings out enough, they do want to survive, so I just try and give them a fighting chance. Before this year I was under the mistaken impression that all plants are, by nature, suicidal, at least when they’re near me. So far, none of this has resulted in lots and lots of food (12 tomatoes, a berry or 17, and more mint then I know what to do with). But I also haven’t killed any of the bushes yet. So that’s progress.

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My cats have (of course) taken a shine to the balcony. As long as you keep sure there’s plants in the pot, they will not poop in them. They’re very happy with the balcony because they can be outside no matter how bad the rain is. They usually come back in smelling of green and rain and earth and dust (or just dust when it’s very hot and dry weather and they use the balcony for shade) and seem very happy. They sometimes leave paw prints in my room and in the bath. They even let me have breakfast with them on the balcony when they’re in a good mood. No seriously, it’s really nice to just sit with them on the balcony and enjoy the illusion that I am surrounded by green and nature and water and furry creatures and bees (which I am, but it’s mainly cars and a gigantic polluting road on the other side of the water).

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I will add a completely gratuitous cat-comic for your amusement. I was trying to take Betty’s picture because she looked very regal when this happened. It is not supposed to happen and I need to find a solution because she’s not allowed on the balcony railing. The upstairs neighbours’ cat tried to walk on it, but then she jumped over and died. It was quite horrifying, and in this case I’d better be safe then sorry. But the comic does make for a nice look into inter-cat relationships in our household.

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Ice cream sandwiches and the like…

One of the very first cookbooks I got (for Sinterklaas I believe) was the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream & Desserts book. It is fun to read and it inspired a really delicious variation on the New York Chocolate Fudge Chunk years later, based on the date-chocolate ice cream base. We all thought it was way tastier than the store bought version, although my sister wasn’t a fan of the chunks. And I don’t want to sound like a complete health-nut, because the main point is that it tastes quite similar yet better and is free of cow-torture, but it is so much healthier it’s not even funny anymore. It’s also relatively easy to make if you have a blender and an ice cream maker or one of these, so no-one has an excuse to buy Ben & Jerry’s ever again. They are not the ethical lovely hippy company the omnipresent ads want you to believe (case in point: omnipresent ads). The Ben & Jerry’s book is not vegan at all (they insist on extra milk and egg in everything, even sorbets), and it’s very very American, so I’d only buy it if you desperately want to recreate the Ben & Jerry’s originals and are game for some serious recipe alterations. Google might help you out quicker though, without you having to veganize anything.

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I also got two new ice cream books this summer. And one e-book about popsicles. So far, they have all been a hit. Especially Vegan Ice Cream Sandwiches, that one is amazing. I have to admit to tweaking the recipes quite a bit, using different sweeteners, and a lot less sugar in the cookies. I find the original terribly sweet, but that might be a personal thing. They are addictive though. The absolute favorite? Chai spiced ice cream (with or without sandwiches). I made the chai with some earl grey and classic yogi tea (it was the closest thing to chai we had around the house), and may have replaced the soy milk with coconut. I used Vegan Secret Supper‘s method of sweetening the ice cream with rice syrup and agave (and I added a bit of maple just because). They were so good that I ate 4 sandwiches in one day. And then I regretted it, but only a little bit. The next week we made the ice cream again for a BBQ, where it was a huge hit. I am still working on a neapolitan brownie sandwich, but we will get there.

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Vegan Ice Cream is a delightful book, lots of different and varying recipes, three including durian. I have tried durian once, and I find it revolting, like garlic-poop-pineapple with a very persistent aftertaste and horrific smell. I never was one for smelly cheeses and the like, not before going vegan, not now. Don’t get me started on pied de mouton. But the book is really nice. It has sauces, it has popsicles, different ice cream bases, some raw ice creams for those of you who care about that, and ice cream with hot pepper! <3 Oh, and I got a popsicle e-book called Purely Pops that’s really nice. I didn’t have a popsicle book yet, although Smitten Kitchen always has great ones, and it’s not that difficult to pour ice cream bases into moulds, or to just use sweetened smoothies or juices. Nothing could be easier. I know it’s a bit late, but if you have a hot autumn where you are (or your hemisphere is slowly starting spring or you are somewhere where there is no four seasons but there is warmth), I’d definitely recommend Vegan Ice Cream Sandwiches. And the popsicle book is affordable and has really nice cream bases so go for it if you want to make new, different, inventive popsicles.

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The sandwiches pictured are the chai-spiced, a raspberry-lemon shortbred-combo, and tiramisu. The raspberry ice cream was bad. As you can see from the picture, the structure was very grainy, but that’s because I used “instant” almond milk and did not use enough almond butter. To be on the safe side, I’d suggest using the regular method of almond milk: 1 cup almonds to 3 water. I sometimes use 2 cups water if I want really rich ice cream. It’s really worth it for the taste. When you need some 1/4th cup of milk for a cookie recipe in a pinch, sure, use “instant”. But don’t when your nut-milk is the base of the entire recipe. I made the same stupid mistake with yoghurt once. It was horrible. Oh, and there was the tiramisu ice cream sandwich. That recipe needed some tweaking as well, the soaking of the top cookie didn’t do the texture any favours (blechch), so I suggest adding some espresso powder or yannoh-powder to the tofu-based ice cream instead. That ice cream is delicious! I made it with almond milk instead of hemp, and it worked really well. And do dust the cookies with the cocoa-powder, that gives them a really lovely taste and makes it surprisingly tiramisu-y. Now all you need is a tiny glass of liqueur to go with it.

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I should probably mention that my mum has The Vegan Scoop and it’s not a big hit. I am not a huge soy milk fan. It could also be because I prefer the Italian gelato to the American “ice cream” (according to a few of the ice cream books, there is a distinct difference). The Ciao Bella Gelato & Sorbeto book is also non-vegan, but very easily veganized with a rudimentary understanding of ice cream bases. And the sorbeto part is already vegan of course. Hanna Kaminsky recommended it years ago, that’s how I found it, so you can read her review. I completely agree, although be warned that chocolate sorbet is so intensely chocolate-y that you may make a face. I did. It was one of those things where you don’t know if you absolutely love it, or that you find it too overwhelming to enjoy. Their granita-recipes and tips on flavour-combinations are great as well.

On Laundry and Ice Cream!

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First, I’ll give you a recipe. Then I’ll give you some tips. We got the Zoku Shake-maker thing. We already had the popsicle maker, and we like that one a lot! The shake-maker is also rather nifty. I wouldn’t call what it makes granita or shake, it is more of an awkward ice cream, but it is really delicious. It’s not the Magimix Turbine à Glace, but it is better than the motorized 350 euro costing one we had before the Turbine, but that we had to return because it was so loud we heard it when we put it out on the balcony. So that’s not bad for a 15 euro gizmo that works without electricity. Although a friend recently informed me the price has gone up to 25 euros :(. So far, it has handled every ice cream batter we’ve throw at it admirably, but my favorite recipe is rather straightforward.

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Get a cup. Fill it 2/3 with fruit (I used frozen cherries and strawberries), add a splash of agave nectar and a tablespoon of almond butter. Add water until the fruit is covered. Add a handful of mint if desired, and sweeten with stevia to taste. Blend this all up, and add to the Zoku together with either a handful of chocolate chips, or some nuts, or cookie crumbs, or toasted coconut flakes. Do the stirring thing. Then put on a movie and enjoy. You can make this as healthy as you’d like. The texture improves remarkably with the added agave, but you can sweeten it the rest of the way with stevia if you’d like. I have done this with my morning smoothie, but I’d rather use the sweeter one. The texture is really depressing when you use unsweetened smoothie with chia seeds and kale…

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Now for a movie-tip: if you like the 80’s, intercultural relationships, skinheads seeing the error of their ways and embracing old “friendships”, a young Daniel Day Lewis (& an equally gorgeous Gordon Warnecke), sex involving bubbly wine, tight jeans and squatters (I happen to have a soft spot for every one of those), you should watch “My Beautiful Launderette”. I think my dad recommended it a few years ago. I won’t say it’s a fun movie, it is a bit strange with a fuckload of dark shit happening in the not-so-fortunate parts of society during Thatcher (or: dôh). But I repeat, Daniel Day Lewis, young! With champagne! If you then need a bit of a laugh, because you are both deeply saddened and hugely excited from watching Laundrette, you should read “Al Dente” by David Winner. It’s so inexpensive it’s almost free, but it’s also really interesting. Who knew the Ancient Romans were the first designer-water drinkers? It might have not been bottled, but it was branded and hyped up. For real!

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Everything is going really well here! I’ve started the pre-master, and realised I should have started this study years ago because it’s both challenging and fun. Shame on you, unobservant teachers at arts college that said theatre science really wouldn’t be for me and that I should never try because I’d be miserable and uninterested in it, shame on you. Because it turns out that other people have already thought very hard about the things I have also thought very hard about, and our conclusions are similar. Theirs are just formed by much more experience and, to use the technical challenge, science-y knowledge, but I can get there if I work hard! Also, all of the lecturers are incredible examples of awesome, and together with Batman, Yoko Ono, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Song A Day Man who made a feminist auto-tune, Emma Watson and Naomi Wolf (actually there are more, both male and female, and my mum and dad, but then the list would be endless), at least two of them are my new feminist heroes! I also went to a few really good concerts and plays, and there’s lots more to come. It might go quiet in a few weeks, but I promise I am trying to keep up! Because there are already undiscussed shoes, new kinds of feminist outrage, horribly sexist but still super fun movies and yet more nail polish (along with some tips on how you can make it last for-e-ver) to write about!

Melty Daiya!

Remember I told you about the friend who got me Daiya? I may have used it in everything. It turns out I am not a fan of the cheddar slices. It tastes too processed, a lot like those completely processed slices individually wrapped in plastic that you can get at the supermarket and that I never liked before I went vegan. But the mozzarella is a lot milder and I don’t think people really notice the difference between this and what’s on regular frozen pizzas. Anyway, it is really good so I put it on everything. I put it on a hummus-pesto-hybrid made from fresh green peas, pine nuts and mint. It was really good.

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A little bit of sriracha gave it more of a kick, which I like. I am the only one in our household who likes the kick, so the sriracha and hot sauce lasts forever. The look of melty Daiya is different to melty dairy-cheese. This could be because I don’t heat it high enough. I just find that it never really loses the shape of the shreds, even though it is melty and stretchy. But I know that you of the American blogosphere have heard more, more than enough about Daiya. You, for some incomprehensible reason, find Cheezly irresistible and exotic and marvelous.

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Having had a chance to try Teese, Sheese, aforementioned Cheezly, Tofutti, Violife, Wilmersburger and Daiya, and some tofu-feta-goat-cheese thing from a Berlin health food store that was so good I had three blocks of it in 5 days, I can say that some of those have their use. I recommend you completely ignore the first three. They’ve ruined otherwise perfectly cheeselessly delicious meals for me. Tofutti slices are doable, but their cream cheese is perfect, exactly that same fatty, little bit bland, rich weird creamy thing that is regular cream cheese, with not a hint of soybean. Violife is quite similar to what you can get in Dutch supermarkets pre-sliced in packets, and the same goes for Wilmersburger. Quite nice, not a very outspoken taste, not melty, but good on a slice of bread, tastes exactly as much of plastic and nothing as supermarket cheese made from dairy does. I quite liked the Violife one with herbs, because that did have a taste that reminded me faintly of a nettle-cheese I at some point had a pregan obsession with. There was green bits in there, eating it was a nostalgic experience. Daiya is the only one of these that melts even somewhat realistically and the mozzarella (though it taste more like “all purpose cheese” to me, especially compared to the home made stuff) is good with almost anything. When I get back to Berlin, I will try and find the feta-chèvre-tofu again and then I’ll let you know. Because it’s the healthiest of these by far and it was super tasty, mainly because it didn’t try too hard to be dairy cheese. I will also be taking ridiculous amounts of it back to the Netherlands with me if I ever find it again.

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Right, my initial point of this post was that chili is really tasty with a handful of Daiya, and I made a discovery: they have smoked paprika powder at a store just a short bike ride away. If you’re visiting the Netherlands and see a Dille & Kamille (translation: Dill & Chamomile) you should check it out, I sometimes just go there to be surrounded by pretty cookery-items. I had been looking for smoked paprika for the longest time and there it suddenly was, next to the cash register. It is the best thing ever to have happened to both chili and BBQ. And sauces. And tomato soups. And salads that need a bit of heat or smoke. And tofu rubs. I’ve found the sweet variety there as well, so now I put it in almost everything. It’s like a really low-budget version of liquid smoke.

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As you can see, my mum’s cooking course is really paying off. The structure of her breads has improved drastically. I am learning from a distance, and have now learned to make the best pasta I’ve had in my life so far. Penne all’ arrabbiata is something new, but it’s a kind of spicy even my family enjoys on occasion. And you can make it as spicy and with as much vegetables as you want. It takes a maximum of 20 minutes? 30 if I am very precise and finicky about it. So you should try it. I used a Jamie Oliver recipe (without dead anchovies of course), because his method of cooking is roughly similar to that of the course. You cook your pasta until just south of al dente (for me, with spaghetti that’s probably 5 minutes, 6 with a bigger pasta) and then cook it the rest of the way with a cup of cooking water added to the sauce (takes me 3 minutes usually). It makes for a really nice bite and a sauce that actually sticks to your pasta without clumping or the need for olive oil to prevent said clumping. Nigella Lawson uses the same method. It’s so simple and so much better that I don’t know why we didn’t start cooking pasta like this years ago!

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James Tiberius Kirk

I often wonder if I antropomorphise my cats too much. I guess it won’t hurt them if I think of them as tiny furry humans, hell, they probably think of me as a huge relatively clumsy cat. At least that’s what the book suggests. But I also talk to them an awful lot and I feel like they respond (they are quite vocal in their responding mews and those for attention), and it’s a bit like how I used to talk to my teddy bear all the time, but as though he’s more stubborn and preoccupied with trying to take the ergonomic desk-chair from me because it is the best place for sleep (and work).

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What finally convinced me that we (even though they are cats and I am human and we have to respect each others differences) are quite similar creatures, is Captain James Tiberius Kirk (the original). I am more a TNG and Voyager fan (with a huge Garak-weakness), and you can wake me up for Commander Tucker any time of night. I am not so much a fan of TOS because it is difficult not to laugh or fall asleep because of the very lengthy pauses and stage-like over-acting common in the 60’s. But then there’s Kirk (and Nichelle Nichols, but let’s save descriptions of her brilliance for a future post). Don’t get me wrong, it is completely logical that Spock became the sex symbol. But I react to Kirk the way my cats react to butterflies. Whatever I’m doing, if there is Kirk, I will become pre-occupied, somewhat nervous and unusually giggly (they sort of hiccup/bark at birds and flying creatures, not giggle). And then I will stare at it transfixed. I can’t say that I start batting at the computer screen, but I cover my mouth with my hands every now and again in excitement. And then they stare at me like I stare at them when they are catching butterflies. Although they’re mostly annoyed that I dare use their bed for such mundane activities as watching TV or movies, reading books or, god forbid, sleeping. It is no longer their bed, but that’s only because the three of us have developed a communal sleeping pattern.

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To go with the Kirk and aloof cats, you should probably make banana-sorbet. There’s so many recipes on the internet that you hardly need my extra input, but I should say that I usually add some extra maple syrup to the sour cherries, and have added chocolate chips on occasion. It was really good. It’s not “just like ice cream, yum” (Kristina really gets on my nerves), but it is very fast and an excellent snack on those nights when you just want to watch movies and be emotional about it. There will be different ice cream snacks soon, it has been a hot summer, but this one will do in a pinch! Also, huge coconut flakes are my new favorite thing. I bought them to try out coconut bacon, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet because they are so tasty when you toast them and put them in the ice cream. Oh, and always add vanilla. It makes the sorbets go from “quite good and fruity” to “what is this ambrosia (sort of)”.

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I’ll leave you with something only mildly Star Trek related: Shatner does Common People. Thank you, popular culture, for making this possible. Maybe next time we will discuss the ins and outs of Cardassian politics, or the Pulp biography I’m reading. I think we can safely say that both my friends and parents are happy that I have you, unknown audience, to share all of this with, because none of them seem to share my fascination with Star Trek, sci-fi in general, or the way women are portrayed vs. men in Pulp songs.

On black sheep of all kinds…

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I recently bought some nail polish because I decided to maybe try my hand at performing again, and try to recapture some of the magnificence that was Horseboy. And to be Horseboy or a slightly shifty somewhat genderless 80’s alter ego, one needs nail polish. A day later Vegan Cuts made a video about their summer nail polish box. In it they discussed a bottle by Black Sheep Nail Lacquer. I checked out all of the brands in the video, but as soon as I found Black Sheep, I knew I’d found my kind of polish. So I emailed Erin (who owns Black Sheep and makes all of the polishes) to ask about the colors of her chemical-light completely vegan product! We both love Zelda. I saw she also has tiny bottles (I don’t use enough nail polish for the performances to ever finish a big bottle), and she was able to send me some along with a base coat and super shiny topcoat. There’s also a matte topcoat, a holographic one and a thermal one. But I’d definitely recommend the super shiny, it is well and truly super shiny and beautiful. Anyway, Erin informed me that she could send 6 bottles for 10 dollars shipping, so I asked for 3 colors I liked, a base coat, a top coat, and a surprise. Isn’t that the nicest thing? That you know the person who makes your nail polish and she will send you a surprise? I asked her to send something that wasn’t red or more pink, because I am not a big fan of the classics, and Horseboy is a boy, so he needs masculine polish.

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Ok, on to the review of the actual lacquer. Otherwise this post will just be me raving about Erin, and even though that’s fun, it might not be very helpful to you, 12 readers who probably don’t care about nail polish. Don’t judge a book by my swatches. I tried to capture it on camera, but the picture doesn’t do it justice. The Jaw Breaker is a bit pink when you use it by itself, but still absolutely delightful. I used it with every other lacquer on the left of each nail as you can see, and it is gorgeous combined with the deep purple (and the other ones, but especially the purple). Suddenly it’s not just pink, but the green glitter pops out :). As for the Black Sheep color, it’s a deep black with a hint of silver, but still quite subtle. The orange-purple duo chrome Dark Knight might be the loveliest nail polish I have ever seen, and Erin included an almost grey purple-silver polish with tiny jade glitter in there as the surprise. It’s only because I love the purple one so much that this isn’t the prettiest nail polish I’ve ever seen, but OMG those green glitters in there! It matches perfectly with the other three. For those of you not trying to be Adam Ant: Erin has all of the colors, from the most girly pink and vampy 50’s red to the scariest Star Trek purple-green. And more if you ask her nicely, really, just contact her and she has stuff you couldn’t dream up in your wildest dreams.

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Now you guys know I’m a fan of the hyperbole, but I can’t begin to tell you how nice it is to buy stuff from a person with a vision and a passion for making peoples nails shiny instead of just some faceless company called China Glaze. They are cool too, but they’re no Black Sheep. Also, you will need to find some (vegan) polish remover, and so far I have not been successful, but I still have some Zoya (some of their stuff is vegan) left from last year and at least it smells good? So I will keep using that. Ok, to wrap this up: the polish is relatively affordable, especially compared to Zoya! I think the price is super reasonable, especially when you consider the handmade part. And I think it’s so much nicer to have tiny bottles with more different colors, instead of big ones that you can never finish. You need about two or three thin coats to make it work, and it goes on quite well. It’s a little bit fiddly, but putting paint on your nails with a tiny brush is always fiddly. The smell is ok, just like the China Glaze and Zoya polishes. It just smells like nail polish, and will stop smelling after about a day. You’d smell better without it on your hands, but then your nails would not be gorgeous and sparkly, and you know you want to be gorgeous and sparkly and wearing red fake leather pants with a crop top. You know you do!

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PS. I went to see the Pet Shop Boys last week. It was repulsively expensive, but it’s also some of the best money I’ve ever spent. What it lacked in spontaneity it more than made up for in excellence, joy and stage design. I have never seen such amazing lighting design, nor such striking costumes! Both the dancers and the almost theatrical use of music with images deserve a mention as well. Did I mention they are excellent live? And the audience was also super nice and enthusiastic, it was no problem at all to be there by myself and I actually met an acquaintance there and that was fun. I usually feel a bit awkward at concerts, but a very tall woman and her equally tall boyfriend actually made sure my 5 ft could stand in front of them and watch as well as dance! So if you ever get the chance: go see them IRL. They are every bit as good as you’d expect from their reputation. The only concert I’ve seen that was better so far, was Iggy Pop on Lowlands, with Thomas Azier as a close third. And oh, those cow-skull-80’s-hair-band-masks, they are a brilliant work of art, even better live :). Also, they played Rent, Thursday, It’s a Sin and Miracles. The only way they could’ve made it better, is if they’d have played Flamboyant. But I’m not complaining. I am still on a cattle-skull-induced high! Just as I left I heard a guy remarking to his boyfriend: “They played our song, just like nine years ago when we met”. That is the cutest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say at a concert!

On Hamlet and a peanut-butter gift!

An American-Dutch friend promised to hook me up with some Daiya, and when someone can get me Daiya, I try to be generous. Because it is the most delicious cheese in existence (Cheezly is seriously foul, and though Tofutti is not unpleasant, Daiya is the only one of which I can’t make a better replica at home). There is no cruelty involved in making it and it is very very cruel that it is not widely available. I suspect that if it were freely available in the Netherlands at roughly the same price as dairy cheese, then lots of health-conscious folk (or creepy dieters) would switch because it tastes so good, and all the vegans would be in heaven. But I had to try and make something Daiya-worthy to give in return, and so I found this and decided to make a variation on a theme. My friend is a peanut butter aficionado. I started out planning to make it exactly the same, but halfway through the recipe (I was baking with my sister and a friend of ours) we fell back on good old Chocolate Mousse Pie from Vegan Pie in the Sky. And it took some (2 tsp) cornstarch to make the coconut-peanutbutter-topping work. My coconut milk never produces decent whipped cream even though it isn’t homogenized, and I don’t know why it doesn’t. And then it all looked too good not to marble. I am really pleased with the end-result, and the tiny heart inside of a bigger heart was a welcome surprise. I only recently started marbling all of the pudding and mousse cakes. I never knew it could make pies look so good!

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The cake was better than I thought it would be, and not nearly as heavy as I suspected. I also tweaked the crust a bit to make it less fat (only 6 tbsp of oil, and a little bit of soy milk), and it was still ok. It would work wonders with some kind of caramel filling or anything mocha. Banoffee and dulche de leche both seem excellent candidates. However, the next day, once it got soggy, it was really bad. And it didn’t hold a candle to the shortbread-crust anyway. If I may suggest something: use the (chocolate) shortbread crust. It’s the best crust I’ve ever made, easier than most, only a few pies don’t go well with it. I wouldn’t use it for a cheesecake, a cookie-crust is better for that, and I sometimes use the almond crust for creamy fruit-pies or raw pie-filling (I do bake the crust, because I found I dislike raw pie crusts or the time they take to dehydrate). But for the rest of them, unless you’re making a savory tart, I’d almost always recommend a shortbread crust. You can keep one frozen for emergencies, and use it whenever you need it. It saves time and effort. For this one I think you could equally well use a cookie-crust with an extra pinch of salt, or the chocolate shortbread crust and then add some coarse sea salt to the topping. If you are into salty-sweet combinations.

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What more did I want to discuss. Right, theatre and television.
Firstly, I saw the best Hamlet I’ve seen in my life so far. It made me realize how completely irrelevant the sex of an actor can be with regards to the characters gender. And how seeming contradictions there can even enhance a performance. I am still not completely sure what to think of the play, but it stayed with me, I’ve never seen a more gripping and current Hamlet (even though both the filmed one with David Tennant and the performance I saw by Oostpool were fantastic), and if it is not the best play I ever saw, it is a close second or third. A bit like seeing the recent “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” by Oostpool. You suddenly remember why it will always be worth it to keep “doing” the classics. And for those of you not in the Netherlands, I suggest you go to Digital Theatre right now and watch Much Ado About Nothing. I very much enjoyed all 2 and a half hours of it, and am planning to rent the Swan Lake next! It is wonderful to be able to sit in bed with your iPad and watch a performance you could never have visited in person. It’s not nearly the same experience, but it is amazing and I think a very good development in theatre. This should happen with the amazing obscure stuff that nobody gets to see as well!
Having finished Father Brown, I decided to start on Death in Paradise. I am so sad that is now finished as well. I have a special weak spot for Detective Sergeant Fidel Best, not in the last place because of his name, and more importantly: he is absurdly handsome. Like a young Colin Firth, but with a better accent and a moustache! Even when he wears the ridiculous policeman’s hat. And I wish more policemen had the attitude of Dwayne, who actually owns an “undercover shirt”. As in: “Hey Dwayne, I thought you were doing surveillance, you are wearing your undercover shirt.” The stories are often hilarious, and most of the murder-mysteries have suprisising and ingenious solutions. The Miss-Marple-gathering-everyone-together-end-scene is a hoot, and I think Utrecht needs a bar like Catherines. Saving the best for last: I can only aspire to be as cool a person as Sergeant Camille Bordey. Whatever was lost by not having Lady Felicia, was gained tenfold by having a Sergeant Borday. Sergeant beats Lady any day! Did I mention there is a pet lizard?

I know this cat…

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First: an update on last week’s feminism. In the comments, Arlette explained a thing a friend and I discovered that we didn’t understand why she thought it was a blurred-out hotdog and I had picture proof of the contrary. So thank you for pointing that out! It cleared up a lot. And I hope the stencil was any good :) and that christians were only mildly offended. I was on a roll with regards to angry feminism! I ended the week by ranting about the availability of women’s bodies as objects in our popular culture and how this stops us from developing into shameless, free-spirited cranky drug-dependent old bats who ban together to make horrible theatre about even worse subjects just because they are outrageous and a national treasure. There should be hordes of people doing that, and not just has-been middle-aged white dudes with a good pianist. Also, I biked past a different 538 advert and was surprised to see that it featured a gentleman firmly grasping a water-bottle clasped between his legs. You can’t tell me that doesn’t send a very different message from the one with the two women fellating meat. It made me think how I interpret that and the semiotics of each image, especially if I place them next to eachother. There’s some discrepancy there. But like I said, if people truly want to express their sexuality by suggestively licking meat, they should. There’s just a huge difference between expression, and using either images of denigration (women licking) or power (men taking their, uhhh, pleasure into their own hands) to sell stuff. Because it perpetuates a certain set of outdated yet ingrained and widely held beliefs, so it’s not just harmless “fun” we should (or can) ignore.

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Secondly: time to discuss vegan magazines! I subscribe to three different ones. I used to subscribe to the Vegetarian Times as well, but they were like a worse, cheese-laden version of VegNews, so no more! And speaking of the latter, there has been some internal struggle there (recently, I don’t mean the dead animal scandal a few years back), and I am not sure what to think of it. I misunderstood the situation at first, because one of the founders, Mr. Connelly, is not being very dignified about personal grievances, or that’s what I gather. It’s a shame and I hope it can be resolved in a way that neither people nor magazine suffer even more. And I love that publication! I got some of my favorite, most-used recipes from them. I may have gotten an iPad just so I could draw in Paper and read VegNews, and I still do both quite a lot. Then there is LAIKA. I love the fact that they are independent, I love the fact that they had J-Wro, and they do have some really nice tips and a few good cookbook recommendations. I hope they catch up with the issues they said they’d publish by the end of this year. If I am correct, after two year-subscriptions, there should be eight, but that seems ambitious if they are just now releasing issue 4. It is very much a lifestyle magazine, and I am more vegan food than lifestyle, so even though they are really cool, I prefer Chickpea Magazine. Chickpea is so lovely it’s almost magical, also independent, and if you want, you can actually contribute articles! How amazing is that? It is, compared to the other ones, super affordable and they have recipes, gardening tips, and the best photography. Sometimes they have recipes for personal care stuff, or reviews. The magazine is seasonal. The way they discuss the lifestyle-part of veganism is completely different to LAIKA, and it is more my style. They do make me buy cookbooks (and I can’t blame them for it, because they pointed me to two of my absolute favorites: Afro Vegan and Vegan Secret Supper). It has never once made me feel inadequate or not living up to certain standards of beauty, nutrition or ethics, which is something I can’t say for the other two, no matter how great they are. It’s just my kind of magazine! The last issue has sundaes, but the one before that had marshmallows (still working on those) and things made with whipped flaxseed-meringue. Yes, really! And for roughly 10 euro’s for 4 digital issues, it’s so very much worth it. As Edwyn Collins would put it: it’s a steal.

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We should probably also do some vegan e-book reviews soon, because I have a huge collection of those. Well, not as huge as the physical collection that is still slowly expanding, but still substantial with a few amazing gems in there. I am currently really excited about two upcoming gluten-free books, because one of them promises to have puff pastry, and I am just a huge Fork & Beans fan! I also did quite a bit of gardening, and some redecorating inside and outside, and I have lost most of my black thumb of death. I promise to discuss the ins and outs of this in the future, as well as the decoration of my lovely balcony. It is the only one in the neighborhood that’s this green and vibrant (and full of cats). I will leave you with the following short philosophical lecture on the subject of gardening (it’s in English even though the article is Dutch). It is deep and thoughtful and exactly the kind of thing I would some day like to lecture about with regards to theatre and modern culture. I will also leave you with a link to a site I am both very excited about and really creeped out by. It is a lovely way to illustrate some of the issues regarding privacy and meta-data, but it is also something that genuinely thrilled me. Before you ask: no, mine aren’t on there. So instead I’ll inform you of the following: I know this cat, he is surprisingly agile considering his size and I once looked for about 15 minutes at him chasing another cat, petting them in turn from behing a bicycle they were fighting over, and this reduced college-gradution-related anxiety substantially. I’ve decided it’s a he because of his size.

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A tiny act of civil disobedience!

You all know I am a very cuddly artist. I may get argumentative when there’s a discussion, but I mainly walk around with a horse’s head and I give out cake to strangers. But somehow these things sometimes attract a little hostility, even though that’s the last thing I’m looking for. So when I decided (with my trusty, very removable, neon chalk-markers specifically made for glass and windows to be removed with just water once you’re done with it and which explains why it’s so badly visible in the picture) to comment on a piece of advertising so vile it kept me fuming for 5 hours, a man walks up to me to discuss my “defacing public space”.

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I tried to argue that that is how I feel about the advertisement, that it defiles the public space and peoples right to not be confronted with corporate-sponsored denigrating images. I tried to argue that the markers are specifically chosen because they are easily removable. But he wasn’t just offended by my message and method, but also by the fact that I wrote it in English (which was for your benefit, guys) so therefore I must be uneducated and not know Dutch. This, in the context of our discussion, sounded to me like a racist remark, but I’m not certain it was meant as such. He ended with that it was “just plain rude and unacceptable”. At that point I decided to stop explaining, ignore him and continue “defacing” with him still shouting a bit from a distance, but I fucked up the grammar because of my nerves. He left after I ignored him for some time. He was rather large, argumentative, very loud and he had an impressively ratty mustache, and as much as I’d have liked to not be affected by that, I was. So, enjoy my grammatically incorrect book recommendation of the week. Go read The Sexual Politics of Meat, go veg, be feminist, I will love you for it and try not to judge you anyway. Even if you are an argumentative intimidating shouty man who does not see the harm in two women fellating meat.

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On a more positive note, I’ve added another piece of angry feminist “art” to this post. I saw a lovely gentleman wearing a shirt that said “reduce your CO2, grow a bush”, and this made me like him immediately. I wish that message was spread more widely. Then there was a Sherlock episode in which John shaves his moustache for Sherlock (cue awkward fan fiction). I agreed very much with John’s message and Mary’s suggestion that he should put it on a t-shirt. So I did. The stencil may or may not be a stylized representation (to scale!) of the artist’s body, and trying to take the picture on which the stencil is based might have been one of the most slapstick-hilarious things the artist has ever done with a chair and a camera. Where that mini-thigh-gap came from is a mystery, because while it was there in the picture, it most certainly is not there in real life. Real life is as always all hair and squishy bits, but I’ve started being happy with that. Ok, I’m off to watch some Veronica Mars now and get back to calm. In my household, there’s only one man, and he happens to be my dad and also to be very much in favor of giving the neon-colored finger to intolerant powers that be. He thought I was using permanent ink-marker and felt rather disappointed it was just chalk.
If you want to use the stencil, you can download it here. You need to stick the bellybutton on it with a tiny piece of duct tape, but the rest is stencil-proof.

PS. Do men regularly experience this thing where they go outside of their homes and see fellow men spread-eagle, or with mouths open, or licking suggestively at/strokingly holding on to phallic objects or just looking available next to a designer-item everywhere they look? It depresses me and I’m done with it. I don’t want to see the men suffering this fate either. I just want a little bit more free expression and a little bit less intrusive mass-marketed corporate shit all over the place! Then you can display as many titillating images as you’d want, as long as it is a form of expression, not the use of the human body to sell stuff or control people. If it turns out to be your deepest desire, you can stand by the traffic lights completely naked, enthusiastically licking 2 sausages at once for all I care. Come see me, I do a great french or italian sausage and know where you can get a performance license!

Vegan Mashup!

I’ve supported Vegan Mashup twice so far. And right now, I am really loving the second season. No matter how much fun it is to see Miyoko Schinner make “unbirds”, it is even better to watch her feed the chickens, and have Fran Costigan talk about ethical vegan chocolate. She looks lovely by the way, and I thought she looked a bit scary from the picture in the Vegan Chocolate book. Back on topic: you can buy and or rent it on Vimeo On Demand, and I suggest you do. Especially for the second season. And also because it is a good thing to support people making a vegan cooking show. And it is wonderful to see people with awesome knife skills. Also, I want chickens. Maybe when I grow up and decide not to have cats. Who am I kidding, just look at my cats, you can’t say no…

On a completely different note: Father Brown. I did not think I wanted to see a Catholic priest solve surprisingly tepid crimes, my associations with priests are of a less fortunate nature and I recently helped desecrate a church, but I can go for this. He is the epitome of reasonability and rational thought, and maybe a bit more open minded than the Catholic church allows, but I am all for open-mindedness, forgiveness, and rational thought. If you remove the hat, glasses, uncanny ability to end up on a murder scene and the frequent use of the word “God”, you are quite close to who I am in a black maxi-dress. I suggest you start with “Ladies of Jerusalem”, it is hilarious and wonderful. And Lady Felicia is an absolute joy, as is Mrs. McCarty obnoxiousness.

On kombucha, kefir, fashion and more

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Little did I know that when you forget to do something with your kefir for a few days, not only do you end up with lots of kefir grains, but also with cider! This is a welcome surprise (I read something along those lines in the fermenting book, but it also looked like it would take forever), because the last time I made cider, it wasn’t just disgusting, it also exploded all over the living room, the garden, our cats and the neighbours dog. Seriously. We had to repaint a part of the ceiling (and clean part of a cat). The kefir is non-explosive and tastes good which is quite a relief. Since the grains are growing like mad, I can also give them to all interested friends. It feels rather strange to keep giving people living bacterial specimens, kind of like giving them non-sentient pets. My sister has approved of the kefir, and if she approves of food, you know it’s good.

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The same goes for Kombucha. A friend of my dad’s (whom he met at work in Amsterdam), got us a SCOBY and I can’t thank her enough! I thought I had to buy one, but she makes kombucha and her SCOBY had offspring. She gave us two, but now I only have one left because I could’t keep up with the amount of babies it kept producing and the amount of kombucha I had to drink.
Kombucha is basically the roller coaster of the lemonade-world. There are no known health-benefits, it is a bit of an unusual activity when you look at it objectively and it is almost completely safe, but a few unlucky people have accidentally died because of it. I am still in very good health after drinking quite a lot of both homemade and store-bought kombucha (and am willing to bet there’s probiotics there and in any case a delicious low-sugar carbonated soda). I can report that home-made tastes a lot better than store-bought. So it has gotten to the point where I serve it to friends, but maybe I will never feel safe enough to serve it to frail old people or pregnant women.

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Back on the SCOBY: it turns out ours is of noble breading, its grandmother originating at Goldfinch. Which is not only nice to know, it also turns out this is an incredible source of information! I can certainly recommend the True Brews book, and although I have only read it and not tried any recipes yet, I also really like the Delicious Probiotic Drinks book. But the Goldfinch website settled a few issues that my books did not address (“My SCOBY looks a little bit like the elephant man grew a beard, is this normal?”). It is, and the recipe takes a bit longer than the book says, which I noticed, because last time I checked it after 7 days it was still rather sweet. I will update you on the cider, and let me know if you want a SCOBY. Mine is having babies like crazy! I can hardly keep up. Babies come with healthy SCOBY, so I just need do find more friends who aren’t afraid of things that look like a cross between a jellyfish and an illegal organ donation.

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I also had to share something fashion-related. I have been quite good about ethical fashion in the last few years, buying stuff used or when I know where and how it was made. I can’t pretend I do that all the time or as often as I’d like, I am still trying to be better about it. So imagine my surprise when I looked at the bottom of my new (ridiculously high, vegan, leopard print, perhaps a bit trashy) heels and saw “made in Italy”. I know that that doesn’t make it all ethical and ok, but it is in the EU and it is a country famous for it shoe-industry. And despite being the highest heels I own, they are actually quite comfortable (if sweaty), which is a big thing for a 5 foot woman who usually looks like shot game or a rather ill giraffe when walking in heels higher than 6 cm. This merely makes me look like an antilope with a cold, which is a huge improvement from the physically disabled Emu that I usually resemble when I put on the high heels that get stuck in-between cobblestones (and so I no longer have any shoes that make me look like that).

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Ps. I think Welcome to Night Vale had a very applicable sentiment to utter about kombucha. Actually, it was about beauty, but it still applies: “There is a thin semantic line separating weird and beautiful and that line is covered in jellyfish.”