28 August 2009

Why we need socialised health care.

Someone had to say it. So this guy did. :)

The idiotic thing is that when people that would benefit highly from socialised health care ramble on about how negative it would be for the country. Also, we already HAVE a form of socialised health care, in the sense that if you're elderly or desperately poor, you can go to any state hospital, and your costs are covered. Why not expand that to cover dental and optical and medical for all people? It just makes sense.

26 August 2009

Venn Pongal

Yes, I know I talk about this dish endlessly, but it really is magic. If you get my book for nothing else, get it for Venn Pongal, which is heads and tails the most popular dish in the entire book. I just got another message about it.

Alex, from the most recent podcast episode (talking about writing a cookery book) mentioned that when he got teeth extraction (I'm assuming wisdom teeth), he's been eating venn pongal. The reason that the dish is so popular is because it works for so many stages of your life. You can feed it to small children, the elderly, when you're having an upset stomach, or when you need something extremely cheap, but still filling enough to keep your energy up.

I know it's "just" beans and rice, but it's like magic food.

24 August 2009

Well Read poll from BBC

I saw it on the facebook, but facebook is a dumb head, and wouldn't let me post my list. So let me post it here. The list got me thinking, because I now remember reading some of them. How many have you read?

1 Pride and Prejudice - X
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien - X
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte –
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling - X
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee -
6 The Bible - X
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte - X (But hated it)
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell - X
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman -
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens -

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott -
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy -
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller -
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare -
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier -
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien - X
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk -
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger - X
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger -
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot -

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell -
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald - X (Hated it.)
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens -
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy -
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams - X
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky -
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck - X
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll - X
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame -

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy -
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens -
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis - X
34 Emma - Jane Austen -
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen -
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis - X
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini -
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres -
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden - X
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne - X

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell - X
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown -
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez -
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving - X
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins -
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery - X (And I cried blankets of tears. Went through a fair bit of kleenex that night.)
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy -
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood - X
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding - X
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan -

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel -
52 Dune - Frank Herbert -
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons -
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen -
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth -
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon -
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens - X
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley - X
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - Mark Haddon -
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez -

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck - X
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov -
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt -
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold -
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas - X (Yes. Read it like 5 times)
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac -
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy -
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding - X
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie –
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville - X

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens - X
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker –
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett - X (Also cried like an infant when reading this one)
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson -
75 Ulysses - James Joyce -
76 The Inferno – Dante - X
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome -
78 Germinal - Emile Zola -
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray -
80 Possession - AS Byatt –

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens - X
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell -
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker -
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro -
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert - X (And hated it. I hate Romantic Era lit.)
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry -
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White - X (Cried like an infant. Such a good read.)
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom -
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle -
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton -

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad -
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery - X (Read it /years/ ago when one of my mom's hippie friends left it at our house.)
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks -
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams -
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole -
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute -
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas - X
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare - X (One of the few Shakespeare books I didn't hate.)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl - X
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo - X

12 August 2009

How to write a Cookbook

1) Detail matters.
If you've seen my book, you notice how I'm careful to be highly specific when I need to be? That's because if the details are wrong, people get pissed.

You can never be ambiguous. Also, you can't guesstimate EVER. Because there will be that one guy out there who uses a measuring spoon. And who doesn't trust himself to cook, so he'll follow your directions to the letter.

2) Your work flow matters.
It may seem natural for you, but it's not to people who don't cook. For example, if I'm making a soup with cabbage, I'll start the water boiling, and have the slow cooking veg in the pot before I even touch the cabbage. Because the cabbage cooks fast, and goes last. So it's more efficient to get my pot going first, and then do anything to cabbage.

But people who don't cook? Will literally prep all the ingredients first, and have them laid out. And go through everything one at a time. Four hours later, a meal will be on the table, but they'll think that vegan food takes forever to prepare.

3) List ingredients twice.
Once in the ingredients list, and once again in the recipe itself. This provides a cross-check for you as well as the reader. Never say "the dry ingredients" or "the spice blend".

Re-list the spices, one by one, so that when you're done writing the recipe, you have a handy cross-checking tool. Also, never ever call for something that you didn't ask for in the ingredients list. It'll make your proof reader and recipe reader yell at you.

If you need 1 cup of water to boil the peas in, make sure that you list water as an ingredient. If you need additional water at the end, reserved just in case, account for that in the list, and say where you'd use it.

In cases when you'll need to add different amounts of the same ingredient in two places during cooking (add additional oil), list it in order.

For example: 25 mL canola, peanut, or sunflower oil, 3 grams cumin, 3 grams coriander, 1 aubergine, 10 mL canola, peanut, or sunflower oil, etc.

4) List ingredients in the order that you'll be using them. As in, if you're pouring oil into the pot to get things started, the oil you use to get stuff started goes first.

I'm also referring back to the point about being specific. If you want them to use canola oil, say so. If they can use peanut oil instead, say so. If you don't want them to use margarine, shortening, or olive oil in place of canola oil, mention it in the intro what recipes don't matter what the oil is, and which ones do matter.


You'll need to come up with a crack team of testers, either online, or in person. They need to be able to do a couple of things.

1) Be able to follow your directions to the letter.

2) Take specific notes on the process, and how it turned out for them.
take notes on timing, on measurement accuracy, and success of the instructions. Make corrections as needed (if they're a good cook), or follow through and fail (if they're a beginner) and yell at you.

3) Give specific feedback on taste, texture, ease of preparation, and total cooking time, including prep. You'll need that last bit of info for the top of the recipe.

And finally, they need to tell you if they'd make it again. If not, why not. Because recipes that are only used once and then never touched again will take up needless space.

Dino Cooks

They do this thing at Sacred Chow called a power bowl. I figured I'd try a version of it in my house, because the combination of protein and grain and vegetable is lovely. However, this is a far more involved operation, because I don't have a full complement of sous chefs, dish washing people, and assistants. It was just me in the kitchen.

First came the greens (kale). I washed and chopped them into manageable pieces, and drained off any excess water. Then, I popped some mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and sesame seeds (in that order). Then, I threw in some onions, and let them soften up. Then, in went the kale. Finally, I ground up some garlic, added some yellow mustard, and sriracha. I threw that sauce in at the last five minutes. That took (from start to finish) about an hour or so, because washing greens is a drag, but highly necessary.

Fortunately, I cooked the kale yesterday, so today, I just microwaved it. The next step was to make the beans. But then I realised that I wanted to use the vegetable leftovers (from squaring off the vegetables), because I wanted the salad to have a texture that didn't clash with the rice.

Usually, I just chop vegetables however, but this time, I wanted a perfect dice on the tomato, and a brunoise on the courgette, carrot, onions and cucumbers. Chopping the vegetables that perfectly took about 10 minutes or so. If I was being lazy with it, I could have done it all in a couple of minutes.

Much as I love home cooking, there are times when it's nice to do things perfectly.

Then, I chopped up the leftover carrot and courgette into a small dice, diced the other half of the onion, and popped mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and coriander seeds in a pot. I sauteed the onion until it's softened. I added in the leftover vegetables, and let them get softened. Then, I added a bit of turmeric (maybe a 1/4 teaspoon?), and let that get cooked in the fat for a short time. Then, I added in a tin of kidney beans. If I had tinned lentils, I'd have used those, but whatever.

Then, I layered it on as you see. Rice, beans, collards, salad. It was a fantastic combo, but rather elaborate. I made the plate version for my husband, and the bowl version for myself. It's quite filling.

07 August 2009

Mikeypod cooks

My good friend Mikeypod emailed me to let me know that he'd been cooking some stuff from my book. It is the basic broccoli, the dry roasted garbanzo, the generic accompaniment, and quinoa. Looks quite impressive there on that lovely white plate, and he said it tasted great too. Then, he sent me an email about a show I did on MeatfreeRadio:
Dino, Tim, and Mikey,

After hearing Dino on your show, I was much encouraged to re-establish my journey to healthier eating. I did the vegetarian thing for quite a while but I travel almost every week and live out of hotel rooms.. I always get hotel rooms with either a kitchenette or at least a microwave and a small fridge. After each week day being on my feet and having to talk most of the day, I found myself finding many excuses for just eating any and everything. The outcome has not been pretty to say the least. I am 52 years old but to be honest, I really am fortunate that I look like I am in my late thirties. Except for my big belly and butt.

Anyway Dino after your session on Meatfree radio, I was inspired to return to what I know to be the best thing for my extremely high blood pressure and out of whack cholesterol. After the episode I got on the net and ordered your book from Amazon as well as not taking the rationalization route of “I will begin the vegan route once the book comes in”. Instead, although continuing to travel, I am each day using the fridge and microwave in my hotel room. I even packed a large Rubbermaid container and a purchased a can opener to keep in my suit case. I know canned stuff is not the best but hell, it’s better than the crap route I have been on for the last two years.

I have increased my fast food intake ( this is referring to one of the jokes on Meatfree radio—something about there are fast food sections in grocery stores for vegans and vegetarians – it’s call the produce department. ) I am eating more fresh fruit as well. Thanks to you also Dino, I also have bottles of organic seasonings in the zipper pouch of the interior of my suitcase!!! I can not wait to get the cookbook. I am also so excited because I have tried to packed vegetarian stuff (boca burgers and the such) but to be honest, I could stick with it, but I hate that stuff. Plus, I do not have the time to look all over the place for exotic stuff to fit the vegetarian and/or vegan bill.

Next time I’m in NYC, I’ll let you and Mikey know so I can take you out for a cup of coffee or tea. I will keep you posted on my weight loss and as well as my lowered high blood pressure and cholesterol.

I will continue to be a fan of Meatfree radio and I am a new subscriber and fan of the Alternative Vegan podcast.

Allen Johnson
Rochester, NY
a mega fan of Ramble Redhead.com (say that fast!!!- ha! ha!)

Many thanks to Allen for the incredibly kind words. I love hearing about people trying new things, and am happy to help whenever I can. I absolutely agree that tinned beans are WAY better than the stuff you'd get from fast food restaurants, as it's a whole food, and it's still loaded with protein. That goes double for frozen vegetables.

If it means that you've got a choice between takeaway from a restaurant, or eating some tinned beans, some frozen veg, and some bread, rice or pasta, I'm going to steer you towards the latter option.

I can completely relate to your making excuses for eating everything at the end of a long work day. I feel the same way too, but I somehow manage to find that last scraping of strength, deep down in there somewhere, so that I can toss together some veggies and some oil and some seasoning, and dump it into the oven or microwave. I've seen some grocery stores that have made it even easier on those of you who don't have the time, inclination, knife or knife skills to chop veggies. They have little boxes of pre-chopped veggies, like courgettes, squash, onions, carrots, celery, and others. Some good ones even sell pre-washed, pre-chopped collard greens and kale (Publix for sure, if you live in Florida). Talk about easy! Yes, it'll cost a bit more money than the actual veggies, but you're paying for the ease of use (just as with tinned beans) and time saving. Besides, these are fresh veg I'm talking about, not frozen.

06 August 2009

Got up early

I'm surprised that I'm awake at this hour. Maybe there's something to be said for this whole early to bed early to rise nonsense.

02 August 2009

Back in NY

I went to visit my brother in Falls Church (a DC suburb) over Friday night and Saturday afternoon (we had to be back in NY to collect our CSA share). When we got there, my sister in law already had a giant truckload of food at the ready, as it was a Hindu holiday. She had dosa batter at the ready, sambhar, vegetable soup, potato curry, coconut chatni, and just when you thought that was enough, she even made vada and some sweet. The food just kept coming and coming and coming, seemingly endlessly. We ate and talked and really had a good time. This is why I love South Indian cooking so much: a lot of it is vegan already, and extremely tasty. It's such an excellent baseline to learn vegan food, and a really great jumping-off point.

Around 3 AM, we all trooped off to bed.

Everyone conked out. My sister in law had been awake since 5 AM that morning. My brother was up at 4 (his work starts at like 6 AM). I had come directly from work, so I was already tired enough to begin with, but the bus journey was another long drawn out thing, as we hit DC traffic HARD, so we were stuck in there for an extra hour. The next morning was still more food, and chatting, and eating and talking and eating and cooking and eating. Did I mention eating?

The niece and nephew were thrilled to meet their New York uncles after such a long time (I hadn't seen the two in about four years, and Puppy had never met them). The niece is eight, and quite a bright little girl. She's powering through stacks of books as fast as her mom can manage to find them. Nephew is a five-year-old bundle of energy who doesn't stop bouncing around from the time he wakes up until he goes to sleep at night. He eats apples (even though they're as big as his head) by the truckload, and absolutely loves them. They're lovely to visit with, but I don't think that my nerves can handle much more than measured doses. I don't quite do too terribly well with children.

So we get home, and I regale my mother with my adventures (as is my wont), and the best friend calls. I switch over, and she regales me with her adventures of the past couple of weeks. Finally, I notice that it's well past 1, and I'd been up since 9 AM after going to sleep at 3 AM the night before. I hastily bid everyone a good night, and crashed asleep.

I wake up today, and it's raining outside (again!), which made things cool, so I didn't even bother getting up for a few hours, so I could enjoy the soft breezes and the sound of the rain on the window. Puppy comes home lugging a GIANT thing of kale. When I say it's a large amount, you know it's huge. It was epic. There was enough for me to fill the turkey roaster three times. No, I don't roast turkeys, but that's what that dish is called, and I use it expressly for cooking ginormous amounts of leafy green veggies, because cooking those on the stove is a pain, since they require such a giant pot, only to wilt down, and make the pot seem stupid. Gods, I love that CSA of ours.