Tag Archives: New york City

Goodbye to My Mom

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A portrait I shot of Mom in August 2013, five months after my Dad died. She wanted a nice photo to get her started in the world of internet dating. She never ended up going on a date- I’m not surprised, who could seem even remotely interesting after being married to my Dad?

My mom died on Friday night, March 15, 2016 after a two year battle with cholangiocarcinoma, a rare and aggressive cancer. At some point I’d like to do a post about my parents’ battles with cancer and how it’s influenced the work I do in chronic disease prevention. But that’s not today.

I didn’t deliver a eulogy at my Dad’s funeral 3 years ago and I’ve regretted it since. So in a way, this eulogy was for both Mom and Dad.

Over the last few weeks I’ve posted dozens of photos of mom in the sixties- friends all over the world seem to have enjoyed them, as well as the stories that accompany these images. I thought some of you might be interested in hearing a little more about my mom, so I decided to post the eulogy here.

Mom's college graduation portrait

Mom’s college graduation portrait

A Daughter’s Eulogy | Esther Krohn 1946-2016

 

Mom with baby me

With baby me

Anyone who knew Esther Krohn knew that she put everyone else first. Her family and her friends were infinitely important to her, and she invested all of her energy into ensuring that the people she loved were happy and well cared for.

This was evident in Mom and Dad’s relationship from the very beginning. Soon after they started dating, Mom bought tickets for a music festival due to take place upstate in the summer. At the last minute, Dad had to take call. Did Mom call a girlfriend and make alternate travel plans? Absolutely not. She stayed in the city on a sweltering August weekend as she didn’t want Dad to feel extra disappointed about missing out. That little music festival turned out to be the most important musical event of the 20th century, if not ever. If missing Woodstock to take care of your boyfriend isn’t the purest incarnation of altruism, I don’t know what is.

Mom and Dad on their wedding day

Mom and Dad on their wedding day

And of course that’s how it went down- because Mom always put herself second. Or third. Or fourth. There was nothing more important to Mom than being sure that her family was happy and that their needs were constantly anticipated and consistently met.

Her desire to care for us took on innumerable forms, some obvious, some more subtle. For instance, during East Hampton summers she monitored the motion of the leaves around our house or the fluttering of the flags on the ocean beaches, hoping that these observations would relate to the conditions at Napeague, ensuring Dad a good windsurfing day. Likewise during those summers she observed and reported the intensity of the sunlight, hoping that I might have a productive and enjoyable day photographing.

Mom never let anything get in the way of caring for the family- what she called “her job.” I don’t remember her being sick a single day in our childhood- and I doubt it was because she didn’t get a cold- it’s because she never let it stand in the way of doing that job. Regardless of whether she had slept 3 hours, which was often the case, or whether she recently had a major surgery- she was always there to make us breakfast, get Dad off to work and us off to school, drive us to after school activities, make us dinner, help us with our homework and get us to bed.

Mom at Summer Stock in the summer of love, 1967

Summer Stock in the summer of love, 1967

At the 1964 World's fair

At the 1964 World’s fair

Mom was expert at caring for those she loved. But she was expert at so much more, in both the physical and intellectual realms. She had an impressive and diverse athletic ability- trying everything from skiing to windsurfing to sailing to running to tennis- she really did it all. And she was an aesthetic virtuoso –this was evident in her legendary green thumb, in her encyclopedic knowledge of art and antiques, home decorating, and her uncanny ability to walk into a space, see the vast potential- and then achieve it.

She took pride in sharing her love of art and culture with us as children- any weekend we weren’t skiing or sailing, she piled us into the car early and ushered us to a museum or performance in the city- I am forever grateful for that immersion so early on.

Somewhere around 1966-67

Somewhere around 1966-67

Everyone here knows of Mom’s phenomenal sense of style- a sense that transcended medium. It was apparent in her knack for decorating, flower arranging and gardening, and in her impeccable personal appearance. The aesthetic details we saw on the surface of Esther Krohn were a confident expression of her vast knowledge of art and design.

My personal favorite era of Mom’s were the 60s and 70s- in fact it’s likely that the photos of her in this era as well as a hermetically sealed time capsule of floor length psychedelic dresses, hidden away in the basement of our childhood home, informed my own love of vintage style. Mom forged on with countless reinventions, all successful in their own way. Even her collection of 1980s hairdos, some rather mullet-y in nature, were pulled off with grace and flair.

My parents in Paris sometime in the early 70s.

My parents in Paris sometime in the early 70s.

A collection of Mom's Scarsdale Pool passes. My favorite mullet is the Jimmy Page-esque one upper left.

A collection of Mom’s Scarsdale Pool passes. My favorite mullet is the Jimmy Page-esque one upper left.

She even had a style overhaul a year into her cancer battle, eventually ditching the wig for a chic pixie-like cut in her natural, strikingly beautiful grey, which no one had ever seen prior. She stopped wearing makeup, with the exception of a bright red lipstick that highlighted her infectious smile. When her clothes no longer fit, she assembled an entirely different wardrobe, resulting in a new look- one more unique and striking than anything I saw her wear since the 70s. It was authentically her, and it was beautiful.

Mom, right with her dear college friend, Sherry, this past summer in East Hampton.

Mom, right with her dear college friend, Sherry, this past summer in East Hampton.

And speaking of beauty, it’s tough not to mention her legendary, outward physical beauty. From the time I was in nursery school, every teacher and parent commented on her loveliness and elegance. And it wasn’t just because she was a babe. Her beautiful smile, engaging nature, compassionate demeanor and sense of humor all played a part in her attractiveness. All of these attributes made her the life of the party, the belle of the ball, and a devoted friend to innumerable people over the course of her life. She was magnetic, and everyone gravitated toward her.

With her granddaughter, my niece Genevieve

With her granddaughter, my niece Genevieve

Many of you reaped the rewards of Mom’s aptitude for entertaining. As Max mentioned she was a gifted cook and an exemplary hostess. Whether a small dinner or a big charity fundraiser, entertaining gave mom the chance to show off some of her numerous talents while taking care of other people.

In working so hard for the sake of making others happy, and in putting everyone else first, I don’t think mom saw herself as coming last. Mom took great pleasure and pride in being there for her friends and providing the vital framework for her family’s happiness and success. That being said, when others need you most, it can be hard to carve out the time and space to take care of yourself, particularly if you’re the kind of person who mom was.

Mom and me on our boat the Nephron, around 1977

On our boat the Nephron, around 1977. My Baby Peggy phase.

Perhaps the most potent example of mom’s altruism, and sadly a tragic aspect of her propensity for caring is that she sublimated her own intense physical suffering when Dad was dying. Who knew that she too had cancer, but put Dad’s pain ahead of her own, so that he would feel loved and comfortable without feeling ashamed or guilty. We all knew that she was suffering emotionally, and that her stomach issues, at the time thought to be anxiety induced, were irritating to contend with. But in retrospect, it is haunting to think of her stoically enduring the effects of cancer alongside her husband.

That was mom. Everyone else first.

I can’t imagine how rough it must have been for fiercely independent mom to eventually let others help for a change once she received her diagnosis.

When she had no choice but to relent and let others help, she never complained of her own pain or sadness. All she communicated to us and to her valiant caregivers was her guilt about disrupting our lives. To the end, her main concern was that her family should not feel inconvenienced.

Just as we all did, I wanted so much to do something meaningful for mom in her time of suffering, and I feel so grateful that in the end she finally allowed me to do just that. On the last night she was verbal, the night we initially thought she would go, Max and I stayed rather late. While he took a nap I sat at Mom’s bedside holding her hand, as we had done for weeks. She thought the end was near as we did- although tenacious as she was, it turned out that she would go on fighting for another week.

Around 1 am, I told Mom that I was about to head home, and I’d be back to see her in the morning. Ordinarily she would say something like “you do what you need to do,” and send me on my way. That was sort of her code for “I kind of want you to stay, but it’s more important to me that you tend to your own needs.”

But that night, she looked uneasy, and didn’t respond. “Mom,” I asked, “do you want me to stay? I can stay.” Mom had a hard time talking in her last few weeks, and with the oxygen machine blaring in the background it was tough to hear her faint whisper. So I put my ear a millimeter from her mouth and heard one very distinct word: “Stay.” Of everything Mom did for me over the course of her life, and there was a lot – that one word was one of the greatest gifts- the permission to return a lifetime of caring by just being there in her time of need.

Skiing somewhere in Europe

Skiing somewhere in Europe. Wear your sunscreen, folks.

I began with a musical tale so perhaps it’s fitting to end with one. My most Proustean memory, at about 2 years old, is being with our parents at a condo called Middle Earth, in Sugarbush, VT. It’s 1976 and the the two 8 tracks perpetually on were two of our parents’ favorites- the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper and Abbey Road. To this day, any time I hear those albums I am transported to Middle Earth, and am instantly embraced by a sense of warmth, home, and the unconditional love of my parents. But even as a child, those albums were tinged with sadness, as it occurred to me that they would be uncomfortable to hear when my parents were gone. I never imagined that time would come so soon.

The last line of Abbey Road’s The End is  “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” Our parents put a tremendous amount of love out into the world, and in return, were blessed by the love of each other, of their family, and a vast network of friends. Their example of love and compassion continue to inspire me every day of my life. I only wish they could have stayed around a little longer to inspire us all.

On one of Mom and Dad's boats- either The Intuition or The Nephron

On one of Mom and Dad’s boats- either The Intuition or The Nephron

Mom and dad at my brother's wedding in 2006.

Att my brother’s wedding in 2006.

Mom just after giving birth to me. Kind of unreal. With her sister, left and her mother, right. I need every piece of clothing in this photo, btw.

Just after giving birth to me. Kind of unrealistic postpartum beauty! With her sister, left and her mother, right. I need every stitch of clothing in this photo, btw.

 

YOU Can Help Reverse Climate Change- Don’t Pass the Buck

400,000 people turned up to the People’s Climate March on Sunday here in New York City. The consensus is clear- we don’t want to drown under rising oceans or burn up under depleted ozone. But how many of those marching really want to do what it takes to turn this thing around?

I salute the thousands who took to the streets. The vegan contingent was impressive, and I sincerely hope that their signs were a beacon to the rest of the march. But sadly, my vegan brethren were just a fraction of those marching. The majority ate the very meat, dairy and eggs en route that are responsible for an estimated 51% of greenhouse gas emissions.

I don’t doubt that the marchers are concerned for the state of the planet. But I do question whether the majority are truly willing to be part of the solution.

From Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary's Instagram feed

From Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary’s Instagram feed

The marchers wanted to inspire the U.N. to take notice of the environment. But to me this seems like passing the buck. Rather than acknowledge their own respective roles in the environment’s decline, it was simpler to blame climate change on “world leaders.”

In any case, giving the U.N. this task does not absolve us of responsibility as individuals. Any potential U.N. action would mean little if the rest of us are unwilling to affect change. Activism does not end with holding a sign. In my mind, activism implies taking real action, and in the case of the environment, the most important action we can take is abstaining from eating meat, dairy and eggs.

 While it’s hard to avoid hearing of animal agriculture’s devastating environmental consequences, few seem to make the connection that their personal food choices impact our planet. Perhaps it is denial, perhaps laziness. Nevertheless, throughout the day Sunday I saw countless posts from proud meat eaters on the march. In some cases, literally holding a picket sign in one hand and a burger in the other. Anti-fracking signs notwithstanding, they simply continued the behavior that keeps climate change on it’s current, deadly trajectory.

The Cowspiracy team, a new documentary on this very issue

The Cowspiracy team, a new documentary on this very issue

Which is why Sunday left me feeling skeptical. This is the same skepticism I reserve for campaigns like pink ribbons adorning buckets of chicken. KFC wants us to think they’re fighting breast cancer, but in reality they’re selling carcinogens (like PHIP and HCAs) in big greasy buckets. The same principle applies to many of the marchers. Saying you want to rid the world of a scourge is great, be it breast cancer or global warming. But back up the idea with action. Don’t sell or consume the product that contributes to it’s very creation.

In other words, if you want to affect change, BE that change.

photo: Marisa Miller Wolfson

photo: Marisa Miller Wolfson

But who knows, there could be hundreds of thousands who went to the march and didn’t have an inkling about the dark side of the meat, dairy and eggs they eat. So let’s just say you went to the People’s Climate March for the fun of it. And perhaps, for the first time, you made the connection- it’s not just the transit sector, fracking, the factories and generally other people in other places far beyond our control. Suddenly you realized that global warming is the result of our collective behavior, beginning with what we eat every day. That’s a lot to take in. So where do you go from here?

Where to go next? How about your local farmer's market! Photo: Lauren Krohn

Where to go next? How about your local farmer’s market! Photo: Lauren Krohn

Look at it this way. You’re in a really powerful position- you can play a part in reversing climate change RIGHT NOW! You can contribute to a better world by voting with your pocketbook as well as your fork. It’s in our hands, and the longer we tell ourselves it’s someone else’s problem, the bigger the problem gets.

And if you’re reading this post when it’s hot off the press, you’re in luck. It’s Monday, which means it’s Meatless Monday! Clearly there’s no better place to start. So try one meatless day, or one meal if that’s all you’re ready for. (mind you, there’s no sin in making it a Meatless Tuesday if that’s the day you’re reading. Or you know, in general.)

Yes my friend, vegan pancakes exist and they're even better than the other kind. Photo: Lauren Krohn

Yes my friend, vegan pancakes exist and they’re even better than the other kind. Photo: Lauren Krohn

And don’t forget, while animal-based meat fuels global warming at an alarming rate, plant-based meats such as Tofurky, Field Roast, Beyond Meat and Gardein are sustainable foods that use a tiny fraction of the resources used for animal-based “foods.”

Listed below are some of my all time favorite food blogs, each of which demonstrates that animal-free food is diverse, decadent and fun. It’s not all salad people, believe you me. In this day and age, any dish you can imagine can be made vegan.

Virtually anywhere on earth, you can find phenomenal vegan fare. I had this coconut curry  on a tiny remote island in the Florda keys. Photo: Lauren Krohn

Virtually anywhere on earth, you can find phenomenal vegan fare. I had this coconut curry on a tiny remote island in the Florda keys. Photo: Lauren Krohn

Not only will you help our earth by ditching animal flesh and secretions (yup, that’s what eggs and dairy are,) you’ll be helping yourself to a life with a lower incidence of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and so many other diseases. There are quite a few other reasons, including ending world hunger, and, oh yeah, the welfare of billions of exploited animals.

So let’s eat. If you want to get lunch right now, check out Happy Cow. Find vegetarian & vegan food anywhere you travel, or right at home!

Or get cooking with some of my favorite

Recipe Blogs:

www.ohsheglows.com

www.olivesfordinner.com

www.kblog.lunchboxbunch.com

www.forkandbeans.com

www.theppk.com

www.thesweetlifeonline.com

www.bittersweetblog.com

www.veganeatsandtreats.com

www.veganricha.com

www.meettheshannons.com

Or maybe your interest is piqued on this issue, and you’re ready to learn more about animal “agriculture”‘s place in global warming. Then check out the powerful documentary Meat the Truth.

Here are some great places to learn more about veganism, the why’s, how’s, and who’s-

www.joyfulvegan.com

www.vegansociety.com

www.farmsanctuary.com

http://www.ourhenhouse.org/

Home

Nutrition& Health

www.theveganrd.com

www.veganhealth.org

www.PCRM.org

www.nutritionfacts.org

www.drfuhrman.com/library/articles.aspx

www.veganforher.com/nutrition/the-plant-plate/

I leave you with a great video from the people at Chomping Climate Change, where you can find everything you need to know about the link between animal agriculture and the environment. For our planet, for our future, for the animals, for health- so many reasons, just one solution. Be that change. What do you have to lose?

Questions? Please feel free to ask in the comments! 

Eating My Way Across the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival

If you can believe it, this was my first trip to the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival, now in it’s 4th year. And yes, I have been missing out. Each year this festival brings in loads of food vendors showcasing their tasty new products. Additionally there are many inspiring nonprofits in attendance, and an impressive roster of speakers. I won’t have the chance to go in depth on the festival background or the important organizations there this past weekend, but please stop over to the VFF’s website for more info.

Robyn and Stephanie chow down on some soul food.

Robyn and Stephanie chow down on some soul food.

With scores of vendors, I can hardly review all of the products but I’m going to rave the pants off quite a few standouts!

1. Marty’s Fast Foods

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I was barely in the doors when the sweet & tangy aroma of barbeque beckoned. It wafted into the main space trumping every other marvelous scent. We were basically getting a contact high.

Just inside the main entrance, a mob of hungry festivalgoers thronged around the Marty’s Fast Foods stand, a restaurant set to open soon in our town. My mom’s mantra, “Don’t buy the first thing you see” echoed in my brain as it often does, (did anyone else’s mom say that too?) but an hour later, my nose kept pulling me back to those drumsticks. And after hearing several superlative reviews from friends, I plunked down $3 for 2: one BBQ and one Buffalo. Best $3 ever spent! At least in recent memory.

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The drumstick itself was really succulent. Not even remotely dry like some of the plant-based chickens of old. There’s a crunchy coating that isn’t at all greasy, all smothered in a just-sweet enough, tangy barbeque sauce. It was truly heavenly. The Buffalo flavor was also pretty good, but I preferred the sweet vs savory richness of the BBQ sauce. (Incidentally, the Buffalo drumstick was generally served with a Bleu cheese dressing, but I was never a fan of cheese, even the plant-based variety, so I passed on that.)

2. DF Mavens Ice CreamIMG_0579

Just next to Marty’s was some of the most dangerous stuff at the Festival. I’ve been reading about DF Mavens for months now- they’re slated to open a store in the East Village soon. But this was my first opportunity to try their product. Nothing could have prepared me for the deliciousness that awaited. This is the ice cream to end all ice creams. Creamy and rich with incredibly intense flavors, it’s just an inspiration.

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Perhaps I should have been a bit shy about trying 6 flavors, particularly when dozens of drooling customers awaited their own samples. But alas, shyness has never been my strongpoint. DF Mavens makes both almond milk based and coconut milk based  varieties- of the former I sampled the Mocha Almond chip, Chocolate Almond Fudge, and Mint Almond Cookie. All were incredibly tasty, with a rich and intense chocolate flavor. I also tried the coconut based Madagasacar Vanilla Bean as well as Chocolate.  The vanilla was some of the most vanilla-y vanilla I’ve ever tasted. So much so that it challenges your idea of vanilla.

I’m going to be in big trouble when the store opens.

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3. Earth Balance PopcornIMG_0557

I’m late to the party here, as it’s been around for a year. But this stuff is addictive. The Aged White Cheddar popcorn tastes exactly like the Smartfood I binged on as a kid. But it’s not full of harmful dairy with all it’s saturated fat, cholesterol and carcinogens. The buttery flavor is also tremendous. Next time I see a movie, I’ll be smuggling some Earth Balance popcorn into the theater. The only problem is deciding which kind.

4. Alchemy CreameryIMG_0633

I’m somewhat ashamed that I’d never heard of Alchemy Creamery. They have some pretty unique flavors as you can see above- I had the honor of tasting the Salted Peanut butter and Marzipan. Both were incredible. Their ice cream has a rich mouthfeel without feeling too heavy. Super smooth and the flavors are intense. If I hadn’t eaten my weight in DF Maven’s minutes earlier I would have tried some more.

5. One Lucky Duck

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I’m a big fan of macaroons, and also a macaroon snob. But I have to say, these are some of the best I’ve ever eaten. Perhaps even the best! I also tried a marzipan-esque, peanut buttery cookie (the striped one, above) that was also divine. By this point I could barely shove it in any longer but One Lucky Duck’s pastries were so damn good I took one for the team.

They have a store in the Chelsea Market, but I’ll try to forget this information stat.

6. Upton’s Seitan

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I eat Upton’s all the time, it’s my seitan of choice. So there was really no need for me to sample any, but if there’s Upton’s seitan in the house, I’m going to have to eat it. I think I tried the Canadian Bacon and the seitan crumbles, the former of which I’d never tasted. Really delish. I can totally envision the bacon on a pizza, and the crumbles in chili or a tofu scramble. Or a lasagna. Or a savory pie. It’s versatile stuff. Oh, and I’ll have the opportunity to try it in any of these recipes since I pocketed about 10 coupons.

I tried plenty more, but I have to wrap up the food portion of our journey. Have a look at some of the other foods a bit further below, all of which you can get your hands on by visiting the exhibitor page.

Next…Victoria Moran

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There were plenty of talented speakers over the course of the weekend, but I purposefully planned my visit to coincide with Victoria Moran‘s talk. I had previously seen her speak at Farm Sanctuary – her energy, charismatic yet down to earth nature and of course her brilliant mind had a huge impact on the audience. Once again, Victoria brought it with an inspiring talk on staying vegan.

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She touched on many interesting points regarding dedication as well as vegan recidivism. In addition to hearing her always enlightening perspective, I also learned a tremendously interesting fact- I never understood the mechanism behind dairy’s addictive nature. It actually contains addictive, morphine-like compounds called casomorphins. Casomorphins are protein fragments derived from any mammalian milk, it’s a strong incentive for infants to nurse. No wonder cheese is so addictive, all that casomorphin condensed into a brick- it’s like cocaine!

I wish I had recorded her whole talk, but you’ll just have to hear her for yourself someday, and read her newest hugely successful book, Main Street Vegan.

In case you’re not hungry yet, feast your eyes on some more food porn below. And get to New York next year for the 5th annual Vegetarian Food Festival!

Treeline Cheese, a very authentic nut cheese people rave over

Treeline Cheese, a very authentic nut cheese people rave over

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The Regal Vegan, popular catering company with their highly sought-after Faux Gras

The Regal Vegan, with their highly sought-after Faux Gras

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Beyond Sushi, all vegan sushi near union square and in the Chelsea Market

Beyond Sushi, looking tantalizing. But what a tease putting it right there with the DO NOT EAT sign!

Pretty lavander chocolate cupcakes

Pretty lavender chocolate cupcakes

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Yeah Dawg, everyone's favorite veggie dog.

Yeah Dawg, everyone’s favorite veggie dog.

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Yummy chocolate bunnies. The chocolate is pretty delish, just like the easter bunnies I remember.

Yummy chocolate bunnies. The chocolate is pretty delish, just like the easter bunnies I remember.

Your Soon-to-be Famous Mushroom Gravy

Growing up, my Mom made a divine mushroom gravy but once a year. That day was usually Rosh Hashanah, when our house ran wild with rambunctious children who, quite literally, climbed the walls. (My cousin had an unusual talent for doorway climbing.) For a few brief moments we kids were seated for dinner at a card table added to the end of the heftier legitimate table. I was seated only between frequent trips to the buffet for more of that unforgettable mushroom gravy.

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By the time I had graduated from the kids’ table I was vegetarian, and suddenly that gravy was even more integral to my holiday repast. I ladled gobs of the stuff over chewy barley noodles and sundry side dishes while the rest of the family spooned it upon the “roast.”

I had no veg roast at those family dinners as I came late to many vegan staples like Tofurky. Somehow I lived 30 years without even laying eyes on one! When that day finally arrived, I immediately took notice of the mushroom gravy recipe on the side of the box (originally from The Tofu Cookery by Louise Hagler.) It had been years since Mom had made her famous gravy, so my nostalgic palate was ready._MG_1019

Over the last ten years I’ve worked hard to find the perfect amalgamation of Mom’s gravy and that of the Tofu Cookery. Many a gathering from New York to Cleveland has sampled these attempts, and fortunately every rendition has been a resounding hit. One midwest Thanksgiving I received the props every vegan covets- the gravy was ranked as best dish (at a very impressive table) by an omnivore. I think my aspiring chef ex-mother in law was vaguely annoyed.

My mom’s gravy was a brothy one. That was her intention, but I do recall my plate taking on the appearance of soup. On the other hand, I’ve never liked thick, creamy gravies, so the one you find here is a  compromise- thick enough to stick to your Tofurky/Field Roast etc but not so thick that a fork will stand up in it. In my opinion, that’s what your mashed potatoes are for. Which, by the way, are the perfect vehicle for this gravy. But if you like super thick gravies, no problem,  just use more flour in the roux.

Before roux & nooch

Before roux & nutritional yeast

After adding roux. Just the right thickness.

After adding roux and nooch. Just the right thickness.

This past weekend I brought a batch of our recipe along with cranberry sauce to my friends’ annual pre-Thanksgiving feast. All of which, is vegan, of course. The hosts are fabulous cooks- the hostess is famous for killer mashed potatoes, the host for an unbelievable all-from-scratch un-turkey. The event truly yields a cornucopia of delicacies. In addition our hosts’ talents, the rest of the group really brings it when it comes to potlucks. (Scroll below the recipe for some more snapshots from the evening)

Because the un-turkey was running a bit late, we began our feast with the dishes guests brought- pumpkin breads, mashed potatoes, several versions of mac & cheese, brussels sprouts, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, garlicky kale, baked tofu, cranberries, salads, etc…

Just a small section of the buffet.

Just a small section of one of the buffet tables.

Nick's famous un-Turkey from scratch: Homemade seitan & yuba skin, delicious stuffing.

The famous un-turkey from scratch: Homemade seitan & yuba skin, delicious stuffing. See the steam rising? It was delectable.

So when the gorgeous un-turkey emerged from the kitchen, every drop of gravy had already been consumed. It was no tragedy, however, the un-turkey was so succulent it needed no adornments. But bottom line, the gravy was once again a smash. As will you be when you make it. So get cooking!

When possible, I cook gluten-free for crowds because I know a lot of gluten-intolerant or sensitive folks, thus I’ve used brown rice flour for the roux. And I find it doesn’t lump.

I generally use all fresh herbs in this recipe, but if you can’t find fresh rosmary, thyme and sage, (sorry, no parsley here!) you can definitely get away with 1 fresh, the other 2 dried. It’s more complex with all 3 fresh, but it will still be phenomenal with just fresh rosemary.

You’ll need two pans here. I tend to make the roux in a small pan and do the rest in a huge one.

Giant pan works best for this.

Giant pan works best for this.

A note on cleaning all those mushrooms: some people are under the false impression that you can’t clean mushrooms with water. They’re wrong! You won’t want to wet them in advance, but right before using them, it’s no problem. Here’s a good method. Get a large bowl, dump the shrooms in, then pour water over them. Submerge them a few times, rinse, repeat. You get the vast majority of dirt off in one fell swoop, then touch up with a towel as you’re cutting. Easy.

My method of mushroom cleaning. To the chagrin of my ex-mother in law.

My method of mushroom cleaning. To the chagrin of my ex-mother in law.

Mushroom Gravy
Adapted from Tofu Cookery, Louise Hagler
Enough to feed a large group (10-25, depending on how much they like gravy!)

Ingredients:
2 pkgs. mushrooms, sliced (together, 16-20 oz) : I suggest 1 white button, 1 crimini
1/2 Cup sliced onions
3 Tbsp Olive oil, divided
1/4 Cup brown rice flour
4 cups vegetable stock
2 Tbsp soy sauce
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
About 5 fresh sage leaves, chopped (more if you really dig sage)
2 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
2 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
1/4 tsp black pepper

Method:

Lightly sauté the onions in 1 Tbsp olive oil for about a minute in a large pan. Add the sliced mushrooms and incorporate. Add the stock, along with the soy sauce, herbs and black pepper. Lower the flame while you make your roux.

In a small pan, make the roux. Combine and bubble the flour and 2 Tbsp olive oil over low heat for one minute. Scrape the roux into the larger pan, I generally use some stock to thin it toward the end, then pour the thinned roux in. Whisk into the stock, then add your nutritional yeast. Cook (on low-medium flame) until thickened and mushrooms are tender.

For all of you in the US, I hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving! And now some snaps from yet another fantastic Harvest Feast.

Seriously, we vegans have nothing to eat.

Seriously, we vegans have nothing to eat. This was just one of the tables full of food!

The eagerly anticipated arrival of the un-turkey

The eagerly anticipated arrival of the un-turkey

It's an exciting moment, obviously!

It’s an exciting moment, obviously!

Check out that steam!

Check out that steam!

Eleanor's colorful plate of goodies

Eleanor’s colorful plate of goodies

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Demetrius at the other buffet- his amazing kale and Mac n cheeze, and a fabulous sweet potato casserole with candied pecan topping. Yum!

Demetrius at the other buffet- his amazing kale and Mac n cheeze, and a fabulous sweet potato casserole with candied pecan topping. Yum!

David guards a plate for late arrival Cathy.

David guards a plate for late arrival Cathy.

Lovely Robyn.

Robyn, one of the beautiful Moms at the soiree.

Annie and her beautiful daughters Seneca and Rae

Annie and her beautiful daughters Seneca and Rae

Sorry Rae,, I was never very good with that thing.

Sorry Rae, I was never very good with that thing.

Grace's amazing and gorgeous apple pie!

Grace’s amazing and gorgeous apple pie!

Always fashionable Rachel!

Rachel, another vegan babe.

If you can believe it, this is only a sampling of the desserts. Two more pies and cashew cream soon took up residence on the table.

If you can believe it, this is only a sampling of the desserts. Two more pies and cashew cream soon took up residence on the table.

Our lovely hostess, Susanne, and LiLi. Everyone has someone/thing to hold here. Always something to do chez Susanne/Nick!

Many a set of full arms!

Susan spearheads the activities committee

Susan spearheads the activities committee

In her green dress I thought Jen resembled the girl in the painting. Only Jen's prettier and not at all spooky.

In her green dress I thought Jen resembled the girl in the groovy painting. Only Jen’s prettier and not at all spooky.

Be a Witness: The Ghosts in Our Machine

I was fortunate to attend the premiere of the moving documentary The Ghosts in Our Machine  last friday in New York City. Beautifully conceived and executed by director Liz Marshall, Ghosts follows intrepid photographer Jo-Anne McArthur through her worldwide, industry-wide documentation of animal abuse.

Fox on an illegal fur farm- one of the animal ambassadors in the film. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur

Fox on an illegal fur farm- one of the animal ambassadors in the film. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur

Ghosts takes us on Jo-Anne’s physical and spiritual journey- to the dark locations rarely glimpsed by human beings, as well as the places she goes for sanctuary and catharsis. The film perfectly mirrors her reality such that we empathize with the animals and the photographer. Along the way, we see what she sees – both the misery and the inherent beauty in animals regardless of their circumstances. The experience is so visceral that I actually felt the quality and warmth of the light that illuminates her artistic path.

Many have asked me if the film is hard to take. Here’s what I tell them. The primary purpose of Ghosts is to educate, so there is no sugar coating. However Ghosts is crafted in a way that we do not linger past where most will find it impossible- it transitions regularly from painful places to redemptive ones. It is the moments of calm at animal sanctuaries and the instances of victory that give the viewer respite, as they do Jo, from the horrors playing out all over the globe. And while there are some difficult scenes (although not gratuitously so) I feel that it’s our duty to witness the emergency that is animal cruelty. If we close our eyes, we are separating ourselves from reality- it is that disconnect that fuels the fur, meat and dairy industries.

With the brave, talented and beautiful Jo at the afterparty. Photo: Derek Goodwin

Happy to be beside the brave, talented and beautiful Jo (she’s on the right) at the Ghosts afterparty. Photo: Derek Goodwin

Regardless of whether one’s life pivots about animal rights, we cannot truly experience the animals’ reality on a regular basis. Ghosts connects us to individual animals as well as the universal suffering of animals. Moments into the film I was reconnected with my own connection to animals and this movement. I was moved to spring from my seat and act- and might have, were it not for my being transfixed to the screen.Fur-Fox-White1(1)

It seemed  there was no possibility of my being further moved that night, but it happened anyway. The atmosphere of pride and elation was infectious upon entering the theater. It was incredibly fortifying to be at a successful premiere in a gorgeous landmark theater with a community of committed animal rights activists. Seeing Jo, Susie Coston of Farm Sanctuary, Liz Marshall, Joshua Katcher of the Discerning Brute, Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart of Vaute Couture, and many others looking gorgeous and proud on the red carpet was truly empowering. These, (and many others featured in the film) are the kind of people who are deserving of celebrity status- these are the people who make changes in this world and set an incredible example.

Three Photographers: from L-R: moi, Derek Goodwin and  Jo-Anne McArthur at the Ghosts afterparty.

Three Photographers: from L-R: moi, Derek Goodwin and Jo-Anne McArthur at the Ghosts afterparty.

The atmosphere of excitement and accomplishment spilled over to the afterparty at Mooshoes, where sweet and savory Blue Ghost Dun-well donuts were served, along with some gorgeous hors d’orderves ( I didn’t photograph any of the food, or anything for that matter that night, but have a look at photographer Derek Goodwin’s images.) It was humbling to look around at the group there, each one individual committed to doing their part in this fight. As I gazed around the space I saw so many talented individuals who use their talents to promote animal rights. They do so through such diverse avenues as filmmaking & photography, food, law, clothing and beyond. I am so proud to know this community of activists, to be a small part of this machine that is gathering a lot of steam.

Love these Ghosts logos.

Love these Ghosts logos.

If you’re in New York, please see The Ghosts in Our Machine until November 21 at The Village East Cinemas, or if you’re in Los Angeles check it out from November 15. It’s also coming to the midwest- have a look at the info on showings throughout the country. And I’m obviously not a film critic, so take a look at this spot-on review in the Los Angeles Times, as well as more positive feedback in The New York Times and the Village Voice!

I also encourage you to pre-order Jo-Anne McArthur’s phenomenal new book, We Animals, that is ten years in the making. I had the opportunity to sit down at Mooshoes and read/ look through it for a few minutes. It defied all of my (already high) expectations. I actually had to put it down since it was far too compelling to experience at a party- I wanted to savor every word and image for the first time in a quieter moment. It’s that good. And since it will be a few weeks till the book arrives in our hands, see Jo’s work at her website, weanimals.org

Have you seen the film yet? What were your thoughts?

A Vegan Taste of Chinatown

Love this video featuring Jasmin Singer, half of the fabulous Our Hen House duo. While I avert my eyes at the duck-laden windows and tables of fish when roaming NYC’s Chinatown, when you gaze elsewhere it’s absolutely teeming with vegan options. Here Jasmin and Patrick Kwan of HSUS take a look at some of those options, and talk about the roots of vegetarian food/philosophy in Chinese culture. I’m ready for dim sum at  Buddhai Bodai right now!

Grown Up Antioxidant Slushie

vvpLOGO*A big welcome to you, virtual vegan potluck attendee! Thanks for stopping by. This recipe, an ode to beets and sweets, fit in with the potluck’s featured ingredient. But please do have a look around my blog if you like what you see here!*

I had a ridiculous sweet tooth as a kid- so bad that I recall most of my juvenile activities in the context of the garbage I put into my mouth. I can still feel my feet on the warm concrete as I stood in line at the Scarsdale Pool snack bar. French fries and ketchup wafted around me in the queue as I tried to decide- Fun Dip or those greasy fries?  Fun Dip invariably won out- I mean, it’s an activity as well as “food!” I didn’t love Sugarbush ski school, but I did look forward to a break in the toasty lodge, a mammoth chocolate chip cookie and a cup of hot chocolate in my icy hands. And after weekly figure skating lessons, I recall teetering off the ice to inexplicably consume some sugary ice. I was a sucker for a Slush Puppie.

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For those unfamiliar- Slush Puppies are like Slurpees (and I had my fill of those too, once I got to high school)- the ingredient list likely reads: high fructose corn syrup, red dye # 3 and/or  Blue #2, water. Freeze that up, swirl it around in a machine, throw in a cute doggie mascot and the kids start tugging at mom for the cash.

Many slurps later I am decidedly more conscious as to what goes in my mouth. It’s been a long haul, but since I’ve been vegan, new and healthy foods  become part of my repertoire frequently- my last hurdle was to accept veggie juices & smoothies. I spent two years talking myself out of a Vitamix, but finally ran out of convincing excuses a few weeks ago. One charge later, I am the proud mama of that gorgeous invention.

Lovely organic beets from the Union Square farmer's market.

Lovely organic beets from the Union Square farmer’s market.

Back to those Slush Puppies. I’ve been fine-tuning my juiceblend procedure over the last couple of weeks since the Vitamix has resided on my counter. Let me tell you, there is a serious learning curve here people! On first attempt my beet-carrot- pineapple juice was reminiscent of borscht. Drinkable, and certainly tasty, but more food than drink. With the addition of ice, several successive attempts yielded what might be described as pink- tinged carrot dressing. (I consumed it, sans salad.)

But today, I am in juice heaven. Doubling up on ice and extra process time yielded the perfect texture and flavor. The happy surprise was that lovely icey nostalgia of what could be called a grown up Slush Puppie. (Slush Dog?) With a glass of this slushy juice in hand, I can hear the comical tunes of the skaterink organist in 1982. Gone is the syrupy sweetness of youth’s slush, but the dayglo color is still here! (Even more beautiful, I think.) I mean, just look at that gorgeous pink. That’s the phenomenal phytochemical power in the beets.

Did you know that beets rank highest of all veggies in antioxidant concentration? At least as far as we know- in the most recent study, beets won out over the previous ruling champion, spinach, in antioxidant content. Beets get their color from betacyanins, powerful phytonutrients that protect plants from UV exposure and disease. And guess what? Those same phytonutrients protect us from disease. Diseases like cancer.

 Just as yummy slightly melted. Love the layers of concentrated, pulpy and icey.

Just as yummy slightly melted. Love the layers of concentrated, pulpy and icey.

Beetroots are a stellar source of folic acid, fiber, manganese and potassium. But don’t forget about the greens attached to those roots! Both the greens and roots are great source of magnesium, phosphorus, some iron and vitamin B6. (However not all of the iron can be absorbed due to the high concentration of oxalates in beets, so you don’t want to count on this plant exclusively for iron.) The greens are even higher in nutritional value than beetroots – they’re richer in calcium, iron and vitamins A & C. So eat both the root and the greens- a quick steam or a toss in a pan with olive oil and garlic is all you need.

The sweetness and tang of the pineapple is a lovely compliment to the beet’s earthiness. And you can just feel your body taking in those anti-cancer nutrients, thanking you with every sip.
The first glass is full on slushy, but as it melts the texture and flavor becomes even more complex, yielding layers of frozen, semi-frozen and melted- it’s almost a slushy parfait. I just loved seeing the layers of vibrant pink.
It feels kind of decadent, but it’s just so good for you. And in a way taking care of yourself is decadent experience too. So indulge away!

Had to show you that beautiful texture close up.
Had to show you that beautiful texture close up.

A note on the (very simple) ingredient list. Go organic with your beets. This gorgeous magenta root will be pulverized raw, giving you a huge boost of nutrients, but if he’s commercial, you’ll also get a nice dose of neurotoxins. Organic beets are cheap anyway- here in price engorged New York City, I get a ridiculous bunch of 12 beets for a mere $3.50 at the farmer’s market, with so many greens they won’t fit in the crisper. That’s enough juice for more than a week plus 2 or more servings of greens! Don’t skimp on your body, people.
The pineapple is theoretically ok to buy conventional, as they have tough skins and are less desirable to insects, thus fewer pesticides are needed. But if you can find organic, that’s always ideal.

So here we go.
Yields 1 1/2 pints- enough for two, but certainly drinkable by one!

Ingredients:
1 large beetroot (preferably organic)
1/4 pineapple
1 1/2 to 2 cups ice

variation: use 1 cup ice and 1 cup frozen coconut water. It will be slightly sweeter, so if you enjoy the sweetness level as is, use less pineapple or more beets!

Remove the greens from your beetroot- if you like (and you should!) reserve the greens for dinner. No need to peel your beetroots. When cutting your pineapple, keep the core in there. (fiber!the crowning glory of blended juice) Cut the beet in a few chunks- same for the pineapple. Throw beets, then pineapple, then ice into a Vitamix.
Squish down ingredients with the tamper- the beets and ice will take a little pushing just to get them going. Process on high for about 60 seconds- not much longer or you’ll just have juice.

Pour into glasses and drink immediately! Yum. Pink mustache removal is optional.

ps. While I call this “grown up,” I’m certain kids will love this juice too! What kid doesn’t love a sweet, icy treat? A perfect way to trick them into super healthy veggies.

What’s your favorite juice? Would love to hear.

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