Monday, October 5, 2009

Why Vegan? Reason #768 and the current olive climate

Just one of the endless reasons. I came across this story from the NY Times through a few other blogs and I just felt I needed to help pass it on. The story talks not only on food borne illnesses but also touches on how food safety procedures and "laws" are not followed and barely enforced.

If the story about where hamburger comes from isn't enough to put you off your meats then the food safety issue certainly should put you over the edge.

"But I only buy organic meat" you say. "Happy meat," as it is often referred to, is not safe from this particular issue. Organic and conventionally raised cows go to the same slaughter houses. They are killed the same way and processed on the same conveyor belts by the same under paid and over worked employees.

I'm traditionally not the pushy type really but I'm growing into a slightly pushy person the more I come up against this denial from the majority of the world's population. Eating meat this way isn't healthy and it isn't natural. How is this natural? It kinda freaks me out to look at. A crop of cows. For a happy meat view just imagine grass under their feet.
a CAFO - Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation
(Image source:

But as this is mofo let's have a little food here to take the pain out of my head from the above mentioned insanity which was kinda chaotically written.

Yesterday I went on a crazy walk around Granada in search of an herbolario (natural health/whole foods stores) to try and buy some grains other than rice and maybe if I'm lucky some reasonably priced tahini. Of course these shops are tiny so no matter how well stocked they won't have loads but that's ok because I have neither loads of money or loads of space to store random bits. I'll share my finds another post but I was super excited to find olives.
The olives might not seem like anything special but let me tell you. This is the first place I've come to that I can buy olives in bulk. Spain grows plenty of olives, lots of green olives which is ok because I like those too. However in just about all the shops you can only buy canned green or black olives. The black ones taste like nothing, a true crime if you ask me, but that's no different than canned olives in the US. The green ones vary from tasting lightly olivy to pretty good. Getting the ones with pits still in them is the key here but still stay away from the black ones. Even with the pits they taste of nothing. The green pimento stuffed ones are acceptable (watch out for anchovy stuffed olives, the most common stuffing). When you come to the plastic packets of green olives with pits, these are the best cheap packaged olives.

If anyone has some tips for olive consumption in Spain for me please let me know. Spain produces just under half the world's olives. Why is it so hard to find good ones? Are they hiding them in the midst of all that meat so I won't see them as I run past?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Juicy Jones

The absolute best place to spend all of you food money when in Barcelona. Once we found Juicy Jones we couldn't come back enough. They stole us away from going back to Vegetalia as we had planned.
There are two Juicy Jones locations: Cardenal Casañas 7 (just off Rambla) and Hospital 74. We only went to the Cardenal Casañas location. I hear Hospital is the larger of the two.
Juicy Jones is awesome. AWESOME!! Ok, must not get too excited and focus. I'm ok now.
I wanted to eat everything. It was all so tasty. Tasty and vegan. The decor is bright, funky, graffy but the furniture is clean and basic. Even though the walls are really busy it's not over whelming. The above photo is of the bar as you walk in. At first appearance it's just a simple bar and a tiny shop but behind me is the restaurant dining area pictured below. You can order and eat at the bar or grab a table. We tried both and I'd recommend a table for a full meal but the bar is perfect for a milk shake and hummus.
Our first visit consisted of a cookie. We accidentally found the place wandering around and had already eaten lunch but I had to get something. When we came back we took things more seriously with some hummus and a couple milk shakes (they use soy milk for these). Lex got the Fruit Slam: mango, pear, strawberry, papaya, soy milk, sugar and ice. I saw chocolate and I couldn't turn away, I tried the Banana GoGo: banana, cocoa, soy milk, coconut, cane sugar and ice. These were so so so so yummy. The hummus was also super yummy.

The next time we came back it was with the intent to eat a full meal. After careful consideration we ordered from the Menu del Dia.
1. Sopa/ensalada (soup or salad)
2. Thali/Plato del dia (Indian plate or plate specials)
3. Postre (dessert)
From the listings on the specials board we went with a good sampling of items.
Lex got 1. Hummus (he really liked this hummus) 2. Nidas de Patata con setas y queso vegano y ensalada de judias. No pics of the hummus but this was a kinda potato and vegan cheese pie with a green bean salad. Really good and comfort foodie.
I went for 1. Crema de Calabacin (cream of zucchini soup) 2. Thali (Brocoli masala, papad dam, onion, bhajee, mixed dal, mixed veg, plain rice, chatni itimati. No pic of the soup but it was lovely. As was the whole Thali plate. Lex helped me polish it off in the end. We both thought it was the business.
Dessert - Biscuit de Piña y Crema de Chocolate. They were a good size though, just a little bite to finish off the meal. I got the last Crema de Chocolate, score!
We were stuffed to the rafters after this meal but it was so good. Could not stop eating. All this food came to 8.50€ per meal. An awesome deal as this was far too much food. We could have shared one. This also comes with a beverage. Water (bottled in glass) or wine. You can also just get one of the main dish specials and the juice selection of the day for 7.95€. Probably a slightly healthier option than stuffing yourself sillybut for the extra 0.55€ get the appetizer and dessert and share with a friend.

The next time we came back we tried something else from the printed menu which never grows tiresome to look at.
To have a closer look at the menu you can click the picture and zoom in. They have this menu bound to look at in the cafe but this one was nicely displayed at the entrance for people to peruse the selection.To drink a Strawberry Mary (another milk shake of strawberries, papaya, soymilk, cane sugar and ice) and a mixed juice of beet, ginger, carrot, orange, and lemon. Both were to die for naturally. And for our chewing pleasure, sandwiches.
Toscano: hummus, green beans, sundried tomatoes, onion and spinach.
Tofu: oven baked tofu, avocado, carrot, scallion, sprouts, lettuce, and ginger satay sauce.

So in conclusion we would like to offer our services in opening a Granada (that's where we are at the moment) branch of Juicy Jones. WE LOVE JUICY JONES!! Get your tapas, salads, sammies, huge meals, sweets and drinks here!

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Barcelona has a few vegetarian options and a couple really tasty ones for vegans. Check out HappyCow for some good places to start because I'm only going to tell you about the two we went to here.

After looking at HappyCow for suggestions we decided to start with a little place called Vegetalia. This started our adventure with Spain and "open hours." In the US I was used to shops small and large having their posted open hours and those being fairly accurate give or take a few minutes. Here it seems you're lucky if they have posted hours, those hours are merely suggestions, and they will almost certainly be closed for siesta and on Sundays. So we had to walk by Vegetalia a couple times over a couple days before we hit it open.
Escudellers 54
08002 Barcelona

Vegetalia is not strictly vegan so be sure you talk to your server. As is the case all over Spain, they may not speak English but they know what vegan means here (you might get blank stares in other restaurants). When we went our server did not speak English and he did not know for sure which items were vegan but he was super friendly and more than happy to consult with other staff to check on veganness. Don't speak Spanish? no problem! We don't either. Vegano is Spanish for vegan when you're lucky enough to encounter people who know what it means. This isn't so different from the US when you think about it. How many times have you asked for vegan and maybe even spelled it out, "so no dairy, eggs, honey, etc" and received a soup with chicken stock or a sandwich with traditional mayo on it? So at Vegetalia, if you don't speak the local language, simply point to what you are interested in and ask "Vegano?"
So let's actually talk about some food yes? We were in the mood for burgers so that's what we went for. Expecting a burger on a bun, we were surprised to receive a burger on a pile of salad with wholesome brown rice. For me to eat healthier why don't you. In all seriousness though it was very tasty. The brown rice was lightly seasoned and ever so slightly sweet. The burgers were both very tasty. Lex ordered a seitan based burger (I'm sorry to say I forget the flavor) and mine was seaweed tofu. Again, not all the burgers are vegan so be sure to ask.
Really like the burgers and maybe need some other bits? Well Vegetalia also stocks a small shop area with a mixture of items including some of their own brand foods like the burgers and tofu. They also stock a small selection of books. I didn't peruse these due to my abysmal Spanish and our backpacking/travel lightly state. The Vegetalia brand can also be purchased in other supermarkets around town like El Corte Ingles.
Vegetalia offers a little of everything from the Menu del dia, a set menu for 9.90€, to a simple coffee and juice bar. Sit at the bar or grab a table. Snag the local animal rights paper, Anima Naturalis, off the rack to remind yourself you have local allies and to look for other cruelty free businesses to visit in Spain. Definitely visit Vegetalia when you're in Barcelona. It's cute, tasty and friendly.

Friday, October 2, 2009

It's all about me.

Where would Vegan MoFo be without a survey or two? I admit they are kinda fun to fill out. Weather you find them fun to read I suppose depends on if you are interested in that kind of thing and if the answers are entertaining.

Our first survey comes from Lauren of the Whoa Wren blog. I like to throw in one or two of these little bits here and there. It helps us get to know each other a bit. Because if I just love eggplant and you can't stand them, can we ever really be friends? Lesser things have caused wars. Just kidding, I'm too lazy to be that judgmental.

on with the interrogation:

1. Favorite non-dairy milk?
Almond milk, hands down. I don't get it super often though, it's just too pricey.

2. What are the top 3 dishes/recipes you are planning to cook?
I've been doing lots of cooking on the fly since we started traveling but we seem to be holding in one place for a little while so I'm thinking of a falafel tester for Isa's new cookbook, peanut ginger tofu (because we need to have that at least once a week), maybe some crepes but I haven't decided on a filling yet.

3. Topping of choice for popcorn?

4. Most disastrous recipe/meal failure?
Hmm, that would have to be the rice pudding I was going to try and make but walked away while leaving the stove on. Burnt the crap out of it.

5. Favorite pickled item?
It's a toss up between ginger and good ol' dill cucumber pickles.

6. How do you organize your recipes?
My cookbooks were in alphabetical order by author, I was thinking of organizing them by the rainbow next. Now I'm down to keeping things online. Those are mostly bookmarked through GoogleReader and I have them sorted into basic type (breakfast, dinner, snacks, cookies, indian, thai). The cool thing about that is you can have them tagged in multiple categories.

7. Compost, trash, or garbage disposal?

8. If you were stranded on an island and could only bring 3 foods...what would they be (don't worry about how you'll cook them)?
Almonds, Avocados, Tomatoes

9. Fondest food memory from your childhood?
My mom used to make bread rolls for holidays, I remember getting one (or three) still warm, and spreading butter/margarine on. Watched it melt and then mowwed it down. It was probably a pretty basic bread recipe it was just the homemade, fresh, warm, awesomeness of it. The rolls also made awesome holiday leftover sandwiches hehe

10. Favorite vegan ice cream?
So far I think I'll have to go with the pomegranate chip flavor from So Delicious.

11. Most loved kitchen appliance?
My vitamix was the business!

12. Spice/herb you would die without?
We go through a potentially unhealthy amount of cumin at times.

13. Cookbook you have owned for the longest time?
Vegan With a Vengeance by Isa Moskowitz was my first vegan cookbook and it really got me into cooking, veganism and not being afraid to try new things.

14. Favorite flavor of jam/jelly?
If we're talking the good stuff, mixed berry.

15. Favorite vegan recipe to serve to an omni friend?
Lentil and tomato sauce over pasta. There are a few really good ways to tweek it and there is a good amount of familiararity so as not to cause a panic.

16. Seitan, tofu, or tempeh?
Seitan and tofu are both in my heart, it's like having to chose between two children.

17. Favorite meal to cook (or time of day to cook)?
Afternoon/early evening which is usually dinner.

18. What is sitting on top of your refrigerator?
I no longer have a refrigerator but the communal refrigerator here has our stock of pots and pans on it.

19. Name 3 items in your freezer without looking.
Only two things in there right now, peas and green beans.

20. What's on your grocery list?
Flour, fennel seed, whatever vegetable looks good and doesn't cost me all of my money.

21. Favorite grocery store?
It was City Market in Burlington. They pissed me off a lot but they usually had most things I was looking for and didn't rip you off too much for them. Now I frequent Mercadona in Spain, the prices are pretty good.

22. Name a recipe you'd love to veganize, but haven't yet.
I don't really have anything looming over my head at the moment.

23. Food blog you read the most (besides Isa's because I know you check it everyday). Or maybe the top 3?
Vegan Dad, Have Cake Will Travel, Diet Dessert & Dogs

24. Favorite vegan candy/chocolate?
I'd love a vegan fruit and nut bar but until then I'll keep buying plain chocolate and making my own. I've recently fallen in love with Valor chocolate, they have a banana bar that is sooooo frikin good!

25. Most extravagant food item purchased lately?
Peanut butter is pretty extravagant here. No less than 3.50€ a jar. Highway robbery, for cheap crap stuff, not even all natural.

26. Ingredients you are scared to work with?
I'm always a little scared to work with new things. I hate to ruin things and waste food and money but you just have to throw caution to the wind and go for it.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bienvenida a España

Hopefully that's grammatically correct. Did I mention I don't speak Spanish? I'm trying to learn but let's face it I suck. Anyway, we've entered Spain via Barcelona. Spain is one of the gazillion places I haven't been to before and Lex hasn't spent any time here either (aside from some islands as a kid) so it's new for us both.

We took an over night flight from Athens to get here on a fairly budget airline. Let's just say it was a rough ride but luckily I was tired and still managed to sleep through most of it. Arrival time was about 5am. After waiting around for about 30 mins for the buses to start running and a little argument with the ticket machine for the bus we snagged a ride to Placa de Catalunya. Then to a little metro ride back out of the city center for our first hostel stay (my first hostel ever). This was located within a 5-10 min walk to the metro stop and on a mountain/hillside. Due to it's partial woodland location, one night when we were walking back to our dorm we saw this litle piggie:
Yup, a wild pig. Also a first for me. It (can't honestly say whether it was a boy or girl) was munching on grasses and roots around the buildings making her little (big) piggie sounds. When we saw him we just froze, carefully got out the camera for a couple of quick shots before it wandered off in search of more munchies.

It is true what they say about Spain and veganism. It can be hard. It really depends on how you approach it. Speaking some Spanish will definitely help you here but it's not necessary. Eating out at your regular omni establishments is hammy and fishy. Only tell you are vegetarian and they will bring you fish and ham or just stare at you as if to say "how do you live like this?"

Traveling in Spain my first bit of advice would be to stay at hostels with a kitchen. Lots of them have communal kitchens and there isn't a shortage of delicious ingredients. And please for the love of cute furry bunnies don't leave your mess in the way of other people waiting to cook. Cook your grub, wash your pots, then go eat. But I won't rant on about it. Due to this being the land of pig legs and chicken of the sea I don't feel like I'm missing out by cooking for myself all the time. Hit any supermarket and you'll find: rice (brown isn't as common but it's usually available), pasta (watch out for eggs), canned/frozen/fresh fruit & veg, sauces and condiments (as usual don't assume and read the labels), bread, herbs/spices, and oil. Even the little markets seem to have all these things.

Vegetarianism isn't completely missing here and there are restaurants to go to. The ones we've hit I'll blog about don't you worry. There are also healthfood stores and even the larger supermarkets seem to carry a few "specialty" or "international" items like tofu, veggie burgers, seitan & tempeh. Barcelona is especially easy to shop in due to it's size. There are healthfood stores and large supermarkets where you will find almost everything you are accustom to eating and more (kamut milk?!?! I didn't buy it because it was rather expensive but I am intrigued). Soy milk is easy to find everywhere, Spain does cater to it's lactose intolerant. Almond milk also seems to be easy to find although, again, it is rather pricy.

And just for pure touristy stake:
and welcome to Vegan MoFo 2009!!