Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Vegan Interrogated: Susmitha

Name: Susmitha Subbaraju
Location: Bangalore, INDIA

A little about yourself:
I'm a vegan of 9 years, living in Bangalore, India with my awesome husband. I enjoy cooking and baking and taking beautiful pictures of the food to share on my blog, Veganosaurus (http://blog.veganosaurus.com). My other creative outlet is jewellery making and sculpting with clay. I have an Etsy store called Art by Susmitha (http://artbysusmitha.etsy.com) for my jewellery and another called Veganosaurus (http://veganosaurus.etsy.com) for my miniature sculptures of monsters and animals. I'm also a Reiki healer and a Tarot reader.

What made you decide to go vegan?
In India, vegetarianism is a common part of the culture. And the reason I never ate meat is because I grew up in a vegetarian family. It wasn't a choice, it was just the way I was brought up.
Growing up, I was not a lover of animals. It's not like I disliked them, it's just that I didn't feel any sort of connection with them. I loved our family dog because he grew up with us like our brother, but if I saw a random dog or cat or cow on the street, I wouldn't run up to pet and play with him/her like my little sister would. In fact, I'd be afraid to do so, thinking they'd hurt me somehow.
So when veganism found me in 2003, it wasn't my love for animals which made me embrace it. I simply became aware of the injustice of the dairy industry. I realized it wasn't fair of us to exploit these sentient beings for our greed. It didn't matter whether I loved animals or not, what was happening to them wasn't right and there was no way I was ever going to be supporting that any more.
Funnily enough, over my years of being vegan, I have developed a sort of love for animals and my respect for them has deepened. I'm not so wary of making friends with a strange animal any more. It's as if they know I'm on their side so it's okay to connect. :)
Who/what inspires you?
My husband is my inspiration when it comes to being kind to all living beings. It is because of him that I became vegan. And he's the one who has taught me to be gentle with the smallest of critters like ants and spiders. Even the ones we're not happy to have inside our home, like baby lizards, we don't harm them, instead, my husband carefully guides them out of the house using the tip of a broom. I'm still incapable of doing this, so I'm completely awed each time I watch him calmly perform the act. It's amazing to see the little lizards respond to the light touch and move in the right direction a few steps at a time.

Dumbest question someone asked you about being vegan.
Haha this was during my very early years of being vegan. We were at a party with a bunch of families and I was passionately talking about how I don't consume or use anything which comes from animals and this couple said, "oh but the plants you eat are grown with animal dung any ways!"
I was still in my defensive stage of veganism so all I did was sputter. The question was so beyond dumb that I had absolutely no idea how to respond. And not being able to tell them off made me angry and the strong emotions even made me choke up a bit. =oP
It's all very funny when I think back on it now but gawd how many times I have replayed the scene in my mind ending with me suavely replying , "oh I bet pooping is *really* torturous to animals!"
I have to mention here that thankfully, in all these years, I have met a lot more intelligent people with genuine, sensible questions about veganism than I have met dumbos who are simply looking for an argument. I'm really grateful for this.

What was the reaction from your friends/family? Do you find going out/social situations difficult?
I am really blessed to have a partner who is on the same path as I am. I truly admire all the vegan people who live with non-vegan partners and manage it so peacefully. I can never imagine having to do that.
When we became vegan initially, our families, relatives and a lot of our friends reacted with shock. But almost everyone was open to listening to our reasoning and luckily, everyone understood very quickly. When we visit friends, aunts, uncles and cousins, they prepare vegan food just for us. And now, a lot of them even seem to consider me the go-to person when it comes to food and health related matters.
Last November, both my parents turned vegan after attending the Reversing Diabetes program by Dr. Nandita Shah of SHARAN India (http://sharan-india.org). She follows Dr. Neal Barnard's Reversing Diabetes system and is a pro at explaining the relationship between the food we put into our bodies and our health. Though my parents became vegan because of the health aspect, they have also been slowly understanding the ethical aspects of it.
Both my grandmothers have followed suit and practice a vegan diet most of the time.
My sister is almost vegan too and even though I fight with her sometimes about her not being completely vegan, I feel truly happy each time I see her make vegan choices on her own. She has always been the real animal lover of the family, so I still have a lot of hope for her. :)

What changes have you noticed in yourself since going vegan?
As soon as I turned vegan, I saw a marked increase in my overall energy levels and also I'm healthy more often than not. But vegansim did not bring about just a physical change in me. I'm what you might call a "spiritual vegan". I believe that whole, plant based foods carry happy energy. And when we fill our body with only that which comes from love and nurturing (not from suffering and pain), our vibrations shift to a higher level. Being vegan has turned me into a more positive and loving person and it's helped make my spiritual journey go smoother.

Do you think a vegan diet could be universally adopted?
Absolutely! The diet and the lifestyle. In fact, I truly believe we're headed in that direction. Human beings are by nature creatures of love and compassion. All these hurtful things we do are things we learned as we grew up. We are quite capable of unlearning them too. All it takes is awareness and guidance and these have been increasing all around us, everyday.
History shows that many unjust practices which were the accepted norm at one point have been shunned and replaced by kinder ways of living simply because people realized that was the right thing to do. I can see the same thing happening with more and more people embracing veganism each day.

Do you have any advice for people toying with the idea of becoming a vegan?
Just dive into it whole heartedly and confidently! It's easy and it opens up a whole new world of delicious foods and "better-natives". You're already eating a lot of food that happens to be vegan anyways. Fruits, veggies, grains, nuts, beans, seeds...  Connect with other vegans in your community. And if you think you're the only vegan in your town, then feel lucky to be living in a world where the internet exists. There's a whole network of vegans from all over the world out there. Online groups and forums, thousands of vegan food blogs with millions of recipes, websites answering every question you have about veganism, free vegan starter kits that you can order, online vegan grocery stores... it's never been easier to go vegan. All you have to do is take that first step and you will find an abundance of guidance and support.
Enjoy your vegan journey! :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Vegetable Pasta

I love pasta, in fact I'm a total carb whore...but I've been trying to keep away from the go-to red pasta sauce and noodles so I threw together this veggie pasta with what I had lying around my kitchen. Use brown rice pasta for a gluten-free meal!

What you will need:
1 pkg pasta (I'm partial to whole wheat)
1/2 yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
2 portobella mushroom caps
2 cups broccoli (mine was frozen, so I steamed it)
1 cup cooked beans (your choice, I used TJs white beans)
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
2 TBS olive oil
1/2 cup vegan past sauce (optional, for extra flavor)
Italian spices (either fresh or dried)

1. Bring water to boil in large stock pot, cook pasta according to package directions. While waiting for water to boil, chop veggies into chunks. Mince garlic.

2. Heat olive oil in a sautee pan. Add onions and cook until soft and transparent. Add fresh garlic and mushrooms and continue to cook. Add more oil if pan gets too dry.

3. Once pasta is cooked al dente, drain water and return to stock pot. Add broccoli, beans, sun dried tomatoes, pasta sauce, and cooked veggies. Stir to combine all ingredients. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Add spices (I used dried basil, pepper, and rosemary), give another stir, pile into a bowl and enjoy!!

Monday, May 14, 2012

L.A. Vegan Beer & Food Fest 2012

Last year I was moving to L.A. the same day as the Vegan Beer Fest and I was so bummed I couldn't go; I was determined to get to it this year. Luckily, I saw the call for volunteers in time to get on the list and got to be part of the action! Funny thing is, I really don't like beer at all, but I knew this would be a great place to meet a ton of super cool like-minded folks...and I was right!

The Third Annual L.A. Vegan Beer & Food Fest was sponsored by Tony's Darts Away, QuarryGirl and The Roxy (where the event was held). These guys did such an amazing job pulling together a ton of beer and food vendors and live entertainment. I love the t-shirts we got as volunteers!

Proceeds from the event benefit the California Wildlife Center and these lovely ladies were there to represent!

My job for the day was "roamer" which meant that I went wherever I was needed: grabbing things for vendors, letting other volunteers take breaks etc. At first I felt a little lost, but I got to wander around and meet a lot of cool people. It also gave me a chance to sample a lot of the vegan food that was there. I started off with a delicious Franken dog from The Frankenstand, a vegan sausage made with sun dried tomatoes and basil - YUM!

Next up I had a vegan maple bacon donut from Amanda's Bakery, which was pretty freakin tasty! My only wish was that I could have tried this just baked and warm, but it was still really good.


After I did some grubbing, I went to relieve some fellow volunteers who were pouring beers behind the bar of the VIP lounge. I have never poured a beer from a tap in my life, but I got a quick lesson and after a few tries I was an expert. Maybe a career change in my future.....

Once I was ready to try more food, I had to go check out the tacos from Seabirds Truck as everyone was raving about them. I ordered one jack fruit taco and one beer battered avocado taco. Both were good, but OM MY GOD that avocado taco changed my life. One of the best things I have ever tasted! I'm sad this is an Orange County truck, but I will definitely be stalking them to see when they come back to L.A.!

Once the event was over and everything was cleaned up, M Cafe was kind enough to donate a ton more food for all the volunteers to munch on and chill out after a long day of beer slinging!

Then, as if I hadn't had enough to eat during the day, the husband was determined to go to Mohawk Bend for dinner that night. They were actually at the Fest, but I didn't get a chance to try their Buffalo Cauliflower, so that's what I ordered and oh man, they were delish! Lightly battered florets smothered in spicy buffalo sauce and served with vegan blue cheese dressing. Totally hit the spot and was a perfect ending to a day full of food, fun and sun!

I can't wait for next year's event!! Thanks to everyone who made it happen!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Vegan Interrogated: Bianca

Name: Bianca
Location: Nelson, B.C. Canada
Website/blog: http://www.reloveplanet.com/
A little about yourself:
I'm a free-spirited, positive gal living my life as fully as possible. I love inspiring people and spreading joy and love to anyone around me… and giving hugs of course. :) I've been vegan for 3 years, I definitely had my slip-ups until about a year and a half ago where I went full-on vegan and brought it into my lifestyle in every aspect as well.
What made you decide to go vegan?
Finding out the truth. I started as a vegetarian simply for the reason I wanted to be healthier. From there I actually found out what goes on on factory farms, just how much we exploit animals and the level of cruelty. Sadly before that I just never Thought about it. Which is why I do my best to spread the word and inform people, as I know that I, personally, wish I had known sooner.
Favorite meal to make?
Smoothies! It's almost silly! I make them just about every morning, such a wonderful way to get a healthy dose of fruit and I find ways to add protein (whether it's protein powders, tofu, or nut butters). They're just so fun to make and play around with! Plus you can add super foods like cocao, coconut oil, maca, matcha, hemp so easily into your diet with smoothies. Simply yum! I think it's also kind of therapeutic, I think we truly are what we eat and we should take care in the preparation of our food just as much as when we eat it. :)
Do you find going out/social situations difficult?
Only sometimes. I generally surround myself with more like-minded people which I think is important no matter what your beliefs are. There are definitely times when I go out though and just find it so strange and kind of heart-breaking that people eat meat and wear wool and continue to subject animals to unreasonable cruelty for selfish reasons (again, often without ever thinking about it). But most of the time it's super fun and easy and generally people meet my veganism with warm curiosity.
What changes have you noticed in yourself since going vegan?
So many! My mood improved, my health improved. I pretty much never ever get sick--unless I'm super stressed out, but that will happen to anyone. My skin is clearer. My mood is better. My stomach feels so much better, I used to almost always feel like crap! I have more energy. And my karmic soul feels better too. ;)
What is the biggest misconception people have about you being vegan?
That I don't get to eat delicious food! Or every so often there are those who think I'm crazy and unhealthy, haha. But people will always have their own opinions. I just follow what I believe in, lead by example, and share information when it's welcome. Easiest thing to do is be confident in your own decisions and usually people come around.
Do you have any advice for people toying with the idea of becoming a vegan?
Just go for it! ;) Dive fully into it. The hardest part about making the switch is that you're changing old food habits, and giving up addictive things like cheese. If you commit yourself to two weeks, or even a week, chances are you'll continue with it because you'll be over the bump of addictions and have created new eating habits that will be easy to stick to by this point. Also always keep in mind that it is FUN! Attitude is everything!
Do you think your veganism has an impact on something greater than yourself?!
Absolutely! They say vegans save 100-200 lives a year. That, to me, is enough to know I am making a difference. Plus, vegans tend to be enthusiastic about their lifestyles, they are going to share what they know with others, and chances are "convert" others. I know that I, personally, have shared this lifestyle with countless others, and many have gone vegan or started to make the switch even if it's slower. Leading by example and showing how in love I am with being Vegan is one of the greatest things I can share with other people to encourage their own switch. More and more people are becoming vegan every day, we all count towards something bigger than ourselves.