Delightful Banana Muffins

  • 1 ⅓ US Cup (190 grams) self-raising flour
  • ½ US Cup (140 grams) sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¾ US Cup (135 grams) porridge oats
  • 2 mooshed bananas
  • ⅓ US Cup (80 mL) olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ⅔ US Cup (160 mL) soy milk

Preheat oven to 190 °C / Gasmark 5 / 375 °F. In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients (add 1 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), if you’re not using self-raising flour). Add all the wet ingredients and mix just until there’s no pockets of flour lurking. Don’t over mix! Spoon into a lightly oiled muffin tin (also known as a cupcake tin) or silicon muffin cups (or cupcake cups) and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Makes a dozen.

Resolution Interview: Temporary Vegan

A resolution is basically an attempt to change one’s own behaviour. Often these are made for reasons of self-improvement (ie, “I will go to the gym at least 3 times a week from now on.”) but sometimes they are made with a more communal goals. The impact of these is greater if more people participate. I sent out some questions to people I’ve known that have tried to do world-improving resolutions. First up is Sarah, who went vegan for a month over the summer.
I got email from her then, explaining what she was doing and asking if people wanted to go along and do it too. I wondered what had become of the project. This is what she told me.

I originally started the Vegan-for-a-month project to try and get my close friends and family members to eat less beef. Beef consumption is a major cause of global warming and of rainforest destruction and if we want to do anything about either of these problems we actually all have to decide to stop eating beef entirely. I also wanted to see what kind of response I would get just based on peer pressure.

The response was overwhelming! I sent the original request out to several hundred people and I got about 50 responses back indicating that my friends and family were in support of my decision. One person wrote that he and his girlfriend ordered the organic veggie box from a local CSA, one person agreed to give up cheese, and another didn’t eat beef the whole month! Best of all, my boss brought me a vegan chocolate bar.

All in all, I think about 50 people participated, but I never did a follow up to find out what they did.

It started to fail near the end of the month for several reasons. I went to a formal dinner and was served items containing dairy. Additionally, I gained a ton of weight. Some people have naturally high metabolisms, but I metabolize protein differently and in order to get enough protein I had to ingest a quantity of beans and rice that also provided me with too many carbs. I am familiar with vegan cooking, and I eat vegan most of the time, but I cannot figure out how not to become protein deficient without ingesting small amounts of non-fat dairy from time to time. I love tofu, ate a whole bunch of it, but it also causes me to gain weight. Additional exercise only makes the problem worse because then I need more protein.

I consulted several vegans before I started and most were very unhelpful and told me things that I already knew. I think people’s bodies react differently to changes in diet.

I learned that being vegan is really hard to maintain in social situations. You are very limited to what you can eat if you go out which means cooking all the time and if you go out to someone’s house you can’t eat most of what they serve. They become offended easily. I hated going to a birthday party and telling the host that I didn’t want any of their birthday cake. It made me feel bad. I think veganism can work very well for people who are not as social or don’t have as eclectic of a group of friends as I do. I also travel too much to be vegetarian let alone vegan.

I also missed cheese a lot. I have now mostly cut cheese out of my diet, but every once in a while I really like to have some. I also just can’t get used to coffee without a tiny splash of real milk in it.

I don’t think I would try it again based on the way that my body reacted. I’m still trying to loose some of the weight I gained. I try to eat mostly vegan, and when I cook for myself I almost always eat vegan, but when friends come over or I go out, vegetarian is just fine and please pass the birthday cake thank you very much.

I think I accomplished my goals. My main goal was to get other people to think about their beef consumption. I’m going to continue to do this via other means such as publishing pictures I took in Peru of cattle eating rainforests.

I have asked her to send a picture of a cow in a rainforest! And I’ll post it when it comes up.
Incidentally, Sarah is the second person I’ve spoken to recently who had health problems with doing a vegetarian or vegan diet. It works for me, but everybody is different. Multivitamins seem to help. If you’re vegan, also, you need to take B vitamins, or else eat loads of marmite. But if you can’t manage to be a vegetarian, you can still get local, organic, free range meat and eat it in moderation.

Angie’s Persimmon Cookies

Here in California, persimmons (known to Brits as sharon fruit) are getting to be ripe. When I was a child, the elderly Italian couple across the street had a huge persimmon tree and every year Angie, half of the couple, would make amazing cookies from them. This was her recipie:
Preheat your oven to 375 F (190 C, gas mark 5)

  • 1 Cup (240 mL, 200 g) sugar
  • 1/2 Cup (120 mL, 120 g) shortening or butter
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
  • 1 Cup (240 mL) persimmon pulp
  • 2 Cups (480 mL, 240 g) flour
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) salt (I use less than Angie did)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 Cup (240 mL) nuts

cream 1/2 of sugar with shortening. Mix remaining with egg. Combine. Dissolve soda in pulp and put fruit through strainer and beat into sugar mixture. Mix dry ingredients and blend in. Finally, mix in the nuts.

Soon it on to a baking sheet with a big spoon. They rise a lot when you cook them, like tiny cakes.

Bake 10 -15 minutes.
These cookies are super fantastic. After Angie passed, my mom would make these every year. I got the recipe from her when I was at university. These cookies will make you feel happy.

Cooking and Eating for Postgrads: Oatmeal (aka Porridge)

Breakfast: the most expensive important meal of the day. Oatmeal is an economical and hearty way to eat in the morning.



  • small pan
  • measuring cup
  • spoon
  • knife (optional)

Food Items

  • Oats
  • Raisins (optional)
  • Apple or Pear (optional)
  • Banana (optional)
  • Cinnamon (optional)
  • Soy Milk (optional)


Put 0.1 L of oats in a pan with 0.3 L of water. Put it on low heat. Add in a small handful of raisins. Stir some. Cut up an apple or pear into small pieces and add them. Stir some. Cut a banana into slices and add them. Stir some. Sprinkle some cinnamon on top. Stir occasionally. When it looks done, it is. Serve with soy milk

You’ve just gotten

The oats are a warm and filling way to start the cold day! And full of fibre. The three fruits have given you three of your five a day (and it’s not even lunch time yet!). The banana has potassium. The soy milk has protein. And if you’ve been wise in your soy purchase, it also has calcium and b12.


Breakfast cereals are expensive because they’re fortified. Because most people have a crap diet and don’t take any vitamins, all of the stuff they’re presumed to be missing is added to cereal. This means that you’re not only paying for the food in it, the colorful packaging, the catchy marketing campaign, the secret toy inside and the artificial flavors, you’re also paying for it to be your daily multi. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the price per gram of cold breakfast cereal is not good.
However, there are some vitamins that are difficult or impossible to get from plant sources only. Including B12, which is necessary for survival. It’s found in spirulina and marmite, but if you’re vegetarian or vegan, you’re going to need to get more than you can from those sources (it’s in milk, but not in eggs). This means you can either take supplements or drink fortified soy milk. Check the label of the soy milk before you buy it. Mine gives me my daily allowance of B12 in about the same amount I use on coffee and oatmeal. It also is fortified with calcium, which you need and which, despite what you make have heard, is hard to get from milk.
Ok, there’s a lot of stuff going around about how soy is secretly poison or whatever. Firstly, we’re not talking about living off of nothing but soy, we’re talking about one serving of soy milk. Second, I’m not familiar with all the claims against soy, but I do know the ones people say about estrogen: soy will make you girly!!. Oh my god, vegetarians really are effeminate!!
I know, estrogen is so alarming! Can you believe it, your own body even makes it! What a traitor! Ok, small amounts of plant based estrogen aren’t bad for you. It’s in a lot of foods. Unless you go crazy with the soy, this isn’t going to be a problem. Second, you actually need some estrogen in your body in order for your brain to function properly. No estrogen = no brains. Make of that what you will.
Anyway, we’re talking about one serving of soy milk here, so this is not really an issue, but I want to add that I think the hysteria behind soy estrogens has a lot to do with homophobia, sexism, and gender normativity more than it has anything to do with a valid health concern. Soy beans do not make you gay. Sheesh.

Carbon Footprint

I made some claims earlier about only eating local produce. No, they don’t grow bananas in England. I’ve started making an exception for bananas because I really like them and they’re a really good source of potassium, which prevents things like foot cramps. I get the fair trade bananas. I was listening to the Democracy Now podcast a few weeks ago and heard an advocate of banana growers talking about fair trade. Banana growers need to survive , and if I buy fair trade, then that helps them do so.
Hopefully that doesn’t make me a hypocrite to go on to say that many breakfast cereals have a terrible carbon footprint. Ingredients from all over the world come together at one factory very far away from where you live and then are shipped back to you. Dried fruit from Turkey goes to North America, goes back to England. However, the main reason I eat oatmeal is because it’s cheap and warming and makes my mornings brighter.

Cooking and Eating for Postgrads: Winter Soup

You’re poor. You’re stressed for time. You need to be mentally alert and able to produce quality output. You need to be as healthy as possible. You food fuels all of that and actually makes up your physical matter. So to be at the top of your game, you need to eat right. This is the first of series gives you pointers for what to eat and how to cook it.
Because I never measure anything and I’m too lazy to start now, I’m going to give very approximate directions. But you’ve gotten this far in your education, so you’re used to dealing with incomplete cues.

Winter Soup


  • Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Pan
  • Spoon

Food Items

  • Uncooked Rice
  • Dried, split lentils
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Herbs (Italian, Herbes de Provence, whatever)
  • Onion, or leek or other member of this family
  • Some root vegetable: like half a Swede, a couple of parsnips, half a celery root or some combination thereof.
  • 5 brussels sprouts or some broccoli
  • Vinegar (optional (I prefer apple cider vinegar because it’s tasty and versatile))
  • Garlic clove (optional)
  • Half a dried pepper (optional)


Put 0.1 or 0.2 liters (0.5 – .075 cups) each of rice and lentils in the bottom of a pan. Or use more. Fill up the pan with cold water. Add a pinch of salt and a splash of olive oil (around a tablespoon (2 mL)). Put the pan on the stove on the lowest possible heat setting. Go away and do some work. You can do this for just 20 minutes, or much, much longer. It doesn’t matter. When you think of it, come back to the kitchen.
Add a couple of teaspoons of your herbs. If you’re going to add some dried pepper, cut it in half and shake the seeds out and throw away the seed. Drop it in. Cut up an onion or leek into small pieces that you would want to get in a bowl of soup. Add them to the pot. If you’re adding garlic, do that now too.
Wash and peel your root vegetables. Cut them into little pieces and throw them in.
Wash your sprouts and and cut them into quarters. throw them into the pot.
If you want to add a splash of vinegar, do it.
When the brussel sprouts sort of start to look like they’re blooming: the leaves are starting to separate a bit, your soup is probably done. Test a swede (or whatever root) to be certain. Also, add salt if you need it.
Hopefully, you’ve made more than you need to eat in a single night. After you eat as much as you want, stick the rest in the fridge and reheat it tomorrow. You can add more brussels sprouts the next day to keep the vegetable count high.

You’ve just gotten

You’ve got fibre and protein from the beans and rice. Omega 3 and 6 from the olive oil. A large portion of your 5-a-day from the veggies. The brussels sprouts, in particular, have a bunch of vitamins and prevent some cancers. I’m too lazy to calculate the cost for this meal, but it’s really economical: you get what you need for a good price. All of the vegetables are in season right now.

Basic Staples

What are non-perishable items that you’ll be using a lot of? Olive oil, salt (sea salt if you can afford it), herbs as used above, curry powder, dried rice, dried lentils.
You can almost live off nothing but those staples mixed with vegetables. Beans and rice together form a complete protein, which means that it’s just as good as the protein you get from meat or dairy, but much, much cheaper. I’m fond of lentils because they cook very quickly. Other beans also have protein.

My Mother’s Last Pie

When I arrived, it was sitting on the counter. I hadn’t fully expected to see it, a part of me thinking that it couldn’t be real. But there it was, looking more or less like I remembered. Maybe the color of the crust had changed, but it just looked so typical. Like any other of my mother’s pies.

I looked at the knife holes in the crust, searching for special meanings, but there were none. They looked hasty, as if the pie had been assembled as part of a larger process and not prepared specifically for this occasion. Indeed, it had been one of many pies that she’d made that day and frozen unbaked.
Like all her best pies, it was apricot. The baked syrup had bubbled out the slits in the top and around the sides, as normal. It was a little bit browner than usual. My sister-in-law apologized for leaving it in the oven too long.
I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe we were going to eat it. I couldn’t believe the general lightness of mood. I tried, gently, to broach the topic with my brother who seemed puzzled by my point of view. I tried a different track, “This pie should be enrolled in the first grade.”
He laughed, “It’s not that old!”
“Actually it is. We found a label on it that said ‘2001’” said his wife.
“It would have to be.” I concurred. “Mom died in 2002 and didn’t have a chance to make any pies that year.”
My brother shrugged it off and turned his attention to the thanksgiving turkey. I tried to ignore the pie, sitting there. Eventually, it got moved to the top of the refrigerator in order to clear up counter space. It almost slipped from my mind. Except that it didn’t slip from my mind at all.
I had plans to spend the night at a friend’s house. She arrived at my brother’s house in time for dessert and with an entourage. Encouraged by her presence, I again tried to cast doubt on the advisability of eating a six year old pie. “What if the power went out or something while it was frozen?”
My dad explained that he had given the last three pies to my brother over 2 years ago. My brother said, “the first thing I did was bake one of them and eat it. It was delicious.” He saved the second one for last thanksgiving and the third one for this year. It was the last pie made by mother that anyone would ever eat.
As to a power failure, he’d had one for three days. After the first 45 minutes, he’d rushed the pie over to his neighbor’s (still working) freezer for safe-keeping. The pie was still frozen solid at the time and, he argued, unharmed.
My friend was a biologist. Normally when I see her consume something, I feel like it’s risk levels are acceptably low. So when dessert was served and she took a bite of the pie, I felt like maybe I could too. Still, I spent a long time thinking about it, voicing my objections. My brother assured me that he was just as happy to eat my share and I didn’t need to.
This pie would surely kill us all.
How could they not see that eating this pie, made by mother those six years ago, before any of knew she had cancer, when she seemed well, how could it not kill us to eat it? But they ate and didn’t die immediately, so I asked for a slice.
I stared at the tiny sliver on my plate for a long time. It was a different color than I remembered her pies. The fruit had browned slightly with age. I took a tiny bite. I chewed slowly. And then another bite.
Did it’s age change it’s taste? The texture was different. It was more like a pie made with jam than with whole slices of fruit. But the taste, I don’t know. I can’t think of it now. I couldn’t think of it between swallowing one bite and putting the next in my mouth. Now, I don’t know if I could even remember the taste of her pies when they were new: fruit picked and baked on the same day.
Instead with every bite, the undeniable truth – that this pie would certainly kill us in horrible ways – got harder to ignore. This was a mausoleum pie. Not a pie for the living.
I took three or four bites in total and then looked sadly at my plate. It was my last ever chance to eat my mother’s pie. Her apricot pie. Her specialty. Something she excelled at. Made with love. I would never again have the opportunity to eat such a thing and I couldn’t do it. I felt like an important moment had come and I wasn’t up to the task. I felt like crying. I worried I would forever remember the terrible moment of having to choose between total panic and rejecting the pie. My sister in law informed me kindly that it wasn’t a big deal. Nobody thought it was a big deal. Not my dad who provided the pie. Not my brother who saved the pie. Not my sister in law who baked the pie. Not the friend of my mom who arrived in time for dessert. Nobody.
Except for me.
I knew my truth of death-dealing pie was irrational, but there was no visible middle ground between joyous object and horrifying object. No room to grieve for the pie or for myself.
I’d also brought a pie. In case we decided not to eat the other one. It was a sweet potato pie. I took it with me when I left. My brother hoped I would leave it, but his wife told me not to, fondly patting his stomach. One left over pie for him to eat was enough.


food is good. Food is love. Food is making us fat. Food is dead. Food has poison in it. Food has been industrialized. Food is processed. Food is unprocessed. You should eat more meat. You should eat less meat. You should eat not meat. Dairy. Grains. Vegetables.
Food is a demon that haunts us. Our relationship to food has gotten to be tremendously complex. Is it because of poor body image, industrialization? I’m hardly unbiased here as someone who strives to eat mostly vegan food.
I avoid animal products because of industrialization. Modern animal husbandry is terribly wasteful and polluting, unhealthy for people and animals. But I tell people that I’m vegan because I love food. You can eat tons of vegan food and still be hungry. I get to eat more than everyone else.
People should love food. It gives us nutrients and comfort. We often eat comunally, so it nourishes us socially in addition to physically. The family dinner is a tradition in our culture. My favorite thing is when Christi makes her shepherd’s pie and we sit down with firends and housemates to eat it. I love shepherd’s pie. I also love the way it is a special occasion that brings people together to share food.
but what about body image, industrialization, vitamins, etc? My theory is that it is perfectly ok to have a no list. (obviously, since i try to be vegan), but you should also have a yes list. What are your favorite foods? Why do you like them? What are your favorite recipies (or restaurants)? Also, I heard a nutritionist on KPFA saying that everyone should take a good multivitamin. That way if your diet is a little unbalanced, you’re still ok. Since this was KPFA, I know that he wasn’t a tool of the vitamin industry.
Time for lunch…