Saturday, September 20, 2008

Home, sweet home...

Eccomi! Sono tornata!

Hello, hello. Here I am, home at last. Actually, I've been home for three weeks now, but I have not yet found a chance to post. I should be studying now, but after taking about an hour to read about six pages from the Procedures section in my technical writing textbook (Zzzzzz...), my eyes started to close on me, and I figured I'd be better off doing something more productive (Ha!). Did I mention I'm at work? Yeah, I'm at work; otherwise, if I were at home, I probably would have just taken a nap (and I would not have woken myself up this morning at 07:15 to work out... and therefore would not require a nap).

My last post in Italy was on the 18th of August, a good 10 days before coming home. I was having issues with finding adequate sources of protein. Well, happy and healthy (maybe more healthy than happy since the weather here sucks and I'm already too busy with school), I have survived a month as a vegan in Italy. Hurrah! Yes, it is indeed possible to be vegan in Italy, even if you're not staying in one of the big cities, like Rome, Florence, or Milan. Yes, even in Cassino, my adoptive comune of just 32 643 people, vegan options abound (did I mention tasty options, no less?), whether you're dining at an osteria, a trattoria, a bar, or shopping at the local grocery store.

Of course, however, the vegan travelling in Italy must be particularly attentive. For example-- though it happened only two or three times--although I had requested an egg-free dish, I was handed a plate of egg pasta. It's easy to be fooled, but, as a general rule, egg pasta will have a more yellow tint than non–egg pasta; it sounds obvious, but it's easy to doubt yourself. Also, pasta fresca (fresh pasta) is typically made with eggs (or at least that's what I was told) so opt for pastasciutta (dry pasta) with tomato sauce and veggies. Also, you can't ever go wrong in Italy when you order a cheeseless pizza or focaccia. I was told at the restaurant I frequented in Cassino, whose staff grew well-acquainted with my dining habits, that focaccia is typically made without a topping of cheese. As far as I can tell, and what my research tells me, is that there is not much difference between the dough of focaccia and pizza; rather, it is the toppings that differentiate them: focaccia can indeed have mozzarella on it, but it is more minimalist than a pizza when it comes to toppings (a typical Italian focaccia may have nothing on it but olive oil and oregano). Anyway! So go the route of focaccia, but make sure you ask for no cheese.

What was great about Italian cooking is that in Italy they are blessed enough (and perhaps talented enough) to achieve great and rich tastes with simple ingredients, not to mention that their ingredients are so much more fresh than anything you would find in North America. It's true: after every meal, we would have a macedonia (fruit salad) or a simple piece of cocomero (watermelon) or cantaloupe, and all the fruit was sweet, never bitter, and the watermelon actually had seeds! The laws regarding pesticides, herbicides, and genetic modification are much more stringent in the European Union, and Europeans are ever-so-fortunate to have such laws. In Canada, one would seldom be privileged enough to bite into a watermelon as sweet as those we consumed in Italy (unless, of course, the Canadian watermelon were organic and GMO-free). What I was initially getting at when I hinted at the freshness and wondrous simplicity of Italian cooking is that I never had to ask if pizza dough contained eggs because pizza dough is not typically made with eggs. Adding eggs to pizza dough seems to be something unique to North America. Italians should be proud to have a culture of food that is relatively devoid of unnecessary additives; in that regard, it is easy to know what is in the food you're about to consume.

Then, however, there is one of the most beautiful traits of Italian people: They are magnificently accommodating, sometimes to the point of excess. I was overwhelmed by how accommodating they were the first time I went to Italy in 2006, but this time I really was blown away. Nevertheless, I did find certain instances where restaurateurs were too accommodating. Here's an example: after I would communicate my dietary restrictions (shudder; I don't like saying that I have dietary restrictions, because I feel that my diet is freeing, and by no means restricting), the kind waiter or waitress would bring me a plate that would contain items that I simply could not eat; instead of making me a simple dish of rice, it would be rice and mozzarella; instead of a dish of just regular, cheap, eggless pasta, it would be, well, egg pasta--with vegetables, at least! It seemed as though it was assumed that, because I was "restricting" my options, the cook should do something extravagant to make up for it. It was sweet and the effort was appreciated, but it just made me feel bad to have to send the plate back or pass the dish off to an omnivore. All I have to say, then, is that simplicity (different from blandness) is key.

And here are some photos that will serve as evidence and reasons to make me reminisce and long for the simpler, fresher life.
Gelato di soia al cioccolato, Roma

Gelato di soia al cioccolato e alla banana, Cassino

Beautiful fusilli with fresh vegetables and a tomato-and-oil sauce--Cassino

Focaccia con pomodori, carciofi, arugula, olio d'oliva e basilico--Cassino (Ristorante Pepper's)
Vegan Chinese food: fried tofu with soy sauce (top left), veggie spring roll (top right), seaweed and soy sauce (very bland--bottom right), Rome
I am very happy with my focaccia.
Fresh bread with raisins (left), frittelle (fried pieces of dough, to be dipped in sugar; centre), and vegetable focaccia--MADE WITH LOVE by Zia Angela, Gorgonzola (MI)
This is what I mean when I say that simplicity is key: this is an elaborate vegetable dish (not simple, but using simple ingredients). It contains artichokes, eggplant, red peppers, and zucchini.

And now, here is a quick list of the products I found were too tasty to leave behind (i.e. I bought a whole bunch and brought them home).

  • VALSOIA soy products: They make vegan Nutella. Yes, I swear, it tastes like the real thing. I've bought vegan chocolate spreads here, and they just don't match up to Nutella; here, too, we suffer from trying to make up for "lost" ingredients, it seems, because the only chocolate spreads I have tried were mixed with peanut butter or something, or made with dark chocolate instead. I love dark chocolate as much as the next guy, but K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid)! I bought three jars while I was there, brought two home, and gave one to my vegan boyfriend (who finished his jar in a matter of days). Also, this company makes healthy cookie sticks that are filled with vegan almond cream or chocolate cream. They are inexpensive, full of protein and fibre, and absolutely delicious. Finally, Valsoia makes soy yogourt. Mmmm... What's interesting about this company and about soy products in general is that they seem to be aimed at an audience that has allergies and who wants to eat more healthy; the fact that vegetarians and vegans can consume these products seems not to enter the equation at all which, I think, works in Valsoia's favour, since blatantly stating that Valsoia is vegan-friendly might turn some people off. For some reason, people get freaked out when they hear that a food is vegan (heaven forbid!).
  • Misura: They seem to be another health-oriented company, many of whose products happen to be vegan. You can find their products in specialty stores even in Montreal; as a matter of fact, I have their egg- and dairy-free cookies every day in my espresso. Watch out, though, those of you who avoid honey, as they do use honey in the recipe. In Italy, I bought their soy crackers and vegan, apricot-filled croissants.

I guess that's about it. I'm happy to be home, and I am still re-adapting to having a few small meals a day, since, in Italy, I got pretty used to having breakfast, a big lunch, and a big dinner with, of course, some snacks in between. I also have lost my sweet tooth--scandalous, I know! There were very few vegan dessert options in Italy, other than fruit and fruit salads, so I got accustomed to eating lots of fruit, and I had ice cream only twice. It's probably for the better, though. Maybe that's part of the reason why I lost six pounds while in Italy; yep, people usually go to Italy and gain weight, though I lost some, living on a diet composed mainly of grilled vegetables, fresh pastas, and lots of love. Salute!

Vegan in Suburbia

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Gruppi di conversazione italiana - Concordia

Tavola di conversazione


per studenti d’italiano

Caffè Testarossa, 2110 Crescent (al nord di de Maisonneuve)

Martedì (principianti) e giovedì (avanzati)

16:30 -17:30

Informazioni: Christina – o Sarah –

Patrocinato dal Dipartimento di Studi Classici, Lingue Moderne e Linguistica

Monday, August 18, 2008

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostro viaggio / Mi ritrovai in una casa dello studente, davanti al computer...

Me I'm funny, eh? Two euros to whomever knows whence the title of my post came. (It's very appropriate to the country in which I find myself.)

Ciao a tutti e a tutte! Sapete che mi mancate? Ve lo giuro!

I'm just past halfway through my trip and I still have much to do and see. Today we had our first day of 08.30 classes. And last night most of us went to bed at 02.00 or later. So it was a little rough waking up, but I still managed to be pretty nerdy and woke up at 07.00. Anyway, rambling as usual, I am! Yesterday was my birthday, and as I found myself in Prossedi, the town in which my paternal grandparents lived and live, I celebrated it there, amongst long-lost and finally found family members, and lots of lovely food (as usual). And, as usual, Laurie and I were very well taken care of; Italians have to be the most generous and thoughtful people in the world. I may be making a vague and generalized statement, but I am in awe, still, of how in Canada and possibly the U.S. and other places, it is a burden, almost, to others to have to cater to a vegetarian, not to mention a vegan, but here, it is a welcome challenge and it is accepted without any judgement whatsoever. I really appreciate that and all slight changes to menus and dishes that were made for me. GRAZIE MILLE!!!! I must confess, however, that I have been feeling slightly weak as my protein intake has been quite low in comparison to my intake in Canada. I have brought some vegan jerky from home and some granola bars and mixed dried fruits and nuts, but that hasn't seemed to suffice. I've been consuming delightful vegetables GALORE but my diet has been relatively devoid of protein. So, I must make a point to drink a glass of soy milk each day, or else risk being tired and energy-less all the time. I feel good today, though, despite the random fruity drinks that I was fed last night. I haven't drunk at all for this entire trip except for one or two quarter-glasses of wine. Nevertheless, I am fine and dandy today and looking forward to the week ahead.

This upcoming weekend, I will be heading to Milan to visit some family. The final week in Italy I believe will be spent sightseeing or something. I found out today, actually, that there are no courses next week, except on Tuesday we have our final exam (based on...?). To be honest, I haven't learnt anything new, but it is still a pleasure to sit in class, you know, because I'm nerdy and all, right? Oh! Also! There's a local newspaper here called La Provincia, and photos of some us (myself included!) were published in it. The professor gave us a copy today, and I look forward to showing it off when I get home. Ha! Also, a friend I made here, Josh Botticelli (best last name ever), had posted some of his photos from this trip, so I made a point of finding myself in some of them and tagging myself so that you can all see what a good little student I'm being (and that I'm still pasty white. Yay SPF 35 sunscreen!). So run to my Facebook page and see me being Italian.

I suppose that's all for now. I'm not sure if I'll get a chance to write again before I come home (seeing that my first post on this trip was at the beginning), but I will do my best to keep you updated. I'm having a kickass time and I will be ever so sad to leave the people who have become such close friends of mine in such a brief period of time. All of us on this trip have been so blessed to have received such a magnificent opportunity. Imagine that: a free return-trip to Italy, paid food and board, priceless family visits. Who could ask for more? Well, the only think that would make it truly complete, as I've expressed many times before, is having my loved ones with me and sharing this cultural experience with them all.

Ah, one last thing before I go buy some bananas and make myself some rooibos chai tea (with soy milk!): Thank you all for your wonderful and very kind happy-birthday wishes. I can't wait to get home and BAKE and have a mini party when I get back. Yes, someone asked me today what the first thing I'll do when I get back is: I said bake. And what shall I bake? Suggerimenti?

A presto,

Vegan in Suburbia

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Vegan in Italia

... It is possible!

In case you are confused, I am referring to the title of this blog post: that is, it is indeed possible to be vegan in Italy.

Hello everyone!

I am in Italy right now! And I just figured out how to type an apostrophe. Sweet! '''''' heh heh

I am staying in a slightly crusty student residence in the town of Cassino, in the region of Lazio. It is bloody hot, the locals are amusing and very friendly, and the older men like to yell "compliments" that are devoid of meaning in English at the girls: yesterday's gem was "Ve-rri ve-rri compleement!", yelled to my cousin Laurie and me. (In Italian, the expression would be "tanti tanti complimenti" but it loses virtually all meaning in English, literally. Amazing!)

As this trip is paid for entirely by La Federazione delle associazioni laziali, even our meals are paid for. As such, we receive three vouchers every day, one for each meal. The first one is redeemed at this one bar (a bar in Italy is a place where various snacks and drinks [as far as I can tell, none serve alcohol] such as juices, water, and coffee are served, whereas a pub would serve alcohol); the voucher is worth £1.50, I believe, so it includes a cornetto (croissant) or some pastry equivalent, as well as an espresso or cappuccino or macchiato. As a vegan, I can't eat croissants, so I get my money's worth by giving my pastry away and having an espresso with a bowl of boiling water--for the oatmeal I brought from home! Yippee! The waitresses are very kind and accomodating at this place. So, breakfast is possible for the vegan if the vegan is prepared. Also, at the grocery store near our residence (it's called Conads--ha! So many things hear have such absurd names that are too funny in English; I saw a dress that had "Hoochie coochie" as its brand name), they sell vegan croissants, plus quite the assortment of vegan cookies--healthy ones, too!

For lunch and dinner, we go to this place called Pepper's (see? That totally wouldn't fly in Quebec). We have this one waitress named Silvia and she's accomodating and ever so patient: we're 42 students on any given night, and she's usually the only waitress working. So far, we have tipped her a few euros every couple of nights because she truly merits it. Anyway, it's only four nights into the trip and people are already starting to tire of the menu there. In fact, we barely get a choice of meals at all, for they have a daily menu, each meal consisting of two piatti (I'm not sure how to say that in English) and a dessert (gelato or fruit salad. The fruit salad here is actually good, the fruit being fresh, juicy, and probably free of GMOs). It has happened on some days that the meal choices each consisted of meaty or cheesy dishes, but the chef/waitresses have accomodated us greatly. Oh! Did I mention that there are three vegetarians who are part of the group? Pretty cool, eh! What a relief. Anyway, so people were starting to tire of the menu because it was always pasta and pizza, pasta and pizza, pasta and pizza. The food is so tasty but holy moly--we're gonna end up rolling home! Ha!

As a side note, I went for a jog yesterday morning. The air was wonderfully chilly and my legs are sore today. Good. As another side note, it is a good thing that our university course is located in a building a decent walk away, not to mention that the lunch and dinner place is a good 15 minutes from our residence. Even if I jog just once a week, I should be just fine.

Anyway, the food is splendid, but it is carb-tastic. Oh, and I even had a gross moment: I was served a portion of cold veggies (there were only meaty and cheesy options that day at the restaurant), and on top were two small hunks of meat. I scraped off about half the plate that had meat on it and attempted to swallow the rest of it. Ha ha. And the other night, after explaining at a different restaurant (one to which we were supposed to go tonight, but the owner or the owner's father passed away. How sad) that I didn't eat milk products, eggs, meat, or fish, though I did eat pasta, I was brought a dish made of egg noodles. Cazzo! So, unfortunately, I had to send it back, but I got a plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce instead. That night was crazy, though; so many dishes were floating about, and it was almost all pizza! There was so much food that one entire pizza remained at our table, untouched, though it looked like the tastiest one, because everyone was full. One last tidbit about the food: I requested a salad without cheese (insalatone mista [mixed big salad] was one of the meals offered today. Score!), and when it arrived, I saw mozzarella on top. I was like, "ah, ma c'è formaggio" (ahh, but there's cheese!) and the waitress replied that it wasn't cheese but rather it was mozzarella. I proceeded to explain to her that I don't eat any dairy products. I gave it to someone else, and she gave me a new salad. Once again, Silvia was very understanding. Aww. Oh, and one of the best things I've eaten there so far is their grilled veggies. So good!

Already I have acquired the nerd reputation. Sono una secchiona--lo so! I got a perfect grade on my placement test for the Italian course; I even added the correct answer to the three (wrong) possible answers in a multiple choice question. I'm a loser. But last night I did hang out with everyone outside, just till about 1 am, and I had a great time without even drinking. I am a happy camper... though that doesn't mean I don't miss home and all you loved ones. I MISS YOU!!!!!!!!!

We have a lovely group of people here, though. Forty-two people from Montreal, Toronto, New York (we affectionately call them "The Americans"), and Australia (whom we affectionately call "The Australian") have gotten close over the space of four days. My cousin Laurie was saying how difficult it will be to say goodbye at the end of the month.

I am craving chocolate, actually; good thing I brought a bar of it from home (and it hasn't even melted!). Hmm...

Today we went to visit Monte Cassino. What a beautiful building. Go look it up on Wikipedia, for it has a very interesting history. What I most appreciated about visiting the abbey is that we learned about its founder, San Benedetto di Norcia, in my Italian Civ class. Talk about putting faces and places to the names. I took many photos but my camera died right before I was able to take a photo of the inscription "Ora et labora" in the wall (pray and work); it's something we learned it class, something upon which San Benedetto insisted with his monks.

This weekend we're being taken to Rome! We're going just for the day, on Saturday, though Laurie and I will indeed be staying behind to visit Prossedi, the town where my paternal nonni are from. I'm pretty excited.

Finally, when our Italian prof here, Bernardino, saw how freaky I was with remembering certain grammatical rules, he asked me whether I would one day like to teach Italian. I said maybe, and he invited me to attend the beginner classes he teaches each morning, to see how Italian is taught to foreigners. I am debating attending.

Please forgive any crappy English!

Missing and loving you all,

Vegan (out) of Suburbia

Sunday, August 3, 2008


Hello there!

The Vegan in Suburbia is about to leave... suburbia. Yes, it is true; no, I am not moving out, but I am leaving. I am heading to Italy on a flight that leaves this evening at 19.50 from Montreal and I will be returning the morning of the 29th of August. It'll be quite the trip! Three and a half weeks of relaxation, family visits, and yes, 15 days of Italian courses. I'm curious to see where they'll place me in terms of competence in Italian; I hear there are only three levels. I'm done my grammar studies at Concordia, so, well, we'll see. I'll be posting on here whenever I get access to a computer. I'll be studying at l'Università di Cassino, and residing in the city of Cassino, which is about 1.5 hours away from Rome. In Rome I should be able to find Internet cafés, if not in Cassino itself.

So, that's pretty much it! I'm looking forward to constant sunny weather there, since this rainy summer in Montreal has been quite a drag. This really isn't normal. And yes, I have brought my SPF 45 sunscreen so that I may return as pasty as I was when I left. Ha!

And Matthew and I have exchanged rings... you know, the kind that demonstrate there is a future together.


Lots of love, and arrivederci,

Vegan in Suburbia

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Toronto, Ethiopia, and the road to Italy

¡Hola chicos y chicas! ¿Cómo están ustedes? Estoy muy muy muyyyyy bien, gracias.

In fact, today I found out that I got an A+ in my POLI 214 class (Introduction to Human Rights). I totally FREAKED out. Honestly. I didn't even believe it. I've been checking for my grade every single day since about 2 days after the exam (pathetic, I know), refreshing the page every couple of hours. Finally, today, I saw the grade, didn't quite believe it, and refreshed the page one more time, just to be sure. Sure enough, yup, my grade is an A+. YES!!!!!! I have never taken a political science class before, nor will I ever again (ha ha), but I DID IT! I can't even believe it. My sister asked me, "Did you study hard?" I don't know if I ever "study hard"; I don't know what it means. I simply study until I cannot study anymore.


One week ago, I was in Toronto. Yes, my Montreal ass has never been to this city where, as my Uncle Elio put it, "People live to work, whereas in Montreal, people work to live." Interesting, that he said that, and it left with an unsettling sense of foreboding: I do intend on going to do my Master's in Toronto at the University of Toronto, which is why I went to visit the city in the first place. Despite all the negativity I have heard about the T Dot, I truly enjoyed myself there, and I did find the locals (well, the hotel workers and wait staff at restaurants and cashiers) to be exceptionally pleasant. Where was all the snottiness people were talking about? I'm glad I didn't see any.

Since my trip to Toronto with my vegan other half, I have been enjoying meals worthy of a queen. No joke. We stayed at the Delta Chelsea hotel--which was fabulous, I must say, and I was very pleased that there was a gym in the hotel. We were very lucky to have a Le Commensal restaurant just downstairs--DOWNSTAIRS! Fabulous. At first I wasn't all that excited, since we do have Le Commensal in Montreal; eating at Le Commensal on Elm, however, was such a delightful experience, as their menu is much more varied--especially where vegans are concerned--than is the one in Montreal, where the choices for vegans are much more limited. I was so impressed that I went to and wrote a review (under the name "tragedia"):

The next morning, as Matt didn't want to walk to Fressen's for vegan breakfast (bless his heart!), I grudgingly accepted that we try out the breakfast at Le Commensal. They don't offer breakfast in Montreal, but here they make it every morning. I must say that it was splendid, and I was happy, in the end, that we (read: he) opted to go there (we saved Fressen for the next day). We both had scrambled tofu with fruits and toast and all nice stuff. Matt even bought me a cookbook I'd been wanting for quite some time: The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. I've already made one recipe from it (pictures to come in my next blog post): the sun-dried tomato, black olive, and walnut artisan bread. It's yummy. :-)

That same day (Saturday), Matt and I went to check out the University of Toronto's HUGE campus. It was a beautiful summer day, hot but not humid, and we walked around looking for the Italian Department's building, which, of course, was closed. Nevertheless, it was a good experience to check out the campus and see what the streets were around it.... We stopped for a coffee at a place called L'Espresso. We gave in to temptation at the last second when we saw a couple receive an order of crispy fries, and our enthusiastic waitress was quick to emphasize what an excellent choice we'd made in ordering them. Then she, upon seeing my Joy of Vegan Baking book on the table, suggested--no, insisted--that we check out Fressen's for brunch. Ha!

That evening, we went with Matt's dad to what I can describe as only the best vegan-restaurant experience I've ever had. We went to the Vegetarian Haven. I'm not gonna blab on and on about how great the restaurant is; you can check out my blabbing in my review here. Simply amazing. And! I have a photo to prove it:
On the top left, you have my cheesecake; on the top right, you have Matt's dad's fried apples (he wanted fried bananas but, strangely enough, they were out of bananas; these proved, however, that fried apples are just as good, if not better, and just as sinful, too); finally, on the bottom, there is Matt's half-eaten chocolate fudge cake. Aren't they beautiful? Yes! We didn't really need to drive back to the hotel afterwards; we very well could have rolled there. Oi.
The next day, we went to Fressen's, finally, for brunch, and the food was just as delicious as everyone told us it would be. We were delighted, though I was very... well, here's my review:
And then we spent the rest of the day in Mississauga, with family, and by midnight, we were back in Montreal, and Matt and I were both at work only 9 hours later. Yowza.
Today is my sixth day working out of seven in a row. That is not to say, however, that I haven't done my share of relaxing/hanging out this week. On the contrary! (And you must know that I'd be getting to talking about Ethiopia at some point, right?) Well, Monday, my boss was kind enough to order me a falafel wrap and some garlic potatoes (mmmm); Wednesday, we ordered Indian food (mmmm); Thursday, I ordered even BETTER Indian food from my favourite Indian restaurant, Pushap, and devoured it with Matt and his sister; Friday, last night, I went to have Ethiopian food (ding!) for the first time ever (pictures to come in my next blog post). We went to Magdala Ethiopian Restaurant. It was a very pleasant dining experience, despite the blaring air conditioner right next to our table that left us frozen for most of the meal. Nevertheless, the food was delicious, the price was right, and injera bread is my new favourite food. I have yet to make a review on a dining website, but they will be getting a very good one. Yay!
Finally, the road to Italy, yes? A few days ago (Monday, to be exact), I was notified that I, as well as my cousin Laurie (yes!), have been accepted to go on an all-expenses-paid one-month trip to Italy, to study and site-see in the region of Lazio (the region where Rome is). It caught me so off-guard that I was sad at first to find out that I was chosen to go. I had applied for this trip in April and they call us now? "Preparate le valigie; partite in tre settimane." Three weeks to prepare for a trip to Italy? Really, now. What if I couldn't get off work? Whatever. Anyway, now I'm happy, but still a little stressed and kind of nervous and knowing I'll have to get over my shyness. I do believe that this trip is a blessing, and that I have been given this (forgive this cliché; I do hate it) once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a reason; it will help provide a much-needed break from the every-day here, it will provide release, and it will provide some sort of closure, as I will be visiting the region where my dad had gone countless times to visit my grandparents. This will be yet another step in the forming of my character and of my academic experience. If I am lucky, I will take photos and videos of the places he himself visited. This is for you, papa.
I'm going to miss my mum and my sister and my doggie and my boyfriend TERRIBLY, but the month will fly by, I will be enlightened and have new experiences under my belt, I will eat well and enjoy my time, I will love the espresso, and I will come back just to go back to school 2 days later. HA! Oh boy.
Vegan in Suburbia

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Beata libertà!

Well hello there!

My, my, it's been quite a while. How life just picks you up and sweeps you off your feet and away from vegan blogs! Well, here I am once again. Lots has happened since I last wrote, and I made sure to make mental notes along the way about blog-worthy events. Here goes nothing.


ITALY MADE IT PAST THE QUARTER-FINALS IN THE EUROCUP! FORZAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!! It was ridiculously close, as the Netherlands totally kicked their asses and everyone else's asses in their group. But, alas, the Italians proved that they weren't World Cup contenders for nothing. YEAH HUH. That's right. Today they play against Spain, and if they don't win, they're out for real. So. One last FORZAAAAAAAAAAA AZZUUUUUURRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII and then I'm done and on to vegan news.


This is vegan news only because it involves yours truly: I wrote my POLI 214-Human Rights exam on Wednesday evening. Man, what a nightmare studying for it. It reminded me way too much of my provincial history exam in Secondary 4, where I started studying for the exam only the day before, realized that I didn't want to study, didn't care enough about the material to study, and wouldn't really learn anything more only the day before that would get me a better grade on the exam. So, in perfect correspondence with my dumbassed high school ways, I closed my textbook and trashed it the hour before the exam (i.e. threw it outside and jumped on it--I'm not even kidding, sadly; Ms. Environmentally-Aware cringes at the thought of leaving paper on the ground instead of in the recycling bin). If it weren't for my exceedingly high grades during the term preceding the exam, I would have failed the course: I ended up with a 63% (just 4 marks shy of my only [other than gym class--ha!] failing grade in high school). Anyway, fast-forward six years. I'd like to say I've matured and learned quite a bit in the ways of non-procrastination since high school. So I started studying for my POLI214 exam about five or six days before the exam. There was quite a bit of material to cover, so I was nervous about whether I'd remember all the technical terms or be able to define them in detail. I mean, there were only 10 chapters with an average of about 25 pages each, but it was heavy, legalese-laden text. Fast forward, once again, to Wednesday evening at 19:00. The exam BEGINS! (Dun, dun, duuuuuuuun.) I, along with most of the others, finished the exam after an hour. I've never had an exam like that before. I wouldn't call the exam easy; rather, it just did not ask as much of us as I thought it would have. I look forward to seeing my final grade in the course; so far, I have a 89% average. Yikes yikes yikes. OH OH OH! And!


I checked my grades transcript today, and looky what I found:

Last Annual GPA: 4.04

4.04? Is that even possible? I've never seen that on my transcript before! Go figure. This last year has been the most emotionally difficult of my life, with my father being sick and passing away, with struggling to find a balance between keeping a normal life, going to school, taking care of my mum, sister, dog, and the rest of my family, and mourning, I managed to pull off the best academic year of my life. And, on top of all that, I managed to be involved in my program. Jeez. E' grazie a te, Papa, che ho avuto tanto successo quest'anno. E' grazie al tuo corraggio che mi hai conferito, alla tua forza.

Ok ok--Quarta:

A Vegan Dilemma (ooooooooh, scandal!)
So my doggie, the Brandy-Dog, was hurt for a while (I believe I explained her condition in a previous post--she's better now, though! Yay!). She was on pain medication for 2 weeks. To give her the pills (which she wouldn't swallow just like that), we had to wrap them in processed cheese slices, or in some sort of cold-cut. I guess it goes without saying that I was never the one to administer the pills to her. Well, one day, we ran out of food items with which to wrap her pills. As I was going to the grocery store with my vegan lover (ha ha, that sounds so cheesy [ha ha CHEESY! Zing!]. Bless you, Sir Nudo, for putting up with me) anyway, my mum asked if I could pick up some cheese for Ms. Dog. Now, as an ethical vegan, I will never touch, consume, or purchase meat products of any kind; it simply revolts me to handle dead flesh, not to mention how paranoid I am of getting sick from touching dead animal juices. Gross. So my mum knows very well that she can never ask me to buy her cold-cuts or something of the sort (nor do I allow her to put them in my reusable cloth shopping bags); I will, however, reluctantly buy other animal-derived products that don't involve my having to handle dead flesh, though of course, as an ethical vegan, I will not ingest these products, nor will I buy them for anyone other than my dear momma who needs a shopping break sometimes. (Strangely enough, I'll buy processed cheese, but buying milk grosses me out, simply because of an incident where the carton was leaky and I got some on my hands EW EW EW EW EW; and I won't buy eggs, lest they break and I get poor unborn chickadees on me.) Anyway... That was a lot of background info for a relatively simple story.

Back on track.

So Matthew, my vegan lover, and I headed to the nearest supermarket--on foot! Success in convincing him to join me on a rainy escapade to food-land!--in search of various vegan items and dog cheese for the Missus. I approached the processed-cheese section and grabbed the no-name brand package of grossness, for it was the cheapest. Matt stopped me and brought up something I hadn't really thought of. He asked why, as an ethical vegan, I would want to feed my dog certain things that I myself would never willingly consume. It was very good point indeed, and my response was that my vegan cheese was too expensive to buy for my dog, given how often she eats cheese; how six or eight slices of vegan cheese costs about five dollars (who the HELL decided that it should cost almost one dollar per slice?!) while about 24 slices (I think?) of regular processed cheese costs probably just over two dollars (well, crap is usually free, so I guess this makes sense...); and how she has eaten, and continues to eat, animal products as part of her regular meals, so what difference would it make to feed her vegan cheese? Granted, if I ever own another dog (of course I will!), I will try to make him or her vegan (though apparently it's impossible to make cats vegan, as they are inherently carnivores); though Brandy is an oldie, and she's lived this long on animal yuckies, so... I kinda wanna keep her.

ANYWAY! There are a whole bunch of philosophical issues with my argument, of that I am certain, though I thought it important to consider what my boyfriend brought to my attention. So, after 9.4 seconds of debate, we skipped (ha ha, Matt skipping?) on over to the veggie-cheese section, and, lo and behold, there were only vegetarian cheeses and no vegan cheeses in sight. After all that--those precious 9.4 seconds, gone forever!--we went back to the dairy cheese; after all, what was the point in doing a half-assed job of staying true to my convictions? (Note to self: Write to IGA to get them to stock vegan cheeses.)


Brandy the Dog does indeed like all the vegan offerings I... offer... her. It's true. This dog loves veggie sausages and Tofurky slices and spanakopita filling (ha!).


You're learning Italian today!


I've done looooooots of baking since I last wrote. I made vegan banana bread for my uncle's birthday; 30 maple cupcakes for my other uncle's birthday; a semi-elaborate vegan brunch for Momma and Matthew, consisting of herb-roasted potatoes, scrambled tofu, and banana pancakes. I have also been commissioned to, once again, bake some vegan spanakopita for my darling cousin Amanda's birthday celebration on July 7. And, as today is my cousin Tina's birthday (she's 17!), I will bake her some cupcakes, though I have not yet decided which I will make. Oh, how I love thee, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World!


I'm currently reading a book on Vipassana meditation (almost done! I blogged about just a little while ago). I'm looking forward to putting what I've read into practice. I have also picked up my Your First 100 Words in Hindi book. Ha ha! This should be fun. It's a difficult script to understand, but it should be an exciting challenge.


I've been wearing the same clothes (and, thus, the same style) since high school. Now, I graduated from high school in 2003; that doesn't mean, however, that all my clothes are from that exact year. No, I have clothes that I still wear that date from 2000 or 2001. That's a good thing, for it means that
  1. I take good care of my clothes,
  2. I haven't gained weight (in fact, I've lost since high school), and
  3. I'm not needlessly spending money and consuming items I don't in fact need.
Nevertheless, I've changed a little bit (or quite a bit... How should I know? I can't see myself from the outside) since high school, and my style (or lack thereof... most likely the latter) has changed accordingly. There have been days in the last few months where, upon looking at myself in the mirror, I have found that my clothing does not match how I feel inside; it doesn't mirror who I see myself to be. Clothing is inherently superficial, but I feel that, as life have taken such a drastic turn in the last six months, it was about time that I went out and treated myself not to a careless shopping spree but, rather, to a little revamping of my exterior coverings. I am a very difficult shopper, however, as I do not like to purchase items that were made outside of Canada, unless they are certified sweatshop-free or fair trade. The only places that guarantee me ethical clothing are American Apparel (how I love thee) and Le Château (yes, indeed, most of their clothing is made in Canada. Thank goodness!). So I'll cut a long story short: $269.00 later, I have three dresses, two pairs of shorts, one fancy shirt, and one pair of dress pants. Go me! It feels nice to have new clothes, especially since they are all sweatshop-free and cruelty-free. And I do believe in the philosophy that, for every new item of clothing that you buy, get rid of one item of old clothing (i.e., donate it to a charity). So...

Done and done.

Alla prossima!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Viva Granola

Ok, I totally found this too good to be true when I saw that "someone" named Viva Granola wanted to add me on Facebook. Well, it turns out that Viva Granola is a ethical, vegan boutique. I am SO PYSCHE to shop from them. I'm not even kidding. I like supporting Pangea (a vegan site based in the states) but if Viva Granola, a Canadian vegan company, can supply me with all my staple goodies and vegan jerky, I'm so there.

Thank you :-) And do visit!

Also, I will be back soon to write up a full post. ;-) I'm just going a little crazy studying for an exam.

Ci vediamo fra poco!

Vegan in Suburbia

Friday, May 30, 2008

Argh! Too much sauce!... or too little salad?

Ok, so, remember in my first post when I said that I would share my failures? Well, here's one. I've been making these wicked salads as of late, with avocado and mushrooms and spinach leaves and flax seeds and sesame seeds and olives and fake meat of some sort, plus a dressing made of soy sauce and olive oil, to be simple. Well! Today, when preparing this salad for work, I totally didn't put enough salad in the container, and I totally put too much sauce. The result? Really slimy salad that's been overpowered by soy sauce. Merda! Sigh.

On the plus side, I went to Aux Vivres last night, my favourite vegan restaurant in all of Montreal. Magnifique! I went with some friends who'd never eaten in a vegan restaurant before, and they all enjoyed it. I was happy. :-)

That is all. I'm gonna force myself to finish off my salad. Meanwhile, my boyfriend and his friend are having Thai food right now, just down the street.... Grrrr...

Vegan in Suburbia

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A whole lotta excitement!

This is the way I wanted it to be: photos first, words later. Then again, who is to say that any of you will actually bother to scroll down to read my comments on the above photos (and how could I possibly blame you if you don't?). Anyway, I guess a greeting is in order--HELLO! How are you! I am fine. I haven't been baking or cooking as much as I would like to, considering that I'm slaving away at my summer course and trying to keep up some semblance of a social life and working and spending time with family and staying in shape (working out to counter the baking). But here is evidence that I've managed to squeeze in some quality baking time. First, there is vegan spanakopita. The recipe is by Robin Robertson, and I modified it slightly, with the inclusion of sun-dried tomatoes in the mushroom, spinach, and tofu filling. I was commissioned by my aunt to make them for my cousin Alex's 21st birthday, and they disappeared so quickly, I was stunned. No one was told, however, that they were vegan, for I made sure that only a select few people know.
Let it be known that, in many families as well as my own extended Italian family, vegan foods are somewhat taboo. Surprisingly (or maybe not so), people get freaked out when you label a food "vegan;" they automatically assume that it's covered in tofu and all types of "freaky" ingredients, like egg replacer or vegan mayonnaise or tempeh. Little do some people realize, but many foods that omnivores eat all the time are inherently vegan. Hummus? Yeah, that's vegan. What about minestrone soup? Most of the time, it's made with vegetable broth. Oreos? OREOS ARE VEGAN! Yet if I were to prance around telling people that Oreos were vegan, they might actually get grossed out. Here's the news: the "vegan" label doesn't mean that something odd has been added to a certain food product; rather, it means simply that it is devoid of any animal products.
Back to Alex's birthday party: I made sure not to make it explicitly known that the spanakopita was vegan. And so it disappeared and everyone was impressed and, sadly, no one knew it was made by me (for if they were to know, it'd get the vegan label [refer to preceding paragraph]); however, a great compliment was that one person thought that they'd originated from the store.
It seems that May, like November, is the month of birthdays. So, only six days later, I found myself baking once again, for my darling friend Irene. On the 23rd was her 22nd birthday, so I decided to make her cupcakes. Isa Chandra Moskowitz wrote a cookbook called Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World; well, I do honestly think that cupcakes could solve many of the world's problems. Think about it (and Isa talks about this in the book, too): Can you honestly picture anyone being presented with a cupcake and not grinning? Picture yourself not grinning, or can you. See, it's impossible! Cupcakes = smiles = world peace. Got it? Done. So I made a dozen cupcakes, as pictured above (actually, those I made tonight, mostly inspired by 1) a simple desire to make cupcakes, 2) complaints from various family members [namely my previously-mentioned Zia Mary] who either hadn't had the opportunity to taste the cupcakes I'd made for Irene or hadn't had enough of said cupcakes, and 3) my best friend's boyfriend who recently had a car accident. Cupcakes alleviate suffering [her boyfriend is fine, by the way, and thank goodness that he is]). Today's cupcakes, two dozen, were distributed many ways: Zia Mary and family get four; Maritsa and co. (boyfriend included) get five; I already ate two; Maritsa had two, too (haha!); Mom and Jess each had one; four remain, with one being picked at as it is the only one without icing... and it's 1 a.m. and it's sitting in front of me. Three hours to make twenty-four cupcakes, put icing on them, and wash the dishes. Phew!
Today, I spent a big chunk of the day doing work for school. It was time for lunch and although I didn't want to make anything elaborate, I also didn't want to settle for just a sandwich or a salad. So I decided to whip up a stir-fry, a meal I'd long abandoned after truly tiring it out as a staple meal for months on end a few years ago. Nevertheless, I managed to cook up something rather pleasant, and the peanut butter sauce that I put together turned out to be the best I have ever made. It was simple enough, too: organic peanut butter, organic soy milk, cayenne, stevia, organic tamari, and toasted sesame oil. Dee-lish!
Cooking news aside, over the last few days, things have been a bit hectic chez moi. Ma petite chienne, Brandy the Dog, seems to have injured herself somehow and the vet assumes it is a herniated disc. Ugh. On Monday night, at around 21:30, my sister, mum, and I noticed that Bijou (oh, god, don't get me started on how many names this dog of mine has!) was walking funny. And it wasn't an unfamiliar thing; we'd taken her to the vet twice before for the same ailment. Sadly enough, it returned. So Monday night, we took her to the animal hospital. Of course we got lost on the way there, but luckily the poor thing was calm in the back seat, which is evidence of how much pain she was in, as she normally is very jumpy and nervous and whiny in the car. We spent three hours at the animal hospital, and the final decision--among leaving her there overnight for blood tests and a subsequent $3000-dollar MRI, giving her pain meds, and giving her anti-inflammatory meds--was to give her pain meds, since the vet opted to not give her anti-inflammatory medication for some reason I didn't really understand. The Dr. was awesome, though, and really honest. We opted out of the MRI because of the cost, but also because we didn't want to subject Brandy to all the pokes and pains involved, especially since the MRI would tell us only what her ailment was and, afterward, because Brandy is old (she's 12), the surgeon would likely opt not to operate. That would be $3000 down the drain, not to mention the torture they'd put Brandy through. So now she is on pain medication, twice to thrice a day, mostly confined to her cage, and getting lots of rest. It's really sad that her age has manifested itself in this way, and I hope and pray that her health will be fully restored, and that her pain and awkward walking aren't manifestations of something more serious--after all, the vet said it's probably a herniated disc, though it could also be a tumour. Great.
And, to conclude, I'm reading a book on Vipassana meditation. It's called Mindfulness in Plain English, by Bhante H. Gunaratana. It's great, very insightful, and positive. It fills me with hope, cheesy as it sounds. I'm only on page 40 now, but I'm really learning a lot from it. I'm also reading Dispatches from Hell, by Daniel Peyser. It's a vegan dating and relationship book. It is absolutely hilarious. I have some issues with the editing, but other than that, it's awesome. GO GET BOTH OF THESE BOOKS! I'm still expecting another book by the aforementioned meditation author. Oh! I also got vegan shoes from They are totally not my style, as they are wedges (wtf is a wedge?) and bright green and BEAUTIFUL! My only beef (whoa, unvegan term) with them and the entire site, really, is that, as far as I know, their products are not sweatshop-free! What the hell! The shoes are made in China.... I should have researched the products further, ascertaining their vegan and sweatshop-free origin. I lose.
... for now, though, I WIN! I have VEGAN CUPCAKES!
Ok. 1:14. Time for zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Oh, and this was hilarious, courtesy of my darling vegan boyfriend:
(via GoogleTalk)
matt: mmmmm better SAVE ME SOME [cupcakes] OR DEATH
me: lol dude, there are four put aside. Four! Specifically so that there's one for jess, one for momma, and TWO for you. Ass.
matt: no
1 for matt
1 for matt
1 for matt

Vegan in Suburbia

Friday, May 16, 2008

Apple Pie + Moussaka + Zucchini Brownies = Heaven + Hardcore Workouts

I've been done school for exactly a month now. My last exam was on the 15th of April, and I have been free as a bird since then. Actually, I'm taking a summer course, but it's offered online, so I don't really feel like I'm "in school" at all. As a result of my being "done" school, I now have a whole lot of free time on my hands, but I am one who despises idleness; I need to be occupied. Bless those who can spend an entire day vegging, for maybe that isn't such a bad idea every once in a while; vegging is something I just can't do. So, to pass the time (and to just do what I think needs to be done), I work out every day, and sometimes I bake. During these past couple of weeks, I have tried out a whole bunch of new recipes, some of which have failed miserably--namely, the brownies advertised in VegNews' most recent magazine--and others which have, well, completely rocked and made me look like a culinary goddess--namely the moussaka I made just two days ago. I don't have any proof of how badly the brownies turned out, as the only proof is in the garbage can. My mum and sister said they were "good, just dry"; I thought they were complete crap, and I was especially upset because I was sure that I followed the recipe properly. And I hate throwing things away... but to the garbage they went.
Next: apple pie. I got the recipe from one of my vegan cookbooks, though I don't recall which one. (I'll check back later.) I'd never made a pie that had a crust to go on top of it, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out how easy it is to make. All you need is flour, water, and salt. Booya! (I discovered, thanks to my mummy, that you can [should] add sugar to the mix so that it isn't so bland.) Here it is, along with a photo of a sliced piece. OoOoOoOoOoh!
It was quite good, and of course I depended on my boyfriend eating most of it when he came back from a road trip to B.C. And of course he was enraged when I told him that, while he was away, I baked an apple pie; he was frightened that he may not get to try it, but I'm too nice of a girlfriend to not save him a piece. (Aww.)
Next: MOUSSAKA! I'd like to say that I'm cultured most of the time, but, to my dismay, my sister brought to my attention that I was horribly mispronouncing this word; then, my boyfriend pronounced it another way. What confused me most was that both were right: I pronounced it "mouss-AH-ka", though, for those who consider it a Greek food, it is pronounced "mouss-ah-KA"; for those who consider it a Lebanese food, however, it is "mouss-ah-HAH", with the sound like the "j" in Spanish. You learn something new everyday! Anyway, this recipe I got off of; it was called Oopa Moussaka (hahaha). I found myself with an excess of zucchini in the fridge, and I did not want it to go to waste (which would explain why I made zucchini brownies.This recipe called for eggplant, though, and I did not have any. So, as this was a recipe that required layering, I used spinach lasagna for the eggplant layer; it turned out to be a pretty genius move, if I might say so myself. Also, I did not peel the potatoes, as they said to, because potato peels are ever so precious. <3
Bonus! Very special boy posing with food... awwwww
What's next... Ahh, yes, the zucchini brownies. The recipe I use--and it's fanfriggintastic--comes from I have to say that these brownies are beyond godly when you make them with icing on top (included in the recipe); this time around, however, I made them sans frosting, simply because they are very moist and beautiful on their own, and also because I wanted to reduce the calorie content of the brownie. I noticed also that since I didn't stir the batter well enough, the brownies came out a little crumbly on top, so I just shook off the crumbs and ate the rest of the brownies. Finally, I omitted the walnuts: I hate walnuts in brownies. I don't usually like to add nuts to baked goods because I find that it distracts you from the taste. Beato te, papa--my father loved walnuts in banana bread, so, because of him, I'd make two banana loaves: one with and one without walnuts (and with chocolate chips instead MMMMMMMM). Anyway... Mmmm... I'm giving most of the brownies away, because if I keep these around, I will be rotund by next week. Haha! Evidence time!

Next project: vegan spanakopita. I have been commissioned by my aunt to make it for my cousin's birthday this weekend. (I'm not kidding when I say commissioned: she gave me 25 bucks for ingredients. Sweet!)

Happy Victoria Day weekend, my Canadian friends!

Vegan in Suburbia

(EDIT: Oh man! My sister pointed out to me that there were a bunch of clarity issues [due to poor formatting on my part] and one or two spelling errors. How unlike me! Thanks, Jess, and my apologies.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Because I feel like it

Ciao a tutti!

Tutti? Who's "everyone"? I guess I'm starting this off just for myself, and if anyone feels inclined to read it, then I'm all the luckier. Welcome, nonetheless.

I used to have a blog. There was no order to it, though. I'm probably fooling myself by thinking that this one will be any different, but I do have goals for Vegan in Suburbia.

First of all, why such short paragraphs? Because I feel like it. Second of all, why Vegan in Suburbia? Because I think that that kind of sums me up well, though, despite my dislike of such constricting and restricting labels. But really, this is how I see it: I'm a vegan, and I live in suburbia. That's messed up. No, really, it is. I guess it really depends on the city in which you live, and maybe even the country, but I see veganism as a type of urban phenomenon. Here's an example, and a bad example at that, to illustrate my point: I'm eating a salad right now (yay for cliché number 1!). It has mixed organic greens, flax seeds, sesame seeds, soy sauce (I like using soy sauce instead of just putting salt on my salad), olive oil, chopped mushrooms, organic avocado slices, organic cherry tomato slices, and (my favourite part) fake chicken pieces. Now even the supermarket (bless you, Loblaws) nearby sells fake chicken strips, but they are nowhere nearly as godly (yes, I do often use this adjective to describe food, and most often to describe only food) as the ones they sell in N.D.G. at a godly (oh, exception to the rule) little place called Fleur Sauvage. This fake chicken tastes like actual chicken (not that I'm looking for chicken taste, but I'm stating a quality), it's relatively pricey (but oh-so-worth it), and it actually tastes good (unlike the one from Loblaws which tastes good only if you fry it up or smother it in mushed avocado. Mmm... avocado...). All that just to say that if you want the good stuff, you usually have to step out of the West Island, the part of Montreal where I reside. Plus, there is only one entirely vegetarian restaurant (as far as I know, and I've been living here all my life, 5 years of which I've been vegan), the godly (again!) Indian restaurant called Pushap; of course, you have to head downtown and further east if you want vegetarian or even vegan restaurants. So, I thought Vegan in Suburbia would suit me quite nicely, don't you think? (Maybe Parentheses Abuser would suit me better....)

So I shall sum up my goals for this, and let's see how far I stray; I'd like to

  • chit-chat about vegan life on the dark side;
  • show off photos of baking and cooking projects, successes, and (occasional) mishaps and failures;
  • express my love and devotion to new and exciting vegan products;
  • annoy and intrigue everyone with random interjections in various languages (I study Italian and Spanish, and I live in a primarily French-speaking city, so sometimes expressions in those languages come to me more fluidly than they do in English... or I'll just use those languages when I feel like hiding things from the reading public.... There's always electronic translation, but that's no fun);
  • spread the word about yummy things my mum and my boyfriend's mum and other non-vegans have cooked up for us, because those around me who make a special effort to veganize food deserve my adoration (my boy is a convert! And his mummy loves us so she makes us nice food, like, really nice food);
  • gossip about my boy, that crazy Matt, because there's never a dull moment when I hang out with my love;
  • talk about animals, especially my dog, Brandy, because she's great;
  • post poetry;
  • ponder life and grammar, for I love life, and I love grammar;
  • reminisce and keep my father's memory alive, for he passed away in December 2007, and I miss him very much;
  • tell you what I'm up to in general. Period. Just because I feel like it.
And yes, I like Green Day. But I am not Jesus. Brian is.

I hope you enjoy, and that I don't abandon this after just one post. Oi!

Vegan in Suburbia