Cheating Veganism

Deciding to go vegan can be a tough decision, but with these crafty pointers, your animal-loving self can cheat the ism.

Choosing to bow out from the gastronomic, animal-eating world is never an easy decision. Whether it is for spirituality, saving the animals—and their teats—or just experiencing something new, getting used to eating like a vegan can be a challenging task.

As any cook knows, making a meal without things like butter, eggs, cream and other kitchen essentials is torture. Add a lack of umami to the equation (the savory flavor often provided by meat) and even a seasoned chef would throw in the towel.

To ease the pains of an animal-free diet, I have gathered together some of my favorite vegan-friendly cure-alls for the health conscious culinaire. These eleven items will make your life easier, your meals tastier, and your non-vegan guests happier while keeping your conscience crystal clear.

If you’re thinking about becoming a vegan, stock your kitchen with these items.

You can see the list here.

Healthy Kitchen

How healthy is your kitchen?

I’m not talking about how clean you keep your countertops or how many organic vegetables are neatly organized in your fridge; nor am I concerned with the state of the dishes, sink or your small wastebasket designated for composting. What I am talking about is how well your kitchen supports healthy food choices.

Yes, that is correct. Your kitchen makes decisions that affect your health.

The environment of the most important room in the house greatly dictates how one approaches food.

Traditionally, the kitchen was the center of activity in the home. In the Vedic science of establishment called sthapatya veda, the kitchen is the furnace from which warmth and life springs. In feng shui, the kitchen represents nourishment and prosperity, sustaining life. And in many other societies, the kitchen acts as a sphere of social, familial, and political connectivity. Literally, the center of life, the kitchen radiates heat, replenishes energy and connects society.

Today, however, the kitchen has become a wasteland of shiny appliances and unused barren spaces. Once the largest room in the home, the kitchen has now been reduced to a mere box. Barriers divide it from the rest of the house, keeping it segregated and confined.

The modern kitchen, rather than inciting words like warmth, comfort and love, is instead synonymous with adjectives like sterile and sanitary. It is no wonder we do not know how to feed ourselves. The very instrument used to create nourishment has been transformed into a metallic machine incapable of inspiring the brightest souls.

In order to reclaim our health, we must first reclaim the kitchen.

Click here for the full article.

How I love my kitchen.

If there is one thing I can always depend on, it is my kitchen.

I absolutely love cooking. In the kitchen, I am thrust into a ballet of organic symphony. A simultaneous unfolding of what can only be described as magic happens when I enter my kitchen. All the elements of the universe combine, forging a tremendous surge of creation that spawns in my imagination, at my fingertips, and in the air around me. I can breathe in the meal before I’ve even opened the fridge.

My passion is not just in cooking, but in living. The life of the kitchen is the pulse of my home. The beat of its heart is in the flames of the range.  The sound of its breath steadied in the sway of my knife. Each ingredient is an organ, playing its vital role in the development of something much greater than its components. The air is full of density, heavy with scent. Lingering notions of ingredients surrender their individuality for the greater good.

I can come into my kitchen and leave my life. Departure in the most serene sense. I become my meal. My body, my thoughts are no separate from the tiles I stand upon. Nor am I any different from the food I eat. My intentions are of love, to create a better world. There are so few moments of the day that are as tangible as the procession of creation that occurs in the kitchen. A timed and timeless unfolding of such ease and clarity is measured by procedure and translated through sensation. I must chop vegetables, heat a pan, and gain enlightenment.

In this process, my kitchen becomes an alter for which I am the priest. Both a servant and recipient of the wondrous bounty of unlimited energy. It doesn’t matter who I am, what I think, or how I feel. My kitchen always takes me in.



Jiro Dreams of Sushi

I am a vegan. With that said. I love sushi.

Well guess its more fitting to say that I loved sushi and now I am just extremely nostalgic for it.

Although I choose not to eat sushi, I have a deep respect for its art. Born out of balance, intuition, and dedication to perfection, sushi is truly a form of beauty unlike any other. Deeply embedded in the humble roots of Japanese culture, virtues of simplicity and respect are eloquently emphasized.  Tradition in technique, flavor and commitment are the tenants of authentic sushi. In many ways, the art of sushi mimics the art of mindfulness, the path to enlightenment. It is the embodiment of yoga.

Not this sushi.

Understanding these ethics is one thing, finding them is another. Today’s sushi market is diluted with flare, excitement, and distraction. Overdone decor and layered sauces disguise impurity and mask flavor. Taste comes secondary to experience, when instead it should be ushering the evening’s encounter. Now sushi can be bought in grocery stores, on conveyor belts, floating around on miniature wooden boats, and even in vending machines. Looking around today, it would seem sushi has lost its origins. And since my days of searching for the holy grail of sushi are over, I have been even harder pressed to believe that it still exists.  That was until I watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

This Magnolia Pictures film gives an in depth look into the life of greatest sushi chef alive: 85 year-old Jiro Ono.  Owner of Sukyabashi Jiro, a modest 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant located in a Tokyo subway station.  Despite its meek appearance, it has earned a 3-star Michelin review (the first restaurant of its kind to garner such prestige). The documentary focuses on the story of Jiro’s life, which for 75 years has been dedicated to sushi. Executed in immaculate fashion, the cinematography is on par with the Discovery Channel’s Planet Earth series.

Old man Jiro

Aside from the details of the movie, encompassed in the film was the art of sushi. Jiro opens the documentary with a quote, his personal virtue: “Absolute simplicity is purity.” This small sentence encapsulates every action of Jiro’s life, even beyond the kitchen. In his routine of austerity, he has developed a craft of supreme quality.  Going beyond his kitchen, he has reached a level of sublime peace within his life. Although Jiro is stern and is by no means an enlightened Zen master, he has attained a level of sustained happiness, a calmness that exudes his being and is very transparent on screen.

His life is a replication of his work. In fact, the two are inseparable. “You have to fall in love with your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill,” Jiro is his work. In this fashion he has become the love for his work. His love is displayed in his sushi, in his reputation, and in his kitchen.

Love = Work = Happiness. The ultimate (earthly) union.

This concept is applicable to any trade. But not every trade can mimic the meditative nature of sushi. Jiro eloquently describes sushi as the union of fish and rice. The yoga of two worlds: the earth and sea. True success is created by honoring the balance between the two. In terms of flavor, this is understood through patience, execution, and tradition in technique. In preparation, this is defined by consistency and ethic. In taste it is described as umami.

In the West, umami is understood as a meat flavor or feel. Often times it is described as the flavor of the shiitake mushroom. This linear definition butchers the Japanese connotation. In the film Jiro’s son explains the true nature of umami as a balance. In regards to food, it is the proper combination of flavors, texture, and product that creates umami. However, umami is not restricted to food; it is also the feeling of drinking a good beer. Nor is it restricted to the kitchen; it is also the feeling of a warm bath. Umami is a feeling of perfect balance. In yoga, we call this the neutral mind.

Simplicity and balance.

Sushi is the culinary cultivation of the yogic mind. It uses fish and rice as its medium, its product, but the entire production is a dance, a ballet, an opus. In fact the score of the documentary was entirely composed of classical music, the perfect combination of flow and execution. True sushi is an art that transcends the limitations of duality. It inherently seeks to create union, yoga with opposing elements, sharing it with those who consume its delicacies. The sushi chef embodies these virtues and seeks to share it with his customers.

For those willing to be a part of it, true sushi is indeed a delicious path to enlightenment.