vegan like me


Vegan Vices July 7, 2008

i love how everyone always assumes that since i’m vegan, everything i eat is healthy. and also organic. for some reason, people equate vegan with organic. i’ve never understood why. perhaps because vegans are generally more environmentally conscious and understand the benefits of eating organic? could be.

anyway, my reason for this long-overdue post is to rave about my two new-found vegan vices: veggie bite and spicy sweet chili doritos. while they are unhealthy and somewhat random, i wholeheartedly adore them both.

veggie bite

ever since veggie bite has opened their wicker park location (finally!), i have been enamored with their delicious chili cheese fries. their entire menu is vegan fast food, so it’s far from healthy, but wonderful all the same. i suggest you try it immediately. you won’t regret it.

spicy sweet chili doritos

ever since i became vegan, i’ve mourned the loss of doritos in my life. while i generally eat pretty healthfully, doritos were my occasional junk food of choice. so when i heard from a friend that doritos came out with a vegan flavor, i was somewhat skeptical. but sure enough, they’re vegan, proving once again that veganism is becoming more and more mainstream.


Just a muffin May 1, 2008

Filed under: food — ajb @ 10:27 am
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when most people find out that i don’t eat honey because i’m a vegan, they’re shocked. while it’s not a difficult concept to grasp, it’s not as quickly understood as why i don’t eat meat.

so why isn’t honey vegan?

the simplest answer as to why honey is not vegan is because it is an animal byproduct. conventional knowledge tells us that honey comes from happy little bees living in a quaint forest somewhere, creating their magically delicious sweetener for all the world to enjoy.

what most people don’t know is honey actually comes from bee farmers who replace each colony’s queen frequently in order to stimulate production. because the colonies store their honey to eat during the winter, many of these farmers let their colonies die or kill them before the cold season hits. that way they can harvest the honey for themselves. if you want to learn more, here’s a great site that explains it all.

what do muffins have to do with it?

my inspiration for this post was fueled by a very disappointing experience I had at argo tea in lincoln park this weekend. argo used to be one of my favorite morning coffee shops because they served vegan muffins from the chicago diner. when they stopped carrying the diner’s muffins and started serving their own instead, my patronage slowly dwindled.

i decided to stop in this weekend to see if they still carried vegan muffins, as i was too lazy to cook my own breakfast. sure enough, they had a “vegan muffins” section in their bakery case. as i waited in line, i noticed some small type on the sign that read “*contains honey.” there was no asterisk attached to either flavor of muffin listed, so i thought perhaps there might be another kind containing honey that was not available.

when i got up to the register, i asked if all the “vegan muffins” contained honey and the guy behind the counter said yes. so i replied, “you realize they aren’t vegan muffins then, right?” he was visibly irritated at my insistence and stated, “everyone says that. so honey comes from bees, big deal.” obviously, he didn’t get it and i didn’t feel like wasting any more of my time trying to explain to him that a “vegan muffin” containing honey is just a muffin.

so i walked out of the store disappointed and hungry, and i will not be going back.


Tired of Talk, Moved by Music April 24, 2008

Filed under: general — ajb @ 3:39 pm
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i don’t know about you, but sometimes i feel that my life is governed by music. my moods seem to model themselves after my song of choice on any given day.

today, i thought i’d share that song of choice because i think its sentiment echoes my personal perception of our country amid this chaotic cluster@#$% of an election. obviously i have my candidate of choice (cough obama cough), but i’m not sure any of the camps are prepared to make the immediate changes they promise or as many as our situation warrants.

i recently discovered antje duvekot, the artist featured in the newest bank of america commercial. her song “milk and trash” illustrates the hypocrisy that lives and breathes in this country every day in an eloquent and understated way that i find unique and quite comforting. there is a strong undertone of veganism/animal rights throughout the song, although it is not acknowledged directly.

here is my favorite part of the song:

the woman that i met returns to me in a flash
last night there was a party that i think i was at
“why don’t you pour yourself a drink, have a seat here on our couch of mink”
he says, “may i introduce, this is america”
and she says, “you can be king in the land of milk and trash
render your opinion, but first let’s see the cash
tou can buy a defense that’s sure to save your ass
tou can take a walk, there are people living underground
it’s raining cats and dogs, but it won’t trickle down
so we’ll have another drink, well, we will have another round”

if you’re looking for something soft, soothing and meaningful, i think she’s great.


Connecting Vargas to Veganism April 22, 2008

Filed under: animal rights — ajb @ 1:46 pm
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by now, you’ve probably heard of guillermo vargas, the costa rican “artist” who captured a stray dog, tied him up inside an art gallery and watched him starve to death as an “art” installation. if not, prepare to be disturbed.

obviously i am against animal cruelty, so there’s no need for me to ramble on about what most of you have already said yourselves. yes, the so-called artist is subhuman. yes, the treatment of the dog was disgusting and inhumane. yes, the fact that he was chosen to display his art at the central american biennial in honduras is complete crap. but i’m not going to repeat any more of what’s plastered all over the web already.

instead, i’m going to draw what some may find an uncomfortable connection between this incident and eating meat. while thousands of americans are up in arms about the mistreatment of a stray dog, only 1% of the entire population follows a vegan diet. what’s that, captain obvious? that means 99% of americans indirectly, if not directly, support cruelty to animals.

the comparison begs this question: why is there so much compassion for a stray dog when cows, pigs, chicken and other animals are slaughtered every day without so much as a blink of an eye? the obvious answer is because we don’t eat dogs. we keep dogs as pets. we treat them like members of the family and grieve when they pass away.

so let me ask you, how is this:

so different from this?:

how is letting a dog starve to death so different from eating a hamburger? maybe because we as a society aren’t forced to watch as a cow’s throat is slit open and blood pours of its hanging body until it slowly slips from consciousness. but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

one of my favorite vegan quotes comes to mind:

“if slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian”
~ paul mccartney

i guess the point of this post is to help expose the connection between factory farming and the food most of us eat every day. the hypocrisy of the whole vargas scandal continues to astound me. in an era during which we have triumphed over segregation, sexism and anit-semitism in this country, it boggles my mind that we cannot fathom the possibility that another species may deserve the same basic rights that we so proudly uphold for ourselves.


ethical eating March 25, 2008

Filed under: food — ajb @ 12:24 pm
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here are some of my favorite places to get vegan food in chicago – everything from fast food to fancy.

alice and friends

a cozy little place, alice and friends serves mostly asian vegan food. everything is vegetarian and i believe there are only one or two items on the menu that aren’t vegan. i personally love the curry.


this all-vegan korean restaurant has amazing, healthy dishes and friendly service. the soothing atmosphere instantly puts you in a good mood. here’s the menu – it’s not listed on their site

burger king

i know, i know – but their french fries are vegan and delicious. there are lots of reasons not to eat there, but we all have our guilty pleasures.

the chicago diner

if you’re craving the stuff you used to eat before you went vegan, the diner is the place to go. even non-vegans love it and usually can’t tell the difference between this faux food and the real deal.


when i want something quick and delicious, i go for the veggie burrito bol. everything is vegan except the pinto beans and the obvious choices like meat and cheese.

ethiopian diamond

this place is great if you’re in the mood for delicious ethnic food. it’s best to go with a group of people and sample a little bit of everything. they have a whole section of vegan options on their menu.

flat top grill

while they still have many vegan sauces, i used to love flat top for their outstanding peanut sauce. however, i dined there recently with my family and discovered that they started using a new recipe that contains fish :(. their website still lists it as vegan, so it might be vegan in some locations. either way, i thought i’d take this opportunity to express my disappointment.


although the original karyn’s is raw food only, i prefer the cooked restaurant. it’s beautifully decorated and is a great place to bring family/friends who are suspicious of the vegan diet.

lincoln park’s noodle house

this little thai place is great for dine-in or carry-out. many of their dishes can be made vegan as long as you ask for no fish sauce.


many of panera’s breads and bagels are vegan, not to mention 2 soups (black bean and garden vegetable) and several salads (some ingredients need to be left off). their website lists every item’s ingredients including dressings and everything. some of their bakery items do contain l-cysteine, but it is plant-derived.

pick me up cafe

the pick me up is a hip, late-night hangout serving regular food as well as vegan options. they even have vegan mac and cheese!


there is only one sandwich option, as far as i know, that’s vegan here: the vegetarian sub. make sure to ask for it without cheese and with balsamic vinaigrette instead of red wine (<- not vegan). their bread does not contain l-cysteine.

siam country

this is hands down the best thai food i’ve ever had. many items can be made vegan by asking for no fish sauce or meat broth. the owner is very friendly and accommodating.

soul vegetarian

although a bit of a trip from the city, this restaurant has great vegan soul food. all of the servers are volunteers, which sometimes makes for a long wait, but they’re always friendly and helpful. their mac and cheese is phenomenal, although i’ve never actually eaten it in the restaurant. ethical planet in evanston carries it along with lots of other great vegan products (definitely worth checking out).

veggie bite

vegan fast food. chili cheese fries. need i say more? their second location in wicker park is now open! it’s just as delicious and much closer to me :)

there are tons of other great places to get vegan vittles in chicago that i have yet to visit – these are just my recommendations.


venturing into veganism March 24, 2008

Filed under: general — ajb @ 2:03 pm
Tags: , , ,

at first, the vegan diet to me was just that – a diet; a way of eating. but as i became immersed in the lifestyle, it slowly permeated every aspect of my life. everything from cooking dinner to meeting people suddenly became entirely new experiences. and as i look back on the evolution of my life as a vegan, i’m shocked and pleasantly surprised at how much has changed.

putting a label on it…

the first habit i adopted as a new vegan was label reading, which turned out to be a lot more difficult – and educational – than i expected. i assumed it would be easy to figure out what was vegan by looking out for cheese and meat ingredients. little did i know, animal products in some form are in almost everything, and they’re masked by scientific-sounding terms like “l-cysteine” and “casein.” i found a list of ingredient sources and gradually learned which items i could buy and which to stay away from. by going through this process, i came to realize just how much our culture depends on animal products and how they can be avoided if manufacturers actually try to find alternatives. sadly, i’ve found that most of them don’t

cruelty-free cooking…

my troubles and frustrations with label reading brought me to my next obstacle – cooking. before i became vegan, my cooking skills were sorely lacking. i could boil water for pasta and make a mediocre grilled cheese, but that was about it. because it’s not as easy as it should be to find vegan food in grocery stores or at restaurants, i started to learn how to cook my own food. and now i can make a mean stuffed eggplant like nobody’s business.

buying into the belief…

while i struggled with food labels, i quickly discovered how to shop for vegan clothing and which materials to avoid. i’m allergic to wool, so that one was easy enough. and i’m pretty cheap, so most of my shoes were fake leather anyway. i had a few sweaters containing silk that i gave to my little sister. other than that, my wardrobe didn’t change too drastically. i did, however, come to realize just how many stores put unnecessary leather tags and buckles on their clothes. it seemed like every time i’d finally found a great replacement winter coat (i got rid of my pea coat), it would have a leather tag. after a while, i gave up on the idea of a pea coat and got a columbia ski jacket instead. not as fashionable in my opinion, but hey, we all suffer for our ideals, right?

surviving in society…

while the vegan lifestyle obviously affected the way i did things, i didn’t realize how greatly it would impact my interaction with others. the minute i decided to give veganism a try, i was barraged with questions from friends, family and co-workers. most of them didn’t understand why i wanted to adopt such a drastic diet. when i explained my position on animal rights, some of them were impressed and supportive (mostly co-workers) while some were disapproving and dismayed (mostly friends and family). as i became accustomed to spilling my guts about my idealistic opinions on world issues, i found that i had become more open with my feelings in general. as awkward as it was to explain (and sometimes defend) my beliefs, i got used to it. and now it’s much easier for me to discuss pretty much anything with complete strangers – something i cherish as a valuable skill.

overall, i think becoming vegan has taught me to be more careful with life and i’m grateful to have found something that puts my mind at peace.