Little Caesars — Vegan Vegan

18 Apr

I consider myself an ethical vegan.  As someone who carries a history of injustice and violence I choose not to perpetuate violence and exploitation towards other living beings, including human and nonhuman animals. Only after going vegan did I begin to understand how veganism is a healthier way of living.  

Because the reasons for my veganism aren’t solely dietary I become frustrated when omnivores are judgemental when I choose to have a piece of candy or eat a slice of pizza; misinformed judgments from people who do not understand the ethical aspect of veganism, but instead mask it with health conscious reasons, which in their minds, equate veganism to solely eating meals of green stuff on a plate called a salad.

 So, to all the judgemental ammonia coated meat eating, high in cholesterol omelet loving, pus filled cow milk drinking people, all I have to say is, “Whatever, I do what I want. I’ll eat a slice of pizza if I wanna.”

Like any normal human, I do crave certain foods and if what I am craving falls within the vegan realm I may eat it.  Occasionally, I do crave not so healthy foods—like pizza. My favorite is the thick & fluffy pizza dough from places like Pizza Hut or Dominos. In most take out pizza chains, the only vegan pizza dough is thin & crispy.

 After doing some online research, I found a pleasing surprise on the Little Caesars Pizza website. 

little caesars vegan

Little Caesars’ website has a section devoted to both vegetarians and strict vegetarians, i.e. vegans. The pizza dough, pizza sauce, crazy bread, and crazy sauce are all vegan! 

Screenshot_2013-04-17-19-50-01-1I spent about an hour looking at the dough ingredients of different pizza chains and Little Caesars is the only one that clearly states what is vegan on their website. 

I do have conflicting feelings about supporting a business that sells dead pigs in the form of pepperoni and sausage, but I do not know of a vegan pizza chain. What I do know is that if I ever get a random craving for an “I know it’s vegan” slice of pizza, I can go to my local Little Caesars. 

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Same Fate Different Ways

3 Apr


About Video Description on You Tube: A cattle truck carrying 70 cows topples on I40 and Air Depot. Part of the highway closed while workers attempt to rescue the livestock.


Every morning I wake up, turn on the TV, and tune in to watch the local news as I get ready for work. One morning they reported a story about a livestock truck that had crashed (not the video I posted here). The anchors were genuinely concerned about the cattle in the truck, asking the on-site reporter multiple questions about the well being and survival  of the cows who had been in the accident.

Hypocritical statements irk me.

Exhibit A: The description of the video above by TV station KOCOTV of an attempt to “rescue” the livestock.

Cows died during the crash. Yes, it is sad. Cows were trapped and suffering. Yes, it is sad.

But were these so-called concerned reporters unaware of their fates?

“Rescuing” cows involves people power and time:

Screenshot_2013-04-03-20-05-27-1

thescoopblog.dallasnews.com

cnjonline.com

cnjonline.com

Soon after they will end up here:
Screenshot_2013-04-03-20-08-46-1
 Like this:
Screenshot_2013-04-03-20-10-47-1
And ultimately, all “rescue” efforts were in vain:
Screenshot_2013-04-03-20-11-20-1

For the Love of Corn Tortillas

2 Apr

You know you’re a MexiCAN when a pack of tortillas is a staple food sitting in your fridge. I grew up eating warm, soft, foldable tortillas with anything and everything. As a Latina vegan I have relied on tortillas as part of dozens of veganized Latin@ and Mexican dishes.

soyrizo con papas, tortillas, aguacate

soyrizo con papas, tortillas, aguacate

Many years ago I read Eat This Not That: Supermarket Survival Guide by David Z. The author stated a very simple and reasonable rule of thumb: when debating between two different brands of the same product always go with the one that lists the least number of ingredients; those extra ingredients almost always turn out to be additional preservatives and chemicals.

As a vegan, reading labels is a habit. Tortillas are undoubtedly vegan, yet I cannot resist turning over the package to find out what I’m about to put in my body. I always thought of tortillas as healthy, natural, corn goodness. When I started paying attention to the labels I found this:

Mama Tortilla

Mama Tortilla

These are local tortillas made in Brooklyn with ten listed ingredients on the bag. The ones that caught my eye were methylparaben and propylparaben. I recently bought a shampoo that boldly states on the bottle NO PARABENS, so I asked myself, if parabens in my shampoo are bad, what the heck are they doing in tortillas?! And what are sorbates and all these acids. This is reminiscent of Fast Food Nation, where the food is created in labs — smells and tastes trapped in tubes. My idealistic good old natural corn tortilla has been a lie.

Let’s look at each ingredient and find out what it is:

1. Stone Ground Corn Flour:  grain has been ground in a mill in which a revolving stone wheel turns over a stationary stone wheel, vertically or horizontally with the grain in between. Many small appliance mills are available, both hand-cranked and electric.

2. Water

3.  Cellulose Gum: Made from plant fibers (cellulose is the main fiber of plants) including trees and cotton. It is highly water absorbent, cheap and abundant. This synthetic gum helps to improve shelf life and has a variety of uses.

4. Fumaric Acid: White odorless powder derived from many plants. It is used as a dry acid in dessert powders and other confections as well as a fruity or vanilla flavoring in many beverages and desserts.

5. Potassium Sorbate: An organic compound used as a preservative and humectant in foods and cosmetics. The salts of sorbic acid (calcium, sodium and potassium) are used due to their ability to dissolve in water. They are now typically made from chemicals.

6. Calcium Propionate: Calcium salt of propanoic acid. Used as a preservative and mold and fungus inhibitor. **Some studies on children indicated negative health effects (irritability, restlessness, sleep issues). Not recommended for people with sodium sensitivity.

7. Propionic Acid: Propionic acid is contained in many food preservatives. Absorbed prioinic acid once absorbed into the blood circulation crosses the blood brain barrier and enters the brain where it can exert its affects.Consumption of large amounts of propionate makes kids irritable, inattentive,  and restless associated with sleep problems.

8. Methylparaben: A preservative and anti-fungal/antimicrobial found in jelly, jam, and other preserves. Also found in many cosmetics such as bubble bath and eyeliner. It is naturally occurring in some fruits and is readily absorbed through the GI tract as well as through the skin. In the paraben family of preservatives used by the food, pharmaceutical, and personal care product industries. Parabens mimic estrogen and can act as potential hormone (endocrine) system disruptors.

9. Propylparaben:  Parabens occur naturally — in some plants, for example — they are manufactured synthetically, and used mainly as preservatives and antimicrobials in cosmetics, foods and pharmaceuticals. Propylparaben is the form most commonly used. The compound has very low toxicity, but there is concern that it could play a role in the development of breast cancer, among other things.

10. Trace of lime: small amounts of calcium hydroxide or limewater

Dear, Mama Tortilla made in Brooklyn, NY, after reading the ingredients you use to make your tortillas I think I’ll pass.

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Let’s look at alternatives:                                                                                                             vegan la raza20130225_164539

Baja Tortillas don’t contain parabens, but do contain 5 chemical preservatives.

vegan la razavegan la raza

Shop Rite Tortillas list 14 ingredients with 11 of them being preservatives and chemicals including,

Carageenan: Derived from a red seaweed by heating and converting into a gel. Used to thicken and stabilize processed foods. Also used as an emulsifier in certain products. Roughly 80% of the world’s supply comes from the Philippines. In 2007, the joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) indicated that carrageenan should be restricted in infant formula due to the gastrointestinal effects on infants. In other animal studies, results indicated that when carrageenan was subject to high temperatures and acidity that it may cause ulcers and gastrointestinal cancer.

Looks like I gotta keep looking…

vegan la raza20130331_201404

Finally! I went to Whole Foods in California and found La Gloria Tortillas which are local when I’m in Los Angeles. They list three simple ingredients: yellow corn, water, and lime. In addition, these taste amazing and only cost less than $2 for a pack of 20-30 tortillas.

I bought four packs because my family can devour a pack in 2-3 days and stored a couple in the freezer to take to New York City with me.

After many months of looking for chemical free tortillas, I found them. And okay, I’ll admit that genetically modified corn crossed my mind, but that’s another post. For now, I’ll take pleasure in knowing I can make tacos, tostadas, taquitos, or enjoy a tortilla made with three simple ingredients.

**Definitions from ewg.org & befoodsmart.com 

Stuff Entitled White People Do

27 Feb

Living in a world where speciesism “empowers” human animals to eat nonhuman animals and where human animals dehumanize each other based on skin color is exhausting. It is even more draining to deal with people who claim to love one species while failing to love the other.  

Place: Quantum Leap – Vegetarian Restaurant in NYC
Day & Time: Saturday 1:30pm
 

My favorite part of working Saturdays is going to brunch in the Village after work. There are numerous vegan and vegetarian restaurants in the neighborhood and Quantum Leap is my absolute favorite for brunch.  

Escaping the cold winter of New York City at a veg spot, sipping on hot coffee with soy milk and eating scrambled tofu while reading thought provoking text is perfection after a morning of teaching.  

On this particular Saturday the small restaurant was not busy and the coffee was extra delicious. I was reading a National Geographic article about the ivory “trade”; very disturbing material and perhaps not ideal to read while eating. I moved on to read another article when a young woman was seated at the table next to me.  

I was sitting at a small rectangular table for two with enough room for one person on each side. Her table was identical.  

My back was facing the wall of the restaurant and her face was facing the wall. She was sitting at her table in the position where the person eating with me would’ve sat.  

She sat down at her table and placed her backpack across from me, on the chair the person eating with me would’ve sat.  

image

I found this bizzare considering how much space she had: under her table on the floor and on the empty seat across from her. Yet, she chose to place her backpack across from me. Mind you she acted like I was completely invisible sitting across from her bag. Never received any type of acknowledgement or “is it okay if I place my bag here?”  

She asked the waiter many questions and in the process revealed she’s a vegetarian. I looked at her and saw she was wearing a sweater with the image of a cat and a slogan telling people to “save the animals”.      

Ugh! Oh! She’s that type of vegetarian.  

I have two things I wish I could’ve told this person:  

First of all, call me whatever you want, but don’t go around wearing a “save the animals” sweater while eating eggs and drinking milk.  

Second of all, take off your “save the animals” sweater and put it back on after you recognize your white privilege and the ways it’s manifested and projected in your actions towards other sentient beings: humans of color.

I was so annoyed! I couldn’t digest properly.  

I left Quantum Leap feeling angry, annoyed, and frustrated.  

Fast forward two hours later that same day.  

I was waiting in the lobby of a local graduate school. There were around 10 people hoping to attend a forum in a room that was at capacity. As we waited for the security guards to check the room, a friend called me.

I walked behind the group and answered the phone. “Hello. How are you?”  

A white woman turned around, held up her hand horizontally, and then moved it up and down signaling for me to keep it down or shut up. At the same time, there were many white men laughing, talking, and having a great time with each other. They were a few feet away from us, but were also being “loud” by this woman’s standards.  

Another act of white entitlement only a few hours after the one at the vegetarian restaurant made me burst. I loudly and sarcastically started telling a person next to me, “Oh! Careful! Let’s not be too loud! Let’s all just stop talking.”  

After a few outbursts of me saying this while looking at the woman who made the hand gesture, she eventually turned around and said, “you need to keep it down.”  

I looked at her, moved up closer to face her and said, “The problem is white people feel they can tell everyone to shut up.”  

Shock. Now, she needed a comeback. “What?! You want to make it a racist thing?”  

“Of course it’s a racist “thing”! Look at those men talking, look at all the people talking. And I am the only one you told to shut up.”  

Her comeback, “You were on the phone. They are talking to another person.”  

Riiighttt.  

“Uh huh. I’ll let you think that’s what it was.”  

In the end, I felt so relieved to have called her out. Will this change her life? No. But I can guarantee one thing, she will never “signal” to another person of color to “keep it down”. And if she does, maybe she will speak to the person, acknowledge their humanity, and say please.  

Nothing Says Play With Me Like Stuffed Toads & Alligator Heads

22 Feb

F.A.O. Schwarz

F.A.O. Schwarz is a famous toy store in New York City — the epitome of a toy store straight out of a Christmas movie.  For grown ups and kids alike, F.A.O. Schwarz has become a must see tourist destination. Despite numerous visits to this store, the amount and quality of toys always amaze me. Inside F.A.O. Schwarz one can find candy shops, a make your own ceramic shop, a Muppet Puppet building workshop, and design your own Barbie computers.

F.A.O. is definitely not a place my family could have afforded to shop when I was a kid.

As I visited the different “departments” I came upon a nauseatingly familiar sight — Evolution from How Should We Define Evolution?

Evolution @ F.A.O. Schwarz

It took me a minute to:
a. Realize this was the same Evolution
and
b. Attempt to understand why they have a small scale shop inside the toy store.
                                                       
This seems to be a “science-y” section where kids can buy insects, model dinosaurs, stuffed toads for $49, and real alligator heads for $29 or $39.

20130203_130222

‘Cause you know nothing says play with me like stuffed toads for sale at a toy store.

Becoming a Bilingual Teacher

19 Feb

The summer after college graduation I interned for a hotel workers union in Los Angeles, Calif. Working with the union completely swept me off my feet. I fell in love with the passion, determination, and strength of the workers, the majority being Latina/o immigrants. I couldn’t believe how the fight to unionize could give someone so much courage; enough courage to walk into management’s office making demands and expecting change. A year after that summer I moved to New York City.

Moving to New York City only became a reality because I was admitted to a program to teach bilingual education, an area I would probably not have been able to teach in California thanks to the English Only movement.

As I began my first year of teaching, I did what I always do — over analyzed. I thought about the parents and families who risk their lives crossing deserts, rivers,  and/or oceans to reach the United States; the mythological dreamland of opportunity, freedom, equality, and respect. The “American myth” created by loved ones who preceded them and shared stories about their new lives in dollars, and by the media, like the magazine my mother once saw which led her to envision the United States as a land without trees but rather solely covered with concrete and tall buildings. She was disappointed to find San Fernando Valley green and lined with trees.

Despite the fact the United States has a free education system and federal aid for college, I thought about and questioned the entire system and how it shapes the experiences of people living in the United States.  A system that denies federal assistance to undocumented students and has many students going to college full time and simultaneously working full time to pay for school. Students who often have to turn down admissions to top colleges because attending a local school will be more affordable. The children of immigrants, whether first generation US born or recently arrived who are placed in English immersion programs which impose teaching and learning in English and fail to acknowledge the knowledge they bring with them. Other children are placed in so called “bilingual” programs that break legally binding mandates by demanding bilingual teachers not teach in Spanish thanks to the No Child Left Behind Act and its impact on accountability which resulted in the adoption of English Language Arts and other standardized tests from the 3rd grade on.

I became a bilingual teacher to empower my students. Witnessing the transformation of unionized workers gave me hope in the future of our society; the young minds and hearts eager to learn; children of parents who left everything behind to give their children a better opportunity; and the possibility to agitate, educate, and organize communities.  

I became a bilingual teacher to contribute to the struggle of fighting a system that aims to weed out students of color in order to maintain the status quo. A system that will claim a lack of parental involvement, an inherent violent nature or the need to procreate are reasons the Latina/o community doesn’t succeed in a country that gives them “free education”.

Free does not equate fair, dignified or just.

McDonalds to Catholics: Eat Me

13 Feb

Many Catholics have embarked on a 40 day journey of vegetarianism, pescatarianism or “meatless” Fridays.

Growing up in a somewhat Catholic family and community, this time of year brings back memories of family and friends gathering around “seafood” dishes such as ceviche, caldo de camaron, and cocteles.

For people who observe Lent, eating meat on Fridays is no bueno and some “hardcore” Catholics give up meat completely. However, fish is sometimes an exception to the no meat rule. One mainstream definition of vegetarianism can be pretty loose— wrongly labeling pescatarians (consumers of ocean animals) as vegetarians.

Unsurprisingly, Mickey Ds is capitalizing on this religious observance by selling chopped up fish remains for only $1! What a bargain! Eating dead Alaskan pollock aka Fish McBites is definitely the best way to observe Lent.