one girl’s perspective on life, neopaganism, veganism, politics, books, films, and… stuff.

I’m working on expanding my blog again, as it had largely descended into collections of photographs and little else. Hence the more diverse and wordy posts!

Today I’m going to show you, step by step, how to prepare tofu for maximum flavour and texture. A lot of people have had bad experiences with watery, gross tofu, because success largely rests on preparatory steps that most people don’t know about. Here they are:

What you will need:

  • Tofu – generally, you want to use firm/extra firm tofu. Silken tofu is mostly used for baking and making desserts. Recipes will generally specify what type you need: this tutorial looks at how to prepare firm tofu.
  • Paper towels, at least 4 sheets (I always recommend 100% recycled)
  • Two plates (smaller is generally easier, but use what you have)
  • A handtowel or other rag for absorbing any excess liquid
  • Something heavy and regular shaped for pressing; the Oxford English Dictionary works a treat (I used a box of breadmix for this example)

Preparing tofu 1

1. Put down a towel on the bench to catch stray water (I used a dirty tea towel then throw it in the wash). Lay down two sheets of paper towel on the bottom plate.

Preparing tofu 2

2. Remove tofu from package, drain thoroughly, and place on the paper towel covered plate.

Preparing tofu 3

3. Place two more paper towels over the top of the tofu.

Preparing tofu 4

4. Place the second plate on top, making sure it’s centred.

Preparing tofu 5

5. Place the heavy object on top of the top plate, making sure the stack is stable.

Preparing tofu 6
(Sorry about the blurry picture!)

6. Leave the tofu to press for up to 4 hours, then slice it as desired. And don’t forget that paper towels are recyclable!

If you’re making a stir fry or something similar I highly recommend putting the drained and diced tofu in a container and covering it with the sauce you’re going to use. Leave it to marinate for up to 48 hrs, and the tofu will absorb more of the sauce, now that the water has been squeezed out!

Any comments or questions? Was this helpful or the same old same old?

Working in retail is, as a general rule, a nightmare. There seems to be a prevailing attitude that people who work in retail, especially at supermarkets and fast food joints, aren’t actually people – so it’s perfectly acceptable to treat them like shit.

And sometimes you get those “extra special” customers who are just completely irrational and aggressive, and enjoy taking their pathology out on other people. These are some of those stories.

The Chilli

This is one of the many tales of retardation surrounding one particular customer, whom I want to shove under a bus. She purchased a birdseye chilli for $0.30, then wanted to return it and get a refund. Due to our fantastically stupid return policy, we did so. However, when doing the refund it became apparent that the woman had actually been undercharged by $0.15; the cashier informed her of this, at which point she demanded a refund AND the chilli, because it’s a “scanning error.” She got her $0.30 back, and further ensured that everyone in the store hates her that little bit more.

The Capsicum

Another incident involving the above woman (there are so very, very many to choose from). She brought in a capsicum that had been cut in half, and had developed mould on the open half; she demanded a refund, and a free replacement. When I asked to see her receipt, I noted that she had bought the capsicum OVER A WEEK AGO. By the placement of the mould, it had started to develop after she had cut it open, and probably stored it improperly because she’s an idiot. Management acceded to her demands and gave her a refund and a replacement capsicum. The only victory against stupidity was making her take a capsicum that weighed more or less exactly the same as the one she originally purchased – which I did when she tried to get one twice the size of the original.

Price Check

We suck pretty badly at having price tags up for everything, which often makes people irate. This woman went beyond irate and hit “what the fuck is wrong with you” within two sentences.

Her: (Loudly and angrily) HOW much are these potatoes??
Me: I’ll just double check these price tags, sometimes things get moved around.
Her: I already looked, there’s no price tag, AS USUAL. I buy these potatoes ALL THE TIME and they NEVER have a price tag on them. (If you buy them all the time, how do you not know their price?)
Me: Sorry about that, I’ll just scan them and check the price … they’re $7.
Her: Are they SEVEN dollars, or are they SIX NINETY EIGHT???
Me: … $6.98.
And then I left to take a deep breath and count to ten out the back.

Fish I Didn’t Want Anyway

While I was putting out sausages in the fridge, and a woman comes up to the fridge, looks at the fish section and angrily declares “Oh for God’s sake, there are no basa fillets AS USUAL.” Note that she declared it to the air, because fuckwit customers really enjoy making loud, angry comments to “no one in particular” while standing really close to an employee. Most of the time I just ignore them, because if they can’t be arsed acknowledging that I’m a person by actually addressing me, fuck them.

Then she turns to me and spits “Why don’t you ever have these in?” When I offer to go have a look out the back and double-check that we don’t have any in stock, she informs me “No, I don’t want any today anyway. You just NEVER have them in.

I Buy It, Therefore It’s Incredibly Popular

A woman at the cigarette counter wanted a pouch of Holiday loose tobacco. I didn’t know Holiday even made a loose tobacco, and I’m pretty damn familiar with cigarette products. I had a look, and we didn’t have any, and there was no tag to indicate that we stocked it.

When I informed the woman of that, she blew her stack and starting ranting about how we never have any in stock – to which I tried to explain that there is no tag for it, which means we probably don’t stock it anymore (if we ever did, but I omitted that comment).

She then demanded to know “Why have you stopped stocking it, when it’s the most popular tobacco there is??” I managed to refrain from commenting that a) no, it’s not, and b) I didn’t personally make the decision not to stock your goddamn brand of tobacco. Instead I went with a non-committal “I don’t know, sorry, they do all kinds of weird things with our tobacco lines.”

But, of course, she wasn’t done acting like a tool yet, and started telling me how “she’ll NEVER shop here AGAIN,” to which I responded… “Fair enough, you have a good day.” And walked away.

Is it any wonder I absolutely despise the human race? Stay tuned for more tales of Crazy Customers, because Gods know every day presents me with more material. And rage. Raaaaaaaaaaaage.

The more I learn about the world of food production, corporate supermarket operations, and the environmental implications of modern lifestyle, the more thought I have to put into my shopping. The maxim about “voting with your dollar” is largely true, and there are a lot of factors to take into consideration. That being said, it doesn’t need to be difficult, and we all choose which factors most strongly influence our buying.

One of the biggest factors, which I don’t discuss below, is having the income to be able to make ethical shopping purchases. I am on a pretty damn low income, but I have made buying quality (and conscionable) food/products a priority. I don’t buy much (other than books, second-hand mostly), I don’t “eat out”, buy new clothes, etc. To me it’s worth saving my pennies elsewhere in order to eat well!

As a side note, I am surprisingly lucky in terms of access to local (and often organically) grown produce, and local businesses to support. For a small country town, the access to ethically sourced foods is amazing. Not to mention said local produce is usually MUCH CHEAPER than the produce available in the supermarkets!

Now we’ve gotten the preamble out of the way, here is a brief guide to the things I consider when buying a product.

  1. Where am I buying it? Especially with products in the major supermarkets, I always ask “Can I get this from a local business instead?”
  2. Is it vegan? Any animal ingredients (including E numbers)? Is it tested on animals?
      Animal-derived (i.e. non-vegan) E numbers:

    • 120 Carmine
    • 441 Gelatine
    • 542 Bone Phosphate
    • 631 Glutamic Acid
    • 901 Beeswax
    • 910, 920, 921 L-cysteine
    • 913 Lanolin
    • 966 Lactitol
  3. Is it Australian made? Check for products made from LOCAL ingredients only, not a mixture of local and imported.
  4. Is the manufacturer Australian? Even if the ingredients come from Australia, the parent company itself may be a multinational/international corporation. So it’s always worth checking.
  5. Does the manufacturer have a “black” listing? Has the company been accused of any unethical practices, code violations, human rights violations, etc.?

    As a quick guide, the 6 major companies you should boycott on this basis are;

    • Nestlé (aggressively marketed infant formula in developing countries; dependency on these products leads to infant deaths, workers’ rights, pollution)
    • Coca-Cola (murders, kidnappings and torture of union leaders in Colombia, pollution of soil/groundwater in India)
    • L’Oréal / Procter & Gamble (ongoing involvement in animal testing, with no interest in stopping; L’Oréal is also part-owned by Nestlé)
    • GlaxoSmithKline (animal testing, adulterated drugs, $3b fine for fraud)
    • Unilever (animal testing, BPA policy, price fixing, worker exploitation in Kenya and India)
    • Johnson & Johnson (animal testing, unethical marketing, price fixing, action on Darfur)
  6. How many ingredients? Is it mostly whole foods, is the ingredients list a mile long, how many artificial ingredients are there? I try and avoid unnecessary processing where possible.

    For example, quick oats have one ingredient, oats. Pre-flavoured quick oats often have up to FIFTEEN ingredients, even for flavours as simple as “brown sugar”. I’d rather just add some brown sugar to the oats myself; with soy milk that’s a total of 3 ingredients!

  7. How much packaging is involved? Can I get a version with less packaging? Is the packaging recyclable?

    I buy my cat tuna in tins for this reason; the individual sachet pouches aren’t recyclable, but tins are!

When buying produce there are a few extra considerations;

  1. Can I get this locally? A lot of farmers are happy to sell the produce that supermarkets reject because it’s not “perfect”, with the bonus of it being fresh (and did you know those rough brown spots on the skins of apples usually indicate a sweeter apple?). It’s worth hunting around to find out if you have this option.

    Obviously, if you live in a city (you poor thing!), this isn’t very practical; I’d suggest trying to find produce that comes from within your own state, if possible. The aim of the game is to select produce with the lowest food miles; there’s also nothing like fresh produce!

  2. Should I buy organic? This is a tricky one; as a general rule, I first consider whether the item is one of the “Dirty Dozen” or the “Clean Fifteen”. These are general guides indicating which foods are grown using the greatest amount of pesticides and petro-chemicals. They are:

      Dirty Dozen (buy these organic where possible)

    • Apples
    • Capsicums
    • Blueberries
    • Celery
    • Cucumbers
    • Grapes
    • Lettuce
    • Nectarines
    • Peaches
    • Potatoes
    • Spinach (and kale and other greens)
    • Strawberries
      Clean Fifteen (minimal pesticides used in production)

    • Asparagus
    • Avocado
    • Cabbage
    • Cantaloupe
    • Corn
    • Eggplant
    • Grapefruit
    • Kiwi fruit
    • Mangoes
    • Mushrooms
    • Onions
    • Pineapples
    • Sweet peas
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Watermelon

So there you have it, a (reasonably) short and sweet guide to ethical shopping considerations! Now, this is a lot to remember, especially when you’re busy grocery shopping. I use several reference materials, in handy pocket form, that ensure I can look all this stuff up on the fly. They are;

  1. The “Shop Ethical” guide, a new pocket-sized guide book that I am absolutely NUTS about! It provides you with information about products and companies, including animal products/testing, human rights violations, companies accused of ethical violations, the country of origin of companies, and a very useful guide to what is Australian owned/made. (And it’s only $9! I actually have two of these, one for each of my bags, so I’m never without!)
  2. A list of animal derived E numbers; I have written the above list out on a post-it and taped it to the back of the Shop Ethical guide.

  3. “The Chemical Maze”, which comes in a bookshelf or pocket size, and gives you a complete list of all E numbers and common chemicals in cleaning and costmetic products. It tells you what they’re derived from, what their function is, whether there are any health/safety issues associated with the chemical, and common uses.

As always, questions and comments are more than welcome!

Another Year, Another Post

Well here we are again, at the beginning of the year… the secular/calendar year, anyway. I’ve always felt that it’s a very arbitrary marker of time, when the seasons flow endlessly into one another – wouldn’t it make more sense to go back to counting things by summers? I’ve now lived 25 summers. After all, clocks are a tool of the capitalist machine, used to control the proletariat!

It’s lonely being a vegan-feminist-left-wing-intellectual in rural Australia this world.

Not to mention being a vegan locovore (as much as possible) who is concerned with sustainable business and farming practices, not to mention human and animal rights, who has been forced by circumstance to work for one of the multinational grocery chains.

It’s about as soul crushing as you might imagine…

Every time I see one of their propaganda pieces about how they “treat and pay farmers well” or are concerned with “sustainable” food production I want to scream. It’s all goddamn lies, and people buy into it hook, line and sinker.

I’ve been doing more and more reading regarding the “hidden” costs and horrors implicit in a supermarket-driven food economy, and it’s some scary shit. Having eliminated animal suffering from my diet/life, I am now working towards ensuring humans don’t suffer either. From a self-confessed misanthropist extremis, this may seem surprising, but we can hardly expect society at large to treat non-human animals with respect when they’re still exploiting their own species.

I consider these two essential reading when it comes to understanding how the modern human “food chain” really works:

Not On the Label, Felicity Lawrence

The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan

Especially for those of you in Australia, I also highly recommend;

Eating Between The Lines: Food and Equality in Australia, Rebecca Huntley

Eating Between the Lines is a fascinating look at how economic, geographical and gender factors all influence how/what people buy, prepare, eat and generally interact with, food. The analysis of gender roles relating to food was a thought provoking examination that appears to be rarely mentioned in most literature dealing with food-human interaction.

See, I really wish I had someone in person with whom to discuss these ideas. Or any ideas, really. Anything but banal fucking melodrama and offspring (the spawn of human breeders, not the band). Basically, I just want a clone of myself, so we could discuss books, ideas, films, comics… sigh.

The long and short of it is, as I mentioned in my previous post, I don’t much feel like talking with most people. The conversation isn’t anything particularly important or interesting, so why bother? Not to mention, the older I get, the less I want other people involved in, or knowing about, my affairs. It inevitably leads to drama!

So I’m going to attempt to update here more often, and use it as something of an intellectual outlet, when I’m not too braindead and exhausted from working shitty shift hours. I have to turn my brain off at work in order to survive my job, now I have to get back into the habit of turning it back on afterwards.

There will probably be more book/film reviews and somewhat less baking – my oven is unreliable at best, and a complete bitch at worst. It’s about 50 years old, electric and very, very variable in temperature. So it’s somewhat taken the joy out of baking, because I’m constantly stressing about getting cooking times right and not burning things. Ugh. I do still bake, but largely unimaginative things – I’m rarely game to risk trying a new recipe when there are good odds my oven will fuck it up…

Thank the Gods for my cat, whom I love so dearly. And monkeybars.

We're All Mad Here

Wow, it sure has been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve been keeping busy with all manner of things, many of which I have photographed. But, to be honest, I haven’t felt much like communicating with anyone, in real life or online. On the whole, I’m burned out on humans in general.

That being said, my little big man is the light of my life, not to mention the love of it! So, I figure it’s fitting that my attempt to re-invigorate this blog begins with a post about my cat;

Yawny kitty

Remy Le Beau
AKA Gambit
AKA Prince Snugglytoes, Spaz Captain, Cuddlebutt

Gambit mirror

How we met:
My neighbour took in a pregnant stray, who then had Gambit. I started playing with him when he was about 5 weeks old, and we both soon fell in love. He gradually came to spend more and more time with me, and I formally adopted him when he was about 4 months old. He’s now a little over a year – his birthday is three days after mine!

Stretchy sleepies

His hobbies and favourite things:
- Shadowcat (see below); wrestling and cuddling with her
- BELLY RUBS! Cannot emphasise this enough – the standing record is 45 straight minutes of belly rubs before my hand cramped. He was still totally into it; he kneads me as hard as he can, drools, and gets this hilarious look on his face. Unfortunately I don’t have a hand free to take a picture
- Eating flies. Whether he catches them, or I swat them, he looooves crunching them

Gambit and Shadowcat

His bestest friend:
I have a semi-second cat; I have dubbed her Shadowcat, AKA Kitty Pride. Her and Gambit are the BEST FRIENDS EVER. They like to spend all day together, sleep together, and are generally inseparable. Her owners don’t take great care of her, and she was living with me for several months until recently.

The Demon Kitty

She recently got knocked up by a stray, and had her kittens under my bed! She proudly picked one up and dropped it in my lap, showing off. Too cute. At the moment she’s back living with her actual owners while she cares for the kittens, then we’ll see. She’s a cranky, adorable tiny thing, who has a penchant for sleeping on my head while purring like a motorboat.

Zombie kitteh eats brains

Gambit misses her sleeping in here; for the first week he was constantly getting up, making me open the door so he could call out for her, as he does whenever she hasn’t come in yet. Poor little man. And she keeps trying to stay in my house, crying and bolting back in when I put her out. Poor little girl.

Gambit and Shadowcat, ying and yang

Every day is a delightful adventure when you share it with a cat (or two)!

Hallo all, welcome to the latest belated update from the laziest blogger in town! I actually painted these quite some time ago, but somehow forgot to photograph them. The mandala patterns in the centre come from a copyright-free book of designs, and the process of drawing/painting them is extremely meditative in itself.

The phrase om mani padme hum is probably the most popular Buddhist chant used for meditation. The actual meaning of the phrase is complicated and multi-faceted, so I will refer you to this website for its meaning.

All together now:

Om Mani Padme Hum

Om

Om

Ma

Ma

Ni

Ni

Padme

Padme

Hum

Hum

Stay tuned for my series of chakra paintings!

Vegan Bento #53

Welcome to the latest lunch post!

Vegan Bento 53

Top Left: homemade half-raw hommus with carrot cutout.

Top Right: carrot sticks and flowers, tomato from dad’s garden.

Bottom Left: Pigs in mud! Homemade iced brownie surrounded by sultanas, dried pineapple, apple rings and blueberries (yellow cup).

Bottom Right: Seaweed rice crackers with Sheese chunks, dry roasted garlic chickpeas (yellow cup), pistachios (pink cup).

I was very pleased with my pigs in mud, pigs being one of the most beautiful species on the planet. And they’re such cuties!

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