Blog : Posts tagged with 'vegetarian'

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Symposium

In which DIY is the only way


It had been a while since I’d been to London. We stumbled out of bed early to get to the Zine Symposium, to give us time to get to the station and get the first London train of a Bank Holiday Sunday. The guard didn’t bother to unlock the whole train; he unlocked one door and stood by it, so he could manage the queuing passengers and let us wander along the inside to find our seats.

It didn’t take long to get there; none of the “Bank Holiday Travel Chaos!” that the media loves. We nipped across to the Underground platforms,* before trundling across town to Spitalfields, where the symposium was being held. Beforehand, we explored a bit of the area, from the fashionable and gentrified Old Spitalfields Market to the more traditional junk stalls at the north end of Brick Lane. We squeezed through the Sunday market crowds, as a couple of construction workers looked down on us from atop the bare concrete of the new railway bridge there.

The Zine Symposium was, when we found it, even more crowded than the market had been, a crowd of independent-minded people squeezing between stalls and studying what was on offer. We rather liked the sound of one of the symposium talks, on the problems of running zine libraries; unfortunately, it seemed to be the weekend for promising-but-disappointing discussions. There was little on the distinctive and problematic aspects of zine libraries, like archival, conservation or cataloguing; and it was dominated by a chap called Chris from the 56a Infoshop, who had originally been planning to talk about a different topic, and largely did just that. He started with an extremely narrow-minded and prescriptive view of “zine culture” and worked from there: zines must be radical, political and ephemeral, and therefore “institutions” such as public or university libraries** should be discouraged from collecting them. This is a slightly tricky position for the curator of a zine library to hold; I was left with the impression that he only approved of libraries that he could be in charge of.

On reflection, though, there was a strong link with the class hegemony of the previous day – a stronger link than “disappointment”, I mean. Chris Of 56A disapproves strongly of anybody making money from zines, of zine-writers becoming publishers, or trying to do anything resembling a career with it. Which, essentially, is an extremely aristocratic position.*** Writing is only socially acceptable, in radical/anarchist society, if you have enough time and money to be an amateur writer, because any other approach would be a betrayal of your assumed values. It’s an interesting complement to Lapdogs of the Bourgeoisie‘s “who can afford to be an art worker?” approach.

More importantly, though, Chris’s view was completely contradicted by the rest of the symposium itself, a broad range of stalls from all corners of self-publishing. Serious tracts on politics and anarchy rubbed shoulders with silly cartoons; touching memoirs next to artists’ books and prints. Much, indeed, was not too dissimilar to things we’d seen at the Bristol Artists’ Book Event a month before. I avoided the Serious Political Zines but did go for the Serious Political Vegan Cake (Lemon & Ginger Variety), which was very tasty indeed, but did in one aspect leave me slightly worried. I’m not entirely sure what the Serious Political Vegans are going to think of us submitting a dairy-heavy cake recipe to the Symposium Zine.

Full of cake, and with rather less cash on us, we escaped from the throng of zine-fans. It was a very enjoyable event, despite the politicising; and hopefully next time we go back we’ll have things to sell ourselves. We disappeared away down Brick Lane, and went off to explore some more of London.

* of the former Bishop’s Road station, Underground fact lovers

** even somewhere like The Women’s Library, which I would have thought sufficiently radical, but which Chris specifically mentioned as being tainted by institutionality. I wondered if he had a specific gripe.

*** Compare with pre-revolutionary France, where it was perfectly acceptable for aristocrats to have craftsman-like hobbies. Louis XVI’s favourite hobby apart from hunting, for example, was locksmithing. If any aristocrats actually needed to make money from crafts or trade, though, they might suffer the penalty of dérogeance, or, being stripped of their title and status.

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More Sheese, Vicar?

In which a correspondent is nauseated


Regular readers might remember that a few days back, in a rant about vegan food, I mentioned a vegan cheese substitute product I came across called “Sheese”, a kind of oil-water-soya paste packed to the gunnels with artificial flavouring to make it vaguely cheeselike.

Well, since I wrote that, I’ve had an email from someone I know in Glasgow, who, coincidentally, has encountered some of the ingredients that go into the stuff. They came into contact with one of their “brown cardboard barrows”, in which the “flavouring” mentioned in the ingredients list arrives at the factory. Their advice: avoid it.

Because the manufacturers, Bute Island Foods, are on an island,* they can’t get their supplies delivered straight to their factory, and have to pick it up from a Glasgow warehouse, where my source was visiting and happened to bump into it And it is, on their account, foul. It comes, I’m told, in sealed barrows, but despite the seal they smell so awful that my source couldn’t bear to be near them; they made him/her gag and want to throw up.

They said:

It’s like cheese powder that you buy in a packet to make cheese sauce, but I swear the smell was awful and the barrows were sealed. Honestly, I can’t even begin to tell you how bad the smell was.

So, there you go. Me, I’m going to stay eating real, low-on-the-additives food – and that includes real milk and real cheese, never mind how much “cow torture” I’m told it causes.

* well, obviously…

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Vegetarian

In which we disbelieve vegan propaganda, and try food made of additives and nothing else


At the weekend: off we went to a vegetarian food event we’d seen advertised in The Spark, put on by vegan campaigning organisation Viva!. We were expecting it to be slightly biased, obviously, but even so the strength of the propaganda they gave was slightly surprising. They claim, according to a poster we saw there, that their “veggie roadshows” have saved the lives of 100 million animals so far,* which sounds like, well, a rather large number. They claim that one person converting to the veganist religion will save “around 11,047 animals”. I love that figure, and, particularly, the “around” part. Around. A rough estimate: it might only be 11,046-and-a-half animal lives, or you might do well and manage a whole 11,047-and-an-eighth! Going by these numbers, that means they think they’ve converted 9,052** people to veganism – or about 650 a year, on average, since they started out. How they count those 11,000 – sorry, roughly 11,047 – animals, I’m not entirely sure. Do animals who will now not be born count as lives saved? Will all those 11,047 (roughly) animals live out their natural lives in some happy, predator-free elysium? Forever cute, as their propaganda posters show? Who knows?

Anyway, we did have a poke round the stalls giving out samples of vegan food from various suppliers,*** and even tried a couple.**** K sampled some vegan “milk” chocolate – “ok, but like that cheap shit you get in advent calenders,” she said. Which is seasonal, at least. Moreover, we both tried “Sheese”, a vegan cheese substitute made on Bute. The one we tried was “Creamy Sheese”, a rather sweet gloop made from water, vegetable oil, soya concentrate, salt, lactic acid, sugar, “flavouring”, and carrageenan gum.***** In other words, not very much. It tasted rather like sweetened processed cheese spread. Looking at the ingredients, that’s not too surprising, because it has a lot of the sort of thickener and flavouring that you get in cheap processed cheese spread. It explains, too, why the non-dairy “milk” chocolate tasted like cheap confectionery milk chocolate: because we recognise the additive taste.

We try to eat healthily, so we thought the Viva event might be interesting to us. Frankly, though, they’re not about eating healthily, at all. They’re not too concerned about the environment either, or about fair trading;****** their main care is saving all the cute fluffy animals. It’s easy: just take out all the meat, milk, and eggs from your diet, and replace it with Brazilian soya and additive-enhanced, flavouring-enhanced artificial food. Personally, I’d rather eat real food, genuinely additive-free food, simple local ingredients grown in ways that respect the land. That’s the way to eat healthily, and that’s the way to help the environment. We don’t eat much meat; but we do try to stick to organic meat. It might have looked cute before it was killed and butchered, but I’d rather eat a pig from five miles away, or cheese similarly, than soya that was grown on the site of a tropical jungle and flown over to a British factory to be turned into something resembling food.

* I know it sounds like a preposterously large figure, but I’m sure that’s what it said. I can’t find the same claim on their website anywhere, though.

** or 9052.2314 to be precise. Don’t forget that .2314 of somebody!

*** and Lush cosmetics, who you’d think were well-enough known already. Some of their stuff does look almost like you could eat it, I guess.

**** not that it was the best place to try food samples, what with the smell of the Lush stall overpowering everything else in the building. Although, K does say, that was probably a good thing.

***** The ingredients list is copied from their website, which stresses that the water is filtered and the lactic acid from non-dairy sources, but doesn’t give any more detail than “flavouring” for the artificial flavourings. It has slightly less energy and fat than genuine cream cheese, but is roughly comparable. By comparison, the Sainsburys organic cream cheese in our fridge doesn’t actually have an ingredients list, apart from “Contains cow’s milk”.

****** to be fair, the stall with the vegan chocolate products did have a lot of organic, fair-trade produce; but it didn’t seem to be a major concern for any of the other stands. And we did pick up two useful things: a list of local healthy food suppliers, and a menu for the oriental restaurant in the Tobacco Factory building!

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