Meat- Free Monday: ¬†Eating Out Vegan Style

So I’ve had some experience eating out now as a vegan, and it has honestly been a mixed bag.

Whoever said eating out as a vegan was cheaper must have been eating expensive places as an omnivore. I  haven’t found it to be true.

Fast food is right out.

Small towns present very limited options for vegan dining, but you can sometimes get them to make exceptions. 

Our local pizza buffet, Deb’s, takes requests from customers, as many buffets do. So I asked them if they could make a veggie pizza with no cheese.  They did, and it was delicious. I know: I ate the whole thing.

Fast fresh places like Qdoba are pretty easy, and good. Even Subway has vegan options, but as my father said, their veggie delight is all veggie, no delight. I think it’s better than being hungry, but that’s as far as I’ll go to praise it.

Chain delis  like Newk’s can offer good options. Newk’s veggie club is amazing, with Portobello mushrooms, red and yellow peppers, and crusty  bread. Just hold the cheese and pesto and you’re golden.

Sushi is easy, since it is all handmade, and many Japanese restaurant menus have multiple vegan options built in. It was fun having so many options I actually had to CHOOSE. 

Italian restaurants, even big box chains like Olive Garden, are easy. The menu will have several easily- altered starting points, and they often are on the cheaper side.

Chinese buffets usually have a few veggies, plus lo mein. Many have hibachi or “Mongolian grills”  whet you can build you own stir fry as part of the buffet.

Hey, I live in rural Mississippi. Did you expect a review of five star,  $200 a plate restaurants? :) 

I tell you what, when I eat at one, I’ll tell you all about it.

Audio-Visual Comfort Food

There is something comforting about going back to the old familiar.
Walking among the trees you climbed as a child
Holding a favorite childhood stuffed animal
Smelling a blanket or quilt your grandmother made
Tasting a favorite food from long ago

And so it is no wonder that so much of what we watch is old
Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, Sherlock, Elementary
Ghostbusters, Ninja Turtles, and Superheroes by the score
Jane Austin remade, remixed, even reimagined with zombies
Ponies and Transformers and Jedi, oh my!

This is an appalling display of unoriginality
This is also what we want. It’s what I want.
I don’t want the stories I grew up with to lie in their graves
Even if some of them were so bad that’s all they deserve
Even if their remakes are nothing short of abysmal.
Would I rather have Zach Snyder’s Randian pukestorm,
Or have Superman be forgotten?
If those are my choices, I’d rather see the red S fly.
Even if I don’t bother seeing the movie
Of course, I’d rather the remake be good.

Jane Austen fans usually get their wish on that front
Not just quality film adaptations
But expansions and reimaginings
Austenland, Lost in Austen, Death Comes to Pemberly
Even Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
But their day is coming, too
Just wait til they unleash Michael Bay on the Austenverse
Then they’ll know how the rest of us feel:
Persuasion will be the name of the gun
Emma uses to blow up Mansfield Park
Okay, maybe Dannie’s right.
Maybe these are “horrific money-grabs”
A lot of them are definitely “weaksauce storytelling”
And maybe I’ll never see good versions of my childhood favorites
On the big screen.
But we 80’s kids can hope, can’t we?

 

Ruining My Childhood! Updating White Male “Franchises,” Part 3

Friday’s post about updating all-white, all-male franchises left one major, legitimate question unaddressed:

Why change existing franchises? Why not just make some new characters?

The answer is pretty simple:

These are the cornerstones of our popular culture, and right now they are all white or all male or both.

Think about it: Superman, The Avengers, James Bond, Doctor Who, Star Wars, and many others are white male territory. To be sure, there are exceptions, but they tend to either be niche products or come from the mind and estate of Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek, Andromeda, etc.).

Any new, diverse properties will be competing against these titans for a spot in the pop cultural pantheon.

And we’ve seen how that turns out for the “comic girls.” They’re seen as lesser, also-ran versions or sidekicks. As good as the new Supergirl tv series is, there’s no question that she’s a knock-off of Superman. And Batgirl is in many ways a sidekick character, at least in mass media (comics, alas, are no longer truly “mass” in the sense that tv and movies are).

And look at She-Hulk, as awesome a character as she is (civil rights lawyer, cosmopolitan fun-loving single woman, Avenger, Fantastic Four member, and fourth-wall breaker long before Deadpool was a twinkle in Deathstroke’s eye patch). She’s never seen on tv or movies, and on the rare occasion she ends up in so much as a cartoon, she gets demoted to a disgruntled “living greenscreen” stunt double.

But if the baton is passed in some way in a major mass media production, the popular culture is changed to better reflect the reality of the world it both represents and influences.

Star Wars: the Force Awakens added a new generation of leads: Rey, a woman, Poe, a Latino man, and Finn, a black man. It expanded the franchise, and certainly served as a refreshing counterpart to the tin-eared racism of the prequels.

For ensembles or teams like the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Avengers, this is easy. As the original (white, male) actors rotate off, bring a more diverse group of characters to the forefront. Marvel’s already starting to do this, with Black Panther and Captain Marvel movies already in various stages of pre-production, and with the addition of Scarlet Witch and Black Panther to the cast of Captain America: Civil War.

James Bond replaces its lead actor every decade or so anyway. Give Idris Elba a turn and see how it goes. If you want someone younger, try¬† It can’t be worse than the last half of Pierce Brosnan’s run.

Doctor Who has the same situation, with the Doctor’s regenerations. It’s easy enough to cast a woman, and/or a person of color.It isn’t hard to do. Some franchises are already doing it. It just requires the will to make it happen. And maybe if enough of us ask, it will start to happen. It’s already starting. The momentum might be unstoppable. I surely hope it is.Or we could just watch another 10,000 shows about white male antiheroes. Blech.

Old Friends with New Faces. Updating White Male “Franchises,” Part 2

A lot of people are floating the idea of Idris Elba being offered the job as the new James Bond (including current James Bond, Daniel Craig), though it appears at this moment that Tom Hiddleston is the first pick.

I think it could be a good idea. Sure, James Bond is a white guy, so far. A lot of the legacy characters, the franchise characters, are white men because when they were created 50+ years ago, that’s who the heroes/protagonists were.

These franchises have formed the bedrock of our popular culture for three generations. Nothing created today will have that kind of reach anytime soon. That takes time to build.

We get into the same thing with Doctor Who and most of the superhero franchises. Heck, even most of the Transformers are “male” (male voices and male-ish builds).

I think there’s a lot of room for adjusting some of the ongoing franchises so they don’t blindly stick to the mores of our grandparents’ and great grandparents’ generations.

I’m not saying you have to make Superman black, but when you decide to make a Green Lantern movie, think about John Stewart instead of Hal Jordan (it couldn’t be worse than the Green Lantern movie we got a few years back).

It means building a Justice League movie franchise that includes Wonder Woman, Cyborg (a black man), and Aquaman as portrayed by Jason Momoa (who is of Native Hawaiian descent). DC is getting that right, and doing it earlier than Marvel.

When Robert Downey Junior leaves the Marvel movies, put more focus on Rhodes (Iron Patriot/War Machine), or better yet, Riri Williams.

Why not cast Idris Elba as James Bond? He can still be native-born Scottish. He can still do all the Bond things. Let’s face it, the previous guys who’ve played Bond are all radically different from each other. Nobody would think of Connery and Dalton and Brosnan as the same person. And besides, Idris Elba is an outstanding actor with more than enough gravitas, charisma, and intensity for the role.

And if you don’t want to cast him as Bond, how about making him a future regeneration of the Doctor? I know, Stephen Moffatt has said he wants a female Doctor, but I personally think he write female characters poorly, especially compared to Russell T. Davies (previous Doctor Who showrunner). I’d rather wait for a Doctor Who showrunner who’s proven he can handle female characters well before we have a female Doctor.

There’s a lot that can be done, and is being done. But there are a lot of missed opportunities, as well.

 

Recipe: Ma Hubbard’s Quick & Simple Garlicky Artichokes & Cauliflower

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My wife wasn’t feeling good Sunday afternoon, so I decided to make supper. I went to the refrigerator, then to the freezer, and then to the pantry. I was starting to feel a little like old mother Hubbard.

We hadn’t made our big, out of town grocery run in a couple of weeks, so the ingredients I’d instinctively reach for weren’t there. But the cubbard wasn’t bare. I found (among other things) frozen cauliflower, a jar of grilled & marinated artichoke hearts, some quinoa, and our usual seasonings. So I fired up the stove top and went for it.

This time, it actually turned out well. So, now, I present, “Ma Hubbard’s Quick & Simple Garlicky Artichokes & Cauliflower.”

You’ll need:

  • Artichoke Hearts (I used Terra Verde Grilled & Marinated, maybe 1/5th of a jar)
  • Cauliflower (I used frozen, a one-pound bag)
  • Garlic (I used bottled minced garlic, about 2 tablespoons)
  • Tomato sauce (I used a small can we had in our pantry, about 5 ounces)

Optional Ingredients:

  • Oregano to taste
  • Basil to taste
  • Sugar/Splenda/Stevia to taste

Instructions

  1. Cook your cauliflower until it is not quite done. I prefer to steam it in a microwave-safe steaming dish.
  2. Heat a non-stick skillet (or spray a regular skillet with non-stick spray) and add artichoke hearts, cauliflower, tomato sauce, and garlic.
  3. At this point, add any optional ingredients
  4. Stir everything together on medium heat until the artichoke hearts are broken up and everything is coated in the garlic and tomato sauce.
  5. Simmer on low heat until the tomato sauce has thickened down and is no longer liquid. This shouldn’t take long.

This is a savory, garlicky dish that can be too pungent for some people’s tastes. My wife likes it better with basil and sweetener. Either way, it tastes good paired with quinoa. You could also pair it with couscous, pasta, or rice, or just eat it straight out of the pan.

Enjoy!

Meat-Free Monday: Simpler Food

(Video warning: harsh language)

Well, one good thing about going vegan, is that I am immune from the worst of it: pink slime, McNuggets, whatever’s in hot dogs. I get a bit queasy thinking about how many of those I ate over the course of the last 40 years.

But I’m sure I’m still taking in a lot of frankenfood. I never knew that about orange juice.

So I’m working to make some gradual changes in a more “whole foodsy” direction.

  • Eating oatmeal for breakfast more often
  • (As opposed to peanut butter and bagels, or prepared cereals)
  • Topping my salads with homemade vinegar dressings, not pre-bottled one
  • Eating even more raw fruits and vegetables than I do now
  • Chilling and eating dates for dessert more often, instead of more processed options
  • Eventually getting a juicer and making my own juice

This will hopefully be better for me, both for long-term health and short-term digestion. My weight may even settle in a little lower, but I’m much more concerned with blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and so on.

Who Ya Gonna Call? Updating White Male “Franchises,” Part 1

 

A new Ghostbusters film opens today, and the reviews are pretty good over on Rotten Tomatoes, which only accepts reviews from people who have seen the movie.

As of yesterday, when it wasn’t available to see (aside from advance viewings for critics), it had thousands of 1 star reviews on IMDB from nerd-ragers who swore that it “ruined my childhood” … without ever seeing it …

How did it ruin their childhood? Well, the Ghostbusters are women this time around. They didn’t even re-gender the old characters. It’s just a reboot, with the same concept and general look/ideas/proton packs, with women as the ghostbusters.

I wish I could make money by bottling neckbeard bile and tears. I’d make a mint right about now.

I could bathe in it, but I’d end up dirtier than when I started. But seriously, I’m eating this up. The same whiners who tried to organize a boycott of The Force Awakens are pounding their keyboards about Ghostbusters for a few months, before they go back to slandering and death-threating Anita Sarkeesian.

But their man-child whining is all in vain. Their rage, though amplified by their keyboards, is impotent. The balance is already tipping. Ghostbusters is one more major property pushing it over the edge.

Why does this all matter? Representation.

People who aren’t white men need to see themselves in a wide variety of roles, roles with agency, roles that make things happen. Kids especially need to see people who look like them in a wide variety of non-stereotypical roles.

And they need to see them in major pop cultural properties, big ones like Star Wars, Ghostbusters, James Bond, and the various comic book movies, not just relegated to “chick flicks” or “the black sitcom.”

Oh, yeah, there’s one more reason I’d like to see more diversity in traditionally white franchises, and it’s totally selfish:

I’ve seen and read enough stories about able-bodied white male (usually violent) “heroes” to last me ten lifetimes. I’m bored. I need something fresh!

So if your Netflix list or DVR is haunted by the ghost of a monochromatic male franchise, who you gonna call?

(Yeah, I stuck with the original theme song. I tried, but I really can’t get behind the Fall Out Boy version).