Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Rising Tide of Veganism at the Jersey Shore

by Bethany Cortale

When you mention the Jersey Shore to those living outside of the Garden State, oftentimes what first comes to mind is the seedy MTV television show of the same name or the self-indulgent and out of control Real Housewives of New Jersey. But true Jersey natives know better. In fact, a crop of vegan eateries and hotspots is changing all that and bringing some positive, national recognition to the vegan community that is burgeoning along the Jersey Shore. The resilient residents who took a beating after Hurricane Sandy are proving that they’re not only Jersey Strong, but that they’re smart and compassionate, too.

A Little Place of Heaven
The small storefront in the heart of Red Bank belies the abundant and diverse menu presented by Good Karma Café. In the mood for Asian, then indulge in the Indian Plate of curried tofu, jasmine rice and chana masala with banana ginger chutney. How about something hot?  The Southwestern Seitan Bowl with brown rice and black beans incorporates guacamole, caramelized onions and spicy jalapeno aioli. In addition to salads, wraps, sandwiches and smoothies — The Elvis smoothie is a dessert in itself with bananas, chocolate syrup, peanut butter and soymilk — the cafe also boasts a raw section. And speaking of dessert, their Tiramisu is by far the best vegan version of the coffee-flavored Italian cake I have tasted. As its name implies, this vegan eatery is sure to nurture good vibes.
17 East Front St., Red Bank; 732-450-8344;

Blocks from the Beach
Work up an appetite swimming in the ocean and lying in the sun, and then head on over to Kaya’s Kitchen to feast until your heart’s (and stomach’s) content. The newly relocated and renovated restaurant aims to please with a mixture of American favorites and international fare. Dine on mainstays like the Philly cheese steak and Reuben sandwich or branch out with the Mississippi Maverick BBQ ribs and Rocky Mountain Stew. There’s also live music every Friday night and a vegan buffet all day long on Sundays. Kaya’s menu has something for everyone and goes one step further by including information on the many benefits of a vegan diet. 
1000 Main St., Belmar; 732-280-1141;

Award Winner
Whoever said you can’t get a delicious, organic, vegan meal out of a truck? Having garnered a slew of recognition from food critics and voted a 2013 Veggie award winner for favorite food truck by VegNews magazine readers, the Cinnamon Snail is taking over the streets of NY and NJ. Owner/Chef Adam Sobel opened the truck in 2010 with the intent of bringing vegan food to the masses and succeeded! With a focus on seasonal and organic, the 2012 Vendy award winner serves breakfast, spicy lunch sandwiches, and desserts like raspberry blackout donuts, made fresh daily. The truck — which assisted victims of Hurricane Sandy by handing out free meals — is on the go six days a week and can be found at the Galleria Red Bank Farmers Market on Sundays from Mother’s Day through mid-November.

High-End Dining
Sometimes you just want to dress up and go out somewhere special. When the mood strikes, Goldie’s is sure to please. The new vegan restaurant is an experience unto itself with fine linens, dazzling woodwork, and a woven ceiling. It offers an eclectic, creative menu and fills the void for cool and sophisticated vegan dining that is often so hard to find. Combined with a striking, snaking bar and inviting banquette; the enticing, plant-inspired vegan drinks menu brings new meaning to socializing after dark. Relax with friends while munching on smoked eggplant pâté with grilled ciabatta and sipping a Goldie's cocktail. This place is sure to appeal to your inner chic. 
550 Cookman Ave., Unit 101, Asbury Park; 732-774-5575;

The Shop(s) Around the Corner
Those hard to find vegan foods and toiletries are just a stone’s throw away at the local health food stores. The Healthfair Natural and Organic Market has everything under the sun, including a certified nutritionist to answer all your health related questions about food, supplements and healthy living. Close by is Dean’s Natural Food Market where vegans can feel right at home. The smoothie bar is a local hit with three non-dairy milk options, and the fresh food department serves up vegan sandwiches and soups daily. The veggie spinach wrap with organic veggies, avocado and veganaise, and the coconut yogurt parfait with berries, mango and hemp granola are deeply satisfying and filling when you’re on the go.
625 Branch Ave., Little Silver; 732-747-3140;
490 Broad St., Shrewsbury; 732-842-8686;

To Your Health
Alex Mazzucca and Cara Pescatore, owners of From Seed to Sprout, want to please your palate as much as they want to nourish your body, mind and spirit. This vegan diamond in the rough strives to serve only the most wholesome, organic, vegan food. Before heading off to the beach, stop in for brunch and enjoy a bowl of chia seeds soaked in raw vanilla coconut milk topped with coconut, blueberries and goji berries. Or stay for lunch and the Miso Bowl; red cabbage, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, sliced scallion, and brown rice topped with miso broth, cilantro, chili flakes and squeezed lime. The owners also give guided cleanses and wellness tips, and will be opening a grocery store under the same name in the coming months so you can create equally nutritious and scrumptious meals right at home.
410 Main St., Avon-by-the-Sea; 732-774-7333;

What’s Your Flavor?
With a new location on Main Street and a Cupcake Wars victory under their belt from the Food Network, Papa Ganache is showing just how delectable vegan desserts can be. The bakery offers cookies, muffins, pies, donuts, biscotti, scones, and specialty items but is well renowned for its cupcakes. If you plan to visit, come hungry and be prepared to be overwhelmed by the seemingly endless variety of flavors like crème brûlée, snozberry, almond joyous and chocolate obsession; you will want to devour them all. And while you’re in town, leave a little room for Loving Hut, a local hit. Try the tasty falafel sandwich covered in homemade tahini sauce with a side of sweet potato fries and wash it down with an avocado banana shake. And don’t leave without taking the cannoli; you’ll be glad you did!
106 Main St., Matawan; 732-217-1750;
952 Route 34, Matawan; 732-970-6129;


Sunday, March 2, 2014

How About Some Truth in Advertising?

At some point, you've probably seen the commercial; wildlife like ducks, penguins and seals, victims of oil spills, being washed with Dawn dish detergent. There's even a website, Dawn Saves Wildlife, which shows videos and asks viewers to "make a difference" by supporting "the brand that supports wildlife rescue efforts." What could be wrong with that, right?

Well, a lot! Dawn's claims along with its self-aggrandizing website are dubious and ironic when you consider the facts.

For one, Dawn dish detergent is sold in plastic bottles made from petroleum, the same crude oil that is spilling into our waterways, polluting our natural environment, and killing wildlife like the aforementioned ducks, penguins and seals. Each plastic bottle requires one-quarter oil to produce and only about 27 percent of plastic bottles are recycled. Furthermore, plastic garbage that ends up in the ocean kills as many as 1 million sea animals every year!

Second, Dawn is manufactured by Procter and Gamble (P&G), a company well-known for subjecting animals like rabbits, dogs, hamsters and other creatures to cruel and painful product tests. Experiments often involve poisoning animals with toxins and product ingredients, as well as burning the skins and eyes of animals with chemicals (watch video here). If Procter and Gamble were so concerned about animals, they would put an end to their animal testing policy immediately.

Third, Dawn dishwashing liquid contains ingredients that are harmful to people, animals and the environment. The Environmental Working Group gave Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid a grade D for its destructive and deadly components, namely: methylisothiazolinone, which is lethal to water species and ecosystems, and can damage skin; sodium laureth sulfate, which is also toxic to water organisms and is an endocrine disruptor, which means it can damage DNA, cause birth defects and other developmental disorders, damage vision, and cause cancer; and the ever-mysterious ingredient fragrance, which is also noxious to aquatic life and can have negative effects on nervous and respiratory systems. Chemicals are frequently hidden under this obscure ingredient because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t require companies to disclose them.

You must admit that P&G is one crafty company to devise a gimmick that tugs on heart strings while fooling consumers into buying a product that they think is helping animals. Moreover, the company makes it effortless by providing a direct purchase link for Dawn on their website. Activism doesn't get much easier than that, but it is a false sense of charity.

The $1 million that P&G says it gifted last year to rescue efforts does not offset the enormous amount of animal suffering it contributes to every day through its cruel company policies and pernicious products.

The bottom line is this: if you want to help wildlife who fall victim to oil spills, and animals in general, then go vegan, reduce your consumption of oil and oil-based products, avoid plastic bottles, recycle always, and never, ever purchase Dawn or anything else made by P&G.

Put P&G out of business for good by boycotting their products. You can find a list here.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Love is a Five-Letter Word

Yet another Valentine’s Day is upon us and while we are forced to think about our relationship status every 14th of February, I find myself thinking about what it really means to love another.

Birds do it. Bees do it. Even vegans do itfall in love. Thankfully, vegans are growing in numbers every day, making it easier to find other vegans to love. While it is still difficult meeting that special someonedespite the Internet and its various dating sitesit seems to be even harder finding a good man who is also vegan or, at the very least, open to becoming one.

While some may think veganism is simply a dietary choice, it is actually a manner of living incorporating a value system that promotes a healthy body, a sustainable planet and compassion for all animalsboth human and nonhuman alike. It is also a social justice movement that involves everyone and stands to benefit everyone. Vegans not only abstain from eating animals or animal byproducts, but they also avoid doing anything that harms animals or exploits them, like wearing the skins, furs, and feathers of animals; buying products that have been tested on animals, and attending events that manipulate and abuse animals like circuses, zoos, aquariums and rodeos.

Sadly, much of our culturehijacked by big agribusiness and the media monopolydupes people into believing that they have to eat animals and their secretions, like cow's milk and eggs, to be healthy, even patriotic. Men are especially pressured into believing that they have to eat meat in order to be considered “real” men (see any Chevrolet truck commercial).

No human needs to eat animals, their mammary milk or their ova. In fact, Rory Freeman, who brought veganism to the mainstream with her best-selling book Skinny Bitch, wrote another book titled Skinny Bastard, in which she and co-author Kim Barnouin prove that caring for animals and eating well is not mutually exclusive, nor is it a girlie thing.

There are many good men and women out there who love and care for animals, but whose love dissolves at the dining table. All too often we forget about those who suffer to end up on our plates, on our designer clothing and in our medicine cabinets.

For those men who think eating animals validates their masculinity; keep in mind that most women seek out men who are compassionate, thoughtful and considerate; men who are independent-minded, who don't think only of themselves and don't feel compelled to compete with the Jones’. The true essence of a man is in his capacity to love and have compassion for others . . . which brings me back to Valentine's Day.

I’d like to think that Saint Valentine would not object to changing the name of his feast day to Vegan Day. What better way to spread love than by choosing this day forward to help ourselves and others by adopting a vegan lifestyle?

Anyone who elects to eliminate cruelty from his life and diet, who opens his heart to the sentience of all creatures, is the embodiment of love. And just like love, veganism is about honoring all beings and working toward something greater than ourselves. If we expand our lives to this love, not just on Valentine's Day but all year long, we will receive love in return each and every day.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Many, Many Causes for Celebration

This year, 2014, marks a milestone year for me. Not only do I turn the big 4-0 in June, but I also celebrate 20 years of vegetarianism—half of my life. (I've been vegan for the last eight years.)

I chose to go vegetarian back in 1994 during my sophomore year of college while rooming with my now-best-friend, Amy Biggé, her dog, Ivy, and two cats, Sweetie Pie and Puss Puss. It was my interaction with these wonderful creatures that compelled me to come to terms with the sentience of all beings and my own conspicuous hypocrisy. If I could recognize the aliveness and uniqueness of these individual animals, why then couldn't I consider the equivalent for those animals whom I never saw but had been thoughtlessly eating? I made the connection and it quickly became unacceptable for me to value some animals while consuming others.

Deciding to go vegetarian and subsequently vegan, were the best decisions I've ever made and make me most proud.

Every day that I choose to forgo animal flesh and animal products like cow's milk and cheese means I have not contributed to an animal's pain and suffering; it means one less animal will be artificially impregnated (raped) to bear a calf, piglet, chick, duckling or kid who will be torn away from his or her mother to be fattened and slaughtered for me to recklessly feast on; it means one less animal will be enslaved and tormented by the dairy and egg industries, and it means that I have decisively chosen compassion and empathy over cruelty, peace over violence, and coexistence over domination, exploitation and oppression.

I'm living proof that one can joyfully and successfully live and thrive on a plant-based diet. My health has improved and people often mistake me for someone at least ten years younger.

The truth is that humans do not need animals or their secretions to survive. This means that every time we eat meat and dairy we are consciously choosing to do another living being harm merely in the interests of our own gluttonous appetites, essentially putting our stomachs above the pain and suffering of our fellow earthlings. Our dietary choices not only affect our own bodies and the bodies of the animals we destroy, but have lasting effects on our environment and those around the world who go hungry because the grains that could be feeding them are going instead to mass produced "food" animals.

Veganism is the answer to many of the world's ills and agonies if people would only just take the time to open their eyes and ears, their hearts and minds.

Needless to say, I'm looking forward to this special time and turning 40 knowing that with each passing year I'm not only getting wiser but kinder, too.

Vegan Starter Kit

Sunday, November 17, 2013

To Be, or Not to Be?

In his opening of Hamlet, William Shakespeare begs the question "To be, or not to be?" In essence, why go on, why live? 

There are different motivators for each of us, different reasons why we get up each morning to face another day. And though there seems to be so much suffering all around us, we can balance it out by creating joy. That being said, what is the most ideal way to generate more joy and love, as consumers (takers) or as citizens (protectors) of the earth?

Consumption is unfavorably defined as the act of consuming by use, decay or destruction. More than a century ago the word was synonymous with tuberculosis, an infection that primarily consumes the lungs with disease. 

Buying and consuming can often be destructive but, while unavoidable, it can also be constructive with forethought, insight, and restraint.

As a nation, we have become accustomed to buying and discarding with impunity, behaving less as citizens of the world and more as reckless consumers. We often take without any regard for resources, labor, or the environment. What's more, our purchasing and selling affects other beings as well, specifically those billions of animals exploited for food, clothing, domestication, experimentation, and entertainment. For many people, not a day goes by that doesn't involve some purchase of an animal's body part, whether it be in food, clothing, cosmetics, cleaning products, personal care products, or just about anything else.

Since the beginning of the industrial revolution we have seen the proliferation of disposable goods produced cheaply on factory assembly lines. So-called "food" animals are treated much the same as other inanimate commodities even though we forget that they are not materials or products, but living, feeling beings.

Animals are the ultimate victims of the assembly line as they are terrifyingly led down abattoir chutes and systematically stunned, cut, bled, skinned, carved, mutilated, and packaged so no trace of a former being exists. When we eat them, we consume their bodies and their suffering and they, in turn, consume us.

Recently, I passed a homeless man while on my way to work. On his bike, in both the front and the back, hung plastic bags with what probably amounted to everything he owned. He looked thin, worn, and aged, and he had a long white beard that hadn't been trimmed in months. It looked as though life had not been kind to this man.

As he passed the long line of cars sitting in traffic, he turned his attention to the housing development on the other side of the road, and so did I. Million dollar mansions with brick verandas, circular driveways with cobblestone pavers, inground pools, and large, lush manicured lawns taking up huge swaths of space lined the road. I thought to myself, the people living in these mansions probably have every material thing they could ever want or need and then some, and this man has so little—literally what he can carry on his bike.

All this reminded me of how wasteful we are as a society and how we take more than we can ever use or need. We wait in long lines every few months to upgrade our phones so we can have the latest gadget; we buy the trendiest fashions that the media sells us on, and we scarf down whatever the advertisers and fast food behemoths tell us to eat. We buy—we hoard—to fill some deficit or ease a burden no matter what suffering accompanies such spending, no matter how it hurts others or ourselves or the planet. Moreover, we take what isn't ours to begin with—the lives of animals, who have as much a right "to be" as any one of us.

Everything we could ever want for sustenance is nurtured by the sun, sprouted in the soil or grown on trees. The earth continuously provides nourishment to all animals, human and nonhuman alike. And yet, despite all that is available, we gluttonously and thoughtlessly seize more lives. We do so not because we really want to hurt animals, but because we've bought into the cultural dogma that tells us it’s normal, natural and necessary to eat them, because animal flesh and animal secretions taste too damn good to give up, because animal suffering is not as important to us as satisfying our guts, and because we are afraid to do or learn anything different. 

Citizens work for the benefit of society by creating the most good and causing the least harm. Consumers, on the other hand, primarily deplete and dispose of with little concern for anyone else. Despite all the technological advances and proliferation of information at our fingertips, what we need now more than ever is self-discipline, self-reflection, and compassion. 

Consuming is something we must do at times, but it doesn't have to destroy others, define us, or be our reason for existence. Rather, it is in not consuming animals, above all, that we can bring about more joy. 

Kruger, Barbara. I Shop Therefore I Am. 1987. Art History Archive. Web. 9 November 2013