Yes, it’s been a long while since I last wrote. I sat down a few times to do this, but there was never enough time to bang out some worthy words. Finally the time has come!
You wouldn’t think a whole community could break your heart… but it’s true.
When I started this blog, it was in conjunction with my little vegan chocolate business. Now, 2.5 years since my first post, 4 years since I started the business, there is no chocolate business.
My business was special to me in this context because it was something for me to hang on to when my heart was ripped to threads so long ago.
I wanted to start the first vegan fair trade chocolate company in Canada. I did! And I was one of the few in whole of North America as well. I had a wicked design concept that no chocolatier could touch in this country and my recipes were even better. Aside from a strange reveiw on a webpage, everyone who ate them raved about my treats.
I was obsessed about using packaging that was environmental so I actually designed a box and had it cut from 100% recycled board here in Toronto. Standard and cheap truffle boxes are virgin fibre. It’s ridiculous. I also found recyclable sticker stock and compostable bags. It was a tough and frustrating slough dealing with the packaging. But I didn’t want to be just any chocolatier. I really wanted to business to reflect my values.
Problem was, it didn’t seem like customers with values actually wanted to use their money in conjunction with their values.
I went in with a heads up from two great Toronto vegans who had started vegan businesses. Shoes and accessories. Both now long gone. Toronto is the largest city in all of Canada. Their stores were right beside each other in accessible Kensington Market. Why didn’t their businesses succeed?
After a year of spending too much rent in an eco shop that had labour issues I built a kitchen in the basement of the new vegan grocery store Panacea. It was a natural partnership and I still thank Ken and Pam for allowing me to do that and pay the smallest amount of rent any food business could ever hope to spend.
Throughout the years, where we were a mere 2 minute walk from a busy subway stop, both Panacea and my chocolate business struggled. There were ups and downs (“Hey! I got my products into Vegan Essentials!”, “Shit they’ve increased the price of chocolate again.”) But in the end, at the beginning of 2012, Panacea had to close, and I had to close along with them. When the cheap community minded kitchens charge $25 an hour – you know you’re little food business is destined to fail without a huge cash infusion. Not that it might not have happened otherwise. 2 of 3 wholesalers stopped communication and 2 others who had been interested where also quiet. One of these, a vegan online food distro, ended up closing up a few months after me.
Panacea and I both tired to team up with others to stop the inevitable. I was seeing a business coach for 1.5 years (actually I saw 3!). Something should have clicked, something great should have happened with people who were doing similar things.
What went wrong? Honestly in my case the only thing I could be accused of not doing was becoming a vegan superstar. It seems in this day and age of multiple ways of communication and sending tendrils into millions of households, if you are a private quiet shy person – forget it. If you can’t prove daily you are a witty knowledgeable guru your community forgets you exist. I wrote two cookbooks. The first one came out originally in 2003 – it was one of the first vegan dessert cookbooks to come out. I have my email address on all my books. Do people write? No. Do people know the books exists? Not too many. (Certainly no help from the publishers there. But that’s another story) Would I love people to email me and tell me how the recipes turned out? You bet!
Anyway, my point is that I made damn good chocolate. I thought for sure my business would do well because I had such a niche. I was the ONLY vegan chocolatier in Canada for some time (My friend Stacey continues to produce great raw truffles and chocolate – Live On Chocolate) In the summer I came out with interesting soy and coconut free ice creem flavours. I even tried reaching out to non vegans who had allergy issues. I had painfully little media coverage despite all this.
So you can blame my failed business on lack of marketing savvy – but I counter with the fact that these treats should have sold themselves…
So here I am at the end of 2012, having spent a year trying to figure out how to continue to make my awesome creations without going into debt, no partnerships working out, looking at a list of possible future careers. Dental technician? Horticulturalist? Technical Writer? They all make me laugh at their absurdity. Not absurd careers by any stretch, but absurd for a born vegan chocolatier :)
The month before my business closed I actually made a profit. My partner was talking up my chocolates at work and through this my business ended in the black, due to supportive meat eaters. Ironic, but proof my sweets were scrumptious and had potential.
I want to of course thank every single person who supported my businesses and books. Especially those of you who got me new customers by word of mouth. Thank you to everyone who signed up for my newsletter and that read this blog. Thank you to those who ate my chocolate and weren’t even vegan. Thank you to those who gave constructive criticism. Huge thanks to people who gave their time for free or very little. I wish I could have cloned you all!
If you’re interested in what I’m up to next that has to do with veganism send a message to this yahoo.com email address and ask to be put on the list: whitebearchocolate
Running through all my posts in the past few years I have to apologize for all the music that has been taken off line. I was relying on Youtube to provide me with these awesome songs that have to do with broken hearts. About half are no longer there. One link has strangely become a video of of 90′s hardcore boys pulling a scam on Jerry Springer. Funny for sure, but not what I had in mind music wise! Also I included Jackie Wilson’s Lonely Teardrops twice. OOPS! But you have to admit that song is terribly AWESOME!
Broken Heart Vegan Tip #24 While everyone is celebrating their “in love-ness” why don’t you just go ahead and celebrate your broken heartedness? A few Februarys ago I made a broken heart truffle for Valentine’s day. It was a Boston Creem chocolate truffle – probably the first ever made. It had Bavarian creem flavoured ganache, a piece of vanilla cake and was enrobed in dark chocolate. Ingenious if I do say so myself! You gotta just let it out sometimes, just like this post. “My heart was broken and someone is to blame!” You’ll feel so much better, you’ll be able to not take yourself too seriously – which is super important when you have a broken heart! If you can emit even the faintest smile about your broken heart you are on the way to recovery. Soon the pain will be gone and you will be able to make a complicated vegan dessert from Lickin’ the Beaters 2 without messing up! :)
Broken Heart Song #24 I never really got this guy. What’s with the purple glasses? Why is his voice so high? Why does he look like my dad without a beard? But this is quite the heartbreak song!
Well it’s a new year.
2010 was a really rough year for me. I had previously thought that 2009 was sucky. 2010 was most likely the worst year of my life. But there was a shining star, amidst the dark night clouds.
And no it wasn’t my cookbook! My second cookbook came out in December. That was literally 5 plus years of aggravation for me. So no, that was not the bright shining star that illuminated the dark corners of my life!
Truth comes out – I fell in love in July. Yes. That was a long time ago. Now trust me, I wasn’t just flippantly writing these blogs with some sick pleasure. It’s not hard to dig up feelings of loneliness and heartbroken-ness even when you are in a wonderful relationship. Sometimes these feelings are just right under the surface. So I was retreating to these crummy (yet sometimes positive!) places in order to keep the blog going.
What happened to me - totally unexpected and out of the blue, a total miracle, can happen to you too. But the last thing you wanted me to do was write about how happy I was ;)
Pain and despair are always right around the corner…
But so is happiness. You just have to have a keen eye sometimes. It doesn’t always come the way you figure it will.
Anyhow, despite feeling so different when I first started this blog, my heart still hasn’t healed. So I’m still with ya all… but sometimes you gotta shake yourself and take that leap to a better place if you are so lucky to have it offered to you. Mending is hard when you are taking a magnifying glass to all the cracks.
So I’ve decided that my posts will be dwindling quite a bit. Not quite dead I guess, but perhaps it might be worth your while to subscribe if you are interested in reading the next one in a timely manner!
I want to give my new partner the whole heart, even if there’s still some dents and chips that make me want to hide bits of it.
Broken Heart Vegan Tip #23: It will be hard for you to notice a good thing when it comes your way. You will remember past traumas and hurtful moments. You’ve probably built a brick wall to keep you from being in those situations again. Well, listen to a person who’s been there – you’ve got to throw yourself in. You’ ve just got to do it. Don’t let yourself become so afraid that you get cold. There’s warmth around the corner. Embrace it when it comes your way!
Thanks for reading peoples! I hope your broken heart is mending and I hope you are getting some awesome vegan food into your belly :)
I’ve never been much of a pie eater because I’m not much of a crust eater. I much prefer the insides to the outsides.
But pie has been playing a major role in my dessert life recently. There’s been a pie cooling on the side table every week for the past two months. Pies are a great way to get your mind off your broken heart because you can make a boat load of crust and freeze or refrigerate the dough when you need it. It’s easy to defrost, roll out and put some tasty sweet goop in the middle. And the insides you choose are endless. It’s a nice thing to think about – all these different kinds of middles available to you.
I haven’t gone for anything too interesting or bizarre… but my pie making time is not over yet!
So far I’ve made:
Sweet Potato (from Lickin’ the Beaters: Low Fat Vegan Desserts cookbook)
and the surprisingly not overly sweet Chocolate Marshmallow
The pie crust recipe is from the old book you can see in the back of a couple of the pictures. Every time I purge my cookbook collection I set it aside to give away, but the cover is just such a lovely thing I can’t do it! The Chocolate Marshmallow recipe comes from this book.
Chocolate Marshmallow Pie
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1/2 c soy/rice/almond milk
8 Sweet & Sara Marshmallows
1 1/2 c Mimiccreme whipped creme or any other vegan whipped topping
1 prebaked 8″ pie shell (I used a graham cracker crust)
1/2 c toasted chopped almonds
1. Put chocolate, soy milk and marshmallows in a double boiler (or one pot on top another with simmer water on the bottom). Melt it all. It’ll take a while. Those Sweet & Sara’s are dense little mofos! Cool, stirring frequently.
2. Fold in whipped creme and pour into pie shell. Sprinkle with almonds. Chill.
Broken Heart Vegan Tip #21: I really think that helping others can make your own troubles melt like soy butter. Maybe it’s volunteering at a soup kitchen or going over to a new vegan’s house to help them cook. Hell, maybe it’s doing some Animal Liberation Front work or helping a fellow cyclist who’s been doored. It’s really endless the way you can give a little bit of yourself just to make the world a better, friendlier and compassionate place. And the funny thing is, it ALWAYS comes back to you in some way.
I went to visit my parents in Aug and picked up my old breadmaker. I haven’t used this since 2003! Moving a lot and not having a car to bring the damn thing back to Toronto prevented me from reuniting with this friend.
I say friend because I have been reacquainted with the possibilities and money saving benefits this kitchen item gives me.
A good vegan organic loaf of bread costs anywhere from 5-9 bux in Toronto. Now I can make my own for about $1!
Since warming my little electric baby up to its new home I have made:
Cheese and Onion Buns for your 2 lb bread maker
1 1/3 c weater
3 tb soy milk powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
3 1/2 c Canadian Bread or All Purpose flour or 3 2/3 c American Bread Flour
1/2 c chopped onion
1/3 c cheddar cheeze (I like Sheese strong cheddar or smoked cheddar)
1 1/4 tsp yeast (use 1/4 tsp more if you are using regular non breadmaker yeast)
Set to dough. It’ll take about 2 hours.
Shape the dough and let rise half an hour.
Preheat oven to 350 and bake for about 15 min.
If you’ve wondered what these strange dishes are that you sometimes see in my photos: they are amazing cabbage plates. They belonged to my English grandmother – I think they were made in Japan in the 40′s?? I love them so!
(thanks to everyone for taking part in the “guess what this is” contest. Lots of people were close, but Gina got it right on the money! )
Ok folks, if you haven’t heard or figured it out yet – you NEED to be served Joshua Ploeg food!
Living mostly in Canada I have only had the pleasure of attending Joshua’s vegan dinner parties twice in my life, but that doesn’t stop me from dreaming about them every week!
Joshua is an seasoned punk rocker who keeps the “punk” but throws out the “junk” (aka those bland cooked-in-one-pot chilis or stews that most punks rely on to fill their bellies.)
The key to Joshua’s amazing cooking is ART. Like a sly Dada-ist work or an exquisitely detailed Edward Gory drawing this touring chef mixes spices and food you’ve never dreamed of. Flavours explode and tastebuds take flight.
I am lucky to own three of Joshua’s cookbooks: In Search of the Lost Taste, Twelve Knights in my Kingdom, and Something Delicious This Way Comes (which I gave away in a contest this month on this here blog!) These recipes are not for the “one pot cookers” or people who are afraid of interesting ingredients and ethnic spices. They are not for “make it quick and shovel in yer face eaters”. They are for people who love to cook and love to eat.
My favourite recipe, so far, is Baked CHKN with Kiwi Mayonnaise (from Something Delicious…) :
2 c vegan mayo (I usually use less)
3 kiwis peeled and chopped
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp sugar
salt and lemon juice to taste
Blend these until smooth and chill. Store overnight. When ready to use, blend again.
6 vegan “chicken breasts” or firm seasoned tofu cutlets
2 tb t amari
6 lemon slices
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tb brown sugar
1 c gold broth (I just use any veggie broth around)
2 smashed garlic cloves
1 c flour
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
1/2 tsp sale
1 tb nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp sage
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp ginger
Marinate the “breasts” overnight in tamari, lemon slices, 1 tsp oregano, red pepper flakes, brown sugar, golden broth and garlic cloves.
When ready to prepare, remove them from marinade and brush with bit of oil. Dredge them through the flour mixed with the other tsp oregano, chili poweder, cumin, garlic powder, lemon pepper, slat, nutritional yeast, sage, cayenne and ginger. Fry them in olive oil until browned. Set them in a greased baking dish and pour the kiwi mayo over them. Sprinkle with pepper and lay the lemon slices from the marinade on top.
Bake 400 D for 25 min.
Also from Something Delicious… [I discovered Zahtar (or Zahter) a few years ago and can't get enough! Bread or tofu or steamed veggies - everything loves Zahtar!]
Zahter for Pita
3 tb mixed dried oregano, thyme and dill
1/3 to 1/2 c olive oil
salt to taste
pinch of sumac powder
1 to 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
a bit of lemon juice
Mix all of this together and make a paste. Store in fridge at least overnight, until ready to use, then bring to room temperature.
[my fav is to spread on a pita and bake a little!]
This one is from In Search of Lost Taste: Cinnamon-Cashew “Chicken” with Fried Vegetables
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp five spice powder
2 tsp red curry powder
1/2 tsp mustard seed, cumin seed, corriander seed, fennel seed
1 curry leaf or lime lealf
a few tb of sugar or rice syrup
1/4 c sesame oil
1/4 c soy sauce
2 tb rice vinegar
1 small chopped onion
1 c chopped roased cashews
1 tb sesame seeds
1/2 c chopped cilantro
1/4 c chopped Thai basil
1 tsp minced lemongrass
4 clove minced garlic
2 tsp minced ginger
2 tsp minced galangal
4 good sized cutlets of veggie “chicken or seitan or tempeh
2 c red rice, cooked
In a large pan, cook half of the ingredients up and all of the chickin until cutlets are browned. Add the rice and the rest of the ingredients and cook until heated.
1 c onion
1 diced eggplant
2 copped carrots
a few minced chilis
2 diced bell peppers
1/2 c chopped water chestnut or celery or or crunchies
Saute these veggies in a little oil and then sprinkle with tamari, hoisin sauce, chili sauce or garlic sauce depending on whether you want it sweet, salty, spicy or garlicky.
Sprinkle the whole affair with a little cinnamon.
Here are some other In Search of The Lost Taste recipes:
Cashew Sesame Shake
Plum and Pistachio Crisp with Ouzo-lemon “ice cream” and rose syrup
Spinach and almond – burgundy olive tapenade pastries
Fried Basil Cakes with tamarind hot sauce and coconut jelly
Chocolate Cake Parfait with cocoa “cream”, berries, sweet wine, chocolate liqueur and shaved chocolate
it goes on and on and on!
If you can’t get to one of Joshua’s dinner parties (you are only excused if you live far from a major US city centre) then run out and buy all the cookbooks you can! You will NOT be disappointed with the food that comes out of them :)
Broken Heart Vegan Tip #20: Challenge yourself. One easy way is to break open a cookbook and start at it. I recommend anything Joshua Ploeg. Quite the challenge and the results are breath taking!
I come from a long line of emotionally conservative English and Scottish people. Growing up I was part of a large group of hippie hating spiritually conservative anarchic atheists. When the idea of “meditation” or yoga ever came up I was always mildly revolted and needed to suppress my eye rolling in order to not offend the company I was with.
So it came as a great surprise to me to suddenly find myself a little interested in meditation. I have been told time and time again that you can get sick from stress and from holding in your emotions. Over the years I began to believe this was entirely possibly. But at the same time, I didn’t think I was THAT stressed out. I’m a pretty positive person, no matter what life throws in my path, and laugh a lot during the course of each day. I don’t take things incredibly seriously unless they warrant it, and I’m always hopefully. But I’m beginning to believe I have no tools to manage stress and so I deal with it like I do with my emotions – just sweep it under the rug and don’t think about it. It’s probable that unlike my mind, the rest of my body is dealing with it!
Another month of pain in my shoulders, that I had been seeing different therapists off and on for a few years for. Two emails regarding breakdowns in groups I belong to. A sudden specialized chocolate order. Suddenly I’m fretting and grumpy and thinking my chocolate business is never going to make it. It was that day when I thought “Holy smokes! What the heck?! I need to calm down here! There’s no reason I should feel so overwhelmed, out of control and gloomy!”
So that evening, with the help of a pro, a took some deep breaths and sat on a cushion for 15 minutes trying to only focus on my breath.
Despite it being totally hard, with my multi tasking mind wandering, I really DID feel more calm after that sitting! So I’m going to start trying to “meditate” two times a day and see what happens. Part of my brain still screams “You’re turning into a hippie!” but I think the gradual calmness I will start to feel will override this, and even that part of my brain will start giving the peace sign and dressing in tie dye (ha ha ha just kidding!)
Again with raw food (I just love it!) – here is possibly the best raw dish I have ever had. A faux chicken salad on onion bread. It’s available at Rawlicious in Toronto. They just opened a new location in Yorkville – so congratulations to them! All those richies sure have enough money to spend on good food like that :D I use to live pretty close to the junction location, and was sad to move from the neighborhood for that reason alone. They don’t serve up the sandwich all the time, but I bet if we all keep asking for it they might permanently put it on the menu!
PS. Don’t forget to try your luck and win a cookbook from last post!
Broken Heart Vegan Tip #19: Read the above post. AKA Sit in a quiet room and try not to think about anything for 15 minutes!
Sometimes when you have a broken heart you just don’t want to cook. Or eat. Or work. Or take your dog for a walk. Sometimes all you can muster is a quick meal of canned beans and left over rice. Sometimes you end up with crazy concoctions that would never have come to you if you hadn’t had a broken heart.
Below is one such crazy concoction. What to do with left overs. You probably have not thought of this before. For what it’s worth I’d probably not do it again!
Anyhow, study this picture closely. In the celebration of Vegan Food Month I’m giving away an awesome cookbook by my friend Joshual Ploeg – Something Delicious This Way Comes. Joshua is a touring chef and I will bet my Monty Python DVD collection that you have never tasted such awesome food! He also has a new book with Microcosm called In Search of Lost Taste. I will be delving into this book a little bit in the next couple weeks.
Something Delicious This Way Comes has such tantalizing dishes as Avocado Mousse, Tangerine Curry, Rose Fritters, Banana Custard! All you need to do to win this baby is comment what you think this concoction is below. The first right answer gets the prize, or the closest answer by Nov 15th gets it :D
Broken Heart Vegan Tip #18: Cut out news for 2 weeks. All news! Even good informative stuff like Znet, Democracy Now or community radio. Keeping up with the horrids of life can be quite taxing. And while you have a broken heart you need to focus on healing it.
Broken Heart Song #18: (includes the best lyrics to go along with the last blog: If life’s not beautiful without the pain,
well I’d just rather never ever even see beauty again.)
I’ve been busy, and not thinking too much about broken hearts. Sorry about that! ;)
I started a draft but was waiting to get home to get the pictures… that was almost a month ago.
I keep forgetting that I can just blog away, without having the standard format of pictures, recipes, tips and songs. It’s kind of like when I don’t write emails to my penpals. It just seems SO WRONG. (I am such a virgo!)
As you wait, suck a mint and take a look at Vegan Mo Fo – Vegan month of food (it’s November). There’ll be nearly 400 bloggers blogging everyday about the thing you can’t stop thinking about – cruelty free yumminess! It’s insiane
I’ll be having a give away. I just need my buddy Kelly to show me how to do such a thing. My quick grasp of technology dwindled by 2005 :P
If you are a blogger, blogging about vegan-ness – why not sign up for Vegan Mo Fo??