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Monday, August 29, 2011

Not-So-Compassionate Fares: A Note About Bereavement Rates

A couple of weeks ago, a family emergency came out of nowhere and I soon found myself booking a last minute flight to Connecticut. Because it was SO last-minute, and the flights I was finding online were astronomically priced (by my standards), I decided to give "bereavement rates" a try. A quick Google search led me to this article, which basically said that bereavement rates are a thing of the past, that most airlines don't even offer them anymore. The article also said that bereavement rates can only be quoted (and granted) over the phone, and that online rates are almost always less expensive. Still, given my situation, I called three airlines in the hopes that maybe I would find some luck. I didn't.

First I called Delta, and they quoted me a flight that was maybe $20 higher than what I found online. Thanks, but no thanks.

Then I called United, and we didn't even get to prices, because the flights she was offering meant that I'd be traveling for at least 8 hours, going from Tampa to Detroit, to Chicago, to Timbuktu, to Hartford. Okay, that's an exaggeration, but the 8 hours of traveling is true, and I needed to be in CT by a certain time, so again, Thanks, but no thanks!

Finally, I called American Airlines. The representative was very efficient and thorough, made sure to get all of my information correct, and even apologized for my loss. (The previous two airlines did not extend this compassion.) Unfortunately, his kindness did not match the rate he quoted me, which was DOUBLE what I was finding online. He quoted me an $800+ flight, but with the "bereavement discount," it was $700+. This was the biggest Thanks But No Thanks of all. I laughed a little at the absurdity of the price, thanked him for his help, he apologized again for my loss, and upon hanging up, I crumbled up my list and set my browser to Expedia.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Guest Post: Veganism in the Wild, Wild West

A recent family emergency has kept me away from my blog these last two weeks. While I play catch-up (yet again), please enjoy this guest post from Jen, who blogs at This Woman Wanders and shares her beautiful photography here. See ya soon, the Hungry Vegan Traveler


When I began travelling and photographing the American West I departed believing that I was venturing into a land where vegetarianism was a foreign concept. I’d been told repeatedly that there were no options if I were to dine out and that for the next few weeks I would be eating my camp food and the occasional fast food burrito.
To be honest, I ate a lot of burritos and energy bars. I didn’t even bother looking for anything else to eat as I travelled cross country. I didn’t question the experiences of the vegetarian travelers I’d talked to.
In the Cedar Pass Lodge Restaurant in Badlands National Park in South Dakota, after four days and 1600 miles and more burritos and energy bars than I care to remember, I was able to order up a veggie burger. I thought that might end up being the high end of my options. Little did I know…
While hiking, camping and photographing in Yellowstone National Park I was able to cook more filling and nutritious foods, but I found myself longing for foods not cooked over my own tiny camp stove. In the city of Gardiner, Montana, just outside the park, was the Tumbleweed Café and Bookstore. With their offerings of fresh-made vegan soups, wraps and sandwiches as well as soy lattes and organic coffee, they became an almost daily destination. Their awareness of the vegan/vegetarian lifestyle was not the norm in my experience out west, but their sustainable and organic offerings were a trend I encountered often.
Later, while photographing Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado I discovered that Boulder really does live up to its reputation of being vegan friendly. And I found the trend of offering sustainable and organic foods was even more prevalent. I had similar experiences in Estes Park, Colorado (I highly recommend Notchtop Café and Poppy’s Pizza) and Denver, Colorado (which has nearly as many veg*n friendly restaurants as Boulder).
The desire of restaurants to provide sustainable foods meant more fresh fruit and vegetable ingredients readily on hand, making it less of an effort for restaurants to offer up vegetarian options. Not relying on processed ingredients meant that chefs were more easily able to create vegetarian options when there weren’t any on the menu.
I also had to learn to ask for what I wanted. Often, using the term vegetarian or vegan resulted in no response but a blank stare or an immediate denial of options. By not giving it a label and instead asking for food without meat, dairy or eggs, I found that people were less put off by my requirements and more interested in helping me find something I could eat. I think I’ve had more conversations with genuinely interested people about my lifestyle from NOT using the terms vegan and vegetarian.
I think, in the end, I was left with a better understanding of how to find what I’m looking for and a new appreciation for travelling without expectations or assumptions.



Thursday, August 11, 2011

Busy Vegan Bee Product Review: Amy's Gluten-Free, Vegan Mac & Cheese

I've been a busy bee, folks, and while that is certainly not something to complain about (I love being busy), it does make it harder for me to eat decent meals. I semi-shamefully admit that I have been relying on small, overpriced frozen meals to get through my busiest days. Hey, no one is perfect. Meanwhile, these frozen meals serve as great blogging fodder! On those busiest of days when I actually have a spare 2 minutes to take pictures and think about my food, you can expect reviews! First up: Amy's Rice Macaroni and Dairy-Free Cheeze.


Here it is in frozen block form.

And here it is after the application of microwave heat and lasers.

Stir it up and consume!

The rice macaroni is tender. I highly doubt anyone would notice that this is gluten-free. The cheeze sauce is thick and creamy and delicious, thanks to the power of Daiya. However, a few bites in, I nearly choked when I looked at the nutritional facts.

HOLY NO-COW!!! 22 grams of fat?! 520 calories, 190 of which are from fat?! Amy's, I love my curves and all, but COME ON!

But is this delicious? Yes! Would I buy it again? That's a big, fat NO. I can think of more and better things to eat that STILL wouldn't add up to 22 grams of fat.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Night I Used Two Groupons

I don't get to play Sugar Mama too often, but one night in late June, I cashed in two Groupons with a good friend of mine in tow. First stop: Queen of Sheba for an Ethiopian dinner.

My friend and I decided to split the vegetarian combination platter so we could get a little of everything.
Tikikl Gomen - potatoes, cabbage, and carrots
Ye Kik Alecha - yellow split peas
I like the salad.
This mushroom dish (mushroom wot) was a mutual favorite.
classic misir wot - stewed red lentils
Gomen - collard greens!
Atkilit Alecha - potatoes, cabbage, and green beans

The misr wot and the mushroom wot were our favorites. The only bad thing about this meal is that we ended up being double-charged when we had specifically said we were splitting one combination platter. It was difficult for either of us to explain this to our server, and if we pressed it further, it would have felt like we were haggling over our meal (who does that?!), but it really felt like we were charged double because we had the Groupon. Bummer.

Moving on to Groupon Destination #2, we went to Hooker Tea in South Tampa. As my friend and I were eyeballing their wall of tea and sniffing different varieties,
a girl walked in and was talking about her miniature pot-bellied pig that she had apparently just brought home. Naturally, I asked to see it.



After piggy cuddles and then washing our hands, our teas were brewed and ready for sippin'. I ordered some kind of coconut oolong business - iced, of course. At first sip it was kind of earthy, but extra agave nectar made it much better.
We plopped down on the little sofa near the entrance, chatted while flipping through Creative Loafing, and people watched through the big window.

Hooker Tea is a nice enough tea place, but my tea lovin' heart still belongs to Kaleisia. Although, now I hear that the South Tampa location has changed their name and has a liquor license and is serving up tea cocktails. Hmm...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Guest Post: Lost That Loving Feeling

I'm still on a semi-hiatus from the Internet and mostly loving it! (It's only frustrating once in awhile.) I definitely miss the vegan blogging community, and I miss posting consistently, but I'm starting to get back on track. In the meantime, this guest post from my friend Elizabeth (whom you may remember from her post about New Orleans, vegan-style) certainly hits close to home: Losing your vegan cooking mojo.

Before I went vegan, my time in the kitchen was mostly spent toasting Pop Tarts and microwaving Lean Cuisines. Cooking was something other people did; those with time and interest in such an archaic act. It's not just that veganism required me to be more hands-on with my food, it gave me an actual passion for preparing meals. I've spent hours pouring over recipes, experimenting with dishes, making buffet-size messes in my kitchen. Seeing food in ingredient form coming together as a delicious dish just felt good.

But since moving to the Big Apple just a couple short months ago, I have all but completely lost interest in cooking. Perhaps I forgot to pack my cooking mojo in the move? You would think that living in the veritable vegan wonderland that is New York City, where nutritional yeast and fresh produce are no more than a block away in any direction, that I would have the same love for playing with my food that I once felt. But yet, I can't seem to make it into my kitchen save for glasses of water or fishing cold leftovers out of the fridge. If I'm not eating take out, I'm eating peanut butter out of the jar like a barbarian. A barbarian who eats packaged peanut butter.

I have some theories as to why this might be, but the most likely of which is just the sheer availability of premade vegan food here. The next street over has a mock duck massaman curry that I challenge you not to drink out of the container. The local deli has pioneered the falafel/veggie burger hybrid that is so good I save it for special occasions. Tofu cream cheese is an option at nearly every bagel shop. I live in the same neighborhood as Sweet & Sara's incredible vegan marshmallows. And this is just in Queens, people! Don't get me started on the options available in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Even still, I am starting to get antsy about making my way back into the kitchen, but I can't seem to get started. So I ask, have you ever gone through a cooking lull? And if so, was there any one dish that helped take you out of it? I could really use some suggestions lest I forget how to turn the stove on completely.

So -- got any kitch-spiration for Elizabeth? You can check up on her progress at her Tumblr, I Make Food