Gabriola Vegeteers

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Vegeteers’ Corner

by Sigrid Bjarnason, originally printed in The Flying Shingle, Monday, August 25, 2014
(note this article appeared in the final edition of The Flying Shingle)

It seems to me that every time I turn around there is information popping up in the media about food and diet: gluten intolerance, localism, free range this or that, GMO crops, raw food, and of particular interest to me, veganism.

Recently, I was in Vancouver for a weekend, and in that one weekend I attended a presentation by Dr. Michael Greger, a physician and researcher convinced of the health benefits of a plant-based diet, went to Vegfest – a street festival dedicated to all things vegetarian, watched Cowspiracy, a powerful new documentary about the negative effects of modern animal agriculture, and spent a few hours with calves and pigs at a farm sanctuary.

When I returned to Gabriola and picked up this summer’s Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Monitor from the mailbox, I was surprised to see an article entitled “The Tipping Point” that deals not with that organisation’s usual economic, political, or legal issues, but food as well.

Cym Gomery, author of the article, is of the opinion that meat eating is about to go the way of cigarette smoking. And she hopes it happens before the other tipping point ¬– climate change – wreaks its full havoc.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation identifies animal agriculture as a key contributor to climate change, water pollution, and water use. Our collective investment in eating factory-farmed animals is the only thing that keeps that inhumane, polluting industry afloat – we have a choice to participate in it or not.

If you are someone who is interested in eating plants rather than animals for whatever reason – concern for the environment, your health, or animal welfare – there is a veg group on Gabriola to help with the transition. We are motivated by our compassion for animals but we are happy to help people stop participating in the horrific factory-farming system, whatever the reason.

We have advice, recipes, and nutrition information for whole foods, plant-based eating, as well as information about animal welfare. Go to to check out the website or to contact us directly. You can even subscribe to our blog.

I found it relatively easy to make the change from omnivore to vegan. First of all, I care deeply about animals so I was highly motivated to eat plants instead. Secondly, I had someone to call every few days who was experimenting with the same change. We talked about cookbooks, best recipes, nutrition, and we gave each other moral and practical support. We still do. Support can make all the difference.

Since this is the last article I’ll write for The Flying Shingle I have to ask on behalf of Ernie the turkey (pictured above) and the billions of non-human animals who will be slaughtered this year for North American plates: “Why not eat something else?”

Our veg group will be presenting a series of documentaries starting this fall. The first cake and coffee doc, Blackfish – which we will co-present with Gabriola Rescue of Wildlife Society – will be at 2 on Sept. 14 at the Rollo Centre. It’s free, but if you’d like a piece of chocolate cake and a coffee, bring $5.

Blackfish has triggered debate all around the globe about the ethics of keeping cetaceans in captivity. If you haven’t had a chance to see it yet, come and find out what the fuss is about on Sept. 14.

We also plan to show Cowspiracy, The Ghosts in Our Machine and several other documentaries in the near future. Stay tuned to

Finally, on behalf of the Vegeteers, I want to thank you, Chris Bowers, for including us in The Flying Shingle.

Also, a big thank you for everything you have done for this community. By all means, enjoy the luxury of having some extra time. You certainly deserve it!

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Almond Lime Carrot Slaw

First published in The Flying Shingle, July 28, 2014

Summertime entertaining or gatherings can present challenges for new vegans, but the key is think simple and think outside the box. While you can find recipes to veganise pretty much any favourite summer dish, many are already vegan, like bean salads or fruit salads, or easy to make vegan, like pasta salads.

Snacks are easy – think chips and salsa, hummus and pita bread, and veggies and dip. For barbecues, homemade or store-bought seitan sausages taste amazing grilled, and of course veggie dogs and burgers are easy to find.

I like to get creative with side dishes, and this carrot slaw is definitely not traditional. You can prepare this dish ahead of time to let the flavours mingle. Every time I’ve made this recipe, it’s been a hit!

Almond Lime Carrot Slaw (adapted from a Whole Foods’ recipe)
4 large carrots, peeled
1 large red bell pepper, diced
½ cup thompson raisins
½ cup almond butter
2 teaspoons liquid sweetener
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons tamari
a few pinches cayenne (add a few more if you like it spicy)
water to thin
fresh cilantro for garnish

Grate carrots into a bowl. Add diced pepper. For dressing, mix together almond butter, sweetener, lime juice, tamari, and cayenne. Add water as needed to thin – you want it thick, so go lightly with extra water. Pour dressing over carrots and peppers and combine well. Add raisins and let marinate in the fridge for 20-30 minutes. Serve at room temperature with cilantro garnish.

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15-minute Creamy Avocado Pasta

by Aileen McMillan, first published in The Flying Shingle Monday, June 30, 2014

A recipe created by Angela Liddon – found in the Oh She Glows cookbook

The excellent Oh She Glows cookbook, written by a Canadian self-trained chef and food photographer, contains over 100 vegan recipes. This award-winning cookbook recently made the New York Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists. It’s widely available and reasonably priced.

I have been trying many of Angela’s recipes and found the following one is an easy, quick, healthy pasta sauce to top any type of noodle, but my usual choice is zucchini spirals made on my new spiraliser (available at Colleen’s!)

9 ounces (255 g) uncooked pasta
1 to 2 cloves garlic, to taste
¼ cup (60 mL) fresh basil leaves, plus more for serving
4 to 6 teaspoons (20 to 30 mL) fresh lemon juice, to taste
1 tablespoon (15 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
1 ripe medium avocado, pitted
¼ to ½ teaspoon (1 to 2 mL) fine-grain sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon zest, for serving

While the pasta cooks, make the sauce. In a food processor, combine the garlic, basil, and pulse to mince.

Add the lemon juice, oil, avocado flesh, and 1 tablespoon water and process until smooth, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed. If the sauce is too thick, add another 1 tablespoon water. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the pasta and place it back in the pot. Add the avocado sauce and stir until combined. You can gently rewarm the pasta if it has cooled slightly, or simply serve it at room temperature.

Top with lemon zest, pepper, and fresh basil leaves, if desired.

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Who’s the guinea pig?

by Sigrid Bjarnason Originally published in The Flying Shingle, Monday, June 2, 2014

Kate, an amazing athlete and close friend of mine for many years, decided to enter the Ride to Conquer Cancer this June to honour two relatives who recently died from the disease. From Vancouver to Seattle, this 200-kilometre-plus bike ride is one arduous undertaking. Kate emailed me with a request for sponsorship.

Five years ago if I had received this appeal I would have pulled out my credit card immediately, punched in the numbers, made the donation, and felt good about the fact that I was helping to conquer cancer. This year I kept my card in my wallet until I could find out more.

Like most of us I’ve had friends and relatives affected by cancer, and like all of us I’d love to help find a cure for this awful disease. But last year I read The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary, a book by Canadian Andrew Westoll.

It’s a beautiful, haunting account of a group of chimps who endured years as the unwilling subjects of invasive medical research experiments. After reading about these complex and troubled souls, I was concerned that my donation would fund similar research.

So I began my own research to find out where my donation would end up. I started by calling the contact number on the Ride to Conquer Cancer website. The woman who answered didn’t know whether animals were used in the subsequent research so she passed me on to someone who surely would. The second woman didn’t know either, but suggested I talk to someone at the BC Cancer Foundation who she said would know more. The lovely young woman who answered couldn’t say, but was certain someone at the BC Cancer Agency would know. No one there did, but they advised that I call the Cancer Research Centre, whose receptionist suggested I contact the BC Cancer Agency. When I told him I’d already tried the BCCA, he transferred me to the librarian at the Research Centre who was lovely, couldn’t answer my question, but promised to have someone involved in research give me a call.

A few hours later the phone rang. It was a woman in the Marketing and Communication Department who couldn’t actually tell me anything about funds for the Conquer ride specifically, but gave me another number to call. And on it went.

It’s not much discussed, so most of us don’t know that there are many effective alternatives to research using animals: epidemiology, in vitro research, clinical observation, genetic research, post-mortem studies, computer modelling, human stem cell research, the list goes on. Organisations that conduct research that does not involve animals can apply to be listed at so that potential donors will know they are not causing animals harm.

The BC Generations Project, funded principally by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, has 30,000 participants in BC, including me. The goal of this long-term health study is to find out why some people are more apt to develop cancer and related chronic diseases. Participants contribute health history, diet, lifestyle info, weight, height, and DNA. I volunteered to be a guinea pig in order to leave the real guinea pigs alone.

What about my donation for the Ride to Conquer Cancer? In the end, I had to support Kate in her mission to honour her relatives. So I sat down at my computer with my credit card and punched in the numbers. When I hit the Donate Now button, I hoped my bit of virtual cash would do some good. And I sent a silent prayer that maybe – just maybe – it would do no harm.

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The plant-powered garden

by Nadia Roch first published Monday, May 19, 2014 in The Flying Shingle

Vegan organic, or veganic, gardening is gaining in popularity as more people realise that they can grow food without relying on animal manures or slaughterhouse by-products.

The key to growing anything is always healthy, fertile soil and all of the nutrients soil needs are available from plants, so why not cut out the middle man (or in this case, cow) and go straight to the source?

There’s a long history of farmers and gardeners relying on plants to keep their soil fertile, especially in the distant past when animal manure wasn’t cheap or abundant. Planting green manure crops, which are grown then turned back into the soil, originated in ancient China, Greece, and Rome.

In recent times though, relying solely on manure and other animal byproducts like bone meal have become the norm because factory farms and animal agriculture produces an abundance of non-edible byproducts that are both cheap and convenient. These byproducts are inherently problematic for a number of reasons.

Not only are they sourced from animals fed genetically-engineered feed and given excessive amounts of antibiotics (farmed animals account for 80 per cent of all antibiotic use), these operations are directly responsible for the large-scale destruction of ecosystems and natural habitats.

Moreover, manure carries dangerous infectious parasites and pathogens like E. coli. These end up contaminating our food supply, leading to millions of illnesses and thousands of preventable deaths each year. Veganic agriculture offers a simple solution to escape many of the problematic issues associated with conventional agriculture.

There are multiple branches of veganic agriculture or gardening, but they all share the same core principles, combining many of the tenets of organic and permaculture agriculture. All artificial and synthetic chemical products, GMOs, animal manures, and slaughterhouse by-products are avoided. Instead, to enrich the soil and help plants thrive, vegetable compost, mulches, green manures, chipped branch wood, crop rotation, and polyculture (no mono-cropping, multiple crops in the same space) are used.

Veganic gardening focusses on maintaining soil fertility and microbial health to support healthy plants and ensure long-term sustainability.

Some of the other practices employed by veganic growers include minimising tilling, planting and supporting wild and native plants, attracting beneficial insects and animals, discouraging pests through passive means like using chipped wood around the garden perimeter to stop slugs, and companion planting.

A very common technique employed by veganic gardeners, which is likely something many gardeners use already, is making compost tea and liquid infusions. By fermenting plants like comfrey or stinging nettle, one can produce a rich and nourishing fertiliser.

Other great veganic-friendly soil enrichers include kelp or seaweed meal for potassium and trace minerals, rock phosphate for phosphorus, and alfalfa meal for nitrogen.

There are even large-scale operations employing these techniques, and many example farms and gardens around the world that have operated sustainably for decades without ever using manure or any animal products. If you’re interested in learning more about veganic gardening, please visit