Sigh. Well, Um..

When I started writing for Lone Star Plate, I vowed I would never mention a certain famous and flashy vegan group. No matter how demeaning or obnoxious they were. But, well, one of their demeaning, obnoxious protests has a very good point behind it that I think is getting lost.

So, if you got here by googling “Why the hell are naked women showering outside my office building and what does meat have to do with the drought in Texas,” here is the connection between meat and water usage.

  • First, as I’m sure you know, Texas is in the midst of a huge drought. Many places are 20 inches below their average rain fall. Average rain falls aren’t a whole lot more than 20 inches to start with in much of Texas. (LCRA and National Atlas)
  • Fertilizer and pesticide runoff from crops grown to feed food animals gets into waterways and creates dead zones where no animal life can survive. (Read about the Chesapeake Bay, for instance.)(Environmental Working Group, which is not a vegetarian organization)
  • Slaughterhouses produce a huge amount of pollution in our waterways. In fact, eight slaughterhouses consistently number among the top twenty polluters of surface water. (EWG)
  • And quoting directly from the EWG: “A California Water Education Foundation study found that one gallon of tofu requires 219 gallons of water per pound, compared to 477 gallons for eggs, 896 gallons for cheese and 2,463 gallons for beef. A frequently cited global study estimates that it takes 1,857 gallons to produce a pound of beef, and 469 gallons for a pound of chicken (not including processing).”
  • Texas is the largest beef producing state, producing about 16% of the U.S. beef supply. (USDA and EPA)
So what does this mean? Well, obviously livestock production isn’t causing the drought in Texas. The drought is happening because it isn’t raining. But how livestock production factors in is our water use and the availability of clean water. 
Growing livestock for consumption uses up a lot of water. Think about it. That cow you’re eating had to eat a lot of grain (or possibly grass or hay) to get to the size it did. And if it’s eating grass, it had to eat even more since it takes longer for grass-fed animals to reach full size. The water used for all that animal feed could be put to much better use.
Beyond this, water is polluted at every stage of the process. Fertilzers and pesticides pollute waterways and cause dead zones, grazing pollutes streams with manure, feedlots concentrate water pollution into a small area, slaughter produces toxic waste which is dumped into our waterways, and in the end, 20 percent of the meat produced ends up wasted in landfills.
Eating meat is unnecessary. You can get all the calories and nutrients you need from plants. And you’ll likely improve your health if you replace meat with beans, whole grains, vegetables, and beans. And trust me, vegan food really can taste good
In the end, it isn’t necessary to eat meat, and we need to take our food production and consumption into account when we talk about ways to converse water. Not getting a glass of water when you sit down at a restaurant is piddling when we talk about the amount of water used in growing animals for food.

Iggi’s Texatarian: First Anniversary

Flier for Iggi’s Texatarian’s one year anniversary party

Lots of vegan food cart anniversaries lately! Iggi’s Texatarian is celebrating their first anniversary this Saturday with bands, DJs, hula hooping, a raffle, and a slip and slide. The key to fun times in Texas this time of year is water!

Music by Spells, Coma in Algiers, The Nouns, Grand Child, Leg Sweeper, BLACKIE, and The Bang Bang Theodores. As always, there will be great food from Iggi’s and alcoholic drinks and kombucha on tap from Cheer Up Charlie’s.

Iggi’s was one of the Austin businesses featured earlier this year on the Cooking Channel’s special about vegan food culture, The Veg Edge. You can see their interview towards the end of this clip. They’re also home to one of my favorite dishes in Austin.

Plant-Based Diet Workshop

Broccoli by Daphne Cheng. Licensed under creative commons from Vegan Stock Photo

My biggest criticism of Forks Over Knives was that it didn’t address the how of switching to a plant-based diet. Well, if you’ve got a bit of money and a spare weekend, you can get some hands on training from some of the health professionals featured in the movie.

Rip Esselstyn, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, and a whole host of other no-oil, plant-based diet folks will be hosting a weekend “immersion” with hands on information about what to eat, how to shop and cook, and how to deal with social situations. You’ll also get to taste lots of yummy foods that fit with the lifestyle at each meal.

Natala Constantine of Vegan Hope has described some of these immersions to me before, and they sound like an inspiring and informative experience. Previously, they’ve been limited to Whole Foods employees, but this one is open to the general public.

The immersion will be the weekend of August 26 to 28 in Marshall, Texas, which is just east of Louisiana in North Texas. The cost is $175 for one person or $300 for a couple. That includes meals for the weekend, but not accommodations. More details on their website.

Marshall, Texas, is mostly known for the easy drive over the border to Shreveport, Louisiana for some poker or slots. Just be warned that you’ll have to put up with lots of cigarette smoke and don’t expect to find any healthy food.

EDIT: In the comments, someone says there will be an immersion in Austin this September. I couldn’t find any details, but I’ll update if I find more information.

New Vegan Offering at Starbucks

Starbucks just introduced bento boxes to their stores across the country, and it turns out one of them is vegan!* The sesame noodle bento box comes with noodles, veggies, tofu, pickled cucumbers, sesame peanuts, and a piece of dark chocolate for dessert. I haven’t tried it yet, but from the description they got things right. This is the kind of meal I’d be happy to eat on a road trip. Grains, beans, nuts, veggies, and a little something fun to end the meal on. Good job, Starbucks!

About a year ago, Starbucks changed the way they made their Frappuccinos so you could easily get them vegan style. (Order a regular drink with soy milk. Avoid the skinny versions which contains milk powder.) With this, bagels, oatmeal, and Liz Lovely cookies, Starbucks is showing how easy it is to provide vegan options that everyone will enjoy.

From what I can find, these Texas cities have Starbucks locations: Abilene, Allen, Amarillo, Arlington, Bastrop, Beaumont, Bedford, Benbrook, Boerne, Brenham, Brownsville, Bryan, Burleson, Cedar Park, College Station, Colleyville, The Colony, Conroe, Cypress, Dallas, Denton, El Paso, Euless, Fairview, Fort Hood, Fort Worth, Frisco, Gainesville, Garland, Georgetown, Granbury, Grand Prairie, Grapevine, Haltom City, Harlingen, Hillsboro, Houston, Humble, Huntsville, Hurst, Irving, Katy, Kerrville, Killeen, Lakeway, Laredo, Leander, Lewisville, Longview, Lubbock, Lufkin, Mansfield, Magnolia, Marble Fallas, McAllen, McKinney, Mercedes, Mesquite, Midland, Mission, Montgomery, Murphy, Nacogdoches, North Richland Hills, Odessa, Pflugerville, Plano, Port Arthur, Richardson, Rockwall, Rosenberg, Round Rock, Rowlett, San Angelo, San Antonio, Sherman, Spring, Stephenville, Sugar Land, Temple, Texarkana, Tomball, Tyler, Waco, Watauga, Weatherford, Weslaco, Wichita Falls, Willis, The Woodlands, Wylie.

Not every location will have this (and some of these are in grocery stores or Targets), but it just goes to show that small changes at big corporations can make a huge difference. I love small, veg-friendly businesses (keep your eyes open for reviews of Texas vegan products from a new Lone Star Plate contributor), but not everyone has a Bouldin Creek or Spiral Diner nearby, and it’s great to have more options when traveling in unfamiliar places, too.

*Thanks to a post on DallasVegan’s Facebook page!

June Hyden Park Supper Club

Hyden Park Supper Club menu by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

I missed the first Hyden Park Supper Club, but Lazy Smurf’s recap and photos convinced me I needed to make it to the second come hell or high water. Or alluring VegFests in other cities. Thankfully, it hasn’t rained in a long time and the next big Texas Veg*n festival isn’t for a few months.

This is the second Hyden Park Supper Club, which Chef Elizabeth created to showcase real sustainable food. Or, leaves-to-roots cuisine, as she’s calling it. The meal was served in a Hyde Park yard decorated with twinkle lights, candles, and pleasant company. An array of jelly jar water glasses were placed carefully around the tables. But my eye was focused on the menu.

Tomato Tartar with Basil Oil and a Mochi Crisp. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

The first course was this gorgeous tomato appetizer with a mochi crisp on the side. I’ve never seen such vibrant tomatoes. [Looking at the Hyden Park tumblr, it looks like they were dyed with beet juice!] I’ve never had mochi before, and I’m still not sure what I think of it.

Watermelon Gazpacho with Lime Ice by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

But I forgot about the first course the minute the second course arrived. I’m not really a fan of gazpacho (don’t tell my mother!), so I wasn’t very excited for this course. But this was nothing like tomato gazpacho. Cool watermelon–not too sweet–with little bites of red onion. The ice floating in the middle was lime juice, like a dollop of sorbet. I loved every sip of it.

Main course at Hyde Park Supper Club by mollyjade. My husband thinks the plating looks a bit like a fish. Licensed under creative commons

The main course floored me. I started to worry about having enough room for dessert.  Starting at the top is barbecued tempeh ribs. There was none of the bitterness or crumbliness that tempeh can have, just a sweetness and a firm bite. Then a dill potato salad, which reminded me of the potato salad at Loving Hut in Arlington, which is a good thing. The turnips in the salad made it slightly sweet. Beside that, pickled watermelon radishes, which were surprisingly sour.

And then the cole slaw. This was probably my favorite dish of the night. Cole slaw is usually a boring afterthought at a barbecue. But this one had some surprising ingredients besides the usual cabbage. Green apple and what I *think* was thinly sliced seedless cucumber. It was chewy and almost rubbery, in a good way. In the corn husk was steamed corn bread, which was the only thing I didn’t really care for. Which left me with just enough room for dessert.

Peach crisp with pecan ice cream by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

And I was really glad I had room left for dessert. The ramekins came out warm and the ice cream cold. The peaches in the crisp were just boozey enough from the whiskey. And the ice cream wasn’t coconutty or icy, but mild and creamy enough for the taste of pecans to come through.

After the meal, other Texas VegFest organizers and I had a chance to talk with Texas State Veggie Fair organizers Jamey and Christy. Now I’m even more excited for both events. I tried to convince Jamey and Christy that the Veggie Fair needs an Earth Balance sculpture. Check out Christy’s description of the meal and the rest of her trip to Austin at her blog, The Blissful Chef.

A big thank you to Chef Elizabeth for creating such a wonderful meal and dining experience.

Survey: Why Veg?

A new study from folks at Texas A & M looked at the reasons why people become vegetarian or vegan. They polled people at VegFests in fourteen states and found out . . . that there is no one reason why people stop eating animal products. It’s going to take all kinds of people to build a vegan world.

Because everyone loves a survey, I’ve added a survey to Lone Star Plate asking why you initially stopped eating animal products. And I’m being mean and only letting you pick one answer. In my experience, once a person is veg for a few years, there is no longer one main reason why they don’t eat animal products. But what was the biggest influence on your decision to ditch animal products in the beginning?

Vegan Guide to Arlington, Texas

I grew up in Arlington, and my family still lives there. So I have lots of opportunities to visit. Arlington is surprisingly vegan-friendly. Besides these restaurants, there are the usual veg-friendly places like Taco Bell and Subway, but I’d save those for road trip emergencies. Check Vegan Eating Out to find out what’s vegan at your local chain restaurant. I’m also sure that other international restaurants (Italian, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Mediterranean, Indian, and so on) have vegan options that I haven’t discovered yet. Have something to add to the list? Leave a comment below, and I’ll keep the guide updated.

Al Amir — Mediterranean food in central Arlington. Recommended by UTA Vegan Club.

Andalous Mediterranean — There are a number of Mediterranean restaurants on this list, but I think this one has the widest selection of vegetable dishes. Besides the usual suspects, there is za’atar bread, purple-and-white potato salad, couscous salad, kidney and garbanzo bean salad, Egyptian baby eggplant, and more. The food is served cafeteria-style. Like Luby’s for a more enlightened generation.

Beiruit Rock Cafe — Near UTA, and recommended by folks in the UTA Vegan Club.

Chipotle — Chipotle is a vegan’s best friend. The black beans and rice are vegan, and you can even sneak in a few vegetables. And vegetable entrees get a free scoop of guacamole. This is the place to go if you’re in a hurry or you’re with friends who are allergic to non-chain restaurants.

Denny’s — You won’t be blown away with the food here, but you might get dragged here at 3 AM after a late night knitting session. Or whatever the kids do these days. (If someone tries to drag you to IHOP at 3 AM instead, I hope you like water and pickles.) Get the veggie burger (no butter on the bun) and go crazy and add some avocado or a side of broccoli. If only breakfast will do, go with grits or oatmeal.

Digg’s Tacos — A fast casual Tex-Mex joint near UTA. According to Broccoli Bulletin, most items ordered with the veggie mix can made vegan by leaving out the frequent offenders (cheese, butter, sour cream). Read her review for more info on customizing vegan dishes.

Freebirds — Freebirds is another great bean and rice option. They recently sat down with some Austin vegans to chat about adding more vegan options to the menu, so keep your eye out for some good changes.

Genghis Grill — Mongolian grill. You choose the ingredients, and they cook them. If the communal grill bothers you, places like this will often either clean it before cooking your food or cook your meal on a separate wok.

Health and Harmony Coffee House. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons



Good Karma Kitchen —This gluten-free vegetarian food truck makes stops at UTA on Mondays. Check their current schedule on their website.

Health and Harmony Coffee House — Near UTA, this independent coffee shop is very vegan friendly. They have soy and almond milk for their drinks, and they host community events including vegan potlucks. They’re planning to add more vegan items to their cafe menu, and I’ll update this when I find out what they are. CLOSED

Istanbul Grill — Mediterranean food is always a good choice for vegans, but the atmosphere and the food at this Turkish restaurant are extra nice. Split the mezze plate with someone, and you’ll leave happy. (Some items on the plate need to be subbed to make the platter vegan.)

Kababji Mediterranean Grill and Cafe — This Mediterranean restaurant is in the tiny Arlington suburb Pantego. They have a variety of vegan dishes, including chickpea salad, lentil soup, couscous, potatoes, lentils and rice, cauliflower, and hummus

La Blue Casa — This Mexican restaurant located near UTA is transitioning to an entirely vegan menu after seeing Cowspiracy. How cool is that? In the meantime, they have vegan options for everything on the menu.

Sloppy Jenny at Loving Hut. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

Loving Hut — Arlington’s all-vegan restaurant. One of the few all-vegan restaurants in DFW, even. The food is good, and the atmosphere is welcoming. Plus, vegan baked goods! Currently their food is a mixture of sandwiches, Asian-inspired bowls, and pizzas, with a few odds and ends to round things out.

Mellow Mushroom — Mellow Mushroom is a chain with pizza, salad, and sandwiches. I love their tempeh sandwich. The Arlington location carries Daiya vegan cheese.

Palio’s Pizza — Palio’s recently added vegan cheese as an option on their pizzas. The crust is crispier and chewier than Mellow Mushroom. A good place to go for pizza with someone who’s squeamish about so-called weird vegan food. This place is located just outside of Arlington in Mansfield, but that part of Cooper St is close enough we won’t quibble.

Pei Wei — Casual chain Chinese restaurant near the Parks Mall. Lots of vegan options, and the spicy dishes are actually spicy.

P.F. Chang — Upscale Chinese restaurant by the same folks as Pei Wei. Good vegan options. I love the eggplant and curry.

Pho 95 — This Vietnamese restaurant has a polished interior and a vegetarian section on the menu, so it’s great for date night The tofu ban mi is tasty and cheap (ask for no mayo and add sriracha).

Potager — Potager is the new darling of the Arlington restaurant scene. The restaurant is dedicated to sustainable and local food. Which means you might have to put up with some happy meat discussion. The menu varies from day to day. They always have vegetarian options, but if you want a vegan meal, it’s probably best to call ahead to see if they can accommodate you. [closed as of July 2015 with a possibility of reopening]

Smiling Moose Deli — This is a chain restaurant near UTA. The Broccoli Bulletin gives a thumbs up to the soup and says that any of the vegetarian dishes can be ordered vegan if you leave out the dairy.[now closed]

Souper Salad — Salad bar with some vegan options, including several salad dressings and croutons. Yes, croutons! The plain cornbread is vegan, too. Check out their vegan items on their website.

Sweet Tomatoes — Yeah, it’s another chain, but they get credit for clearly marking vegan food. Sweet Tomatoes is a buffet with soups, salads, and pasta. They are always a few vegan options. They post the menu online ahead of time, so you can see if any of the day’s specials appeal to you.

Star India — This is recommended by the Black Vegetarian Society of Texas, and I haven’t visited since I went vegan. According to BVST, half of the buffet is plant-based and much of that is dairy free. But it’s always a good idea to ask if anything contains ghee or yogurt.

Taste of Thai — Also recommended by Black Vegetarian Society as a good date spot. The menu states that any ingredient can be left out by request, but be sure to enquire about shrimp paste and fish sauce in any sauces.

Thai House — This is my family’s standby Thai restaurant. Stir-fries (labeled “main dishes” on the menu) and fried rice can be made vegan by request. Some of the noodle dishes can be made vegan as well. All of the curries contain fish sauce.

Ton’s Mongolian Grill — Same concept as Genghis Grill.

Grocery Stores
Arlington Farmer’s Market — Fresh produce grown by your neighbors. This market is still pretty new and small, but I expect it will keep growing rapidly.

Arlington Farmers’ Market in May. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

Cho Saigon Asian Market — Asian staples and inexpensive produce.

Costco — Costo has good deals on vegetables, veggie burgers, hummus, snack foods, grains, canned goods, almond butter, and frozen parbaked roti and pita–so long as you don’t mind buying large quantities. I also think they have the best natural peanut butter. What they have varies from month-to-month.

Green’s Plants and Produce
— This is a garden center and food store with a nice supply of locally grown produce and locally made products. Because of the local focus, what they have on hand changes from day to day.

Halal Import Food Market — You’ll find lots of inexpensive international ingredients here. Indian snack foods, canned goods, grains, beans, fresh baked pita.

Hong Kong Market — Great for vegan-friendly Asian staples. Rice, canned veg duck, cheap produce, fresh tofu, soy milk, canned jackfruit, cheap soy sauce, rice paper wrappers. You can even find vegan buns or wonton and eggroll wrappers in the freezer cases if you’re willing to wade through lots of ingredients lists.

Kroger — they carry lots of vegan-friendly specialty items, including Daiya cheese and Gardein, two hot new vegan products. The freezer case is pretty well stocked with quick meals, too. And of course, every grocery store has a giant vegan section called the produce department! How well-stocked the special diet section is may depend on what part of town you’re in. This review is based on the South Cooper location.

Sprouts — This small grocery store has a freezer and refrigerator sections well-stocked with vegan-friendly items, as well as lots of good produce and vitamins. Prices are generally a bit high as they carry organic and natural brands.

Tom Thumb — same as Kroger. They have a surprising amount of vegan specialty items.

Whole Foods — vegan mecca for lots of cities, the Arlington Whole Foods carries prepared vegan foods and baked goods, along with lots of vegan staples.

[Updated September 2015]

Texas Animal-Friendly License Plates

Did you know you can get a license plate that supports Texas animals? I didn’t. At least not until someone mentioned a Sea Turtle license plate, which got me very excited. Unfortunately, those are only available in Florida and Georgia.

In Texas, we can get “Animal Friendly,” the proceeds of which go to spaying and neutering animals. A really important cause. Also, then you get to advertise how much you love animals without worrying about someone writing “People Eating Tasty Animals” in the dust on your filthy windows.

There’s also this neat Horned Lizard license plate. The money from this one goes to Texas Parks and Wildlife to protect, “native, non-game species” like the horned lizard.

And just because sea turtles are adorable, check out the Florida sea turtle plate:

More Road Tripping through Texas

Here’s another great article about taking a meandering drive through Texas and hoping to catch some good, healthy eats. My heart broke a little for this couple. While they may have made the trip with full tummies and intact pant-sizes, they ended up eating Subway Veggie Delites when they were just minutes away from Green. Green which was recently voted both best healthy meal and second best dessert in San Antonio, a combination you don’t find often. And while I love having access to Whole Foods when I’m away from home, Loving Hut in Arlington would have been a better meal and closer to I-20, too!

Mr. Fuller, next time you pass through Texas drop me an email. There’s no need to resort to Subway.

Blogging Across Texas

This is a beautiful blog post about traveling through small town Texas as a vegan, searching for adventure and the unknown.

We were hungry, full of empty calories that can only come from Subway’s freshly baked bread, really couldn’t take seeing another cross dotting the road like mile markers (only .25 miles until you’re in hell), and the novelty of OMG-there-really-are-only-religious-radio-stations was wearing off. When we finally made it to our chain motel in some Texas town I can’t remember, in the middle of what we were told was hill country, right next to a Sonic, we were too tired to care about the prospect of driving through hot ass Texas sans AC. Plus, there really were a lot of cattle farms and meat factories. Yummy.

It’s really beautiful writing. Read the rest here. I just hope the author got to sample some of the great vegan food Texas has to offer.