Monday, May 25, 2020

Rainbow Pasta With Brussels Sprouts, Soy Ground, & Cherry Tomatoes

A huge thank you to the essential workers at grocery stores, post offices, hospitals, and beyond for keeping up with colossal supply and demand during this current pandemic. It has been scary times right now and living in complete isolation frightened a lot of us. We have lost loved ones, dearest friends, colleagues, those who have inspired us from afar.

The New York Times cover 5/24/2020. Rest in peace to those lost. You are more than names. 
Toilet paper was not the only hard to find item. Pantry items like pastas, rice, lentils, bread, and frozen vegetables were scarce, nonexistent for weeks. Good friends sent me beautiful care packages with yeast to make bread, masks for venturing outside, and chocolate (very important in survival). People will let you know in several ways that they care, that they’re thinking of you. Phone calls, text messages, and mailed cards have certainly kept me grounded and made me feel less alone.
Summer is coming. That means fresh, colorful plates that only veggies and fruits can provide.
Luckily, cherry tomatoes —my absolute favorite— are available right now. I love them best in pastas, pizzas, and salads, uncooked. Thus, here is a simple pasta dish of buttery tri-colored rotini with Brussels sprouts, soy ground, and cherry tomatoes.

Rainbow Rotini With Brussels Sprouts, Soy Ground, and Cherry Tomatoes Ingredients and Preparation

1 cup rainbow rotini
2 cup frozen Brussels sprouts
1/4 cup Lightlife Soy Ground (or any other kind of plant based meatless crumbles)
1/4 cup Follow Your Heart Cheddar Shreds
1 tablespoon Mikoyo’s Kitchen Plant Based Butter
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
4 cherry tomatoes, sliced
pinch of olive oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Prepare pasta, Brussels sprouts, and soy ground according to package directions.
Combine pasta, Brussels sprouts, and soy ground together. Add in the cheddar shreds, vegan butter, Italian seasoning, and salt.
Toss chopped cherry tomatoes with olive oil, black pepper, and garlic. Garnish the pasta with the cherry tomatoes.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

I Should Have Quit in November

"If you are silent about your pain, they'll kill you and say you enjoyed it."— Zora Neale Hurston

I remember the excitement in late October, the day the Vegan Dayton group announced a new all-vegan restaurant coming into town. It would occupy the space Loving Hut had years ago in the Dayton Mall. Of course, I had to apply for a job— always wanted to work at a vegan restaurant. 

This happiness was short lived, ultimately becoming a huge, colossal mistake. 

On opening week, I pitched an article to Veg News about the restaurant. On the very first day, I found out the batter had been mixed with a milk additive flour. Boss Lady* stopped immediately, but she seemed more pissed about my discovery than the misleading product. It was the start of many discrepancies. When the news editor emailed me back, I did not want to write the piece and last minute thought that I could. She wrote the article instead. 

For weeks, the restaurant appeared to be running smoother, more authentic vegan until seeing the Sweet Baby Back Thai Chili Sauce which contained milk and chicken fat. Although I had not eaten the sauce, many vegans had and this did not sit well in my stomach, let alone my heart and spirit. Boss Lady screamed, “why would you read the ingredients?” and “get back to the front.” Later, she would call and say, “I’m proud of you for always pointing out what is not vegan. I’m still learning.” Yet her expressions and body language conveyed only a fury and annoyance that would continue growing, making work days harder, strained. 

I no longer had a desire to pitch any other stories about the restaurant for vegan publications. Boss Lady started gaslighting, becoming agitated if I did not want to sample her food, proclaiming everything one-hundred-percent vegan with a sort of wild exaggeration that was frightening and intimidating. The uncomfortable situation ate at my moral compass— weighing the need to remain employed and withstand Boss Lady’s up/down attitudes versus the corrupt knowledge that the food was a complete facade. 

Another discovery led to Boss Lady blaming her partner solely for purchasing another wrong flour. Niles,* my co-worker, confessed that he told her for weeks about the milk batter— a batter that I and others had eaten. When I confronted Boss Lady over the phone at the restaurant, she accused Niles of lying. She called him minutes later. I stood in the doorframe, listening to her berate Niles, her loud voice booming, “why did you tell Janyce about the batter? You know how she gets!” Right then and there, I should have quit, learning that she was purposely poisoning us all. Still, I believed her, believed that she wanted to better herself for the community at hand even as Niles claimed that Boss Lady screamed “I can never have nothing!” every time I found something non-vegan. 

The pandemic had the restaurant closed for two months. That was two months of peace and clarity, unquestioned vegan food. In addition to not reading product ingredients, Boss Lady had been belittling us, making us feel unworthy, ugly. She had cussed us out, never apologized for any of her wrongs, talked about others like a bully in high school. There were days I returned home burdened by the heaviness of worthlessness and stupidity. When we all came back to work last weekend, it resumed— the non-vegan ingredients and Boss Lady pretending that she does not use them. 

After I quit on Sunday morning, Niles revealed to me that Boss Lady had been hiding things before my shifts, knowing that I read ingredients. Apparently she was, “oh we can’t have Janyce seeing this. Oh this writing is too small. She can’t see that” or “don’t let anyone know we use Honey Hot! Vegans don’t eat honey.” I felt absolutely floored and disgusted. Thus, I had finally made the right decision, months too late. Vegans are not important to her, especially the overall consciousness of what we stand for. It makes me sick that the foods manifesting inside of my own body and that of others contained the most unwanted. My eight years of veganism were maliciously harmed and compromised by Boss Lady. She knew all about it. 

When all is said and done, it will take a while to forgive myself for the harm caused to the many customers, to those who traveled far and wide for foods that they believed were cruelty free. In the end, I became as corrupt as Boss Lady and must reevaluate my whole purpose in veganism. May a guiding light aide me in another journey where a paycheck does not come above a chosen sentient lifestyle.