Vegan Kitchen: Support Black-owned food businesses

Shanna-Kay Wright uses simple ingredients to make the vegan dishes at Yardie Ting in Portland. The owner of the Jamaican restaurant in the Public Market House, Wright says the menu’s many vegan choices reflect the influence of Ital food on the island.

Ital food, eaten by members of the Rastafari religion and movement, is usually vegetarian and always minimally processed. However, Wright points out that Yardie Ting’s vegan dishes don’t qualify as Ital, since to suit local tastes she uses non-Ital ingredients such as salt and garlic powder.

“All my years growing up in Jamaica, you would not use any all-purpose seasoning,” explained Wright, who has run a catering business in Portland since 2013. “Ital means food that is from the earth. No powder seasonings. No salt. All organic. All natural.”

The jerk tofu at Yardie Ting in the Portland Public Market House comes with black beans and a kick of spice. Photo courtesy of Yardie Ting

Ital or not, the Yardie Ting vegan dishes, including jerk tofu, coconut curry, the Mon Hungry sandwich, spinach patties, and the fried plantains, taste great and sell well.

But Wright reports foot traffic at the Public Market House remains slow, with many of the surrounding office buildings still empty. Even so, the brand new restaurant is “staying afloat.”

I’d like to see Yardie Ting doing better. And it’s not just because I like the food.

It’s also because Wright is Black, and I want to take action to promote equity and demonstrate that Black Lives Matter. As a white ally in one of the whitest states in the nation, one of the simplest actions I can take is to spend my money at Black-owned businesses, such as Yardie Ting.

In Maine, we’re blessed to have the new directory, which allows users to search by business category and region of Maine. When the site launched in June, it confirmed what I suspected. Portland is home to many Black-owned restaurants, and most offer robust vegan choices.

One of the longest-running vegan-friendly, Black-owned restaurants in Portland is Asmara on Oak Street, which owner Asmeret Teklu opened in 2004. The Eritrean restaurant was shuttered for many months because of the pandemic before it reopened in June and it remains takeout only.

All of Asmara’s vegetarian dishes are vegan, and Teklu told me she sells more vegetarian than non-vegetarian dishes these days.

“We’re doing well, so far,” said Teklu, who grew up in Eritrea and moved to Maine in 1988. “It’s not like it used to be, but it’s good for this time.”

She said the vegetarian sampler plate, which is made to feed a family of four and costs $49.95, is a strong seller right now. Asmara’s sampler plate “has a little bit of all the vegetarian options,” such as steamed greens, stewed lentils, ground and roasted chickpeas, and spicy stewed okra and potatoes. All the meals come with either rice or traditional injera, a flatbread made from a fermented dough of ground teff grains.


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Vegan S’Mores Smoothie Bowl Recipe

A smoothie in a bowl is a snack I can get behind. Not only are smoothie bowls way more photogenic than regular smoothies in a glass, but you can add toppings like fresh fruit, honey, or granola to make it a full meal, and they take little to no effort to make. With so many smoothie bowl recipes out there, you could test out one every day and never run out of options!

TikTok sisters Ashley and Taylor Johnston (@twincoast) are elevating the game with their new s’mores smoothie bowl recipe which is keeping the summer vibes going this fall. The vegan recipe calls for four frozen bananas or coconut cream cubes, one big scoop of marshmallow fluff, splash of vanilla, 1/4 cup chocolate milk, and a handful of chocolate chips. Based off their tutorial video, it’s a basic two-step process. Simply throw the listed ingredients into a blender and blend until thick, about a few seconds. Next, scoop the smoothie into a bowl — preferably, one that’ll look good in a photo — and garnish with extra chocolate chips, graham crackers, and marshmallow fluff.

Customize your bowls with chocolate drizzle of if you’re feeling extra, toasted marshmallows. Whip out your blender and check out the slides ahead for a visual tutorial.

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Vegan Kitchen: A decade on, Melanie Joy’s book on carnism still casts a big shadow

Bestselling author and Harvard-trained psychologist Melanie Joy says the 10 years following the publication of her provocative book “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism” have brought significant changes in how humans think about animals.

What she doesn’t say, but I will, is that Joy’s groundbreaking book played a pivotal role in causing ideas to shift.

Last month, publisher Red Wheel released an anniversary edition. The updated book includes a new forward, a new afterword, and other updates.

Yet the overall message has stayed the same: Carnism is an invisible belief system that protects and enshrines a series of cultural myths allowing us to think eating particular animals is normal, natural and necessary while eating others is abnormal, disgusting and wrong. Like other violent ideologies, carnism is illogical and works best when nobody talks about it.

Joy, who named the belief system carnism long before she penned the book, writes: “The first step in deconstructing eating animals, then, is deconstructing the invisibility of the system.”

Psychologist and author Melanie Joy. An anniversary edition of her best-selling book on carnism was released in August. Photo courtesy of Beyond Carnism

To do so, Joy has traveled to more than 50 countries to speak about the book since its original publication. In 2011, she spoke at the Portland Public Library. In 2013, she was given the Ahimsa Award by the Institute of Jainology, based in India and England. It’s an honor shared by a small group who include Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama.

“Why We Love Dogs” continues to influence current thinking. In December, Vox put “Why We Love Dogs” at the top of its list of “19 books from the 2010s we can’t stop thinking about.” In January, Joy talked with The Washington Post about “Why that vegan meal at the Golden Globes set off so many critics.” And this summer one of three winning essays (out of 1,242 submissions) in The New York Times’ annual Student Editorial Contest was headlined “Bringing Ethics to Your Plate” and cited the book in its second paragraph.

I was able to connect with Joy at her home in Berlin, Germany, via Zoom and she agreed that “since 2010, when the first edition was published, the awareness of what an atrocity animal agriculture is has really grown.”

She points to a number of factors raising people’s consciousness, including the increased availability of vegan food and the impossible-to-ignore body of scientific research that has accumulated during the decade linking an animal-based diet with climate change and a plant-based diet with disease prevention and reversal. Joy said this year the COVID-19 pandemic has further opened eyes to the consequences of animal confinement systems and their role in spreading zoonotic disease.

“In the past few months, more people have become aware that animal agriculture and wet markets are leading drivers of pandemics,’ Joy said. “This combination of more awareness and easier access to more vegan options has made more people increasingly uncomfortable,

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