We’re going totally topsy turvy this week! Vegan food! Gluten Free! Oh and Fantasy Friday being hosted on a Thursday but it’s for an important reason. Today is Tolkien Reading Day! Set on March 25th each year to commemorate the fall of Sauron, fans of the Middle Earth are encourage to read or rather re-read this epic saga. Since I’m on a journey of my own with this vegan challenge, it seems appropriate to call upon the fellowship. What did they travel with but the elven Lembas bread–a recipe I had yet to tackle. I’ve seen a few recipes on the net for Lembas bread but one thing has always bothered me: they were essential just short bread cookies or butter cakes. Hardly the sort of thing you take on a long journey. The bread needs to be sweet and delicious but also full of protein, vitamins and fiber. Challenge accepted! I totally would imagine Tolkien’s’ elves as vegans…wouldn’t you? I mean I think the Mirkwood elves in The Hobbit may be depicted as eating meat at their feast scene. I don’t remember those details and I should try to look it up I suppose. I’m sure I will later but for now I’m going to stick with my mental image of the elves as vegans. I could buy that . Except for one thing: pretty sure the elves eat honey. Did you know honey isn’t universally considered vegan? When I first found out, I though okay, it made a modicum of sense—honey is after all an animal product of sorts. It’s produced by insects which aren’t really classified as animals but I can see the logic path that would leave vegans to opposing honey.
Then I thought about it some more and realized that if you consider insects “people too” you basically have to desist from eating anything manufactured. In fact even growing a backyard garden and employing some organic tricks for pest control would mean impacting and killing the insect population should be disallowed. At what point do you draw the line? In a normal day any plant processing your vegan agave nectar is going to kill a thousand insects simply as a side effect of running the plant. Bugs get in the gears; bugs get in the food; bugs get everywhere and they get filtered out. So I can’t really get on board with the anti-honey vegans. The issue of animal-cruelty hypocrisy has been pretty prescient lately when PETA was exposed for “putting down” up to 96% of the animals they “rescued”. Having worked with dog rescues for years I’ve known this for a long time and wasn’t surprised. It’s why I never, ever have supported PETA. Bunch of money grabbing phonies.
One of the driving motivations behind vegetarianism, and veganism, is the issue of animal cruelty. Factory farming practices for animal welfare are abysmal. I don’t think I’m going to surprise anyone by saying that. Most of us are happy to plug our ears, close our eyes and try not to imagine the animal that used to be alive outside that Styrofoam and plastic wrapped non-animal looking pound of protein. Nevermind that cows are kept crammed together in their own feces and fed diets that make them ill. Nevermind that hens are kept so close to one another they peck each other out of anxiety. Nevermind that pigs experience such anxiety in their close captivity that they bit each other’s tails—causing horrible infections. To combat this farms frequently cut off their tails which actually puts the pigs in more pain because nerve endings are exposed but eliminates the pesky, costly infections. And yes pigs DO experience emotions like anxiety. They are highly evolved, intelligent creatures despite the dirty connotations we’ve given them over time. That being said I don’t have a problem normally with eating them because wild pigs are also really fucking MEAN. The tiny, human bred teacup kind people keep for pets might be Wilbur-esque but the sort you find on a farm, the natural version? They’ll eat your kneecaps before you can yell uncle.
I accept that in the natural order of things some animals eat other animals—and that I am one of those predators. That doesn’t limit my desire to see these animals raised humanely and slaughtered as painlessly as possible. I think of this way: torture is often seen as something worse than death. Keeping someone in a state of constant pain and agony until they desire to no longer exist is horrible and overall we tend to object to torture more vehemently than even death itself. I accept this because, as with the honey issue, finding a way to eliminate any negative effect of our human need to eat on other living creatures is impossible. I’m not convinced that honey farming, especially the small scale local level, is particularly harmful to the mental state of the insects. I do buy locally sourced honey and not just because I try to be a locavore, but because eating local honey has been demonstrated to help with allergies—local pollens and all that.
That’s my biggest problem with veganism, and to a lesser extent vegetarianism, if you examine it closely enough you will always find something that is inconsistent with this mindset. Vegetarians who eat eggs, as an example, if they get eggs from factory farms are still supporting the slaughter of chickens. In order to raise hens for egg laying farms will have to hatch thousands of eggs and male chickens, aka roosters, get tossed in a grinder upon hatching. So ovo-vegetarians you ARE supporting this industry unless you buy eggs from small farms that raise their own hens and don’t slaughter baby boys.
In fact…the egg laying hen industry essentially Craster’s Keep of the food world. Anyway that’s why I’m happy to align myself as this new fangled term “flexitarian”. I realize that there will always be some impact from my existing and eating–but I can work to minimize that as much as possible. For that I do applaud those who make the vegan and vegetarian lifestyle choices. At least they are doing something…minimizing the cost. Just don’t get too militant about it and recognize that in the end something, whether its a cow or a blade of grass, dies for us to eat. Let’s give it the respect it deserves and avoid the nasty factory farming practices that really are just unnecessarily cruel and unusual.
Which brings me back to our geeky subject of the day! So what do you think? Would the elves of Tolkien’s world be vegans? I imagine that since they are magical there are ways for the children of the wood to avoid killing even a single bug in the making of their food. If hobbits are the hippies of middle earth, the elves are definitely the vegan no-soy latte hipsters. Sorry Legolas. I’ve made two LOTR/Hobbit recipes already: Beorn’s Twice Baked Honey Cakes and Sam Gamgee’s Potato Dumplin’s… but I still hadn’t tackled the most iconic of all the foods in this world: Lembas Bread.
‘So it is,’ they answered, ‘But we call it lembas or way bread, and it is more strengthening than any food made by Men, and it is more pleasant than cram, by all accounts.’
‘Indeed it is’ said Gimli. ‘Why, it is better than the honey-cakes of the Beornings, and that is great praise, for the Beornings are the best bakers that I know of”
And so without further ado I provide a recipe that is Gluten Free, Soy Free AND Vegan* It’s loaded with protein and fiber to keep you full on your journey. My genuine original recipe and I’m incredibly proud of it because it’s INSANELY. FRAKKING. DELICIOUS. One waybread slice is supposed to be enough to feed any man but I definitely went hobbit on these and devoured 4 or 5 though in my defense I cut them smaller than they are shown in the films. Thanks to the high protein of the garbanzo, amaranth and almonds, this bread is not only going to taste good but it will keep you sustained both with carbs for your glycogen reserves and as a complete source of protein.
*I used honey in my version but if you are a non-honey eating vegan feel free to substitute agave nectar instead.
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