Marin Vegetarian Education Group
February, 2015

February is a short month, but this is a long newsletter. I am sending it early because I will be traveling to visit family at the end of January.

Along with the surprising news that Millennium Restaurant is closing, and the heartbreaking news that foie gras is legal again in California, there is good news here regarding vegan cookies, cooking classes, a delightful tea house, cheese, and a new novel about a vegan politician.  You will also learn about a horrific farmed animal breeding lab in Nebraska and  disharmony between two animal advocacy groups.  And to end with uplifting reading, see the interview with John Robbins with his wise perspective on vegan living.

In the same week, I celebrated and then was surprised and sad when I read news about Millennium Restaurant:

Congratulations to Millennium Restaurant, #1 In the World

After they looked at reviews, customer comments, menu offerings, creativity, variety and longevity, San Francisco's Millennium Restaurant beat out veg dining establishments in New York,  Hong Kong, Singapore, Lisbon, Jordan, Mumbai and Argentina to be named the #1 Vegetarian Restaurant in the World, according  to The Daily Meal, All Things Food and Drink. Congratulations to owners Larry and Ann Wheat, chef Eric Tucker, and everyone who works to make Millennium the go-to restaurant for outstanding, gourmet, vegan food.  Read about this distinguished honor at: http://www.examiner.com/article/millennium-restaurant-san-francisco-named-1-vegetarian-restaurant-the-wor

Having just finished writing the above, I learned that Millennium is closing. Gasp!
I wish Eric Tucker and Allison Bagby success in their new venture. Of course, you will hear about it here as I learn more in the coming months.

Millennium  Restaurant Closing at end of April
On January 21 I received the following email from Millennium restaurant. I am reprinting it in full, as it arrived in my inbox.

After more than 20 years in business, and with the end of our lease, we
will serve our last meal as Millennium at 580 Geary St on April 30,
2015. We are so grateful to our co-workers, family, farmers & friends
who have made the experience of running this restaurant unforgettable.

The Hotel California was recently sold to Pineapple Hospitality, a
Seattle company. They will be doing an extensive renovation and we have
been notified that they do not wish to continue to have a restaurant as
part of their hotel.

After 20+ years Larry and Ann Wheat, the principal owners of Millennium,
have decided to retire from the restaurant business after Millennium
closes on or about May 1, 2015. They have made a significant
contribution to the success of Millennium and consider it their
contribution to the vegetarian movement. They have said that they will
miss the staff and customers they have met over the years.

Eric Tucker, Millennium's executive chef since inception and co-owner of
Millennium, will be opening a restaurant with Millennium's General
Manager Alison Bagby. They have worked together for the past 8.5 years
and will continue to serve organic plant based cuisine. In Eric's words,
"we want to keep this thing going". They are currently evaluating
potential locations and looking for investors. While the prospect of
closing is a sad one, they both see this as an opportunity to improve
upon Millennium's dining room and location.

The cost of running a restaurant in San Francisco, using the best ingredients possible
and making the entire menu from scratch daily, combined with our shared affinity for 
the East Bay have us leaning in that direction but we are also actively 
looking in San Francisco.

To everyone who has become part of the Millennium family--we could not
have done what we did for so long without you---THANK YOU.

Please visit us in the next 3 months and stay tuned for Eric's
Kickstarter campaign. If you are interested in investing, please contact us HERE



Gratefully Yours,
The Millennium Family

(The link above for investing will not work here. If you are interested in investing in Eric Tucker's new venture, write to betarestaurants@gmail.com)

Worth a Trip to Sebastopol

Sometimes a highly anticipated new restaurant is disappointing. Not this one! Muir's Tea Room (330 South Main Street, Sebastopol) is superb. From the beautiful, simple decor, to the mouth watering menu (soups, salads, finger sandwiches, pastries, petit fours, tea, full espresso bar), everything seems to have been thoughtfully planned and perfectly delivered. And everything on the menu is 100% vegan.  It took 55 minutes from Fairfax and was well worth the trip. Muir's is closed on Mondays, but any other day it is a delightful destination.  Check out their web site for possible special events: MuirsTeaRoom.com  And consider calling for a reservation so you won't be disappointed; people tend to linger,  as you will want to, over endless pots of tea and scrumptious food. 707-634-6143 (Sebastopol also has a Copperfield's Bookstore, so if you do have to wait, you can grab something to read just down the street.)

Favorite Girl Scout Cookie Now Vegan
Oh happy day! According to the Miami New Times, the thin mint Girl Scout Cookie is now vegan for the first time! It seems that there was a high demand among vegans for this popular cookie, and the Girl Scouts listened.  I have not yet seen the ingredients list, and I suspect there will be plenty of ingredients that I generally avoid. Still, I want to taste this childhood treat again. My sister and I used to fight over these, as there were never enough to satisfy us both.  If any of you knows a girl scout who is selling these, please let me know how to reach her!  Read more about the cookies here:
http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/shortorder/2015/01/girl_scout_cookies_come_in_four_vegan_varieties_draft.php

New Book Recommendation
A new novel, Off The Reservation by Glen Merzer is the story of an ethical politician, a vegan, whose values start winning him votes.  It's a far fetched plot, given today's climate in Washington, but so well written and so much fun that I found myself laughing and wishing it were true as I read it.  The characters are well drawn and believable; I would have liked the book even if I didn't know the author!  Glen Merzer has written many successful vegan books of nonfiction (Mad Cowboy with Howard Lyman, for example), and his fiction debut is both engaging and good for you. How so?  Every time the congressman has a meal, it happens to be a whole foods, healthy vegan meal. And the author kindly includes recipes for each meal mentioned in the story.
http://bit.ly/OffTheReservationNovel

Congratulations to Miyoko Schinner
In January, the San Francisco Chronicle featured a story about local, vegan cheeses, and Miyoko's cheeses got terrific coverage. If you missed the article, which tells Miyoko's story and raves about her artisan vegan cheeses (available at natural food stores everywhere in the Bay Area and West Coast), you can read it at http://www.sfchronicle.com/food/article/Artisanal-vegan-cheese-comes-into-its-own-6005937.php#/0   Congratulations to Miyoko for the well deserved press coverage!  Note: If someone you know lives too far from a store that sells these cheeses, tell him that you can now mix and match and order as few as three at a time at MiyokosKitchen.com. You no longer need to order a large assortment.

Vegan Cooking Class with Syndee Collison
February 22 in San Rafael
Syndee Collison is offering a vegan basics and beyond cooking class in San Rafael on Sunday, February 22 with a money back guarantee. The cost is on a sliding scale from $40 to $80 for a three and a half hour class which includes, cooking tips, recipes, food, and nutrition information.  After the class there will be a screening of the movie Cowspiracy (optional).  For more information, contact Syndee at 415-215-9802  Space is limited, so sign up today if you're interested.

Vegan Cooking Intensive in Mendocino

February 9 - 13
If you can afford the time and money,  you may want to visit the charming coastal town of Mendocino this month. Stanford Inn by the Sea, a breathtaking eco-resort, is offering a vegan cooking intensive. The classes will include hands-on, plant based cooking instructions for sauces, soups, entrees, baking, dressings and desserts.  And there will also be a basic gardening class and healthy lifestyle and nutrition instruction. The cost of the intensive includes a four night stay at the Inn, breakfasts, dinners, all classes and a mountain bike rental, too!  $1150 double occupancy, $1745 single occupancy. Get more information and sign up by calling the Inn toll free at 1-800-331-8884  The intensive will be repeated in April, May, and August, so if those months might be better for you, hold the dates (4/20-24; 5/18-22; 8/17-21).

Foie Gras Legal Again in California
Sign Petition ASAP
California's ban on foie gras was lifted by U. S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson in January. He said that the ban, a state law, which went into effect in 2012, is superseded by federal law that regulates poultry products.  Among the many cruelties in animal agriculture,  the forced feeding of birds for human consumption of their fatty livers is very close to the top of the list.  The deadline is February 2 for California District Attorney Kamala Harris to appeal the ban. Sign it today and share it with others. The petition was started by gourmet chefs who agree that foie gras has no place at the table.
https://www.change.org/p/kamala-harris-appeal-undemocratic-and-inhumane-foie-gras-decision

Tax-Payer Program Creates Animal Suffering in Quest for Greater Profits
The New York Times published a very good, long, investigative article about a program in Nebraska that is trying to breed more lucrative farmed animals, but is creating whole, new levels of animal cruelty and neglect.  I cried while reading this piece and wrote to the Times. They did not publish my letter, but they did publish five letters similar to mine.  I thought that as a vegan, I would not feel guilty of these travesties, but as a tax-payer I am complicit and I cringe.
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/20/dining/animal-welfare-at-risk-in-experiments-for-meat-industry.html?_r=0

Whole Foods Market
and HSUS
Many vegans are thrilled to have a Whole Foods Market in their community.  And people all over the world applaud the work of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Yet both have been criticized recently - by me and others - for not living up to their stated missions.  I have mixed feelings. In my heart I want everyone to become a vegan today. I am impatient with half way measures and incensed when animals are hurt for profit, when advertising is misleading, and when someone believes people "are not ready" to hear a vegan message.  At the same time, I see the value of undercover videos at animal facilities and appreciate any organization that helps to produce them. And I know that for many people Whole Foods Markets is the only place to find healthy foods.  I also think that sometimes baby steps must come before giant leaps.  Additionally, most of the time when I think that an issue is black and white, there is often a huge gray territory lurking. I am learning to present my case for veganism with more humility as I continue my advocacy for animals. It's a worthwhile challenge, even when I fall short.
 
I encourage you to read these varying points of view, watch what videos you can bear to , and come to your own conclusion. For me, veganism in any form - raw, whole foods, junk food, sugar free, paleo - is the appropriate response to any impulse to not harm animals. I do not believe that there is such a thing as ethical animal agriculture, and I will continue to work toward and eat for a more compassionate world through veganism.  Here is what was brewing in recent weeks:

An organization called Direct Action Everywhere has been organizing in-store demonstrations at Whole Foods Markets. They answer questions about why they are targeting Whole Foods in a very good, succinct article: http://directactioneverywhere.com/theliberationist/2014/12/2/why-whole-foods. Within the article is a link to a film showing undercover footage of animals being raised for sale as food at Whole Foods stores.  The film is hard to watch, but you can ignore the link and scroll down to the article which is well worth reading.

Karen Davis of United Poultry Concerns (UPC) published a piece that is critical of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) for the way it presents its undercover video of animals being raised for slaughter. Read her essay here: http://www.all-creatures.org/articles/ar-stopping-short.html

I shared Karen's essay with Paul Shapiro of the HSUS, asking him why the HSUS does not do more to promote egg-free cuisine. He responded with this:

Thanks for your message, Patti. I'm very glad there are groups like UPC, and I'm also glad there are groups that conduct undercover investigations like HSUS. The groups may not play the same role in our movement, but both are important.

 While I am not convinced that it helps animals for one animal group to publicly condemn other animal groups, I respect Karen and UPC very much and always have. Any antagonism she may have toward us is certainly not reciprocated in any way. I wish only the most success for UPC.

 With regard to Karen's condemnation in this case, I am always open to the possibility that we can be doing things better. In this case, I do think it's hard to imagine that an average viewer would watch the horror show we uncovered and think, as she wrote, that "the experts" are telling you to relax, it's okay. € That's the exact opposite message any reasonable viewer would receive, and based on the hundreds of viewers who contacted us about this latest investigation, it's not what people took away. As well, the condemnation inaccurately asserts that our narrator blandly suggests eating less meat from factory farms. Yet that's not what it says. The narrator urges people to eat less meat, not any one type of meat.

As far as including an additional ask regarding eggs: I agree that's very important and perhaps would have made a strong video even stronger. It's tricky to ask people to do several things since that can lead to decision paralysis, and we were already asking people to do two things: eat less meat, and urge USDA for improvements. The video discusses the egg industry a lot, but it acknowledges that these birds are being slaughtered for their meat to be eaten by humans. That's why we focused more on meat than eggs. Maybe it was the right call; maybe not. If other groups can do a better job than us with investigations and videos, I very much hope they will and I'd tout their good work on it.

For what it's worth, HSUS has a lot of egg-free resources (see here, for example), of course Josh Balk at HSUS helped create the egg-free company Hampton Creek Foods, and we've worked with a number of major food companies to reduce their use of eggs. We're a big investor in many egg-free (vegan) food companies like Beyond Meat, Veggie Grill, and Miyoko's Kitchen. We put out lots of resources like the HSUS Guide to Meat-Free Meals, our Meatless Monday video, our free vegan recipe of the week, our vegan recipe library, and more. As well, every issue of our member magazine has a feature on vegan cooking.

Perhaps we could and should be doing more, but compared to other animal groups of our size, it's hard to tell who else is doing anything remotely like this. Of course, all groups, certainly HSUS included, can always improve, and I very much want to help HSUS do just that.

Wonderful Interview with John Robbins
The Eugene Veg Society published an exclusive interview with John Robbins. I have admired him for decades, every since I read Diet for a New America in 1986  I still look up to him, and read whatever he writes.  You can read what advice this wise and kind man offers to new vegans, and what he wishes he could change about himself and more here:
http://www.eugeneveg.org/pdf/Interviews/2015/John_Robbins.pdf


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