Saturday, March 4, 2017

Very Good! - March, 2017

                                  by Fireweed for the Island Word, March 2017 issue

        P.T. Barnum, the old-time American showman and circus operator, is often
associated with the phrase “there is no such thing as bad publicity.” Of course animal advocacy in the 19th century didn't have the outreach ability it has today to expose what goes on behind closed doors. 

      When Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus finally announced in 2015 that they would phase out their iconic elephants, a significant “mood shift” in their consumer base was cited as the reason for that decision. Now in its 146th year, the self-proclaimed 'greatest show on earth' will close its doors for good after a final performance this spring. Societal change never happens overnight, nor in a vacuum. However, public concern for the way animals are treated is continuing to grow, and new doors are opening for enterprise of all kinds dedicated to a more compassionate world.

     The grand opening I attended at the end of February for the Very Good Butchers' storefront in Victoria's Public Market was a perfect example of just how hungry people are for cruelty-free alternatives to business as usual. Specializing in organic,100% plant-based meats hand-crafted on Denman Island, proprietors Tania Friesen and James Davison and their hard-working team experienced the kind of immediate success in the capital city that most smaller-scale food outlets only dream of! Thanks in part to an unanticipated level of exposure through tv, radio and social media, close to 1000 people showed up and the Very Good Butchers were virtually sold out within hours. In a fortuitous twist of fate just prior to the opening, even online backlash from critical carnivores turned beneficial. It resulted in CTV news hour extending their acknowledgement of the vegan deli's opening over a second day in a row! Indeed, a little P.T. Barnum-style publicity can certainly come in handy.
A VERY GOOD Very Good Butchers' sandwich!
 It is, of course, all the positive reviews the Very Good Butchers are receiving for their delicious selection of plant-based burgers, meat balls, sausages, etc., that show the promise of a steady customer base. Folks who waited in line on Feb. 25th but ended up having to go home empty-handed were offered a complimentary discount applicable to any return visit purchase. And it's not just vegans and vegetarians the Very Good Butchers are aiming to please. Curious omnivores are expected to make up the bulk of their market as more and more seek to reduce and/or eliminate their consumption of animal products in favour of personal health, compassion for animals and environmental sustainability.

 “We were motivated to help omnivores feel comfortable, even through our choice of brand name,” explains Tania Friesen, make the switch less overwhelming. We know that giving up familiar comfort foods is often the biggest challenge.” 

       It is unconscionable that cows should remain the elephant in the room in so many environmental and political circles today, while protein-rich plant foods are known to be far friendlier for the environment and healthier for people. In a 2016 study from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, Alfredo Mejia, Dr. PH., an associate professor of nutrition at Andrews University, and lead author on the study, found that producing plant-based meat alternatives generates “approximately 10 times less greenhouse gas emissions than producing comparable beef-based products.” 

      The Very Good Butchers are clearly on the right track. They are also the first of their kind on the west coast and only second to Toronto's YamChops plant-based butcher in all of Canada. According to the Plant Based Foods Organization in California, increasing consumer demand is driving unprecedented growth in this industry and the global plant-based meat market is projected to reach nearly $6 billion US by 2022! In 2016 YamChops was selected as a hot investment opportunity on the Dragons' Den (CBC's reality tv show featuring entrepreneurs looking for financial support from venture capitalists) and that business is now looking to franchise in seven additional North American cities. Not one, but two Yamchops outlets are already planned for  Vancouver. The timing is definitely right for the Very Good Butchers to carve out a niche all their own. But these are still early days. Supplying other restaurants and retail outlets already interested will have to wait if the Very Good Butchers' own storefront sales continue to exceed all expectations! Watch for an upcoming Kickstarter campaign to help purchase additional equipment that would increase the company's production capabilities.

Theo @ RASTA -  forever free from harm!
    These young entrepreneurs are already providing full or part-time employment for at least a dozen people including folks on Denman Island. It's great to know they don't regard BC's minimum wage as a living wage, and have no intentions of hiring labour at less than $15 an hour. And what a thoughtful gesture to tithe 10% of their opening day's revenue to important community causes. This generous donation has been shared between the Victoria Women's Transition House Society, and RASTA (Rescue and Sanctuary for Threatened Animals) in Chemainus on Vancouver Island.

      The Very Good Butchers plan to be open seven days a week in Victoria, and will continue to have many of their popular items available on Denman as well. Visit their website : for a sampling of their menu selection, hours of operation and other details. You can also find and follow them right HERE on Facebook.

This month's recipe for The Transition Kitchen is a simple, but delicious slaw that makes a perfect side for any plant-based meat main, or a meal in itself. Bon apetit!

Fireweed's Spring Thaw Slaw (but tasty any time of the year!)

Organic Ingredients:
3 cups of green cabbage (any kind), thinly sliced
1 cup purple cabbage, thinly sliced
1 cup of coarsely grated carrots
1/4 cup raisins, golden or regular sultana
1/2 cup chopped red apple
1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds* (see directions below)
2 tsps. of lemon juice
1 tsp. agave or maple syrup
dash of umeboshi plum vinegar (optional)
sea salt and gresh ground black pepper to taste
3 or 4 T. egg-free mayo (Vegannaise, Just Mayo, or homemade)

     I like to toast my raw unsalted, shelled sunflower seeds in a seasoned cast iron pan on the stovetop. Use low to medium heat, stirring attentively with a wooden spoon. You can do a larger quantity than the recipe calls for and store the extra for another day. They will burn quickly if the heat is too high, so if you decide to prep your other ingredients while they are roasting you might be sorry (speaking from experience once too often here!) Remove your toasted seeds from the pan when they have browned slightly and set aside on a plate to cool.

     Next, shred your carrots on a grater and press out any excess moisture as required. Chop your cored apple (I leave the skin on), and toss with the lemon juice which will prevent any browning.  If you use a firm green cabbage (rather than a soft Chinese cabbage) slice that next as thinly as possible and combine with the apples and carrots. At this stage I add my dash of plum vinegar, agave or maple syrup, and season with salt and pepper. Add your vegan mayo next, before folding in the purple cabbage, raisins and seeds. TIP: adding the purple cabbage at the last minute prevents turning the whole dish pink if you make this slaw ahead of time to serve guests. It does hold up well in the fridge for a day or so. Save a few of the raisins and seeds to sprinkle on top of your serving to dress up the presentation, and enjoy!

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