Tag Archives: traveling while vegan

A sense of time and place #amwriting

Clementine’s Astoria Bed & Breakfast Street View

Last week my husband and I had an opportunity to stay at a B&B in Astoria, one of our favorite towns. We were unsure what to think when we arrived at the curb before Clementine’s Bed and Breakfast. I was a tad surprised to find that the stairs to the front door appear to rise as vertically as a ladder. This first photograph was taken at street level, so you can see how steep the climb to the front door is.

Grandma had trouble climbing them. Yes, the steep steps were daunting for us old folks, but once we were registered, we were shown the gentler way in through the pleasant, lush garden, which completely bypasses the two-story climb out front.

Our room was a soothing, pleasant retreat called the Garden Room.

Yvonne, the innkeeper, and her spouse, Stephen, were absolutely wonderful hosts. Generous with wine, Perrier, and snacks, these two go out of their way to make sure their guests feel like members of the family.

While I sat in the comfortable front parlor, listening to Stephen perform his incredible and original compositions on the baby-grand piano, I realized the owner had gone to a lot of trouble to create a sense of place, a certain ambiance of Old Time Comfort.

I looked around, seeing a relaxing Victorian home that feels as if it’s being lived in by many generations of a single family. Established in 1993, Clementine’s looks as if it evolved gradually over many generations—although it did not.

White Hydrangea

In the early 90s, the house was in danger of being torn down. It was built in 1888 By William Ross and is one of the oldest houses in Astoria. The original owners were long since gone, and it had fallen into disrepair. The new owners put a lot of work and thought into the restoration of the old mansion, and it really paid off. They named the inn after the original owner’s wife, Clementine Ross.

That is a case of using the appropriate name to give the visitor a sense of time and place. I stumbled across the name when searching for places to stay in Astoria, and immediately it evoked a Victorian aura and made me curious.

This is a lesson writers should learn. When we name our characters, we have the opportunity to convey a great deal of information without resorting to explanations. (But please, keep the names pronounceable.)

The owner/decorator achieved a feeling of tradition and continuity the same way we achieve a sense of place and familiarity in our writing. She used layers, small, deft touches. She had a good sense of what is too much detail, as she stopped adding to it once the atmosphere was established, quitting well before it turned into a Victorian parody.

The front parlor is a quiet, restful room. Victorian-era style transitions to Edwardian in terms of furniture; and both eras coexist well with pieces from more recent times, the nineteen-forties, and later. This offers the visual feeling of being a guest in someone’s old family home.

Again, the atmosphere is created on the surface level, with the large comfortable settees and the huge, gentle cat named Bruno, a Maine Coon, who belongs to the inn.

But it is also created in subliminal ways.

Smaller visuals, things that guests subconsciously absorb in the first glance set the scene. A few old-fashioned doilies placed here or there protect the antique tables; not too many doilies, but just enough. The front parlor is decorated with carefully placed objects, many that seem to hail from the far-east, impressing the maritime history of Astoria upon the visitor.

The walls are hung with antique framed pictures and hand-embroidered samplers, their homey simplicity lending truth to the atmosphere of a seafaring family’s long-established prosperity and comfort.

It was easy to believe we were visiting the family home of a long-lost relative, sharing an evening of music and conversation. Yvonne’s talent for making her guests feel both welcome and cared for is without peer.

Clementine’s Dahlia Garden

She and Stephen served a wonderful multi course family-style breakfast, providing well for six sets of guests and going far out of their way to serve me—the vegan who has become a little cynical about dining away from home. I felt as if my company was wanted at the breakfast table, instead of the usual “oh, dear God—she thinks she’s a vegan” attitude that is usually directed my way.

Greg and I like to stay at bed and breakfasts for the same reasons we select certain books. Sometimes we’re looking for something different from the usual chain hotels; something outside established genres. We want to visit a place with a story and have a little adventure. We also want good food and a friendly welcome from people who feel like they could be close friends. Clementine’s more than satisfied us on all accounts.

4 Comments

Filed under writing

The Summer Retreat #amwriting #amvegan

This week I’m traveling, visiting my favorite summer retreat, Cannon Beach, Oregon. It’s about a four hour drive from my home, but we make a longer trip because we like to stop in Astoria.

I live all year for this week of rest and restoration. We join other members of our family there and reconnect over food, kite-flying, and long strolls on the beach.

The sunshine and occasionally stormy waters, the seabirds–this place inspires me and clears my head like no other place. I write whenever the muse seizes me. Our little condo is one we regularly rent. The owners have come to know us, and it’s perfectly situated, just steps from the beach but also in the middle of town. More importantly for us, it comes with a fully outfitted kitchen. As always, I cook many meals for my family, and my sister-in-law also cooks, so we don’t starve.

I know it seems odd to many people, but being vegan means, I eat nothing that came from an animal. No cheese, no meat, no eggs. People immediately think “how complicated!” but it’s not complicated at all if you know what to use instead. It’s simply a diet that celebrates vegetables and grains and all the many ways to eat them. Vegans consume nothing from animals, vegetarians may or may not eat dairy or eggs.

People can be inadvertently rude  when they hear I am vegan, but I realize it’s just ignorance speaking. I never engage in words with these people, as they have already pigeonholed me as a “looney fad dieter,” simply because I admit to my dirty little habit of not consuming other living creatures.

In case this worries you, we all know that humans do need a certain amount of protein as part of their balanced diet, and it is easy to get that nutrition from plants. In fact, even vegans eat far more grams of protein daily than the minimum daily requirements.

In a post for the website, Forks over Knives, Dr. Michael Greger answers the question that vegans and vegetarians hear all the time: “Do Vegetarians Get Enough Protein?”

The average recommended intake of protein is 42 grams a day.

Non-vegetarians eat way more than that (almost 80 grams), but so does everyone else.

Vegetarians and vegans actually average 70% more protein than they need every day (over 70 grams).

When a person changes to a completely different cuisine, we need to learn how to prepare the new-to-us ingredients, and we want to keep the same flavors and textures we are used to. My favorite comfort food recipes adapted easily to vegan. My food is simple to make and inexpensive. I make my own staples usually, from recipes found in my three favorite cookbooks.

The first book that has been worn out in my kitchen is The Homemade Vegan Pantry: The Art of Making Your Own Staples, by Miyoko Schinner.

The Blurb:

A guide to creating vegan versions of pantry staples–from dairy and meat substitutes such as vegan yogurt, mayo, bacon, and cheese, to dressings, sauces, cookies, and more.

Kitchen crafters know the pleasure of making their own staples and specialty foods, whether it’s cultured sour cream or a stellar soup stock. It’s a fresher, healthier, more natural approach to eating and living. Now vegans who are sick of buying over-processed, over-packaged products can finally join the homemade revolution.

Studded with full-color photos, The Homemade Vegan Pantry celebrates beautiful, handcrafted foods that don’t take a ton of time, from ice cream and pizza dough, to granola and breakfast sausage. Miyoko Schinner guides readers through the techniques for making French-style buttercreams, roasted tomatoes, and pasta without special equipment. Her easy methods make “slow food” fast, and full of flavor.

The Homemade Vegan Pantry raises the bar on plant-based cuisine, not only for vegans and vegetarians, but also for the growing number of Americans looking to eat lighter and healthier, and anyone interested in a handcrafted approach to food.

The next book that is a wonderful idea generator for me is Robin Robertson’s Veganize It!

The Blurb:

Vegan pantry staples plus enticing recipes in which to use them

This is the ultimate DIY pantry book, doing double duty with recipes for vegan staples, plus ideas on how to use them as building blocks in both new and classic recipes. Many cooks prefer to make their own basics rather than buy expensive store versions, which are often loaded with additives and preservatives. These easy recipes make it easy to stock a home pantry. Enjoy milks, cheeses, bacon, burgers, sausages, butter, and vegan Worcestershire sauce in your favorite dishes, and then try delicious recipes using the staples. Sample Bahn Mi, Sausage Biscuits, Meaty-Cheesy Pizza, Milk Shakes, Jambalaya–even Jerky and Lemon Meringue Pie. With more than 150 recipes and 50 color photos, this will become an indispensable cookbook for vegans–and everyone else who enjoys animal-free food.

I like to get fancy with my meals sometimes, especially during holidays. Seattle-based chef, Tommy McDonald’s Field Roast: 101 Artisan Vegan Meat Recipes to Cook, Share, and Savor is my best friend when I want to prepare something fancy that will impress folks. This cookbook has the recipes that fine restaurants should have but don’t.

The Blurb:

Hailed as 2015’s Company of the Year by VegNews Magazine, the Field Roast Grain Meat Co. offers their first cookbook, with over 100 delicious, satisfying vegan recipes.

In Field Roast, Chef Tommy McDonald shares fundamental techniques and tips that will enable you to make your own vegan meats at home–for everyday (sandwiches, burgers, meatloaf) to holiday (stuffed roast, anyone?), as well as recipes for using them in every meal from breakfast through dinner. The 100 recipes are flexible: want to make your own plant-based meats? Great! Want to use Field Roast products instead? That will work too. All you need are grains, veggies, and spices–easy-to-find whole food ingredients for authentic, hearty taste. With basics such as cutlets and sausages, along with dishes like Burnt Ends Biscuit Sandwich, Chicken Fried Field Roast and Waffles, Pastrami on Rye, Tuscan Shepherd’s Pie, Curry Katsu, (and even some favorite desserts), Field Roast brings new meaning to plant-based meat.

I prefer a hardbound cookbook to an online site when I am cooking. They get a bit messy, but that’s because they are well-used. I can write my notes and adjustments in them. When I became vegan, these three books were all I needed to learn how to keep the grand kids and carnivores in my family loving my cooking. I give these books as gifts to friends who choose to embrace vegan cuisine.

Rest assured, our vacation always involves both eating well and enjoying the company of my favorite people—and there is plenty of writing as that part of my life never stops for long. The many moods of the North Pacific never fail to inspire me!


Credits and Attributions:

Forks Over Knives, Do Vegetarians and Vegans Eat Enough Protein? © 2015 by Naomi Imatome-Yun, https://www.forksoverknives.com/do-vegetarians-and-vegans-eat-enough-protein/ (Accessed August 16, 2018)

1 Comment

Filed under Food, Vegan, writing

#amwriting: The Vegan Road Trip

tacos and burritosI had planned to be out of town this week, babysitting one of the youngest of my grandchildren (13 months old), but alas! The four-year-old has a cold, and Grandma is not interested in having another bout of pleurisy — last fall’s episode was enough, thank you very much.

It’s a busy week, here at La Casa Del Jasperson. On Tuesday we will hosting a guest for a few days, an adult granddaughter who will be up from Los Angeles for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

For me, traveling out of town for any overnight stay involves a lot of logistics, as I am vegan.  My daughters aren’t vegan, but all three have been in the past and know I’m not difficult to cook for. Bake me a potato, offer me some guacamole to dress it up, and finish it off with a salad dressed with oil and vinegar, and I’m a happy camper.

I know it seems odd to many people, but being vegan means I eat nothing that came from an animal. No cheese, no meat, no eggs. People immediately think “how complicated!” but it’s not complicated at all. It’s simply a diet that celebrates vegetables and grains and all the many ways to eat them. Vegans consume nothing from animals, vegetarians may or may not eat dairy or eggs.

So, what do I eat and how do I flavor it? Beans, rice, any vegetable, or grain. I do like certain tempeh dishes, as tempeh is made from soybeans, but differs from tofu (which I love for curries) in that it is a whole soybean product with different nutritional characteristics and textural qualities. Tempeh has ‘tooth.’ As in everything, how you marinate the protein, tofu or tempeh, before you cook it is what will make it tasty, whereas just plain tofu or tempeh is too bland. That blandness is that is what gives them the bad reputation among new vegetarians who don’t understand how to prepare them.

A great source of simple recipes for creating flavorful tofu and tempeh can be found at Veg Girl Rd .Com.

But you don’t have to cook these things for me. I’m happy with rice and veggies.

Flavor for gravies, pilafs, and soups comes from vegetable broth. There are two ways to get good rich flavor using vegetable broth, but my go-to store bought product for use at home is the reliable kitchen staple, Better Than Bouillion Vegetable Base. Otherwise, I make my own veggie broth base, using the recipe I found here: Homemade Vegetable Soup Base. It’s quick and simple, and is one of those shortcuts to great flavor that I regularly employ.

Other than that, I eat regular vegetables, just sautéed in olive (or any other organic vegetable oil) rather than in butter, which comes from cows. I use almond milk or coconut milk,  Tofutti brand Better Than Sour Cream, and also their Better Than Cream Cheese, two dairy-free and delicious products. I also use an egg-free mayonnaise, Veganaise, which tastes just like Best Foods Mayonnaise (Hellman’s if you are from the East Coast) but is made with no animal products.

bread machineThe great thing about being vegan is how little it costs to eat well. Going sans meat is the lazy person’s dream diet. It’s amazing how quickly you can get a meal on the table, and when you are making beans from scratch, the crockpot is your best friend. I even make my own bread from several different recipes using my bread machine, which takes less than five minutes to assemble the ingredients. It hardest part for me is remembering to push the button to start baking. (I laugh, but it is a problem.)

I would far rather spend my time writing than cooking, but meals in our household are celebrated. Our time at the table is where we come together and talk about the day and things that are important to us, and good food makes our mealtime cozy and comforting.

So, in honor of that family tradition, I offer one hour a day to the cooking gods, and try to be as creative as the fresh vegetables in the grocery store will allow. On the housekeeping front, I may spend 20 minutes a day tidying the house (or not), but the rest of the day is mine to do as I want, which is writing or reading. And, since I don’t spend a lot of time cooking for me, I don’t expect anyone else to either.

Portland, Oregon is paradise for vegans and vegetarians. The city and  surrounding suburbs are full of restaurants catering to those of us who are of the vegan persuasion, and so this road trip will be both full of family events and delicious.

Food is central to a region’s culture, and the West Coast, Portland and Seattle in particular, are great places for vegans and vegetarians to travel and dine when on the road. Fortunately for me, this area is where I do most of my traveling.

Comments Off on #amwriting: The Vegan Road Trip

Filed under Vegan, writing