Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

Transcript of Dino Sarma's Live ARZone Guest Chat

Transcript of Dino Sarma’s Live ARZone Guest Chat

15 October 2011

6pm US Eastern Time

11pm UK Time

16 October 2011

8am Australian Eastern Standard Time

 


 

 

Carolyn Bailey:

ARZone would like to welcome Dino Sarma as today’s Live Chat Guest.

 

Dino Sarma is a vegan advocate and educator, who is the author of Alternative Vegan: International Vegan Fare Straight From the Produce Aisle, which is a vegan cookbook based solely on produce. Dino focuses on cooking simply, inexpensively and with an East Indian influence. You don't have to buy expensive, fancy, hard-to-find ingredients to be vegan; the most interesting and tasty vegan food is just produce!


Dino was born in New Delhi, India, and immigrated to the USA with his family in 1986. From childhood, cooking has been a passion for him. He draws his influences from his mother and the many hours of food shows on television that he watched.

 

Dino produces popular podcasts, through [http://feeds.feedburner.com/altveg]  in which he takes his listeners through the world of the vegan kitchen, cooking without the use of what he deems “omnivore substitutes” (tofu, tempeh, seitan, soy milk and any and all fake meats.)

 

He also maintains his blog at http://altveg.blogspot.com/, which is a cooking blog, but also a space that he uses to write about what's going on in his life.

 

Dino currently lives in Manhattan with his husband. He has worked at the Sacred Chow, in Greenwich Village, where he has done everything from cooking to helping manage.

Dino welcomes the opportunity to speak with ARZone members on a variety of topics today. Would you please join with me in welcoming Dino to ARZone today?

 

Welcome, Dino!

 

Dino Sarma:
Waves hello:

 

Sadia:

Hello and Namaste Mr. Sarma! Nice of you to be here. Thank you and welcome.

 

Dino Sarma:

Blush: You're too kind, Caroyln.


Jason Ward:

Welcome Dino!!

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Hello Dino! Thanks for coming!!

 

Sky:

Hello

 

Matt Bowen:

Hi Dino, it's wonderful to see you here today.

 

Lisa Viger:

Hi Dino!! Glad you're here!

 

Tim Gier:

Hi Dino!! Welcome to ARZone!

 

Will:

hey!

 

Billy Lovci:

Hi Dino

 

Brooke Cameron:

Hey, welcome to ARZone, Dino!

 

Costanza:

hi :-)

 

Mangus O’Shales:

hello Dino

 

Cynthia Stroud Southerland:

Excited to learn from you! Thanks!!

 

Jesse Newman:

Hi Dino!

 

Dino Sarma:

Oh, you guys. <3

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Dino will be responding to his pre-registered questions first, and then we’ll open the chat up for all members to engage him.

 

Please refrain from interrupting Dino during the first session, but feel free to send a private message to an admin if you wish to address him at any time. This can be done by clicking on their names and selecting “Private Chat”.

Dino Sarma:

Cynthia: Like any teacher, my students teach me more than I teach them! Looking forward to learning from y'all too.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

I’d now like to ask Matt Bowen to ask Dino his first question.

Thanks, Matt.

 

Matt Bowen:

Hi Dino, your cooking involves eliminating items such as tofu, seitan and tempeh, and any “omnivore substitutes”. Could you please explain why you choose not to use these products?

 

Dino Sarma:

Hi Matt! Thanks for being unafraid to ask what seems (to some) an obvious question, but one which has a little bit of a nuanced response (I hope) from me.

 

First and foremost, let me be upfront and honest: I support vegan food. If it’s vegan, I want people to be eating it. Let’s make that perfectly clear. Frankly, if being vegan, to you, means living off of compressed reconstituted soy patties, and expeller pressed soy milk, I’m not going to say much, because you’re still eating vegan, which is what I’d like you to do in the first place. Takes all kinds, right?

 

However, I am heartily sick of being asked, “How do I replace ____ in my life?” Uh. Eat food, that’s how. If you would stop looking at food as something that /has/ to be this, that, or the other thing, and as the entirety of the whole plant and fungi kingdoms, you start to see that at your feet rests a bounty unknown to most of the people out there. Those who eat the death diets tend to limit themselves to like 10 or 20 foods that they have on constant rotation. Vegans who eat lots of plants open themselves up to hundreds of foods.

 

Quinoa, millet, rice (in all its lovely varieties), kasha! They’re all out there, and those are just the grains! You start in on the gourds, the squashes, and such and you’ve got a huge variety. Then go into eating their blossoms. What about root vegetables of kinds? What about all the different dark leafy green vegetables? What about the seeds? The beans? The various nuts? The FRUIT! Oh my goodness, the fruit! There’s so much out there to eat, and people are sitting around focusing on all the stuff that they “give up” when they go vegan. It’s depressing to me.

 

I’m not saying that you’re a horrible person for going to a pizza place, bringing your own Daiya or Cheezly mozzarella cheese, and asking them to put it on. Fine. Go ahead and do so. However, bear in mind that I was a vegan for about five years before I even had time to try any of that stuff. I was vegan for about three years before I attempted making my own soy yoghurt at home. This means that all that time before, I was still stuffing my (happy) face with all kinds of different plants that don’t require what I call “WVIs” or “weird vegan ingredients.”

 

When I give someone a recipe, I’m careful to include things that are explicitly vegan, so that when I’m not around, they /always make it vegan, regardless/. Why? Because most people aren’t going to stock WVIs in their house. Why would someone bother to use a tofu egg replacer, or powdered egg replacer, when their local store carries chicken’s eggs? What’s the point of asking someone to use soy milk if they’re used to finding cow’s milk everywhere they go? With my food, it’s vegan food, always will be, and there are no substitutes for it.

 

I’m not saying to never go out and get omnisubs, or that people who seek them are somehow wrong for doing so. If it means that you stop eating the products of cruelty, I’m all for it. However, please try to master the vegetables first. There’s so many of them, and they’re awfully lonely, sitting in my fridge. Come. Eat. They’re waiting.

 

Matt Bowen:

Thanks for that! :-)

 

Dino Sarma:

Thanks for the question, Matt!

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Dino, Barbara DeGrande has the next question for you, please go ahead Barb!

 

Dino Sarma:

Hi lovely Barbara!

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thanks, Tim. Thank you Dino!

Now that you have professional experience at the famous Sacred Chow, do you have any plans to write a new cookbook?

 

Dino Sarma:

Hi Barbara! How lovely of you to ask.

 

And how meanie-headed. I am hemming and hawing a bit, because I don’t know that I’d want to write another book, because I’m vaguely embarrassed that I even wrote the first one, since I consider so much of it to be such common sense stuff. I believe that people buy it out of the kindness of their hearts, because they like to indulge me in my rambling chattering self.

 

Y’know. Much like you lovely folks here tonight. Where else would I get kind, thoughtful, intelligent people who don’t mind, nay, encourage (!) my mad ravings? I really appreciate this opportunity to chat with you all.

 

OK. I’m hedging and hemming and hawing and avoiding the question.

 

I’m kind of liking the idea of doing a book for people in my current situation: small kitchen, small budget, small time constraints. Again, as usual, no WVIs (no tofu, tempeh, seitan, soy milk, almond milk, nutritional yeast, miso paste, or anything else that people living in the backwaters of the backwaters would have trouble finding), with current cost structures in place. For example, when I wrote the first book, potatoes were very cheap, as were rice and beans. That’s not the case anymore. Same thing goes for spices. They’ve gotten stupid expensive. Nuts? Forget it.

 

But somehow, I still manage to sort out dinner. I don’t buy potatoes as frequently, I’ve switched to brown rice, and I’ve begun making more frequent trips to the Asian markets to find more vegetables, because now, the cost of the other vegetables is the same or less than what I currently would spend on a nutritional wasteland like white potatoes.

 

I don’t know that it would be an easy one to write, or an easy sell. So many people want me now do a book /with/ all those WVIs, now that I’ve done my first one without. But then, that wouldn’t be me, would it? There’s a thousand other people out there, more talented than I, who do that sort of thing. I’ll bow to their greater expertise. I’ll be over here with the dark leafy greens. ;-)

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thank you Dino!! Next up is a question from Tim Gier. Mr. Gier....

 

Tim Gier:

I’ve witnessed people talk or write disparagingly about “cupcake activism” their point being that it’s easy to get a non-vegan to eat some tasty treats, but that has nothing to do with getting them to understand what is at stake for other animals. Are you familiar with this kind of criticism and would you like to respond to it?

 

Dino Sarma:

Hi Tim! That’s a really tough question, but a fair one, I’d say.

 

First, allow me to thank you for asking someone like me, who’s just a day-to-day cook, and not exactly versed in the literature (or, frankly, the movement, because I had no idea what you were  talking about until you explained it in your question) about something that’s a fairly big problem with any movement: the name-calling, the finger-pointing, the isolating anyone with different viewpoints; essentially, the grammar schoolyard bullying nonsense.

 

While it’s all well and good to disparage tasty food, it’s not actually doing much of anything useful. For one thing, anyone who bad-mouths the cupcake activists (in the interest of full disclosure: I’d call myself one of these, except I hate cupcakes; call me a fried food activist maybe?) isn’t stepping in with something else that’ll do the trick. No one path is right for everyone, and denying someone else her or his ability to do something that suits her or his talents is a fairly shit move.

 

Something about food, and sharing food, and sharing the same food has this visceral, almost instinctual reaction to it. When you’ve eaten an enjoyable, good meal with someone you’re never going to look at that person the same way again. You’ve bonded.

 

Why else do so many of our rituals revolve around the sharing of food?

 

So what if the person who’s sharing their labours of love isn’t explaining that veganism is part of a larger movement that questions the authority of anyone’s rights over another being, versus challenging norms around all of our hierarchical structures? It’s still tasty. And sometimes, that person doesn’t want to, or isn’t ready to hear or understand all that cerebral stuff. They want a way to connect with their loved one, who’s gone off the vegan deep end, and who they increasingly don’t recognise anymore.

 

Sure, call it cupcake activism. That’s fine. Look down on it. That’s fine too. But don’t publicly badmouth someone who’s trying to do something good, using the skills that they have. It was some guy (Marx?) who said something like “everyone’s got something they can contribute; and everyone has something they need; let the two of ‘em get together and help each other out.” I’m paraphrasing heavily, but the point remains. Not everyone has the ability to cook a great meal. Let those that do, do so. Not everyone has the ability to articulate herself or himself in such a way that gets a message across convincingly. Let those that do so, do so. At the end of the day, we’re all working towards the same goal: the understanding that using others for your own desires, regardless of the colour of their skin, the shape of their bodies, or the membership of their species, is wrong. I feel like we can do that with a full tummy just as well as we can with a full mind.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Dino, I agree with you! May I ask a quick follow-up?

 

Dino Sarma:

Surely.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks. Do you ever surprise people, after they’ve had what they think is “normal” food, by telling them it’s vegan, and, if so, what’s the typical reaction?

 

Dino Sarma:

Oh I do! I was at Steve's family's house for Xmas. I made a huge pot of mac and cheese. One of the grannies ate a plateful. She was all "Is this Egyptian cheese? It's absolutely delicious." "No, there's no cheese in there! It's vegan." "Oh wow! It's still very tasty."

 

By and large though, people know that I'm making vegan food, right? So they expect it to be vegan. However, because of my omni friends who /rave/ about my cooking, people know not to question me. My best friend Liza's refrain has always been "Trust the Chef. If Dino made it, you'll love it. Now shut up and eat." And they do, and all was well.

 

Tim Gier:

:-) Thanks again Dino, Jason Ward is up next..... Jason go ahead please

 

Jason Ward:

Thank you Tim. Dino, when many people first become vegan, they seem to feel far more comfortable being able to access foods such as fake meats and soy milks. What would your advice be to these people who take a little longer to let go of these products?

 

Dino Sarma:

Hey Jason! You just asked a mouthful!

 

First, it depends on a bunch of factors. One: do they /want/ to let go of these products, or are they quite happy where they are, thank you very much? If they’re enjoying their food, and really didn’t ask, I’d say nothing at all and let them eat soy! (Or cake. Cake is good too.)

 

Two: have their tastebuds changed at all since they went vegan? If not, then it may not be a good time to try and make a switch to twigs and bark quite yet.

 

Three: why do they want to change? Is it cost? If so, I have one response. Is it health? If so, I have another response. Is it a combination of the two? I’ve got yet another response. Are they just /saying/ they have a desire to change, but don’t really mean it? I’ve got still another response.

 

Let me do the easiest first: if they’re just saying they want to change, but I can’t really sense a real driving desire to change, I nod sympathetically, and say something to the tune of, “Oh, I know. I used to smoke, once upon a time, and wasn’t ready to give it up until I was good and ready to. You’ll get there though! You let me know when you want to, and we’ll work it out together.” Funny how nobody’s taken me up on that yet, right?

 

OK. If it’s a cost thing, that’s fairly easy to sort out. Make it about the cost then. Say, "Have those foods only once in a while, as a special treat." Otherwise, stick to a whole foods (not the horrible food market, but the food itself) diet, and treat yourself to the processed soy junk food once in a while. For the rest of the week, you can look up recipes that’ll get you close to the stuff you buy in the store, and save money, but spend a fair bit more time. However, even though it costs more in time, that’s how you save money in any case, so no harm in that.

 

Eventually, you’ll get to where your tastes change, and making all that stuff yourself from scratch is far more effort than knocking up a quick dinner of some beans, some veg, and some rice. You’ll get where you’re aiming on its own.

 

If it’s a health thing, then we’d need to work it into a sensible eating plan, which you’d likely do with a nutritionist, who will most likely tell you to treat the fake meats just like animal meats: small quantities, once in a while, interspersed with real food. You’ll notice that you feel good when you eat the whole foods, and you’ll incorporate them into more parts of your life.

 

Eventually, once you force your tastebuds to change, you’ll start craving your healthier food, rather than the processed junk, because your body just feels better.

 

If it’s a combination, it’s a question of really looking at your life, and understanding where you’d like to go with it. You’re repeatedly doing things to your body (by filling it with stuff that you don’t know where it comes from, etc), while killing your pocketbook for the privilege. Frankly, it’s why so many of us do end up unhealthy: we eat things because we always did, and not because that’s the best choice we could be making. Eating good food is not expensive, and it is healthy. Buying whole grains, cooking them up, and eating them with a variety of foods is a little time-consuming, as you get your feet wet, but can be done with great results. Start small, by spending a little more time, twice a week.

 

Eventually your tastebuds will change, and you’ll find your grocery bill to be mysteriously shrinking.

 

Jason Ward:

Thanks Dino - next up is Sky with a question

 

Dino Sarma:

Hiiiii Sky!

 

Sky:

Thanks! :-) The last few ARZONE podcasts have been brilliant by the way!! :-)

Hi! :-) How difficult do you think it might be for the average non-vegan, non-cook to adapt to vegan living?

 

Dino Sarma:

Sky: Thanks for the (slightly) provocative question. I hope you mean this as a “My friend is not vegan, and doesn’t cook but would like to eventually maybe try it out”, and not “HELP!  I don’t know how to cook, but I want to, and it hurts, please stop”.

 

Sky:

:-D

 

Dino Sarma:

Take out the word vegan from there, and just see how that sentence reads. “How difficult do you think it might be for the average non-cook to adapt to living?” For me? Very difficult. Whether or not you’re vegan, you should be cooking most of your meals, to keep your costs reasonable, and to keep your health up. Part of being an adult in any situation is feeding yourself. If you can’t cook at all, life is difficult, and expensive.

 

Ugh.

 

Give me a moment. I’ve just depressed myself. Think of happy things. Think of coconut milk. Yes. Coconut.

 

Right.

 

For someone willing to learn, going vegan is dead simple. It’s even easier than learning to cook as a vegan than as an omni, because your food isn’t trying to kill you at every corner. You won’t need to invest in multiple cutting boards, all kind of soaps and cleansers, and kitchen thermometers to test the doneness of your kale. Kale is done cooking when it’s tender. That’s it. Also, you don’t have to disinfect all the surfaces if raw potatoes touch your counter tops. They aren’t swimming with things trying to kill you.

 

In fact, veganism is great, because cooking isn’t a life-or-death experience. It’s an adventure. It’s weird how omnis consider it perfectly acceptable that their flesh foods are trying to kill them. Their fishes are filled with mercury, their chickens are crawling with bacteria, and their cows are crammed so full of hormones that you start lactating in their presence, and you’re not even pregnant, or a woman. Good times.

 

Seriously though. If the person is willing to try, and willing to learn, going vegan is very easy. Granted, if the person lives in New York, London, Portland, or other major cities that are surrounded by vegan options, s/he’ll never need to learn if they don’t want to. Then it’s a question of choosing which restaurant to patronise, and which brand of soymilk of the 12 varieties (I ACTUALLY SAW THIS IN NYC!) on the shelf to buy.

 

Sky:

Lovely answer. Thanks !! :-) You made me chuckle!!

 

Dino Sarma:

It really wasn't you asking for yourself, right?

 

Sky:

That is right.

 

Dino Sarma:

THANK YOU! I am no longer depressed. LOL

 

Sky:

lol

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Dino! Barbara DeGrande has another question but had to leave early, so Jason will ask it for her. Thanks, Jay!

 

Jason Ward:

What was the “turning point” for you in recognizing the rights of other animals and becoming an abolitionist vegan?

 

Dino Sarma:

Thanks, Jason/Barbara. :-) It’s dumb, but it happened when I actually got the message. As in, I’d gotten similar messages from certain nameless organisations that told me to go vegetarian. According to me, my leather wearing, egg eating, milk drinking self /was/ vegetarian, because I didn’t actively eat animal flesh.

 

When someone finally explained that vegetarian isn’t enough, and that all uses of animals result in cruelty, and that to do it right, one needs to be /vegan/ and stop using all animal products and stop supporting those who do, I understood, and went vegan. It was pretty simple. I was one of those who was always very receptive to the concept of ending suffering for all beings. I worked very hard in high school and college (and beyond) for civil rights organisations, did marches, did fundraisers, and all the rest, for human rights.

 

When someone asked me to connect the struggles that humans face with the struggles that animals do, I genuinely thought I was doing that already. Also, everyone kept saying “vegetarian”, like vegan is some dirty word or something. Until I was asked to go vegan, and understand everything that it means, I kept being a vegetarian. It always confuses me when folk are scared to say “vegan”, and use it proudly. To me, vegetarian is a mostly meaningless term, because so many people use it.

 

Jason Ward:

Thanks Dino - next up with a question is Brooke Cameron – please, when you are ready Brooke

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks, Jay! Dino, you describe yourself as an “abolitionist vegan”, could you please explain what that means to you, and the difference you perceive there to be between an abolitionist vegan and a vegan?

 

Dino Sarma:

Thanks for the question. Brooke!

 

I don’t know that there is a difference, in my mind. A vegan is someone who views the use of other creatures, be it human or otherwise, as something that’s morally indefensible. The moral baseline is what defines (to me) a vegan. The diet and lifestyle are the physical manifestation of the moral stance.

 

It’s kind of why I view veganism as a struggle to reduce harm. There’s no such thing as /no/ harm. I understand that, and I think everyone does.

 

When harvesting my bunches of kale in mass farms, there are going to be bugs that are run over, or killed during the cleaning process. In the creation of many of the products that I take for granted (pain medicine, various food additives, etc), there are horrible animal tests that go on. I’m not going to condone them, and I’m going to do my best to avoid those things, but at the end of the day, I’d still like to live my life without boycotting myself into a corner.

 

There’s stuff that I can easily control, and other stuff that I can’t. It sucks ass that Silk Soymilk is owned by fucking Dean Foods of all things. However, it is nice that even in the backwater town that my husband’s family lives in, I can find /any/ soy milk at all. I hate the fact that my sleep medication or pain medication was definitely tested on animals, but at the end of the day, I need to control my pain or my sleep when it gets past a point that I can control.

 

I’m not trying to move to the middle of nowhere, grow all my own food, and reject everything that living in a society gives me. I am, however, going to do my best to work towards creating a world where every fucking thing doesn’t have to have some kind of horrible cruelty in it. Getting caught up in the minutiae isn’t going to help anyone. 

 

Someone who eats a vegan diet, but still wears leather/wool/silk, doesn’t understand that humans are animals too (and therefore deserve respect and dignity—it’s almost like some people use veganism as an excuse to be giant assholes to everyone—because violence of any sort, even when it is “just” words, is wrong), doesn’t care about actually getting more dialogue about making that change going? That would be called a strict vegetarian. They’re working towards keeping their bodies personally pure (which, to me, kind of defeats the purpose of being vegan in the first place), and really don’t care about the morals. That’s fine too. We’re all in different stages of our path in life, and I’m not the only one with the monopoly on truth. Maybe someone else has the right of it, and I haven’t had the chance to learn it yet. I’m willing to accept that what little I do know is from what I’ve learned from listening to others, and that I’m still learning now.

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks, Dino. May I ask a follow-up, please.

 

Dino Sarma:

Surely.

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks Dino, I couldn’t agree more! I don’t know that there is a difference either, and I too have seen many people use veganism and their perceived superiority to be arseholes to others. You said violence of any sort is always wrong, even when it’s “just words”, do you think that verbal violence and manipulation can be even more harmful than physical violence at times?

 

Dino Sarma:

Sticks and stones, right? Having been on the receiving end of both for a very long time (because everyone else knew that I was gay long before I did), I'd have to say that I'd sooner be called a fag than punched in the face. The words hurt, and drove me to some pretty self-destructive behaviours, but the fists left marks, and I had to wear those bruises and scrapes as a public reminder that I have been bullied by someone.

 

I'm not sure that I can draw a distinction though. Those emotional scars run /deep/, just as some of the physical scars are permanent. They're both pretty violent behaviours to do against someone. It's why I take issue with so many activists who are jerks. Fucking find something better to do than behaving like a common bully.  Make a pie or something.

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks, Dino. I completely agree with you!

 

Dino Sarma:

:-)

 

Tim Gier:

Dino, you may be "just a day-to-day cook" but you offer very good advice! Thank you. Carolyn is up next.... Ms. Bailey??

 

Dino Sarma:

:blush: Thanks, Tim.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks Tim! Hi, Dino, in one of your recent podcasts, you mention that your husband Steve’s family all eat other animals. I’m wondering if you have any advice for those of us in similar situations, coming up to Christmas time, who’ll be around our own families who eat other animals.

 

Dino Sarma:

Thanks for the questions, Carolyn. It was touchy at first, but we all came to a compromise, courtesy of Steve’s eldest brother. It was something that they offered, out of their genuine feeling to make their guest feel comfortable. I cook a huge meal, including all kinds of sides, which everyone enjoys tremendously. I stick to traditional foods, like stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams, green beans with almonds, biscuits, and cake at the end. 

 

They do still cook their meat, but do so in another room, and do the carving/serving in the other room, whereas the main dining table has that huge spread of vegan dishes I’ve made.

 

That came after the two of us let it be known FAR FROM DINNER TIME that we were extremely uncomfortable to sit at a table with a huge meat thing in the middle.

 

It helped that I was raised vegetarian, so that they all understood how it would make me particularly queasy, but the point is that we did it when everyone had eaten, and we’d all had a lovely time, and the two of us had gone back home. I cannot stress enough that we had the discussion about how uncomfortable I was around the meat only /after/ we’d shown ourselves to be polite and loving guests in their home. Only after there was the fresh memory of my playing with their kids, and with the taste of my creamy dreamy mashed potatoes still fresh in their minds.

 

AND we did it after trying it “their way” once, and seeing that it made us both extremely uncomfortable. Once we made it clear that it made us queasy, and we’re sorry about it, but it’s making coming over for dinner, which is the most fun part, difficult, and can we please figure out something together to make this work did /they/ come up with the solution on their own, and elegantly so too.

 

Bear in mind that for us to visit Steve’s homeland means a fairly hefty expense for the two of us that we can scarcely afford. The fact that we’re making all this effort to come out, in spite of the meat present, and are willing to compromise, makes his family much more willing to wiggle a bit.

 

Every situation is going to be different. However, no situation is going to be pleasant if you come off as judgemental, angry, condescending, rude, or otherwise confrontational while people are eating. That shit’s not cute. Fucking stop doing it. Wait until everyone is fed, and watered, and rested, and the stress of the holidays is behind everyone.

 

Then gently, and politely bring up the fact that you love your family, and want to see them all the time. Bring up the fact that you had a marvellous time seeing everyone. Make it clear that you consider your family life to be very important, which is why it’s so difficult to bring this up.

 

Then, use “I” statements. “When I see the meat on the table, it makes me feel uncomfortable. It’s nothing you did or didn’t do, but having to face it right there just kills my appetite, and I can’t have a good time anymore.” Again, each person will be different, and you may need to word things differently, but at the same time, please own your own feelings, and don’t blame anyone else for them. You have these feelings because you’re not blind to the suffering anymore. Good. Now make it a situation of making everyone comfortable, and “look at all this lovely food I’ve made, please help me to eat it with you”, so that you can get on with enjoying the family’s company, which is why you’re there in the first place.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

I think that sounds like a really good compromise. Nice one! Thanks, Dino!

 

Dino Sarma:

You're welcome. I think the key is to use the “I “statements AFTER the holidays, when people aren't stressed out anymore.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

I agree with you! Tim Gier is up with the next question, thanks. Tim.

 

Tim Gier:

There seems to be a high proportion of women, compared to men, within the animal advocacy movement. Do you think that most men consider eating (and otherwise using) other animals as somehow essential to their conception of what it is to be a man?

 

Dino Sarma:

Tim, I’m not really qualified to talk too terribly much about the gender politics, because I feel like I’ve lived my life outside of them, in spite of various attempts (many of them physically violent). to kick me back into the gender norms I’m supposed to be part of. To be perfectly honest, my flame burns bright, and always has. I’m a man, but I’m not sure that I’d consider myself a strictly manly man. I’ve had that drummed into my head (again, physically violently in many cases), repeatedly. That has yet to change things.

 

However, note how I keep going back to the physical violence, and how it was used to get me to perform my gender in the way that’s more acceptable. While I was engaging in unsafe sex with women whom I felt nothing for, when I was taking drugs that were killing my body, while I was drinking myself into oblivion, while I was smoking fit to kill, I got no problems about my gender performance. People might comment, offhandedly, about one or more of those things, but overall accepted it as a man being a man. If you ask me, that’s ten kinds of fucked.

 

What’s even more fucked is that the performance of “man” to gender norms is inextricably linked with violence, and especially violence of people perceived as weaker or less able to defend themselves. That’s part of the masculine gender performance. However, I don’t see it as the reason that you’re perceiving more women in the movement. I think you see more women, because women tend to connect with each other more than men do.

 

In any of the online forums, chat rooms, and websites, I’ve noticed a huge proportion of women using the medium to communicate. The men frequently create accounts, and don’t post anything. They’ll lurk. They’ll occasionally pop in. But overall, the ones doing the talking are the women. The ones who engage are women.

 

This goes for meetups as well. If you self-select a group that’s motivated to reach out to other people, you’re likely going to end up with a disproportionate ratio of females to males. I think it’s well possible that your sample size is possibly skewed by your experiences with the folk who traditionally tend to reach out to each other versus people who tend to keep to themselves.

 

Aaaand Mary Wollstonecraft is spinning in her grave, because I’ve just used some enormous stereotypes all over the place. My apologies. :-(

 

Tim Gier:

May I ask a follow please Dino?

 

Dino Sarma:

Sure thing.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks! Considering the violence you have personally witnessed, do you think that “manly men” are more likely to be the kind of people who eat other animals because that too is a manifestation of violence?

 

Dino Sarma:

I think that the violence is so inherent in this (and many) socieities in the West that all of it's interconnected, y'know? There have been studies done to show that wife-beaters tend to start abusing animals. There's a connection there, that's fairly strong. If you can justify violence against a helpless being, you can justify violence against humans. Which, I feel, goes deeper than simple masculine/feminine gender norms, because you see that sort of violence in women too (in different forms, but man, is it ever there). I think it's a symptom of a culture that romanticises and glorifies violence, regardless of whom it's coming from.

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you again, Dino.

 

Dino Sarma:

You're welcome!

 

Tim Gier:

Sharni Buckley is up with the next question, which is the last of the preregistered questions. Please PM Carolyn with any questions you’d like to ask Dino during the open session that will follow.

 

Dino Sarma:

Hiiii Sharni!

 

Sharni Buckley:

Thanks Tim. Hi Dino! I'd like to give a shout out to Maynee Clarke as well - Hi Maynee!

 

Dino Sarma:

Hi Maynee!

 

Sharni Buckley:

How do you deal with people seeking your advice who describe themselves as “vegetarians going vegan,” who explain that it’s a very slow process for them, and who give a number of excuses for their reluctance to accept the urgency in avoiding the exploitation involved with the dairy and egg industries?

 

Dino Sarma:

Aside from rolling my eyes internally? Are they genuinely asking my advice, or are they seeking to minimise the suffering that their choices are causing? If it’s the former, it’s just a question of really sitting down with the person, and laying out the moral foundation, a little bit at a time, until the conviction is there. If it’s the latter, I’d be wasting my time by doing much of anything, except to gently remind them that this is not a practical or emotional issue, but rather one of pure ethics, and should be treated as such. (Side note: When I was a kid, and people asked me why I'm vegetarian, my first question back then was "Why do you want to know? Are you genuinely curious, or are you about to sit down and make me feel like an idiot for not doing things your way?")

 

And then I’ll laugh, and remind myself (and that person) that I used to be exactly as they are. When I was a little kid, I knew that eating animal products of any kind was wrong, but couldn’t articulate why. Even if I could, I wasn’t ready to accept that it was something that I need to do something about. When I was ready for it, I “got it”, and moved forward on my own momentum. They’ll get there, Sharni. I know they will. Give them time, give them great food, show them that it’s easy to do without those products, work little cracks into the foundation, a little at a time. They’ll get there. And you’ll be there, waiting with pie. Mmm. Pie.

 

Sharni Buckley:

I find you very inspirational, Dino. Thank you very much! :-)

 

Dino Sarma:

Awww! Thanks, Sharni!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

I agree! Thanks very much, Dino! This concludes the pre-registered questions for today, and at this point I’d like to open the chat up for anyone else who’d like to address Dino. First up in the open session is the magnificent Jason Ward, when you’re ready, Sir.

 

Jason Ward:

Ok thanks Carolyn

 

Dino Sarma:

Hi Jason Superstar Ward!

 

Jason Ward:

HI again Dino. :-)

Cooking question- can you give me some pointers when making seitan? Everytime I make it - it's a huge mess - It doesn't like to knead well with spices and ends up flavourless

 

Dino Sarma:

Oh dear. Seitan. OK. Are we talking vital wheat gluten seitan, or kneaded seitan? vital wheat out of the box. OK. Couple of things.

 

1) DON'T skimp on the fat. Seitan has no indigenous fat. When you make your mix, add plenty of oil.

2) DON'T skimp on the salt. Seitan desperately needs salt.

3) Knead the ever-loving shit out of it. It builds the texture, and makes sure everything stays in.  4) Don't boil it naked. Either put it in a steamer basket, and steam it, soak it in marinade and roast it, or something along those lines. Boiling it in a pot of liquid washes out the flavour. 

5) If you like it, make SURE you always add: tomato paste, onion powder, garlic powder, soya sauce, nutritional yeast, and a little cayenne pepper, along with rosemary, and oregano. Those flavourings need to go into your seitan every time, because they complement it perfectly.

 

Jason Ward:

:-) thanks- I've got some practice to do in the kitchen

 

Dino Sarma:

:-)

 

Jason Ward:

Next up with a question is Mangus O'Shales

 

Dino Sarma:

(They ask the one ranting and foaming at the mouth about omnisubs about seitan! D'oh!)

Hi Mangus!

 

Mangus O’Shales:
Hi Dino. You sound pretty smart for a guy who says he's just a cook, but you talk so i can understand you so thanks for that. What's your background?

 

Dino Sarma:

Could you clarify please?

 

Mangus O’Shales:

Sure, i mean, what did you study in school

 

Dino Sarma:

Ohhh! I studied biology. My degree is a bachelor's in bio. I learned to read on the World Book Encyclopaedia. I saw my brothers using it for school, and being a little boy, I wanted to do everything my brothers did. So I would sneak at night, when everyone was asleep, and read the World Books. And when I found a word I didn't know, I'd write it down and ask my mum about it.

 

I loved watching Nature documentaries, so she was used to it. By the time I was 10, I'd read them cover to cover. I've always been fascinated by the world, and how wonderful it is to be alive, so I devoured as much knowledge as I could find. When I found out that there's this thing called a Library, where they let you borrow books, and read them FOR FREE, I was delirious with happiness.

 

I still find that every day is an adventure, because there's always something new to learn, new things to cook, new books to read, new people to meet. :-) Life is a journey that's so much fun to be on, and I'm just getting started.

 

Mangus O’Shales:

Thanks Dino. You sound like a very nice person, I'm glad to meet you.

 

Dino Sarma:

Thanks, Mangus! It's a pleasure to meet you as well.

 

Tim Gier:

Dino, this one is from Barbara DeGrande, who had to leave early. Barbara said... "I love your style of writing and how you have the ability to draw the reader towards you, as if you are old friends." "Have you considered writing about your personal experiences with exploitation and discrimination as that applies to veganism and animals? "

 

Dino Sarma:

Oh dear. I wish Barbara were here to clarify! I'm not sure what she's asking!

 

Tim Gier:

Maybe she wants to know if you'd consider writing your personal story?

 

Dino Sarma:
I have written a lot about my personal experiences as a whole, but haven't gone too much into it, because it's not something I often do, if that makes sense.

 

Tim Gier:

It makes sense to me!

 

Dino Sarma:

Like, it was in the past, it shaped who I am, and that's important, but to go over it too terribly much wouldn't really do much for me. It's looking back, and I tend to look forward.

 

I'm an open book—if anyone asks me questions about it, I'm happy to answer. I've talked about it on podcasts and the like, but haven't really written it down. Huh. I never thought of writing it down. But then I'll never get to SMALLternative Vegan. (That's the title I've been kicking around in my head. Because it's meant to be all small quantities of food made in small kitchens.) (Corny, I know. But then, I'm corny.)

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Dino. Ben Hornby would like to ask a question next, thanks Ben.

 

Dino Sarma:

Ahoy Ben! Pleasure to meet you.

 

Ben Hornby:

Thanks, Carolyn! Hi Dino :-) Dino, you responded to an earlier question by saying it confused you when folks are scared to say “vegan” and use it proudly. I totally agree with that. Do you have any suggestions on how we can encourage people to use vegan more, without feeling they are turning people away or being “radical”? Thankyou.

 

Dino Sarma:

I feel like the best way that I can get others to see my viewpoint is to live it. I proudly use the word vegan in my life, when I describe myself. I proudly say that I'm a gay man, who's from India, who's got the most handsome, kind, lovely husband ever. By my example, other people tend to follow. "Dino is a vegan", and not "Dino is 'veg', or 'vegetarian'"  And as other people start to use it to describe me, they use it to describe other vegans. It's the same with being vegan.

 

The best that I can do for the animals is to life as a happy, healthy vegan. When people see me, they know that veganism has /nothing/ to do with deprivation. Have you /seen/ my Sunday lunches or my mid-week feasts? They're bounty. Colourful, tasty, bounty. In the same way, I can encourage others to use vegan by consciously using it myself. Also, by being specific when I say what a vegan is: a /moral/ viewpoint on the rights of all creatures. So someone who /eats/ vegan food, but wears silk? I won't call them a vegan.

 

Ben Hornby:

Thanks, Dino! Do you think it's important to point out that someone who, for example, may eat something with sugar as a one off, shouldn't call themselves vegan?

 

Dino Sarma:

To be honest, with the smaller stuff, I'm kind of a little more forgiving. Someone just spent hours baking a cake for me, sought out all the vegan versions of everything, but forgot about the sugar. I'll eat the cake, and gently remind 'em. And once they get it, they get it, and all is well.

 

Ben Hornby:

I think that's very fair. I certainly wouldn't spend my time heavily criticising someone for doing something like that.

 

Dino Sarma:

It's not like "Oh, there's just a little butter on there", but rather a genuine mistake which, in the grand scheme of things, isn't a huge deal. With situations of "there's a little butter" or "there's egg wash", I'll apologise and not eat it. Because it's obviously an animal ingredient. With the sugar, it's a little more hidden, y'know

 

Ben Hornby:

Thank you, I agree

 

Dino Sarma:

You're welcome! Excellent questions, by the way.  

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Dino! Tim Gier is up next with the last question for today. Thanks, Tim.

 

Dino Sarma:

Hi again, Tim!

 

Tim Gier:

Hi Dino!! You said that you were raised vegetarian. How has your family reacted/responded to your becoming vegan?

 

Dino Sarma:

They've been supportive, and vaguely wish they had the "Willpower" (eyerolllllll) to do the same. Ugh.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Dino. I think it's interesting that many people think vegans have "special powers" :-(

 

Dino Sarma:

In my case, I do.

 

Tim Gier:

hahahaha

 

Carolyn Bailey:

:-)

 

Dino Sarma:

I can make damn near anything taste awesome. Also, I'm gay. That imbues super powers. LOL

 

Mangus O’Shales:

i knew it!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

You go Dino!

 

Dino Sarma:

:-)

 

Mangus O’Shales:

superDino

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Dino, I'd like to thank you for spending your time with us today and educating us on some interesting issues! Thank you for your awesome insight!

 

Dino Sarma:

I'd like to thank y'all for being an awesome group of kind, thoughtful people. Much love. <3

 

Sadia:

Thank you much Mr. Sarma for your time.

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you Dino!

 

Dino Sarma:

Thanks for letting me ramble.

 

Lisa Viger:

Thanks Dino! This was an excellent chat. I've signed up to follow your blog, too! <3 !!

 

Mangus O’Shales:

This was a really good chat.

 

Ben Hornby:

Thanks Dino!

 

Dino Sarma:

You're all very welcome. OK. My friends are eyeing me with hungry eyes. Time to make dinner. XOXOXO all!

 

Sharni Buckley:

Great advice, than you so much!

 

Jesse Newman:

Thank you!

 

Dino Sarma:

Oh right. If anyone has any further questions, or wants to ask whatever, please email me via Carolyn at Carolyn@ARZone.net. Take care!

 

Kate:

Thanks Dino for sharing your wisdom with us. You take care too, and take cake! :-)

 

 

ARZone aims to encourage rational discussions about issues that most concern members of the animal advocacy movement. Please feel welcome to continue a debate, start a forum discussion or make a point under a transcript.

 

 

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Comment by Brooke Cameron on October 24, 2011 at 14:09

This was a great interview, and Dino's awesome personality really shone through. I really enjoyed this one!

I have been listening to some of Dino's podcasts here, and am really enjoying them!
http://feeds.feedburner.com/altveg

Thanks, Dino!

Comment by Lisa V on October 21, 2011 at 10:25
I just want to also say this was an excellent chat. Dino's an utterly charming and very informative guest! And I'll bet he makes great pies, too!
Comment by Patrizia Setola on October 17, 2011 at 0:07
Excellent chat, really powerful and personal! Thanks Dino :-)

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