Saturday, May 28, 2011

4 Million in 4 Hours - A Call to Arms

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As a photographer and artist there is a saying among our communities that we started taking pictures because we can't draw.

True in my case, and many photographers will say the same if they're being totally honest.

Some aspiring art and artists were brought to my attention by a call to arms last night as concerned mums across the world are posting their children's self-drawn portraits in support of the No Child Born To Die campaign by the Save the Children organization.

World leaders will gather for a 4 hour vaccine summit in London on June 13th. A petition is circulating around the world and web in support of 2 new vaccines that will stop diarrea and pneumonia, two of the biggest child (5 yrs and under) killers  in developing countries. The vaccines have the potential to save 4 million children's lives by 2015 - 4 Million in 4 Years (see this clip at

Funds and manpower are lacking, and how much to be pledged towards getting the vaccines safely to where they are needed will be decided. Save the Children will be presenting the petition to U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron at the summit.

Three of our blogosphere's empowered and passionate voices from the U.K. have hooked up with Save the Children H.Q. and are en route to follow a vaccine's trail from lab to limb, in an effort to raise awareness for the lack of access to vaccines for preventable diseases, compared to the ease of access in developed countries where vaccination is assumed, a choice, and available.

The Mums in Mozambique trio of bloggers are Lindsay Atkin (Lilies are Like - vblog), Chris Mosler (Thinly Spread) and Tracey Cheetham (A view from the Public Gallery). Their compassion and commitment is gaining momentum inside and out of the online community. The vaccine the women are tracking took two years to produce in The Republic of Ireland, and the cold-stored solution will make it's final trek on the back of a motorbike when it reaches a child in a rural part of Mozambique - a country where more than half of the 21 million people are under 18. Over 1.4 million of them are orphans, almost half orphaned by HIV and AIDS. Atkin says in her video post that she, Mosler and Cheetham will witness the administration of the vaccine by an STC health worker.

To get more insight on the June 13th summit and powers that be, log on to GAVI ALLIANCE at

As for the awesome artwork I mentioned at the beginning, you can find it where I did, across the pond at Faceless Food's We Don't Eat Anything With a Face. The meme and message is spreading quickly through the world and web, and you'll find all the blog hop details through her. The pictures alone are worth the look, and the personal stories from the many participating moms. Most importantly, the deadline to sign the Save the Children petition is for June 13th, so there is still time to spread the word. You can click on the SC link to sign and show your support, and/or give them a boost on your site.

I'm not a mom. I don't even have any children, although my very fertile girlfriend keeps a handle on how many hours I spend on the seat when I go cycling.  As a man, a bachelor, and an uncle, children have been somewhat alien to me throughout this lifetime. And I have certain rules before they can have parent-free access to the UNKL P Fortress of Solitude (think amusement park with the raccoon sign in front of the rollercoaster - 'You must be this tall and potty trained to enter. And tell mommy to bring me some chips!').

And even my own 48 year childhood has been pretty good so far.

But I love kids and with my own on the horizon, I live with the same fear and wishes as any parent - for a healthy child with a long life. And last year, Margaret had a first hand look at life in the Townships when she volunteered in Capetown. You can read about it on her blog.

How ironic that the words 'viral' and 'meme' that are so popular in the blogosphere, will use this very platform as a powerful weapon between the good and evil of their origins. I don't have thousands of readers, or kids, and I definitely can't draw. But I have a voice, a keyboard, a Saturday afternoon and a choice.

This tiny post on this tiny blog is like finding a needle in the world wide haystack - but I think it's worth a shot in the dark, and the arm.

Friday, May 27, 2011

3... 2... 1... Go!

National Vegetarian Week

It might seem moot to chomp into National Vegetarian Week so close to the end but I think it's a testament to motivation, mindset and momentum. Barely scratching the surface as I dig through my past, I feel like I've evolved a fair bit during this short week.

My Veggie Pledge is now sworn in the ethereal archives of the NVW pages and the countdown begins with less than 72 hours left over at the U.K. challenge. But my view is I had a head start with being meat-free since Monday, and a Meatless Monday at that. The rest of NVW takes me to Sunday, which leads into another Meatless Monday. On that day, I'll sign up for the Toronto Vegetarian Association's seven day Veggie Challenge, which will take effect Tuesday, and also take me through the next Meatless Monday.


Should I succeed, I'll continue with the TVA's Phase 2 challenge, and strive to go meatless for three more weeks. I'll tack on an extra day in lieu of each Meatless Monday that falls in between. Not a bad start after all, with plenty of strength and determination to move forward.

And somewhere in there, I have to squeeze in time and pants to trim a few pounds for a mid-June wedding.

When I started this little blog and adventure, I had no idea any of these challenges existed, including the now expired World Vegetarian Week which put me on this quest to find more. It's been one week since my return to this blog and I owe all my progress to date to the overwhelming and ongoing support of fellow foodies, bloggers, and Margaret. I have no doubt that I will succeed to return back to my veggie roots, and with exponential growth.

Menus are flourishing but I confess there are issues with eating schedules and late night snacks - and the trail of chip crumbs between keyboard and thumbs.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Surf 'n' Turf

                                                           © Perry Kong
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Leave a comment or e-mail me at

Thanks to the power of caffeine, the internet, and our veggie friends over in the U.K. we have another challenge to help salvage World Vegetarian Week. The Vegetarian Society is holding it's annual National Vegetarian Week from May 23rd to May 29th. With three days to go and my best fork forward, I'm ready to step up to the plate.

Inspiration came late last night from a great vegetarian site that issued a challenge among fellow foodies and bloggers, and if you want a piece of the action you can link up and contact Faceless Food at We Don't Eat Anything With A Face. The one week challenge is for hunters and gatherers to go the extra mile and go vegetarian, go vegan or go home. It's a bit late for the 29th deadline but I like to think of it as a stay of execution after tossing the WVW, and I'm going the full seven days.

Faceless Food's site is filled with recipes and ideas that will allure vegetarians and non, and the pages are as warm and embracing as the flavors and scents that I'm sure fill her home. She was instrumental in introducing and pointing me towards The Vegetarian Society. Established in 1847 and located in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, it is the oldest vegetarian organization in the world. Their website is loaded with resources and recipes that are worth checking for the challenge and any time, like the Big Bad Boy Salad (TVS - NVW recipe), and the Tofu, Chocolate and Hazelnut Mousse (Cauldron Foods). Cauldron Foods is the NVW sponsor, and a wonderful resource for vegetable based foods and all things tofu. The mousse is their recipe of the month and can be found on their own site as well as NVW. The picture alone makes me want to eat only that for the next seven days.
Speaking of moose, do you remember the culinary skits and giggles from the great Swedish chef from the muppets? I found a few retro memories and moments on a video clip at Taste It My Way. It was the familiar gas and flame blue blogger template that made me want to explore further when I saw his site on FoodieBlogRoll. I'm glad I did. It was fun, informative, and time well spent.

Benefits that result from vegetarianism are endless and when it all began for me there weren't any laptops, blogs, or Google. Heck, there weren't even any other vegetarians! It was a word or two of mouth and a few really dated books from the public library. A good read could be found at a book or health store - but they were few and far between for me and my location. Finding ingredients were even tougher than the chewy sawdust veggieburgers of the day. Now you can find plenty of what you need at your local supermarket, or even online. Kudos if you have a great health food store with knowledgeable staff. And some of the best salads are through the bar on your search engine.

I think it's never been easier to explore the ways of the vegetarian. The ether is filled with more information than you can ever consume, even if you tried 24/7. And my sleep habits are about as close to that as I will ever get. Until last year I only had access to dial-up. Now I can quickly surf millions of resources, find inspiration from like-minded across the ocean, or share a laugh with a streaming video of my favorite muppets.

As writers, our work and wanderlust drifts into the wee hours of the night and net. And when we least expect it, something happens right in front of us that can change us for a moment, or a lifetime.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

End of Days

It may not be the end of the world after Saturday's failed rapture prediction but it is the end of World Vegetarian Week. Oblivious to both, I realized only after the fact and although I'm still here, today is WVW's last day. An annual challenge for the non-veg sector to give it up for seven days, this year's event was May 19th to May 25th. In the wake of the long weekend, I failed miserably to meet their goal and deadline, and raise awareness for the benefit of the event, the planet, and you.

I still managed to salvage four of the seven days just with my daily regimen, but I did eat meat almost every meal for the three offending days, mostly from takeout and tradition.

I won't fool myself into thinking I deserve any pats on the back for still accomplishing four days of meat-free meals - on the contrary. I know and should do better. As someone trying to set an example for others struggling with the move towards vegetarianism, I've done all of us a great injustice by missing out on this great week of celebration and support. But wallowing in guilt isn't my premise, persistence is - as I am committed to helping those struggling with the changes. Don't let the bad keep you from moving forward to more good.

So fear-not fellow foodies - WVW 2012 is only a year away, and there are plenty of opportunities to train for it.

The Toronto Vegetarian Association has an open invitation to Take the Veggie Challenge and go meat-free for one week. It's easy to sign up, and easier than you think, with a herd of volunteers and support.

Once you sign up with your name and e-mail address, you'll be prompted to a short survey, and soon after you'll receive your first of seven daily e-mails loaded with tips, tricks, recipes and resources from qualified motivators and nutritionists. And links on where to shop and eat. They'll also have answers for popular questions like - 'Where do you get your protein?' Response - 'where do animals get theirs?'

The site shines with stories of struggles and success, and you are invited to share your own experience. After the one week challenge, you can do it again, or sign up for phase 2 to continue three more weeks to round it off to an even month. If you're already a vegetarian, try being a vegan.

I like the TVA's challenge approach. Organizers say 'It's liberating,' not 'limiting,' with 'all the bases covered to have a successful challenge.' It's on an honour system, nobody's watching, and there are no hard and fast rules. Whether you're in it for the health of your own, the environment, or for others, that really isn't the focus. Your efforts towards challenge and change is gratefully recognized and supported, with a world of like-minded individuals cheering you on. And if you slip up, just keep trying your best but most of all, have fun with it. Invite family, and e-mail your friends.

I'll be signing up in the days to come, and will report on my daily progress, or lack of.

If a whole week seems daunting, then you might consider joining the Meatless Monday movement. Their focus is to reduce meat consumption by 15% by cutting meat out of your menu one day a week. It's modelled after effective strategies of the great wars to ration food supplies, and this time around they're fighting for the life of the planet by increasing health while reducing climate change and the carbon footprint.

Based on internalized behavioral studies, Monday seems to set the stage for fresh starts and successes during the week and if you miss your mark there's always another after the usual lax and lavish weekends. The Meatless Monday website is chock full of recipes, resources and support. Both Meatless Monday and Take the Veggie Challenge provide free motivation and promotional materials for groups and educators who want to raise awareness in their communities.

Point being made, life is made up of 'little victories' and if you do just one thing different, no matter how small it seems, the rewards will be big in how you feel, and how you move forward. It reminds me of something 80's motivational guru and life coach Anthony Robbins said about a 'Class-1' experience...

"It feels good. It's good for you. It's good for others - and it serves the greater good."

And if you slip up just try again tomorrow, or the next day, or next Monday, next week and next year. After all, it's not the end of the world.

Two-Four the Show

May Two-Four... synonymous with the coveted cold-cased design of condensation clad bottles and beer. A truly Canadian occasion as fellow countrymen celebrated the official kickoff of summer, with opening season for cottages and campgrounds. Around the home front, it's the opening of my sun porch, and preparation for our annual spring clean-up where the curbs are littered with junk and unwanted items from 8-irons to tracks.

In my gear-head days it was the resurrection of my winter stored summer rides - Chevelles, Biscaynes and bicycles.

It's also a statutory holiday here, for my non-Canadian viewers who may be interested to know, and a day off school for nephews to hang out at the ol' 'UNKL P' Fortress of Solitude and sleep deprivation where the sun and XBOX controller never goes down.

But something occurred to me when I was driving my 11 year old prodigy home. Upon observing the ghost-town resemblance (more than usual) due to Monday's holiday closings, he asked why, and I explained - with my own revelation that the reason for the holiday is rarely observed anymore and possibly unknown even to the many Canadians celebrating.

Victoria Day is in celebration of Queen Victoria. Her birthday was May 24th, and was celebrated for many years before she died in 1901 when they made Victoria Day official. Since then, the following powers that be were honoured on their birthdays but the dates were staggering, so Victoria Day has been designated annually on the last Monday of May to celebrate the current reign of power. Although it falls on various dates, it is often referred to as May Two-Four weekend, and traditionally will include beer and barbecues, at least in my neck of the woods.

This leads to yet another stab at my veg efforts and self-discipline as I indulge in whatever is on the grounds and grill. Due to the flurry of activities mentioned in my last post, I was able to avoid the whole scenario but my burger loving nephew's special guest request is one of those rare times I cook meat in our home. Being the gracious host, I joined him so he wouldn't feel like the odd man out. Truth be told, I was happy to be the scape goat but didn't enjoy the beef, while Margaret blissfully bit into her portobello mushroom burger from across the table.

Sufficient to say, I think my meat days are numbered as I indulge more and enjoy less. Ironic that the last day of World Vegetarian Week could possibly be my first day back to a meatless life.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Checks and Balances


Best efforts are out the window as I write amidst the Victoria Day weekend. A whirlwind of activities has consumed my original plans to spend a few quiet days resurrecting my '93 Ford Ranger, which has been parked since July 2008 after it sprung a gas leak on the way to a Trooper concert. Spending most of Saturday and the weekend with the carnivores made it once again, too easy to fall prey to the trap and temptations of the devil inside.
My baby sister and her husband are unexpectedly in the process of making an exciting real estate transaction. We did what we've always done best - respond to the call to action and help paper and plaster, as friends and family emerged from the woods and woodwork during this highly anticipated campfire weekend.
Saturday morning started with a drive-by for Margaret's coffee and cranberry muffin at the local arches. I'm sure I said 'for two' but the gremlins and glitches of drive-thru technology must have altered my speech to say 'number two,'  somewhat akin to the backward vinyls and voices of the 60s, 70s and 80s. 'REDRUM... REDRUM... REDRUMMM!' Next thing I knew, I was indulging with sin and sausage.
We made it home for lunch and I repented with a veggie chicken nugget and spinach wrap and a side of steamed vegetables. But upon returning and after a dogged, hot day of cleaning and construction, the family gathered for the mass destruction of a wiener filled platter. Earlier, Margaret had put a couple veggie dogs on ice to bring with us and asked if I wanted some too, but that would have thrown off the one constant since the beginning of time - the uneven wiener-to-bun ratio masterminded by the food industry and gods. So I took one for the team and said no, seeing an opportunity to bring balance to the food chain, our family, and the world.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Failure to Launch


Well, I'm back. It's been a hard winter and even harder keeping up with my blog and goals, but I'm ready to move forward. Let's recap:

Vegetarian - nope
Lost weight - nope
Plenty of exercise - nope! Sleep - nope! Fluids - nope! Sex  - ...!

Chicken? Check!
Hot dogs? Check!
Big Mac? Check!
Sex?  ...!

Since I set out on this journey in February, I've eaten meat on many occasions but really only through two sources - family functions, and my role as a roving reporter. Both were for the sake of convenience (I was going there anyway). Yummy, full course meals (that I didn't have to cook) or good-to-go hot dogs (that I didn't have to cook).

Recent meat and greets:
May 14th - family food fry (turkey)
Mother's Day tributes -  Chinese Food
May 7th  - family BBQ (steak and hot dogs)
April 30th - family stag & doe (meatballs, cold cuts)
April 30th - on assignment (ham, beef, salmon/chicken/egg salad      sandwiches - that's right tried them all)
April 14th - on assignment (hot dogs for breakfast, hot dogs for lunch, chicken for dinner)
April 7th - on assignment (roast beef dinner)
April 5th - on assignmnent (meatballs, meatballs, more meatballs)
Can't remember the dates but there have been a few road trips involving gold and arches, and on one occasion bought two hot dogs for charity but gave one away, so technically - half the fat.

I'm pretty sure the drumstick I had at the last turkey fry weighed about 5 pounds so at least I've been working out my left arm, which is good because that's also the side my heart's on.

We can't choose our families but I've made a recent career move and I'm now working exclusively online. There are less public appearances, and temptations as I only eat meat when I'm out of the home. Occasionally I'll order takeout but I rarely cook meat. According to my gal, I rarely cook at all. She's probably right - she's been right before.

Ironically, it was my deep-fried tofu in black bean sauce that she couldn't resist when we first met. Served hot with a cold Stella, I was quite iresistable in my day. I thought it was my resemblance to Richard Gere, and I'm sure he's often told - 'Hey, you look like Perry Kong!'

Okay then, back to reality...

As for family it's BBQ and salad season with plenty of sun and mayo. I usually grab a pack of tofu-dogs on the way over so it'll be a shoe-in, unlike the shoe leather they used to mimic. They've come a long way, and so have the tofu burgers.

Since trying normal wieners deep-fried (saw it on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives... 'nuff said), the competition's getting stiffer but I've yet to try it on tofu dogs. I deep-fry my regular tofu often and it's my favourite. I haven't found anyone that didn't like it prepared that way, and it's a great method to introduce it to someone exploring tofu for the first time.

I'm surprised by how many times I still hear, 'never tried it.'  And that was my first inspiration to create this blog, to encourage more people to discover tofu beyond it's bland and bouncy characteristics - it's delicacy, it's role in the vegetarian lifestyle, and it's health benefits. I'll be posting a 'recipes' page soon.

I haven't been getting any smaller and in my defense I'm not bigger either. But with less time in the field and more at my desk, I need to be conscious of falling into the trap of gluing myself to the keyboard 24/7. Recently Margaret surprised me with a shiny (with wheels and buttons, just like my profile said) new mountain bike so there is hope for an exercise routine as I rekindle my love for cycling. So far I've ridden about 5 times in 4 weeks, including the maiden voyage from the store. I've spent more time buying stuff for it than on it, and it's pretty sweet to look at.

I look forward to riding, and Margaret's cheers when I can finally shout out, 'Going for a ride nowww! Love yoouuu!" Aahhh, summer - hair and ketchup flying in the wind over a combo of burger and bicycle stands.