Butterflies and Kelp Noodles – A Day of New Things

IMG_0621IMG_0620prd_018968When I signed up to help plant lupines with The Nature Conservancy at the Rome Sand Plains at the end of last week, the forecast seemed a little iffy; I was really thinking we’d get rained out.  (Good thing it wasn’t today – the forecast is calling for floods).  But thankfully, yesterday was the first sunshiney day Upstate New York has seen in quite a while – sadly enough for the middle of June.  So rather than heading over to the science building to read more about lead, I joined my biology professor, another student from my project, and about 15 other volunteers in planting lupines to help sustain the frosted elfin butterfly population in this unique ecosystem. Not the prettiest of the butterflies, but still a cute little guy!
My project partner and I helped one of the women from the Nature Conservancy pick up trash down by a small pond that people party near.  The plains are often used by ATV-riders, who kick up the sand to make banks to ride on, shoot clay pigeons, and leave beer cans everywhere.  In just a couple hours, we were able to clean up two bags of trash while the others planted about 100 lupine plants!  It was a very successul, fun morning, and I met some very sweet, diverse people.  In September, they are going back to clean up more trash and check on the lupines, and I plan on joining them again.
When I got back to campus, I found that the Gold Mine kelp noodles and RAW Protein Powder I ordered from Amazon had arrived in the mail, so my day of trying out new things continued into my dinner preparations!  IMG_0624
While waiting for soil samples to be analyzed, I looked around for some good Asian-inspired kelp noodle sauce recipes that I had the ingredients for.  It seemed like I had a pieces of all of them, so I decided to combine and make my own!  When I first opened the noodles, I was pretty nervous.  They looked and tasted like plastic; I told my boyfriend that it was like eating a rubber band, and he laughed at me for eating them anyways. Before using them, I rinsed them really well with warm water, and then let them soak while I was making the sauce.  I grabbed whatever pieces of recipes I had, and threw them all in the food processor.  I am not big on actually measuring ingredients, but rather eyeballing what I think will taste good/be enough for me, so my recipe went something like:


  • almond butter
  • coconut oil
  • fresh ginger
  • tamari
  • water
  • sesame seeds
  • raw honey
  • lemon juice


I originally didn’t add any honey, but when I tasted it, there was a bitter taste that I didn’t like.  I mixed in a bit of raw honey, and the problem was solved! Once I drained the noodles, I mixed in the sauce, some chopped bell peppers, carrots, some bean sprouts, and leftover Almond Parmesan cheese from my Mac n’ Cheese recipe, and had a yummy, filling, kelp noodle dinner!

I went online to see about ordering more noodles in bulk, but after reading the Amazon reviews I was directed to a video that showed how kelp noodles are not as raw, natural, or safe as people think they are.  I decided to do some hunting today on my own and found that I’m even more confused now; Sea Tangle’s FAQs seemed to put my worries to rest, but how do I know that they’re being honest about how they produce their noodles?  Why do they look, taste, and smell like plastic before you do something with them?  I am a little bit skeptical to finish the pack that I have and to buy more, but…they were so good!

Note: The picture of the flowering lupines is courtesy of the Nature Conservancy’s website and is not mine.  The rest are!

Raw in Real Life

Being raw in my room is easy enough – I am in charge of what’s in my fridge, my pantry, and ultimately what I eat.  However, I know I am not alone when I say that being raw, even vegan, outside of the home can be challenging.  One of my professors and his wife have been vegans for 25 years, but when they travel they eat vegetarian because it can be too hard, and expensive, to maintain a vegan diet on the road.  Yesterday was my first real experience trying to eat raw in public.  My research group went out to lunch before visiting a county health official. One of the professors recommended a Dominican place, so that was where we went.  I was a little nervous about what I could eat, but when the professor I was working with asked me if I would be able to find anything (he knows I’m a vegan), I said most likely, because in most situations I have been able to tweak some option on the menu to fit my needs without causing a scene.  For the most part, any of my eating out experiences have been with friends and family who know that I am a vegan, and who are kind enough to choose places that have foods we all can eat. When we walked into this small ethnic restaurant in the heart of the city, my fears quickly became reality.  The man standing behind the deli counter began to stir up different pots of meat, listing us our options – oxtail, goat, pork… I had contemplated getting a RAWREV bar from the vending machine at school in case I couldn’t find anything, but I couldn’t have predicted this.  So, my turn came and I almost guiltily admitted to the server ‘I am a vegetarian.’  platanosfritos6

In situations like this one, or when I am visiting a friend’s house for dinner, I often call myself a vegetarian – the one rule I will not break.  If somebody’s mom orders cheese pizza for dinner, I will eat it.  I am fortunate enough that occasionally adding dairy or eggs into my diet does not make me ill – for my sister, who needs to eat strictly vegan for digestive reasons, it’s not that simple.  Also, I have found that in my area, there are some people who are confused about what a vegan can and cannot eat. Once, a girl tried to give me chicken noodle soup, which would make no sense even if I said I was only a vegetarian.  At this restaurant, I was hoping that he might know of something I could eat that was at the least, meat-free.  Luckily, he had some rice and beans behind the counter, and was kind enough to cook me a sweet plantain.  I had never tried plantain before, and apart from being fried in oil, they were sweet and delicious! In the end, I was able to eat vegan, only temporarily sacrificing my raw tastes for one meal of the deal.

I think that this post helps to explain exactly what I mean by vegarawatarian.  Maybe some people would disagree with me that allowing this degree of flexibility in my food choices makes me a vegan, and rather classifies me as a ‘mostly vegan’, or not even one at all. In my mind, as long as the food I am eating on a regular basis makes me feel good, does not make me feel restricted in my social life, and shows others that I am willing to be flexible (so they don’t avoid asking me to do things with them – it’s happened before!), then I feel completely satisfied with my lifestyle.  Over and over again, we see things like ‘Diets are not one size fit all’ and I agree with that completely.  For some people, a vegetarian lifestyle is all that is doable – and that is great!  Others choose vegan for their own reasons, and some choose raw because they are willing to commit to that lifestyle.  It all depends on what works for you, and I find that being a vegarawatarian is the healthiest, and easiest way for me to live. I will say that on a day to day basis, when I am not with friends or eating out, I eat almost 100% raw.  Because I am new to this lifestyle, I want to commit to it as completely as I can so that I can learn the benefits and options before I decide to commit as completely as I did vegetarian.  If a few months from now, I’m cooking my quinoa rather than sprouting it, or baking a batch of vegan cookies, I won’t say I’m no longer raw – I’ll just continue to consider myself vegarawatarian.