The Rise of Veganism

If you told people 30 years ago that you were vegan, they would think you were talking about a religion. Nobody was used to that word. What? No meat? No milk or eggs, either? No honey? What else was left to eat?

Animal products have been at the heart of most cultures. In Brazil, for example, Nestlé took over in the ’60s. Its condensed milk only was used to make baby formulas, at first. Then, it had the idea to create sweet recipes. That was a success. From then on, condensed milk was the main ingredient of every Brazilian dessert. Even in India, where there is a strong vegetarian culture, many traditional dishes contain milk.

For a long time, vegans had to stay out of most gatherings and dinner parties. It was too much work to cook for them when every classic dish had animal products. The lifestyle was considered strict and difficult to stick to, and only for crazy tofu-eaters.

But it’s not that vegans loved tofu and vegetables. They just had no other option. The first plant-based cheeses on the market were horrible. Desserts and treats existed in only a few stores, and they were expensive. There’s no doubt that a lot has changed since then.

In the last 10 years, there has been a big shift in the market. Plant-based products are everywhere. As the movement grows, big companies have started creating vegan versions of their products. Today, Ben & Jerry’s offers 19 vegan versions of its ice cream flavors in the USA. Most fast-food chains will have at least one vegan option on their menu.

Eat your greens. Photo: Green Burger.

Movie Theater Comeback Halted by Delta Variant

Several months ago, headlines said that movie theaters were getting back to normal. COVID-19 restrictions started lifting and people began returning to the theaters. Just a few months on and the Delta variant is raging. Movie theaters are once again struggling to recover.

During the lockdown in 2020, movie studios opted to show their films on their streaming platforms. Once vaccinations began, it looked as if a comeback was possible. Hollywood launched a PR campaign proclaiming “the big screen is back.”

And for a while it was. During Memorial Weekend, box office sales hit $100 million. Those were the best weekend sales since the pandemic began. Yet that was less than half of the sales from the same weekend in 2019.

Sharonne Hill brought her son, Jadon, and niece, Ashley, to see “Paw Patrol: The Movie ” recently. It was their first theater outing since the pandemic began. She thinks theaters may be forced to shut down again. So, she ventured out as a treat. “We’re all just tired of sitting in the house. Streaming movies at home was great at first, but with the way COVID-19 is coming back, I don’t know how long theaters will be open. I thought we’d better get here while we still can.”

Raw Energy Returns

After last season’s restrictions, Presque Isle soccer teams thrive on their hometown support

It was a warm, late September’s night at the Presque Isle Middle School’s turf field, a rivalry girls game between Presque Isle and Caribou. Having ended regulation tied at 1 goal apiece, and now with 30 seconds to go in double overtime, a tie was all but inevitable. But Presque Isle had other ideas, as Olivia Kohlbacher banged home a rebound goal to win the game with 14 seconds remaining in the second overtime. The Presque Isle girls celebrated, having just stolen a win from their rivals. The large crowd roared for their hometown team’s exciting win. In any other season, the roar of a crowd after an exciting finish would have been a normal occurrence, void of any reflection and gratitude. But the year 2021 is not just any other soccer season.

A packed student section cheers on at a September 27th Girls game vs. Caribou- via Dave Allen.

In September of 2020, high school athletes across the state of Maine had no idea if they would have a sports season. It was during the height of the pandemic, and a vaccine seemed eons away. Finally, games were permitted to start in the last week of September with a number of restrictions for each fall sport. For soccer, those included mid-halftime sanitization breaks, wearing face coverings whenever not in the game, players who didn’t have their mouthguard in their mouth were sent off the field by officials. But most noticeably, a decrease in the number of fans. The limit was 100 people: this included players, coaches and officials. In Presque Isle, each player could invite two fans. This created an awkward atmosphere for home games. No doubt every school across the state of Maine and beyond felt this.

The raw energy of high school sports is an incomparable element. The passion for one’s hometown and high school creates tremendous atmospheres for student-athletes to play in. This brings communities together, arguably more than anything, at least in rural northern Maine. This energy was absent in 2020. But in 2021, with the pandemic hopefully in its waning stages, high school sports have seemingly found a return to normalcy. The overtime thriller between Presque Isle and Caribou was exactly what was missing from 2020. Student sections ruled again.

Aroostook County’s Artisans

Maine is known for many things: sweet lobster, great fishing and hunting, beautiful landscapes, majestic moose and Stephen King. It’s no wonder that such a beautiful state draws a high number of craftspeople and artisans. It seems that Aroostook County has more talented artisans hiding away than anyone would expect. You can find them at local fairs and farmers’ markets, their goods finer than any found at the fancy stores in big cities. Most of them seem to have the same attitude: they don’t create to make a living. They create because they must. Having people love their work is just a bonus.

When you dig deeper into the roots of Maine history, you find a can-do attitude. It has a rich history of inhabitants who made their living by making the best out of any situation. Mainers have lived through incredibly tough times and just kept going. Their willpower is practically a trademark. And yet, the more you hear about them, the more there is to admire.

There are many residents in northern Maine who still live just like their grandparents, in dirt floor cabins without electricity. Of course, some have embraced modern technology, but not all. And in the midst of such seeming unwillingness to change, one wonders how art and beauty could be born. And yet…those who create always find a way. Things that are useful can be beautiful, too.

Sensei McGibbon

Often growing up, people are faced with challenges that are unbeatable, bullies who are unfightable or obstacles that are impassable. Failure is unavoidable and from an early age, children can feel a wave of their confidence slipping. “Somebody’s always told you growing up that you’re stupid, lazy, ugly, and if you hear it enough, you’ll start to believe that crap,” Rick McGibbon said. Rick is a man who has gained confidence through his time in the karate training halls, which are also known as dojos. He has trained as a teacher of martial arts, properly known as a sensei, for much of his life. It was through this training that Rick learned to instill confidence.

The name of the organization Rick continues to train at is Shotokan Karate International Federation (SKIF) of Maine. “When I first started training, it was Taekwondo, a type of Karate originating from Korea, and my main style, which is Shotokan,” Rick said. His stance changed in his seat, his shoulders held high.

Sensei Rick McGibbon wearing the Black Belt.

Shotokan is a Hard-Style, originating from Japan. “Hard-Style means movements, strikes, blocks, kicks. It’s pretty linear and straight rather than Kungfu, which is circular,” Rick said. “Our organization has dojos in 108 countries around the world, including one in Antarctica,” Rick said. “I would say there are roughly around a million and a half students as of today.” He has been at it for 41 years, training in these types of martial arts defense forms. He has gained much from it.

What Happens to the Food You Don’t Buy?

You know when you go to the store and notice that a fruit’s price has gone up? Maybe you think, “Well, I need this for a pie, so I’m buying it anyway.” Some other people might have to give up and buy something else–or go home empty-handed. Not being able to afford food is a sad reality for many people.

Now, imagine that you are doing your shopping at a big retailer in Australia. After you buy what you need, you go around the parking lot and find a big dumpster behind the store. You open it. You cannot believe your eyes.

It’s full to the brim with fresh veggies and fruit that are not even ripe yet. You walk a couple more yards and find another bin. It is locked, but you can open it just enough to see what’s inside: fancy cheese, bottles of wine, artisan bread, candy bars….

The security guard comes along and tells you to leave. They say you can’t have that food because “they don’t want you to get sick.” All that food, enough to feed at least five families for weeks, is waiting for collection. It will all rot in a landfill.

“Unfortunately, if you go back on the following week, you will realize that the dumpsters are full again. We like to think that supermarkets would only throw food away if it is contaminated, expired or bad. That is not what happens,” Alberto Peixoto, a member of the dumpster diving community, said. He checks the bins from his local grocery store every week and uses the food he finds to feed his family. He also shares the excess with friends.

Fall Eats: Homemade Creamy Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese

There is nothing more exciting than good soup and grilled cheese, except for maybe when it is homemade. This recipe is not only fast and easy, but also delicious and great for a cozy afternoon at home.

Finished look! What a tasty dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced or chopped
  • 2 (28 oz) cans San Marzano peeled tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 8 large fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese, optional

Instructions:

Good soup!
  1. In a pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add onion and cook, stirring as needed, until translucent (about 8 minutes).
  2. Add San Marzano peeled tomatoes (juice and all), stock and sugar. Bring to a low simmer. Cook uncovered for 12 minutes or until it has thickened.
  3. Add in the heavy cream, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Using an immersion blender or regular blender equipped to handle soup, puree soup until there are no large chunks left.
  5. OPTIONAL: stir in parmesan cheese.

 

The Hard Reality Behind the Animal-Loving Internet Culture

Pet videos have become super popular during lockdown. There are adorable clips all over the internet, and they bring a bit of joy even to the grumpiest person. Watching this kind of content can get someone through a difficult day. It is hard to believe that there could be a dark side to such an innocent trend.

Sadly, reality is very different from what we see on social media. “People forget that pets are living beings that need a lot of work and patience,” Brazilian vet Mariana Azevedo said. “They see a pet doing something cute online and want to buy an animal that will do the same. When the pet does not behave the way they expect, they get frustrated. Then, people try to get rid of their pets. They sell them or give them away. A lot of the time, they just put them on the streets.”

All pets deserve a good home, but not all of them are lucky.

The problem is even worse in poorer countries, where people do not usually desex their pets. Desexing is a procedure that stops animals from breeding. Many cities around the world have an overpopulation of cats and dogs. Too many abandoned animals together can spread disease to one another and to humans.

Cats on the streets cause serious issues. Many owners do not keep their cats inside the house. That means domestic cats that have access to the street get mixed with street cats, increasing the problems they cause. “Cats reproduce fast, and they are good hunters. That is dangerous to local wildlife. Owners need to be responsible and keep their cats inside or build a cat patio. It’s not just that they cause trouble, but they are also not safe out there. Many of them get sick or hit by a car. Angry neighbors can poison them,” Azevedo said.

Fall Eats: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Searching for the perfect fall treat? Look no further: these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are the answer to all your fall flavored cravings.

Finished cookies!

Ingredients:

  • 1 can pumpkin puree (make sure it is not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup oil (canola or vegetable)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon milk
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

     Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease.
  2. In a bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, oil, vanilla and egg. Use an electric mixer and mix until well combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, dissolve the baking soda in the milk. Add the dry flour mixture and the wet baking soda mixture to the pumpkin mixture. Mix this well.
  4. Fold in the chocolate chips and stir until evenly combined.
  5. Using a cookie scoop, drop amounts of the cookie dough on the greased or parchment-covered cookie sheets.
  6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool before removing them from the sheet.

Young Ethel’s: Serving Drinks and Hope

Mary Racine and her husband Tim had over 10 years of experience when they chose to open their bar. Mary had worked in bars for most of her adult life, and Tim drank in them. They met six years ago at The Love Bar in New York City where Mary worked. Tim was one of the many performers at the People’s Improv Theatre that The Love Bar operated from. It wasn’t love at first sight. Their relationship started as a friendship between two artists that grew into something more. Tim proposed four months after they started dating. They married after four more months.

The idea of opening a bar had been in the back of Mary’s mind for a while. Mary had experience bartending and managing. She knew what it took to run a successful bar. She knew how to order inventory, make schedules and budgets. Mary and Tim worked on business plans while she managed the popular Brooklyn spot, Sycamore Bar. Sycamore Bar not only is a bar but also a flower shop. Being unique helped Sycamore Bar stand out in a big city. With this in mind, Mary dreamed of Young Ethel’s. The name reflected her idea of a bar for young people with old souls. This is seen in the decor, a style aptly called “grandma chic.” The bar top is copper leaf, standing out against dark teal patterned wallpaper and matching lights. The color scheme continues into the back, where guests sit on pink velvet couches and watch movies on the big screen.

Young Ethel’s set up outdoor seating to follow along with NYC Covid-19 regulations.

Young Ethel’s is “an elevated dive bar.” Mary wanted to bring affordable drinks to Park Slope, a neighborhood known for its high living costs. But the low prices don’t mean poor quality. The bar serves handcrafted cocktails and craft beers to thirsty customers. Events such as art markets, karaoke and comedy nights are held regularly. In February 2020, they hosted a friend’s wedding.