12 of My Childhood Favorites—Veganized

First, a primer on my past love-hate thing with food, and a bit of personal nostalgia and other rambling.

I was big into food as a kid, even before my dad owned a popular Italian restaurant just outside of Los Angeles in the 1960s. We always had lots of tasty foods in our life and even more so from the restaurant which we all spent a lot of time at, along with our friends. See the 🍝 items below for those favorites inspired by my dad’s restaurant fare. All their recipes were invented by him and his brother, and they certainly had a way with the food!

Here is the only mention of the restaurant I can find online; search David B.’s comment and his mention of “Reggio’s”: http://maps.latimes.com/neighborhoods/neighborhood/monterey-park/comments/. Note that our restaurant wasn’t actually in Monterey Park but was on the Montebello side of its border, and David B. says it’s a Chinese restaurant now but actually it’s a Chinese laundromat and boba/smoothie bar.

Here’s an old pic of the restaurant’s namesake, the region of half my roots, where my dad was born and lived for a short time before the family immigrated to the USA’s east coast:

Reggio Calabria, Italy, 4 years before my dad was born.

So, as a result of all that tasty food and more, I had a chronic weight problem starting mildly at about age six; obviously the love for good food didn’t quite jibe with my raging fat genes. Two aunts and both their parents on my dad’s side were very obese and had hearty appetites, and the aunts loved to cook and have family gatherings. Well, yours truly was often an eager guest at those family food fests, then it would carry over to my home life since I and my mom liked to cook and eat, and she had developed a weight problem too, after having children.

Food was a main expression of love and thus a comforting “drug” in our rather lost and dysfunctional family, a drug with quite the destructive aspects. Thus the love-hate. I had a serious struggle (mostly on the losing end) with being very fat for much of my life, as did my younger brother. The family’s judgement and condemnation were further destructive…but they later came to regret the way they’d been, and were forgiven, at least by me.

Veganism at last came to my rescue, as well as that of all those animals I’d have downed…

Since going all the way and ending the dairy/egg cheating, and being strictly vegan starting in 2009, I got down to merely “chubby”—about the middle category in following illustration as opposed to the far leftI’d like to be the one just to the right of middle. But for the first time ever, I’m pretty comfortable with my weight and it’s been stable for years, no longer fluctuates hugely due to going from bingeing to starvation diets.

I’m no longer a target for mean, nasty, rude PsOS out there like I once was either. “Hey fatty!” and “Jenny Craig!” and other such sweet things would occasionally be hollered at me from nasty faces in cars rolling past, and other such sickening incidents. I’ve seen this happen to other people and always have to wonder what sort of creeps find it necessary to embarrass people like that. I’d rather be 200+ lbs than be that sort of creep.

Too late for a tangent alert? Well, here’s more…

Anyhow, I only love veganized versions of old favorites, no more hate. I’ve pretty much learned how to avoid the temptation to overeat, mainly by not having the more decadent foods regularly on hand at home, instead concentrating on healthier, non-fattening stuff. On top of that, I simply don’t have the huge appetite I once had, probably because what I do eat is mostly nutritious and satisfying…all plant foods. Where before I would remain hungry and keep on eating rich treats, more and more and more until sickly full, badly bloated, sluggish, and guilty about gaining ever more weight.

There was no “shutoff” on the appetite except for no more room for any more food. It wasn’t pretty, a miserable cycle of self destruction. But good tasting. First-World problems, I know, but no less real.

Casein, the mild opiate and appetite stimulant—for infants.

I believe dairy foods’ casein is behind much of the obesity out there and is only one more reason to quit dairy products, aside from the horrible animal cruelty involved, which should be the primary motivator.

My eating and weight problems were partly hormonal, since after “the change of life” my food & weight problems lessened significantly, as opposed to most women (mostly non-vegans) who have the opposite going on. But I do believe a big part of my lifelong problem was the casein in dairy products and its appetite stimulating and slight opiate effects. Cheese, sweet yogurt, ice cream, etc., were always a big part of bingeing. (I say “bingeing,” but I’ve always been a slow eater, so my “binges” weren’t the fast & furious things most bingers are known for.)

On a side note, meats are said to be nutritionally dense and satisfying (by advertisers and the well-programmed public), but I always found meats to be a catalyst for gorging on decadent desserts and things afterwards, aside from lots of other refined carbs like white biscuits and such that accompanied meaty meals. All in all, a high-calorie, obesity causing nightmare, for those many of us with “bad” genes.

So there’s my thing with tasty food, I love the stuff. Who wouldn’t?

But these twelve, in random order, are extra special because they’re compassionate versions of nostalgic childhood treats. These are all homemade, mostly from scratch, so are for those of us with time and patience to make some complicated recipes. But these all seem guaranteed to be worth the fuss. Just click on the links for full recipes and if you make them, enjoy!

1) 🍝 http://www.pastabased.com/spaghetti-and-meatballs/

Vegan Spaghetti & Meatballs by Pasta Based

2) http://blacksgoingvegan.com/crispy-spicy-popeyes-chicken-style-vegan-fried-chicken/

Vegan Fried Chicken by Blacks Going Vegan

3) http://namelymarly.com/vegan-drumsticks/

Vegan Drumsticks by Namely Marly

4) 🍝 http://ahouseinthehills.com/2014/12/04/chickpea-minestrone/

Chickpea Minestrone Soup by A House in the Hills

5) http://namelymarly.com/vegan-big-mac/

Vegan Big Mac by Namely Marly

6) http://www.theflamingvegan.com/view-post/Easy-Vegan-Black-Bean-Tamales

Easy Black Bean Tamales by The Flaming Vegan

7) http://www.forkandbeans.com/2015/01/15/vegan-chickpea-omelet/

Vegan Chickpea Omelet by Fork and Beans

8) https://itdoesnttastelikechicken.com/the-ultimate-vegan-chocolate-cake/

The Ultimate Vegan Chocolate Cake by It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken

9) 🍝 http://namelymarly.com/vegan-new-york-style-cheesecake/

Vegan New York Cheese Cake by Namely Marly

10) 🍝 https://www.exceedinglyvegan.com/vegan-recipes/mains/vegan-pizza-cashew-cheese

Pizza with Cashew Cheese by Exceedingly Vegan

11) http://namelymarly.com/vegan-lemon-meringue-pie/

Lemon Meringue Pie by Namely Marly

12) http://veganyumminess.com/creamy-vegan-mac-and-cheese/

Vegan Mac and Cheese by Vegan Yumminess


The Demise of a Very Difficult Friend

UPDATES thru 12/23/2016: 
1) RHCP “Sick Love” video
2) See ** below video
3) See memorial mural of Dave at very bottomdave-l-4

My friend David was a very troubled soul, suffered from all sorts of destructive addictions. He was a loud, assertive, friendly big guy, and a drummer for different bands over the years. He looked pretty much like a thug, tattooed, gangsterish garb, shaved head, bandanas, etc. But I saw, behind all of it, his real, severely hidden self, and liked him from the first loud hello shouted at me from up on his landing. He’d moved into my condo complex a bit before I did and we met soon thereafter…match made in purgatory, so to speak, lol.

His childhood was less than ideal, to put it mildly. He turned out as somewhat of a narcissist, but with a good, caring, protective man underneath all the image consciousness and cruelty meant to drag certain people…me included…way down. It was all I could do to hold onto my fragile self-esteem throughout. He was nearly 21 years younger than me, and our attempt at a romantic relationship was a mistake from the beginning and we both knew it…but it didn’t stop us, for a short time anyways, from March through July of 2013. There were always the other women held up to me as threats of losing him if I didn’t toe the line. Well, I thought, would that be so bad? Since I never actually “owned” him in the first place, as another more assertive woman was so quick to do. He ended up abandoning her in the end, too, as soon as domestic bliss with her seemed at hand. He’d then used his open affection for old me in an attempt to make her jealous, it seemed. Strife with women was all he could understand…a happy, loving, healthy relationship with a woman was outside his reach. Something I can relate to well, sadly enough.

My two dogs, Lily and Mattie, loved him to pieces…Lily without fear, but Mattie feared his drunken or drugged behavior as possibly harmful (accidentally) to her, although he never harmed my dogs due to my watchfulness. To see Mattie so torn between love and fear was heartbreaking.

David cared so much for me that he wanted me to steer clear of him and not allow his ruination into my nice, orderly, sentimental life, so he did his utmost to repel me despite our being hopelessly drawn to each other. And he finally succeeded. And then he was bewildered and saddened by my truly disconnecting from him as anything other than a distant friend. He did then finally declare his love for me in a few brief emails prior to his running away from his life once again, back in January 2015, and those messages I will always keep or remember and think of him fondly for them. I love him too, but it was a very sick love on both our parts…

** By the way, no, Dave was not vegan…anything but; but he was supportive and wanted to go vegan to please me when he was in that frame of mind. So no, his addictions, problems and death were not vegan-diet related in the slightest, in case anyone wants to come to that conclusion.

David had attempted suicide before, not just once, and he finally achieved an end to his life this past August (or thereabout) of 2016. He’d been traveling (with nothing but the clothes on his back and a backpack) around the west coast from Washington State down to San Diego and staying who knows where for the last year and a half of his life. His death could have been from a drug overdose, murder, final stages of illness…suicide…no one knows, as far as I’ve been told by the family. What remained of his body wasn’t found up on a cliff near the Camp Pendleton Marine Base until many weeks after his death. He was his family’s only child, so of course they were profoundly saddened and left worse than gapingly empty by this loss, despite David’s having been on a collision course with an early death for much of his life.

Following, in tribute to David, are images of the area where he passed on…he did pick a beautiful spot with ocean and sky surely his last physical perceptions of this world…

1490155-38ea4b28-500 san-onofre-360884_960_720 sunset%20cliffs-beach%20hikes-san%20diego-california cliffs_san_clemente

Rest in peace, my difficult friend. I hope you’ve become a healed and healthy spirit and joined my gang of guardian angels (whole lotta dogs among them if I should be so honored), as well as that of your other loved ones, especially your beloved daughter.

Below is David’s memorial mural at Venice Beach, CA, done by a friend just recently…


My Little Lily is “Gone”

If you don’t adore dogs, or you find “much ado” about animals pointless or annoying, just move yourself right along, nothing to see here…

[Please see UPDATES at bottom!]

About six weeks back I noticed my nine-year-old dog Lily grunting a bit when out for her usual mile or two walk/hikes with me, as if she had something stuck in her windpipe or something. Progressively the coughing got more frequent and worse, exactly resembling what’s called “kennel cough.” So I assumed it was kennel cough, which is said to last anywhere from a week to three, or even six weeks or more in severe cases. Dogs with kennel cough are supposedly very contagious to other dogs, so everyone hates it when someone brings in a dog with kennel cough to the vet’s office. That’s one reason I avoided veterinary care and relied on hope and internet advice instead.

The kennel cough (Bordetella) vaccine is admitted even by vaccine pushers to be very unreliable; vaccinated dogs often come down with kennel cough, of differing strains. The disease, which is a viral and/or bacterial infection of the respiratory tract, is supposed to just run its course and be done with, perhaps with some cough medicine to soothe things, and lots of rest and healthy food, fresh water, all that. So that’s what I did.

Here’s what kennel cough looks and sounds like in a much larger dog, still very similar:

But come to find out, that’s not what Lily had at all.

About five weeks later, after Lily’s coughing pretty much was over with, she stopped eating, gradually. I’d thought we were on our way back to normalcy, except for this new food refusal thing…so disheartening…she’d always been a huge food lover. (And yes, she was vegan except for occasional “free” meat treats.) Then things got steadily worse and worse. She began stopping on our walks and had to be carried home, out of breath and exhausted, in distress. After the worst instance of that, a week ago today, she never went on a walk again except to mosey around off-leash foraging for grass, which she must have thought would help her, towards the end.

The last few days were hellish, but I did everything I could to make her comfortable. Her breathing was very labored, short and quick, and by the end she was refusing to eat ANYTHING. But the sweet little angel she was, when she had to go potty (she was still drinking water) she’d hoist her poor weak little body up to get out to the patio, to not make a mess in the house. I’d thought the little movement could do her some good.

Where’d this little dog come from?

Back in 2007, my brother phoned me from his and my dad’s workplace and told me my dad had brought a puppy with him from home, for me. Egads! The last thing I needed was another dog. Our apartment complex’s limit was two and I already had two seriously beloved rescue dogs, Corky and Mattie. But how could I say no to Lily? Corky was about 18 so I figured I wouldn’t be breaking lease rules for too long, with three dogs, and Corky did die five months later. Lily’s story was that my dad’s next-door neighbors had moved away and simply left their four-month-old puppy behind to fend for herself all alone in the world. Here she is several years ago:

Lily (long-haired chihuahua & Jack Russell terrier mix)

Lily (long-haired chihuahua & Jack Russell terrier mix at about age 3)

My dad’s wife had wanted him to get rid of her and sent him off to work with Lily in the back seat (she’d had no name then). Well, he couldn’t just dump her somewhere, so of course there she was with my dad when my brother went into the office, snarling and barking at him suspiciously. She of course came to love him dearly as she did anyone close to me. But others had to beware of her sharp little teeth…she did not like or trust strangers and thought that she, all 15-20 pounds of her, could take on anyone no matter their size. So I just worked around it for the nine years and simply didn’t let her get her teeth into anyone…she never did actually bite anyone, thank goodness.

Lily was a great little dog and I’ll never forget her.

She was a holy terror when first living with me though, took six months to house-train her in which I almost lost my mind…really. I cleaned up so much urine from the carpet and so much shredded confetti which was once my books and such, that I can only smile now, looking back. At one point I’d decided to use a diaper on her when I went to work, so she showed me. I came home to a totally shredded diaper and pad and multiple pee puddles in the carpet, along with what looked like an exploded pile of magazine bits all over the living room, in every nook and cranny to boot. My hysterics at these instances eventually taught Lily what was and wasn’t approved of, and she became an absolutely sweet and precious, responsible, totally non-destructive girl who would almost rather die than pee or poop in the house, totally loved her doggy door. She would only play with toys or other dogs anymore, never again tore up any of my “valuable” (hah) belongings. As an aside, she liked and respected all cats…was so polite with them, must have been familiar with them (and those scary claws) from her puppyhood.

And this little dog had a bark from hell, lol. Her voice, when wanting to be alarming, was eardrum shredding, mind-numbing, like the mega amplified crowing of a giant rooster, and this dog loved her barking. Not that I let her disturb the neighbors, much, but I’m sure they’ve all heard her at one time or another, despite my diligent efforts to spare them. I have nice neighbors though, so never had any complaints.

Just two of Lily’s more adorable habits, for anyone who enjoys this sort of thing: I eat breakfast cereal regularly and Lily always expected the last crumbly bits in the bag when the cereal was almost gone. She seemed to know the bag sound at that point and would trot into the kitchen doing this cute little growl/howl. Then I’d put the ripped open bag down for her and she’d step on the edge with one foot and go to town on those crumbs as if they were the most delicious bits ever.

Mattie crop

Lily’s partner in crime, Mattie (rat terrier, rescued in 2005, now 15 yrs old)

Another one was, every time I did my little workout routine, she knew exactly when it was time for the crunches which I do sort of hanging partly off the bed. Every time, she’d trot into the bedroom before me, growl/howling again, and frisk around beneath my head with her partner in crime, Mattie, pictured here, until the crunches were over. Then all was back to normal. Every single time she did this, for years. But, sadly, not for this last week.

D-Day – I finally stopped being a coward and got her to the vet.

See, I didn’t know it, but Lily actually had lung cancer, not kennel cough, which my vet discovered today. I’d gone in hoping for some treatments that would get her back on the road to health, or to have her euthanized if it was hopeless. Realizing this “kennel cough” was not going to go away after all, that it was hopeless to keep on hoping, and that she may have developed pneumonia, congestive heart failure, or any number of horrible things.

She was in a lot of distress this morning, but too weak to even complain…yet still wagging that tireless little tail at me, with that loving expression on her face. My kennel cough “treatments” had done her no good at all. The lung cancer had to be fast growing and aggressive, because in about six weeks time (since the first bit of coughing), the vet said it had gotten quite huge, too advanced for any treatment to really do any good. And in case anyone wonders about the cause, so do I. I never smoke cigarettes and she’d only rarely been indoors with a smoker, and not for a couple of years, while some dogs live with chain smokers. Obviously, some unknown carcinogen had invaded poor Lily’s body.

So today, after finally finding out what was actually wrong with her, I made that gut wrenching decision to give her the lethal injection and end her life. This was after days of virtually no food…she was actually repulsed by food of any kind on the last day…and progressively more “painful” looking breathing, where she just lay limp and weak and miserable. The injection went well and she died within moments as I stroked her head and told her what a good girl she was. God I miss her. Life is strange and awkward with me and Mattie back at home now. But we’ll get through this.

If I’d have known from the beginning it was lung cancer, I would not have opted for surgery, chemo, radiation…so much pain and suffering for so doubtful an outcome. Would have gotten pain reliever for her and not let it go on so long. Believing it was kennel cough and that it would pass, well, that certainly did Lily no good. But she was still wagging her cute little tail when spoken to (often) and making every effort to appear “happy” and fight whatever was causing her pain. She wanted so much to go on her walks again and to play with Mattie, to enjoy her food, all her usual beloved routines. And so did I want that. Badly. But it wasn’t to be.

I, Mattie, my family, and anyone who got to know Lily (very few lucky souls, lol) will miss her adorable little presence in this world, dearly. When she did warm up to someone, she treated him like a rock star. One was a friend, David, whom Lily was always on the lookout for and would perk up and behave as if Elvis had been spotted whenever any tallish, bald tough guy with a goatee was within her view. The extreme elation upon actually seeing…HIM!…and conversely the obvious disappointment at seeing it wasn’t him, were equally adorable.

Lily, a.k.a., Ling-Ling, Lil-Lil, Lily Monster, Lilith, was a little gem of a dog. Rest in peace with the rest of them, little angel. Hope I deserve to be with you all again someday, in Heaven.

Entrance to Heaven by Wonderlane on flickr

Entrance to Heaven by Wonderlane on flickr

⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓

 TylerUPDATE 5/28/2016: On the left is a dog (held by his heroic savior) I hoped to adopt to fill the sad vacancy Lily’s passing left behind. I’d seen a little dog like him (probably him) running up the street while I was walking Mattie last Sunday. He got away from me and I could not find him. On Wednesday I checked a local Lost Dog page on Facebook and saw the little guy to the left…he looked awfully similar to the dog I’d seen running a few days earlier. He’d been saved from the street a couple of miles away, by a car dealership worker. I emailed them. He called next morning to say the dog had gone to a new home with a customer, and I thought that was that. But that night he called again to say the people brought him back. He was too troubled for them…not neutered, not house-trained, very frightened and prone to running away, etc., and their animals did not like him. So, guess who took him in? Yep, me. And it is a challenge, but we will persevere and we will win! Best of all, Mattie likes him. Pray for me though, people, this is rough. An 8-pound little guy with a lot of emotional troubles…was likely very abused somewhere, probably due to house-training failure and frustration, which is no excuse. He’s catching on quickly here, although he has urinated quite a bit indoors, but it’s cleaned up thoroughly and he’s more and more using the doggy door and going potty on the patio. But he will not walk on a leash yet so can’t go for walks; stands trembling like he’s paralyzed and will not take a step, has to be carried. But we will overcome these problems, eventually. He’s about a year old, and Tyler is his name.

UPDATE 6/11/2016: Tyler is coming along amazingly well in little over two weeks (got him on May 26); he’s been on many walks, trots along high-stepping as if there was never any problem. It turns out he’s a purebred chihuahua, not mixed with min pin; the picture distorts him a little. He’s just under nine pounds. Not that breed matters to me, not at all…I despise dog breeders. But this just shows how purebreds end up running the streets same as mixed dogs…being purebred is certainly no protection against abuse or any other terrible fate. My Mattie is a purebred rat terrier who was also found running the streets, apparently left behind after her “owners” moved away. Her obvious and desperate search for them for months afterward was heartbreaking.

Tyler’s almost totally house-trained now, only rarely still pees in the house, only pooped in the house once in the beginning. His fear of me is completely gone except for when he’s being shamed for a puddle on the carpet. His terror of any, even only verbal scolding is very sad; obviously someone…likely a woman…had abused him badly (he’s much more wary of women). Today he peed in the house again, only because it was sprinkling outside and he didn’t want to get his perfect little pelt wet, lol. But he’s sharp, sensitive, and really wants to be a good boy, as all dogs want to make us happy, they just need to know what’s the right thing to do. They’re confused and not knowing at all why they can’t just go potty whenever they need to and wherever they are. They also learn from other dogs, and my old girl Mattie has taught him a lot, but unfortunately he’s also learned to go nuts and bark at other dogs due to her doing that. So I plan to walk them separately as much as possible, to teach him calmness regarding other animals. It’s too late for Mattie, she’s nuts, but much better when by herself. They feed off each other’s nuttiness, as is pretty common with dogs.

So, Tyler has gone from a sad, petrified dog desperately looking for an escape who would tremble and act paralyzed when on leash, to a joyful, playful guy who loves positive attention and feels like a boss and totally loves his home and his walks, even jumps into the car on his own now. Shows the power of love 😌

And every day I think of Lily and how amazing she was, how very much she’s missed. Lung cancer, of all the freaking things! Dogs use their noses almost obsessively when out, so they do sniff a lot of unknown stuff into their lungs. Living kills us all. So enjoy what you can, and be kind.