My new favorite lunch

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There’s not a vegetarian restaurant to be found near where I live or work.  Our county, despite being the richest in the country and one of the fastest growing, doesn’t have a single vegetarian (let alone vegan) eatery.  Sadly, much of the eastern part of the county has been strip-malled to death so there are Ruby Fridaybee’s everywhere.  Thankfully, there is a pretty good variety of veggie-friendly Vietnamese, Thai, India, and Mexican restaurants.

One of my favorite of these restaurants is A Taste of Burma in Sterling, VA.  It’s the relatively new sister establishment of the excellent Myanmar Restaurant in Falls Church, where my wife and I ate at frequently when we lived in the area.  Burmese cuisine, I’ve found, is unlike any other single cuisine in that area of the world.  Sure, it’s got touches of southeast Asian style as well as obvious Indian influence, but there are some recipes that seem to be wholly Burmese.

One of these is my new favorite dish, their Fermented Tea Leaf Salad.  The menu describes it as “pickled tea leaf, cabbage, tomatoes, sesame, peanuts, broad beans, lime juice, garlic chips, and seasoning.”  While the idea of eating a tea leaf salad may sound a little strange, let me assure you that it’s delicious.  I honestly cannot even find the words in my vocabulary to describe what the taste is like.  I can’t compare it to anything I’ve eaten before.  But, wow, is it good.

The restaurant itself is fast becoming my favorite place in the area to eat because it’s usually relatively empty (hopefully not a bad sign for the business, as two consecutive Thai restaurants in the same location went ouf of business in less than two years).  Initially, the service was kind of slow, but recently has picked up quite nicely.  The owner, the brother of Myanmar’s owner, is very friendly and sometimes brings out new non-menu items for me try.  His sister is vegetarian, so I’ve been told to rest easy that the vegetarian dishes really are (ie. no fish sauce).

If anyone’s ever out my way during the workweek and wants to meet up for lunch, let me know.  It’s not hard to convince me to make a trip there.

TAFA

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I spent part of Sunday (and, yes, it’s taking me this long to blog about it) at the Taking Action for Animals conference in DC. I didn’t attend any sessions, as I was just there to help Josh out at the Herbivore table (did I meet any of you there?). Nevertheless, it was hard not to hear about the hubbub surrounding the presentation by humane farmers like Neiman Ranch who were brought in by the Animal Welfare Institute. Reportedly, these farmers showed slideshows that featured photos of cute animals that were all raised oh-so-well. Noticeably absent were photos of these animals meeting their demise. Needless to say, it angered a lot of people in attendance.

What surprised (and disheartened) me most, though, was that nearly half of the crowd at that presentation was ooh-ing and aah-ing at the pictures and stories of the animals, completely falling for the whole “humane meat” thing.

Should we be demonizing farmers who raise their animals in a more humane way than their factory farm counterparts? I’m not into demonizing. But should we be inviting them to speak, unchecked, at an animal rights conference? Should we give them a free pass by clapping and openly praising them? They make their money directly from the slaughter of animals, so I’d say, “Probably not.”

At the very least, we should be inviting these folks to be part of a panel discussion where they can be challenged. A short period of open questions after a presentation isn’t nearly enough.

The AWI argues that TAFA isn’t an animal rights conference and that we shouldn’t “close our minds” when it comes to hearing such presentations. The thing is, these farmers presumably were paid for their appearance. Since they were unchallenged aside from a few audience questions, it amounts to animal advocates paying someone who financially benefits from the slaughter of animals to come and do a marketing spiel.

That’s not too cool with me.

I’d love to hear some more about others who may have attended TAFA, particularly that presentation. After doing a quick blog search and checking in at a few vegan forums, I saw almost no post-discussion of the conference, which surprised me a bit. This is something we need to talk about.

I’ll close with a picture:

Vegans Eating Meat
SCANDAL: Vegans standing in front of a seafood/chicken restaurant in DC.

Pictured: Gary (from Animal Writings), Deb (from Invisible Voices), and Josh (from Herbivore).

There’s another photo with me in it, but this one’s better.