Ikea Goes Vegan: Grönsaksbullar

A few months ago, the Swedish furniture store chain Ikea introduced a new dish at its in-store restaurants in Austria: Grönsaksbullar. These are vegan “meatballs,” which are made with chick peas, green peas, corn, carrots, onions, red bell peppers, kale, and herbs. They are served with a side-dish of quinoa and mushrooms, and some tomato sauce.

© http://www.vegantourist.com

© http://www.vegantourist.com

There’s a lot of online chatter amongst vegans about the fact that a huge company like Ikea decided to introduce a vegan version of its popular meatballs at its in-store restaurants, so I decided to try them myself. I spent an hour on buses and trams, travelling from the North of Vienna to the Shopping City Süd, one of Europe’s largest shopping malls, which is located right outside Vienna (in the south, hence the “Süd”). Yes, I know that there’s an Ikea branch not far from where I live, but I grew up in a fairly small community in the South of Vienna, close to this shopping mall. Once every couple of years or so, I enjoy wandering the halls of this huge mall, reminiscing, then return back home after several hours completely exhausted (and vow never to return again). Anyway…

I spent an hour or so ambling through Ikea, and then checked out the store’s self-service restaurant. I ordered the Grönsaksbullar, and also chose some potato salad from the salad buffet. I loved the potato salad, I liked the Grönsaksbullar, but I hated the quionoa-mushrooms with the tomato sauce.

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© http://www.vegantourist.com

The Grönsaksbullar didn’t live up to all the hype, but they were okay. I would order them again. It’s the only vegan dish on offer at Ikea, so vegans have little choice, whether they like it or not. Nevertheless, I am hugely appreciative of Ikea’s efforts to introduce at least one plant-based dish on its menu. I want to support that, so I’ll order them again. But I didn’t buy a bag of frozen Grönsaksbullar, which are available at their store. I simply wasn’t that crazy about them.

The quinoa-mushroom side dish was a disaster. The quinoa was cooked in way too much water, the quinoa seeds were mushy and soggy. Quinoa is not a grain, it is the seed of the Chenopodium plant. So don’t cook it like you would cook a grain like rice. Use less water! Perfectly cooked quinoa should be fluffy and not mushy. Even worse, the quinoa-mushroom dish was prepared with little or no salt, no other spices seemed to have been used for seasoning, and it didn’t taste much like anything. It really wasn’t very good, I simply couldn’t eat it. Half of it went in the trash.

The worst thing you could do, of course, is add any sort of fluids to the cooked quinoa, so tomato sauce is a big no-no for any dish that is served with quinoa. Grönsaksbullar with mushy quinoa-mushrooms and tomato sauce is not an inspired dish. Nutritionally balanced, yes. Did I like it? No.

Here’s hoping that Ikea will tweak the recipe, that the store’s kitchen staff will learn how to prepare quinoa properly, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that in the future Ikea will give customers the option to order just the Grönsaksbullar (without a side-dish). Paired with some potato-salad from the salad buffet, this would have been a very good meal indeed.

I hope that Ikea will introduce vegan desserts in the future – all those tortes and cakes, and I couldn’t eat one of them! Vegan sandwiches would be lovely. Soy or rice milk for coffee would be very welcome, too. Consider this my wish list for Santa Clause.

After I had lunch at Ikea, I spent another hour or so shopping at their store. I spent roughly 50 Euros on various items from their home decor section, and bought several Christmas presents there. I deliberately spent money at Ikea, because the store makes an effort to accommodate vegan customers. There’s a lesson here for other furniture chain stores and various other stores with in-house restaurants: Vegans get tired and hungry, too, and we’re very loyal customers! If there’s nothing for us to eat at your restaurants and cafes, then we will spend our money elsewhere.

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Where Have All the Vegan Bloggers Gone?

In an effort to keep my website current, I decided to check if all the links which I listed under “Vegan Resources” were still current. Imagine my surprise when I found out that many vegan bloggers had abandoned their websites. Some published a “last blog post,” like maple spice, and listed the reasons why they no longer could or would tend to their websites, but most vegan bloggers simply stopped updating their sites.

I often feel guilty for not blogging more frequently on The Vegan Tourist; but no matter how busy my life gets, I always return to this site – when and if I have something important to say, or some bit of information or good news that I want to share with others. I think that’s the secret to keeping a blog alive: not to consider it an obligation, but as an opportunity to connect with others.

If you take a closer look at some of the abandoned websites of vegan bloggers, you’ll notice a pattern: many start out enthusiastically, publishing numerous blog posts during the few first few years. Then they start to publish fewer and fewer posts, and eventually the websites are abandoned. Some bloggers, like Maple Spice, take drastic measures: “So, no more social media for me and I’ll be spending much more time out in the garden…”.

If you’re just starting your own vegan blog, or if your established blog has become an obligation to you, my advice would be to simply relax. There are no rules to blogging. You don’t have to keep to a schedule. You don’t have to blog about your life or post new vegan recipes every single week (or several times a week). Do whatever you like, and don’t succumb to (imagined) pressure. You’ll just feel miserable.

Personally, I have a very limited online presence. I do have a website called Viaduct Dreams, where I post updates about my professional achievements. I freelance as a writer, and this site gives potential clients an idea of what to expect, if they hire me for a project. Why is it called Viaduct Dreams? I love all things Roman, especially Roman architecture.  I blog on this site, and I have a Facebook page called The Vegan Tourist, linked to my personal Facebook account. That’s it. I don’t have a Twitter or an Instagram account, or any other additional social media account. I don’t even get Emails on my mobile phone, and I can’t access the Internet from my mobile phone either. I’ve purposely disabled both functions. I check my Emails on my laptop twice a day, and that’s it. I infrequently log onto my Facebook account. I don’t live my life online, and that’s why I still enjoy blogging after several years.

These are some of the websites, which I no longer list under “Vegan Resources,” as they are no longer being updated. The websites are currently (November 13, 2015) still online, and you can access their archives here:

But…where do you get your protein? (last post:  February 12, 2014)

Don’t Eat Off the Sidewalk! (last post: September 7, 2014)

Eats Well With Others (last post: June 18, 2013)

maple spice (last post: August 4, 2015)

Post Punk Kitchen (last post: June 6, 2014)

The Laziest Vegans in the World (last post: December 27, 2014)

What the Hell Does a Vegan Eat Anyway? (last post: June 6, 2014)

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Vienna: Vegan Capital of the Western World

Vienna is fast becoming the vegan capital of the Western world!

Last Sunday I went to the Austrian Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art, which is located in Vienna. I was very pleasantly surprised when I noticed that the museum’s café is operated by Deli Bluem,  a vegan restaurant in Vienna. Many people, who visit the museum, will spend some time at this café, called Bluem im Museum. If they’re hungry, they’ll have to eat vegan food. For many people, this will be the first time eating at a vegan restaurant. The food’s delicious, and the word “vegan” will seem a little less exotic and strange to them after eating at this café. How wonderful!

Yesterday, I spent some time entering new information into the section on this website where I post updates to The Vegan Tourist: Vienna. I published the first English-language edition of this restaurant guide back in November 2014, and in the book I promised to provide updates on my website. I made the last updates back in January, and I was quite stunned when I realized how much had changed within the course of just a few months.

Ten new vegetarian restaurants opened their doors in Vienna in the last 11 months, and I found an additional five small cafes and cake shops, which I wasn’t aware of when I first published my book. I now count 69 vegetarian restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and supermarkets in Vienna, some of which are 100% vegan. In addition, there are three health food stores with in-house vegetarian bistros, which sell a small selection of meat and fish in their stores. Two more vegetarian restaurants are already scheduled to open in the coming months. That’s amazing, considering that only 1.8 million people live in Vienna. The city is fast becoming the vegan capital of the Western world!

Sadly, since I published the book, three restaurants have closed. They were all located in streets with little foot traffic, and two of those businesses were small cafes with a very limited selection of food. I can’t say I was surprised when these businesses closed. Only one of them was a proper vegan restaurant with a large menu, and I was surprised to learn of its demise. But the location for the restaurant wasn’t ideal either, so there’s a lesson to be learned here. A fourth business (a vegetarian take-away) was closed, but only because the owner sold his shop so he could re-open it at a different, much better location. Also, a small vegan shoe-shop, which opened in December 2014 shortly after I published my book, closed after a only few months. This store was also in a location with very little foot traffic, in a residential area, located in an apartment rather than in a proper store, and the opening hours were very limited. Also, the store had only a small selection of shoes. All in all, I was not surprised when this store closed after a few months, but I was nonetheless saddened by its demise.

If you think of opening a (vegetarian or vegan) store or restaurant yourself, you should consider all these issues carefully. Choose the right location (with a lot of foot traffic), make sure that you have convenient opening hours, and you definitely must offer a wide variety of food & drinks, if you open a restaurant, or vegan wares, if you open a shop.

As there are so many changes and updates to my book, I have now decided to publish a second, updated edition of the English-language version of The Vegan Tourist: Vienna when I publish the first German-language edition. I have pushed back the publishing date of this German-language edition several times, but am now back at my desk, hard at work, so it shouldn’t be too long now. It only makes sense to publish an updated English edition at the same time. I’m thinking November would be a good date to publish them both, but let’s wait and see…

Posted in Austria, Books and Magazines, book stores, The Vegan Tourist: Vienna, Vegan Shoes, Vegetarian Restaurants (AT - Vienna), Vienna | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Open letter to the Governor of Idaho: “Do you feel lucky, Butch?”

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Open letter to the Governor of Idaho: “Do you feel lucky, Butch?”

For the last couple of days, I have been posting numerous comments on the Facebook page of Idaho State University about trophy hunter Sabrina Corgatelli. Like many others I am lobbying for the dismissal of this employee, who spends her free time killing wildlife in Africa and bragging about the slaughter of these animals.

I am just as enraged about the actions of American dentist Walter Palmer, who killed Cecil, the Lion, but somehow the circumstances surrounding Ms. Corgatelli’s behavior seem worse, compounded by the reaction of Idaho State University’s officials to her killing spree.

Sabrina Corgatelli works for a university – a state university no less – a place where young people come to learn about life, and love, and ethics. They arrive as teenagers, and leave university as adults. Much of what they will believe in for the rest of their lives is influenced by their experiences at school, and by the people they meet during those years away from home. The parents of these young people entrust the president of a university with their children’s lives, hearts, and minds.

At Idaho State University, these students suddenly find themselves in a rather peculiar situation. Not only engages one of the school’s staff members in activities, which many students consider highly unethical, the university seems completely gob-smacked and paralyzed by the sudden Social Media attack of its own students on the school. Ms. Corgatelli’s actions are “private” and “do not reflect” on the university, so say the school’s officials.

What should the students think of the university’s president, Arthur C. Vailas, who acts so clumsily when faced with such a worldwide public relations disaster for his school? His actions set an example for his staff and his students. Are these the leadership skills Idaho State University wants to teach its students? Halfway around the world, I am scratching my head in disbelief at how badly this public relations nightmare is being handled by the university.

Interestingly enough, the university’s phase of inactivity seems to be over. The students at Idaho State University have started to complain online that school officials are now deleting critical comments about the school on the university’s Facebook site. So now that they’re taking action…they’re killing free speech? Isn’t that a right guaranteed by the Constitution in your country? Other people complain about being blocked from commenting or replying to comments. Do these school officials really not know that you cannot silence the Internet?

I am particularly concerned about the potential for violence on the campus of Idaho State University. One of the other people who left a comment on the university’s Facebook page mentioned that students are allowed to carry licensed and concealed weapons on campus. I don’t know if that is indeed true, but in America many people carry weapons, even if they are not licensed. How many times have we all turned on the news, and learned about yet another shooting at a school or a university, a movie theater, or at a sports event? Americans, raised in a gun culture, have a tendency to vent their frustration in public – by killing other people. How many innocent people have died this way, and how many of those deaths could have been prevented?

Walter Palmer, the American dentist who killed Cecil, the Lion, recently had to go into hiding because he received so many death threats over the Internet. I am not one of the people who threatened him, and I am not threatening Ms. Corgatelli. As a writer, I fight with letters, and words, and sentences. Guns scare me. The closest I’ve ever been to a gun was when I stood in line behind a female police officer at a supermarket check-out, and suddenly noticed her (holstered and secured) gun. I almost dropped my groceries, so startled was I to find myself in the presence of a real-life gun. I do not condone violence, and ask everyone at Idaho State University to remain calm.

But I do recognize the potential for violence, and it’s easy to see that this situation could get out of hand very quickly. The students at Idaho State University are enraged about the actions of Sabrina Corgatelli, and quite a few of the students’ comments are somewhere along the line of “an eye for an eye.”

By now, the Governor of Idaho must be wondering what all this has to do with him. After all, this is an open letter to Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter. Here’s where you come into play, Governor:

Somebody has to take charge of this situation, and because university officials are handling this situation so badly, that “somebody” is you. By writing this open letter to you all the way from Vienna, Austria, I kindly ask you to concern yourself with this matter.

Imagine the worst-case scenario – what happens, if the situation at Idaho State University gets out of hand? A peaceful protest escalates into a shuffle, then a fight breaks out, someone slips, hits his head on the pavement, gets hurt or killed. Let’s not even think about licensed or unlicensed guns, because I find it just too painful to follow that train of thought to its bitter end. Do you think your political career would survive the death of a student or a staff member, if you knew about the potential for violence beforehand? You do know now – can you risk not getting involved?

In the movie “Dirty Harry”, Harry Callahan holds a gun to a bad guy’s head. Is the gun empty or not? Ask yourself, Callahan says, “Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”

Is the (hopefully metaphorical) gun at Idaho State University empty or not? Will everybody be lucky, or not? Is this situation on campus going to escalate, or not? Can the university risk not firing Sabrina Corgatelli, or not? Will everybody’s safety be endangered by her presence on campus, or not? Will the voters of Idaho blame you for not taking action, if someone gets hurt, or not?

Ask yourself this, Governor: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, Butch?

Mag. Ingrid Haunold, MBA
Vienna, Austria

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Book Review: Vegan Recipes

It’s been a while since I last wrote my last book review, so I thought I’d pull one of my favorite cookbooks off the shelf and let you know why I like this book so much.

Vegan Recipes is barely a book – the 96 pages are stapled together. The book is out of print, but (some) new and used copies are still available through Amazon.

  Here’s why I like it so much:

1) All quantities are given in both imperial and metric measures. Measures are also given in standard cups and spoons, and there’s information about the difference between Australian and American tablespoon measurements.

2) The book contains information about vegan ethics, there’s a glossary of common animal by-products, and there are tips on how to avoid animal products. (Did you know that poppadums are often coated with shellac or that dried banana chips are often glazed with honey? Me neither.) There’s also a chapter on vegan nutrition, vegan sources of nutrients, and information about how to replace dairy products and eggs in recipes. The book contains a shopping list for vegan staples, which you’ll need for a variety of recipes, and there’s a chapter on vegan nutrition for pregnant women and children. Tips for eating out and entertaining at home are also given.

3) The book contains 56 recipes, for soups and starters, main meals, salads and side dishes, desserts, and breads and baking. There are numerous photographs that’ll make your mouth water and show you how to prepare the dishes.

4) Best of all – and that’s why I really love this cookbook – for each recipe nutrition notes are listed. Many cookbooks give information about protein, fat, carbs, etc. That’s standard. But Vegan Recipes also gives information about the iron and calcium content of each recipe. For vegans, that is very useful information indeed. I don’t know any other vegan cookbook that lists this kind of information.

As a vegan, I pay special attention to nutrition. I never worry about lack of protein – but I do worry about getting enough of all the essential amino acids. Cookbooks – even vegan cookbooks – never supply this kind of information. I also need to prepare dishes which contain Omega 3 fat, something that’s also never mentioned in the nutritional notes for recipes in cookbooks. And of course I watch out for iron and calcium. A slice of Caramelized Red Onion and Thyme Tart contains 1.8 mg iron and a whopping 170 mg of calcium. A portion of Byesar – an Arab dish similar to hummus, but made with broad beans – contains 2.7 mg of iron and 44 mg of calcium. Recipes like the ones included in Vegan Recipes help me plan my diet and ensure that I get all the nutrients I need. Unfortunately, information about nutrients like iron, calcium, essential amino acids and Omega 3 fat is not standard in vegan cookbooks, and that’s a shame. Vegans do have special nutritional needs, and vegan cookbooks should acknowledge that.

Here’s hoping that in the future more and more vegan cookbooks will provide additional nutritional information about their recipes. It’ll make it easier for vegans to stay fit and healthy.

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Veganmania 2015: A mini-vacation

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© http://www.vegantourist.com

Veganmania just keeps getting bigger and better. Each year, the Veganmania summer festival tour stops in a number of cities in Austria and her neighboring countries. This year, Veganmania has tour dates in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and Croatia.

In 2015, the Viennese and visiting tourists got to enjoy the Veganmania festival for four whole days, from June 3 – 6, and I managed to make it to the festival site on three separate days. It’s always fun to catch up with friends and family, but even more enjoyable, if I’m surrounded by food stalls that sell vegan food. All the drinks are vegan, too.

© http://www.vegantourist.com

© http://www.vegantourist.com

At Veganmania, I can eat and drink anything I like, and don’t have to worry about (hidden) ingredients, additives, the food preparation process, or cross-contamination. I only have to decide which of the many delicious foods on offer I would like to taste first.

Veganmania is like a mini-vacation, and every year I look forward to this summer festival.

Of course, Veganmania isn’t all about food. Live bands and DJs perform on a stage, you can buy vegan shoes and clothing, purses and cosmetics, books, specialty food items, and more at the vendors’ market stalls. Several animal welfare organizations also have stalls at the festival, where you can collect information materials about their work, and educate yourself about animal welfare issues.

© http://www.vegantourist.com

© http://www.vegantourist.com

By the way, the 2015 Veganmania festival tour has just started. Throughout the summer, until early September, there are nine additional Veganmania festivals scheduled this year. All the tour dates are listed on the website, so check it out. Veganmania is organised by The Vegan Society Austria.

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“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

This post was updated on August 1, 2015

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Samuel Beckett, “Worstward Ho” (1983)

For the last six months, I’ve been neglecting this website. I was stunned to notice that I hadn’t posted anything on this site since the beginning of this year except information about upcoming vegan events in Vienna.

I spent the last few months translating my book The Vegan Tourist: Vienna into German, but I keep getting side-tracked with various projects (that actually pay the rent), and the German-language version of the book is almost – but not quite – finished. So I keep pushing back the publishing date….. Every day I look at the manuscript on my desk and feel guilty for not having finished it yet.

Time to start over!

As a first step, I’ve deleted all my postings on this website from the last six months about upcoming vegan events in Vienna. I’ll still publish information about upcoming events in my events calendar, but that’s it. I want to get back to writing about issues I care about. And clearly, I need to come up with some sort of blogging schedule to ensure that I won’t neglect this site again.

I am also going to push back the publishing date for the German-language version of The Vegan Tourist: Vienna once again. It’ll be published when it’s ready, I am not making any more promises about publishing dates! I didn’t expect it to be so much work, researching a restaurant guide book. I swear, my next book will be a work of fiction.

So there you have it. Failures, good intentions, and determined to try again…better.

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German Edition: “The Vegan Tourist: Wien” coming soon

This post was last updated on August 1, 2015

It’s a lot more work to translate “The Vegan Tourist: Vienna” into German than I thought it would be. I had hoped to publish the German version sometime at the end of November 2014,  then pushed back the publishing date several times, finally aimed for July 31, 2015,…and failed. It will be published when it’s ready. I am making no more promises about publishing dates!

Amazingly, in the short period of time since the English edition was published (early November 2014), a new vegan shoe store opened its doors, and there are also several new vegan restaurants in Vienna, which will be included in the German edition. There are a few other changes as well (opening hours, etc.), so the guide book will be very much up-to-date.

You’ll find updates to the 1st edition of the English version of the book here.

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Updates to the First Edition of “The Vegan Tourist: Vienna” (English version)

I just posted the first updates to the 1st edition of The Vegan Tourist: Vienna in the Updates section on this website (English edition, printed version and Kindle eBook).

A few restaurants changed opening hours, but there are also two new restaurants and a new vegan shoes store in Vienna. Sadly, one restaurant closed its doors at the end of October 2014.

The updates will be included in the book’s 2nd edition.

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The Vegan Tourist: Vienna – Kindle edition

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© http://www.vegantourist.com

The English-language Kindle-eBook edition of The Vegan Tourist: Vienna is now available (November 20, 2014).

I’ve updated my original blog post about the publication of this book. Instead of adding additional lengthy blog entries about each new development, I’ll only write very short posts, and refer you to the original blog entry, which contains all relevant information about the book. I’ll update this entry frequently, so it’ll be always up-to-date.

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