Florence, Italy

April 27, 2016

While browsing my pictures folder, I bumped into the photos from our trip to Florence last summer, which I had completely forgotten about. Although we were there for only a couple of days, we managed to see a lot, eat (mostly) Italian pastries and gelatos, and take quite a lot of pictures.

IMG_6963 copyPeople who know me know that I am a serial city lover. I fall in love with any city that has a bit of culture and plenty of good things to eat. So, of course, I fell in love with Florence on my first visit – anybody would – but the difference between me and most people is that I immediately want to move in and spend the rest of my life there. If Z hadn’t insisted on sticking with the plan to move to Mallorca, I would probably have started to look for an apartment in Florence.

IMG_7001 copyI’m not the type that falls for looks, but, in Florence’s case, her beauty completely swept me off my feet, even before I had eaten a gelato or that pistachio pastry (which I wasn’t  supposed to eat, but kept telling myself, “Fuck health and fuck my allergies, you only live once.”) Walking around that outdoor museum of a city felt as if I was diving through a magnificent coral reef of spectacular architecture, sculptures and sweets shops. I think I had more sugar than my kids. For breakfast I had an insanely delicious and crunchy filo dough pastry with pistachio or vanilla cream; for lunch, a big, fat meringue; for snack, a divine gelato; and then, for dinner, some plain yet gratifying biscotti.

IMG_7128 copyAlthough we thoroughly enjoyed the city, we were a bit disappointed that we couldn’t find an authentic, family-owned restaurant, the kind where they cook their great-great-grandma’s secret ravioli recipe. It would have been helpful to have a local friend. Anyone from Florence – or anywhere else in Italy, for that matter – want  to be my friend?

IMG_7125 copyWe did have dinner at two Tripadvisor-highly-rated restaurants, but they weren’t as extraordinary as a thousand reviewers raved – probably tourists with low standards. The fresh pasta in Israel was better, but, as we say in Hebrew, “Al ta’am vere’ach en ma le’eetvakech” – there’s no point arguing about taste and smell.  So I don’t have any restaurants to recommend in Florence, but I can tell you about a great gelateria and sandwicheria.

IMG_7093 copyDuring our short stay we tasted nearly thirty flavors of gelato at more than ten different establishments. At most of them,  the gelato was either too sweet, too creamy, or both, but at one place it was PERFECT! A little shop called Bellamia.

I don’t know if the graceful older woman behind the counter was Bella Mia (I didn’t ask because I know exactly ten words in Italian, ciao, grazie, and gelato among them,) but, whoever she was, God bless her and her sense of taste. “Mama mia, Bellamia! Where did you learn to make such a divine gelato?”  The gelato there was light and creamy in a way that is gentle on your tongue (unlike the ones that are heavy and bind your tongue to the roof of your mouth), mildly sweet, and with seasonal flavors that reminded me how, once upon a time, all fruit was organic, local and flavorful. Bellamia was definitely the highlight of our stay.

IMG_7013 copyAnother place that left me with a yearning  to go back to Florence was a popular, tiny sandwicheria that my aunt Shuli had raved about for years: All’Antico Vinaio. As much as I love good food, I don’t do long lines. I’m an Israeli, and Israelis don’t wait in line, even for the best food in the world. But on this day – the boys needed to rest their feet, the lovely, warm sun was shining, and the faces of the people eating their sandwiches looked so happy – I didn’t mind waiting with the other forty people in the queue.

Z thought it was worth the wait, because he was hungry and the sandwich was good and cheap, but he didn’t think it was such an amazing sandwich. He claimed he’s had better. But, for the boys and me, on that summer day, on beautiful Via Dei Neri in Firenze, that freshly baked focaccia, spread with artisan artichoke paste, fresh Italian mozzarella, fresh rucola and real tomatoes, was the best sandwich in the world. When the sandwich was finally in my hands, I was too hungry/excited to take pictures of it   (My mouth is watering just thinking about it.) 

If you have a three-hour layover in Florence, I highly recommend hopping on a train  to the city, even if just for a sandwich and gelato. And If you know any great places for our next trip to Florence, please share them in the comments so everyone can see.


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potato salad with herbs

March 10, 2016

Potato-salad-illustratedI love potatoes and anything that is made with potatoes, from Russian potato salad to tortilla Española to Belgian pommes frites to campfire potatoes. Now that we have a fireplace – the second best thing you can have in the winter, a clothes dryer is first! – we roast them quite often.

Potatoes may not be as sophisticated as artichokes but they comfort like the 100% down comforter we bought last week at Ikea. Oh, by the way: We moved again! (in Mallorca!) We moved from our apartment in the old town of Palma to a cute Mallorquine townhouse in a beautiful village in the mountains (Serra De Tramountana), only twenty minutes away from Palma and ten degrees colder.

One of my favorites ways to cook and eat potatoes is to simply boil them with eggs until the potatoes are tender and the eggs are hard boiled. Then I remove the skins and shells, put them on a plate, drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, mush them together and eat them. (My mother makes this dish on the day of the Sedder- Passover. The reason she made this dish was to keep us full for many hours, so we could bear reading the Hagada until it was time to eat). Plain and simple but so damn satisfying.


Another way, which I discovered and adopted last summer, is a simple herb and potato salad similar to one I first tasted in Tel Aviv. It was at a restaurant called Port Saeed, which is owned by Eval Shani, one of Israel’s top chefs. The salad reminded me how much I love the combination of potatoes and a good (slightly bitter, fruity and peppery) olive oil. The potatoes and the olive oil are both slightly sweet and earthy; perfect together.

Just like most potato salads, this one tastes better the next day. You can make it with one or as many herbs as you like. For a delicious, packed with protein, non-vegan version– add chopped anchovies or sardines (If you do, be gentle with the salt).

Potato Salad with Herbs Serves 4 as a side

It’s better to use small or medium waxy potatoes (with smooth skin) because they are moist, creamy and have a mildly sweet flavor. I normally make 5 – 10 potatoes per person, depending on their size. If they are a little bigger than a walnut, I’ll eat 8. If they are the size of a kiwi then 5. And  somedays, I can eat a whole bowl of this salad by myself. Decide for yourself how many you would like to make.  

  • 20 small or medium waxy potatoes
  • Handful parsley
  • Handful cilantro
  • 2 scallions (green part only)
  • Any herbs you like such as dill, parsley, cilantro, scallion, basil, oregano
  • Half lemon
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 fresh chili pepper – optional
  • Sea salt
  1. Rinse and gently scrub the potatoes. Put them in a saucepan, cover with water and boil until very tender, about 15 – 20 minutes.
  2. Drain the potatoes in a colander and transfer them into a bowl large enough for tossing.
  3. Soak the herbs in water (preferably filtered) for a a couple of minutes to remove any dirt, then drain and dry them in a salad spinner, or with a kitchen towel. Roughly chop them and add them to the salad bowl. Squeeze the lemon over the potatoes, add the olive oil, chili pepper and salt and toss. The potatoes should get smashed while being tossed as this help them to absorb the flavors.
  4. Taste and add salt or lemon juice if needed.

You may also add: toasted nuts, thinly sliced red onion, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise or  small pieces of preserved lemon.

sweet potato and butternut squash spread

February 3, 2016
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When baking sweet potatoes, the high heat causes their moisture to evaporate, and leaves their skin caramelized like candy – which is delicious – but overly sweet for me, so I like to mix them with spicy, sour or nutty flavors to reduce the sweetness. 

IMG_0286 copySince discovering the combination of sweet potatoes, tahini butter (not paste), lemon juice, harissa, and walnuts, I eat them more often. This sweet potato hummus-like reminds me of chershi, a Tripolitan pumpkin spread, and a bit of Moroccan carrot salad.  
You can puree them into a spread, or simply slice them in half and top them with the tahini, harissa, lemon juice and parsley. You can either bake the sweet potatoes in the oven, or steam them in a steaming basket in a pot.
IMG_0193 copyOne sweet potato a day will keep constipation away, sweet potatoes are a natural remedy for IBS or any digestion problem. They are high in vitamins A, B5, B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, and carotenoids (which, like beta carotene, are supposed to be good for eyes and vision.)

IMG_0205You can mix potatoes and butternut squash or make the spread only with butternut squash. Also delicious. Use the spread in sandwiches, or put in a small container with quinoa, or with crackers/rice cakes on the side. 

Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Spread
  1. 2 sweet potatoes
  2. 1 tablespoon harissa or 2 teaspoons smoked paprika mixed in 1 tablespoon olive oil
  3. 3 tablespoons tahini (if the consistency of the tahini butter is solid mix it with some vegetable or olive oil but NOT with water, it would change the consistency into a hard paste, which is still tasty but different)
  4. 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  5. Salt
  6. Green or red hot chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped - optional
  7. A handful parsley leaves, washed and finely chopped
  8. Small handful walnuts or almonds, roughly chopped - optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F (200˚C). Wash the sweet potatoes carefully and
  2. with a fork, pierce their skin 5-6 times. Place on baking sheet lined with foil and bake until tender, about 45 minutes
  3. Peel the sweet potato skin and put them in a bowl. Add the harissa, tahini, lemon juice and salt, and mush everything together. Taste and correct seasoning.
  4. Serve on a flat or deep plate and garnish with the chili, parsley and walnuts or store in a container in the fridge up to 4 days.
  1. You can make sweet potatoes and butternut squash or only with butternut squash.
Shelly's Humble Kitchen http://shellyshumblekitchen.com/

Root Hummus

January 4, 2016

I had started to write this post in the summer, while we where visiting Israel, but never finished it for the same reasons I haven’t been able to start or finish any posts since leaving Los Angeles back in June:

  1. lack of time
  2. lack of motivation
  3. lack of concentration.

Today I decided it would be a shame not to post it, because it’s the kind of recipe anyone who is looking to expand their vegetable repertoire should know about.

But before I tell you about the recipe, I will tell you about the restaurant where I ate it, HaBasta. A hole-in-the-wall restaurant next to Shuk HaCarmel in Tel Aviv. Somehow, I hadn’t noticed it on my way to and from the market, until a friend of mine suggested we go there for dinner. To make the HaBasta story short: if the chef were to ask me to assist him, without pay, for a month or two, I would gladly say yes! I thought I knew almost every food/vegetable/plant based combination there is, but apparently I have a lot to learn.

How the hell didn’t I think to make humus with roots and nuts?

Habasta is not the only restaurant in Israel, or the world, that cooks fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients, but it is definitely up there when it comes to unique, quirky, and clever food combinations. Both times I was there I had dishes I’d never had anywhere else, like this masabacha shorashim (“coarse root humus”) and the burekas stuffed with crab meat. 

After wolfing down the second order of masabacha, and several attempts to figure out the recipe through taste alone, I asked our friends (who’ve adopted this place as their second home) to ask the Israeli chef/owner (who by now is their best buddy) what exactly he put in there. Honestly, I assumed that he would find a way to avoid exposing his secret. But, miraculously, he shared it with me! nonchalantly and even mentioned that it can be made with almost any type of root vegetable.


It has a very similar texture and color to humus, but the flavor is different, more earthy and distinguished. The chef wasn’t lying when he said that his recipe works with any root vegetable. I tried it with Jerusalem artichokes, celeriac, and parsley root, and it was delicious. I hope he knows that it also works with different types of nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, cashews and sesame. 

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It’s not much fun to peel root vegetables, but their earthy and nutty flavor is worth the effort. The best way to peel celeriac is to cut the bottom of it straight, so the funky-looking vegetable sits flat on the cutting board. Now hold it with one hand, then use the other hand to slice the skin off with a sharp knife.   
Root Humus
  • 1 medium celeriac (celery root) or Jerusalem Artichokes or parsley root – about 6 cups
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup blanched almonds or walnuts, roughly crashed, or ¼ cup tahini butter
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Olive oil
  • Sweet paprika for garnishing the plate
  • 1 red hot chili pepper or jalapeño – thinly sliced – optional
  1. Peel and roughly dice the celeriac, then put into a large saucepan. Add half of the cumin and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil then lower the heat to medium. Cook the celeriac for about 15 minutes or until it’s tender. Remove from the heat, drain, and let the celeriac cool completely before the next step. 
  2. Put the celeriac into a food processor with the garlic, nuts, lemon juice, a little bit of cumin, and salt. Blend until you get a coarse paste, or a bit longer if you prefer a smooth, velvety paste. Both textures are equally tasty. 
  3. Taste and correct seasoning – add more salt or lemon juice if necessary.
  4. Spread it on a flat plate, add a quick drizzle of a good olive oil, sprinkle with sweet paprika, garnish with chili peppers or parsley leaves, or both, and serve.
Note: Never eat humus with a fork, it’s ridiculous! Mop it up with pita or sourdough bread (the kind that has more holes than bread, because it’s lighter) or with crackers, rice cakes, or vegetable crudités.
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happy new year from mallorca

January 1, 2016
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Hola everyone,

I thought that by the New Year we would be settled down but unfortunately we are not. The apartment we found and rented (through Idealista.com) two months ago in the old town in Palma was only gorgeous at first sight. Two weeks after we moved in we saw it for what it was. A serious pluming problem and a domineering landlord who lives next door and breathes down our necks. 

As much as we love the area and the idea of settling down quickly, we decided to look for a new place. Which now consumes most of our time. I had great intentions to post on a weekly basis, but until we find a new home, I don’t see how I can make it happen.  

For now I am sharing with you some vibrant pictures I took one Sunday at the market in Santa Maria, which is my favorite outdoor market here in Mallorca. 

Enjoy the rest of the week and the holiday break. If you had any.

I wish you an extraordinary year! May all your New Year resolutions come true.



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Diane Carmel, Marmas Mas liked this post

shelly’s humble kitchen moved to Mallorca

October 15, 2015

Research has shown that moving is more stressful than getting a divorce or a new job. So why the f*** do I do it, on average, every three years? Because I always forget how painful it is. For me moving is like giving birth: I only remember the beautiful, exciting moments. If, each time we moved, we had made a child instead, we’d have twelve kids by now. But also because I’m addicted to the feeling of being enchanted by a new place, a new culture, new foods and produce, a new language, or just by having an opportunity to reinvent myself. Maybe to become a little less “Shoody” – a nickname a good friend of mine gave me, it’s a combination of “Shelly” and “Woody” (as in Woody Allen) and “should.”

I think our latest move from SoCal to Mallorca was especially hard, because we didn’t just fly straight to Mallorca after closing up the shop in Los Angeles. We travelled together, as a family, for three solid months. Sounds romantic and charming, but, trust me, it wasn’t. Being together 24/7 with four very opinionated individuals (myself included) is not always fun. By the time we landed in Mallorca on 9/1, we were all suffering from a severe case of homesickness. Except that we didn’t even have a home to be sick for. That took another month. We’ve been living out of suitcases for four months!

It’s been a month since we arrived, and although we were already familiar with the island and how beautiful it is, we are still in the mode of being fascinated by everything around us, from the markets, to the landscape, to the health system, to the boys’ new school. 

After three days at their progressive, modern, unconventional, creative school, the boys’ homesickness disappeared. My husband never really suffers from homesickness, but me? I’m Shoody. I always miss someone or some place, like a classic immigrant, but at least the anxiety and butterflies in my stomach are gone.

I don’t know if it’s my cellphone brain or my age, but learning a new language is not easy for me anymore. (These days I can barely manage to preserve my English!) Last week I had my first formal Spanish lesson with two other moms from the school, taught by one of the Spanish moms. Lets put it this way, I couldn’t comprehend a lot but we all had a good laugh.

Mallorca is a stunning island. The lifestyle here is still very laid back. They still do siestas from 13:30 till 16:30. The health system here is at least ten times better and cheaper than the US. The organic produce is full of flavor and inexpensive. Unlike LA, there are four actual seasons, which I think is healthier for us. 

Yet why do I have a feeling that in a couple of years we will start to think about moving again? 

God, I hope we won’t! But if we do, where to? Any suggestions? 😉

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Roasted zucchini, beets and potatoes

May 28, 2015
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051815_1130 copyWe’re moving!

Again? Where to?

I can’t tell you yet. 

You’ll have to wait for my next post.

But I’ll give you a hint…

It’s a small island. Before we make the big move, we will do some traveling. 

So stay tuned.


About this dish: I could’ve simply chopped all the vegetables and roasted them in the oven, but that wouldn’t make another mundane day into an exciting day. The heat of the cast iron makes the bottom of this gratingi very crunchy while their top is mushy. The layer of the zucchini, onion and beet adds a mild sweetness. 

When you roast or fry squash blossom flowers they taste a bit like leek. They have a nice delicate flavor and a crispy texture. They’re so beautiful that they make any dish look like a Michelin star dish.  

Roasted zucchini, beets and potatoes


  • 3 large potatoes
  • 1 small yellow beet – optional
  • 1 yellow zucchini
  • 1 small sweet onion or a quarter of a large one
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or ghee, melted + extra for greasing the skillet
  • Cilantro leaves for garnish
  • Salt & pepper
  • 6-8 zucchini blossom – stamens removed

Cook the potatoes and beet. You can either (a) wrap them in baking paper or aluminum foil and put them in an oven preheated to 400ºF until they are tender; or (b) put them in a large saucepan, cover with water, and cook on the stove over medium-high heat until they are tender, about 40 minutes. To shorten the cooking or baking time, quarter the potatoes and the beets if they are large.

Meanwhile prepare the vegetables and set them aside: wash the zucchini and dry, slice it lengthwise. Peel the onion and thinly slice it widthwise. Peel the beet and thinly slice it.

Preheat or raise the oven temperature to 425°F. Generously oil a cast iron skillet or baking sheet, peel the potatoes and mash them straight on the skillet. Spread the mash evenly and sprinkle with salt. Top the mash with a layer of zucchini and drizzle 1 tablespoon of the melted coconut oil or ghee and a sprinkle of salt. Cover the zucchini with a layer of beets, onions and zucchini blossom (you can open the flowers if you like), sprinkle salt & pepper, thyme and drizzle the rest of the oil over. Put the skillet in the oven and roast until the vegetables are tanned, about 15-20 minutes. Just like any dish that involves crunchy potatoes, this gratingy is yummy with some ketchup on the side. You can serve as a main coarse for lunch or light dinner.




Black bean kibbeh

May 19, 2015

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Honestly, I don’t know what to call this dish. I think Kibbeh is the most appropriate name for it other then experimenting with black beans – I had about two cups of cooked black beans that I mixed with onion, herb and spices that I wanted to make veggie burger with but couldn’t because I over-processed the beans and added a large egg, which made the mixture too mushy to form patties.     Continue Reading…

avocado sandwich

April 22, 2015

This morning I came back from Larchmont Farmers’ Market starving. I dug out an avocado, watermelon radish and microgreens from my shopping bags and in less then five minutes made myself this beautiful sandwich. 

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Even here in Los Angeles it’s hard to find good and healthy gluten-free breads. Most of the gluten-free breads on the market are too dense or have a sand-like texture and not very nutritious. But the gluten-free loaf at Baby Cakes is exceptionally. One of these days I will ask them for the recipe.041215_0435


Microgreens are tiny leafy green that will make any provincial dish look like a michelin star dish. They are a garnish but not only, they actually have a perfume, delicate flavor. Sprinkle them over vegetable dishes, soups, frittatas, sandwiches and salads. Here in Los Angeles you can buy them in the farmers markets. 

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Avocado, Watermelon Radish and Microgreens Sandwich

  • 1 watermelon radish or any radish
  • Juice from half a lemon or ¼ filtered water mixed with ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Mayonnaise or Vegan Mayonnaise mixed with a pinch of wasabi – optional
  • Microgreens
  • Salt & pepper
  • Any bread of your choice

Slice the radish as thinly as possible (best with a Japanese mandolin), put on a plate and squeeze lemon juice over, or soak in filtered water and a bit of salt (to help soften the radish a bit).

Cover one slice of bread with avocado (use a kitchen knife to slice it, that way you don’t cut the skin) and another slice with mayonnaise. (We love Just Mayo, which, in my opinion, is tastier than Veganaise.) Drain the radishes and put them over the bread with the avocado. Sprinkle microgreens (or any greens, like arugula) on both slices, sprinkle salt (if you soaked the radish in saltwater, taste the sandwich before you add salt) and pepper, and make into a sandwich.

Pesto with kale and pumpkin seeds

April 18, 2015

Alex: Mommy, if Anthony Bourdain came over to dinner at our house, do you think he would like your food?

Me: I think he would, but he might need to go eat some pork belly or lobster fat afterwards.

I actually have a few things I wanted to say to Mr. Bourdain:

Dear Anthony,

After watching No Reservations and Parts Unknown I became a huge fan of you.  So I was thrilled when I discovered that you have another show on Netflix. But after I watched five episodes I was a bit disappointed. I was hoping that in The Layover, you would eat, for a change, something other than pork bellies and towers of shellfish. Sometime during one of the episodes (I think the one in Philadelphia) my gut told me that even you, Tony, are not really comfortable and enthusiastic about eating some of these unappetizing, artery-clogging, greasy dishes, but that you ate them anyway to maintain your cool, carnivorous facade. Or perhaps I am projecting. 

Tony, I’m not saying you should change your eating and drinking habits. (I wish I had your immune system! If I consumed even half the amount of alcohol and animal products you do, I would be buried by now next to my sister.) But if you make a new show, it would be great to expose and introduce your audience to new dishes. It wouldn’t ruin your reputation if you eat other things than those long, shit-looking sausages and bulls’ testicles.

Come on, Tony, how could you visit the Mecca of healthy food and ignore (was it on purpose?) the excellent vegan restaurants/choices that L.A. offers?! You don’t have to be a sikh or Gwyneth Paltrow’s personal trainer to try vegetarian or vegan food. (If I didn’t already live in Los Angeles, I would love to find out about places like Crossroad Kitchen, Gracias Madre or Sage Vegan Bistro.) Don’t misunderstand me, I love Korean and Vietnamese cuisines, but you already covered those in your previous shows. 

Tony, I love your straightforwardness, sincerity, and your sense of humor, but enough with the poor pigs! Give that intelligent animal a break, and maybe your liver too!

I don’t know how you do it. How can you travel all over the world, suffer jet lag, sit for hours on a plane, eat tons of unhealthy food, drink gallons of alcohol, and still manage to stay healthy? You must have God’s own immune system. 

I challenge you to make (with me, please!) a show without pork or lobster, or, even better, without animals. (You can use dairy and eggs.) I know you think I’m a crazy, health-obsessed bitch from California. I am probably all that, sometimes, but, just so you know, I grew up in a Moroccan home in Israel, where meat was served every day for lunch. As a child, I ate braised cow tongue and belly buttons, I sucked on chicken neck bone, and begged my mother to make any type of liver for lunch. I think I ate every part of the cow except its brain. Of course, growing up in a Jewish home, we didn’t eat pork or shellfish (although my dad did introduce me to shrimp at a young age.) I was introduced to sashimi as a teenager in the early nineties. Uni was one of my favorites. I also lived a third of my life in New York City, and three years in Spain, the Land of Jamon. 

So you see, Tony, I have been places, cooked endless meals, and dined in a kazillion restaurants, but after I discovered how we treat and kill animals, I decided to stop buying meat that wasn’t raised respectfully, without exception. I am still not as strict a vegetarian as I would like to be, but I know it will happen eventually. We don’t have to eat meat every day. I’m sure you don’t. I think it would be incredible if you didn’t encourage people to eat so much meat, or at least stop being so cynical about organic, grass-fed, free-range meat. Nobody will think that you’re any less cool. Maybe even cooler, if such a thing is possible. It would be a good thing to do for our obese society and our sick environment. 

Think about it. I’m not saying kale juices and chia puddings – just no piggies, shellfish and sausages. Continue Reading…

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