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A Vegan Wedding
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The Farm Sanctuary wedding of Brenda Suzanne Shoss and Dr. Graydon Lee Ballard, III began as an argument. "We'll never set a date or place at this rate," I'd said to my procrastinating fiance. "If you could get married anywhere in the world, where would it be?" he'd asked with the urgency of a snail. I'd searched for an over-the-top retort: "I want to get married with the cows and a liberal rabbi at Farm Sanctuary!"

I am a Jewish, vegan animal rights activist with adopted cows and turkeys. Grady is a Christian carnivore with an open mind. "Sounds like fun," he'd responded. Thus, a concept was born.

Within days, I'd contacted Farm Sanctuary to secure our wedding date. To complicate matters, we became pregnant in February. How would I pull off this monumental event at seven months pregnant?

I relied upon the organizational expertise of my sister, Deanna Shoss, and friend, Janet Enoch. But it was my parents, Sammy and Bill Shoss, who led me to this luminous day. As the original ethical vegetarians in the family, they offered their support, time and generosity.

On the Big Day guests entered the People Barn, Farm Sanctuary's airy visitor center. Amid veal crates, battery hen cages and other vestiges of intensive confinement farming, wildflowers rose in rainbow-colored arcs. A serenade of our favorite Neil Young, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Sarah McLauchlan tunes softened the scene into a poignant mix of love and hope.

Animals had shown me that life is all we truly possess. Now, I was prepared to share my life with another. Still, my knees trembled as I approached the huppah, the Jewish wedding canopy held aloft by friends and relatives. When Rabbi Miriam Biatch compared love's sanctuary to the compassion and respect found at Farm Sanctuary, I reached for my mother's hand. At last I'd found love for animals and a human kindred spirit under one roof.

Of course, not all were enthralled. When you mesh non-vegan in-laws with animal rights activists, you get reactions from wonderment to disdain. Naysayers aside, the day proceeded in the spirit of summer camp. Guests changed from suits and satins into sweats and sneakers to meet the rescued animals.
Farm Sanctuary co-founders Gene and Lorri Bauston kicked off our tour with a tribute to Queenie, the 6-month old calf who had just escaped from a Queens, New York slaughterhouse. Hundreds of animal advocates had phoned in pleas for Queenie's transfer to a humane sanctuary. The night before our wedding, a mud-covered Lorri arrived with the bewildered runaway. No longer destined to become cheap veal, a more relaxed Queenie nuzzled wedding guests the next day.

In retrospect, my dream wedding conjures images of an eclectic group scattered over green hills and pastures. Old friends knelt with turkeys and my sister greeted pigs in her Nordstrom's gown. We eventually reconvened in the People Barn for a vegan feast. The delectable edibles contained no meat, dairy or eggs.

Guests who shared this journey to Farm Sanctuary agreed with our wedding photograpaher, Doug Hicks: "This was a wedding I'll never forget."

In 1996 I saw an HBO documentary, To Love Or Kill: Man Vs. Animal. It was the first time I glimpsed inside factory farms and slaughterhouses and it forever ruined my burgers and tuna. I never hated meat, its smell or taste. Still don't. But I can no longer swallow another's fear and pain. Fortunately, today's plant-based meals are downright delicious. A happy stomach convinced my husband to keep our kitchen flesh-free. Now he's full-time veg. Below are some general prep tips, based on my own vegan ventures.  ~Brenda Shoss, Kinship Circle

    Season like hamburger, chicken, steak, or any other animal meat. The olive oil captures flavors in a crispy, delicious outer edge.
    VEGETARIANISM 101: Imagine dishes you already make, replacing animal meats with veg meats. My husband doesn't share my affinity for all animals. But he does enjoy my animal-free Thai peanut "chicken," barbeque "ribs," sloppy-joes, cornbread, pumpkin muffins, "meatloaf," shepherd's pie, apple-cranberry cobbler, chocolate chip cookies, cornbread stuffing, roasted tacos, "steak" strips…
    If you're a decent to fabulous carnivore cook, you'll be a decent to fabulous veg cook.
    • Veggie Burgers: Grill in olive oil. Sprinkle burgers in garlic/onion powders, basil, and brown sugar. Ketchup lovers: Baste ketchup with seasonings, both sides of burger. Or check out great vegan sauces such as Annie's Naturals Organic Worcestershire.

    • Veggie Chicken-Style Strips / Thai Peanut: Grill strips in olive oil. Season with garlic and onion powders, basil, Asian seasonings from a speciality store…or other spices you prefer. Once veg chicken strips have crispy edges, stir in: Thai peanut sauce, a few spoonfuls of crunchy peanut butter, and a tablespoon or so of brown sugar. Let chicken strips simmer in sauce. Serve over noodles or rice cooked with Earth Balance vegan butter (the best butter-like vegan spread!

    • Veggie Steak-Style Strips / Teriyaki: Grill strips in olive oil. Season with garlic, onion powders or spices you prefer with beef. When steak strips have crispy edges, stir in teriyaki sauce. Let simmer in sauce and mix in grilled veggies. Serve over noodles, rice or cous cous lightly flavored with Earth Balance vegan butter.

    • Sweet & Sour Sloppy-Joes: You need - 1 can cranberry sauce; 12 oz. bottle of chili sauce; 2 lbs. of vegetarian hamburger crumbles; 1 medium onion, grated; 1 tsp. salt; 1/2 tsp. pepper. Crumble up veggie hamburger into small pieces. Mix all ingredients and heat slowly in a pot or deep skillet. Serve on hamburger buns.

    • Barbecue-Style Veggie Beef Chunks: Grill veg meats in skillet with light olive oil: Gardenburger BBQ Riblets + seitan (beef-like chunks). Add more barbecue sauce, sweeten sauce a bit (if you like sweet/spicy concoctions, as I do!) and any other spices used for BBQ-style. Grill till crispy around edges and serve with sweet potato fries, grilled potato chunks or other side. TIP: Add a bit of Earth Balance vegan butter with olive oil in any of above dishes, for great flavor blend with spices, sauces.

Plant-Based Proteins = Delicious! And most are stashed in mainstream grocer aisles. If not there, veg meats are at stores such as Whole Foods, Wild Oats, Trader Joe's…

    ~ BOCA Meatless Burgers (best vegan burgers!)
    ~ Trader Joe's Meatless Meatballs (vegan)
    ~ Yves Meatless Meatballs (vegan)
    Yves® Meatless Beef Burger (vegan)

    Yves® Meatless Chicken Burger (vegan)
    ~ BOCA Meatless Chik'n Nuggets (vegan)
    ~ BOCA Meatless Chik'n Patties (vegan)
    ~ Morning Star Chik'n Nuggets (has egg)
    ~ Morning Star Chik Patties (has egg)

    ~ Gardenburger BBQ Riblets (vegan)

    Tofurky® Dogs and Links (vegan)
       Tofurky Hot Dogs
       Tofurky Jumbo Hot Dogs
       Tofurky Breakfast Links
    Tofurky® Sausages (vegan)
       Artisan Sausages
       Gourmet Sausages
       Artisan Andouille Sausages
       Artisan Spinach Pesto Sausages
       Artisan Chick'N and Apple Sausages
       Gourmet Beer Brats
       Gourmet Italian Sausage
       Gourmet Kielbasa Polish Meatless Sausage

    Yves® Hot Dogs & Brats (vegan)
       Yves The Good Dog
       Tofu Dogs
       Meatless Jumbo Hot Dogs
       Yves Meatless Brats
       Meatless Jumbo Hot Dogs
       Meatless Breakfast Patties

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Animal Advocacy  |  Education  |  Disaster Aid  •  •
314-795-2646  |  7380 Kingsbury Blvd  |  Saint Louis, MO 63130 USA

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●  Nonprofit Certificate of Incorporation, Charter: N00071626