Sunday, October 11, 2009
Rethinking Vegan Food
For Vegan Month of Food, I decided to cook the vegan recipes in the September 2009 recipes of Gourmet, plus veganize some of the vegetarian recipes. The former strategy is working better than the latter.
For example, last night I cooked the Ginger Garlic Green Beans. It was very easy: you mash garlic with salt, grate some ginger in there, add some soy sauce and a little oil, and a little less vinegar. You blanche the beans for 6-8 minutes, drain them, and then toss them with the dressing. Then garnish with toasted sesame seeds. I didn't have any sesame seeds so I used ground flax seeds. (Also I used white wine vinegar instead of rice vinegar.) The combination of garlic, ginger, and soy sauce, plus some tartness like lemon or vinegar, is always great: it's the foundation of my favorite salad dressing. It worked really well on cooked green beans too.
There was another recipe for broccoli quiche in that issue of Gourmet that I wanted to veganize, and for that I turned to the blog Post Punk Kitchen, written by the queen of vegan cooking, Isa Moskowitz. There she has a recipe for a vegan broccoli quiche.
Sadly, this did not turn out so well. The idea is to grind cashews in the food processor, add tofu and some seasonings, all while sauteeing some onions and brocolli in a skillet. Mix the pureed tofu/cashews with the sauteed onion/broccoli, and pour into a pie shell. Decorate with cherry tomatoes, and bake at 350 for forty minutes.
I didn't use a pie shell because it seemed plenty rich without it, but I don't think that was the problem. It was edible, but not what I would call good. I think the problem here is that vegans often try to recreate the foods of their meat-eating and dairy-eating days, mostly by using a lot of tofu. And tofu is not good in large quantities. It's good in small quantities in miso soup, or in a stir fry, but a big cutlet of tofu is hard to digest and doesn't taste very good.
The worst example of that was in an ad that a credit card company ran a year or so ago, at Thanksgiving. It shows a woman my age serving a big white blob in the shape of a turkey to a smiling young woman. The story is that the older woman's son had married a vegetarian, and he brought her home for Thanksgiving. The older woman wanted to do the right thing, so she took her credit card to Whole Foods and bought a "tofurkey."
This Tofurkey has drumsticks and everything.
I looked at that and thought, "Wait a minute. Do vegans really eat tofu in the shape of animals? That seems contrary to the spirit of animal rights." I then went to Whole Foods myself and looked at a tofurky (correct spelling). It looks like this:
That is, nothing like the "tofurkey" in the ad. What were the (m)admen thinking?
Anyway, bottom line: I think that veganism is more successful if we just forget about things like scrambled eggs, quiche, turkey, and the like. We should just look at the incredible bounty of vegetables, beans, fruit, nuts and grain around us and think, "What can I make out of this?" rather than, "What do I miss from my childhood?" We don't have to limit ourselves to copying recipes from Asian cultures that don't use dairy, although that's a good start; we can just jump in there and start cooking with what we've got, without any preconception of what it should look like (a turkey?) or vaguely remind us of.
That said, there's no way I'm ever going to buy that tofurky. I don't care how much it doesn't look like a turkey.
As for the leftover tofu quiche, it was slightly better cold than hot, and Dixie Dog enjoyed a piece of it for breakfast, but I put the rest on the compost pile. I hope the possum that picnics in that pile will enjoy it more than we did.