Vegan Rants…

I sometimes come across vegan rants, be it a single remark or a culmination from various sources. It occurred to me that I have a list of my own. Some stung. Most rolled off my back. Herewith, in no particular order is what I’ve experienced:

Good looking and stylish vegan shoes are hard to find in size 11.

Good looking and stylish vegan shoes that are comfortable are hard to find in size 11.

Having my soy butter brought from home in a little container melt in the summertime before I get downtown to the bagel place.

Forgetting to bring my own butter to the bagel place and finding they ran out of peanut butter.

Sheepishly asking a bagel place if they have started carrying hummus yet.

Waiting in a bagel place while someone goes to the supply cooler to get the hummus and I have 15 minutes to get to work.

Hearing of people who tried vegan but got flabby eating pasta so reverted back to meat.

Someone pointing out that my Coach bag is not vegan (The damn thing is nine years old and it just won’t wear out.)

Having someone declare they are vegan but eat chicken on Sundays. Only on Sundays.

Someone declaring they cannot give up ice cream or else they would try vegan.

My father telling me my food looks good but asking where is his dinner. (I was only vegetarian then.)

My boyfriend asking if I have a meat cleaver.

A co-worker shocked to see me eating a bag of potato chips.

Having a co-worker announce that my vegan cheese “stinks.”

Having a co-worker insist that my tofu is chicken.

Being told that the bible says humans are supposed to eat meat.

Being jam-packed in a vehicle with relatives making laugh-out-loud fun of people who don’t eat meat.

Finding a fish recipe in a vegan cookbook.

I’m not mad, just saying…

Sides Matter

The most common questions I get asked as a vegan concern protein intake. Most everyone has seen the food pyramids: those colorful totem poles of what we should be eating on a daily basis. They provided (mis) guided directives back in the day. Food guides actually started in 1916 and have been updated numerous times up until the latest 2011 U.S. Government issued ChooseMyPlate. Now, however, as more people are enlightened about the benefits of vegetables, the pyramid has evolved into a plate with the suggestion of a higher intake of vegetables and grains. Sides matter more is what they are telling us.

Most traditional restaurant menus list some combination of appetizers, mains or entrees, (“proteins” on the trendy menus), sides and/or vegetables and bases/carbs/starches. In the Standard American Diet animal protein takes center stage, while sides of all types take second and third place.

The vegan diet takes sides to a different place – all over the plate! All of my choices are mains. My broccoli has equal footing with my tofu and black beans and cabbage on the same plate. My salad, soup and eight grain bread are welcoming each other. There is no star of the show or understudy – it is a team effort. Proteins are found in many foods such as red kidney beans, black-eyed peas, collard greens, quinoa, soy, green beans, oatmeal, peanut butter and edamame. The list is long. True, the density and type of protein is different in plant vs. animal protein. You can easily research the protein content of your favorite vegetables. Replace meat with a few veggies. Add two cups of lentils or chick peas to chunk up your pasta sauce. Make your lasagna with zucchini, fresh chopped tomato, eggplant and spinach. Leave out the ricotta. If you indulge in that vegan mac and cheese make it up at the next meal by doubling your veggies.

Many “sides” have a protein component. Think outside the (animal protein) box. You don’t always have to combine beans and rice, which is the classic example of creating a “complete” protein. Even vegans talk the “sides” talk. Walk the veggie walk. Have four or five sides for dinner. Have three for lunch and two for breakfast. Stop relegating your veggies to the sides of your plate. Your protein will show up in a myriad of unexpected and delicious ways.

Sides matter.

Here is some vegan humor to help you along the way:
Why did the tomato blush bright red?
It saw the salad dressing.

Why did the tofu cross the road?
To prove it wasn’t chicken.

When the Hostess Has To Feed Me

Occasionally, very occasionally, I am in a situation wherein I am expected to eat food at a gathering. I usually eat before I attend any event. The hostess has usually been forewarned that a vegetarian is coming and has prepared something it is thought that I can eat. Lovely stuffed mushrooms, a salad, corn on the cob, sweet potato pie, collard greens and peas and rice are some of the things I have been offered. The food always looks scrumptious and the host is anxious to please.

I have to explain though that I am an “extreme vegetarian.” I compliment the mushrooms and rightly guess that it has parmesan under those perfectly toasted breadcrumbs. The salad has been bolstered with chunks of cheese. The corn on the cob has been buttered. The pie has butter or lard in the crust. The greens have been simmered with ham or a smoked turkey neck. And the peas and rice dish contains itty bitty chunks of beef or chicken.

“Well, surely you can have some eggnog?”
The dinner rolls…
Do they have milk in the batter?
Yes, how do you know?

At some point hubby or some other reveler is sent on a supermarket run. Alas the messenger returns with a winning package: one of those pre-packaged vegetable trays from the produce department teeming with raw carrots, celery, tomatoes, cucumber, cauliflower and broccoli with a little container of dressing/dip in the center. You know that tray.

Guess what? The dressing isn’t usually vegan. It often contains egg, milk and cheese products.

So there I sit, expected to chow down on raw, cold veggies while fragrant and succulent food passes around me.

Good thing I ate before I came. I will drink the wine though. Hopefully it’s vegan.

Pineapple Upside Wow Cake

A few years ago on an occasional visit to my old Hollis neighborhood, I stopped into a bakery for a cup of tea as it was a chilly day and I was waiting for a bus. While waiting I glanced over at the glass case where they held custom ordered baked goods waiting for pickup. I was stunned at what I saw – a pineapple upside down cake.

I hadn’t seen one in years. And certainly never in a bakery. We weren’t raised to have dessert after every meal and furthermore, if you wanted dessert you had to make it. We rarely ordered from bakeries.

Here is why I was stunned: I found it hard to believe that someone would order a cake like this from a bakery. I started making pineapple upside down cakes as a child. I don’t recall how old I was but maybe 11 or 12. All you needed was a box of cake mix, a can of sliced pineapple, a jar of (food-colored) marachino cherries and an egg or two and water. Flour and butter your pan, wait 45 minutes, flip that little baby and voila! It was a crowd pleaser every time. Wow! This was child’s play for me and I was surprised at how little effort it took to impress. So I made it a lot.

To this day I am not a sophisticated baker (I would never us a mix, though.) I make good pies and I am still working on cakes without traditional ingredients. I have no desire to make a cake that looks like a shoe or a dinosaur. I don’t care for froufrou frostings and all that fancy stuff. (Well I do get a little creative.)

That display case brought me back to my childhood. The box instructions were for a pineapple upside down cake but I was making Pineapple Upside Wow cake.