Tag Archives: vegan

Making a Virtue Out of Necessity

1 Jul

This morning, I made one of my favorite breakfasts–biscuits and gravy. I made vegan substitutions (tempeh and sage instead of sausage), but it turned out pretty good. But it made me realize that that dish was really an example of making something yummy out of limited resources.

If you go back a hundred years, food was a third to half of your family budget. So you had to stretch out the food you had to cover more than one person. What I made for dinner last night would have qualified: vegetable and lentil soup and “buttermilk” biscuits (soy milk curdled with lemon juice). In 1922, flour was cheap, and most people had a garden. Some people even had a greenhouse to have vegetables into the winter and spring. Even then, you still need to pickle or can your harvested veggies to ensure that you had a supply year-round. So dried beans were cheap (and still are), throw in some of your limited veg, and then add a lot of water. Wheat flour was cheap (still is), so some sort of bread carbs everyone up to feel full and well-fed.

However, due to a series of unexpected events, no one ate my dinner last night, so I had all these biscuits left over. Perfect, I thought, and I made some gravy. What is gravy made from? MORE flour, water, and a fractional amount of sausage. You salt and pepper it and you’re able to stretch a limited amount of food into a yummy breakfast. Coffee falls under dried beans–they last forever, they’re not that expensive, and you can cook them at the time you need them.

So here was a dish that was incredibly easy to make, relatively inexpensive, and yet it’s something I find rare and special. I have made a virtue out of necessity. It’s similar to my theory that all delicacies are “something you ate when you were starving.” It’s only when you’re able to afford steak for dinner or a fish fry on Fridays that you think, “Gee, wasn’t it nice to have biscuits and gravy?”

I love quoting Samuel Johnson (the guy who invented the dictionary) every time I eat oatmeal. “Oats – in England, a food for horses; in Scotland, a food for men.” I do it because oatmeal is very yummy… and I’m at least half or more Scottish. Dr. Sam was making fun of the Scots because they were backward, but really, they were poor. But it grows well in wet ground and/or sandy soil, and it’s high in calorie content, so it keep you’re wee bonny bairns alive. But notice the picture–there’s blueberries in it. Why? Because that was free. You literally went outside, collected berries, and threw them in with what you eating already. Since berries still didn’t stay around forever, it was a neat treat. When you have oatmeal again, and you CAN afford bacon and eggs, you throw some berries in it.

So many recipes can date back to the simple need of, “How do I stretch my cupboard to feed my family?” Can you think of better examples? Let me know in the comments below!

Missionary Chefs

9 Oct

One of the few restaurants we go to as a family is Loving Hut. It’s a chain of vegan restaurants that are spread all over the world. However, they’re not just interested in selling food – they want to convert you to follow the Supreme Master.

I did not make this up – there is a Vietnamese woman who lives in Singapore who is the leader of this religious group calling herself the Supreme Master Ching Hai. Why do I know this? Because they have their own television channel which is played constantly in each of their restaurants, which has 5 minute snippets to attract you to the wit and wisdom of the Supreme Master.

There are books available of her philosophy. There are pamphlets that talk about the joys of veganism and meditation. And that’s the real reason why they use restaurants as their outreach – to show that turning vegan does not mean having to live on kale and bean sprouts. Their menu is excellent, but I have to admit, I’m a little disturbed by the images lauding this middle-aged woman from Asia.

This technique has actually been done before. I’ve been to inner-city Atlanta and found a vegan soul food restaurant run by Black Hebrew Israelites… which is another faith that came out of the turn of the century (1900) where African Americans decided to reject Christianity and turned to new faiths where they felt more at home. This is also where the Nation of Islam and Rastafarianism emerged. This particular group believes in strict veganism and consider themselves true Jews. However, the State of Israel disagrees, and yet allows a couple thousand of them to live illegally in their country.

In Thailand, the local Chabad (missionary Jews who do outreach… to other Jews) ran a restaurant in downtown Bangkok. This is because Thailand has strict anti-missionary laws and the rabbi can’t work as a rabbi in a country that’s 96% Buddhist. So he worked as a “kosher consultant” and had someone run the restaurant that he owned. So missionary chefs are not as uncommon as you might think.

I’ve worked with missionary teachers, missionary doctors, missionary secretaries… and if you think it’s hard for regular missionaries to raise the funds to go overseas, try being a missionary secretary. India makes it difficult to be a missionary, but you can get visa to be a teacher or a doctor. The other thing my friends pretended to be tourists and just leave the country every six months to renew their visa.

What do you think? Is it more palatable to be another profession that is also a missionary? Or is it something that rubs you the wrong way? Or is it a necessary evil? Let me know in the comments below!

Unethical Veganism

19 Jul

This is not bacon and eggs. It’s actually tofu scrambled with turmeric and paprika (throw in onions and garlic) and tempeh flavored and shaped to look like bacon. The hash browns are real, although I baked them instead of fried them. Why? Because I’m an unethical vegan–I honestly don’t care about animals, I honestly don’t care if YOU eat meat either, but I’M doing it because it makes me healthier.

There’s an old joke – “How do you know someone’s a vegan? They tell you.” Normally I don’t, but… hey, I need a blog post today! 🙂 Also I don’t tell people usually because no one wants to know that. They don’t wanna feel bad about their eating habits. They know they’re eating crap, but they like it, and so they keep eating it.

If you’re a “serious” vegan, you have to avoid ANY animal products. That means asking people what’s in things when you go the restaurant. Then you have to tell people WHY you’re asking. Then you’re no fun, because in America, we have fun with our friends by going out to eat. And if you’re picky about what the “Veggie Sampler” is, you’re the buzzkill in the group.

So what is the unethical vegan lifestyle? You mostly avoid animal products, but you don’t go out of your way to prove that. I get to be de facto kosher, which is nice for my faith, but again, I don’t go out of my way to determine if the grill that cooked my tofu was also used to cook meat. You try to order the green salad, because every other salad on the menu has freaking cheese sprinkled on it.

Now I’ve lost about thirty pounds doing this lifestyle. Now to be honest, this is the second time I’ve lost thirty pounds eating this way. There is a LOT of unhealthy ways to be vegan and they all have to do with eating grains. I’ve learned the hard way, 2000 calories a day is honestly not that much. They joy in eating veggies is that you can a lot of them. But start adding dressing, and bread, and alcohol… whoo! That adds up fast!

I’m still fifty pounds overweight and not thrilled about it. I cheat on my diet, but just like sin, I’ll do penance at the shrine of the porcelain god later. 😉 I’ll admit it, vegan pizza sucks. I’ll sneak a piece of cheese (or two or three) and be in hog heaven (without the pork). If someone offers me a piece of their meat offerings, I don’t refuse. Although I’ll admit, meat doesn’t taste that good any more. It’s just blah.

I’d rather eat a carrot hot dog than a real one… you just have to marinate it for hours and then roast the hell out of it, but damn, it takes good! And that’s the real downside of unethical veganism – every dish takes SO MUCH LONGER to make. You want to substitute eggs in your recipe; sure, flax eggs… but now you’ve added another minute. Chili? Sure, make sure you soak your dried beans OVERNIGHT! You want pasta-less vegetarian lasagna? A) You just added five syllables to what you eat. B) You have to salt and slice eggplant for an hour.

That’s why it’s so easy to be vegan and eat bad. Rice takes 15 minutes to cook, bread and breakfast cereal is available NOW. Carrots and celery are ready now, but they make your tummy feel weird, so why not add peanut butter?! (sigh) The Battle of the Bulge is real, my friends, but just like being friends with vegans, you already knew that.

But tell me, do you like any vegan dishes? Do you secretly find joy in veggie lasagna? Tell me in the comments section below!

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