Hope Sinks

May 20, 2009, 9:06 pm
Filed under: Veganism

I am pleased to announce that I am moving my vegan baking home on the internet. I don’t know why I chose the name Hope Sinks for this blog, but I hate it, and the only way I could find to change it was to start a new blog, so I have! Named after my favorite Iron Maiden song, No Murders In The Rue Morgue is my new jam. Update your RSSes and feeds and bookmarks and links, and see you there!


Pot Lucky!
November 19, 2008, 1:12 pm
Filed under: Good Days, Veganism | Tags: , , , , ,

As you may be aware, I’m leaving my hometown of Edmonton, Alberta (look it up on google maps) and moving to San Francisco, California to be with my husband. While I’m greatly looking forward to the move, I’m going to miss the friends and family I’ll be leaving behind… well, most of them, anyway.

I tend to like to fly under the radar a lot. Especially lately when I’ve been trying to scrimp and save my pennies, I haven’t gone out much, and I’m sad to say I’ve neglected a lot of my friends, so I’ve been surprised the last couple weeks at all the people who have said they will actually notice and even miss my presence in Edmonton. Thanks, guys, and I’ll miss you too.

One of the people who really drove it home for me was my friend, Jennifer, who baked the most amazing cake I’ve ever seen for the PPK Edmonton Potluck this past Sunday. I don’t think I’ve ever had my eyes well up at the sight of food before, but I did this Sunday, and this is why:

It’s easy to forget that food can have that kind of impact. Though nowadays most people in my family can and do cook, from a young age, I was really the only one who would do things like make fancy dinners for my friends and family as a way of expressing affection. It’s not something conscious, but I guess I’ve just grown up feeling like there’s nothing that makes a person feel loved and cared for like a thoughtful, special meal. In fact, I would even go so far as to say the people who cook for you are the ones you keep.

Okay, that probably sounds mean, but looking back on the past 5 or 6 years of my life, the people who I remain close to are those I’ve made and shared food with. Not that the cake was a clincher or anything, but I’m pretty sure that whenever I think of this cake in the future (which is likely to be fairly often, since I’ll be seeing the Golden Gate Bridge fairly regularly in the coming months/years/lifetime), I’ll also think about sitting down to write Jennifer a note or postcard. When I have my wedding anniversaries, I’ll think of melisser, who baked my (belated) wedding cake and also the group of fine ladies who all chipped in to buy my new husband and I a fancy dinner. I didn’t literally share that meal with my girls, but I will think of them whenever I’m back at Millenium.

I suppose what I’m trying to get at is that while I love food and cook and eat a lot by myself, I look back at my life, and particularly my past 5-and-a-half years as a vegan, and I see special food connected to special people and special times (god, I’ve used the word “special” too many times in this entry, but if I were to get all thesaurus-y, it would be even worse, I know it), and I feel incredibly lucky to have met and broken bread with all of them.

<3, guys.

VeganMoFo: Cop Out Survey!
October 27, 2008, 10:02 am
Filed under: Cooking, VeganMoFo | Tags: , , , , ,

Since I’ve slacked so hard, I’m trying to make up, and what better way to 1) dredge up ideas and 2) kind of bullshit an entry than with a survey! This one comes courtesy of Jess at Get Sconed via B.A.D. at Unhealthy Vegan. Thanks, ladies

1. What was the most recent tea you drank?

Fresh ginger, for my creeping-up illness. Cut up an inch or two of fresh ginger into chunks. Pour boiling water over it. Steep 5 minutes.

2. What vegan forms do you post/lurk on? If so, what is your username? Spill!

Oh, you all know this already: The PPK Forum. My name is, surprisingly, jordanpattern.

3. You have to have tofu for dinner, and it has be an Italian dish. What comes to mind first?

Isa’s Italian Marinated tofu with roasted veggies over polenta with a balsamic vinegar reduction. Shit, now I’m hungry.

4. How many vegan blogs do you read on an average day?

I don’t really have an average day, but if you average out all my non-average days, probably around 4? I have some favorites, but I will never tell!

5. Besides your own, what is the most recent one you’ve read?

Katie‘s post on her famous Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls. Yeow!

6. If you could hang out with a vegan blogger that you haven’t met, who would it be, and what would you do?

I would be pretty darn stoked to hang out with kittee of Cake Maker To The Stars and Jess of Get Sconed, oh, and Pamela of Pamela Cooks. I mean, really, I’d be down with hanging out with all the vegan bloggers out there, really, but it’s much easier to deal with the logistics of just four people, you know? Plus, I’ve met a lot of vegan bloggers! I think Kittee and Jess and Pamela and I could have a pretty great tea party, though.

7. If you had to base your dinners for a week around one of the holy trilogy – tofu, seitan or tempeh, which would it be?

Well, in real life, I would say tofu, because I don’t have to make it before I cook with it, but in an ideal world, I would say seitan. Seitan sandwiches, cutlets, chili, maybe even breaded and fried!

8. If you had to use one in a fight, which would it be?

Tempeh for sure – that stuff is like a brick when frozen.

9. Name 3 meals you’d realistically make with that tough protein of choice!

Katie’s tempeh wingz, Spicy tempeh roll sushi a la Post Punk Kitchen Show Ep. 2, and, uh, some kind of marinated tempeh, possibly on skewers and grilled with veggies and served over rice.

10. What’s a recipe in vegan blogland that you’ve been eyeing?

Julie Hasson’s sausages! I have had these made by other people, but I want to make them myself so bad! Why am I so damned lazy! I need to re-read all that crap I talked about the virtues of delayed pleasure one more time I think…

11. Do you own any clothing with vegan messages/brands on them?

Yeah, but I don’t wear it a whole lot these days. I own 5 or 6 Herbivore shirts and also the “I ❤ Hunting Accidents” shirt from Food Fight.

12. Have you made your pilgrimage to the ‘vegan mecca’ yet? (Portland, duh)

Yes, though I didn’t have as much time there as I would like, and it wasn’t really a pilgrimage so much as a show my old band played, the morning after which I accidentally ditched a whole cadre of PDX PPKers. I’m still sorry, guys!

13. What age did you first go vegan? Did it stick?

I was 22, and yes, it stuck. I’m coming up on 6 years vegan next March.

14. What is the worst vegan meal you’ve had? Who cooked it?

Yucky summer camp french fries that were lukewarm and soggy. This was at the camp where I often teach french horn, but it was before I knew to bring my own lunch. Seriously – is a veggie burger so hard???

15. What made you decide to blog?

I have honestly no idea. Vanity? I fancy myself an okay cook and a fairly decent baker, but I am too busy/cheap/lazy to cook/write as much as I’d like. I’m working on it. I may soon have a super ultra mega cheap blog, since my money might be becoming real tight real soon…

16. What are three of your favorite meals to make?

Isa Pizza – I never get tired of that stuff. I could eat it morning, noon, and night forever.

Marinated tofu with roasted veggies – roast everything together. This is so flavourful and so good and reasonably healthy to boot!

Soup – I can’t pick a type, but I fucking love making soup. Uh. Literally.

17. What dish would you bring to a vegan Thanksgiving-themed potluck?

I’m totally going to bite on B.A.D.’s answer and say stuffed squash… with my own special stuffing recipe that I’m developing that involves cornbread and apple-sage sausage crumbles.

18. Where is your favorite vegan meal at a restaurant? How many times have you ordered it?

I feel like I should say Millenium, both meals I’ve at at which have been amazing, but I’m going to go with the Kung Pao fake chicken from Jasmine Tea House in San Francisco.

19. What do you think the best chain to dine as a vegan is?

I’m going to cheat a little here and say El Toro taquerias in the Bay Area. I think there are 3 of them, so they count, right? I love me some tacos.

20. My kitchen needs a……

kitchen! I don’t have my own right now. When I finally (and I mean finally) move in with my husband, our kitchen will need a tonne of stuff, including a huge clean, twice as many shelves, and, well, kitchenware that isn’t irreplaceable collector beer glasses from Belgium. Ugh.

21. This vegetable is not allowed in my kitchen…

Eggplant. Fuck eggplant.

22. What’s for dinner tonight?

The above-mentioned stuffing, I think. I’m going to create it for the Iron Chef challenge.

23. What’s your favourite cookie cutter?

I don’t own any! The shame!

Okay, that about wraps it up! Thanks again to Jess and B.A.D. for the inspiration!

VeganMoFo: Back On The Wagon

I was so diligent in my MoFoing for the first 10 days or so of the month… right up until I went to San Francisco to visit my husband. Darn the luck. Anyway, there’s still time for one more (business) week of MoFoing, so hold on to your butts, because I’m starting out with Katie‘s Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls.

Like many of you, I’ve been meaning to make these for a really, really long time. Now that I’ve made them, I feel like a dope for not having done so earlier. I’ve talked before in this blog about how yeasted things tend to subconsciously freak me out, meaning that I tend to not make them much. I haven’t gotten to the root of why this is (I’ve never screwed up any yeasted thing I’ve made; I don’t find yeasted recipes difficult; etc.), but it’s prevented me from trying a bunch of things that I would normally been all over before even finishing reading the description. I suppose the time factor is a big one for me (I work 60 hours a week and have to find time for a bunch of other extracurriculars and international phone calls as well), but that’s not really a good reason either, given the amount of time I waste on the internet and the amount of reading I try to get done every day. Anyway, my point is, I have an irrational yeasted recipe aversion, and I’m happy I overcame it long enough to make these because they are fucking crazily good.

Bam! That’s right – they are all up in your face.

Having made these, I have the following to say to those of you who haven’t yet taken the plunge, whether from laziness (like me) or worry about your cooking/baking skills, or just plain old ambivalence: Get over it. These are really pretty easy – the hardest skills involved are kneading the dough (easy) and cleaning the countertop afterward (harder, but worth it). They don’t even have to rise for that long (45 minutes + 5 minutes resting time), and they really do produce fluffy, delicious, better-than-the-bakery cinnamon rolls. If you’re like me, you haven’t had one of those since well before you went vegan. Assuming you’re vegan.

The other thing I thought of while I was waiting for these to rise is that one of virtues of yeasted food is that they rely on the principle of delayed pleasure. That is, I tend to pass over yeasted breads and rolls in favour of stuff that uses soda or baking powder, and I do this because I want instant (well, as instant as baking can be) gratification. I can’t be bothered, most of the time, to wait for an hour or 90 minutes while dough rises, and I don’t like that in myself. Yeasted foods, if you want to get really hippie dippy about it, force us to indulge in delayed pleasure, which probably fosters a good impulse in us.. particularly those of us who are considering fucking the whole delayed-pleasure thing in favour of more immediate (well, delayed by 8 months, so not that instant) pleasure… oh, I’ve said too much! But you get my drift, don’t you? Waiting for the things we want tends to be a good thing that encourages good traits in ourselves (just look at Love In The Time Of Cholera), and these pumpkin cinnamon rolls can improve me anytime.

Anyway, I’m a bit rusty. I don’t know how to write about food or innovate or anything, but this is my attempt to get back on the wagon.

VeganMoFo: Meta!
October 4, 2008, 10:55 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’m a girl who thinks about food a lot. As much as it would sometimes be more convenient to just be able to live on Vega bars (which, I gather, are supremely healthy, but which unfortunately taste like grainy cardboard), when it comes to eating, I’m particular. If I’m craving something fried, no amount of rice noodles with raw veggies is going to satisfy me. If I wake up wanting tofu scramble, dammit, I had best get some tofu scramble or I’ll be irritable all day. I know; it’s childish.

a perfect Saturday morning.

Thinking about food and drinking coffee: a perfect Saturday morning.

Anyway, VeganMoFo has got me thinking about food even more than normal. Tomorrow’s post will be my entry to Katie‘s Iron Chef Challenge, so I’ve been thinking about that and shuffling through my cookbook stash trying to find inspiration about how to execute my idea. I was flipping through Veganomicon and The Uncheese Cookbook before I even had my morning coffee. I’ve been trawling the internet. I’m even thinking about how I’m going to photograph my creation. What all this means is that today, you lucky devils, you get to read my thoughts about not food per se, but rather about thinking and writing about food. How meta!

One of the things that I always talk about when I talk to non-vegans about veganism is thinking about what we eat. I tend to think that one of the biggest reasons humans still eat animals is simply because so many of us (particularly in western societies) just don’t think about what we eat. Sure, lots of westerners count calories and analyze fat content and sodium levels, yes, but all the thought that we seem to put into our food is back-end-loaded. We think about how the finished product (be it a twinkie or a roast beef sandwich or an apple) may affect us personally, but as a whole, we don’t think a lot about where that twinkie came from, or where the ingredients for it came from, or how the places all those things came from are affected by us eating that twinkie, etc. etc. forever and ever.

I’ve heard more meat-eating people than I can count say things like, “Oh god, I so don’t want to know where that burger came from – I just can’t think about it!” To me, that seems so completely wrongheaded (I mean, why would you put something in your mouth the origin of which you can’t even begin to contemplate? Isn’t that super gross?) and absurd, but it appears to be the North American way. This kind of thinking is encouraged by the ever-increasing array of processed foods available to us. If we don’t want to, we never have to see any meat that actually resembles any part of the animal it came from. We don’t go to butcher stores anymore, and we certainly don’t have goats in our backyards. Of course the thing I find most appalling about eating meat (and dairy and eggs, etc.) is the sheer cruelty inherent in that consumption, but more and more, I find the head-in-the-sand mentality that many meat eaters cultivate vis-a-vis their dinners almost as bad.

Of course, we vegans aren’t immune to that kind of thought either. Sure, most of us have acknowledged and put at least some thought into where meat and dairy and eggs come from (for most of us, I think, that’s why we’re vegan), but it’s still easy for us to ignore some of the less pleasant aspects of what we eat. Perhaps we don’t buy fair trade coffee or don’t like to think about the working conditions on the plantation our bananas come from. Maybe we mentally gloss over the environmental impacts of the things we eat, or maybe we eschew the smaller local health food store in favour of the big-business, big-box superstores.

pure fall awesome.

Isa's Best Pumpkin Muffins with the addition of cranberries: pure fall awesome.

My point here is not that we should all feel guilty about our food. What I’m getting at here is that VeganMoFo (and veganism generally if you want it to) gives us a great opportunity to think more about food, be it how to improve or tailor a favorite recipe (sorry Isa, but the Best Pumpkin Muffins in VWAV are even better with cranberries and a touch more ginger), new and different places to shop, relying less on processed food, health concerns, or the environmental and social consequences of what we eat.

VeganMoFo: Baking with Grandma
October 2, 2008, 8:53 pm
Filed under: Cooking, Veganism, VeganMoFo | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I got some really crappy news today: my grandma fell and broke her hip this afternoon. Luckily, she happened to have her cell phone (which my dad bought for her and made her learn to use) on her and was able to call 911 from the spot near the back of her yard where she fell. She got to the hospital, and my dad tells me that while she was looking a little grey when he saw her, she’s doing okay and will be having surgery late tonight or sometime tomorrow morning. Anti-serendipitously, I had planned to write about my grandma today (without having known about the accident), following a conversation I had had with my sister, but now it feels like a bigger deal. I’m going to write anyway, but watch this spot, because I’ll very likely revise this entry to do proper justice to the subject. Anyway.

My grandma was born in England in 1922. She was a nurse aide during the second world war and bicycled through the English countryside during the blackouts delivering supplies to various hospitals and medical centres, one time pitching headfirst into a ditch and knocking out some teeth. She became interested in communism following the war and has remained a principled leftist and keen political observer. During the brief time between leases one summer that I lived with her, I was more up on current events (especially local and provincial politics) than I have ever been in my life. Long story short: my grandma is awesome, and I am unmitigated scum for not calling her as often as I should.

Bringing it back to VeganMoFo, though, my grandma was also the person who taught me to bake. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of standing on a footstool at her kitchen counter making jam tarts – tiny, simple tarts made of basic pastry and homemade raspberry jam. Baking jam tarts with my grandma was my absolute, bar-none favorite thing when I was five years old. It’s hard to remember now how much I was actually able to do, but at the time, it seemed like my grandma hardly did any of the work, which meant that I was, at five, a totally awesome baker. Of course, grandma must have done most of the work (I live with a five-year-old now, and she is balls in the kitchen), but she did it in such a way that I felt like I was in charge. I guess the really awesome thing she did was give me confidence, and I am thankful that that confidence in my ability to make food has carried through to today.

I’m not an amazing cook. I’m a pretty good baker and definitely serviceable in the kitchen, but I know when I’m out of my league. I make the odd crappy dish (like the first thing I ever made for my husband and didn’t have any time at all and only had shitty knives and pots and pans, and the kitchen was a mess, and I was so nervous, and my dish sucked so bad, and I was so embarassed oh my god), and I still sometimes have to throw things away and start from scratch, but I’ve never had to deal with the hand-wringing, anxiety-inducing crises of confidence that so many people have when it comes to cooking. Cooking and baking have never been scary to me, and for that, I think I largely have my grandma to thank.

I had meant to post the recipe for those little jam tarts before I found out about the accident, but now I can’t call my grandma to get the pastry recipe she used. Instead, I’ll just have to leave you with a promise to make them tomorrow and admonitions to all call your grandmas, you unappreciative jerks.

VeganMoFo: Cultural Soup Hegemony!
October 1, 2008, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Cooking, Veganism, VeganMoFo | Tags: , , ,

For this, the first day of VeganMoFo, I decided to try some cultural appropriation in the form of my friend Mel C‘s Vietnamese-style Soup.

As a Canadian, I live in a multicultural society, but as a vegan, I sometimes find my ability to try truly authentic foods from different cultures and ethnic groups hampered. I couldn’t tell you what prosciutto tastes like, where to get a good plate (I think it’s served on a plate, anyway) of ceviche, or even how to properly pronounce “pho” (well, until I read Mel’s blog entry on that particular dish). In short, while I am eager to try new things, I am, at least in my town, sometimes unable. So, in the spirit of actually trying something new (and in the spirit of cheering up my recently-single sister, whose lust for Vietnamese soups is impressive and insatiable), I set out to make Mel’s Vietnamese-style soup.

Mel’s recipe calls for some ingredients not available in “regular” supermarkets, so I made a run over to Lucky 97 “Oriental Market” for some provisions. I visit Lucky 97 pretty regularly (I am lucky to live a 15 or 20-minute walk away from both an Italian supermarket and Lucky 97), but some of the ingredients in this soup had me wandering the aisles, looking, I’m sure, very much like the clueless white girl I am. Tamarind paste had me particularly mystified, and I never did find Ngo Om, a supposedly common herb in Vietnamese cooking. In this recipe, I ended up adding some thai basil in lieu of the Ngo Om, which is probably sacrilege, but I’m a basil freak, so I decided to go with it and put my own distinctive Western stamp on this otherwise traditional dish.

I did end up scoring tamarind paste (which, I learned, comes in seeded and unseeded varieties; I bought seeded but should have bought unseeded for this soup), lemongrass stalks, vegetarian “fish” sauce (well, called “dipping sauce” in English but “Poisson” in French), and, unrelated to the soup, steamed pumpkin buns, and some of the most amazing coconut ice cream (ingredients: coconut milk, sugar, coconut meat) I’ve ever had.

Mel’s recipe is amazingly straightforward: essentially, put all the ingredients in a pot (except whatever you use for protein and some fresh garnishes) and simmer for 35 – 45 minutes. Preparation was done while the pot bubbled, which made for amazing ease of cooking – I set up my cutting board next to the stove and just tossed stuff in as I chopped it, saving the fresher ingredients like the fresh tomato and garnishes and tofu for last.

Honestly, the hardest thing about this recipe was carting the groceries home, followed closely by getting the rather unorthodox packaging of the veggie fish sauce open. Otherwise, while I was a little hesitant to put the pineapple in for the full cooking time (I shouldn’t have been because it really added to the flavour), this was one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever made.

The finished product was, by far, the best Vietnamese-style soup I’ve ever had. The broth took on a bit of the tang from the pineapple, but tempered it with a bit of heat from the chili sauce I added (not too much – I’m a wuss) and the saltiness of the broth. The soup was just spicy enough to make my nose run a bit (which means it will be perfect for cold winter nights), but with enough big chunks of pineapple and tomato and with enough herbs to make it interesting.

Beautiful, isn’t it?