Hope Sinks

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.

July 24, 2008, 12:20 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

If you’re anything like me, baking with yeast seems like too much of a hassle most of the time. Looking at it rationally, I know that the only real difference between yeast baking and “regular” baking is that I need to find something else to do for an hour or so while the dough rises when I bake with yeast. It’s not really a big deal, especially given the backlog of books I have to get through, but it seems I have a mental block about baking with yeast. For me, when you add a boil/bake process into the mix, you’ve got pretty much my own personal last frontier of baking. I’m in the middle of a 9-day stretch of working without a day off, but today I only have a short evening shift and have the house to myself until I leave, so since Isa recently posted a tester bagel recipe, I figured I’d take a whack at bagels for the first time ever.

Though I live in Edmonton, Alberta (right in the middle of the Canadian prairies and not exactly a bagel haven), I do know from good bagels, having lived in Montreal, Quebec for four years during my undergraduate degree. Montreal, for the uninformed, is home to some of the more famous bagels in the world (no, serious) and certainly the best bagels in Canada. St. Viateur Bagel and Fairmont Bagel are both open 24 hours, constantly cranking out bagels (and sometimes matzoh). Whenever I would come back to Edmonton from Montreal, I was bombarded with orders for dozens of sesame and poppyseed. It wasn’t unusual for me to run 6 or 8 dozen bagels back home. Sadly, all “Montreal Style” bagels contain egg, so in the past 5.5 years, I’ve been making do with crappy Dempster’s bagels.

The recipe is pretty basic and makes plain, white bagels, which, really, is exactly what you tend to want in a bagel. The preparation took a bit over 2 hours, but a lot of that was idle time spend listening to the radio and dicking around on the internet, not actively cooking. The skills required to make bagels are pretty basic. All you really need to know is how to knead dough (easy) and form blobs of dough into passable bagel shapes (less easy, but not too hard and something I suspect gets quickly easier with practise).

I can’t write much about the recipe or process, so instead, I’ll just leave you with my final impression: making bagels made me feel really accomplished. My husband said they look “retarded,” but I think that’s supposed to be kind of compliment, and fuck him anyway. If I do nothing else today, I will have at least done this! I urge you all to try out an intimidating or time-consuming recipe you’ve been eyeing this week. Also, here are a couple pictures, but they’re not very good. Maybe I’ll use this afternoon to read up on digital photography…

A Couple of Things
November 14, 2007, 11:28 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Monday was one of those lazy days where you get up early and start off full of ambition and feel like you’re going to get so much done, and then you come to and realize that it’s 4:30, getting dark, and you’re still in your underpants with no bra. It was one of those days that I was grateful I kind of had a mulligan for. The one thing I did that was productive (aside from get in a raging fight with my sister) was make apple turnovers.

The recipe came from the Let’s Get Baked website again, and I listened to the accompanying podcast while baking. I’m always wary of recipes that call for pastry. I feel like they take too long, and my pastry has always been not flaky enough. Fortunately, my new kitchen, well, my dad’s kitchen, has a food processor, which is basically (I found out) the magic bullet of pastry. Shortening and flour go in, and then when you mix everything up, it’s magically perfect. The filling is easy, and it was good enough, but holy balls, am I ever good at making pastry now!

That same night, I made Isa and Terry’s chickpea cutlets from their new book, the Veganomicon. I was scared that they weren’t going to cook all the way through in the frying pan, but they did, and the mustard sauce (also from VCon) that I made was perfect with them.

Finally, an ode to simplicity. I came home late last night after a long day capped with an aquacize class. I was hungry, and everyone had gone to bed. I’m trying not to eat all of my dad and stepmom’s good food, so I wanted to go simple. I ended up taking some thick slices of tofu and some chunks of tomato and frying them up with a little bit of soy sauce. I topped it all off with the mustard sauce from the night before. I figured it would be edible, but it was actually great. I guess it means you’re a lifer vegan when you realize that you actually kind of like the taste of tofu…

Sorry to be so boring – I know I don’t have the flair of many of my fellow veganmofoers, but I’m working on it!