Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Yogic Vegan Julia

Another cookbook recommendation!  (I am still using that other one I posted about a TON, by the way.)  This one is vegan, rather than just vegetarian, which is nice as we're trying to eat a more plant-based diet for the environment and for our health and all that.  It's a funny read and full of really amazing food that's not too fiddly but interesting.  And it is all very substantial and nourishing-- not a cookbook of wimpy salads or some such unsatisfactory rot.  We've had great luck with some of the sandwiches, soups, and sauces so far, and I'm really looking forward to using some of more autumnal recipes when the season starts to turn.  Sometimes it seems a little harder to think of non-meat options for food when the weather is colder and there isn't as much seasonal produce available.  Anyway, it's a great addition to the cookbook shelf of anybody looking to reduce the amount of animal-based food you're eating.

I haven't tried any of the baked goods in the cookbook; I actually haven't tried any vegan baking at all yet, come to think of it.  Baking with no eggs or butter or dairy?  I am quite skeptical.  Recipes for vegan baking tend to be full of the weird substitute foods like egg substitute powder or vegan margarine or whatever.  I have a bias toward cooking with "real" food and not things that seemed overly processed or unidentifiable.  I did recently see a recipe for vegan chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting that looked really interesting, though.  It used avocados (definitely a "real" food by my definition) to replace the eggs and some of the fat, which is a fantastic idea since they have the same kind of emulsifying molecules as eggs.  Perhaps I shall be adventurous...  It will be hard because we love avocados to excess at our house; sacrificing some of them to cupcakes might be distressing.  Which do we like more, chocolate cupcakes or guacamole?  It's a choice I had hoped never to be faced with.

I am a pretty experienced and adventurous cook, and things generally tend to go well for me in the kitchen.  Few and far between are the nights when Rob and I look at each over dinner and admit that what is in front of us is not really edible and we should break out leftovers or frozen pizza or something.  My forays into vegan cooking did bring about such an experience recently though.  I tried to make seitan for the first time.  Seitan is a high-protein food made from wheat gluten, so it's kind of like tofu, but made from wheat instead of soy.  It has a really different texture than tofu, though-- not creamy and more "meaty" and with a toothsome bite to it.  Or so I've heard.  The texture of MY seitan was more what I would characterize as, oh, inedibly tough and rubbery.  My diagnosis is that I overcooked it in the last pan-frying stages.  People keep saying how wonderful it is and it certainly was easy to make, so maybe I'll try again.  Maybe in a few months when the memory of masticating that rubber in port-cherry reduction sauce has faded.

I went to a yoga class last week at the YMCA and after what seemed like a fairly typical, mainstream yoga class, the instructor read a verse from the Bible during savasana. Only in the Bible Belt...  I really love yoga and I guess I would describe my view of it as mainly exercise with a strong mind/body connection component that helps me deal with stress, being intentional through my day, being more contemplative, etc.  I don't consider it part of my spiritual life, though.  I'm not really up in arms or anything and it wouldn't stop me from going, but it certainly struck me as odd.  If you're going to make more spiritual aspects of yoga a part of your practice, it seems weirdly syncretistic to mix it with Christianity, like voodoo in Caribbean cultures or the medieval Roman Catholics deciding to have eggs at Easter or a tree at Christmas. Of course, I don't mind having Easter eggs or Christmas trees so maybe this shouldn't strike me as weird. The Christian faith impacting the culture around it, or trying to make Christianity something it is not?  I don't know...

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