Kitchen Struggles

Twelve years a vegan, I’ve changed.  Started out pretty gung ho.  Maybe even preachy.  Here I am at a table Lacey and I set up at Omaha’s Earthday in 2002.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So much caffeine!  I doubt there was a run on vegan cookbooks at the bookstore after listening to me prattle on about the joys of tofu.   Oh well.  At least Kinkos rocked the sign.

Today my outreach is limited to serving people good food in my home.  I feel guilty for not doing more, so I make a big deal out of any chance to serve a meal to omnivores.  Hosting my Scrabble group is a golden opportunity.  Usually seven guests and only one vegan in the bunch.  Love cooking for vegans, so supportive, but, as they say, the preacher should speak to the congregants.

For last night’s get together, I put together a country meal.  Beans, rice, collards, cornbread and chocolate pecan pie.  Simple, but it wasn’t easy.  I made the pie the day before.  It was a first try for me, but it went together easy and tasted great.  Nice comments at the meal.  Yeah!CB

I made the cornbread first thing in the morning.  I’ve made this a couple of dozen times so I knew it would be good.  The only real work is milling the cornmeal by hand.  The milling takes time, as does cleaning the mill, but fresh cornmeal makes a big difference.  I also roasted garlic for the beans while the cornbread baked.

Then the beans.  Should have been the easiest part, but I wanted to them to be special.  Bryant Terry’s recipe sounded so good.  Kidney beans with rich stock, thyme and roasted garlic, thickened by blending some of the beans and liquid and returning the “gravy” to the pot.  Not so easy.  I spotted the problem while there was time to fix it, but I plowed ahead.  This guy is a pro, after all.  I was to cook the beans in a pot with with two inches of water above the beans (not stock).  After two hours of cooking, there was still too much cooking water.  So much that the four cups of stock (the darkest, richest vegetable stock I had ever made) and two heads of roasted garlic would be lost in the drink.  Faith man!  I dumped the stock in the pot with the cooking water, blended some beans with liquid to make the gravy, tossed the gravy back in and ended up with… a pot of runny flavorless liquid with seemingly very few whole beans remaining.  Thirty minutes before the guests arrived, I discarded half the cooking liquid (there went half the delicious stock and garlic), then mixed a cup of the remaining cooking liquid with arrowroot powder and used the slurry to thicken the remaining cooking liquid.  Also added smoked paprika, sweet chili powder and chopped parsley.  A very different pot of beans, one that I could have made with very little effort in the pressure cooker, but at least it was presentable.  Actually got a lot of positive feedback.  Bryant must have cooked away all but a little of the water, but I followed his recipe and got a very different result.  I could have drained the beans, reserved the cooking water, then added the stock and proceeded.  If I was short on liquid, I could have added back some of the cooking water.  I’ve learned that lesson a hundred times before.  Once more, now, for good measure.

The rice was also from Bryant’s new book.  Garlic slices are fried to chips in oil, then reserved.  Onions and then the rice is cooked in the oil until fragrant, then water and salt is added for cooking and the garlic chips are added before serving.  Sounded great, but I wanted something even bolder.  I added cumin to the onions as they cooked and some coconut milk to the cooking water.  Even with my improvements, no one commented on the rice.  I liked it, but it seems like I could have served a pot of unseasoned brown rice.  Hmm.

The greens were a big hit, though.  I did my variation on Lagusta’s greens (sauté onions, garlic, ginger and celery in oil, add previously blanched collards and an inch of water, cook for fifteen to thirty minutes, then finish with a dressing of miso, shoyu, vinegar and maple syrup).  Easy and big, bright flavors.  Win!

Why are some people careful with compliments?  Like they might not have enough in reserve if they give out too many at one meal.  I try to say nice things about every element of every meal I am served.  I don’t lie–I just find something positive to say and make sure it is heard.  Easy.  Too often I am left to judge the success of a meal by clean plates and requests for seconds.   Last night, along with the smattering of compliments, all plates where clean and a few had seconds.  Good enough.  I was tired and relieved that my work as a vegan ambassador was done.

The goal can’t be converts.  That’s too much to expect.  I just want to give my guests  a good memory.  A brick to build on.  Maybe someday one of them will gather enough to make a wall.  Then we all win.  Now it is time to go make breakfast.

I hope you have a terrific weekend.

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6 responses to “Kitchen Struggles

  1. You are good, Randal Putnam, you are oh so good.

    • As are you! Thanks for the sharing the love. I saw a bumper sticker yesterday. “Shut Up Hippy.” I’m not a hippy, but I’d be proud if they’d have me. As such, that bumper sticker really hurt. I am sure the sticker owner is a great person. How’d the world twist them around so they’d think the sticker was funny? You are the antidote and I thank you.

  2. Mrs. Dr. Tom Falloon

    I still dream of your chicken fried steak and gravy. I miss you both. xoxo

    • Hey! Thanks for writing! So nice to hear from you. It’s been too long since we’ve spoken (and since we’ve shared chicken fried seitan and soy milk gravy–heck, we haven’t even had it for months). Should fix both failures soon. Be well.

  3. excellent submit, very informative. I ponder
    why the other experts of this sector don’t notice this. You must continue your writing. I am confident, you’ve a great readers’ base already!

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