Five favourite food indulgences
Many of us have probably heard a veganized version of the “stranded on a deserted island” question, specifically “What would a vegan eat if they were stranded on a deserted island with only animals?” Well, should the day ever come, I’ll worry then about foraging for wild berries, roots, or how to open coconuts.
I have, however, asked myself what of the things I eat and drink would I loathe to be without. And though I thought that this would be a really easy question to answer, I realized that with the infinite number of things vegans can eat I wasn’t really sure what it was that I would pine for if it were gone. And so, as I mulled over this for the last week, here is a short and totally incomplete account of what floats my vegan boat.
Wanna to pontificate on what goodies you cannot do without? Leave a comment with your top five or post your own blog post. Tag – you’re it!
Earl Grey Tea
I’ve been drinking tea since I was a wee eight years old, and in a family of tea drinkers I lead the pack from as little as 2 to as many as 6 cups of black tea a day (I have rather large tea mugs). It must be a hereditary thing, as I am Scottish and the Scots love their tea. I started out with Tetley’s black lemon tea, as that is what my mum drank until it was discontinued. We moved on to Tetley’s strawberry tea and drank copious amounts of it until I discovered Tazo’s Earl Grey tea (before they sold out to the man). My holy grail of Earl Grey tea was discovered over a steamy cup of Numi’s Organic (and fair trade) Aged Earl Grey tea, though I don’t often buy it – there’s just 18 bags to a box for no less than $5.99 a box in most places in Vancouver. It’s the perfect balance of lovely bergamot flavour that most Earl Grey haters complain is too overwhelming in this kind of tea. Then at some point I happened upon the motherload – Ridgways’ Organic Earl Grey tea (made by the massive English tea company know as Typhoo). Ridgways is 40 bags of Earl Grey bliss for between $4.99 and $6.50. And I’ve found that you can easily get two cups of tea out of one bag since it seems that the bags are either made for two cups or the tea is ridiculously strong. Although I don’t drink it too much now due to anemia (it’s an anemia not due to a vegan diet, but it’s only made worse by my wanton consumption of tea), I would be bereft of my favourite tea should it disappear from store shelves. My mad plans for experimenting with tea in other foods would be dashed.
Is there really anyone who hasn’t heard of, tasted, or seen this stuff somewhere? My family’s been using it since the original buttery spread in the tub first came out – it’s as much a staple as cow’s milk or white bread or granulated sugar would be in other not so vegan homes. While most of my kin love to slather Earth Balance on their toast, muffins, and anything else that seems fit for a a pat of it, what I would miss the most are the buttery sticks (not pictured here). Many of us have used the spread for baking and with good results, though the product website doesn’t actually recommend the spread for baking. And this would have been nice to know three years ago when I attempted to veganize my family’s whipped shortbread recipe. That was the single most disastrous baking experience I’ve ever had – the buttery spread resulted in flat, oily, caramelized “cookies” that had to be peeled off the cookie sheets and promptly tossed. Obviously the spread was far too soft for baking such delicate cookies. Since then I’ve used only the sticks in baking, and with fabulous results. If these sticks were to disappear, cookie making would be a hopeless endeavour for the most part and any veganized recipe calling for “butter” to be cut into a floury dough would be pretty much impossible for me.
Yes, onions. You can get ’em nearly anywhere, and you can grown them almost anywhere too. We would really be in dire straits if onions were nowhere to be found – it’s likely nothing else edible would be around either. Now, I just don’t understand the hate-on for onions. To me, hating onions is like saying you hate water – both of them are pretty essential. I cook with them at least four times a week, and my favourite way to play with these golden beauties is to slow saute half-moon slices until the onion is a translucent agave-coloured mass of caramelized nirvana. This takes a little practice, patience, and time (if you’re not in a hurry) – about a good 10-15 minutes.
So, other than their divine yumminess, onions are awesome for other reasons too: they’ve been cultivated for more than 5,000 years and most likely originated in central Asia. According to the National Geographic’s Edible: An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Food Plants, onions are the single most depicted vegetable in ancient Egyptian art. They have some pretty stellar health benefits, notably the ability to improve cholesterol levels. And there are few things as amazing as a freshly harvested onion. Whether it is white, yellow, or red, the crispness and flavour of an onion just pulled from the earth is indescribable. And these fresh babes won’t make you cry either.
Plain Unsweetened Soy Milk
Being such a black tea enthusiast, I have tasted far and wide for the perfect soy milk for my tea. Original and vanilla-flavoured milks are fine for many things, but not for tea. And when you need a little splash of milk in mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, or some other savory nibbly, any hint of sweetness or vanilla can ruin a dish. Trust me on this – without a second though I once splashed some original-flavoured milk in my nearly perfect mashed potatoes only taste what I’d done and not be able get past the tinge of vanilla in my dijon-peppered potatoes. I’ve never done that again. Similarly, when you’re settling down to a nice cup of tea, or even coffee, sometimes the vanilla flavour used in most milks becomes the predominant flavour throughout the cup. Although there are many decent offerings of plain unsweetened soy milk available in markets, I always turn to Vitasoy’s Unsweetened Soy Beverage. Although it may still taste slightly “beany” to folk who don’t drink soy milk, this stuff is golden – it’s smooth taste and texture make it perfect for use in pretty much anything.
I love salsa however I can get it. Traditional home-made from scratch, green, red, and even the pressure cooked jarred stuff in the stores. I put it in scrambled tofu, over baked potatoes, in tofu omelets, on burgers, in tacos, fajitas, burritos, or I eat it on its own with chips or pitas. More than any recycled glass jars in my cupboards, you’ll see salsa jars. And though I like the hotness of some salsa, especially salsas with chipotle peppers or pickled jalapenos, I generally go with mild salsas when I’m using it with something more than chips. But it’s gotta be chunky. The chunkier, the yummier.
Home made salsa and jarred salsa are dramatically different from one another, and it really depends on the mood I am in. More often than not, though, I turn to jarred salsa for its zesty, vinegar-y, salty, onion-y goodness and because I don’t have to take the time to make it. I really think it’s actually a comfort food of sorts for me, because I always seem to have a jar of it and it’s one of my go-to foods whenever my hangry monster needs appeasing.
For some odd reason, store-bought salsa is not cheap. I usually buy it on sale if I can, and most of the time I buy it organic because looking at a jar of non-organic gets my mind going about the GMO-ness of non-organic tomatoes.