Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Well, this week’s blog may not impact those of you who live in a galaxy far, far away but it may stimulate an idea or two.  For the past few weeks, we have been working with the Animal Rescue Fund of MS (ARF/MS) on a fund-raising event. It has the rather cryptic working title of A.B.S.L.N.O.  WTF? you ask yourself.

Almond cookies!
Yep, we are putting together an all vegan bake sale consisting of both savory (breads and such) and sweet (cookies, cakes and such). We are doing this for a couple of reasons…first and foremost, to raise a bit of ‘bread’ (ha!) for the good works that this NO KILL-ALL KINDNESS shelter does AND to raise awareness of just how GOOD vegan foods can be. Since EVERYBODY likes cookies and bread stuffs, we thought that a bake sale (like no other) would be a good place to start. Most people have the notion that being vegan means giving up all the great food in the world and living an ascetic lifestyle of denial and ‘food poverty’. Nothing could be further from the truth, although I will say that there are challenges and an occasional mental lapse into “I could eat a prime rib the size of Texas”.

And vegans range from wannabe to militant with all of the degrees in between.  There are
Whoopee pies!
folks who do not get terribly upset if a molecule of casein (an ingredient found in animal milks) goes down their unsuspecting throat or they find out too late that an ingredient (such as an egg wash) was omitted from a label and some egg was ingested. AND THEN…there are folks who are aghast if a person wears leather or eats honey (bees are indeed animals). We hope to have items at A.B.S.L.N.O. that will appeal to everyone!! Vegans and non-vegans alike. We are not there to proselytize but to offer quality baked goods that are plant-based.

Scattered throughout this weeks blog are pictures of some of the items that will be for sale!!
We will have a Celebrity Chefs Table with baked goods donated by some of the area restaurants chefs.  We are excited at their support and hope that they will challenge themselves to create some really cool vegan items. 

Now, if this goes over well and we are pretty excited about it, we will certainly have another one and possibly expand the items to more than just baked. There are as many opportunities to share the wealth of vegan goodness than just baked stuffs, so stay tuned. We will take pictures on the day of the sale and most definitely blog it.  The kind folks at Renaissance on Colony Parkway have donated a terrific space for us to ply our wares and have been most helpful with suggestions, support and participation. We also want to thank the merchants of Renaissance on Colony Parkway for their participation in the form of donations, items to sell and assisting with publicity. For those of you who are not familiar, Renaissance on Colony Parkway is a beautiful, upscale outdoor mall in Ridgeland MS and hosts many premier events throughout the year.

Hot Mexican Chocolate!
Vegan Milanos and more!!
I turned 68 (HOLY CRAP!!) this week and therefore got to eat out a couple of times.  Had a lovely dinner at City Grille in Madison on Saturday with a fabulous creation by Chef Zack—so fabulous, I inhaled it before taking a picture. Just think several types of mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes and his fabulous knack for a delicious sauce.
And Anjou in Ridgeland where they have a standard item on their menu that is easily veganized.

I am also recovering from a pretty nasty fall (I now know why old people don’t want to fall) so didn’t do much in the way of cooking/baking until earlier this week. We’d make a pretty significant dent in our plant based sausages, so Monday, I made 12 Andouille sausages and Tuesday (yesterday) 12 brats! They freeze great and should last us a month or so.

Sausages fresh from the steamer!

The recipes for these sausages can be found via The Gentle Chef in his fabulous cookbook called, oddly enough, The Gentle Chef Cookbook. I use Chef Skye-Michael’s recipes SO MUCH.  Chef Skye-Michael had an interesting post on his site today about plant based foods that replicate or are alternatives to meats and other non-vegan items. It sorta goes along with our discussion earlier in this blog about the variation in vegans from lax to militant. He gave me permission to post it, so here you go:
I occasionally receive criticisms for promoting meat and egg "imitations", so again I feel it's time to address this issue.

Yes, my recipes focus heavily upon meat and egg imitations (or as I prefer to call them, "alternatives"), and of course there's a percentage of the vegan population who, for their own reasons, shun any foods that resemble meat and eggs (oddly enough, I seldom find that these same people object to milk and cheese alternatives, which I find a bit hypocritical since the dairy industry is just as cruel and exploitative, if not more so than the meat industry).

Maintaining a vegan diet is easy for individuals who have an aversion to animal-based foods. It’s not going to be easy, however, for individuals who enjoy those flavors and textures. The reality is we live in a meat-centric society and many of us grew up on a diet of meat, eggs and dairy. This addiction to animal-based foods is woven into every fiber of our culture. It takes time to rewire our brains into accepting change, especially for those who perhaps never cared for vegetables and “health food” in the first place. More than likely, if you offer bean curd and pea shoots to die-hard carnivores at a football tailgate party, you’re not going to elicit a positive response.

My goal then, is to create foods which will sway the greatest number of people over to compassionate cooking and dining. People thrive on familiarity and if that familiarity can be satisfied, then there is a greater chance of success with this transition.

Both of my current cookbooks and my upcoming cookbook are geared towards replicating dishes that many of us grew up with: foods that are familiar and represent tradition - foods that evoke a feeling of nostalgia. Chikun seitan, for example, is seasoned appropriately to replace chicken in traditional dishes that call for chicken, and the same applies to beaf seitan. These plant-based meats not only provide a psychological trigger, but they're necessary from a culinary perspective in combining the right flavor and texture combinations. Wine would be a very similar comparison - some wines pair better with certain types of food. Even if animal foods had never been consumed by anyone, we would still be shaping and naming our plant proteins for the sake of variety, so we simply shape and name them according to what we're familiar with.

And for the record, I really despise the term "fake meat". There is nothing fake about plant-based proteins; seitan and textured soy protein are foods in their own right. Although plant proteins can imitate some meat-like textures, they do not imitate skin, bones, tendons, blood nor the fear and pain that accompanies the slaughter of an animal.

And so where should we draw the line? Should we abstain from tofu because it resembles egg whites? Do we reject mushrooms because they have an earthy flavor and a chewy texture that can be described as "meaty"? Do we shun a lentil and rice patty because it vaguely resembles a beef hamburger; or avoid soy milk because it resembles dairy milk? To what extreme do we need to go to prove how "evolved" and how vegan we are? I have no desire to ever eat real meat again - it's the combinations of seasonings and sauces that I crave. It's the satisfaction of eating something I can sink my teeth into; hearty foods that fill me up and stick to my ribs; foods that remind of holiday traditions or cookouts or camping trips with friends and family in the Summertime.

As vegans we're very passionate about our ethical beliefs in regards to animals. But meat, egg and dairy replacements are not harming animals; and although there may be some uncanny similarities in names, flavors and textures, there is no cruelty involved. Enjoying these foods does not imply that we actually crave the real thing.

So in closing, if these foods still do not appeal to you, that's fine. Every individual is unique. But it's important to understand that many other vegans can tell the difference in their own minds between a seasoned cutlet of gluten and an actual breast of chicken. The bottom line is, not every form of vegan cuisine is going to please everyone and if you don't care for it, you don't have to eat it. But please, don't criticize it. Thank you.
 And that’s a wrap for this week…make that a vegan wrap. Til next week, y’all, breathe deep, eat plants and love life.
The Elf

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