2/22/10

Why I Love Vegan Cooking!


Its no new observation that necessity spurs creativity. How many dishes were created in a situation of deprivation that are now considered haute cousine? Southern soul food, Italian pasta dishes, bangers and mash, pad thai- the dishes that are created to feed hungry families with a minimum of expensive ingredients have a way of making their way into our hearts and getting reinvented. Vegan and vegetarian dishes are also often spurred by necessity- but it is a self-imposed necessity.

Whether to avoid animal cruelty, for health reasons, or for mere distaste towards animal products, the vegetarian lifestyle is always a sort of self-imposed exile. The way that a herbivore views supermarkets, restaurants, the homes of our friends and families, not to mention special occasions and religious holidays, necessarily changes, and this shift can be extremely jarring at first.

More important is the change that happens in our own homes. There is no way to be vegan and to be complacent about what you put into your body. Instead, the ingredients of any given item must be examined for animal products, and the results are often surprising. Fish sauce in my favorite stir fry sauce? Chicken broth in vegetable soup? Lard in potato chips or canned beans? Who knew? And this realization is really the key- we don't always know what is in our favorite foods. Once we do, don't we need to create new favorites?

For me, my tastes have completely changed since I went vegetarian. The most important shift is that I vastly prefer food I prepare from basic ingredients to food that comes frozen, canned, or delivered. Not only because I can be sure of exactly what is in it, but also because I have discovered what a constant source of fun and even mental stimulation cooking vegan food can be.

Which takes me back to the creativity thing. The fact that, for a vegan, a craving for say, lasagna, usually can't be fulfilled with a trip to the supermarket or take-out from your favorite Italian place forces you to come up with something yourself. The first time I made lasagna with artichokes it I was amazed- not only that it tasted awesome, but that I had thought of it. And I think this sort of "a-ha!" that you can get when you figure out a perfect egg or cheese substitute, or whatever, is one of the reasons that vegan cooking is so exciting and undergoing such a renaissance. Combinations that people would never think of get tossed into every page of the new vegan cookbooks and on every vegan blog. Coconut milk on pizza? Sweet potato falafel? "Cheddar Cheese" made of almonds? Its like the futurist cookbook came to life. And the best part is that vegan cooking is not only the realm of vegans. The more people that try, say, cashew sour cream, vegan cupcakes, or banana "ice cream" the more they realize that it is easy to make healthier and way more interesting food, as part of a complete diet or as an accent to their omnivore lifestyle. And I firmly believe that people will look back on this era of food history, with heroes like Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Sarah Kramer, and Bryant Terry, as a time of amazing innovation that changed the way EVERYONE eats, not just vegans.

Ultimately, I think that a vegan diet almost always has the result of not limiting your choices, but of changing your entire perspective on what is normal and delicious. That's the remarkable side effect of going vegan: an irresistible expansion of ones tastes to allow for food that is more exciting, more strange, and above all, imbued with the lightness that comes from knowing that no one had to die for your dinner. And that's why I love, love, love vegan cooking in all its forms.

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Why do YOU love vegan cooking?

12 comments:

Mihl said...

Ha, I love vegan cooking and vegan food for eactly the same reasons. Great post!

The Ordinary Vegetarian said...

Great post, very inspirational for a vegan newbie like me (1 month now!). So far what I love about vegan cooking is the additional creativity it has prompted. Most people assume a vegetarian or vegan diet limits you, but in both instances it expanded my pantry and experience.

Thanks for the links too, I plan on making that sweet potato falafel tonight.. outrageous!

Bianca said...

I couldn't have said it better! I always feel kinda sorry for folks who love to cook but eat the SAD diet. They're so limited in what they can make. As a cook, going vegan opens up new worlds of possibility. The same can be said for exploring raw un-cooking. The sky is the limit.

The Voracious Vegan said...

Obviously I love vegan cooking because it is the best thing for the animals, for the planet, and for my health.

But I ALSO love it because it is so darn tasty! And yes, my creativity bloomed after going vegan, I had to spread my culinary wings and find a new groove in the kitchen and my cooking talents grew immensely.

This is an AWESOME post, very well written and pleasure to read. Thank you!

rad said...

I apologize for using a comment to contact you but I could not find your name or email address. I wanted to let you know that I can make review copies available of any of our books that you might want to share with your readers. (I am vegan because it's healthier and I don't believe in practicing cruelty. Also, I love vegan food when it's well prepared.)

Rick Diamond
Marketing Dept.
Book Publishing Company
www.bookpubco.com
rick@bookpubco.com

jessy said...

ooooh, i love this post! my tastes totally changed when i became vegan as well, T. it shocked me - and it's so much fun! there isn't a vegetable i don't like, and i love trying new flavor combinations. i've found that i am more picky with what i consider to be an excellent meal. you should see dan & i pick apart and constructively criticize vegan meals we enjoy when we're dining out. it's fun, and we like to tell each other what we like about the dish & what we'd do differently - cracks me up!

i am with you on why i love vegan cooking too, T. i have become so much more creative in the kitchen, expanded my palete, i actually cook more than i ever did before, i appreciate my food more, and i really truly enjoy food & feel more connected to what i'm eating. it's so wonderful! knowing that everything is cruelty free makes me most happyfaced too! wahooooooooo!

Briana said...

And this post is precisely, exactly, categorically why I love you, and I'm glad you turned me vegetarian seven years ago. Thank you, T.

HayMarket8 said...

Awesome post. Before I was vegan I hated mushroom and like the week after I changed my diet i started craving them! Fun times!

sophia said...

lovely post, and yay for the futurist cookbook! if only there were a vegan version.

glutenfreewelshy said...

I couldn't agree more. My diet is both vegan and gluten-free. People are often shocked by this and feel so sorry for me. But I LOVE eating this way. And it has taught me a new consciousness of what I'm putting in my body and how I feel both physically and mentally as a result. Great post! :)

soulsearcher said...

delicious food looks more sumptuous when served in a lovely serving tray

McKella said...

Great post! I love vegan cooking because it skips all the parts of cooking I hate, like cutting, cooking, and cleaning up meat!
Also, it's guilt-free.