Friday, May 30, 2008
Evolution of a Vegan Taste Bud
We've all said it:
"Even my omni boyfriend/friend/dad loved it!"
I've been thinking about it lately. At first, when I was just starting to be a vegan, it was really exciting to make something that tasted "just like the real thing." And even still, it's very exciting to cook up a vegan meal for an omnivore, and have them like the food. We all want to show those omni folks in our lives how filling and fulfilling vegan eating can be.
But, on the other hand, do people who eat all that meat and dairy really have more important/refined taste buds than vegans do?
This takes me back to one of my original complaints about vegan food. My motivation for following a vegan diet is really based in the ethics of animal treatment. When I first started eating vegan, I kept saying "Just because it's vegan, doesn't mean it need to be healthy!" It drove me nuts that every time I managed to find a vegan cookie somewhere, it was made with sunflower seeds and applesauce and whole wheat flour.
Since that time, the vegan world has really evolved (thank goodness!), but so have my taste buds. It cracks me up now to hear the question "You're a vegan? What do you eat?" - Because I eat *such* a wider variety of foods now (as a vegan) than I ever did as an omnivore or vegetarian. Eating vegan encouraged me to really explore the world of veggies, greens, grains, fruits, spices, different kinds of flours and sweeteners... the list goes on and on.
Now, after years of eating vegan (maybe 8 years? I don't remember exactly), my tastes are broader - but also a bit healthier. All those years of reading the labels to make sure something is vegan also just makes you come to terms with what's in all these packaged foods! Gradually all that label reading has definitely made me prefer healthier eating. Plus, discovering the joys of produce and the farmer's market has led more and more in the direction of preferring fresh, whole foods. I've become more and more adventurous with trying out any new fruits or veggies I can get my hands on. And within all of that, I still feel strongly that vegan food should taste fantastic, and hold up to the flavors and textures of foods that omnivores enjoy and are used to.
And, I'm especially grateful to all these great vegans who have written up such amazing cookbooks to help me cook up such yummy & sophisticated foods for my own enjoyment, and that of all the beloved omnivores in my life.
Tonight I made a dinner that was so yummy that even my vegan aunt and her vegan boyfriend loved it! Oh, and my not-yet-vegan Grandpa loved it too!
That picture is tonight's dinner - a reasonably faithful adaptation of "Black Quinoa Cakes over Smoky Calypso Bean Sauce, Curried Squash, and Mango Habanero-Coconut Sauce" from "The Artful Vegan." Whoa! How's that for a title?? It was truly a splendid meal and, with all those components, took less than an hour from start to finish. Instead of bothering with making quinoa cakes, I just made a quinoa pilaf with all the ingredients in the recipe. The onions in the black beans were meant to be smoked, but I don't have a smoker (imagine that!), so I used a few dashes of liquid smoke to get that smoky flavor.One last quick variation, I just steamed up some chard from our garden, rather than bothering with the special collards in the recipe. Overall, the flavors, spices, and textures of this dinner were so harmonious and interesting - it was great dinner. That mango sauce really brought it all together with a cool, rich, creaminess. Fantastic.