Sunday, September 20, 2009

My Crazy Pine Nut Adventure!

Earlier this week, we had a lovely family dinner to celebrate my Aunt L's birthday. We wanted it to be a special feast, so I took this occasion to finally make the Moussaka with Pine Nut Cream from Veganomicon. I've made the Pine Nut cream many times, for use on lasagnas and manicotti and stuffed shells... but I'd never actually made the whole Moussaka recipe. Since we had 14 wonderful family members in attendance, I made two huge casseroles of Moussaka.

(I also made a successful Soy-Free version of the Pine Nut Cream, if anyone's interested. My brother's girlfriend's daughter can't eat soy products, so I made her a little tiny Moussaka of her own. I subbed out the silken tofu and used a combination of ground up raw cashews, So Delicious Plain Coconut Yogurt, lemon juice, and water instead. Due to the sweetener in the yogurt - boo! - it was a tiny bit sweeter than the tofu version , but not in a way that detracted from the quality of the dish. And it baked up great. I was pretty stoked!)

For dessert I made some super yummy chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting. I used the Vegan Chocolate Cake from Joy of Cooking, except I use 8 Tbsp of cocoa instead of 6. It makes the cake even more tender and light, and adds even more chocolately goodness. Obviously, that is an improvement!

*Shout out for the new Soy-Free Earth Balance, which let our little soy-free friend have frosted cuppers AND garlic bread!!

Well, this meal was very delicious, and everyone enjoyed it. Mr. Vegan Eats & Treats and I even had it again for leftovers the next night. Then, the adventure began...

I woke up two days after the birthday dinner and had some cereal for breakfast. Then I had a nectarine, which tasted horribly bitter. It was weird, since all the other nectarines I'd bought at the same time had been great. Then, this bitter taste stayed in my mouth for about an hour. At lunch I made toast and a giant salad. I thought maybe my salad had "gone off" because it was pretty nasty and bitter too. Then I got worried, and started cleaning the heck out of my kitchen. Was something contaminating every thing I was cooking? I scrubbed and sanitized all the knives and cutting boards. I brushed my teeth (and my entire mouth) about ten times. Still, it lasted. And still yet, the next morning, I cut some watermelon for breakfast only to find it gross and bitter. I was getting sad.

Mr. VE&T suggested I do a search online, and in No Time Flat, I had discovered the cause of this horrible curse: PINE NUTS! Crazy! It turns out to be a documented reaction to pine nuts, called Pine Mouth. The weird thing is that it's officially NOT an allergy, and they don't really understand why it happens. Of all the 14 people who ate the Moussaka, I'm the only one this happened to. (thank god! I'd hate for my tasty vegan birthday food to bum out anyone else!). AND, like I said, I've made this recipe many times before. It appears to be a particular defense (like Poison Oak) of a particular species of Pine Trees, probably from China. The pine nuts have been tested and aren't contaminated or sprayed... it's just inherent in the nuts. So, isn't that crazy? Now it's been about 5 days, and I think it's mostly over. I'm so grateful, because for some folks it can last up to 2 weeks. Phew! I got off easy.

It'll take more than this to make me give up on Pine Nuts, but for sure I'll look for pine nuts that aren't from the Far East to rule out this response.

ps. It's almost time for VeganMoFo - a whole month of Vegan Blogging!!! In October, I'll be blogging every day, hoping for a perfect record compared to last year when I was forced to miss a day (forced by totally substandard "wifi" service at a Motel 6 in San Luis Obispo!). Check out Kittee's Blog for a list of all the vegan blogs participating this year. Get your hats on, Round Three's gonna be a wild ride!


  1. I was horrified when I read about your pine nut adventures on the ppk... now I'm eying the pine nuts in my fridge with suspicion! Ack. I'm so glad it didn't last freaking 2 weeks for you! Anyway, I can't wait for veganmofo, it's like an annual blog gathering! Can't wait to see what you'll be up to...

  2. SO WEIRD! I have heard about this before and it sounds so awful, I'm really sorry that it happened to you. Pine nuts have a metallic taste to me when I eat them but luckily nothing has ever stuck around. Your dishes look stunning, though!

  3. I read from another blog about someone going through pine mouth too. That was actually my first thought when I read that your recipe contained pine nuts.
    Hope the 'distaste' goes away soon.

  4. So funny- I just read about this on another vegan food blog! I made the moussaka also recently and was thankfully spared, but I was on the lookout. Wonder if there is some homeopathic cure to make the taste go away quicker? (Like gargling with vinegar or something?)

  5. Anonymous9:06 AM

    Oh no! I had never heard of this before. Crazy! I am so sad that you had to experience this that the end of the summer with all of the yummy foods around. :(

    -- jen e.

  6. That moussaka is so awesome!
    I read about that pine nut mouth on somebody else's blog a couple of months ago. I am sorry this happened to you as well.

  7. I have never heard of that sort of reaction to pine nuts. That is so bizzaro! I love that moussaka. I don't think I've made it in a year.

    I'm glad you're back to normal now!

  8. hiya lovely! can you email me your address for the fairtrade goodies? jumptolastchristmas at gmail dot com thanks! <3

  9. Glad to hear you're recovering from the pine mouth - sounds horrible. But that's so awesome everyone enjoyed the vegan dinner, it looks amazing! and excellent job on creating soy-free versions!

  10. Anonymous1:56 PM

    Wow, that moussaka looks amazing, I might buy the book you made it from just to make it! The muffins look amazing too, I hope your aunt had a great b/day.

  11. that is so weird! I had something else to say I'm sure, but I got completely distracted by the zucchini dish that's underneath this one as I type right now!! I can't believe you made THE ratatouille. Or maybe I can believe it and I'm just really impressed. :D

  12. Crazy pine nuts! I'm glad you were able to soy free it for your friend.

  13. Attack of the Pine Mouth! I've heard of it before, but it still seems crazy. I'm hoping I never have to deal with it, cause it sounds just awful. Glad that nobody else had to go through it, I'd feel awful too if I gave someone else Pine Mouth!

    Looking forward to reading your mofo posts!

  14. That's so weird! I had never heard of the pine mouth thing before, but it sounds horrible... I would hate not being able to taste anything properly. I'm glad it at least only lasted 5 days, and I hope you doesn't happen to you again!
    The moussaka does look great.


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