I have more than a bit of a compulsion to match food with circumstance, and it’s amazing how strong these associations can be. Cheese goes with wine, Sunday breakfast means bacon and eggs with a latte, Hockey Night in Canada means burgers and nachos and wings, Easter is ham, Christmas is turkey, a perfect summer’s night should be acknowledged with salmon on the BBQ, nothing says Sunday dinner like a roast and Yorkshire pudding. You get the idea.
I know I’m far from alone in growing up with these associations. This is precisely why they are so powerful! It’s not just that they’re a kind of shared language; these pairings also bring history to the plate. It took some serious brain reprogramming for me to start feeling the same kind of connection to vegan alternatives – to feel that addictive brain spark of creating a synthesis. But then somewhere along the line it went from feeling like compromise to feeling like liberation.
There are four recipes in particular I thank for setting me FREE.
1. Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s curried scrambled tofu with wilted arugula from Appetite for Reduction. The original recipe isn’t online, unfortunately, but if I was going to tell you to buy one cookbook… Hands down!
I love this recipe because it’s a snap to make, is loaded with nutrition, and tastes fantastic. But beyond all these nice selling points, it feels like brunch.
2. More Appetite for Reduction… Lentil chipotle burgers.
These burgers opened my mind to how amazing veggie burgers can be. They are delicious hot. They are delicious cold. I have a whole list of favorites now (which I will compile as their own blog one day here), but these were my first love.
3. Southwest roasted asparagus and corn from The 30 Minute Vegan (Mark Reinfeld). It doesn’t look it in the photo and it probably sounds a bit unlikely, but this dish is AMAZING as nacho topping. Just nacho chips, a mound of the asparagus and corn, and big dollops of salsa and guacamole.
4. Barbecued seitan ribz by the FatFree Vegan, Susan Voisin. These did what I once thought would be impossible… got me through BBQ season without any sense of denial.
These recipes didn’t just help me step up my personal veganism, they also put me on the road to feeling like I was able to provide vegan food for others – not apologetically, but with the same confidence I used to feel that I was creating a shared mood. This makes me happy.