Category Archives: Food

Bread alone.

I love markets.  Boy.  I love markets.  I loved our market in Brixton (though it’s changed something awful now), and I loved our market in Cagayan, particularly once I’d learned to navigate it properly.  Enter here, it’s stinky hanging meat everywhere – blech (snobby vegan priviledge…I can turn my nose up at stinky meat), enter there it’s the too-quiet dry goods corner, ergo lots of people chit-chatting away right up to the point that those two really tall Americans (because Chris was always American to them…poor guy) walk up and then it’s stare-central and a couple of, ‘You’re so height, man!’  Nope, it had to be entry number 3 – eggs and fruits, and a ninja-like entry, speedy as I could walk, smile here, nod there, and off to the vendors with whom we most liked doing business.

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Second time’s a charm: Compote 101

Wintertime in (this part of) rural France is marked by many things:  coats and gloves, but more importantly scarves; apéros in more often than nights out; alternating wind and rain and snow; and food…lots of food.  France is a foodie country…I know – lots of countries can make that claim, but a few are just a little more so than others.  Ethiopia, Italy, China, Morocco, Mexico…these are countries known for their food.  France is right up there.

As a vegan there are, of course, all sorts of French nibbles in which I happily do not partake.  But there are two staples in near enough everybody’s fridge and freezer I could eat year-round if they’d let me: soupe and compote.  Now I realize that I could have spelled soup without an “e” and left the italics off it, but la soupe of which I speak is not something eaten by the average anybody-else, and it is eaten with a nearly religious reverence – it’s not quite borscht (borsch?), but almost.  Incidentally, there are those here who fervently hate la soupe.  Chris is one of them.

But la soupe is for another post.  Chris is coming back tomorrow.  And he does not hate la compote.  In fact, he’s usually (read: always) the one to make it.  I tried once.  It was going to be wonderful.  The apples were soft, but I was off to lunch at the in-laws.  I turned off the stove – swear I did – and came back a couple hours later to find the flat filled with smoke, my compote, and my – ahem – our Le Creuset pot ruined.  A scary, bad afternoon, that was.  But apples were 1€/kilo at the market last weekend, so I thought I’d give it another go.

This isn’t, ladies and gentlemen, your ordinary ol’ apple sauce – non!  Because you make it at home.  Because it’s hot before it’s cold.  Because you literally put sugar and spice into the pot.  This is compote.  I had no idea what I was doing in terms of quantities or timing, but it turned out perfect.  Which leads me to believe it might be pretty hard to mess it up.

Makes 2 big mason jars’ worth.

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London Musings Vol. I: (Mostly) For Vegans

I am officially on day 7 of my 14 day stint in London and these three things are true:

  • I’ve gotten a fraction of what I’d have liked done in terms of work;
  • It’s been profoundly emotive and emotional;
  • I’ve been solidifying all sorts of theories I had about why me and London weren’t best mates when I called it home.

I won’t bore you with the details of any of these…just thought you might like to know.  What I will do, however, is preach a little bit about proper vegan nutrition – something I’ve only recently wrapped my head around and something too few people – from die-hard omnivores to sworn vegans – properly appreciate.

Anybody who knows me (or reads me) knows that I’m not too keen on preaching about being vegan.  It’s something that’s very dear to me in terms of my life decisions, but I’m also well aware that people don’t like being told what to eat or how to eat it, and ranting about it is about as likely to get someone on one’s side as beating them over the head with a butternut squash.

What I’m struggling increasingly to keep quiet about is how vegans too often eat because:

  1. They personally don’t understand how important nutrition is;
  2. They trip over themselves incessantly in an effort to appease omnivores; or
  3. They fall victim to a lack of available foodstuffs that can keep them healthy.

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Ratatouille! Or, Summer’s Almost Gone…

Disclaimer:  I’m not the photographer in this family.  So most of the pictures in the following post are pretty awful.  However, I think that adds something special to the whole experience, don’t you?!

I’m a weird vegan (no – not redundant, thank you very much).  Until recently, I had a pretty hard time with quite a lot of vegetables.  Over the years, though, my tastes have changed, and I’ve learned to love lots of the ones I heretofore abhored.  But I’ve still got some quirks:

  • I love guac, but hate avocados.  So I usually mash ’em up with salt and pepper and lemon (and cilantro and hot sauce if they’re on offer), and I do just fine.
  • I love tomatoes, but not raw…unless they’re in a salsa or bruschetta (I told you I was weird).
  • I love mushrooms, but only the forest ones from France and occasionally shitake or portabello.  Not often.  And never, never button mushrooms.  Blech.
  • I only recently started tolerating eggplant (aubergine).  More on this below.

I think that’s about it.  Still, even with my disclaimers around the humble tomato, I cannot live without them.  I simply don’t know how.  I’m from SoCal.  We always had tomatoes when I was growing up, either from my mom’s vegetable patch or from the store.  But in semi-rural France, tomatoes in the winter is a very new concept, indeed, and owing to the fact that everything is labeled, we’re reminded that the tomatoes we eat in the winter are grown in industrial serres – greenhouses – mostly in Spain – and literally loaded with all sorts of not-very-nice things to make them grow when they’re really not supposed to.

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Killer B Anti-PMS Vegan Super Salad

People constantly ask, as soon as they’ve learned I’m vegan, “But where do you get your nutrients?” as if fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes were devoid of nutritional value.  The truth is, as the years have gone by, being a vegan has become so easy, and although I did indeed struggle at first to eat properly, that had a lot more to do with bad eating habits and less to do with my ethical decisions about what I put in my mouth. Nowadays I find that I almost never worry about getting the right vitamins or enough calcium, iron, omega-3’s and protein.  I just have to eat the right things.

Still, I must admit that I struggle to get enough vitamin B.  I always have.  And, in spite of the myth many omnivores have spread prolifically that B vitamins are not accessible in plants, that is nowhere near the case.  B vitamins are quite easy to find in the vegetable kingdom, particularly in raw, dark green veggies.  And that is my problem.  Give me broccoli steamed, stir-fried, or boiled and I’ll eat it up greedily.  But raw has always been a bit tough for me. And, as most of the ladies reading this will know, a lack of B vitamins can lead to a number of annoyances, among them PMS-ier PMS.  In particular, it’s B1, or thiamine, and B2, or riboflavin, that we lack most in the days leading up to and during menstruation.

This month as that dear visitor started peering in my window and knocking at my door, I thought it was high time I put some of the stuff I’ve learned about food to the test and see if I could stave it off. To that end, please find herewith a delicious recipe I invented last night, and that everybody – man or woman, vegan or omnivore – would do well to eat once in a while, because it is good for you, but also because it is downright yummy.  Fiddle with the ingredient amounts to meet your needs and tastes – the amounts I’ve given are a bit of a shot in the dark because last night I prepared for one.  And bear in mind that every single ingredient (with the exception of the olive oil, lemon juice and pepper) is brimming over with B1, B2, or both!

Killer B Anti-PMS Vegan Super Salad (serves 4)

Ingredients

For the Salad:

6-8 green asparagus spears, chopped finely

1.5 cups peeled and finely chopped broccoli

2 zucchinis, shredded

2 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped (much more so than the broccoli and asparagus)

4 tbsp almond slivers

For the dressing:

6-8 tbsp olive oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon

4 tbsp nutritional yeast

Pepper to taste

Directions

Here’s the easy part:  put all the salad ingredients into a salad bowl.  Whisk the ingredients for the dressing in a separate bowl and pour it over the top of the salad.  For a bit more flavor (not that you’ll need it), you can throw in some fresh cilantro or basil.  Toss well and serve!

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Quite possibly the simplest recipe EVER

First, let me introduce you to my father-in-law.  What an incredible guy.  My sister-in-law’s partner refers to him as “The Legend,” if that’s an indicator of just how cool he actually is.  He is not young – he can tell you stories about when the Nazis came to France, though he was just a kid when the War started.  He is very tall, like both of his sons, and is a tremendous sports fan.  I mean bordering on obsessive.  The man loves every sport – including the apparently well-known handball, in which the French excel, which is quite good since the Spanish seem to have dibs on everything else.  But his two fave’s are football and basketball.  He does not shout at his TV or place bets (though we do love a good lotto ticket from time to time).  No, Jean sits calmly upon his sofa, occasionally informing the refs and/or players and/or coaches that they are idiots, occasionally catching a little shut-eye (intentionally or otherwise).

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