This marks the end of the second week on the journey to one year as a vegan. Detailed below are things I learned, cooked and some helpful resources discovered. Thanks for following the journey. So far, so good…
What I learned this week
1. Vegans can brunch too
Melbournians love brunch. That hard to define, elusive meal that sits neatly between breakfast and lunch. A social experience more relaxed than a multi course degustation experience, yet far cooler than a simple bowl of cereal. Think smashed avocado, eggs 4 ways, slow cooked beans, organic tomatoes and mushrooms, deconstructed anything, single sourced [insert point of differentiation for the moment] coffee and a decor that oozes recycled chic meets hard rubbish collection day. My plaid shirts collected in Canada prove useful in the uber hipster underworld of the Melbourne brunch scene…
Then there are the parents like Fiona and me. Red eyed. Long since broken souls that consider a brunch with coffee a rare luxury if the baby and dog play nice for 60 minutes of bliss. Clothing choices are practical, not fashion dictated – which items have the least amount of baby spit up on them?!? Dinner for two seems unfathomable. The great thing about brunch is that it is a widely accepted social catch up that enables those in similar stages of life to maintain a connection. Multiple brunch venues now come complete with a kids play area, paper placemats and a set of pencils for the kids to colour in and draw the next award winning fridge art piece. Brunch has been the thing to pine after during the working week in our house. So what is a vegan to do in this environment where bacon, egg and milk are the star attractions? Would I be confined to the single dish reserved at the bottom of a menu for that ridiculously hard to cater for customer that is allergic to just about everything and willing to pay $15 for a piece of kale? Would this much loved weekend tradition in our house be relegated to yesteryear?
Turns out no. To test the acceptance of veganism as a brunch concept, we had our first ever vegan brunch experience at Smith & Daughters restaurant/cafe in Fitzroy. To provide international readers with some context, Fitzroy is the Australian equivalent of Portland, Oregon in the US. This place had a tattoo parlour next door and there were more Doc Martins being rocked than a Nine Inch Nails concert. Looking at the menu, there were references to creamy scrambled eggs covered with fresh parmesan and other non vegan delights. Confused I asked the waiter if there was a separate vegan menu. Turns out the menu is dedicated to replicating old brunch favourites for the vegan diet. The scrambled eggs are a tofu scramble with a clever blend of spices that impart a similar flavour profile. Delicious, but rich. Might have to have another crack at this once I’ve lifted my tofu tolerance levels. Ever on the look out for new recipe ideas, I bought a copy of the Smith & Daughters cook book on sale at the restaurant. Will put some of them to the test in future weeks…
2. Vegan dentistry is a thing
Vegan dentistry is a thing. Who knew? Not me. Apparently it is now a common occurrence for dentists to be asked to use vegan only products on dental patients, including using human rather than bovine bone grafts for things like dental implants. Makes sense, I just never even considered this. Shows how much there still is to learn… Worth checking the ingredient lists of things like tooth mousse which are often derived from milk protein if you are trying to apply a vegan lifestyle beyond just diet.
3. Plant based food is good enough for ultra marathoners
Inspired after reading Rich Roll’s book ‘Finding Ultra’ last week, I decided to test if he was an anomaly or if there was some statistical significance to this notion that a plant based diet could deliver you to ultra marathon stardom. I read Scott Jurek’s book ‘Eat and Run’ which recounts his incredible feats in various ultra marathons including winning California’s Western State 100 miler 6 years in a row, as well as countless other runs including the Badwater 135 miler through California’s Death Valley and the Spartathalon 153 miler in Greece to name a few. Similar to Rich Roll, Scott credits a lot of his success to following a vegan diet. Beginning to see a theme here… A good read, but not the page turner that Rich Roll’s book proved to be so if you only read one would go with Rich’s book.
What I cooked this week
1. Homemade overnight white sourdough
Many breads available in supermarkets contain milk and/or traces of egg. Inspired to try home made bread, I used Ken Grossman’s book ‘Flour, water, salt, yeast’ to step through an overnight white sourdough recipe. Can’t praise this book highly enough. Easy to follow instructions and will definitely try more in the coming months. The book also outlines the story of how Ken went from an unfulfilling career in IT to becoming a renowned baker in Portland, Oregon in the US. Interesting read while waiting for the bread to cook.
Only issue I have with the book is the equipment list is North America centric making it challenging to track down some of the items in Australia. Feel free to reach out if you embark on a similar path and need help locating items.
2. Smashed avocado
This recipe is so simple even an amateur like me can attempt it without relying on a cookbook. Take an avocado, scoop it out, mince with a fork, then add lemon juice and mint to taste. Spread on your favourite bread and enjoy!
3. Homemade baked beans
I love baked beans. Always have, always will. This is a slightly more gourmet take than the Heinz classic. Heat some onion in a fry pan, add a full can of drained and washed butter beans (~400g depending on brand), add tomato passata (around a cup depending on how liquidy you like your beans), salt and pepper, and either ancho, chipotle or paprika spice to taste. This last ingredient (ancho, chipotle or paprika) provides a Smoky flavour with subtle hints of bacon. Handy for the newly vegan… Use whichever you like best or have lying around in the pantry. Only really heating and combining the ingredients so cooking time is around 10 minutes. Sprinkle some fresh parsley or other herbs on top and enjoy!
4. Pico de gallo
This versatile Mexican side can be used with so many things. Dice up some fresh tomato and red onion, then lightly chop some coriander (cilantro) and mix in proportions to taste. No cooking time required. Great as an accompaniment to smashed avocado (or adding into any Mexican inspired dish).
Key resources used during the week:
- Smith and Daughters: A cookbook that happens to be vegan by Shannon Martinez and Mo Wyse
- Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish
- Eat and run by Scott Jurek