Friday, January 01, 2010

the hesitating vegan

The majority of private emails I’ve received about my going vegan for 2010 have asked what in the world I—the sensualist omnivore who practically sleeps snuggled up to the Roquefort in the kitchen—am doing. I am improvising, that’s what. I have spent several inquisitive years badgering farmers and trying to monitor the quality of life for the animals I eat. I have, in my own assessment, for the most part failed, no matter how I have tried, so I’m venturing an experiment.

I am a solid amateur cook, a snob—a judgy, fussy, discerning, demanding girl who has long enjoyed access to a wide range of excellent product and deep gastronimical resources. I know what’s up. With a twelve-week course from Kitchen on Fire treading my soles, and more importantly, plenty of time with my boots on the ground at the range, I have just that mix of bravura and ignorance that makes a chef lusty, brave, and reckless. So if there were ever a time when I could give this a go without going full-tilt-boogie into culinary school enrollment, it's now. So I assure you: I have not changed. I still like meat, cheese, honey. I love the mouth-feel of cream in my coffee, the taste of chicken in my stock, the sight of a steak on the grill pan. But I am curious to see what a chef can do without all of that. Call it a conscious year-long Quickfire Challenge. (Longer, who knows, should my nutritional and culinary results prove out.)

These posts will be real when meals taste awful, but focused on pleasing and surprising. I will be going with all my heart for hits, not misses. No one should expect this to become the depot where we sing the song of tempeh soy-cheese scrambles. In fact, we take this truth to be self-evident: soy is the devil. It tastes bad, we can’t digest it, its producers are ravaging our primeval forests. But the soy devil will, alas, show up in these recipes here and there. I’ll just operate on the presumption that there's more to veganism than Tofu Pups and their attendant fleet of fake meat travesties, and that the better I get at this gig, the less I'll need to employ them.

I’ve got the here, I’ve got the now. So on we go, friends, launching our own minor variation on JFK’s theme from the 60s. We do these things “not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others too.”

My favorite recipe of the weekend, for your fun, is this macaroni and cheese. It’s delicious. Honest to god, you can take the word of this cynical omnivore. Trust. I’d be the first to roll my eyes.