I had this post all written up in my head, with fiery retort and righteous indignation I was ready to climb the barricades and do my bit to rid the world of 'vegan' burgers (like the one in the photo), 'vegan' lasagna, 'vegan' cheese, 'vegan' chili, 'vegan' anything that's supposed to be well known dishes, made with plant based ingredients only.
Luckily, in the time it took from writing the post in my head, to the time I actually turned on my computer and sat down to type in my revolutionary rhetoric, I also had enough time to remember: this is a work of love, not one of confrontation or dissent.
The experience of eating a burger
A short walking distance from our home there is a place we like to frequent called Lahza ('Moment' in Arabic). Apart from great beer from Nazareth and the lovely ambience of downtown Haifa, it's also the place we go-to to enjoy eating burgers. Both the traditional and vegan versions (that you see in the photo) are tasty and satisfying for us two, respectively, and the mutual total experience of eating a burger, with the same end result of sticky fingers and leftover fries half covered with ketchup we can no longer eat.
It is there we are reminded time and again that classical time-honored dishes achieve this status by providing us with an experience that transcends mere taste. The patties we both enjoy taste very different from one another, but the experience is totally the same.
It is but our choice of milk to wet a bowl of Cheerios, soymilk or the dreaded dairy kind, that separates us on late night munches. So does the choice of toppings on our takeaway pizzas – Anchovies-Peperoni for me, Jalapenos-mushrooms (vegan cheese, I beg your pardon – KY) for her, olives for both. With these, and many other, vegan versions we often enjoy the same eating experience, albeit with different flavors and subtle changes in texture.
Vegan versions of classic dishes rarely taste exactly like the originals (and really shouldn't, after all, they are made of different things), but if made with the same attention and care, can provide just as satisfying experience as their inspiration.
As the home cook, I also have my share of attempts in recreating well known dishes in 'vegan cloths', some even successful (judging by the sounds emanating from my love as she eats them). But by and large I find it much more rewarding, for both myself as the cook, and my love as 'she who has to eat what I cook', to explore and experiment with making original vegan dishes.
Taste of bygone times
I end this note with a short account of yet another example of how my rebellious outcry ended up with a shy smile of self-content. Although my love's resolve on being vegan is firm and un-wavering, she can no more reject childhood's favorite tastes than any of us. Being vegan for quite a while left her longing to the taste of scrambled eggs with mayo in Pita bread. Simple, easy-to-make delights, and a taste I first thought impossible to recreate with no eggs!
It took some time, and a visit to Anastasia, one of the first all-vegan cafés in Tel Aviv, to find the elusive ingredient to make it all happen. Black Indian salt! This kind of salt has a slightly higher ratio of sulfur in it that results in a somewhat eggy taste and smell. So you are welcomed to pop over to the recipes section to find our home versions for both tofu based scrambled eggs, and our homemade mayo recipe, that when combined in Pita bread produced the most wonderful sounds that make it all worthwhile: making my love happy she can still enjoy what she once thought was a taste gone forever.