MY PARENTS HAVE GONE PLANT-BASED (…could I do it too?)
Well, it’s official. My food-loving parents have transitioned to a whole food plant-based diet, almost definitely for good. They’ve done it mainly for health reasons – and I’m hoping soon to publish an interview with them all about it, watch this space – but they haven’t stopped loving food any less. I’ve watched in awe as they’ve swapped steaks, chicken and eggs for nut roasts, tempeh and aquafaba – and made it look really quite appealing.
I’ve talked before about wanting to have a mutually loving relationship with food. I’ve been doing a lot of reading, but more importantly so has my mum – I tell you what, she does not do anything halfheartedly and at this stage has probably done enough research to have an honorary qualification in herbivorism. There’s a lot of evidence that points to whole food plant-based eating being the healthiest way to eat – and I have to say, Mum and Dad are looking bloody good and by their own accounts, feeling fantastic.
I’ve always been very proud of being the kind of person who’ll eat pretty much anything (the obvious exception being coriander – I’m not a sociopath). I’m an easy dinner guest. A chef’s favourite kind of customer. I just love eating, and if the food is fresh and flavourful, I’m interested. Being a plant-based eater would change this quite radically, and I’m not sure I’m ready for that with the lifestyle I currently lead – I eat with friends a lot, and love a spontaneous culinary experience.
I could definitely cut down on dairy, meat and eggs though, and try even harder to eat more fresh veggies cooked different ways. And who knows, maybe if I keep experimenting with tofu I might figure out a way to cook it that makes it taste delicious and not like soggy rubbery sadness. I have done a bit of vegan cooking before – mainly catering for film sets and vegan friends (and now family). What I have discovered in the process is that a lot of things are quite easy to make vegan while keeping the flavour profile almost identical. Bolognese, curries, stir-fries, burgers, chilli, cakes, biscuits – all super easy to make vegan. Sandwiches, soups and salads too. My godmother even made vegan cinnamon buns when my mum was visiting recently, and they tasted as good as, if not better than, her normal ones – which are buttery and cream cheese-slathered and a bit of a legend in our family.
There are heaps of fantastic resources for vegan cooking out there. I recently made Jamie Oliver’s vegan shepherd’s pie for a family dinner party and it was a huge hit. I’ve also whipped out this BBC Good Food avocado chocolate cake when I have vegans to impress. While I’m on that topic – mum doesn’t like the word “vegan” to describe herself – she still wears leather shoes and puffer jackets (she does live in Tasmania though – puffer jackets are practically compulsory). I’m not going to dive into the ethics of veganism here – this blog is about loving food and discussing topics from a food-loving perspective. Although, Dad has remarked that it’s nice eating food that is utterly free of any kind of guilt – make what you will of that.
Plant-based eating seems to be most challenging when out and about. Meat, eggs, and especially dairy have become such staples of the Western diet, that finding dishes without them is nigh on impossible in many places. Not to mention the really very aggressive push back against vegans that we see in the media, pop culture and you hear a lot. Vegans, if you’re reading this, I think you’re great, keep doing you! Hopefully I’ll be brave/disciplined enough to ditch my cheese-gobbling ways and joining you properly one day.
So, basically… this is not the last we will speak of this. I’m going to keep experimenting, learning, and trying plant-based alternatives. I really do want to do an interview with my parents (haven’t actually discussed it with them yet but I’m sure they’ll be down, they’re super cool – right guys?). I have truly been impressed with the amazing, visible change in them – they’re both trim and glowy, just like the kinds of vegans that induce vague, jealous annoyance in us carnivores. Mind you… I should probably mention they’ve also given up booze. And if you’re wondering when I’m going to write an article about that, the answer is not any time soon, maties.
VEGAN, GLUTEN-FREE HOT CROSS BUN COOKIES
My mum came to visit for Easter and I wanted to make sure she had treats! So I stocked up on Pana chocolates, and adapted this recipe from this one here. I also made it gluten-free so I could take some into my office, where the dietary requirements are wonderfully varied (lol). You may think that something gluten-free and vegan couldn’t possibly taste any good, but you know what is both of those things? Sugar. Also yeah Easter is over but these are delicious, and you can make the icing any shape you want.
3 x cups LSA (that’s linseed, soy and almond meal mixed together and it’s super delicious)
1 x cup brown sugar
1 x cup gluten free flour
1 x cup raisins
1/3 x cup whipped aquafaba (that’s the liquid from a tin of chickpeas. I know. But trust me)
1/2 x cup olive oil
1/2 x cup coconut milk
1 x tsp ginger
1 x tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp x nutmeg
1/2 tsp x cardamom
1 x tbsp vanilla (I really like vanilla, ok?)
ICING FOR THE CROSSES:
2 x tbsp whipped aquafaba (make the leftover chickpeas into a salad or something!)
1-2 cups icing sugar
1/2 tsp x vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 180C. Mix all the cookie ingredients in a big bowl. You’re going to make it into balls, so if it’s too dry add a little more coconut milk, and if it’s too wet add some more GF flour.
2. Roll into balls and place onto baking tray, press them down with the back of a spoon. (use baking paper to minimise washing up. YOU’RE WELCOME. God I hate washing up. “Loves Washing Up” is still very high on my list of traits possessed by The Perfect Man.)
3. Bake for 10-15 mins until a little golden on top.
4. To make the icing, whip the aquafaba and gradually add the icing sugar until it’s thick enough to hold its shape when you stir it. Stir in the vanilla.
5. When the cookies are cool, pipe icing into crosses on top. I don’t even own a piping bag at the moment, I cut the corner off a freezer bag. You got this.