Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Inspired Cooking!!

I'm so giddy with excitement!! Look at what arrived in the mail today!! It's my copy of Bryant Terry's The Inspired Vegan!

OK, so why so excited? Over a cookbook? Especially when I'm not a vegan?*

Well, first of all, excuse me while I go all Navin R. Johnson on your ass...

Woot! Yes, that's me on page 185!! Mentioned by Bryant Terry in the same group of people as Alice Waters!! Yikes! And now, here's me going all fangirl in front of God and everyone: SQUEEEEEE!


OK, but seriously, the main reason for my excitement? It's that now I have access to this brilliant book! (Which, btw, is not just for vegans -- it's for anyone who loves great food.) I've been waiting for what seems like forever!

Why so long? OK, so here's the story...

Once upon a time, back in the cold, dark days of winter 2010, I was actually rewarded one day for compulsively checking facebook too often. On this particular day, Bryant Terry was looking for volunteers to test recipes for the new cookbook he was working on. I had, by that time, read Grub and Vegan Soul Kitchen and had had so much fun in my kitchen while reading both that the idea of a new Bryant Terry book was exciting enough! But to get a bit of a preview? This was going to be a special treat!

Now, the book contains twelve seasonal menus, and I got to pick one to test. They all sounded so awesome that choosing just one was agonizing, but I finally opted for one of the summer menus, the "crimson cookout."

One of the cool features of Terry's menus is that they aren't just a list of dishes, ingredients and instructions. No, he delivers an entire experience, complete with relevant quotes from various people, beautiful photos (not just of food), musical selections, poems, lyrics, and even related books and films! He gives you the meal and the mood!

So, on a very cold, rainy, gray winter day early in March, I spent the afternoon in the kitchen, cooking my menu -- and was transported to a warm summer place, not only because of the delicious aromas and flavors, but also thanks to the suggested soundtrack, which I dialed up on my music server: Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Astrud Gilberto, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington... ahhh.

What I cooked was incredible. First, I started with something to sip on: some cherry sangria -- which is something everyone should make themselves. Choose a good wine, use fresh fruit, and keep the sweetness under control, and sangria goes from just an icky punch to being a fantastic beverage! Next up was a full-bodied red beet tapenade crostini appetizer, followed by some strawberry gazpacho shooters garnished with crispy rosemary. And then the main course: a magnificent open-faced grilled eggplant, red onion and heirloom tomato sandwich with a creamy celeriac sauce, and bright-black fingerling potatoes with fresh plum-tomato ketchup on the side. And for dessert, some raspberry-lime ice pops. Wow. Can you dig it?!?

There were only two downsides to this deal: first, the obligatory confidentiality -- I couldn't blog about any of this at the time! Gah! And second, after getting a peak at the other menus, and experiencing how exquisite my menu turned out to be, I was going to have to wait almost a whole year before I'd get to try out all the other culinary experiences! Double Gah!

But the waiting is finally over and I promise there will be some fresh food porn up here soon. I don't know if anyone out there ever checks the reading list I keep posted up in the top right corner of the blog, but I've been in a cookbook frame of mind recently anyway, and the arrival of this latest burst of inspiration is going to dial my urge to cook all they way up to eleven.

I'll keep you posted!

*I am an omnivore, though I don't eat a whole lot of meat (I did feel personally mocked by this clip from Portlandia).


Keera Ann Fox said...

Your name in print - in a book! Whoo! Congrats!

(My reading diet has led me away from vegetarianism. Current read is "Beyond Broccoli".)

alice said...

I've heard of that book! It looks interesting, and I think the message is a good one -- especially as it applies to "vegetarians" who don't *ahem* actually eat vegetables (seriously, people... if all you eat is bread, cheese and potatoes, can you really call yourself a vegetarian?). The book appears to be not so much anti-vegetable or pro-meat as it is about achieving proper balance in the diet. But I guess defining "proper balance" is what all the authors and talking heads keeps arguing about, isn't it?

Me, I don't really have a horse in the race because I think I'll always be an omnivore. All these various theories and diets swirl around me as I plod along just trying to find some good, simple, real food. I end up eating a lot of vegetables, a good bit of beans and whole grains, a moderate amount of fruit, some dairy, a bit of meat and almost no simple carbs or sugars. And it's good food. I feel good. I gather you've gotten to a good place, too. Yay for us. ;)

alice said...

ps. I thought of you recently when I ran across this person's story of going off carbs (which I ironically found while reading a recent post she made about making bread).

And while I was thinking of the Beyond Broccoli book, I was reminded of the Jenna Woginrich book that I have up there in my reading list, in which she mentions being a vegetarian. After reading the book, I found her blog and found out that she eventually went back to eating meat, for reasons she outlines here.

It's all good reading and good -- yes, I'm going to say it!! -- good food for thought. ;-)

Keera Ann Fox said...

Er, no, it's not targeted at vegetarians who don't eat well. It's targeted at people who refuse to give up a vegetarian or vegan diet even though it makes them sick, i.e. they are malnourished. The author is herself one who had to leave pure veganism to save her health.

Many people don't realize you can have an incredibly sucky diet as a vegetarian. BTDT. You really need to know nutrition. And you need to know Man never evolved to be a herbivore (nor did any other primate); we are omnivores.

Keera Ann Fox said...

PS: It breaks my heart that my beloved vegetarianism is not a healthy diet in the long-term. I miss it, but I don't miss the health problems and weight gain I was getting.

alice said...

Well to me, malnourished = not eating well, so I think we agree. Of course it's very easy to have a sucky vegetarian diet as a vegetarian. As I mentioned above, I've known a few people who call themselves vegetarian who don't actually eat any vegetables; one who basically subsisted -- I'm not kidding -- on Taco Bell food. But the same can be said for pretty much any dietary program. I have an acquaintance who seemed to interpret the Adkins diet as an excuse to eat a lot of bacon and butter (needless to say, he did not see the expected improvements in his health).

Whichever direction you go, you pretty much have to learn about nutrition. And you have to listen to what your own body is telling you (poor Emmie is currently being told that her body does not approve of her eating seafood). We vary. What works for one won't for another. I was vegetarian for a few years in the 90s, followed by a year or so of low-carbing. Neither worked for me. I guess I like to have a little bit of everything. ;-)

Keera Ann Fox said...

I was unclear: There's a difference between eating all your veggies but developing a health problem due to a lack of B12 or omega-3 or somesuch, and indulging in donuts, cookies and popcorn.

As to what suits each of us, it is important, as you note, to pay attention to individual needs and likes. One size does not fit all, nor do we all react alike to carbs (or fats or protein). I'm still exploring what suits my particular stomach.

alice said...

Ah. Yes, that clarifies things. Thanks.

alice said...

(It also might be worth noting that our bodies and nutritional needs may change as we age, so what suits us at 25 might not feel good anymore at 50...)

Keera Ann Fox said...

(Definitely! I think this is why kids prefer sweet and older folks prefer bitter.)

alice said...

(Yes, bitter! And acid -- can I get enough vinegar and lemon juice? Noooo.)