A Matter Of Preference
Given my professional nature, a willingness to try anything once and a desire to experiment, I’m an enthusiastic omnivore. I love trout, bacon, chocolate, butter, whiskey, wine, dead cows and fried things in no particular order. To the point where I can be something of an asshole about it. This is in part due to my own personal bias. If it can be eaten, it should be. In moderation. I am thankful for the flesh of the animals I eat, even if I dislike the conditions that those animals are kept in. I believe those conditions should be changed.
I had a chef in culinary school who was vegetarian. His name was Chef Bruno, looked like the lead singer of Anthrax. Big, scary burly guy, very stern but kind teacher. And he would only eat meat he killed himself, or witnessed killed personally. It was sort of impossible not to respect that, especially given that the class he taught was Butchery.
But between Boulder and San Francisco, I developed a rather peculiar snobbery. I found myself cooking for so many snooty, preachy vegans and vegetarians, that I wore my butter-and-bacon badge with pride. I took it as a personal challenge, while working at a vegetarian restaurant, to smuggle in random pieces of meat contraband after I was warned that I would lose my job over a pastrami sandwich.
But the truth of the matter, I enjoy vegetarian, and to an extent, vegan cooking. It’s not that hard to remove meat from most dishes and make them vegetarian, and if you’re using fresh ingredients and cooking from scratch it’s pretty easy to avoid surprise additives. For the record, fish sauce has fish in it. So long as I can keep my cheese, butter and eggs I’m pretty alright.
It’s when you remove those things that I start to get a little unnecessarily obstinate, possibly even belligerent. I’m not proud, but we all have prejudice that we must overcome. But then something happened that sort of set my mind on track. My mother, the Queen of All Baked Goods my entire life, was diagnosed with Coeliac disease not too long into planning our big camping trip. There was no way that I wasn’t going to feed my mother, what kind of chef or son would I be? It altered my menu planning immensely, trying to accommodate her newly discovered gluten-free diet and the return of some other unfortunate food allergies.
I shout time and again that food is love, so why can’t I go out of my way to make food that tastes great for the people I love? Embrace the challenge of cooking without, adapting recipes. Among the people I love are vegans, vegetarians, coeliacs and other eating peculiarities. Take the challenge. Gluten free bread doesn’t have to smell like old kitchen shoes. Vegan food doesn’t have to be full of tofu and cheese substitutes.
From time to time, I’d like to highlight these recipes. As the social consciousness adapts to new, strange and different diets, why get ornery? Why not find food that everybody can love together?
My wife’s parents are vegan, after having been vegetarian for most of Z’s life. At first, I found it somewhat frustrating. What could I cook for them? I don’t like making risotto without butter. I don’t want to adapt some of my favorite recipes, necessarily. So what about something that was vegan from the start? There are plenty of dishes that never had dairy in them to begin with, especially Thai and Indian cuisine.
Coincidentally, my in-laws have been very enthusiastic in taking their granddaughter for sleepovers. Last weekend we got to go see a late movie and sleep in the next day. This weekend we’re going to Red Rocks to see some bluegrass. To show my appreciation for them, I decided to make something delicious and outside my usual comfort zone.
Sweet Potato Red Curry Bisque
4lbs sweet potatoes, peeled, medium dice
1 white onion, small dice
1/2 cup fresh grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, mashed or minced
4 Tbsp Red Curry Paste
Fresh Basil, rough chopped
1 bunch Fresh Cilantro, rough chopped
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp coriander
32 oz coconut milk
2 Tbsp oil (your choice, I use canola/evo blend)
S&P to taste
Prep/Cook time approx 1 hr
In a stockpot, heat your oil and add garlic, ginger and onions and sweat lightly. Add in curry paste, herbs and spices. Let it heat for just a minute, then add in sweet potatoes and enough water to cover to them. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until sweet potatoes are easily smashed.
In a food processor or blender, in small batches, combine coconut milk and sweet potato mixture until silky smooth. Return the soup to a simmer, season to taste. Serve with cilantro as a garnish.