Another amazing discovery I made this year during Vegan MoFo was Andrea’s Easy Vegan Cooking. I was immediately drawn to her recipes and her warm style of writing. Reading her posts makes you feel like you’ve known her forever and that you’re sittin’ in the kitchen with her sharing a glass of wine…plus check out her adorable dog! Read on to find out more about Andrea.
I was immediately drawn to your blog Andrea’s Easy Vegan Cooking by the word “easy” in the title (I like easy!). How do you keep your meals simple yet so interesting?
“Easy” got into the blog title as a kind of response to all the people I’ve met over the years who said, “I could be vegan, but it’s just so hard.” I wanted to say a big, “NO IT ISN’T!” Sometimes thinking about cooking, and figuring out what to cook can be harder than actually doing it, and I wanted to provide ideas and recipes for foods that taste really good but that can be prepared fairly quickly. My idea of easy isn’t about opening bags and boxes of pre-made ingredients, but about using simple methods to turn basic foods into delicious meals. Maybe it’s just a matter of combining foods in a way you hadn’t thought of before – like flavorful black beans stuffed into a baked sweet potato – or maybe a new cook doesn’t know how easy it is to turn a cauliflower or a winter squash into a fabulous creamy soup. Some recipes may just look complicated but are really fast and easy, and I like to provide examples of foods that look and taste far more complicated than they really are. Using foods in unexpected ways, having a repertoire of easy sauces, learning about flavor enhancing herbs and spices, are all ways to keep simple foods interesting. We may have to relearn the fact that simple, easy, foods are, in fact, interesting. When you take away animal ingredients, everything else is still there, waiting to be discovered.
You’ve been vegan for over 20 years, how has the vegan landscape changed since you first made the transition?
I became vegan in 1981, and I was vegetarian for about eight years before that. It was so long ago I’m having trouble remembering what it was like! Even though there was a good food co-op in town, to save money, my friends and I organized a food-buying co-op where we bought foods in bulk, and split them among us – I’m talking 15-pound tubs of tahini and 25-pound bags of beans and rice. I remember we used to buy 10-pound boxes of Little Bear corn chips and 10-pound buckets of fresh tofu. The vegan and vegetarian natural foods industry was nothing like it is now. There weren’t nearly as many prepared foods, though there were a few. Mostly I cooked from scratch. I made my own cheese sauces using The Farm Cookbook as a guide – the most requested birthday dinner at our house was enchilada casserole with cheese sauce. I made my own seitan from whole wheat flour. We had a Seventh Day Adventist Country Life restaurant (vegan) with a small store where we were well-known customers. My kids loved to go there, and the dining room was like their second home. It’s amusing to me to see some of the recipes I used back then being ‘discovered’ now as if they were new. I always used to make my own pizza and cheese, for example, and I made ‘sausages’ from wheat.
One of the biggest differences between then and now is the influence of technology. In the early 80s computers were still slow, and vegan bloggers unknown. The tremendous amount of knowledge available to us now in an instant, is staggering. Not only were there fewer vegans, but the sense of a world-wide vegan community didn’t really exist for me. We had a small local group that met for monthly potlucks, but outside that group, most people we came into contact with didn’t know what vegans were.
Veganism has become very marketable. Just look at the proliferation of vegan packaged food, vegan restaurants, vegan cookbooks, vegan clothing, vegan shoes, vegan travel and vacation options. It’s much easier now for new vegans to find their way.
What is your favorite restaurant in Seattle and what do you order there?
My favorite restaurant in Seattle is probably Sutra. It’s kind of a special occasion restaurant with a fixed menu that changes every two weeks so I don’t have a favorite dish. We have so many vegan and vegetarian restaurants here it’s hard to pick just one. I do love the Tofu Skin with Mixed Vegetables in Szechwan Sauce hot pot (#80) at Bamboo Garden. I’ll leave it at that.
Tell us about a funny food incident that happened in your kitchen.
The incident that still gives me pause occurred when we first moved to Wisconsin, and were living in a modest cottage in a string of houses surrounding a rural lake. I had a day off, and decided to make bread using my old stand mixer. I planned to get the dough ready to rise, then go take a shower and get dressed. You can read about what happened on my blog (http://bit.ly/10SG4hJ), but I’ll abbreviate it here. I turned my back for a minute and the dough wound around the beaters, got sucked up into the motor, and basically started flinging itself around the kitchen. My hands, my hair, my pajamas, were soon covered in flour and sticky dough, and I was frantically trying to undo the damage when the Pastor from a local Lutheran church showed up to welcome me to the neighborhood. Duh.
What is your favorite food memory?
We were driving through Montana on one of our family road-trip vacations, heading, I think, to Glacier National Park. I’d read in a guide book that there was a good Chinese restaurant in Butte, and we decided to try to find it and stop for dinner. We located it, and as we walked in, the first thing I saw was a sign from the health department warning people not to drink the water. Chinese food without water? Is that even possible, I wondered? Is the food safe? Should we leave?
Leaving wasn’t really an option. We had three hungry and tired kids with us so we made an uneasy decision and sat down. We were perusing the menu when I told the waiter we were trying to find vegan food. He looked at me for a long moment. He smiled, and I thought, “oh well.”
“You are vegan?” he asked. “All of you?” He chuckled. “Not many vegans come through here. All the cooks are vegan six days a week. On the seventh day they eat meat, for strength,” he said. “No need to order, they will cook you a good meal.”
The food we had that night was the best food I’ve ever had in a restaurant. It was amazing. I relived the experience for months, and would actually dream about the food. I still think about it sometimes, though I can’t remember the taste.
Tell us a joke.
Instead of a joke, I’ll share a cartoon that I found bizarre and funny.