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Just to be clear, I haven’t abandoned my “I Cook the Beatles” project. In fact I’m hoping to incorporate some of it into the Vegan Mofo 2010 thing I’ve got going on this year. But that may just prove to be a little too much intersectionality, even for me, so for now I’m not even going to pretend to have a theme.
This is my first VeganMofo, by the way. Despite having kept track of my vegan food expliots for many, many years on the internet (see: VeganMania, Kreeli’s Tasties, Hey Christa What’s for Dinner?, this blog and various and sundry vegan food topics on various and sundry message boards – both vegan and non-vegan) I have somehow avoided the whole vegan food blog craze. I kind of took myself out of the “vegan online” loop back in 2004/2005 when I quit participating on pretty much any message board that had veganism as a focus. I quit in a huff. I was a flouncer. I will talk about that more another time, but suffice it to say, I was completely disillusioned with the online vegan community, especially as my own my own feelings about radical anti-oppression politics expanded and grew. So, when I quit my once beloved Veggieboards, and Kittee implored me to join the PPK, I declined. I was still too burnt out and too stung. I was also in the very early stages of starting up my own vegan food business, which took up enormous amounts of my time and energy. After working on that all day, plus homeschooling my two kids – I had very little left for online shenanigans.
Things have changed a lot for me over the last five, six years, though. My kids are both in public school. My business grew and grew and grew…and then I stepped away from it. I still don’t regularly participate on an vegan-ccentric message boards (though I have signed up at the fledgling abolitionist board on Gary L Francione’s site); but I surely do appreciate the vegan food blog culture that has arisen as a result of them and I am feeling ready to jump into that particular fray. As far as spreading the good vegan word, talking about the food we eat is definitely the safe, least controversial way of doing it and it’s something that we can all relate to. Also, food is my passion. I love to eat. And coming from an art school-cum-housewife background, creating delicious, enticing and family-friendly meals is a way for me to at once take care of those I love, and express myself creatively. So here I am…one more Vegan Mofo to add to the list of 700 of you out there. I feel so grateful that so much good information is being shared about vegan cooking and food so easily nowadays. When I first started, waaaay back in the mid-1990s, the pickins were slim online and there weren’t a tenth of the commercially available cookbooks we can buy now. Way to go, fellow MoFos, way to go. I’m really excited to be taking part.
Without further ado, I present to you my family’s vegan Dia de los Muertos feast.
We enjoy a Mexican feast of this calibre every year around this time. I normally try to prepare it on November 1st bur this year neither my daughter nor I felt well enough to enjoy such luxurious magnificence, so we delayed it by a day. It turned out that the actual Dia de los Muertos was November 2nd this year, so it was probably our ancestors way of telling us we were doing it wrong to begin with.
I have been making vegan enchiladas for years but they aren’t particularly authentic. First, I have a hard time sourcing corn tortillas locally. Second, I use a tomato-based sauce, knowing full well that real enchilada sauce has no tomato whatsoever, but derrives it’s red colour from pure chili peppers alone. In some ways, you could almost call these a casserole dishes filled with non-traditional ingredients my attempt at making a Mexi-style lasagna. But you know what? I’m not Mexican, nor do I have Mexican heritage. I also put tofu in my “ancient grains” hippy tortillas.
We’re not going for authenticity here, folks – and that may be for the best, since I’m not super fond of pork fat in my beans.
I am, however, fond of guacamole on my pseudo-enchiladas.
Adding to the non-authenticity are these incredible polenta fries.
Polenta isn’t Mexican. But it sure is delicious! Especially cooled, cut into sticks, baked until crispy and then dipped in a chipotle-Vegenaise aioli.
And since we have gone all over the globe procuring ingredients and flavours from several different cultures, I figured why not bring the Germans into it, with this delicious coleslaw.
By far, my kids favourite part of the annual Dia de los Muertos feast we prepare is the Pan de Muertos (literally translates to “Dead Bread”) and the spicy hot chocolate I brew up for us to dip it into. Normally I make up a big loaf, shaped into a skull, with little bread “bones” stuck all around the edges, but this year we decided to try something new and made, instead, 16 individually-sized skull-shaped buns. It was a fun way to get the kids involved in preparing the meal and we got some very creative skull-and-bones bread sculptures out of the oven. The only sad thing was, I realized too late that the yeast we were using in this batch of bread wasn’t filled with the joie de vive that I needed it to feel and the bread didn’t really rise. Oddly enough, it still produced some very edible and dare I say delicious – if dense – little skull biscuits, that tasted juuuust fine. Especially dipped in our cups of chili-and-cinnamon laced thick hot chocolate.
There were no actual complaints; though the perfectionist in me was sorely tempted to chuck the whole batch out and start anew, even if it meant we wouldn’t be eating dessert until 3am. This is progress for me, people!
This year I skipped making the molé; normally I do that up with some Mexi-rice on the side, but I kept the gathering low-key since my husband was working in the evening and I wasn’t going to be feeding as many people as we usually do. As it is, I’ve got an entire tray of mixed enchiladas in my freezer just waiting for the next evening I’m too wiped to prepare something from scratch. Anything fiddly like that, that involves a lot of rolling and stuffing, I try to make extra of. It’s the housewife in me – she knows that it’s the chest freezer, and not Valium, that’s really mother’s little helper on the roughest of days.
Now THIS was a lyric I could get behind, because from the moment I concieved of this blog, I knew how I was going to put Harrison’s words into consumable form: by making a delicious alcoholic beverage. A cocktail of mine own creation.
I must be a bit of a lush since as soon as I heard the word “sling” I immediately thought of a Singapore Sling cocktail, which is some ghastly fruity concoction that only girl-drink-drunks would ever consider slurping back. Being a pretty dedicated consumer of dirty martinis, I do not particularly enjoy sugary alcoholic beverages. I like my booze to be astringent and pure, free of sugary mixers (aside from club soda) and maybe only mildly flavoured with real lemon or lime. So I knew I didn’t want to just make a cloyingly-sweet version of a Singapore Sling. Instead I came up with this punchy, spicy, only slightly-sweet cocktail, that I think just about everyone can enjoy. Responsibly, of course.
A Ginger Sling With A Pineapple Heart
1 oz each gin, brandy, and Fireball whiskey (regular whiskey will do in a pinch; the cinnamon just adds a nice kick)
2 oz spicy ginger syrup (see below)
club soda, sparkling mineral water, or a spicy natural ginger beer if you want the flavour to pack even more punch
pineapple heart* and pomegranate seeds for garnish
Shake boozes together well in a martini shaker. Strain into a glass. Add syrup and soda to the top. Garnish with pineapple heart and some pomegranate seeds if desired.
*My heart-shaped cookie cutter wasn’t sharp enough to actually punch the shape out of the pineapple slice, so I just used a sharp knife to trace around the edges. If you don’t care about your pineapple actually being heart-shaped, just cut a slit in it and hang it off the edge of the glass.
Spicy Ginger Syrup
1 1/2 pounds fresh ginger, coarsely grated
1 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup water
Combine ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool in pan. Strain into a jar. Store in refrigerator. Yields enough for 4 Ginger Slings.