Way back in 1992, I published my first recipe for Vegan French Toast in Solace Kitchenzine, an old-fashioned cut & paste, photocopied vegan mini-cookbook fanzine I made as a teenager. I wrote short essays on environmental and social issues, did the artwork, and interviewed bands in the hardcore / punk music scene, mostly in the New Jersey and Pennsylvania area, but also from as far away as Boston, California, and Washington D.C. I was an avid pen pal, loved doing mail order in the U.S. and internationally, and took every opportunity to go on road trips with friends to other cities or states to watch bands play, meet new friends, and “distribute” my ‘zine.
It was a really magical time of my youth. In many ways the blog and cookbook project, now almost twenty years later, recall the excitement and interaction of those days. Back then I used to get letters in the mail (you know, the kind with stamps) almost every day. Now, I get enthusiastic emails and Facebook messages from friends and fans. Even years after Solace came out, I’d run into people that told me they knew my ‘zine. It was pretty cool. Though I’ve never been the preachy, dogmatic type, I was always proud when someone told me I helped or encouraged them on the path towards veganism / vegetarianism and daring to eat differently than the mainstream. Nowadays, vegan is a household word. Most restaurants – and relatives! – are way cooler about veggie eating habits. Sure, it still varies from country to country, county to county, and town to town…
The Americans have their Pot Pies, the British have Steak Pies. There’s also English and Irish Shepard’s Pie and Cottage Pie. And then there are Australian Meat Pies, to which New Zealand also stakes a popularity claim. For the record, South Africans have traditional pies, too, and variations exist throughout other parts of Africa and the Middle-East.
The concept is similar, regardless of the accent of the eater: A pastry (or even potato) crust and a savory filling. The sizes vary greatly, too. From the U.S., I’m familiar with medium-sized pot pies. In England and Ireland, I’ve usually only seen larger pies. And for whatever reason, the traditional steak pies and meat pies of that continent down under are much smaller. They fit in your hand, can be eaten in a few ambitious bites, and are immensely popular for take-out. Or is it take-away? Aye, mate – Let’s not get lost in semantics before the baking even begins!
You probably know Germany has a long, outstanding tradition of great desserts. Especially on my first visits to Germany in the late 90s, I enjoyed many apple strudels, cherry, plum, and peach cakes, and lots of other fruity and nutty delights. Germany is also famous for Lebkuchen (gingerbread cookies), Stollen (fruitcakes), and tons of other decadent treats, increasingly available as vegan adaptations. The best, of course, come from home kitchens. In addition to the pastry shops and bakeries, the cafés almost always have great sweets, too.
In these cafés, you’ll see something that looks a lot like a brownie. There might even be a card next to it that says: Brownies. However – I grew up (mostly) in the United States – with awesome brownies at home, friends’ homes, from school bake sales, and just about anywhere else baked goods are found. Sadly, most of these German “Brownies” are imposters. They’re lackluster chocolate cake cut in the shape of a brownie! Fluffy and cake-like, and maybe pretty, but not gooey or chocolatey. I stopped ordering them years ago, probably after the third or fourth time someone told me: “No, no, this one really is a brownie!” Only to be fooled again.
You’ve probably figured out by now that here at The Lotus and the Artichoke, I love world cuisine. The majority of my recipes are inspired by my world travels to far-off countries and enthusiastic experiments with ethnic cooking.
Once in a while, however, I crave some good, old-fashioned comfort food. For me, that means a classic dish from the country where I spent most of my growing up: America. For breakfast and brunch, I’m a pancake kind of guy. But when I’m hungry for a more savory, lunch or dinner bonanza, the totally vegetarian T.L.T. is the way to go. But, but… what about Mac & Cheeze?! Sure… there’s that too, but sometimes it’s just gotta be a sandwich.
This particular dish really takes me back to the old days of diner deliciousness. You’ve probably heard about the classic B.L.T. – Bacon Lettuce Tomato sandwich, but today I want to share with you a healthier and even tastier, more compassionate spin on that: The vegan T.L.T. – Tempeh Lettuce Tomato sandwich superstar.
Saturdays have always meant one thing to me: Pancakes. Now, I don’t have pancakes every weekend, but a Saturday with pancakes just has to turn into a good day. As a kid, my little brothers and I would always wake up with my father already in the kitchen cooking up a huge pancake breakfast. I’ve got so many memories of the family-sized electric griddle plugged into the wall and the familiar smell of the kitchen and dining room turning into our own personal classic diner. We’d all gather around the table, lazy, half-dressed and hungry and Dad would flip some pancakes on to our plates. There were frequent debates on whether syrup is poured before or after slicing up the pancakes, and there were always extra pancakes to go in the freezer for after school snacks the following week.
This is my twist on the most classic vegan comfort food: baked mac and faux-cheese. It’s evolved over the years — usually I make this with some of the variations listed. Especially for newbies to nutritional yeast, adding a puréed tomato and some tomato concentrate gives a fuller, rounder more familiar flavor. Use less margarine or oil if you like; just adjust the liquid accordingly so your cheeze doesn’t end up too thick. For the crumbs, I usually food process one or two slices of toasted bread or a handful of crackers.