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…
On my first two visits to India in the early to mid-2000s, I had idly or dosa for breakfast almost whenever possible. I’m a huge fan of South Indian breakfasts. Unlike most North American and European breakfasts, which tend to be on the sweeter side (think: cereal, toast with jam or even chocolate spread, pastries, muffins, pancakes), Indian breakfasts are typically spicy and savory… and did I mention: delicious?
Amazingly, it wasn’t until my third and fourth trip to India that I got to know the Indian breakfast hit, poha. These kinds of things happen if you’re too focused on your favorite dishes and foods! That’s why it’s so important to try new things. Be open to suggestions, take chances, and enjoy invitations to home cooked meals! I encountered poha so late in the game probably because it’s much more of a family dish – prepared at home kitchens across India. It’s less likely found on restaurant menus. That said, some hotels (code word for restaurant on the sub-continent) and breakfast spots do offer poha.
The best poha I ever had, as with many Indian dishes, was not at a restaurant, but at a home. A very special home in fact, where I was welcomed and treated like family. If you’ve been following my stories on this blog, you know I lived for a year in Amravati, India – deep in the state of Maharashtra. I had amazingly generous and attentive neighbors, and my host family was particularly endearing and kind.
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.