Tofutti, it's what's for dinner?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Cooking and Eating

I don’t know where you were today, but me, I was at a vegan cooking class. In a Presbyterian church. Now those of you who know me understand that me heading to a church for some vegan cooking lessons is tantamount to Dracula strapping a garlicky crucifix to his neck and heading to the beach for the day. Amy’s mom, Jean bought me some cooking classes for Christmas and the first one that I wanted to go to was today: Hearty Italian Cooking. (I opted to skip the first two classes: I passed on the vegan baking class on recommendations from vegetarian friends who warned me that vegans hate to eat dessert and the “demystifying tofu” class just sounded silly).

So there I was, ready to learn about how to cook Italian food without meat or animal byproducts, when the instructor had us go around the room to introduce ourselves and state why we were there. I said my name and told everyone there that I was a stay at home dad and did all the cooking. That was fine enough, the hard part came when it I had to talk about why I was there. I went the honest route, which turned out to be a huge mistake. I said that my mother-in-law had bought me some gift certificates for Christmas and that I thought she was crazy for suggesting that I learn to cook without meat. After I said this, I heard a gasp, and all of the air got sucked out of the room. I looked around and the granola-ey people who were smiling earlier, now recoiled and looked at me like I had just called them a bunch of idiots, which, I guess, I just had. It didn’t help that I was wearing a Beer Nuts hat which read, Beer Nuts: Good Times, Great Nuts. I guess it beat the, “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner” hat I had on last night. I was floundering, and things didn’t get any better when I called myself a “self-described Meatasaur” and that there was no way I was going vegan after one class, but maybe, just maybe, I would cook a meal every once in a while without meat in it. Crickets. The instructor made a quick joke about how good of a teacher she was and then moved on. I felt bad, like I had gone to band camp and told them all how dorky I thought band geeks were. Actually, I was little impressed with myself that I was able to introduce myself a church on a Saturday morning without saying, “my name is Paul and I am an alcoholic.”

We began cooking and made polenta with roast red pepper sauce, pizza, risotto with spring vegetables, and chocolate un-cheese cake. For the most part the food was pretty good. I would say it was one step short of gourmet, but the real draw of the day was the instructor. The instructor, colleen, had tons of energy, lots of wit, and a button that said, “be kind to animals, don’t eat them.” She made us all giggle a lot, and made the 3 hours together very enjoyable. For anyone of you who read this, you can find Colleen’s organization, Compassionate Cooks here. Some of the granolaheads, though, had elevated the woman to rock star status, and would laugh at an inappropriately volume at all of her jokes. They would also mutter under their breath about how smart she was, too. (“That is sooooo true, if you don’t stir in the cornmeal slowly, then your polenta will clump together. Wow, she really knows her stuff.”) I accepted all this though, as I figured the protein starved vegans hadn’t really ever run into one of their own with this much energy before.

I sat in the back, asking a few questions (“How do you pick a good tomato?” “Is pizza sauce the same as pasta sauce?” “Are bacon and eggs vegan?”) and considered how the cooking class would change my eating/cooking. I realize the health benefits of skipping meat some of the time. I also realize that a lot of animals suffer needlessly as part of the food establishment. I cannot, for two reasons, justify swearing off meat, just yet. We took Malcolm to Earth, the new Disney nature movie, last night, and it was apparent that eating other animals is part of the natural order. (Seriously, why does Disney love violence so much? For a kids movie, why not show more little baby ducklings hopping out of trees and less wolves eating caribou, sharks eating seals, lions eating elephants, polar bears attacking walruses, and cheetahs eating deer. Then again, I should be glad that Disney didn’t arm the polar bears with shotguns to shoot the holy hell out of all the walruses.) The second reason that I eat meat is that my cat eats sushi. Yes, that’s right, we gave our cat leftover sushi, so that means I get to eat steak tonight.

I am not ready to give up cheese or meat, but I decided that I would at least try a few things. I tasted some fake butter and vowed to try it on my popcorn and/or cookies. I also will try to use a thickening agent in some dessert recipes instead of eggs. I am going to write Colleen and let her know that I have made these two concessions. I am not sure whether she will be impressed or not, but, hey if a guy wearing a beer nuts hat tells you that you’ve made a difference, it ought to make your day.

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One response to “Tofutti, it's what's for dinner?”

  1. Jean says:

    I enjoyed your post as usual. I'm glad you used the gift certificate. At least it gave you something to write about!

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