Jane Goes Vegan

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Day 24: What [insert well known person] would eat if they were vegan. 

Oh, this is a prompt that I just love! There are so many directions to take it: current pop culture figure who’s super-duper not vegan, politico who you’d like to imagine as vegan, historical figure who would probably have been vegan if s/he were alive today… so many fun thought-experiments! I briefly toyed with the idea of focusing on a distant relative of mine, John Greenleaf Whittier. He was a Quaker poet and an outspoken abolitionist during the mid 1800s, and I like to think that he would have been more than receptive to veganism, thanks to his deep and abiding compassion. Just look at this Wikipedia quote (emphasis mine):

“In 1833, Whittier published the antislavery pamphlet Justice and Expediency, and from there dedicated the next twenty years of his life to the abolitionist cause. The controversial pamphlet destroyed all of his political hopes — as his demand for immediate emancipation alienated both northern businessmen and southern slaveholders — but it also sealed his commitment to a cause that he deemed morally correct and socially necessary. He was a founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society and signed the Anti-Slavery Declaration of 1833, which he often considered the most significant action of his life.”

Awesome as Whittier was, I ultimately knew there was a different author I wanted to choose: the one, the only, Jane Austen. I’m currently reading Jane’s Fame, an exploration of how her fame has waxed and waned over the years, and it’s fascinating. There have been so-called Janeites from nearly every walk of life, and her novels have made their way into unlikely places — like the trenches during the first world war. The evolution of literary criticism — and how those changes affect Austen criticism — is fascinating to me as a one-time English major. Jane it is!

Book with a turquoise cloth cover, which features the feet and legs of folks dancing in old-fashioned clothes.

I was tempted to choose an Austen novel for the book/film prompt, but her books include a surprisingly small number of explicitly mentioned foodstuffs, and nothing really appealed to me. This prompt is a much better fit, though: Now I can play around with the entire Regency period’s palate! As it turns out, the Regency period ushered in some fairly substantial changes in dining habits — like the introduction of lunch (because breakfast was eaten earlier and dinner later). Most of these changes, of course, started with the upper class, the people who were in high society and needed to keep up with their trendy neighbors. The Austens were solidly middle-class (some higher-class acquaintances thought Jane herself a bit low-class and vulgar), so it’s hard to say how many of these changes would have trickled down to her family.

The good news for our cause, though, is that Jane was an avid letter-writer. Although her steadfast sister Cassandra destroyed many letters before her death, those that remain give us a little glimpse into what we might’ve found on Jane’s table. There are also two extant cookbooks used by friends and family close to Jane. Dining with Austen uses those resources to recreate recipes from Jane’s time. It promises to be a great resource for food Jane herself might have eaten; although it’s still a work in progress, the ultimate goal is a Jane-centric cookbook. For this prompt, I’m going to take it from the top and share my ideas on what vegan delicacies a day in the life of Jane might have featured. I’m trying to stay true to ingredients that the Austens would have been able to access — no Chao cheese or hemp milk here!

Breakfast

The Austens probably sat down around 9:00 or 10:00 with a pot of tea. Although breakfasts used to be heavy (I’m thinking of the full English breakfasts Jenny has been tantalizing us with!), by this time, they were probably simpler. Jane might have had some homemade bread with jam, canned from the previous year’s harvest. Or maybe she would have had something a little heavier, like a piece of spiced cake or a scone or two.

My recipe calls for spelt flour, coconut milk, and vanilla extract, but the Austens’ cook could substitute regular wheat flour, homemade oat milk (since oats would be easier to access than almonds and could be manually ground), and any other extract they had on hand. Jane’s tea could be sweetened with a lump of sugar and some of that oat milk, if necessary.

Luncheon

Jane’s midday meal wouldn’t have been anything fancy — maybe some small cold sandwiches of homemade bread and any vegetables that were on hand. The Austens would have eaten these sandwiches with knives and forks after they’d been cut into small triangles. On the side, Jane could snack on fresh fruit and leftover cake from breakfast. This was a light meal to tide her over until dinner. Perhaps the cook could have experimented with something like my Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Sandwich!

Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Sandwich

Other than the nutritional yeast, I think they would have been able to manage something similar! Even the pickles on the side would have been welcome — pickled veggies were quite the fad.

Dinner

This was the largest meal of the day, and by the early 1800s, Jane’s family had begun eating it around 5:00 pm — a big change from their previous dining time of 3:00! Dinner would have consisted of many courses and much variety, including something like my Warm Lentil & Brussels Sprout Salad with Roasted Radicchio Wedges.

Warm Lentil & Brussels Sprout Salad with Roasted Radicchio Wedges

With a few simple substitutions, this nourishing, warm dish would have been entirely possible. Or maybe they would have served a soup.

Kale and White Bean Soup

The cook could have managed Kale and White Bean Soup easily enough! Jane might also have eaten whatever veggies were in season, sauteed in oil instead of the rich, buttery sauces that were popular at the time. She would have sipped wine with her meal, and rounded it off with dried fruit, nuts, and some kind of sweet — maybe candied ginger or something heavier, like cake.

Supper

If Jane stayed up late, she might have another bowl of soup around 10:00 or 11:00 pm, along with another glass of wine — or maybe negus, a nasty-sounding gelatinous beverage made with water, wine, lemon juice, spices, and, traditionally, calves-foot jelly. Jane’s vegan version would strip out the jelly and be more of a mulled wine. ;)

~~~

That was fun! And now I’m inspired to research what ingredients were available to Jane so I can recreate some of her family’s recipes. Maybe that will be next year’s MoFo theme!

Sweet Iced Oat Milk

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Day 7: Make/eat something inspired by a book or film.

Today’s prompt is terrifyingly broad! On this hot Labor Day Monday, when I’m still tired out from last night’s fundraiser and post-fundraiser friend times, all I want is to drink ice-cold water and snack on healthy foods. As I perused the internet looking for inspiration, I came across this quote from A Game of Thrones:

“…Wine no longer agrees with my digestion, I fear, but I can offer you a cup of iced milk, sweetened with honey. I find it most refreshing in this heat.” (Grand Maester Pycelle to Ned Stark, p. 250)

As a fan of the book series, the idea of making something super-simple yet inspired by a King’s Landing drink appealed to me. Ned describes the milk as “oversweet to his taste,” so I made sure not to go overboard with the sweetener in my version. I think this one would be Eddard-approved!

Sweet Iced Oat Milk

Sweet Iced Oat Milk
Serves 2-3

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 3 cups filtered water
  • 2 1/2 T pure maple syrup
  • Dash cinnamon

Add the dry oats to the blender and pulse for 20-30 seconds, or until they’re in small pieces. Add the water and let soak for about 10 minutes, giving the oats a stir now and then if you think of it. Blend for 2-3 minutes, or until you don’t see any pieces. (Give your blender a little rest in between minutes if it’s not particularly strong.)

Place a nut milk bag over a large measuring bowl or mason jar and pour the oat milk through the bag. Use your hands to gently squeeze out the milk, but most of it should strain very quickly. Set the bag aside. Pour the milk back into the blender and add the maple syrup and a dash of cinnamon. Blend for 10-15 seconds, then return to a jar for storing.

If you have time, freeze a few ice cubes made of the oat milk. To serve, add 2-3 cubes to a frosty glass, then pour in the milk. If you’re short on time, you can place the entire container of milk in the freezer for about 15 minutes so it gets very cold, and forgo the ice cubes. No matter which way you serve it, be sure to give it a quick whisk or stir to recombine any separated ingredients.

Oat milk should last for about a week in your fridge.

Sweet Iced Oat Milk

Erudite Eats: District 13 Bean and Onion Stew

Yesterday morning, as part of my campaign to slow down and make time for myself, I took a bath, an honest to goodness fill-up-the-tub-and-scald-your-girly-bits bath. I used a Lush bath bomb I’d been holding on to for a year or two, and it was glorious. Sure, I learned that the stopper in my bathtub’s drain doesn’t actually work very well, so I had to cover it with a sponge and anchor the sponge with my foot, and sure, my long, curly hair doesn’t take well to immersion-washing and might’ve turned into a bit of a rat’s nest afterwards, but hey, I spent twenty minutes soaking in hot, almond-y water and reading. So you know what? I’m calling it a success.

I used the in-tub downtime to start reading Mockingjay, the third and final book in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy. I’ve already shared my bibliophilic tendencies, and yes – those tendencies extend to young adult fantasy(ish) novels. I’m not ashamed; I think the series is great and definitely worth a read. They’re like brain candy; quick to get through and immensely enjoyable. As I read my book, MoFo was the last thing on my mind; I was more concerned with, y’know, the story’s plot. But then I read the following line and knew what I had to do:

“Either because the prep team’s incapacitated or I’m too on edge, Plutarch releases me from Mockingjay duties for the rest of the day. Gale and I head down to lunch, where we’re served bean and onion stew, a thick slice of bread, and a cup of water.”

There was just something about the idea of a warm stew that appealed to me yesterday, possibly because it was chilly, grey, and drizzly. So I headed into the kitchen to whip up District 13 Bean and Onion Stew:

Katniss-approved?

Inredients
1/2 [very] large yellow onion, thinly sliced (If I’d had a whole onion, I would’ve used it!)
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 C roughly chopped mushrooms (I used baby bella)
2 C vegetable broth (I use Better Than Bouillon’s Vegetable Base, but I think a faux-beef stock would work fantastically here)
15 oz cooked Great Northern beans
1 bay leaf
3/4 t dried sage (I used sage I’d dried during the summer… mmm!)
1/4 t thyme
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a saucepot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add onions. Cook until the onions begin to get soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook them down for about another 10 minutes. Add the vegetable broth and the remaining ingredients and bring soup to a boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer for another 30 minutes, until the onions are very soft.

Simple, yet so delicious – I was quite pleased with this stew! I didn’t think adding mushrooms was too much of a stretch from the book version, as I’m sure they could be grown easily in District 13’s underground gardens. Or, if not, Katniss and Gale could gather them during their 2 hours of sanctioned daily hunting time. And I bet potatoes would make another great addition to this rustic, homey stew.

I served this with the Dijon-Thyme Bread from 500 Vegan Recipes, which was not entirely successful. It was my first yeasted breadmaking experience (!), and I realized too late that I didn’t have either of the kinds of flour called for in the recipe. Really, though, the only problem was its failure to rise; it tasted just fine. I know Dijon-Thyme Bread is probably a little fanciful for District 13 – it’s more appropriate for the Capital, perhaps – but maybe my baking error humbled it a little bit. ;)

Have you read the Hunger Games series? Do you ever read books that aren’t targeted to your age group? I’ve already said that I’m a diehard Harry Potter fan, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I’ve enjoyed the Hunger Games books so much!