March 28, 2007

I'll be post-punk in the post-establishment.

I've got nothing to follow that up with, really. I just wanted to use it.

My house doesn't have regular dinners this week because it's spring break for UCB, and the polite fiction that the co-ops are not affiliated with any university in particular tends to break down around these times. Since I'm still in a state of temporary penury after a mathematical accident earlier in the month, I've been scrounging for workable meals around the house instead of going out to eat. What do you get when you force Dianna to cook creatively? Say it with me now: fucking deliciousness.

Last night was a work of staggering genius I like to call, "If I Were Winging It Any More This Soup Would Be Airborne." It's what happens when I decide to make Thai coconut-lemongrass soup but then realize that I'm lacking lemongrass, galangal, mushrooms, cilantro, and the recipe. I actually had the relevant cookbook, but it was in my room at the bottom of a large stack of books and I decided to forgo it and just pretend I knew what I was doing. So I mixed up some veggie broth and let it simmer with some sliced leeks, ginger, peppercorns, and a sliced half-lime while I dicked around cutting up other vegetables. The finished product had tofu, carrots, onions, the aforementioned leeks (although not the lime slices because I fished them out after 30 minutes or so), a few chunks of green bell pepper, red pepper flakes, a bit more lime juice and an absolute crapload of coconut milk. And it was amazing. A visitor from another co-op who found himself sitting near a bowl of it interrupted himself in the middle of a conversation to remark in wondering tones that it looked quite lovely (and yes I offered him some, but he had just eaten).

I brought some to work this afternoon for Wes, who's back after an incredibly unpleasant post-surgery weekend. Generous higher-ups in our department bought a ridiculous amount of pizza today as a thank-you lunch gesture for the people working over spring break, and while Wes and I didn't want to rain tiny vegan tears on their parade we couldn't help pouting just a little. So when I went home for lunch I inhaled a bowl of the leftover soup and smuggled the rest into the library in a big Tupperware. Why am I telling you this? So that I can brag about how the tangy, spicy smell brought our omnivore employees over to the supervisor desk to make small hopeful noises and stare with saucer eyes at Wes's bowl.

I've realized that my diet requires, above all else, one particular kind of motivational fuel. It's not moral outrage, although I have plenty of that. It has nothing to do with my health or the pleasant view from aboard my high horse. It's actually the thrill of creating the transcendent, tempting, ultimately irresistible meal, and going out and daring people to resist it.

I'm convinced that you get more thrill for your money when you're cooking vegan, though I'm not wholly sure why. Perhaps the ingredients are more subtle, more temperamental. Perhaps the flavor combinations require more finesse. Perhaps it's the difficulty of convincing people who think of meat and dairy as their staples to be full and happy after eating something vegan, which makes a meal that does so a matter for the Office of Happy Glows. And, of course, there's the fact that my present level of cooking skill has been acquired almost entirely since I went vegan, so that I don't have nearly the dazzling chops for cooking meat and dairy as I do for cooking vegetables.

In short, if I make it a point every week or so to engage in a dervish dance of ecstatic culinary self-expression, share my creations with others, and back in their enjoyment and admiration, I can probably spend the rest of my life as the world's most gleeful and self-satisfied vegan. If I don't do that, I'll spend the next two years crying in my room over lost fondue opportunities and then give up and start eating dairy again. I know which one sounds better to me, and I suggest you keep a fork and plate on hand and make a note of my address. In the long run, it can't fail to benefit you.

Posted by dianna at March 28, 2007 02:43 PM