The Historic Ingredient: Verjus

verjuice2Long Island’s Wolffer Estate Verjus, a tart coking ingredient made from the juice of unripe grapes.

This is the third is a series of posts I’m doing about Medieval cooking; I’ve already eaten dishes from the earliest known English cooking manuscript; and dabbled in Martha Washington’s historic recipes; now, I want to focus on an interesting medieval ingredient: verjus, verjuice, or literally “green juice.”

The History

A byproduct of the wine industry, grape vines are thinned midway through the season, producing a haul of unripe grapes which can be pressed for their juice. Before lemons were imported into Northern Europe after the crusades, verjus added sour and acid flavors into food. Tartaric acid, better known as cream of tartar when used in baked goods, is responsible for its flavor; poured over ice and drunk straight, verjus is a refreshingly tart grape juice. I’ve read it can also be pressed from windfall apples and other unripe fruits and can be bottled and kept for up to a year.

Winemakers are trying to reintroduce verjus to a contemporary market; I found my bottle in a cheese shop, Formaggio Essex, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The New York Times wrote about verjus in 2010, suggesting it as ideal for saucing up a chicken (also a very traditional use) and replacing the lemon in “lemon bars” with verjus, for a dessert.

I scoured the internets for period-appropriate verjus recipes, and cooked up a dinner party to taste test the results!

The Recipes

I hosted my dinner on a Friday night, so I decided to a go a little Medieval-Catholic-ee and observe a “fast day,” meaning no meat. All my offerings were veg, starting with a squash soup from Libro de Arte Coquinaria (The Art of Cooking) written c. 1465 by Martino da Como.

verjuiceA Squash or Pumpkin Soup, 1465.

The translated recipe for this dish can be found in The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy. I used two butternut squash, sliced and cooked in a homemade vegetable stock that was heavy on the onion. I pureed to softened squash, and blended it with egg yolks, grated asiago cheese, and saffron. I plated each serving with a tablespoon of verjuice, and topped it with two kinds of black pepper, cloves, fresh grated nutmeg, and a dash of cinnamon. My diners were pleased with the recipe: they loved that the results were lighter and less sweet than a typical, contemporary squash soup. Get the full recipe here.

On the side, I served Green Poree for Days of Abstinence, a medieval French recipe of chard cooked with verjuice and finished with butter. I had picked this recipe to round out my menu, but this simple dish ended up being the favorite of the night. The verjus made the slow-braised Swiss chard sweet and bright. Everyone agreed it was not only the best Swiss chard they had ever eaten, but it was also a pleasure to eat: even my husband cleaned his plate.

verjus4Swiss Chard with Verjuice: The Best!

Swiss Chard Braised with Verjus
Adpated from The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy

This recipe is enough for one head of swiss chard, which would feed 1-2 people. I recommend preparing one head of chard per person; it cooks down substantially.

1 head Swiss chard, washed, dried, and tough stems removed.
1/4 cup verjuice
1/2 cup vegetable stock
2 tablespoons butter (or to taste)
Salt (to taste)

In a large pot, add chard, stock, salt and verjuice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer 20-30 minutes until tender. Stir in butter and serve with toasted bread.

 verjuice3Verjuice dessert bar.

For dessert, I took the New York Times’ suggestion and baked Ina Garten’s Lemon Bar recipe, replacing the lemon juice with verjuice. I wasn’t sure if I should still add the lemon zest, however. I didn’t and I found the results to be too subtle and flavorless. Most of of diners enjoyed the slightly tart taste of the custardy bars; I took the leftovers to a party, and everyone gorged themselves. By the way, when making this recipe, I realized I didn’t own a 9×13 pan, so I dumped the batter in a much smaller pan and told myself it would be fine. As a result, the extra thick verjus bars didn’t set properly in the middle, and were a bit runny when I sliced into them. But thems the breaks, and no one seemed it mind.

The Results

Verjuice is awesome. I would buy it and try it again; I would even attempt to make it myself after I move out of New York have some outdoor work space. I think it’s a great thing to keep in the kitchen and I’m really curious to try it to deglaze pans and make sauces for meat. I’d love to use it with more cooked vegetables; I think the flavor complements greens better than lemon juice. And one of my dinner guests pointed out it would be a great mixer for drinks; she envisioned gin, which would make an excellent summer cocktail.

If you’re interested in giving verjus a try, there is an entire cookbook devoted to Cooking with Verjuice. You can also buy it online if you haven’t seen it in any nearby stores.

The possibilities are endless. The flavor is incredible (even if you hate grape juice, like I do!). Try it.

Events: Fake Meats!

Masters of Social Gastronomy: Fake Meat!
Tuesday, April 24, 7pm
Public Assembly, 70 North 6th Street, Williamsburg

Each month, MSG takes on a curious food topic and breaks down the history, science, and stories behind it. Accept no imitations, because on April 24th we’ll be talking FAKE MEAT.

Sarah Lohman of Four Pounds Flour will give you a run-down of vegetarianism in the west. From Benjamin Franklin’s ”Tow-fu” to Dr. Kellogg’s commercial “Protose,” we’ll explore just how long we’ve been eating things that masquerade as meat.

Soma will be taking charge of all your favorite modern imitation meats, exploring the many faces of soy and revealing the not-so-secret fungi factories that power your favorite frauds. We’ll take a look at crafting mock duck and tempeh at home, as well as where to shop if your culinary prowess fails.

There’ll samples of historic fake meats so good you might be inspired to replace your veggie burger with some history food, along with drink specials from the always awesome Buffalo Trace Bourbon. RSVP HERE so we know how many free samples to bring!

Going Raw: Friday


Sliced pineapple; Pecans; Protoid nuts; Evaporated Apples; Dates

I feel like the menu writers of Uncooked Foods began to run out of steam by the end of the week.  I ate dried apples from Russ & Daughters, most of my remaining pecans, and sliced pineapple.

Uncooked Foods is a big supporter of Fletcherizing: chewing you food at least 30 times per bite.  Try it sometime; you’ll find that every mouthful  disintegrates into a disgusting puddy, the taste and texture of which will make you spit it back out.


Apples; Pecans; English Walnuts; Lettuce; Sweet Butter; Unfired wafers; Dates; Fruit and Nut medley; Milk
All packed up for lunch at work.  My coworkers have been incredibly supportive and interested.


Oranges; Protoid Nuts; Black walnuts; ripe olives; sliced tomatoes; unfired wafers; cream cheese; prune whip with whipped cream; figs; milk +Hazelnuts
On this plate, you see my rather meager dinner; I felt so hungry and unsatisfied that I followed up by devouring a container of cream cheese and banana chips.  I was just so hungry.  And that’s what I got to eat while my boyfriend made a hamburger.
Now that I’m in the home stretch, it is getting harder.  I miss bread!  I’ve already decided what my first meal will be on Sunday: a bagel with cream cheese and a hot cup of tea with milk and sugar.

Going Raw: Wednesday


Sliced sweet apples with cream; pecans; protoid nuts; sliced oranges; dates; egg-nog

Tasty, filling breakfast!


Pears; pecans; english walnuts; tomato salad with hygeia dressing; fruit wafers; cream cheese; turkish figs with cream; dates; milk
I ate a pear for a mid-morning snack, then put together this little lunch.  I couldn’t figure out what they meant by fruit wafers, so I got banana chips, which now that I think about it, might be fried.  I’ll have to try to pick up some dehydrated fruit crisps from somewhere.
Hygeia dressing is a mayonnaisey-type dressing with raw eggs; since I’ve have a raw egg prohibition, I found a light ranch dressing that didn’t use vinegar, and I’ve substituted that instead.  Salad dressing and olive oil are the only two condiments I’m allowed to use.  Why, you ask?
The use of condiments, the pouring of some mixed-up mess of something over foods just before we eat them, in the vain hope of making them better, seems to be a sort of weird superstition….People will sit in a fashionable cafe, and dine upon an undrawn cold storage turkey, that has been a year dead, and pour over its ancient flesh a tar colored fluid that has been upon the shelf of a grocer several years, until it has reached that limit of delicious decay suggested by the green slimy mildew in Roquefort cheese.


I abandoned my suggested dinner menu tonight because I was meeting a friend (Jess of Domestology!) after work.  Eating raw at home is one thing; trying to find appropriate foods in the world at large is another.  We agreed to meet at a vegetarian cafe in the Flatiron district–one that I’ve enjoyed even when I’m not on a restricted history diet–only to find that it was closed for good.  We wandered down 6th avenue, balefully searching for a place where I could eat.  Eventually, we ended up in a corner deli, where I ordered a veggie wrap.  I scraped a few cupfuls of shredded carrots out of the middle of a soggy pita.  It sucked, and really made me miss the flavorful food I’ve been eating.  Although the dinner was terrible, we had a great chat about the amazing embroidered book covers Jess been making (see them here).

After dinner, as I left to get on the train, I spied a Mr. Softee truck.  I remembered one of the foods that was on the suggested menu for today was ice cream.  So, a bit guiltily, I stepped up to the window and ordered vanilla soft serve in a cup.  It was cooked in the same way all the dairy products I’ve consumed this week are cooked, I reasoned.  I spooned it into my mouth on the train ride home, clasping the cup as though someone might snatch it away from me and deprive me of my treat.  Each mouthful was sweet, creamy and buttery.  I disposed of the empty cup before I got home.

When I walked in the door, I found my boyfriend doing dishes.  “Are you hungry?” I asked. “Do you need me to fix you something?”

“Hey,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to be raw anymore.”

“Oh yeah?”

“I don’t feel like I’ve eaten anything this week.  I feel like I’ve just been snacking.  I miss cooked food.  But I want to support you!”

“Don’t worry about it–it’s ok, I understand if you want to quit.  But,” I said, throwing my hands in the air, “I am powerless to fix you dinner.”

So I’m on my own now, with three days left.

Going Raw: Tuesday


Apples; Pecans; Bananas and Cream; Unfired wafers; seeded raisins; milk

For breakfast, I had a big heaping bowl of sliced apples, bananas, and chopped pecans.


Apples; Pecans; Celery Salad; Unfired Crackers; Chestnuts; Date and nut Butter; Dates; Persimmons with Cream
Celery salad is made up of chopped celery, apples, and pecans dressed with olive oil.  The chestnuts were actually roasted, which I realized after I purchased them.  I ate them anyway.  Other than dairy products, they’re the only cooked food I’ve eaten this week.


Sliced Pineapple; Pecans; Blanched Almonds; Ripe Olives; Celery; Unfired wafers; Combination Nut Butter; Sliced Bananas, Dates and Cream; Egg-nog

I had Raw Sea Crackers for a snack in the afternoon, and then had dinner of pineapple and banana slices slathered in almond butter–a favorite snack of mine, historic diet or no.  Later in the evening, I had almonds and dates as a snack.

Compared to other historic diets I’ve been on, this one is a breeze.  I’m not really craving anything–I would “like” bread and I would “like” a cup of tea, but it’s not a desperate situation.

I got to sit down to lunch with my boyfriend today, who is also sticking to a raw diet this week.  We’ve been working opposite schedules, so it’s been a couple of days since we’ve talked.

“How is this experience for you?” I asked.

“Fine. I’ve been eating enough.”

“How’s your poop?”


“Me too!!  And it floats!”  And it’s frequent. I’ve got bowels John Harvey Kellogg would be proud of.

Going Raw: Monday


Apples; Protoid Nuts; Filberts; Turkish pulled figs with cream +Raw Honey

I sliced my apple and smeared it with raw honey, then sprinkled the pine nuts over top.  The filberts–hazelnuts–I added to the figs and cream.

I would normally have a cup of tea with my breakfast, and two to three more throughout the day.  But Uncooked Foods advises against it:

It is impossible to keep alive the appetite for such stimulants as tobacco, fermented and distilled liquors, tea and coffee when the body is correctly fed.  A being who subsists upon clean elementary foods would have no more desire for stimulants and narcotics than a horse or a dog would have for a Manhattan cocktail.

In the end, it will be nice to break my caffeine habit.  But currently, I’m experiencing bouts of extreme drowsiness and headaches.


Pecans; Olives; Vegetable Salad with Hygeia dressing; Unfired Crackers; Sweet Butter; Evaporated Peaches and raisins; Milk

I made most of my ingredients into a big salad, and packed the whole thing up for lunch.  The biscuits I’m eating are miserable little things:

Bread forms a very important part of the uncooked menu, but its production is not practical in the home, where this book is intended to be of greatest use, as it requires special machinery for flaking and grinding the different grains and nuts of which it is made. It also requires a special electric light oven for drying during the winter when the rays of the sun cannot be utilized.

To meet conditions that exist, we make an exception here and give two recipes for bread that requires cooking, but is unfermented.

I haven’t quite figured out why the book dislikes fermentation.  The recipe that they give for “unleavened gems” is 3 cups whole wheat flour to 2 cups cold water and 2 tablespoons of fat.  Then “Take up on a spoon and work all the air possible into the batter by vigorous beating two or three minutes in the open air.”  I had the benefit of my electric mixer.  I baked them for ten minutes at 400 degrees, and the result was something less edible than silly puddy.  I will suffer through them for another day or two, then I think I’m going to switch back to the raw crackers from Whole  Foods.


Oranges; Apples; Pecans; Protoid nuts; Ripe Olives; Lettuce; Flaked Oats, Dates and Cream; Unfired Crackers; Sweet Butter; Fruit Salad; Egg Nog.

I had a very long day at work, so I ate dinner there, too–and forgot to snap a photo.  It was more of the same: a large salad with some fruit and unleavened breads.

Despite my kvetching, I’ve been generally very satisfied with my meals.  The food is good and fresh, and extremely healthy while remaining delicious.  I feel full at the end of a meal.  But I’m extremely flatulent.


Going Raw: Sunday


Grape Fruit or Oranges; Pecans; Protoid Nuts (Pine Nuts); Dates; Whipped Eggs; Milk  +Raw Honey

Uncooked Foods gives some general guidelines for portion size: one large fruit, 2-3 smaller fruits, an ounce of nuts.

I’ve decided I’m not going to eat raw eggs:  Salmonella didn’t enter eggs until the 1970s ( New York Times article about it here), so raw eggs were a lot safer when this cookbook was written. I didn’t drink milk because my boyfriend drank it all the night before.

I drizzled raw honey over my grape fruit.  Raw honey is unpasteurized and minimally filtered, and has no additives.  It is solid at room temperature, and does need to be heated slightly to use it.  From what I understand, the sugar crystals are larger which also gives it a murky appearance.  It can also contain beeswax, pollen, and even bee pieces, if you have really fresh stuff.



Bananas (ripe); English Walnuts; Protoid Nuts; Unfired Crackers; Dates; Cold Slaw with Olive Oil; Persian Prunes with Cream; Milk +Raw Sea Crackers

“Cold Slaw” is just shredded cabbage, which I doused will olive oil, and mixed up with the pine nuts and walnuts.  It was quite tasty and I ate it very happily.  The authors of Uncooked Foods mention that they have tried to provide food combinations that taste good together in the mouth.  I also added Raw Sea Crackers, because I haven’t baked any “Unfired Crackers” yet.  They came from the raw section at Whole Foods, and they’re some combination of flax seed and sea weed.  The blurb on the back of the package mentioned the company’s founder turned to a raw diet after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and it has helped her manage her disease.  Looks like people are still turning to raw diets for a cure.

Uncooked Foods has some interesting things to say about milk: first, it says that good milk should have 12% milk fat, which is equal to Half and Half by today’s standards.  So, that what I drank: about four ounces of half and half, and it was sweet and delicious.   Here’s what Uncooked Foods has to say on the subject of milk:

The custom of cooking or sterilizing milk, due to ignorance is little less than criminal. Cooking milk is recommended by certain alleged dietetic authorities on the ground that it kills bacteria. They probably forget maybe do not know that all the five digestive fluids are strongly germicidal. The bacteria that may exist in milk, of which so much fear is entertained, could not live an instant after coming in contact with the gastric juice which is strongly aciduous, to say nothing of contact with the saliva bile and pancreatic and intestinal juices.

I’ve been asked if I’m going to consume raw dairy during this diet, and the answer is no.  I’ve got a bug up my butt about unpasteurized milk, and I will never stop linking to this article on swill milk to explain it.  Milk in the 19th century was filled with tuberculosis, amongst other things, and was a major contributor to the high infant mortality rate, particularly in New York City. Early veganism, which was contemporary to the raw foodists, rejects milk because of its association with disease (read more about that here).  In fact, in the chapter in Uncooked Foods on meat, it points out that 36% of cows have TB.  And TB does not die when it hits gastric juices.  So the milk I will be consuming will be pasteurized.

There is a raw milk movement in America today; Edible Manhattan just had a great article about it.



Pears; Pecans; Black Walnuts; Ripe Olives; Celery; Flaked Wheat, Dates, and Cream; Unfired crackers; Combination Nut Butter; Fruit Jelly with Whipped Cream; Dates; Egg-nog

I felt like I had had enough nuts for one day, so I just had raw almond butter spread over pear halves.  I also ate the olives, which I don’t normally like, with the celery; it was a delightful flavor combination.  I had rolled oats, cream, and dates for an evening snack–I haven’t been able to find flaked wheat, although Bob’s Red Mill makes it, so oats will have to do.

As I walked through my neighborhood today, I felt particularly tuned in to the smells of cooking food.  Someone nearby was grilling outside and the scent of fat steaks sizzling above hot coals curled around corners and into my nose.  From the open door of a bakery, the sweetest smells wafted out, of cakes and pastries and other delights.  Then, carried on a breeze, I smelled the complicated spices of curry sauces, savory and inviting.

But when I returned home, I munched on my pear slices and felt satisfied.  As Uncooked Foods says, “The best foods need the least preparation.”


Going Vegan Day 5: A Vegan Feast!

Nut Roast!

I kept breakfast and lunch simple today: oatmeal with soy milk in the morning;  almond butter on coconut bread with banana slices for lunch.  The coconut bread was really tasty, and also a throwback to the 1910 cookbook.

Cocoanut Bread — 1 lb. whole wheat flour, 1 lb. white flour, ½ lb. cocoanut meal, some cane sugar.
I used 1 cup of cane sugar for this recipe, and the coconut shreds I used were also sweetened.  I also added 1 tsp of baking powder.  The bread was delicious!

In the evening, I opened my doors to 13 guests ready to given veganism a try.  Some were seasoned vegan veterans, some were hardened omnivores.  The Menu:


First Course
Autumn Salad
Shaved Cabbage, Grated Beets and Apples, Mint, Lemon Juice and Toasted Walnuts.

Second Course
Semolina Soup
with Mizuna greens

Third Course
Pine Nut Roast
with Sauteed Spinach and Spaghetti Squash

Fourth Course
Continental Tart
Coconut Bread with Homemade Blackberry and Blueberry Lime Jam
or Malt Syrup


The first course was another salad recommended in Henderson’s 1945 book.  It was light, refreshing, and delicious.  The second course was the Semolina Soup I made earlier this week, flavored with Marmite.  Everyone was bowled over by the soup, and wanted the recipe to make it at home.  I passed around the Marmite jar for everyone to ogle.

The third course was Nut Roast, adapted from the 1910 recipe I made earlier this week, with some adjustments according to Henderson’s 1945 recipe.  Henderson gives several suggestions as to how her basic recipe can be served; I roasted mine in individual portions, and served it on top of spinach and spaghetti squash.

When I mixed this recipe, I simply put a bowl on top of my kitchen scale. I dumped the ingredients in one at a time and weighed as I went along.  Below, is my adapted version of the recipe.  I used dried herbs from my mother’s garden.

Nut Roast

8 oz pine nuts, coarsely chopped if large.
8 oz bread crumbs
1 large onion, chopped
4 medium tomatoes, skinned and pulverized.
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 tsp sage
2 tsp parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper

1. Use hands to mix all ingredients, added a little water or vegetable stock if there is not enough liquid.  Press into a pie plate or individual ramekins.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, or until the top is browned.


The nut roasts, cooked in individual star-shaped ramekins, delighted my guests.  For the vegans, it was the first time they had ever had a nut roast, and were excited to try it.  One guest, who went to school in Scotland, informed us that nut roasts are still a common vegetarian option, at least in her school cafeteria.

And for dessert, I served an apple Continental Tart, also from Henderson’s book.

Continental Tart!


Continental Tart

For the Crust:

5 oz. whole wheat flour
5 oz. breadcrumbs
5 oz Soy baking butter substitute
5 oz brown sugar
2 oz ground almonds (I ran almonds in my food processor until coarsely ground)
Lemon Juice

For the Filling:

6 medium baking apples
1/2 cup mixed, dried fruit
1/2 cup apple cider
1-2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg.

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, adding enough lemon juice to make a dough.  Leave overnight in the refrigerator, then press into the bottom and sides of a round cake or pie pan.  Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until crust is puffy and brown.

2. In the meantime, pare and core apples, and slice them into 1/4 wide slices.  Cook, covered, over medium heat with spices, fruit and cider until tender.  Pour into baked crust and set aside.

3. 15 minutes before serving, place tart in the oven at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.  Allow to cool 5 minutes; cut and serve.


The tart was also a big hit, provoking inquiries about the contents of the crust.  Margarine, I discovered, is not vegan!  It has whey in it!  So be sure to use a soy spread (or butter, if it doesn’t matter to you.)

We had a second dessert of slices of coconut bread, spread with some of my mother’s homemade jam (Blueberry Lime and Blackberry) or dribbles of malt syrup, which the vegans had never heard of before and were very enthusiastic about.

Our dinner table conversation turned to the origins of veganism, as well as why people do or don’t go vegan today.  “It’s not cheap,” a vegan friend admitted.  “It can be very expensive to choose vegan products.”  We went on the discuss that a lot of the methods that allow the cheap production of food are also the methods that can be deemed unethical, like caged hen production of eggs.  I pointed out that perhaps it was a policy change that was needed: “We’d all like to be buying cruelty free, hormone free milk, but I don’t think anyone in my neighborhood could afford it.”

“We don’t need to drink as much milk as we consume,” he answered.  He suggested consuming less of a better quality, but that “…It can be different if we’re talking about trying to feed your family of four.”

The conversation danced around a variety of topics, but focused on the food, and ideals, at hand.  There was a discussion about the “preachiness” and “pushiness” associated with veganism.   A dear friend and long-time vegan attended, who was the inspiration for the entire experiment.  He piqued my interest in vegan cuisine without ever pressing upon me the ideals behind veganism; he let me start asking those questions myself, and I admire him for it.  He amicable joked about the outspokenness of the vegan movement : “How do you know the vegan at a dinner party?  Don’t worry, he’ll tell you.”

We talked about the difficulties of finding vegan products:  for example, learned that filtered wine is not vegan; it uses isinglass, an extract from the swim bladders of fishes.  Animal products appear in the most unlikely of places.

And most of all, we talked about how delicious the food was.  Everyone who attended, vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore all agreed the dishes were excellent, and asked for recipes for each one.  All said they would make these foods again, just for the pleasure of them.  And then my friend Emily rose to give a toast:

“Lohman,” she said, raising a glass of vegan wine high, “Every time I get invited over for dinner, I’m always worried.  It’s always like, ‘come eat my beaver’ or my bear or my vegan food or whatever.  And I always think ‘Eeee…Well, at least the company will be good.’  But then I come, and the food is always, always delicious.  You have an amazing talent for making bizarre foods taste amazing.”

We cheersed, and spent the rest of the evening guzzling bottles of wine.  The next day, my boyfriend and I broke our vegan fast in the evening with sloppy joes and chocolate chip cookies.

There is a lot of debate, and  a lot of passion, surrounding the topic of veganism.  I’ve enjoyed this past week,  but I would not adopt veganism forever.  My line of work is food and I feel I would never want to limit myself in regards to what I can and cannot eat.  Additionally, I do believe an ethical, omnivorous diet is possible.  I will continue to respect and admire my vegan friends, and this project has inspired other to try out veganism:  my friends Sharon and Kathy are going vegan this week, you can follow their adventures here.

I think I’m going to leave it at that, but I’m really curious to hear from you, dear readers: What do you think of veganism?

Going Vegan Day 4: Why Have I Never had a Soy Chai Latte Before?

Oatmeal with cinnamon, raw sugar, and grated apple.

In the morning, I decided to give this oatmeal thing another shot.  But no more muesli–I cooked rolled oats in Apple Broth, with a little brown sugar and cinnamon.  Then, when it was all hot and steamy, I topped it off with a grated apple.  This. Was awesome.  The softness of the oatmeal with the textural crunch of the apple was perfect; I would definitely make it a part of my normal breakfast routine.

I had another day of running around in Manhattan ahead of me, and after a morning meeting, I felt my blood sugar crashing.  I decided I needed a Starbucks, not just for the chai, but for the bathroom.  I know I talk about my bowels a lot on this blog.  But what goes in is linked to what comes out.  During this week, my boyfriend and I have both experienced a demanding and urgent regularity in the movement of our bowels.  Now you know.

After taking care of business, I ordered up a chai with soy milk, which I would have never had gotten if not for this experiment.  And it was utterly delicious.  The soy milk added a nuttiness that married well with the chai spices.  I remember ages ago someone told me to try a chai with soy milk, and I poo-pooed them.  “Soy!?” I thought, “Blech! I only drink cows.”  But I was wrong:  my soy chai may have been the best chai I’ve ever had.

When I returned home in the late afternoon, I mixed myself up a gorgeous, late summer salad.  Henderson gives charming advice on salad building, offering suggestions for Foundation (lettuces and other greens), Interest (tomatoes, carrots, edible flowers, fruits), and Piquancy (horseradish, fresh mustard, and  garlic “if appreciated.”).  I did a variation on her “Summer Salad,” with blackberries and dill.  By the way, most of my veggies for this week came direct from a farmer upstate, via the Long Island City CSA.

Summer salad, with mixed greens, tomato, leek, blackberries, dill and olive oil vinaigrette.

Dinner was “gnocchi,” which was unlike any gnocchi I’ve ever had before:

I loaded them up with dried herbs from my mother’s garden and served them fried with sauteed spinach and onions.  I made a quick soup with a small squash and carrot, and my boyfriend picked up some pumpkin ale on his way home with work.  So Fall!  Dinner was good, but at the same time, I began to grow tired of all of my meals centering around one or another type of moosh.

“Gnocchi,” with squash soup and a pumpkin ale.

I also baked up a Malt Cake, which use malt syrup as a sweetener.  It tastes like malted milk and molasses had a baby.  But the cake was a bit of a fail.  Henderson promises “Although this cake contains no sugar, it is sweet from the fruit and the syrup,” my boyfriend took one bite and said “Oh no. No, that has nothing to do with sweet.”

My boyfriend and I spent some time reflecting on the past few days; the next day would be our last as vegans.

“I think this project has expanded my knowledge of delicious things,” he told me.  “It’s all pretty good–but at the same time, it’s day after day of things that are not meat ground up and stuck back together to vaguely resemble meat.”

Agreed.  One more day left, and I’m throwing a special dinner party for some Real Vegans.

Going Vegan Day 3: I am a Terrible Vegan

Muesli. Ewwsli.

Today I moved from 1910 to 1945, the year that the first cookbook to use the word “vegan” was published: Vegan Recipes.  This book is tremendously hard to find; in the day and age of the Internet, one thinks anything can be found online.  Google books: nothing.  New York Public Library archives: the books was stolen in 1952. Vegan Recipes to not seem to exists in a hard copy or otherwise anywhere in America.  Eventually, I had to write London, where the book was originally published, and after some rigmarole I tracked down a copy.  I’m hoping that one day soon the book will be available online, as it is such an important work in terms of culinary history.

The author, Ms. Fay K. Henderson, write an introduction to veganism that focuses less on the threat of disease and more about “being healthy.”  She moves to the more familiar ground of moral and ethical considerations, and uses a lot of words like “wholesome,” when describing what she calls “The Vegan Way of Life.”  I had been looking forward to cooking from her book; the recipes seemed more like real dishes, with layers of flavor.  Breakfast, however, was a disaster.

I decided to make muesli. According to Henderson, “This raw diet dish originated by Dr. Bircher-Benner and recommended for breakfast use.  It consists of whole cereals (crushed or flaked) which have been soaked fro 12 hours in water to which has been added some sweetening and a little lemon juice, when available.”  I used something slightly better than water, that Henderson recommended, called Apple Broth: the peels and cores of apples, simmered gently in water.  The result is a pale pink, slightly sweet broth with a distinct apple taste.  Interesting idea.

I soaked some rolled outs, added some dried fruit, and shoved a heaping spoonful into my maw.  Disgusting. Cold. Gooshy. Miserable.   A fairly sad way to start my day.  I ate out the fruit and dumped the rest.

I spent most of Thursday running: work in the morning, a meeting  in the afternoon, a lecture in the evening.  In between, I ducked into a coffee shop to finish writing my talk, and I realized I needed to eat something.  I perused the cafe’s sandwich list and approached the register.

“Okay, give me an ice tea and a veggies sandwich.”  The barista typed in my order.

“No! Wait…it’s got cream cheese.  Okay, give me a peanut butter, banana, and honey sandwich.”  Type, type, type.

“No! Wait! No Honey!  Can I get it with no honey? No Honey! ,I uuuh…forgot I was vegan.”

She must have thought I was crazy.  I apologized profusely, and ended up with a peanut butter and banana sandwich with blueberry compote.  Really tasty.

Afterwards, I swung by home to make some cookies for the lecture I was giving in the evening, a talk at the Brooklyn Historical Society about using historic recipes to inspire contemporary cooking.  The cookies were a new recipe I was testing, and they were packed full of butter.  But I needed to try one to make sure it tasted right.  Butter, right into my mouth.

Post lecture I needed a quick, hot meal–I was starving.  And I also needed to feel better about myself and all my vegan failings.  I pulled up Henderson’s recipes for Bachelor Dish:

Here’s how I made it:

Bachelor Dish

4 medium potatoes
4 medium carrots
1 leek
Or any other assortment of root vegetable, chopped.

1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon Unsweetened Peanut Butter
Fresh parsley, to taste
Salt & Pepper, to taste.

1.  Fill a pot with two cups of water and a little salt.  Add vegetables, cover, and boil about 10 minutes or until tender.

2.  Drain liquid and add soy sauce, pepper, and parsley.  Still until parsley is just wilted.   Add peanut butter; stir until peanut butter is melted and vegetables are evenly covered with sauce.  Serve with fake meat and more soy sauce, if desired.


The original recipe calls for “Vessop,” which after some googling, I found was often used as a substitute for soy sauce.  “Tinned nut meat” could have been Protose or Nuttolene, Dr. Kellogg creations sold by Kraft, or any number of their veggie meat product spin-offs.  I chose the modern version, soy-based “cutlets.”

Dinner was excellent.  Smelled amazing while it cooked, tasted even better on my plate.  It was super quick to prepare and the simple, peanut and soy sauce was perfect.  Exactly what I wanted at the end of a long day.  My boyfriend and I both agreed we would make it again–although probably with real chicken

Bachelor Dish – quick boiled veggies in a peanut sauce with a bit of “tinned nut meat.”  A wonderful dinner!

Today was hard; this has been the most difficult diet to stick to.  Not out of hunger, or out of a craving for other foods, but it is incredibly difficult to seek out foods that don’t have animal products in them.  I’m developing a sympathy for people who have chosen this way of life; it’s exceptionally hard to maintain.