By Nadia Roch
Originally published in The Flying Shingle, August 26, 2013
Like many other vegetarians and vegans, I discovered a new realm of ingredients, tastes, and textures when I made the switch. While I enjoyed trying new foods, I found myself craving my favourite dish – Caesar salad. On a quest to recreate it, I turned to the internet where I quickly found a plethora of vegan Caesar salad recipes.
I wasn’t surprised to find that I couldn’t perfectly recreate a Caesar salad, but I was surprised to discover that it didn’t matter much. As I cooked and ate my way through vegan cookbooks and internet recipes, I realised that I didn’t actually crave Caesar salad; what I really craved were the textures and flavours of my favourite dish.
With plants alone, we can easily mimic the texture and taste that meat, cheese or eggs impart to any dish. Plant recreations can be healthier for us and the planet, and we don’t need to harm animals in the process.
While I may not be able to perfectly recreate a meat-based dish, I’ve had great success satisfying my food cravings and making food that even non-vegans enjoy by utilising the five tastes – sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and savoury. Balancing these tastes using simple ingredients like sugar, vinegar, or soy sauce, makes eating a meat-free meal satisfying and delicious.
For example, cheese, eggs, and meat all have unami – that savoury taste that results from high levels of glutamate. We can create this often-craved unami taste with vegan staples (Village Food Market has them all) like nutritional yeast, miso, or even canned tomatoes.
Another key aspect of creating filling plant-based dishes is to pay attention to fat and calorie content. Many popular non-vegan dishes derive a large amount of calories from fat; whereas plant-based dishes tend to be lower fat and lower calorie, so we need to eat more and add fat through oil, nuts, or seeds to feel satisfied.
Some vegetarians and vegans enjoy processed meat alternatives, but they aren’t a necessary part of a plant-based diet. We can recreate these flavours, textures, and tastes with whole foods at home.
Finally, it’s important to remember that it can take several weeks or even months for our taste buds to adjust to new foods, so keep an open mind and be willing to try something new more than once.
For me, eating a plant-based diet required practice and taking a step out of my comfort zone. Within a short time, I found myself enjoying my vegan Caesar salad as much as the non-vegan salad I once craved, but with the added benefit of knowing that animals didn’t have to give their lives for me to satisfy my taste buds.