Friday, February 10, 2006


I took a disappointing cooking class the other night. Why?

Two words: vegan cheese.

The class was a hands-on vegan demo, led by Ann Gentry of the very popular Real Food Daily vegan organic restaurants in Los Angeles.

That's Ann on the left

I was not afraid - as a vegetarian of two decades, I am fully conversant with vegetarian/vegan food and it doesn't seem at all odd to me.

My classmates, about 20 eager would-be cooks, were very welcoming and congenial, which is far more than I can say for most people in the nouveau riche my-new-facelift-is-better-than-your-new-facelift Westlake Village area.

The hands-on part of the class was kinda fun. We cleaned, chopped, sliced and diced (though most people in class, I am sorry to say, had scary knife skills) while our faithful helpers from the cooking school did the dishes. All good.

But when we tasted the dishes a pall fell over the class. They were uniformly horrible. The tempeh and potato salad was sharp and pointy from too much vinegar, the barley salad was mooshy and tasteless. The broccoli ( I saw it spelled "brocli" at Farmer's Market the other day and am tempted to adopt that spelling) soup was beyond boring, with fibrous bits of brocli throughout

The lasagna had tough noodles and undercooked veggies as well as that damned salty-yuk so-called vegan cheese. Why are vegans possessed to try and copy foods like cheese that are all but impossible to copy?

To top it off, the restaurant's famous chocolate chip cookie (some kind of non-wheat flour - I don't care enough to look up the recipe, but it contains maple syrup, etc) was bitter and inedible. A chocolate chip cookie that I could not eat?!? Now, that IS shocking.

What is so weird to me is that Suzanne Goin's (see previous post) curried pea soup was vegan and her salad could have been vegan without the parmesan chunks, and both dishes were perfect and glorious.

Is wearing a culinary hair shirt part of being a vegan? Just wondering. Hit me with the comments.


Laura said...

I certainly have eaten my share of lousy healthy food, but I do prefer the tasty kind. Call me fickle.

Marigoldie said...

Oh man, we are wallowing in vegan deliciousness over here in Denver. I don't know how we've done it exactly, but my vegan boyfriend and I are eating like kings lately. We've made some good discoveries recently.

First, the cheese. Follow Your Heart brand is good. It melts on pizza like real cheese (lots of fake ones don't) and tastes normal. However, I think it must be melted to be enjoyed--otherwise, it's too watery.

I just found an incredible recipe for vegan mac & cheese on Nutritional yeast is the key (and in my opinion is the answer to vegan happiness).

Now that I think of it, I was happier once I stopped trying to replace cheese.

Last night I mixed up some Nature's Burger with shredded carrots and beets, and made beautiful, delicious, golden brown patties. I made my first-ever batch of mashed potatoes, totally vegan and wonderful with garlic, rice milk, and nutritional yeast. I made some kale sauted in garlic and a batch of vegan jalapeno cornbread. Oh! I also made vegan gravy for the first time ever, and it blew my mind. We had two meat-eating friends over for dinner, and they were going crazy over how good it all was.

My friend Madness Rivera( is a great vegan cook too, and she gushes often about good vegan food. So pay her a visit if you want some inspiration.

Loved your comment on Fussy's dog-bleeding post. That's why I came over.

the serrach said...

you ever try Native Foods? good and tasty vegan food, their cheese doesn't taste like cheese but it IS delish.

check em out.

Bill Belew said...

I can't say that vegan cheese would really get me excited either. And all that preparation! I think it is good old Land 'O Lakes slices for me.