If you couldn’t tell, one of my hobbies is to cook. The inherent creativity and gratification of a hands-on process makes it an invaluable part of my sanity/life.
I’ve found that being presented with an out-of-the-norm challenge is often what gets the creative juices really going. The base criteria helps guide your mental search. I’ve met a number of these challenges by being part of the menu-planning team at Harvest Noon Cafe, a cooperatively-run restaurant at the University of Toronto. The cafe’s mission is an admirable one: we prepare affordable healthy vegan lunches and snacks, made with local organic ingredients. Most of our mains are gluten-free as well, in order to be as accessible as possible. And so here the challenge presents itself: I am committed to neither a vegan diet nor a gluten-free diet. Of course, these designations don’t form an elite exclusionary club that say “it’s all or nothing!”. However, the limitations present a constant learning curve for someone who doesn’t live within these diets everyday.
My work with Harvest Noon and its parent, the Hot Yam!, another vegan+local+organic+affordable+volunteer-run lunch spot, has spanned nearly 3 years. I have truly benefited from the practical learning experience of preparing recipes I may have otherwise not embarked upon. I have learned about vegan cooking and baking, figured out how to modify recipes, and appreciate the role of each ingredient in creating a dish. My initial forays into vegan cooking involved by-the-book obedience, but as I veer more into ‘modification’ territory, the “Can it be done?!” blitz in my head is often met with a feeling of triumph when the tinkered recipe ultimately delivers tasty results.
So with that in mind, I am planning to document my recipe tests on this blog to transfer some of my trial-and-error knowledge to you. I hope that you find many things to take away with you or that you keep coming back and add to the conversation.