Sunday, August 24, 2008

Not really new but different.

Readjusting to life in the USA has been rather interesting. For one, my hometown seems even smaller now after my summer in Berlin.  Driving a car for the first time in 3 months seemed a bit strange as well.  I still miss different little quirks about life in Berlin, and some of the amazing people there, but it has been nice to see people here again. Also, I love having a bigger kitchen with a lot more different foods and appliances.

I have been cooking for my family a lot, and I 
absolutely had to make pizza.  It doesn't look that beautiful, but it tasted delicious. Making whole wheat pizza from scratch was something 
that I really missed doing this summer.  The white stuff is the amazing cashew ricotta style tofu from Veganomicon. The tomatoes and bell pepper are fresh from the Farmers' Market.  (Sadly, mine back home is practically nothing compared to the one that I frequented in Berlin. I can't wait for the one in Indianapolis. It isn't as
 big as the Berlin one, but it is just as good.)

Speaking of produce, my parents have a small garden in the backyard.  Lucky for me, our raspberry bush has really taken over.  I went outside rain or shine just about every morning in order to pick my favorite berries.  (Sometimes even facing off against the bugs that loved to take bites out of my legs and arms!) The bush is so big that you can easily miss perfectly ripe berries, so you have to take your time looking at the branches from all angles.  See how they like to hide behind some of the leaves!

Fresh raspberries and some strawberries that were looking a little worse for wear in our fridge provided the perfect excuse for me to make something from Yellow Rose Recipes.  The picture of the lemon almond cake in the book looked decent, and the recipe is deceptively simple, but don't let this fool you. 
This cake is absolutely delicious.  Just look at the moist lemony goodness. So good, that I almost forgot to take a picture the next day.  With the help of my family, this simple but pretty creation was gone in 24 hours.

So light and moist, this is the quintessential dessert for summer.  I cannot believe that I did not try it sooner.  Next time that I make it, I might try to use less sugar in the cake because the glaze makes it rather sweet.

Being back in the USA, my entries are going to be a little less exciting from now on. Plus, I will be very busy seeing as it is my last year for my undergraduate degree. I have lots of things to do ahead of me: taking two GREs, writing a thesis, and figuring out which graduate schools to apply to. The observations of some posts might be more political with comments on the upcoming election or environmentalism (I'm president of my Uni's Environmental Concerns Organization this year.). 

Don't worry, I will still be cooking.  I am going to try to eat healthier because sometimes I ate way too much vegan ice cream, chocolate, or falafel in Berlin.  Next up, zucchini bread. That is healthy-esque, right? I mean, it has a vegetable in it. Ok, well maybe I'll try to tweak my recipe a bit and use no unbleached flour and a healthier sweetener, or something like that.  After all, one can't really use the vegetable excuse to claim that carrot cake is healthy, though one can certainly try...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Unintentionally Filling the Vegan Stereotype

One thing that I find rather annoying in regards to veganism is that many people assume that eating out is too difficult to do. This idea does have some truth, since eating out can be tedious when one has to constantly ask questions about ingredients or scour the menu.  Regardless, I usually have had positive experiences in restaurants, especially if the food is something other than home-style cooking (be it German or American).  

Yesterday I learned that Berlin has, in fact, been spoiling me with so many vegan options and vegan-friendly places.  I actually was in an Italian themed restaurant where I could hardly eat anything there.  Normally, the thing that I have to watch out for in Italian places is if the pasta has eggs or not. At first, I got so excited when I asked about the pasta and discovered a lack of eggs. There was even a special of the month that was a green curry and specifically a vegetarian option.  Upon seeing the sauce, I figured that I should check to make sure that it was with coconut milk since it looked rather creamy. To my surprise, it was with regular milk. Seriously? I could not believe it since I usually associate coconut milk as being the milk of choice for curries.

With my original idea being thwarted, I go back to the allergen listing just to see if there was some other hidden dairy that I had overlooked. Unfortunately, such was the case, and I was startled to discover that even the normal tomato sauce contained dairy. Tomato sauce! Why they would put dairy in tomato sauce, I do not understand. Plain tomato sauce should just be tomatoes, spices, and a little oil. Keep it simple and save the dairy for a creamy tomato sauce or something.  I would have hated to have eaten there if I was lactose intolerant because then I would have been even more frustrated.

The option of getting a pizza sounded unappetizing because not only would I have to omit the cheese but the sauce as well. I can get better and cheaper veggie pizzas elsewhere in Berlin. Thus, my final choices consisted of bruschetta and a small mixed greens salad. Thankfully, the balsamic dressing was vegan. Actually, I am pretty sure that it was the only one without dairy.

Needless to say, I was not very happy about the salad being just about my only option.  I enjoy my veggies, but I can just as easily make a salad at home for cheaper. At least it was with mixed greens and not iceberg lettuce, an entity that I refuse to eat due to its amazing lack of nutritional content.  That fulfillment of the stereotype is even worse.

Thus, going to my last brunch at Hans Wurst Vegan Cafe was the breath of fresh air that I direly needed after having such a frustrating dinner last night.  I also was once again reminded that preconceptions of some of the simplest dishes can be deceiving when dairy is involved. 

Sunday, August 3, 2008

How to make a stuffed vegan and find a lose of inspiration

Today I met up with a friend and we decided to go to the Sunday brunch at Hans Wurst Vegan Cafe. Let me tell you, a brunch buffet on Sunday is a really big deal here. You can walk down streets lined with cafes and just about every one will be offering a brunch on Sunday.  In my 10 weeks thus far, I still have not managed to actually go to one.  Unfortunately, I found out too late of the amazing offerings at this particular buffet.

(Shown here are our loaded plates and me having a third helping of pancakes.) 

There was so much good food. The favorites were the pancakes with the chocolate mousse, and the tomatoes with the feta style tofu. It was really fun and low key. It was also really neat how the pricing was done. Basically, after you were finished eating, you pay somewhere between 7-12 Euros based on how much you ate or how good you thought the food was. I think that is a really good concept, and I will definitely be going next weekend for my last Sunday here. Plus, I ate so much that I wasn't hungry for the rest of the day. (Yes, that is indeed possible.)

The somewhat disappointing aspect to my day was my visit to the East Side Gallery.  I was there three years ago, and two years ago during my previous stays in Germany. On both occasions my group made trips to Berlin. The East Side Gallery is a large section of the wall that was painted by artists as a memorial and source of inspiration after the fall of the wall. Today, many of these amazing murals have been lost to time and graffiti. Some portions are hardly recognizable as how I re
member them a few years ago.

Usually I am a big fan of street art. It can be really interesting and makes you think on occasion, but there is also a big difference between street art and graffiti.  Graffiti I do not admire as much because I feel like it does not usually have an artistic purpose and mostly only a form of vandalism. In the case of the wall, the graffiti is more akin to vandalism and has ruined large sections of what was once a source of inspiration.  I walked along the whole 1.3 kilometer stretch, and just seeing the extent of the damage just made me want to cry. The artwork on the wall had a message of freedom, hope, and overcoming what was once thought to be impossible. 
Here you can see a portion of the wall, and how badly the original artwork is covered up. This was actually a favorite section of mine when I first saw the wall.  In my picture from three years ago, almost none of that graffiti is present, and the message is still easy to read. 

It really does make me sad that the young people have chosen to rebel in this way. I am all for going against authority and rebellion, but, when you destroy a message of hope such as this, I think it is in bad taste and shows a poor understanding of the bigger rebellions that have already been accomplished.