Sunday, December 11, 2011


Perhaps the best people to test vegan recipes are non-vegans. These are people who have not forgotten what butter and bacon taste like. I'm not a vegan, but I'm cheap. I go through phases where cheapness beats my concern for the unethical treatment of animals, and I just buy cheap whatever. Usually the form my cheapness takes is to buy small amounts of animal products that I deem ethical (milk from pasture-raised cows, certified humane and/or pasture eggs) and find ways to make meals vegan the rest of the time. When I bake, I rarely use eggs, except in cases where eggs are essential to the recipe. I make salads with tofu or avocado instead of hard-boiled egg. I grind flax seeds and whisk them with water whenever I need an egg in a muffin recipe. It's extra work, but cage-free eggs are expensive in Portland, much moreso than in New Jersey.

If anyone wonders how I have time for this kind of thing when I work and go to graduate school, I would like to point out that we have no TV.. The entire triplex is without cable; it was never wired for it. I bet that has something to do with it.

Anyway, yesterday I bought Earth Balance. I have had an aversion to vegetarian or vegan foods that pretend to be their zoological equivalent, but I decided to give it a try. It may have been on sale.

I did not buy the butter-flavored kind, because that just seemed too artificial, even though the "earth" in the title suggests that this stuff is totally natural.

This is truly an unfair prejudice, as I myself have coated squares of tofu in asafetida and/or oil used to fry mustard seeds, to try to replicate the sulfurous taste of the hard-boiled egg I am sneakily replacing.

Oh, it gets worse! Now that I'm thinking about it, I've also removed 1/3 to 1/2 of the sulfurous-spice-coated tofu to a separate bowl, where I've mixed it with turmeric to make it look yellow, like egg yolks. (Remember, no TV.)

I decided to test the Earth Balance this morning by frying an egg. I removed it from its place on the second shelf of my fridge, which is where condiments that don't fit on the fridge door and "ingredients" that are neither fresh food or whole meals reside. This is where I keep things like pickles and cheese. I was so averse to the Earth Balance, apparently, that when I unloaded my groceries last night, I refused to put it on the door of the fridge with the butter.

When I opened the box, I was a little dismayed by the gold foil packaging. It reminded me too much of the disgusting margarine of my youth. When I unwrapped the foil packaging, I was a bit dismayed by the near-translucence of the white log I beheld. Well, I told myself, that's probably what you get for not buying the butter-flavored version with annatto seed for coloring.

I tasted a tiny bit raw. It tasted reminiscent of my homemade soy milk.

But then I fried my egg in it. It melted and coated the not-really-nonstick pan with so much ease, that I began to see its appeal. It did not pile in one place like butter or olive oil. What would have been not-quite-enough butter was more than enough Earth Balance. I began to think I may have found a new tool for specific kitchen functions. I also suspect that this will make pie and tart dough that forms easily and doesn't crumble or crack in the pan. I will let you know later this week, as I plan to try it.

Maybe I'll even give the butter-flavored Earth Balance a try.

Oh, and the egg tasted fine.

In conclusion, the doubtful non-vegan has had her mind changed about pretend butter.

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