Sunday, July 29, 2012

Rabbit hole

I hope it's not a new form of procrastination from studying.

These past several weeks, I have found myself becoming sucked further and further into restricted diet blogs and literature.

A little while ago, a friend of mine mentioned that, in her spare time, she would watch YouTube videos--self-produced cooking shows, I think--from raw food advocates. Their blender and food dehydrator, she said, were their main appliances used for "cooking." I can't remember the exact word she used--perhaps "soothing"--but she described these videos as having an oddly calming effect. I found this entire monologue puzzling for two reasons, each of the same nature. It was not that I disagreed--it was not a feeling of being polarization-puzzled, being so far on the other side of things that I couldn't understand the opposite point of view. It was rather incomprehension, like the feeling you might have seeing a newspaper in a different alphabet. Your brain doesn't even know where to start trying to comprehend. I couldn't understand how this would be calming, and I really couldn't understand how a blender could be a cooking implement.

Until I started making almond milk, and somehow, the dehydrated flax crackers led me to discover that food dehydrator granola existed. These last two were really excited for me; both are things I tend to screw up in the oven, burning everything toward the outer edges of the pan, wasting it and giving myself a big mess to clean up. Just switching on the dehydrator overnight and waking up to granola...it seems like heaven.

Almond milk was something I wanted to make simply because it is good. I wondered if homemade would be better than storebought and also cheaper. I was ecstatic to learn how much easier it is to make almond milk than soy milk, which I started making in late spring 2011 and often find too time-consuming to attempt. Almond milk and, as far as I can tell, other nut and seed milks, require simply soaking and blending, no boiling involved. This makes them raw foods, and now the "blender" thing makes sense.

I feel the need to interject here two other reasons for my desire to learn how to make plant milks. One is that I have a number of friends with various restricted diets, and while none have expected a dinner party to be structured around them, I like the challenge and the learning opportunity. Another is simply flexibility; I like that if, on a Saturday night, I want to make something specific in the morning before I go to the store, and I'm out of milk, I can just put water and some plant product in a bowl and in the morning, *make my own* milk. It's so convenient!

The almond milk recipe that I used mentioned that it could be made with other nuts and even seeds, like sunflower seeds. Wait! What!? Sunflower seed milk is a thing!?!?!?

That's how it began.

In my spare time, I often find myself Googling to see if the recipe idea I just had exists. What would happen if I made brazil nut milk? I wonder. The recipe mentions, "sesame seed milk." That's real, too!? And it has a lot of calcium!? WHOA!

To eliminate the most annoying step that had stopped me from making my own soy milk every week, and at the recommendation of The Internet, I bought a ...brace yourself, because no part of this phrase isn't funny...a very useful kitchen uni-tasker, a nut milk bag.

Hahahahahahaha! Nut milk. Bag! Hahahahahahaha!

This, combined with the running, has made me often stop to say, "Who are you? What happened to Sarah?"

Like the morning I woke up, went on a lengthy run-walk-but-mostly-run in the rain, finished the batch of sunflower seed milk started the night before as soon as I walked in the door simply so I could have that post run drink...even though there was cow milk in the fridge. Then I probably had some more with my depressingly titled cereal, Organic High Fiber-O's. (They're high in protein and iron, okay!?) Then I probably ate something with chia seeds or hippie hay.

A friend told me that chia seeds soaked in non-dairy milk (although dairy milk would probably work as well) turn into an easy tapioca-like pudding. Half or so of my homemade almond milk went to this purpose. The day I served this to Handsome Man was the day I began to question my new lifestyle. The following is from an e-mail to a friend shortly after the fact:

Also I made homemade almond milk and then made chia pudding in it. [Handsome Man] looked like he was going to cry when, after a dinner of unsatisfying okara (not okra, okara - the leftover mush from making soy milk. I thought if I fried it with the mushrooms and shallots, it would be just like the crumbled tofu for which the recipe called) and rehdyrated mushroom salad rolls, I presented him with the chia pudding. That's when I thought maybe we [ed. note- we!? HM had nothing to do with this madness!] had taken this all way too far and it was time to get some fried food or something. Then he told me he never liked tapioca.

Now is as good a time as any to mention that, accompanying many of these recipes are references--without intending to state an opinion but doing so nonetheless, sort of like how an entire post about plant milk gives you an idea of some of my opinions--and brief mentions of political and social views and even multi-passionate-paragraph rants about the food-restricted lifestyle the writer has chosen or been assigned and all accompanying social and political opinions these dietary restrictions suggest or imply. It is difficult to skim one's way past these and just get to the recipe without taking some of it in. The comments sections, too, fascinate.

I'm not sure how to resolve some aspects of this. You see, I am making dehydrator granola and nowhere in my rationale for doing this is any interest in actually adopting a raw food diet. I am simply lazy. (Or very busy, take your pick.) I like the idea of setting my granola in a machine before I go to bed. I like not having to watch an oven. But I want to find recipes for dehydrator granola that involve things that aren't necessarily raw. I made raw buckwheat granola (and by the way, it's really hard to find raw buckwheat groats!) but I want to try kasha granola. The raw buckwheat lacked the distinctive taste of kasha (to which I have uncharitably referred as "old book smell") which I theorize will go well with cacao nibs. Why do I need a recipe, you ask? Because I don't know if I'm supposed to just plop the kasha on there or soak it or something first!

Well, we'll find out soon, because I'm attempting it tonight. On my dehydrator at this very moment is a batch of Lazy Person Gluten-Free But Not Because I Believe We Shouldn't Eat Wheat Just Because I Like Kasha and Quinoa granola. I guess I owe it to the other lazy non-raw non-vegan gluten-eating hippies to post, once I perfect the method, the recipe.

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