My cooking philosophy is that you need a snack and beer to keep you company while you cook. So, Chris grabs a couple of beers from the fridge, and we warm up the blender to make some hummus.
We snack and drink, as we toss leeks and tempeh and mushrooms and zucchini into a pot, and we let those sizzle into deliciousness.
Chris likes mushrooms, but he told me earlier that he’s not sure how to prepare them, so I’m showing him the simplest way: fry ‘em up. We’ll ultimately throw everything together on top of white bean pasta.
We’re also preparing a quick little dish of lentils and rice. I want to show Chris how easy they are to prepare. Add water, boil, and there’s a plate of protein-rich lentils that can be added to just about anything. I tell him to keep it on hand for the week, and he can add some chicken if he wants.
Everything that we’re cooking was purchased earlier in the day, during our trip to the grocery. Chris had contacted me about a VIP day with Working Class Vegan Man. He basically wants to know about the best foods for him and how to cook up some of the veggies he sees in the produce department.
The day started with me nosing through his kitchen cupboards.
“Here’s the game plan,” I told Chris, “We’ll first go through your kitchen, tossing out certain things and talking about what we can replace them with.”
“Fine, fine, but there is one thing you’re not tossing,” he replied.
I found later that I wasn’t going to be tossing the dark chocolate pecan cookies. I did, however, toss the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter and the Cinnabon mix—and a can of allegedly low-sodium chicken-noodle soup, which was still overloaded with sodium. Those were no-brainers.
The point of spending some VIP time with Working Class Vegan Man is to learn, get some insight about what’s already in your cupboards and refrigerator, and what could go in those cupboards so you can have more energy, and how to prepare those foods you’ve just never known how to prepare.
I don’t intrude on your kitchen to make fun of you or to change your life. I’m not the boss of you.
There’s no need to clean or feel embarrassed about your kitchen before I arrive. I really don’t care what it looks like, so long as there’s beer in the fridge. (Kidding, kind of.)
There’s a box of Bisquick in the cupboard from the 90s? I don’t care. There’s a package of Ideal pasta shells from Bisson’s (a grocery that no longer exists)? I don’t care. There’s a jar of discolored Miracle Whip? I don’t care.
What I do care about is answering any health questions you have about food. I do care about helping you learn how to prepare a dish with mushrooms or broccoli or bok choy (whatever that is). I do care about suggesting ways to eat healthy while not spending too much. I do care about helping you fit a healthy diet into your lifestyle. I do care about helping you keep sweet dishes in your diet. I do care about making healthy eating cool.
“What do you do for breakfast?” I ask, after having gone through the cupboards and finding nothing breakfast-worthy.
Time Out: Working Class Vegan Man advice moment. Making granola at home is endlessly healthier for you than store-bought granola bars. It ain’t hard either. Buy some oats and nuts and dried fruit in bulk, mix in some maple syrup and coconut oil, toss it in the oven, and take it out of the oven. Then, eat the yum out of it. Not only is this method healthier, but it’s cheaper too.
After I raid Chris’ kitchen, we drive to his grocery, making sure to hit the produce first.
We earlier decided to cook a pasta dish. I had first suggested a chili, but Chris plainly informed me that it was 90 degrees outside.
The pasta gave freedom to go produce crazy. We got squash, broccoli, mushrooms, bok choy, and a leek (those last two were rung up as lettuce and green onion).
Confession: I did force a bunch of kale in the cart, saying we could use it as parsley, but it was a drop-dead failure on the dinner table. At the same time, I didn’t force the endives on him.
Snacks. This is an important one. How can we take the snacks you’re used to and give them a healthy twist? Rather than potato chips and dip, I suggest some tortilla chips and guacamole (homemade guac, which is the easiest thing in the world), or hummus (again, homemade, which is nearly as easy as homemade guac).
I’m not about to ween my client completely off sweets, so I offer the idea of a sweet hummus, but we also pick up a dark chocolate bar, 88%. (There really isn’t anything like needing that chocolate fix in the middle of the day and remembering that you have a candy bar ready for consumption.)
Some of our groceries were experimental, but mostly we buy with dinner in mind, and the next dinner, and the next dinner--cook once, eat twice mentality.
I spring two crazy must-haves on Chris: tahini and tempeh. We need tahini to make the hummus, but we need tempeh for educational purposes. Chris likes chicken, so I thought, just maybe, he’d like to try some tempeh.
What the heck is tempeh? Tempeh is basically a tasteless fermented soy thing that some people (like me) use to take the place of meat in dishes. It’s best to flavor it up some by marinating it in soy sauce or tamari and then searing it up in a pan, or you could just toss it in with the onions when you caramelize them.
After finding the tempeh and tahini, we race back to his kitchen, grab a couple of beers, and begin cooking up some tasty and healthy food to eat.
Our night ends at the dinner table, eating the food we cooked and talking about cheats to sneak a little health into Chris' life.
Since my day with WCVM, I find I’m less afraid of organic stuff and weird produce I can’t identify on sight. I made more hummus and guacamole, and even bought squash, green onion and mushrooms, without provocation, to make dinner for friends! I’m not sure I’m going to be buying more tempeh when healthy, organic chicken is readily available, easy to grill and delicious. Also, for an alleged ‘superfood,’ kale sure sucks.--Chris
Working Class Vegan Man
Vegan guy who likes sports, beer, and eating healthy.
He's no dummy either. He's got 3 degrees, including a master of arts in international relations. Formerly head grillbilly for the Nashville Sounds minor league baseball team (and formerly 50 lbs heavier), he's on a mission to de-sissify eating healthy.