Taking the Middle Path to Cheese

Again it is later than I would like it to be when this goes out to you. I finished 95% of the menu section early this morning, before my son woke up. Writing the last 5% of it after he was awake and looking for attention was so challenging, that I decided not to even raise my blood pressure by trying to write this section while he was awake. Now that blessed, thought-promoting silence has come back into my life, I considered just rushing through this part, so you all might see the email before going to bed. That is what is practical... and yet, somehow me and practical are not often synonyms. You see, I have something on my mind that I kind of want to come clean about. I am not a full-on vegan, nor am I completely gluten-free. To be accurate, I refer to myself as "veganish" and "gluten-reduced." Everything we make at Govinda's Catering is definitely dairy and gluten-free; however, for my own cooking, I do incorporate cheese and wheat bread, often eating them together... I am sure most of you would wonder "What about a little grilled cheese is such a big deal?" The big deal is that every time I eat cheese from the store, even organic, vegetarian, rbGH-free cheese, I have an ethical conflict because I have "known" for many years that the dairy industry is inextricably tied to the slaughterhouse industry. The details of how this is so are not at all pretty. For those of you who want to know more, or who think you already know and want to test your knowledge base, I encourage you to read about the dairy and meat industries here on Farm Sanctuary's website or here on ISCOWP's site. I thought I already knew why I shouldn't be supporting commercial dairies... let's just say photos really are worth 1000 words. So for all these years I have been convinced on some level that commercial dairy farms were not in harmony with my moral compass, and yet cheese has still been my Achilles' heel. Although I think factory farms and the cruelty that accompanies them is wrong, I still continued to eat cheese because it 'tastes so good.' I realize my internal conversation over whether to fromage or not to fromage, may seem trivial, as many of you may not even be vegetarians. Still I share it because there is a universal priniciple in having a conflict between what you know in your head to be true, and what you are willing to act on because you feel it in your heart. This principle of the lower vs. the higher self could apply to any habit we want to extricate ourselves from - smoking, drinking, sodas, junk food, addictive relationships, etc. As I said, I have been waffling on this particular issue for several years - feeling that I should give up cheese but not really wanting to. Then two days ago when I was having lunch with a friend, I made a conscious "what the hell" choice (after having a brief inner should I or shouldn't I debate) to add parmesean cheese to my bowl of Tuscan Linguine. My friend, who by the way is not a vegetarian, asked me if I was aware that the dairy industry is tied to the meat industry. Bam! How did she know exactly what I was thiking? I don't think she did really, but her question was so impeccably timed that I took it as a sign that now was the time for me to act more in alignment with my principles. I didn't think this; I felt it.

I also had a brilliant middle-path thought enter my normally black-&-white brain. I didn't have to give up milk products altogether, just make a commitment to only support ahimsa (non-violent) dairy farms where the cows are protected for their whole life (as opposed to being sold after the relatively brief milking period).

(One of my friends' cows, pastured at Timberwood Organics, Efland.)

Duh! I don't know why that solution never came to me before that moment. Maybe I just wasn't ready for it. The great news is that I actually know of some local family farm dairies that do just that - allow their cows to live a natural life out in the pasture before, during, and after they are able to be milked (which could be a good 10-15 years). If local, organic, chemical and karma-free milk is of interest to you too, please let me know. I will be happy to connect you with one of these dairies and their beautiful girls.

This Week's Menu:

Entree #1 - Provencal Fennel & Chickpea Stew I bought some fennel for a recipe and completely forgot to use it. So then I had these beautiful, frondy, fennel bulbs and wasn't sure what to do with them. My dear friend, Munsie, had a recipe for a fennel, tomato and chickpea soup that comes highly recommended by my sweetheart, who happens to be her son. I immediately liked the recipe when I saw it. It calls for a few simple, yet flavorful ingredients, enhanced by one of my favorite taste-boosters, orange zest. Yep, citrus + savory = a divine combination, when handled skillfully. Hopefully I can do this recipe as much justice as Munsie can. :-) *GF, soy-free

(photo myrecipes.com)

Entree #2 - Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili On Thursday, I had just finished delivering the final orders from last week's menu. I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that my work was done and that all our customers were (hopefully) satisfied. Then about five minutes after that sigh of relief, I realized that it would soon be Sunday and time to report back in to you all with another inspiring, mouth-watering menu. Sunday comes quickly for me, especially when I have one or more musical performances on the weekend. Fortunately I have someone in my life who is brilliant at idea-generation (y'all can thank him for those amazing spring rolls last week). His suggestion? Something South American, something black beany, something with sweet potatoes. Check. Check. Check! I remembered this recipe, which calls for first coating the potatoes with chipotle, roasting them, and adding them to the chili at the very end. Good-bye mushy, indistinguishable veggies and chili; hello, chunks of individually-flavored texture and beany goodness! *GF, soy-free

(photo tasteofhome.com)

Entree #3 - Vegan Sancocho My, how time moves so quickly! When I had decided (with help from my menu consultant) to do a South American-themed menu this week, I remembered Sancocho, a signature Colombian dish. When I went to my files to find and re-use the photo, I was stunned to see that the last time I made this recipe was nearly a year ago, at the end of September. I feel so old and grandparent-like when I say, "But I remember it just like it was yesterday!" I especially remember the occasion because my vegetable cutter at the time was a wonderful gentleman from Japan, to whom all the exotic roots in this stew were particularly novel and foreign. This recipe calls for corn on the cob, green plantain, carrot and 3 or 4 root vegetables (think of the tuber display at any of the larger ethnic grocery stores). Hearty and flavorful, this stew is a true taste of Latin cooking. *GF, soy-free

(photo thelatinkitchen.com)

Side Dishes:

Brown Rice - $1/serving (1 cup) Arroz con (Jackfruit) "Pollo" - $3.50/serving (1 cup) My brother and I always loved when my mother would make this dish, and we became big-time fans of capers. Most of the recipes I found online, like the one linked above, use green peas, but in my mind nothing beats capers (little pickled flower buds) for making a taste sensation in this rice. Although it seems obvious and "of course!" to me, I probably should explain that pollo means "chicken" in Spanish. Jackfruit (shown below) is fast catching on as a vegan meat substitute, on account of its stringy, fibrous texture that pretty well mimics that other stuff. So the natural conclusion is, that jackfruit makes a great "pollo" substitute in this otherwise traditional rice. *GF, soy-free

(photo wikipedia.org)

Yuca Fries -$3/serving, $4 w/salsa. I have overheard many a yuca-newbie, exclaim "Oh my God, these are soooo good! But they're not potato... What are they?!" It is difficult to define exactly what kind of magic makes these starchy (but not potatoey) root fries so dang tasty. Some things are just better enjoyed than analyzed. And yuca fries are best enjoyed with aji, a thin green salsa that, when dribbled over the crispy crunchiness of these fries, makes a perfect, spicy marriage of flavors and textures within your mouth.*GF, soy-free

(photo bewitchingkitchen.com)

Strawberry Oatmeal Bars - $3/ea. or 2 for $5. Recently some fresh Pennsylvania strawberries came to me, via a North Carolina freezer. One of our customers has family who had a farm up north. They gifted her with quantities of these beautiful frozen rubies, and she, in turn, shared them with me. Now I am very excited to break open the treasure chest (the freezer), and once again make these delectable sweets. We first made them back in May, at the beginning of the berry season. They are a little oaty, a little sweety, very berry, and so difficult to stop eating. I once watched someone (who shall remain nameless) finish off an entire container of "crumbs" that I had intended to share once I stopped driving. Jus' sayin'... such things have been known to happen, so you may want to plan accordingly. *GF, soy-free

(photo wellplated.com)

#dairy #FarmSanctuary #ISCOWP #higherself #middlepath #TimberwoodOrganics #ProvencalFennelChickpeaStew #orangezest #BlackBeanandSweetPotatoChili #chipotle #VeganSancocho #Colombian #brownrice #ArrozconJackfruitPollo #capers #chicken #YucaFries #aji #greensalsa #spicy #StrawberryOatmealBars