Can we (and should we) imagine a gastronomy without animal product?
After Oregon, we discover California. We leave its large pine forests and fog
for a drier climate, new colors but also more dense traffic!
Vegetarian : diet without meat (red and white), without fish nor seafood.
Vegan nutrition : a diet that contains only elements from the plant world. Vegans do not eat meat, fish or seafood, but do not eat dairy products, eggs and other products from the animal world such as honey. Very often vegans are not limited to the products they consume but opt for veganism.
Vegan : Veganism can’t be reduced to a specific diet: it is above all a way of life. Veganism is a way of life and a mode of consumption that seeks to exclude exploitation, suffering and cruelty to animals, whether for food, clothing, etc … A vegan tries to live without hurting them. animals. Therefore, it excludes any product that harms the animals in their diet, but also in other facets of their life. He does not wear wool, not leather; he does not use cosmetics tested on animals, etc …
Veganism is gaining momentum in the US, according to a study by the American firm Report BuyerCelebrities, 6% of Americans claim to be “vegan”. It’s even more pronounced here in Los Angeles, where celebrities and great chefs make Veganism the new normality.
So naturally we want to discover this gastronomy and understand why and how many people imagine a world without animal products.
The slaughter of animals to provide meat represents more than 1900 animals per second or 60 billion animals killed each year, representing 280 billion kilos (vs. 44 billion in 1950) according to the FAO which predict 110 billion animals killed every year in 2050. That’s a lot … no?
Especially when one thinks of the considerable impact that farming has on CO2 emissions and on our health. To do without meat, milk and eggs totally is a giant step to take for many. “Eaters of seeds, boiled vegetables and tofu”, vegans are not always perceived as fine gourmets and “good living people”. We really wanted to confront our own bias thinking with the best here in California.
In San Francisco, more precisely in Palo Alto in the heart of Silicon Valley, a student from Stanford has just launched her own vegan chicken wings recipe for marketing. Of Indian origin, Mahak has not eaten meat since childhood, which is quite common in India where 30% of the population, mainly for religious reasons, is vegetarian. It is very easy to eat there without meat. Arrived in the United States for her studies, Mahak wanted to develop her own recipes, imprints of American culture.
She has developed an alternative to chicken, consisting of 3 ingredients: soy flour, wheat flour and elastic wheat gluten. This protein-rich preparation mimics the texture of the chicken quite well. The taste comes mainly from the seasoning that is added. In the future, she would like to sell them “raw” for restaurants and pickled ready to eat for individuals.
We have obviously tasted them, just as we ate the “Impossible Burger” that everyone is talking about here with its imitation of steak (vegetable of course). Unlike Impossible Burger, which offers an ultra-transformed product (relying on chemistry to rediscover the texture of meat), Mahak would like to offer a simple product with easily recognizable ingredients.
There is still the question of the need to imitate meat so much when you can completely reinvent a new gastronomy, better for health, for the planet and for the taste buds!
In Los Angeles, we meet Mollie Angelheart, head chef of 3 vegan restaurants “Sage Vegan Bistro” and owner of the farm “Sow a heart farm”. She offers a 100% vegan menu with products from 90% of her farm and farms in the region. And yet, we learn that 80% of its customers are not vegan! She claims it as a victory, because her goal is not to convert everyone to veganism, but to make everyone love it, so that more and more people eat vegan regularly and naturally without being an exceptional militant act. People who love meat will probably not stop eating meat, but they can eat less and of better quality.
A few miles away, Zena Scharf invites us into her kitchen, on the heights of Los Angeles, to discover a recipe full of colors and flavors. No product transformed in her kitchen, only fresh food that she associates with talent. That day, small Kabocha cakes and grilled mushrooms are accompanied by a delicious salad. The sweet comes to raise the salty, the cold mixes with the hot one. There is color, crispness and freshness, it’s beautiful and it’s good!
In tasting it we think of Jay Z (vegan) and Beyoncé (vegan for a diet) whom she probably served this dish a few years ago when she was their personal chef. And yet, this passionate cook is not vegan, but likes to surprise her guests and make them forget the time of a meal they have not eaten meat or animal product.
We do not resist the urge to ask for her recipe and deliver it here:
Makes 6 cakes
- 1 cup roast kabocha squash
1/2 cup shiitake
1/2 cup maitake
1/2 cup button mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
1 small onion
2 teaspoon amino acid
1 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
Chop mushrooms and garlic and sauté with olive oil until almost crunchy. Let cool. Chop again until pea sized.
Small dice the onion and lightly sauté with olive oil.
Mix the cooked quinoa with the mushrooms, and the cooked onion.
Purée the kabocha squash and, using it as a glue slowly add it to the mushroom onion mixture.
When the mixture is sticking together form into cakes about 2-3 inches in diameter.
Refrigerate at least 1 hour until chilled. Roll in panko if desired and pan sear.
Serve with a nice crunchy salad (tagliatelle of carrots and raw radishes marinated in lemon juice and rice vinegar), roasted peppers in the oven, grilled cauliflower slices with soy sauce, a rice / wheat / bean mixture , slices of onion, pomegranate and thin slices of persimmon.
An explosion of flavors!
We end this episode by meeting Victoire Loup, a French culinary critic based in California for 3 years. Former Head of Fooding Communication in Paris, she does not see Veganism here as a trend but as a long-standing practice. Many non vegan restaurants even serve vegan dishes without explicitly mentioning it on their menu. It is much rarer in France where dishes without animal products are often confined to vegan restaurants.
We leave California for Mexico with some good vegan recipes in our pocket. Next topic : “fair trade”. A major topic that will occupy us for the coming months in Central America with the objective of understanding the stakes and constraints of this trade and how it could spread more easily in France.