Visiting the past with a vegan gammon time machine
This is a post about nostalgia and food, and how veganism figures in all of it.
A few years ago, a friend of mine and I were talking how I had gone from eating meat to being vegeterian to being vegan over the time I had known her (we have been friends for a verrrrrrry long time). She said that my diet had been getting more and more restricted over time. I remember being taken aback - that was completely not how it felt in my experience.
Don't get me wrong, I can why people might see it that way: I used to eat chicken, I don't now; I used to drink cow milk, I don't now. So yeah, there are a few things that were once in my diet that aren't now. But over the same period, there are many, many more things I ate then, and still eat now - from cake to pasta to (cashew) cheese. There's also a huge amlunt of things that I've added to my diet over the same time. Chick peas, tahini, sriracha, capers, seitan, tofu, gnocchi, pumpkin seeds, Thai curries, sauerkraut, udon noodles, and any number of other foodstuffs. The more I've dropped meat, eggs, and dairy, the more creative and delicious my cooking has got.
If you're a vegan, I reckon this will be familiar to you.
Which brings me back to meat substitutes. Some vegans have strong feelings one way or another. I'm happy to eat them if they taste good, but do I eat them because I miss meat? Naaaaah, not a bit of it.
When I saw that VBites had made vegan gammon goujons - part of a Christmas range, I think - a funny thing happened. Thinking about gammon, I was reminded of my childhood. We used to eat it a lot when I was kid. It was a typical meal for us.
The food I eat now is a million miles away from the meat and two veg meals that made up my diet as a young kid. Vegan gammon? Maybe it was worth harking back to years ago, maybe I should treat myself to a spot of gustatory nostalgia.
I took it home, made some mustard sauce - that's what you had with gammon back then - but that was where the old food gave way to the new. I made up some vegan-buttered savoy cabbage (only boiled white cabbage when I was a kid) and jerusalem artichoke gratin. We never had jerusalem artichokes when I was a kid - I must have been in my mid-20s before I tried one, and I've loved them ever since. Sweet, carby and yet fluffy, they're one of the winter vegetables it's almost worth seeing the cold return for.
I sat down with my meal, cut up some gammon, slathered it with the mustard sauce, and took a bite.
How was it?
It was salty, with a nasty tang that did indeed remind me of gammon. I remembered: I don't like gammon, I don't miss meat, and the food I ate as a kid was, for the most part, grim!
But the savoy cabbage, and the jerusalem artichoke dauphinoise? So nice! I didn't take more than a few bites of the gammon (sorry VBites, I love some of your other work) but I finished off the cabbage and artichokes in a flash.
The moral of this story? I think it's that the past is a great place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there. The future, however - well, the future is vegan. But you knew that already.