Some home cooking is easy to modify when vegans come to town. Pizza! Simply eliminate the cheese!
We live in a polarized political environment. Yet t’was ever thus. These days, for instance, many don’t realize why Americans are traditionally coffee drinkers and Canadians traditionally prefer tea. This has nothing to do with flavour preferences or at least didn’t initially. It stems from the Boston Tea Party, “the political protest of December 16, 1773, at Griffin’s Wharf in Boston, Massachusetts. American colonists, frustrated and angry at Britain for imposing “taxation without representation,” dumped 342 chests of tea, imported by the British East India Company into the harbor. The event was the first major act of defiance to British rule over the colonists. It showed Great Britain that Americans wouldn’t take taxation and tyranny sitting down, and rallied American patriots across the 13 colonies to fight for independence.” (Thanks for the info, history.com). It also became a way of Loyalists subtly declaring their allegiance to Great Britain while hardline revolutionaries eschewed the beverage in favour of the coffee alternative. Eventually habits evolved and political connotations faded into the fog of history.
Food is a universal way of attaching people to their cultures and loyalties. My mother decreed that we all didn’t like lefse, the delicious potato pancakes enjoyed by others of Scandinavian heritage, because we were Swedes and lefse was, in her mind, Norwegian. She was harking back to, according to Wikipedia, to “The Swedish–Norwegian War, also known as the Campaign against Norway (Swedish: Fälttåget mot Norge), War with Sweden 1814 (Norwegian: Krigen med Sverige 1814), or the Norwegian War of Independence, a war fought between Sweden and Norway in the summer of 1814”. I felt slightly disloyal enjoying the large, leathery rounds of lefse slipped to me by sympathetic friends.
As time eventually heals all food war wounds, others pop up to reignite culinary passions. You’ve heard the rumblings. Teams are forming up. Sides are being chosen. Today’s battlefield is meat. And emotions are already running high. Team meat has held sway since the dawn of time. Meat is the main event, the epicentre of the meal. Your guest status used to be determined by the meat. Honoured guest, beef. Pork depended on the cut. Chicken was still acceptable. Casseroles, pasta and sausages meant you are family. And then there were the organ meats. Although these rules have loosened their stays in recent decades, meat still matters. Or at least, it matters to Team Meat.
Team Veg, once relegated to the fringes of the dinner party, expected to “just have more salad and another bun” is rapidly picking up steam. Hosts, when in doubt, are careful to include a “vegetarian option”. An awkward truce was established. That is until the Vegans rode into town on their high horses. Hosts abandoned the field to regroup, hoping perhaps that the Vegans were just passing through town on their way to heaven. Alas, they gained power on the strength of research that indicates that the meat industry is, in a not inconsequential way, responsible for the looming climate crisis. Instead of remaining on the fringes, Team Veg is welcoming followers in vast numbers and Vegans are quickly invading the mainstream. They can no longer be ignored and simply left off invitation lists. Hosts and hostesses must adapt or lose their “Mostess” status. Vegetarians are already seen to be easy to accommodate with their acceptance of dairy. We can do this. Vegetable Lasagna with meat on the side. Done. But Vegans present more of a challenge. No dairy, gelatine, honey, many wines. Grocery stores are helping out by stocking some vegan butter and cheeses, but they are, frankly, not quite the same. Nutritional yeast may not be flat-out hideous, but it is definitely not Parmesan.
So what’s to do? Best to start where we are, and branch out from there.
Pizza. Vegan style.
We make pizza dough. Flour, water, salt, yeast. So far, so good.
1 cup (250 ml) warm water
1 teaspoon (5 ml) instant yeast
1 teaspoon (5 ml) sugar
2 cups (300 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
In a bowl, combine the water, yeast and sugar. Let stand until the mixture foams on top, about 5 minutes.
Combine the flour and salt and add to the yeast mixture. Mess with it until a soft ball forms.
Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for a few minutes on a floured surface to prevent sticking.
Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a clean cloth. Let the dough rise for about 30 minutes in warm and draft-free area. (I just put it in the oven with the oven light on). Cut the dough in half.
Use the pizza dough immediately or refrigerate it (less than 48 hours), otherwise place it in an airtight bag and freeze. Turn up your oven as hot as it will go. If you have a pizza stone and a paddle, you already know what to do, but if not, a cookie sheet will serve you well.
Using your hands, spread the dough to the desired thinness on a pizza pan or cookie sheet liberally coated with olive oil. If it resists your efforts, let it rest to relax for five minutes or so. If the dough sticks to your hands, just oil your hands and all will be well.
This recipe will make two 23-cm (9-inch) thin-crust pizzas or two 20-cm (8-inch) thicker crust pizzas or one full cookie sheet “grandma style”.
If your store or pizzeria sells dough balls, you can skip the dough making step. (Or ask your pizzeria to leave out meat and cheese and you can avoid all this fuss and go watch Netflix).
Just think pizza without cheese or meat. Tomato sauce. Mushrooms. Vegetables, herbs.
Vegetarians can add cheese. Team Meat can add meat. Everyone can sit around the same table without rancour. Team Meat and Team Veg will retire to their separate corners to regroup and shore up their arguments for another day, but for one, brief, shining moment, peace will prevail, dinner will be delicious and the hosts can exhale.