No EB here!
Vegans of Color’s post about Earth Balance has given me the courage to post this journal entry about the state of the vegan culinary universe at this particular moment in time:
Dear vegans, vegan chefs and bakers, and vegan companies:
I LOVE YOU! But can we talk a little?
Here’s how I see that it’s gone down:
We all became vegan long ago, in the mists of time. We missed cupcakes and birthday cakes with super sugary colored frosting. We ate a lot of really shitty vegan food – cakes with frosting made from carob powder and brown rice syrup, frosting made from tofu and vanilla and maple syrup, nothing else. Dark ages, truly.
Then we began to grow up a little, experiment a little. We stopped reading the Moosewood Cookbook and those god-awful PETA cookbooks and started writing down our experiments. We realized that nonvegans were actually right: Macaroni and Chreese in the brown box was the absolute worst thing ever.
We wisened up.
Then – when did it happen, exactly? Was I in college, is that why I missed it? – along came Earth Balance Buttery Spread.
Now we have mindblowing strawberry shortcake and cinnamon buns and cupcakes with their giant caps of frosting. I will be the very first to admit that I love all these things – sometimes. Walking around the Lower East Side and popping into Teany for a peanut butter bomb has enriched my life. I deeply understand these desserts. I missed birthday cake and cupcakes and colored frosting too. I’m so happy we can now have it. I am truly glad this stuff is out there in the world.
Not this exact stuff though – no EB in this black forest cake!
However (and please hold the above statements in your heart as the read the rest of this)….
I never thought that the vegan food revolution would be about recreating supermarket white trash hydrogenated-oil desserts.* People complain that veganism is a white middle-class movement, and I’ve never seen anyone exactly point to these desserts as evidence of why, but they could. I’m not saying that the de-whitifying of the vegan movement is on your shoulders, vegan Earth Balance-addicted bakers, truly, I am not. It is work we all have to do. But there is a hugely giant world of non-cupcakey desserts out there that your amazing veganifying talents would benefit from.
What about me? Well, though I am a professional chef, my business is small – just 25 clients or so. I’m not good at dealing with customers face-to-face, so I don’t want to open a restaurant or a bakery, and I’m too busy with other passions to write a cookbook. So I think about you all often, and your lovely status in the vegan public eye, and I so wish I’d pop into your businesses and get a raspberry fool or a clafouti or an Armenian cardamom bread. Something made with traditional ingredients in vegan ways, not processed soy and more processed soy.
I know you’re going to tell me that EB isn’t processed, and I know you’re going to tell me that your customers wouldn’t buy such things and mine only eat them because they don’t get a choice about which dessert they get. EB may not be processed (the sticks have soy protein isolate though, don’t they?) but it must be said that they leave that greasy residue on the tongue that is the telltale “not butter, never will be” tip off to nonvegans and vegans with discerning palates.
We’ve had a good run with the cupcakes and the cakes that are more frosting than cake. But is there a way to indulge in these ultra-sugary treats once in a while while slowly turning our attention to more interesting desserts than strawberry shortcake with spongy California strawberries?
As I was having lunch last week at an unnamed vegan bakery in an unnamed city with my (vegan) mom, she summed it up: “I had to order cake, because it’s so rare for a vegan to get cake like this. But after two bites I already feel bloated and crazy from the sugar, and I’m going to take the rest home. I’m glad it exists, but I think I’m just too old to get too excited about it.”
Through 30 years younger than her, I feel the exact same way.
Also, how GIANT is that cake? I would have made it into three pieces, my mentor Selma at Bloodroot would have made it into five. We both just stared at it when it came out.
*For the record: I am not in favor of the term “white trash” as it seems to say that people of color are implicitly trash, but I will let it slide in order to make my point for now.