When something is addictively good, I often hear folks on vegan blogs refer to it as vegan crack. The food in question is so mind-blowingly tasty, one is not enough, two is not enough, and so on and so forth. But when I think about it, when a food is entirely craveable, it’s actually the polar opposite of vegan crack. I should mention, first of all, that crack is actually vegan. It’s made of water, baking soda, and cocaine, which comes from the coca plant. (Yes, I just Googled the ingredients in crack. Please don’t come after me, Feds. Feds is my nickname for Kevin Federline. He hates it when I Google the unusual.) So vegan crack is actually… crack.
Even putting that aside, I’ve had a tremendously easy time avoiding crack. It will likely come as no surprise to you, but I’ve never tried crack. Ever. And I feel I can safely say that for as long as I live, I will never try crack. So if something is “vegan crack,” shouldn’t that mean that it’s something I could avoid eating with no troubles at all? Using that definition, my vegan crack would be whole sheets of nori, roasted beets, and bowls full of quinoa. Okay, yes, I’ve tried those things, but I don’t enjoy any of them, and I could happily avoid them for years. No problems. If we really want to explore things I could not resist, maybe we should say, “Those salt and pepper potato chips are vegan birthdays! They’re vegan Christmas! They’re vegan trips to Disneyland!”
My vegan birthday/Christmas/Disneyland foods would include garlic sauerkraut, roasted garlic, olives of any sort, red wine, artichoke hearts, and avocados. All of these foods have a pungency and deep savory quality that make me want more and more. They’re foods that I return to and crave. Whether it’s a salad, sandwich, pizza, or whatever, these are things that make anything better. Some people think tofu is bland, but marinate it in red wine, bake it with garlic, serve it with artichokes? Yes, please and thank you.
It reminds me of a piece that Ginny Messina wrote back in April. (I realize that it’s July now. I like to stay topical.) In the post titled, Is Umami a Secret Ingredient of Vegan Activism, she talks about the how’s and why’s of umami being a quality of food that we crave. (Umami is the fifth sense, and it imparts a savory quality to food that gives depth.) She says, “People who falter on vegan diets because they find themselves craving protein could very well be craving umami—and they might feel like something isn’t quite right without it.” Eating umami gives a gustatory pleasure that makes one feel satisfied by a meal.
When non-vegans think about vegan food, their first thoughts might be of a spinach salad – no cheese, no ranch, no prosciutto. They might think of the aforementioned blank block of tofu. If they set out to eat a vegan diet, and it consists of bland with a side of bland, I can see why they’d find it challenging to be satisfied in the long-term. Plus, if the only cue for being done is feeling tired of chewing, that’s a recipe for boredom. (Unlike my earlier posted recipe for crack. You’re welcome.) When we add an element that gives a punch of flavor and satisfaction, it could just as well be roasted garlic or sauerkraut instead of animal-based cheese. When a salad is topped with a pleasure sensor-tapping, creamy cashew dressing, flavored with tamari, it has richness and body that needn’t come from chickens’ egg-based mayonnaise.
This Olive & Artichoke Pâté is like Vegan Good Mail Day. I just want more and more. (If you run out of things to spread it on, a finger or spoon also works just fine. I tried it that way this morning just to be certain.) Since it’s made with a base of chickpeas, one could technically call it hummus. However, it’s so densely saturated with the taste of olives, it bucks all hummus expectations. It’s hardly a light spread with a few chopped olives tossed in for a lark. The dense flavors of olives and artichokes pervade every bite with a murmuring of lemon in the background. I tried it without olive oil, and it can be done if you’re anti-oil. However, I do think the olive oil adds some body and a blanket of flavor behind it. For extra creaminess, use still-warm, made-from-scratch chickpeas.
Makes about 2 cups of pâté
- 3 artichoke hearts, drained from a water-packed jar
- ½ cup pitted Greek olives (I used a variety, but any will do)
- 1 clove garlic, diced
- 2 Tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 ½ cups (or 1 15 ounce can, drained) chickpeas
- 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
In a high-speed blender or food processor, blend the artichoke hearts, olives, garlic, lemon juice, and thyme until it’s a coarse paste. Add chickpeas and continue to blend, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. (If you’re using a Vitamix, you’ll want to press the chickpeas into the blade with the tamper.) Once it’s nearly smooth, add the extra virgin olive oil, and continue to process until creamy. Serve on crackers or crusty bread, or use it as a dip with carrot and celery sticks.