A couple months ago, on a rainy Sunday, Ben and I started a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle. It has taken half our dining table hostage since then, and mostly we are too scared to sit down to work on it because last time we did, we looked up with headaches, cricks in our necks and two hours less in each of our lives. To be honest, we mostly find pieces when we’re not trying to look for them; we glance at it and halfheartedly try two pieces sitting next to each other, and miraculously they just click into place.
Well, that’s turning out to be a pretty good metaphor for life (as if I needed any more cheesy metaphors!). And because at the moment life=vgnmf15, it’s a pretty valid metaphor for this challenge too.
As I work through the list of Vegan MoFo 2015 post prompts, there are a few that are starting to look a bit daunting. One of those was today’s:
It’s cold and rainy and there’s a snow drift outside your door! What are you going to make using the ingredients you have?
In and of itself, this is totally not a problem for me. I far prefer to be guided by the combination of what needs to be used up – I get serious leftover anxiety, and having more than a couple open packets in the cupboards makes me a bit twitchy – and I find working around those priority ingredients far more motivating than pulling some grand meal idea out of my imagination and having to seek out all the ingredients and carve out sufficient time to make it work.
That’s pretty much how my mum cooked for us, too. Sure, we always had plenty of staples around, but the exact composition of a favourite dish would always vary according to what was around.
Unfortunately, none of that seemed particularly conducive to an exciting blog post. And so, Day 26 of Vegan MoFo 2015 loomed. Meanwhile, I was starting to worry that I wasn’t going to have enough mouthwateringly illustrated posts, and that I was talking too much about non-vegan food memories and not enough about fun vegan dishes.
And then on this torrentially rainy grey Monday, when I was living with one foot house-sitting for Ben’s brother and one foot in our cosy flat, when I had a busy day of work including a home visit, when Ben was going to be out for the evening giving me full prerogative to cook and eat all the green things, when I was patting myself on the back for bringing the limp forgotten celery and pak choi in to work with me along with an opened and carefully wrapped pack of tofu… I got ninety percent of the way home before realising I had forgotten those precious ingredients in the fridge at work.
I had been so pleased to have an opportunity to clear those last bits of wilting greens out, an excuse to use up the last of the packet of noodles sitting in the cupboard, to have a fresh and vibrant dinner stir-fry… And then I forgot them.
Then I remembered the tin of bamboo shoots I had bought a few weeks ago and not used, after being a bit knife-happy with all the fresh produce in a previous stir-fry. Thinking of that top cupboard that I have to climb on the kitchen counter to reach reminded me of that packet of dried black fungus I brought back from the local Asian supermarket.
As I pulled together possible stir-fry ingredients in my mind (I couldn’t describe the street I live on, but I could enumerate most, if not all, the contents of our fridge and cupboards), I realised this could totally fit the brief for dreaded day 26! I was about to make a meal using solely ingredients that happened to be in the house (bonus: it is cold and rainy, though thankfully no snowdrift)!
A distinct advantage to including fewer fresh ingredients in your meal is that prep time is greatly reduced so you can get straight to the actual cooking: I minced ginger, garlic, and a chili pepper while boiling a pot of water; once the water had boiled, I poured some of it over a handful of dried fungus to soak, and put my noodles in the rest of it; I heated some oil in a pan and added the ginger, garlic and chili, and softened them whilst cubing up some tofu; threw the tofu in, sautéed it whilst I julienned a couple dodgy-looking carrots and added them along with the rehydrated black fungus and bamboo shoots. A generous splash of soy sauce, noodles drained and tossed in, and I couldn’t resist stirring a spoonful of almond butter in to add some richness. At this point I discovered a sad-looking wedge of lemon in the fridge door and squeezed it over the lot to bring some freshness and help the almond butter coat the noodles.
And that was that! A nutritious dinner cooked, served and eaten within about 45mins – and dare I say it benefited from the omission of leafy pak choi and stringy celery. Unfortunately, I now have some limp celery and pak choi poised to taunt me from the work fridge tomorrow, but I have no doubt that I will find a good use for them when I decide to stop looking for it.