Before I get into today’s post, I’d like to point you toward Episode 234 of the Our Hen House podcast, where you can hear all about the top five most fabulous vegan eats that I enjoyed during my two-week trip to Italy back in March. The rampant vegan-friendliness of Italian cuisine might surprise you!
I also want to thank you all for the outpouring of positive feedback on my recent post on vegan privilege. Thank you all for your kind words and willingness to engage in a tough yet hugely important issue.
If you checked out the latest installment of my Vegan Chews & Progressive News series (#NewsandChews), you most likely noticed the tantalizing plate of food featured in the “Best Recipe I Made This Week” section. Along with a pile of buffalo tempeh and a sweet wilted kale salad, the featured dinner included a mound of young, multicolored potatoes dotted with verdant sweet peas and coated in the ubiquitous childhood favorite veggie dip: ranch dressing. Though, probably unlike the mayo-based ranch of your youth (definitely of mine), the making of this particular dressing did not contribute to the dumping of live chickens into trash pits, the gassing or grinding up of male chicks, or the forced molting of hens (but those are all just “standard industry practices,” right? No biggie?).
While my switching from egg-based ranch dressing to a vegan, oil-based version in part represents a desire to foster a kinder world, my new-found enthusiasm for vegan mayo represents an act of kindness to myself. Back in the darkest days of my eating disorder, I abided by all sorts of self-imposed, nonsensical food restrictions based on nutrition pseudo-science: no peanut butter because it’s susceptible to mold, only minute amounts of tofu and tempeh because processed soy causes breast cancer (actually the opposite), no maple syrup or agave nectar because even minimally refined sweeteners are the devil’s handiwork, etc. Policing my every bite of food for its “purity” of health, eating became an act of stress (that my food was optimally “healthy”) and self-punishment (if it wasn’t or if I ate “too much” of it). Because my disorder consumed my identity, this stress and self-punishment permeated the vast majority of my everyday life.
Fast forward through a ton of psychological healing involving the refocusing of my attention off of food and onto a cause larger than myself (read: animal rights), as well as the cultivation of self-respect through a now approaching six-year yoga practice, I found myself able not only to enjoy the singular act of eating, but to enjoy the continuous act of life.
Life! That once-unhappy phenomenon through which I struggled throughout high school in irritable, depressive, static fashion became an interactive cornucopia of opportunity, action, and joy. My utmost goal transformed from achieving optimal “health” through “pure,” absolutely unprocessed diet, and to bettering the world by fighting against multiple societal oppression while finding pleasure in the everyday.
Okay, so what does this have to do with vegan mayo? Well, my now-beloved Vegenaise once existed among my extensive list of forbidden ingredients (it was a processed product that contained soy protein, for pete’s sake!!!!). Though it may appear inconsequential to the unknowing witness, my ability to consume and absolutely revel in enjoyment of the foods on my past taboo list—including maple syrup, vegan cheese like Daiya, vegan meat products like Field Roast, and non-dairy ice cream like DF Mavens—constitutes an enormous positive leap in my psychological health and relationship with food.
Back to that Ranch Potato Salad. Bursting with freshness from a hearty dose of herbs and tanginess from that much-adored vegan mayo, I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be able to enjoy this perfect-for-summer salad without even the slightest twinge of self-hate. Here’s to enjoying food, and enjoying life.
Ranch Potato Salad
Ranch Dressing Ingredients (loosely adapted from Betty Goes Vegan):
3/4 cup vegan mayonnaise (Organic Vegenaise and Just Mayo are my favorites)
8 oz (half a package) silken tofu
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp tahini
2 tsp nutritional yeast
1 1/2 tsp tamari
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp freshly group black pepper
Sea salt for the boiling water
1 lb fingerling potatoes (I used a mix of yellow, red, and blue)
2 cups green peas, fresh or frozen
Scrub the potatoes and place them in a large pot. Fill the pot about 3/4 of the way full, sprinkle a generous amount of salt into the water, cover, and bring to a boil. Keep the water at a rolling boil for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and can be pierced easily with a fork. Add the peas and boil for another minute. Drain and let cool until you can comfortably handle the potatoes.
Meanwhile, combine all of the dressing ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, and blend until very smooth.
Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice each potato in half (or in quarters, if larger) and place in a large bowl. Add the peas, then add about 1 cup of the ranch dressing, or enough to coat the potatoes and peas to your liking (you may not use all of the dressing. Oh no! Leftover tangy, creamy deliciousness! Whatever will you do?). Stir the mixture until the potatoes and peas are evenly coated with the dressing. Serve warm.
In solidarity, Ali.