Give It Up for Guest Star Lisa Shapiro!
After fruitless attempts in Cincinnati and Kansas City, my efforts to find someone to cook with finally paid off in Boulder.
As soon as we arrived there, I placed a silly ad on backpage.com.
Want to guest-star in a food blog? Seeking veg-friendly foodie ASAP!
…And I didn’t get a single response. Hmph!
Getting nervous, I think I Googled “vegan boulder” or something like that, and the Boulder (and Beyond!) Vegan Meetup popped up.
Duh, why didn’t I think of Meetup groups before? I thought. A whole group of vegans! One of them will be able to help me!
I emailed the group’s organizer, asking her if she knew of anyone who might be interested in cooking with me.
She immediately wrote back. She did know someone–herself! Kick ass!
Is Lisa Shapiro Boulder’s Queen of Veganism? If not, I think she must be pretty damn close.
A native New Yorker and vegetarian since the age of 16, Lisa was once was a deli manager for Crystal Market, a local store that is now Whole Foods. At work one day, she saw someone wearing a sweatshirt with a picture of a calf behind bars, saying “Please don’t steal my mommy’s milk!” and has been a vegan from then on.
“It affects every aspect of my life,” she says, “and I think it is the most important thing we can do in our everyday lives that has so much impact on everything else.”
If there’s something going on in Boulder having to do with animal rights activism, I’m sure she is involved somehow. Whether it’s distributing vegan ice cream (yeah yeah, non-dairy frozen product) at a Meatout event, or leafleting for Vegan Outreach at the University of Colorado – Boulder, or supporting local ballot measures against animal cruelty, Lisa is a woman of action.
Once a member of Boulder’s Vegetarian Meetup, Lisa founded the vegan group in 2007 when the former group’s organizer resigned. The group now has 338 members. She currently brings home the fakin’ bacon as brand manager for V-Dog vegan dog food, and advises start-up vegan food manufacturers on how to get their products on store shelves.
On Monday, she and I met up in the parking lot outside Vitamin Cottage, and from there we went to her nearby apartment. After a brief introduction to her six cats (I think it was six?), we got busy cooking.
“When I first got your e-mail, I thought, ‘I wonder if she’s trying to make veganism out to be some weird thing?’” she confessed later. “It’s because of how cautious you are as a vegan ’cause so many people are so freaked out about it and get so defensive.”
Recently, Lisa attended a charity benefit, where buffalo stew and hamburgers were served. She later made a comment on Facebook, saying that she enjoyed the event, the music, etc., but was sad to see animals being served and hoped that next year’s meal would be non-violent.
“I got freaking attacked by people from all over the place on Facebook,” she moaned. “‘How dare you push your agenda on us? The Native Americans survived on buffalo! The dinosaurs died for the oil in your car!’”
We commiserated, discussed the dating scene in Boulder (pretty non-existent, it seems, unless you’re super-young and super-cute), and she threatened to stop cooking unless I promised to go to Sun Deli before leaving Boulder (which I did). I had fun.
Our appetizer was Kale Chips. Though I’d heard of them, I’d never tried them–would they be any good? “Amazing!” Lisa gushed.
You want the recipe?
- Wash and dry kale.
- Tear kale into bite-sized pieces.
- Drizzle olive oil onto kale, sprinkle with sea salt and toss.
- Spread kale in a single layer onto a baking sheet and bake at 350 for about 10-15 minutes, checking periodically to make sure it doesn’t burn.
- When kale is crisp, remove from oven, sprinkle nutritional yeast on top (if you’d like), and enjoy. (And don’t make the same mistake I did–if you want to store them for later, let them cool completely after making sure they’re completely crisp. Otherwise, steam will escape and make them soggy.)
Easy-peasy! And tasty! A salty, crispy snack…
…Or, a lovely garnish for SOUP.
SOUP! I love you so much I wouldn’t care if someone told me I smelled like you.
The Creamy Tomato Bisque we made was delicious. First, Lisa used a recipe by Tal Ronnen (“a beautiful man–amazing”) from The Conscious Cook to make cashew cream, a great substitute for heavy dairy cream.
You have to soak raw cashews overnight…
Drain them, rinse them, puree them, and presto!
That was the only actual recipe we used–everything else was just eyeballing ingredients, which is the method I prefer. We chopped up some carrots and onions, sauteed them until tender, and pureed them with a large can of roasted tomatoes, some garlic and dried herbs (thyme? Whatever seems “soup-y”)…
Then we mixed it with the cashew cream, and… Where is a baguette when you need one for dunking?
Lisa noted that if we’d used a Vita-Mix blender the soup would have been smoother, but…that’s just another appliance to wash, right? Screw it.
Meanwhile, we also prepared Tempeh Salad, which is made with the same things you might put in a potato salad–Vegenaise, celery, green onion, garlic and onion powder, pickle–except with tempeh instead of potato.
As we chatted away, I was in mostly charge of the chopping while Lisa did the actual cooking, which was fine with me because it gave me a chance to jot down notes or take pictures. When I went to slice the green onions, she mentioned that some people believe that the part of a vegetable that was closest to the ground holds the most nutritional energy and essence, and demonstrated how I should use as much of the root-end of the shoots as possible.
“I don’t know if it’s true,” she laughed and shrugged. “But if you think about it, it’s so beautiful…it’s like where the heaven and earth meet.”
Bear with me, people. Admittedly I do enjoy saying and hearing things like that every now and then–when I’m eating something healthy with my guy Andrew, I (jokingly) tell him how the nutrients are flowing through my body, how the fiber is good for our colons, and so on–but words like “essence” and “life force” still frighten and shake me to the core. I’m from Ohio, okay?
Fortunately, Lisa didn’t take being “nutty-crunchy” (Andy’s phrase) too seriously. I asked her what her favorite food is, and she quickly blurted out “Chocolate!”
When she asked me if I was involved in any animal-rights organizations or vegan groups back home, I admitted that my experience with Cincinnati groups was not pleasant.
“They’re kind of the stereotype of what you would expect a vegan group to be like,” I whined about one particular group in my hometown.
“Yeah! Yeah! They’re all emaciated, won’t eat fried food, are worried about what’s in everything…It’s like they don’t even enjoy food, even though they hold potlucks!”
“We get the stereotype for a good reason,” Lisa murmured. “But we’re not all like that! It’s too bad you won’t be here for our next Meetup…”
She steamed a block of tempeh to make it more palatable and less beany-tasting, and let me mash it with a fork and mix it with the remaining ingredients.
My favorite ways to eat tempeh are smothered in barbecue sauce on a sandwich, and–now–this salad! The nutty flavor and chewy texture of the tempeh pairs well with the creamy “mayo” and the tang of the pickles and onions. The salad was wonderful on crackers, and as she predicted, even better the next day.
Geez, why did it take two hours to make all that stuff? Who knows? Time flew. She had a work engagement to go to that evening, so our time had to end.
And to think she had two more recipes planned. Was it me? Do I chop too slowly?
We ate quickly, packed up some food for Andrew (“Do you have a refrigerator in your hotel room?” “No, but we have a very cold closet…?”), played with the cats for a minute, and that was that.
Lisa’s parting words?
“I think that living vegan, eating vegan, is one of the most important things we can do to help the planet, help the animals…And going vegan is so easy, it’s delicious, it’s convenient, it’s not about deprivation, it’s about being joyful … That’s my message. That didn’t flow, I was sorta rambling!” She giggled.
Glancing at the furious, illegible scribbling in my notebook, I looked up. “That’s okay, I–”
“GO VEGAN, GODDAMNIT!” she finally screamed, jokingly. “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU WAITING FOR??”
And that was my foodie experience in Boulder. Thanks, Lisa! I hope to go back to Sun Deli with YOU one day!
What did I learn?
- Finding new ways to use tried-and-true ingredients, such as kale or tempeh, can yield delicious results.
- Cashew cream is something that should probably be utilized in every possible situation.
- Locating a nice person willing to help me with my crazy blog was easy, once I knew where to look, and I hope it’s this easy in Austin.
Focusing on other goals for a while might be better, though. On the long drive here I realized I should focus more on goal #5: Use my food powers for good whenever possible.
Any suggestions?? Leave them in the comments, please. :)