Cooking Like a Dude: Guest Star Leo Flowers
Do all vegans automatically envision themselves as Iron-Chefs-in-training? Are they all completely at-ease in the kitchen and ready to whip up a bowl of hummus at the ring of a doorbell?
Deep down, I naïvely believed so.
Last Saturday afternoon, however, Leo Flowers proved me wrong. Or did he…?
Leo, a comedian, and I met after I saw his stand-up performance at U-31, shortly after my man Andy and I moved to San Diego. (Perhaps you’ll remember that I mentioned him in this post.) A transplant from Chicago (yeaaah midwest!) who now lives in Los Angeles, he has been making people laugh all over the country–traveling so much that he calls himself the Vegan Road Warrior. And did I hear he’s auditioning to be on the Late Show with David Letterman? Get outta here!
After receiving a Facebook message saying that he’d be back in San Diego, I took a chance and asked him if he’d like to cook with me sometime during his stay. He immediately agreed and we made arrangements to meet up the following Saturday.
In my excitement over getting the chance to spend the afternoon with an up-and-coming celeb, I never thought to ask Leo: Do you like to cook?
On Saturday morning I went to went to pick my guest star up at his friends Troy and Sharon’s place–they were kind enough to let us use their kitchen. We then headed over to Ralph’s to get our groceries.
Soon after we set foot in the grocery store, it became clear to me that this poor guy had no idea what he was doing.
Teeny-tiny notepad containing a scrawled shopping list in hand, Leo wandered around and around the produce section of the supermarket, with me trailing behind pushing the shopping cart.
After some confusion about what we needed and where to find everything, avocados, nuts, apples, kale, and beets went into the cart. He admitted that his diet is more “a-little-of-this, a-little-of-that” than following recipes, chopping things up and presenting them on a plate with a flourish.
“Yeah, I cook like a dude,” he shrugged. “I eat…food, you know? If I’m hungry, I’ll get a handful of nuts or an avocado.”
Pushing the cart, I sighed. That’s the way everyone should eat, I thought, momentarily so envious of his glowing skin that I wanted to rip it off and make a garment out of it.
But not even two minutes later, we passed an endcap stacked at least a foot above my head with family-size bags of Lay’s potato chips. Smirking devilishly, I wondered just how offended he would be if I oh-so-casually threw one into the cart. They’re on sale, damn it!!
After going down a few more aisles, and noticing this dude’s funny but “very comfortable” shoes…
…We rolled up to the register. Our budget was $40 so I was a little nervous… but lookit, $35.67! (The cashier’s face when I pulled out my camera was priceless.)
During our return trip to his friends’ place, I noticed how quiet, thoughtful, and serious Leo is. Instead of being Mr. Smartass the whole time, firing quips and quotes and cracks in rapid succession–which is what I feared–he told me about his family, his football days at Ball State University, and his recent switch from weight-training to yoga, which he mentions in his blog.
One of the reasons he likes yoga is that each pose–the warrior poses, for example–has a story behind it. Cool. Yeah, where’s the romantic backstory for bicep curls or bench-presses, huh?
He told me his how-I-became-a-vegan story, which started mainly for health reasons. His friends’ views on his raw vegan diet and smoke-free, alcohol-free lifestyle?
“They bust my balls about it,” he said sheepishly. “I let them go on for a while, but then eventually they’re like, ‘Man, I should be more like that…'”
Back at Sharon & Troy’s, we were ready to get down to business. Dessert was first on the agenda: Raw Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies. After seeing Leo’s bewilderment in the grocery store, I thought I’d be doing a lot more hands-on work, so I pulled my mini Gorilla tripod out of my bag, ready to set up some shots of us chopping veggies or whatever.
Before I got a chance to, however, Leo took the tripod, screwed a small video camera on top of it, set it up on the dining room table, and stepped behind the kitchen counter. A TV-host voice boomed from his lips as he faced the camera, gesturing broadly, seemingly coming to life before my eyes as the camera’s red light shone. It was now the Vegan Road Warrior show, and I was his guest star. Hey…!! Maybe he does know what he’s doing, after all…?
Sharon had graciously let us use her dead-sexy, never-touched, gleaming Cuisinart 14-cup food processor. Afraid of losing a digit, she never had any previous desire to play with the appliance, which she received as a gift. I was so giddy about it, you would have thought it was a gift for me.
We put it together, plugged it in, threw in a handful of almonds, and —
NOTHING. It wouldn’t start.
We tested the electrical outlet. We read the instruction manual. We disassembled it and reassembled it countless times. We even sat down and watched the damn instructional DVD–and who does that?
About a half-hour later we were twiddling our thumbs, feeling discouraged and a little unsure of what to do. Making something else didn’t seem to be an option. Should I forfeit the $35.67 worth of groceries and go home and eat spaghetti?
Magically, out of nowhere, Leo noticed that the Cuisinart’s buttons were locked underneath the housing. One firm yank–CLICK–and the motor was purring and the blade was spinning. I shrieked with joy.
Where were we? Oh yeah, the cookies.
Approximately 1 cup of rolled oats took a spin in the food processor first, followed by 1/2 cup each of raisins and pitted Medjool dates, a few pinches of cinnamon and a few splashes of water. Eventually it formed a ball of dough.
Then Leo formed the dough into cookies and that’s it. Though he stumbled a little bit, for the most part our host looked as if he’d done this a million times. I tried not to interfere with the “cooking show” too much–I’m not so comfortable being videotaped–but had to go over and put some raisins on top of the oatmeal treats.
“See, I never think to do stuff like that,” he murmured. Because I’m a dude, is how I imagined him finishing that sentence.
I must admit, making raw foods can be super-fast, as long as you have the proper equipment (and can get it to work). It’s all prep-work. By the time a cooked-on-the-stove dish is finished, a raw meal would already be in your belly.
Life Food Organic–a restaurant in Hollywood owned by a friend of his–is the place that convinced Leo to give uncooked food a chance. “I thought raw foods were nasty, but it turned out that most restaurants didn’t know what they were doing.”
Next, we worked on Baja tacos.
For the “meat,” Leo pulsed raw almonds, olive oil, cumin, and sea salt in the Cuisinart until it looked like this:
Next, the “cheese.” Oh my, I could have eaten that stuff with a spoon! Just combine water, raw cashews, sea salt, lemon juice, garlic, and a bunch of cilantro until you get a glorious, tangy, creamy, salty green paste that would be good to spread on crackers, mix with noodles…
…Or, uh, put in a raw taco. What was the taco shell, you ask? A leaf of romaine lettuce, which added a cool crunch and easily held the fillings. I plated everything up and added some chopped tomatoes just prior to serving–yum yum yum.
And to drink? “A green drink that’s really red,” which was the result of adding beets to, well, anything, but in this case a blenderful of apples, kale, and lemon juice. (Sorry, no photo.)
Wasn’t bad–very thick and fibrous, yes, but palatable–but just not cold enough. I suggested ice.
No, Leo said. Ice is unhealthy because the body has to work hard to warm up cold liquids.
“Well, that burns calories, doesn’t it?” I meekly replied.
But here amongst friends, in the protective womb that is the interweb, I will tell you what I really wish I’d said:
Look, pal, ice is where I draw the line. I don’t eat meat, I don’t eat dairy, I don’t eat honey. I avoid caffeine and fake sugar. Aside from mashed potatoes and french fries and potato chips and baguettes, I totally have the carb thing locked down. But unless it will give me an aneurysm on the spot or kill baby seals, please let me always hear the sweet clink of ice in my glass.
Anyway, no, I didn’t say that. After all the food was on the table, we gathered Troy and Sharon to let them taste everything. Sharon went first, going for one of the sweet, chewy oatmeal raisin cookies.
“This is so filling, it’s like a meal!” she said. “It’s a good pick-me-up snack.”
Troy, who had already proudly announced his omnivore status, reluctantly tried one of the tacos as we looked on in silence.
“That’s pretty good!” he cheered, his face lighting up. “Better than I thought it would be.”
So what did I learn?
- Food doesn’t need to be overly-processed and fussed-with to taste good.
- Cooking like a dude is just fine–even if you don’t live in the grocery store (like I do) and don’t consider the kitchen the most important room in the house (like I do), you can still find a few recipes you like, follow them, and prepare a tasty meal. (Or not.) You can even star in your own cooking show.
- Hold on to your tripod.
Speaking of the tripod, I got it back and we did some group photos…
and I sampled some of Sharon’s awesome vegan chili (and scored the recipe). Then I gave everyone a hug and went home.
The end. Where’s my ice?
Thanks, Leo Flowers!! Thanks, Sharon and Troy! Yaaaay!