Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Living on (Friends') Leftovers or When the Vegans Move Out

Living in a small Midwestern college town means change, this time of year. Everyone is preparing to move or has already moved on. It bothered me growing up here because I was full of wanderlust and I was disappointed to be staying put. I moved out of my childhood home right after my seventeenth birthday and soon moved out of state. It wasn't because I didn't love my family, I just couldn't wait to be out of my hometown. Since then I've lived in several different states, visited even more countries, yet here I am back where I never expected to be...back and not really wanting to leave. Quite unexpected. I remember people not wanting to get to know us after we said we were only here for a year or two. I thought it was funny at the time, because that is the type of friendships I am often drawn to, but the joke was on us now that we've been here almost 12 years! Even typing that out makes me feel a little sick to my stomach. Way too long to be in one place, right?

I'm not good at long-term.  I am not one to be close friends with people I knew since we were kids. Not that I didn't like the people I grew up with, sometimes quite a lot, but I have always thrived on the new. I am not one to remember people's birthday for years after we met (thank you Facebook for doing this for me!) and I always intend to send cards for this and that, but rarely do they make it in the mail. I love the beginning of relationships, the getting to know new friends or loves, the new life stories, the open book not filled in yet with the endless possibilities, the first kiss or the first chatting as friends over a drink, I love the newness of it all. This may be why I was engaged (but never married) several times before Rob and I met. As I hurtle toward the big 4-oh no!, I feel something I've really never experienced before, I guess it can be described as a need for permanence. Or the illusion of permanence, since there really is no such thing. I feel the mourning of relationships, which never quite became what they could have because life gets in the way, or ones that will change due to location or children growing older or other situations beyond my control. Before I would embrace these ebbs and flows in friendships/loves and look forward to the "new kid in town", the getting to know each other period, the fresh friendships. Yet now I feel like I'm traveling unexpected territory and wanting the Earth to stay put beneath my feet instead of the constant shifting. This feeling puts me out of sorts and I'm not sure what to do with it. We had the opportunity, actually more like a need, to move to a new town a few months ago and normally I would have jumped at the chance, but instead I dug in my heels. Knowing that some of what I was staying for was going to leave around me, like sand washed away by the tide, as I sink my toes deeper, trying to keep my balance. For this and other reasons, like seeing my eldest come closer and closer to being a young man and perhaps our own aging, I feel the need to "circle the wagons" so to speak. To concentrate on my immediate family in a more purposeful way, maybe as a way to save my heart from the constant comings and goings of this town.

Sigh, get on with the food.

One of our dinners recently was completely inspired by a bottle of bbq sauce given to us by our friends, Faith and Wade. They are moving out of the country, which makes us sad for several reasons, one is we never were able to spend much time with them, except at the vegan meet-ups. Two because they are vegan and it seems that our little college town is always losing the cool vegans. The bonus to their move is that it is a dream come true for them and they gave us some fun food. When vegans move out of town, we often get the food they don't want to/can't move. Bonus for us and we get to try new foods which we might not buy ourselves.
In this case, we scored White Chocolate Wonderful peanut butter. Now this is something I would never buy. I am a purist when it comes to peanut butter and pretty much stick to organic brands with only one ingredient...peanuts. I have to say the kids thought this was the best treat ever and they may leave us to go live in Canada with Faith and Wade (they are easily wooed by vegan treats and the kids love them anyway based mainly on their potluck offerings). The pre-parent part of we thinks it is pretty awesome this item even exists. I mean think about it, vegan white chocolate peanut butter. The kids suggest it eaten on slices of organic bananas to cut the sweetness.
Back to the bbq sauce. I made this dinner on a whim, which is just how things are working lately. Around 5:30pm I realize dinner needs to be made NOW and I go down to the kitchen and whip something up. It works for me and I really like cooking this way, but I know deep down some planning would probably be a good idea. We have a fairly well stocked kitchen at all times since we buy in bulk things like nuts and grains from our buying club and we buy our produce from the farmer's markets or our local co-op. We still live pretty well within our budget without meal plans, but I'm trying to tackle some major house projects so I might not have the luxury to cook by the seat of my pants this summer. I found Week in a Weekend while I was researching topics for Food for Thought and I'm thinking I may need to try this. I love that Alex Jamieson (from Super Size Me fame) has come up with a vegan cook for the weekend on the weekend meal plan. All her recipes, I've seen over the years, seem to be focused on nutrition as well as taste, which appeals to me a lot. I'll let you know if I can tame my inner spontaneous cook for a more plan oriented one. Yes, we had bbq sauce back in the deep darks of our cabinets anyway, but there is something about someone giving you a bottle which makes you want to use it. Never had that happen? This happens to me all. the. time. I live in some crazy other's leftovers dimension because to be honest, people are always giving us vegan food, even if they aren't leaving town or vegan. I love it. So I had this sauce and I had Vegan Diner and I put the two together and made Barbequed Ribz. I also mashed up some taters I had sitting around and sauteed a mess o'greens to make it a meal. The kids were so quiet (those of you who know us, will realize how rare that is) as they devoured everything. I made a double batch of the seitan ribz so I used up our old bottle of sauce too (which happened to be exactly the same brand and style). We don't eat bbq often, obviously, but we might have to rectify that because this was really a yummy meal.
The texture of the seitan was great and the flavor was just the right amount of heat, although Julie Hasson wasn't kidding when she said these are even better the next day. The sandwiches I made for the lunch the day after were something I can't wait to eat again. I added some of Rob's leftover tomato risotto to make it a meal. Come to think of it, I think Faith and Wade gave us the arborio rice too. I'll not be shy and make make my own bbq sauce next time and we might actually grill them. This time we just stuck them on broil in the oven after they were done cooking. It worked and no bother with the grill.
We always have rolled oats on hand, but Faith and Wade gave us some oats so I made granola for the first time ever. I know! For many years we've been labeled as "granola" and "crunchy" yet we rarely eat granola and I've never made it from scratch before (at least not that I remember). Vegan Diner has a recipe for Diner Granola which I will have to make more often. Not too sweet and so easy (yes, I know, homemade granola is always easy). I used Brazil nuts instead of hazelnuts since that is what I had on hand. Again, the kids thought we were on vacation because of the rare treat. We don't do a lot of cereal and sweetened cereal is only bought when we are on vacation. I made the Pumpkin Spice Pancakes from Vegan Diner for dinner the same evening I made the granola (found an forgotten can of pumpkin in the back of the cabinet, I really should clean out the cabinets more often). Josie calls these pancakes "candy pancakes", but I didn't add the sugar the recipe called for and just used the molasses so they didn't taste overly sweet to me. Even after consuming a double batch on their own (Rob and I are eating light dinners these days, so no pancakes for us), the kids asked if I could make more. I've made them twice (the second time with canned sweet potatoes, I don't think there was any difference). If you haven't made pumpkin pancakes before, they can be a little tricky and sticky so be patient. I added chopped walnuts (omega 3's, protein, copper, manganese) and raisins (iron, potassium) to most of the pancakes because I can't resist. Yes, I add things for flavor, but I always have the nutrition aspect in mind. They loved them even more.

My goal this next year is to be better about keeping in touch with our far away friends. We fully intended to move back to the DC area at some point and I miss the people we left so much, yet many of them have moved one, things have changed, kids, divorce, new jobs, life goes on so fast. We have family and friends on the west coast and some days it feels like a world away. It would be great to get to New England soon to see friends and their children we've never met. So many places and wonderful people. I hope we get a chance to visit friends more and keep connected. We are so fortunate to have our lives touched by so many amazing people.

1 comment:

Jesse said...

I can definitely relate to being the "new kid in town" and feeling as though neighbors and others weren't reaching out. It kind of makes one feel like the last one picked for the kick ball team! Glad you're feeling more settled - and was definitely drooling over your pictures. The idea of a "BBQ ribz" sandwich sounds delicious!