Long-time readers of Big Tent Vegan may know this, but some of our newer friends may not...my love Susan, who writes many of the posts here, is a very successful amateur vegan cook and baker. She has over 65 ribbons and awards (some pictured above), all for vegan food vs. non-vegan food. These include ribbons from three of the largest fairs in the country (Orange County, San Diego, and Los Angeles), including three Best of Shows, plus ribbons from the National Pie Championships and numerous other competitions. And again, none of these were in special "vegan-only" or "health-food" categories; these were all just head-to-head against "normal" food!
She doesn’t do this because she’s super-competitive or anything. The absolute only reason she does this is to help show that vegan food can taste just as good as non-vegan (or better!). Whenever anyone we meet says something like, “Oh, I can’t be vegan because the food is just too bland”, or “Oh, I can’t be vegan because I love food too much”, I just show them the picture above, plus a bunch of other photos we have of Susan’s competition food.
Living with a Competitive Cook/Baker can be interesting… I do a lot of tasting of prototype food (and lots of washing of pots and pans that had prototype food in them).
Luckily for me, Susan has gotten to the point where version 1.0 or 1.1 of a new dish is already pretty close. In the early days of her competitive career, she needed a few more tries to get in the ballpark. For instance, the Vegan Coconut Lime Cake you see here, is a wonderful creation that eventually won Best of Show at the Orange County Fair a few years back, beating out several hundred other (non-vegan) dishes. But the very first version of this cake she made (which only I was privileged to taste), had the consistency of haupia -- a traditional Hawaiian dessert kind of like coconut jello. Tasty enough, but not exactly the texture she was going for…!
This is also a common sight in our kitchen, around competition season:
This is not because Susan doesn’t want me to eat delicious fruits and vegetables (we ARE vegans, after all). It’s just that she often buys ingredients for specific recipes she’s working on, and doesn’t want me gnoshing on them on the night before the entries are due. Before she started employing the much-welcome signage, this used to happen:
Susan, rummaging around in our kitchen: “Hey, love, did you see the bag of kumquats I was going to use for my kumquat-lime frosting?”
Ryan, in the living room, with a mouth full of kumquats: "Hmmfgh..?"
And then there was the “near-pie-weight-chili incident” of 2013, which led to this sign:
All in all its been a lot of fun helping Susan with her competitions over the years. And we genuinely think that it’s helped animals… But only if people know about it!! As I said earlier, self-promotion doesn’t come naturally to Susan… that’s my job! Believe me, she wouldn’t even let me talk about it if she didn’t think it was helping animals.
So the next time someone says to you, “Oh, I can’t be vegan because the food is too bland” or “Oh, I can’t be vegan because I love food too much”, just point them here.
Thanks for reading, and peace to all who live.
Here are links to three of her award-winning recipes: