When the cat’s away / sh*t that vegans eat

When Dr Sin has the run of the house, the steak comes out and the only rule of co-habitation, to not cook meat, is temporarily broken. When Dr Sin is away, Mrs Lomez pulls out all sorts of incredible food combinations that Dr Sin just cannot stomach. Tahini and marmite. Tahini, marmite and tomato paste. Marmite and avocado. Marmite on just about everything. Tahini on pizza. Tahini on baked beans. Marmite on toast topped with baked beans smothered in tahini. Banana, tahini and soy yoghurt smoothie. Mmm-hmmm.

Omnivores and vegans alike may be surprised at the cheese-like qualities of tahini. Under a grill, it bubbles, just like a cheese toastie (or cheesie) does. On a pizza, it adds a drooly quality, much like mozzarella would. Mixed with yeast extract and tomato paste, it creates a cheesy pasta sauce. It can also be added to avocado and lemon juice – great spread on sourdough with a spatter of rocket (that one’s courtesy of Ray’s café in Melbourne, c. 2009). Or with soy sauce, sesame oil and some warm water, a viscous sauce emerges to accompany stir fried veg (that one imparted by the Skinny Bitches).

Yeast extract, otherwise known as marmite, vegemite or simply ‘yeast extract, with no added salt’, is not only a vegan staple but an affirmation of national pride. (Whaddaya know, vegans are nationalists just like the people that eat little lambs.) Great on toast as a base for just about every savoury topping: avo, tomatoes, baked beans (with tahini on top, smaak lekker!). As a child, Mrs Lomez (unmarried back then, of course) rued the days she was given vegemite and cheese sandwiches for school lunch. Wholly inedible for one so young. But yeast extract, like beer and wine, is alive, just as you are, and will one day be the object of your warm affections.

How did these unexpected pairings come about? In the vegan travails of Mrs Lomez, it has been the necessity and the knowing how to create a nutrient-rich dish from which has arisen such ensemble. Tahini is great for calcium and protein, being pretty much solely composed of sesame seeds. Yeast extract also helps with protein and B vitamins: marmite even has added B12 (though not vegemite). And both their flavours are a savoury delight.

Dr Sin believes Mrs Lomez has no sense of foods that go well together. But then they have very different approaches to eating food. While Mrs Lomez will spread salad over her roasted vegetables, Dr Sin keeps the salad in a separate bowl and only partakes once all the veg have disappeared from the plate. Some say not to mix hot and cold foods. Some take no notice of this advice and mix everything into a melange of flavour so a different taste or texture assails you at every bite. That, or the techni-coloured mushy glub takes on an other, wholly unrecognisable tone.

There’s a great mushroom pie recipe on a veggie site somewhere that avails itself of dark ale and yeast extract. Only a teaspoon, mind. The problem with vegans, Dr Sin might say, is that they develop a tolerance to marmite and use so much of it, any other flavour in the dish is overwhelmed. Mrs Lomez can’t disagree with this.

When the cat’s away, the mice come out to play. It’s not about breaking rules, but not having to modify your behaviour for the benefit of someone else (or your own self-preservation). This is not to say that all cats are controlling, domineering, homicidal felines; nor that in the Sin-Lomez household, every day is a matter of life and death. When the cat’s away, there is no need to compromise.

What unlikely food combos have you dared to whip up in the cat’s absence?

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