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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Vegan Tastes Good

"Not so long ago, most Americans considered vegan desserts an oxymoron."

True. And not just vegan desserts but vegan foods. And dairy-fee foods. And gluten-free foods. And egg-free foods. And all the other variations needed to suit the numerous food sensitivities that so many of us have to live with.

As that lead to an Associated Press article suggests, however, times have changed considerably.

"In the old days, you'd think of vegan baking as whole-wheat flour and fruit-based sweeteners and grains, sort of like a reflection of vegan food from the '70s," says Colleen Holland, associate publisher of VegNews magazine.

"Now it's petits fours. It's brownies. It's fudge. And you can't even tell the difference from the mainstream versions."

Vegan and other specialty bakeries abound in all corners of the country. Foods are also available in stores that you would never find there even a decade ago.
"When people were baking cakes with whole-wheat flour and using apple sauce for moisture, you might as well have used them for door stops," says Christina Pirello, host of the vegan public television cooking show Christina Cooks.

"It's changed a lot. It's finally come out of the fringe because of the products that are available now," she says.

A wide range of oils, margarines and shortenings, and fruit purees can be used for butter, while soy and rice milks can replace cow's milk. And in all cases, the quantity and quality of choices have improved dramatically.

Where once soy milks were grainy and unpleasant (at least to most mainstream tastes), newer non-dairy milks (which now include almond and various grain-based versions) are sweeter, smoother and creamier. ...

Nothing is perfect. Even with the advances in vegan baking and ingredients, some egg-dependent recipes — such as angel food cake and meringue — just can't be replicated.

The vegan movement, except for the ineffable PETA, has also found that harangues are as problematic as meringues.
"My activism is in my products," says Allison Rivers Samson, whose Nevada City, Calif.-based Allison's Gourmet sells organic vegan fudge, truffles and other treats.

"I don't say 'You should be vegan because of these statistics and these horrible things that are happening to the animals,'" she says. "That's important to me, of course, but I find people can be swayed a lot more by good taste than by horror stories."

Reason and good taste, along with needed information, are the basics for a dairy-free life.

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