Friday, November 03, 2006

Cajun food and a question

I am a graduate assistant in the accounting school here at UGA, and the professor I worked for last year is a Louisiana man. I remember him telling me once that when Hurricane Katrina hit, and many students at Louisiana universities were relocated to UGA, that he and his wife had a group of those transfer over one night and cooked red beans and rice and talked about home with them. I thought that was awesome. I love the New Orleans area (though I've only been once, and that was on a disaster relief mission trip after the hurricane hit)--I'm not really sure why. Maybe the French influence, maybe the profound sense of belonging that people from there seem to have... maybe partly because A Streetcar Named Desire, which was an excellent play, was set there. Anyway, one thing is for sure--I love the food.

I tell this story because, one day after grading exams with my professor, it occurred to me that I had never really had "authentic" red beans and rice, and that if I wanted to know how to make them with a true Louisiana flair, he would be the perfect person to talk to about it. So I asked him how he makes his red beans and rice.

He gave me a dissertation! Whew! And though he usually uses meats to flavor his beans, he knew that I "like to keep a vegetarian palate" and shaped his recommendation around that. Anyway, here are my red beans and rice, inspired by my professor, Dr. Harvey.

1 pound small red beans
1 tablespoon boullion
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
Several dashes of hot sauce
2-3 bay leaves
2 small onions
1 green bell pepper
5-6 stalks celery
2-3 cloves garlic
About 6-7 cups of water

Dice the veggies very finely. Throw everything into a pot and let it simmer for several hours (or throw everything into a crockpot and let it cook all day long). Once the beans are very tender, remove several scoops of them and purée them to make a paste. (Or just put them in a bowl and mash the heck out of them, like I did.) Stir them back into the pot. Serve with brown rice and fresh parsley.

The first time I made them, I cooked them on the stove and pre-soaked the beans. This time, though, I decided to press my rarely used crockpot into service. I started them at about 9:00 this morning and let them cook until about 7:00 tonight. I forgot how easy crockpot cooking was--you don't have to pre-soak the beans, you don't have to worry about anything boiling over, or having a hot stove to work around. You don't even have to stay home with it while it cooks!

This was just excellent. Very much on the spicy side, I have to say, but excellent. Bob said it wasn't too spicy for him, so there's my seal of approval.

This time I made my own seasoning blend to use, which I found on the web. I combined:

3 T. black pepper
2 T. garlic powder
1 t. onion powder
1 t. nutmeg
2 T. dried parsley
4 T. cayenne pepper
2 T. chili powder

Well, now I've rambled enough about red beans and rice. I wanted to ask a question to all the vegans out there. How do you feel about honey consumption? I know that many vegans think, of course a vegan shouldn't eat honey--it's an animal product. But there are many vegans also who don't think twice about consuming honey. I have never felt extremely convicted about honey, I guess. I use honey substitutes when I cook and I feel good about that, but my general rule when buying cereal or granola bars or whatever it may be, has been that if honey is the only ingredient that keeps it from being vegan, and it doesn't contain large amounts of honey, then I'll probably still use it. I just feel like I would be hypocritical if I refused to eat honey when I don't feel that strongly about it, just on the principle that "it's not vegan."

The Vegan Outreach website linked to this article about honey. I guess it pretty much sums up the way I feel about honey... But I was wondering what other vegans think.

Bob and I are going to visit my family this weekend, for the first time since we went veg. Yikes! Any well-wishes would be greatly appreciated--I'm not sure about how it's going to go over. And tonight, there is a concert event here in Athens called "20/20 Vision: Changing the Power at the Pump." Its purpose is to raise awareness about global warming, and several environmentally minded politicians will be there to speak. I'm really excited about it. And... Bob's band is headlining at the event! In fact, I should probably leave for that now...

Happy November!


Candi said...

Hi Laura! My new MySapce friend! Lol! :) That was cute to see you there!

The red beans and rice looks so good. how cool to get an authentic recipe like this! I like the idea of the crockpot too! Definitely easier!

Oh, the honey debate. Lol! I'd be interested, too, to see how others react. I don't consume honey, simply because it's too easy to avoid for me and I disapprove of the methods of collection and the business of honey and beeswax, propolis, and bee pollin, etc... I did have to research that one though before I was convinced it was not something I'd support. Currently, I cannot stand the smell of honey anymore, and I used to think I couldn't live without it! I don't make a big deal out of not eating honey though, and I do not condemn anyone who does! I most definitely do not care if someone thinks it's too extreme though...most people think that veganism itself is too extreme. I'm not worried about the opinions much anymore. :)

I'm excited for your trip to see the fam!!! Good luck to you! And the concert event sounds great. Wow! Yay for Bob's band!! Have a great time!!!

bazu said...

Awesome red beans and rice- I love anything having to do with New Orleans. There's just something about it. I'll have to check out your crock pot tip, too. I just don't use that appliance nearly enough!

On the question of honey, I agree with you 100%. Allowing myself to have honey, as you say for example, when it's the only non-vegan thing on the ingredients list, is actually something that makes veganism easier for me. And I know there are people out there that would say I'm not a vegan because I haven't cut out honey, and I guess if anyone wants to consider me not a vegan, that's ok too. I leave out 99% of animal products because of how I feel about animal rights and the environment. If a little honey sneaks in here and there... oh well! I'm not on a quest for purity, just to make the world a better place. I can't compare factory farming to honey production.

Not that I hate insects, either. Our house is a strictly no-insect-kill zone.

My loooooong 2 cents!

Good luck on your family visit!

Melissa said...

I'm with candi. Its not that hard for me to avoid it but it is a huge piss off, when its the only non vegan thing in a product. Aside from the whole bee issue, I've just never been able to eat honey since I found out that it supports Clostridium spores (re: botulism). Of course this is usually only an issue for infants, but it still creeps me out.

Melissa West said...

Eden, we are kindred spirits.. you are a grad student too! Well, I only plan on being one for, let's see, 35 days.

A dissertation on rice and beans, now that is impressive.

I love honey, but then again, I am barely vegan. I just wish I were.

Good luck at your parents this weekend.

Jennifer C. said...

I am loading up my crockpot right now with your red beans & rice! Thanks for the fantastic recipe.

KleoPatra said...

Hi Laura! Love the New Awlins recipe there. Nice way to veganize it by your doc there! I can appreciate someone who appreciates your "palate." It looks fabulous, too! The co-op near me makes a bang-up vegan Jambalaya. I'd never had it before and it may not taste anything like "the real McCoy," but it sure is spicy and good.

I am almost vegan... and while i stay away from honey as an additive/topping/sweetener, i know it is in some of the (vegetarian) foods that i consume. I can certainly live without it and have never been a big fan of it...

Honeydew is another story! I love me some melon!! :o)

aTxVegn said...

Your red beans and rice look perfect! The crockpot was a great idea.

I use agave nectar instead of honey when I cook. I wouldn't buy Honey Nut Cheerios or Honey Wheat Bread, but if honey sneaked in to something like an energy bar, I would probably still eat it.

maybepigscanfly said...

Traditional Red beans and rice (without meat seasoning of course)- yum! I'm going to have to give that a try.

As for the honey- I'm with you, I don't use it at all at home. I only use agave. And when it comes to buying products with honey- it really depends on my mood. Usually I won't buy it because it just annoys me. But sometimes if it's the only thing making it non-vegan and I can't find another good option in the store, I'll just buy it. I'd rather buy something with honey than something chalk-full of refined sugar. But I definitely don't care if others eat/use honey.

Good luck with the family visit! I hope it's enjoyable.


Nikki said...

I'm with you on honey. It sneaks its way into a lot of items that are otherwise animal free, so I don't worry too much about it.

I don't buy honey, but I won't "not" eat something because it may contain honey. I do try to avoid it, but if I can't, I don't worry about it.

Gaia said...

First, good luck with the family reunion :) I hope you have a good time !

As for honey, I am pretty much in agreement with Candi.
I don't have to use it so I don't.
And my boys won't let us buy anything with honey in it and I'm fine with that. They say that the bees make the honey for themselves, not for us and so that is a very valid point I think.

I, for one, would not eat something that had spider spit in it LOL
We then have to reflect on what is the difference between a bee's honey and a spider's spit ;-) The difference might only be in our culture's way of seeing a certain product.

What bothers me more is the human attitude that what a being made for himself is really a human's right to "steal".
That attitude is everywhere... that is why some of our vegan friends won't eat cocoa or chocolate if it isn't fair trade.
I'm not there yet ;-) mostly because of my budget, but still, I try to do my best.

I won't juge a vegan who eats honey. We all go with it as best we can, I think.
I see chicken-eating vegetarians differently though, I admit LOL