You can’t veganize everything. More specifically, some food is a better vegan substitute than others.
Take for example the stomach-turning blob-dish I created over the weekend.
So, I selected the recipe, Fancy Egg Scramble, in an attempt to veganize a traditional example of Wisconsin home cooking instead of my runner-up choice, a Tater Tot hotdish from a Minnesota cookbook. The scramble called for 12 eggs, over 6 tablespoons of butter, a cup of Canadian bacon, 2¼ cups of bread crumbs, a can of mushrooms, a quarter-cup of scallions and a recipe for cheese sauce (yet more butter, seasoning and “shredded process American cheese”).
This recipe was plucked from “Feasting with Wisconsin’s Fourth Estate, Second Edition,” a cookbook I picked up at a used bookstore in Duluth. Published by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association Foundation in 1982, the book included recipes compiled from WNA members.
Florence Berglund, co-publisher of the Tribune-Record-Gleaner and “cookbook chairman,” said in the book’s forward that the collected recipes were a “symbol of why our state and nation enjoy our freedoms, one of which is so important: freedom of the press.”
One reason I selected this egg bake-esque dish was the opportunity to try Just Egg, a liquid vegan egg substitute that seems to be the Impossible burger of eggs, i.e., buzzworthy because it’s strikingly similar to the animal product it’s imitating.
I began my hunt for Just Egg with confidence I could easily find it. I’d seen it for at least the past year at one supermarket; however, it wasn’t anywhere on the shelves over the weekend. I knew I had also spotted it at another store, so I drove across town, but it was all out and on back-order.
Despite its very steep price, Just Egg apparently mimics the taste and consistency of eggs so well that it’s in high demand, as are the rest of Just’s products, like its vegan mayo and salad dressings, which are often out of stock on store shelves.
To me, the most obvious alternative to Just Egg was making a tofu scramble instead, but that would be too easy! I googled other egg substitutes, but most required fine grinding or were recommended for baked goods only.
After fumbling around the store, I discovered Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer. I’m familiar with the brand, and it didn’t appear difficult to use. Perfect. This product’s ingredients are potato starch, tapioca flour, baking soda and psyllium husk fiber. Add water and mix.
The result was … upsetting. Like, stomach-upsetting. Jiggly, craft-gluey, disturbingly sticky. No matter! I mixed it with the other ingredients (cashew milk instead of dairy milk, fresh mushrooms instead of canned, more fresh veggies, fake bacon instead of the real deal) and baked it.
My husband was visibly grossed out as he poked the wobbly casserole. Casseroles — or scrambles — should not wobble. I tried to improve my plate of food by dousing it with hot sauce, to no avail. This was so revolting, I didn’t get a photo and chucked the whole thing in the garbage before I thought about it.
I don’t have anything against the egg replacer. It simply isn’t made for Fancy Egg Scramble, and especially in such a massive quantity. And sometimes, vegan substitutes are just not worth it. “Real” food is always the better option.
Oh, how food trends have changed
A sampling of humorous recipes from “Feasting with Wisconsin’s Fourth Estate, Second Edition:"
- Diet Soup — Cook a head of cabbage and other fresh vegetables, tomato juice, stewed tomatoes and two envelopes of onion soup in a kettle; “eat as much as you like per meal, should lose 5-8 pounds per week,” the recipe contributor claimed;
- Diet Toasted Cheese Sandwiches — Cook two pieces of toast with “diet cheese” on top; “real tasty and not too fattening,” the contributor said;
- Cauliflower — Cook a head of cauliflower “according to your microwave instructions;” pour mayo, mustard, shredded cheese and paprika over it; nuke again;
- Coleslaw Mold — Combine lemon Jell-O, a cup of mayo or Miracle Whip, cabbage, radishes, green pepper, celery and onion into what is allegedly a dish that people ate;
- Taco Snacks — Place Tostitos on a plate; top each chip with a piece of cheese and bottled taco sauce; throw in microwave;
- Hot Dog Stew — Cook carrots, celery and other “normal” soup ingredients; dump tomato soup and a pound of wieners on top and simmer; the contributor recommends serving over buttermilk biscuits;
- Moon Bars or Drops — Mix a cup of butterscotch chips, 2 teaspoons of Mountain Dew and a cup of Risk Krispies; sprinkle with powdered sugar (that is literally the whole recipe);
- Grape Wine (wait for it) — Mix two cans of Welch’s frozen grape juice, 4 cups sugar and a half-teaspoon dry yeast in a gallon jug; place a “big balloon” over the jug opening; after about a month, the swelled balloon will deflate, and it’s ready.
Katie Rohman is managing editor of the News Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-723-5334.