A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Monday, June 29, 2015

What I Had for Lunch Today: Vegan Egg Salad

I'm trying to eliminate eggs from my diet, for a variety of reasons. In dishes that traditionally call for eggs, substitutes can be made, with varying results. In pancakes and layer cakes, for example, I dare you to tell the difference. In eggplant parmigiana, on the other hand, making a credible batter is difficult. Egg salad, fortunately for me since that's what I was craving today, is one of those dishes for which excellent alternatives exist.

To make this particularly successful batch, I started with pressed tofu from Trader Joe's. It's quite dry, so it doesn't need to be weighted, drained, or dried off with paper towels. It's also organic, nutritious, and cheap. I mashed it up with a fork in a little bowl, then added a couple of spoonsful of nutritional yeast, a couple of pinches of black salt, and some turmeric cooked in a bit of oil. I then had the equivalent of a hard-boiled egg or two.

To the "egg" mixture, I added a couple of dollops of vegan mayonnaise, some sliced celery, and some chopped-up bread-and-butter pickles (which I had made only yesterday), salt and freshly-ground black pepper. I dumped it on a plate of shredded romaine and garnished it with tomato and parsley. That's a soy mocha latte with it.

Nutritional yeast, by the way, has a cheesy or nutty flavor, which gives a boost to notoriously-tasteless tofu. It's also got 9 grams of protein in every two tablespoons. The tofu itself has 14 grams of protein per serving (one serving = a bit over three ounces), so do the math: the vegan version is actually much higher in protein than real egg salad.

The black salt--which I purchased in a local Asian market--contains a lot of sulphur. It comes in big chunks, so I have to pound it into smaller pieces and then grind them up in a mortar and pestle (at least until I find my salt grinder). Although the big chunks are blackish, the ground-up salt is pink. The sulphur in the black salt adds that totally authentic eggy aroma and taste.

Turmeric is mainly for golden color, though it adds a bit of flavor also. But please: never use turmeric raw! You have to fry it in oil first. NEVER just sprinkle it in at the end, no matter what the recipe says. In most traditional recipes calling for turmeric, frying something is part of the cooking process anyway, so that's when the turmeric goes in. For "egg" salad, it's kind of weird, because it's an otherwise no-cook dish. But if you're like me, you can taste the horrible raw taste of uncooked turmeric, and so you get out your tiny cast-iron skillet and add your pinch of spice to a few drops of oil and fry for a few seconds. The result is a cheap, nutritious, cruelty-free vegan dish that tastes pretty much exactly like the original.

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Pillow Concierge!

Most excellent three days in Boston with Brian--a great combination of local color and prodigious luxury. We love Boston, but it's just so darned crowded. A couple of times already this year we've decamped early because we just couldn't deal with the traffic and the crowds. Accommodations at the Battery Wharf Hotel--problem solved! When they say it's "on the water," they mean it's literally on top of the water, on a pier. No cars anywhere around. Even with the windows open, all you hear is the sound of little waves lapping.

Recently, luxury hotels have re-discovered the blatantly obvious fact that real luxury, especially for us boomers, is getting a decent night's sleep. I remember Aunt Wanda and Uncle Eddie used to carry around their pierzyna (Polish featherbed) on trips, whether it was to camp out in the Bay of Fundy (reached by private plane; there were no roads) or rest in regal splendor at the Château Frontenac. No vacation was worth taking, to them, if the bed wasn't as good as theirs at home. And better to be safe than sorry.

I feel the same way. So I was excited to discover that the Battery Wharf Hotel has a pillow concierge! The pillow concierge of my imagination wears a special little costume, poufy and floaty, trimmed with tassels, feathers, and bits of eiderdown. She glides into your room with a selection of restful bed accessories and lets you try them out. Kind of a cross between Mary Poppins, the Sandman and Tinkerbell, but with feathers.

Okay, so the reality doesn't exactly match the fantasy. The results, however, are the same. The Battery Wharf has a selection of pillows, so if you don't like what's provided (a feather pillow), you have your choice of foam, or gel, for example. In my case, the bed as made up in standard fashion (high-end sheets, snowy duvet, pillowtop mattress, feather pillows) was perfection. So I had no need to call on the services of the pillow concierge. She may forever remain the be-tasselled sprite of my imagination.

On the other hand, the coffee was so good (Nespresso coffee maker in room, yum!) and I drank so much of it (hey, I'm a writer....caffeine is my fuel) that I managed to run out of those little pots of cream. So I got to test out the coffee concierge (as I like to think of him). One phone call and I got enough sugar and cream to last the rest of the trip...from an attendant who beamed at me so brightly, I felt I had somehow made his day.

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