Both Chef Linda Soper-Kolton and Chef Sara Boan graduated from the Natural Gourmet Institute in Manhattan before landing their dream jobs at the Catskill Animal Sanctuary, tucked away between Saugerties and Lake Katrine, where they teach the vegan way of compassionate cooking. Now the dynamic duo is making the rounds at bookstores and other venues to launch a cookbook, Compassionate Cuisine: 125 Plant-Based Recipes from Our Vegan Kitchen.
Their aim is to show how easy and delicious it can be to cook without using animal products — m eat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy food. It’s a goal they’ve set out to achieve without resorting to making people feel guilty about their current diets. So even if you’re not vegan, you can experiment and enjoy these plant-based selections.
“We are excited not only to share recipes, but also to include a little bit about the Sanctuary,” says Soper-Kolton. “It’s no surprise that our dream is a vegan world where there is less suffering for the planet, for the animals, and for our human bodies. But we recognize that not everybody gets there in an instant, and we have to meet people where they are.
“In the classes we teach and the recipes we write for our blog and in the public speaking and demonstrations that we do, it’s important for us to recognize that we’re all different. Food is one thing that unites all of us, so how can we make food that’s delicious and nutritious, fun and accessible — without judgment.
“I came to veganism because I always loved animals, but as much as I collected animals who were injured or dead, and I had a graveyard for them as a kid — I’d never made that connection. I had no idea that the hamburger I was eating was connected to a cow. The beginning for me was thinking about how I could not harm the creatures I love but still nourish myself. Health and vitality and thriving are things I’m passionate about.”
She stresses that being a vegan is not about restriction, rather simply turning in another direction for great foods to consume. “We come across all kinds of eaters. I’m also a health coach; I choose a healthier way to eat. In a vegan diet there’s still an incredible abundance of things you can eat.”
“We teach public cooking classes about twice a month — new vegans, established vegans — and I lead food demos and tastings following our weekend tours about twice a month,” says Boan. “We’ve reached thousands of people over the years in this way. I was looking for recipes to cover a nice variety of veganized versions of foods.
“I’ve been vegan for six years; I grew up in the Midwest on a dairy farm with a lot of Midwestern comfort food. That informs the choices I make when I write recipes — I look back to recipes I loved when I was young. I’m trying to capture those familiar tastes and textures. In the book, for example, I have a coconut cream pie based on my grandma’s recipe, but it has very different ingredients.”
A quick perusal of the new book entices even a part-time cook. Traditional-sounding recipes — gumbos, pizzas, shepherd’s pie — suggest substitutions that replace animal products without sacrificing flavor and texture. Dishes are heavy on the veggies/nuts/grains/beans with very little fat and even less worry over the side-effects of consuming foods contaminated by industrial production methods.
From appetizers to salads and soups, entrees and desserts, basic cooking techniques are addressed for those of us who can always use handy tips (such as: when blending hot ingredients, remove the plastic handle in the lid and cover the hole with a towel to let the steam escape), and special instructions are included for dealing with ingredients you might not have eaten before (ever hear of jackfruit?) And if you can’t find particular ingredients, such as tempeh or seitan, Boan suggests you go to your grocery store manager and request them. Most stores are willing to expand their offerings in this way, she says.
Each chapter in Compassionate Cuisine begins with a “Sanctuary Story” told by Kathy Stevens, founder of the non-profit organization that rescues farmed animals from cruelty, neglect, and abandonment. Her poignant, funny anecdotes introduce readers to the pigs, chickens, etc. (all named) and, as well, the bigger issues at hand — how a small crew cares for, nurtures and protects eleven species of critters on 148 acres of pastoral beauty, every day of the year.
At bluecashew Kitchen Homestead this Saturday, Chef Linda will be demonstrating Seaside Summer Rolls and a Greek watermelon salad — a combination of sweet and savory with a tofu feta cheese — and other favorites. Chef Sara will be hosted by Oblong Books at the Rhinebeck Farmers Market in September. Cookbooks can be purchased and autographed at each event. And there will be sampling.
— Ann Hutton
Compassionate Cuisine book signing and food demo, Saturday, July 27, 11 a.m., free to the public, bluecashew Kitchen Homestead, 37b North Front Street, Kingston; 845 514 2300, https://bluecashew.com/events/.