In-Depth 2022 | Post #2

Welcome to my second blog post for In-depth 2022!

In the past weeks, I’ve finished my research on cooking, including different types of proteins, the components of a good meal, and some basic skills/technics. Two days ago, I cooked my first meal ‘alongside’ my mentor.

 

So, who is my mentor? Ms. Lee is my mentor for in-depth this year. She has been a full vegetarian for the past 8 years. She gained skills in the kitchen by “trying things myself and learning. YouTube is a great resource and I would get a lot of inspiration and ideas from there, especially since there’s a pretty big plant-based community on there. But mostly when I first started cooking it was out of necessity—I’m the only vegetarian in my family and my mom had made it clear that if I wanted to go full vegetarian (in high school I initially just stopped eating different types of meat one at a time) that I’d have to cook for myself.”  I can relate to that since I’m the only vegetarian in my family. My parents do a really good job of accommodating it for me, but at some point, I want to be able to have a wide variety of meals I can cook myself.  When I asked her how here experiences in the kitchen were, she answered with “ I really enjoy the experience of learning to cook, especially as I made the progression from vegetarian to almost completely vegan cooking. There’s a lot of creativity involved and I think learning to cook plant-based makes you even more aware of what’s going in your body and why it’s going in your body. You learn why certain ingredients are there and how to make substitutions that will still hit the right food groups. Then there’s also learning how to maintain the same tastes, textures and overall look of a dish while using plant-based ingredients instead and I find that process really cool! It’s not easy though and definitely challenging. Vegan food is becoming more and more popular which is great, but store-bought alternatives are still much more expensive and though making it from scratch is really interesting and rewarding, it’s time consuming and not practical to do on a daily basis.”

 

So far, Ms. Lee had taught me many skills. It has been difficult learning hands-on skills with COVID restrictions being so linked to daily life. We tried to take a non-vegetarian recipe, (Spaghetti Bolognese), and substitute the beef to make it vegetarian. On February 15th, we each cooked the meal separately, using our own substitutions, then met on February 17th to exchange notes. From this interaction, I learned some new substitutions for this dish that I hadn’t previously thought about. Ms. Lee used mushrooms and walnuts in place of beef to thicken the sauce, while still keeping the proteins. I learned that nuts are a really good substitution, especially since you can alter their texture by putting them in the blender. Additionally, she added extra ingredients, such as carrots and peas into the recipe to add some extra flavour.

 

Ms. Lee has set a great example as a mentor; one I’d like to follow someday. From her teaching I’ve learnt to listen and remember not to overstep, or be too controlling. Additionally, I’ve learned that it is good to occasionally intervene by asking thought-provoking questions and providing a different perspective. For example, when we were trying to find the best way to cook ‘alongside’ each other, she let me brainstorm ideas and offered pros and cons to each. This gave me a different way of seeing each, letting me come to our conclusion, to each cook our dishes separately and then convene at lunch the next day to discuss the results.

 

Here are some pictures of my Spaghetti Bolognese. I decided to substitute red and brown lentils instead of meat, to keep the proteins and volume of the sauce. There were a few challenges to overcome, making this recipe far from perfect. I made the mistake of following the recipes’ cooking time, which was thirty minutes, and therefore started to cook around five thirty. I quickly realized that the cooking time on the recipe was meant for people who had superpowers and could cut up and measure ingredients with a blink of an eye. Unfortunately, this impacted my family more than me. I promised to have dinner done by six and we didn’t start eating until at least seven. I also tried to speed up the cooking process by turning up the heat, which slightly burned the vegetables on the bottom of the pot. In the future, I will allot more time to cook my meals, and not take shortcuts.

Overall, this dish was voted 8/10 by my family!

-Rian

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