We’ve all heard (or uttered) the familiar refrain, “I could never live without bacon!” Enter Baconish, a new cookbook that wows with plant-based bacons such as eggplant bacon, coconut bacon and even mushroom bacon. As I thumbed through it for the first time the Hallelujah chorus started to play in my head, and my mouth began to water. It’s a complete game-changer for those who are resisting going plant-based out of a fear of missing bacon, and it’s a must-have for any former bacon lovers who have gone veg. A revelatory work that will save many lives–human and porcine alike.
I had to ask author Leinana about her process in writing her first cookbook. Here’s what she said:
I need to know: why bacon?
Well, I would say that it all started back in 2010 when Anthony and I took a weekend trip up to Montreal. We ate at a
place called Aux Vivres, and it was there that I first heard of coconut bacon! I saw it on the menu and was immediately intrigued, so I got their coconut BLT. My mind was completely blown! It was smoky, crispy, fatty, savory…everything that I remembered bacon being. After that trip, I posted a recipe for coconut bacon on my blog, and everyone who read it went nuts for it. After that, I started seeing recipes for coconut and all other types of vegan bacon popping up everywhere. I started thinking that it would be really funny to put together an entire book about vegan bacon, just to show how much vegans love bacon too, but then I also started thinking about it in the context of all this other bacon mania around us. I started thinking that a book like this might actually be able to reach a wider audience, and show them that you can still capture all those delicious bacon-ish flavors, but using plant-based ingredients, so that you can enjoy bacon but it won’t destroy your health or contribute to any animal suffering.
My mouth literally waters when I flip through the pages of your book. Each recipe looks more amazing than the next. Some are so outrageously creative. I mean, Bacon and Cashew Caramel Corn? Where did you get your inspiration for these dishes?
I knew from the start that I wanted to vegan-ize a lot of traditional bacon recipes, like the Quiche Lorraine and Pasta Carbonara, and of course things like Bacon Cheeseburgers and BLT’s. But in researching bacon recipes, I also came across a lot of recipes like Bacon Popcorn, or Bacon-Apple Fritters, that I wouldn’t exactly call traditional, but they seemed to be very popular among the bacon enthusiasts. Recipes like those typically include a frightening amount of bacon grease, either used for frying or seasoning. I knew I wanted to update recipes like those to make them much healthier while yet still capturing that bacon-ish flavor. Other recipe ideas come from my travels, like the Pierogi recipe inspired by a trip to Poland when I was in college, or I have a Miso Ramen Soup and an ice cream recipe that were inspired by restaurants I used to frequent in my old neighborhood. I definitely find a lot of inspiration from travels and from the different cultural influences in my own life – that’s why there’s such a mix of Asian, Southern, French, and even German recipes in there.
Did any recipe outcomes surprise you as you were testing for this book?
Yes, definitely! It was my first cookbook writing experience and so some recipes that I thought would be easy to create were very difficult to nail down, and others that I thought would be challenging were much easier than expected. But one recipe that was a surprise was the Baconish Granola – I wasn’t making it for the book, I just wanted to make my own granola, but in a flash of inspiration I added a little bit of tamari and liquid smoke to give it a slightly savory, smoky flavor, and it turned out so good I had to include the recipe! Another one was the Bacon Jam – I knew I wanted to try to make a vegan version, but I was unsure if it would really work, and it was so good that it’s now one of my favorite condiments to make.
Can you name a favorite recipe or are they all your children and you can’t pick favorites?
I have so many favorites, but at the top of my list would be the Coconut Bacon BLT, just because it’s the recipe that really started this whole project, and I feel that it best captures everything that you want in a vegan bacon – the smoky, savory, crispy, fattiness that just makes your mouth water. I also really love the Smoky Split Pea Soup, it’s so comforting, and both of the quiche recipes. I used to love eating quiche so much before I went vegan, and I tested those recipes so many times to really get the texture and flavor of the filling just right.
Speaking of children…which vegan bacon recipes do your kids love the most? If you had to name the most kid-friendly recipes, which would you pick?
My kids love the Bacon Pancake Dippers and the Elvis (Peanut Butter and Banana) Cupcakes. Those and the Smoky Bacon Mac & Cheese would probably be the most kid-friendly, although I do make it slightly less smoky when I make the mac & cheese for the kids.
If you had to pick a favorite store-bought bacon, which would you pick?
My favorites are Lightlife Fakin’ Bacon tempeh strips, for their versatility and because they are fairly easy to find, but I also really love the flavor of Upton Naturals Seitan Bacon and Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon, which is also made from seitan.
When I saw you several months ago you were totally baconed out. Has that worn off or did you not ever want to look at another piece of bacon again?
Ha, I ate enough bacon in the past year to last me for a LONG time! Bacon now is more of a treat that I will eat if we’re having brunch out or something like that. Once in a while I will make a BLT. If I am lucky enough to write another cookbook I am pretty sure I will never write another one focused on a single type of ingredient because by the end, after hundreds of test recipes, I was very, very tired of that ingredient!
Being half German I was delighted to see some favorites that I grew up with in here, including Wiener Wuerstchen, Hawaiian Pizza (may not be German but is a favorite there), and Flammkuchen. Germany is a top consumer of pig products worldwide, but it’s also home to the vegan capitol of Europe, Berlin. I know you have family in Germany. Is that were you got the idea? Any chance of a German translation of the book?
Yes, I have family in Germany and I love keeping up with all the vegan news coming from over there, especially in Berlin. Germany is definitely changing, and fast. Even in the smaller towns, like the one where my family lives, they are seeing a real explosion of vegan restaurants and vegan ingredients more readily available in grocery stores. The recipes you mentioned were definitely inspired by my time living in Germany, and you forgot the German Potato Salad too! I would absolutely LOVE my book to be translated into German, but as of now I don’t know if that is being planned.
Whenever I mention being vegan, people say, “Oh, I could never go vegan. I love [fill in the blank] too much.” And it’s usually bacon, cheese, or sushi, in my experience. Any interest in doing a vegan sushi book? Not sure there are any out there yet!
A vegan sushi book would be amazing!!! Although I don’t know if I should be the one to do it. My sushi book would probably just say, “Go to Beyond Sushi! It’s the best!” Thanks for giving me an idea though…