Saturday, May 12, 2012

Baklava: This Vegan's Dilemma

I'm no stranger to Baklava. While I hail from an area that is predominantly Irish, Italian and Jewish, there was also a hearty Greek presence. Baklava appeared frequently as our dessert in many local restaurants. I recall that, when I was very tiny, I used to eat it. By the time I was an adolescent, my taste buds had obviously changed, and I decided that Baklava was too sweet, too sticky and I wanted nothing to do with it. Last night, I tried to end my 30 year Baklava Boycott, but I kind of failed.

Most of the foods I am trying to eat during this project are easy enough to come by. Most are inherently vegan. The ones that aren't, I am veganizing and making them at home. Some things, I am making a point to leave it to the professionals and finding them at restaurants. But Baklava gave me a bit of a dilemma.... Baklava is not inherently vegan.... I am too terrified of working with phyllo to try and make it at home.... and vegan Baklava is not something you'll encounter in most vegan restaurants. To the best of my knowledge (and please, someone correct me if I'm wrong!), the only restaurant one can find vegan Baklava is at Rahel Ethiopian.
I said Rahel, I said wot, I said Rahel, I said wot!
 It's not a sacrifice for me to eat dinner at Rahel. I like Ethiopian food! I enjoyed my enormous vegan combo platter! But that wasn't my true purpose. I couldn't wait for them to bring on the Baklava! And when it arrived, I felt a bit let down!

First, the good news! I liked what they gave me. I ate it all up! But.... but.... but.... it's wasn't the kind of Baklava I remember hating! This treat was made of phyllo, yes, and had some nuts in it, but it wasn't extremely sweet and sticky, the way I remembered it being! And then, my husband stated the obvious, which had somehow escaped me. Well, of course it was dry and barely sweet.... it's vegan Baklava... so, they didn't use honey! Excessive honey, which is probably the one crucial component that made me turn away from Baklava in my youth! And here I was, trying to conquer my fears, but eating a dry piece of phyllo that got me no closer to my goal. :-/

So now, I face a real dilemma. I have come to terms with the fact that Baklava, the way I remember it, does not exist in the form in which I would eat it (meaning, without butter, but including honey, or in the very least, agave!). Which leaves me in a pickle. Do I give it up, since there is no reason to conquer something that I will actually never again have occasion to eat? Or do I stick with the very principle of this whole experiment, which is to see if it is really possible to push my palate to its very limits, and seriously learn to appreciate all of the foods which stand out as being things that I think I hate? And if I decide to stick with Baklava, this means something frightening... *I* will need to be the one to make it! And I'm not scared of much in the kitchen, but I find the thought of dealing with phyllo to be rather daunting! What ever shall I do?!?

1 comment:

  1. Go for it! Way more than half of my kitchen adventures have started in my head as no more than five word question: "How hard could it be?" ;-) (Some day, that's really going to come back and bite me in the bum. I just know it.) This very attitude had me making homemade hamburger buns two or so weeks ago, using some yeast no less, and I am not a baker, certainly not with yeast. My repertoire pre: buns consisted basically of Irish Soda Bread and popovers. That said, yeah, it's possible that Baklava could answer my question rather rudely. (But you may get a funny story out of it, at least!)