Saturday, June 12, 2010

Vegan shopping in the land of Tamales

I have decided to try a more plant-based diet as the burgers just kill me these days. Our ever expanding waistlines are also cause for concern and sweetie has decided that he's lactose intolerant. I've already quit using so much cheese (and I love cheese! I got no problem with cheese!). 

My self-serving theory is that eating healthy most of the time means we need not feel guilty when we don't. So I do a little research on staple foods, download some promising recipes and thus armed, head to the groceries in Socorro. The little market in Magdalena, sweet as it is, is not much of a resource here. I can pick up canned beans, maybe some frozen spinach but they never have fresh cilantro let alone anything more exotic. They sell lard in really large buckets, though. It's an essential ingredient in tamales.

Tamales. Sigh. Pork, corn, red chile and lard. Fabulous! But I gave those up over a year ago and seem to have survived. The Mexican family that sells their home-made tamales in front of Smiths was there yesterday. We used to buy them by the dozen. Those were the days...

But back to tofu and what-not. We have Smith's and we have a John Brooks affiliate. Technically, we also have a Wally world but they rarely had what I wanted before. I didn't even look for vegan foods. So it seems possible to eat this way without regular trips to Albuquerque but only just barely. There are large, gaping holes only some of which can be filled by mail-order.

Smiths has some tofu but no tempeh. John Brooks has some nice tempeh but the soy milk is mostly flavored and only comes in half gallons. We use little milk now. Pints or quarts would be better. Safflower and coconut oils can be had (pricey, though) but not soy margarine. I find margarine to be an abomination (butter flavored plastic) but I was willing to try the soy to make the vegan bechamel sauce with cashews. Maybe I can make the roux with safflower oil instead. Butter may end up staying moderately in the diet, though. Shrimp and honey are staying (no such thing as a vegan mead!).

Thai foods are very scanty.  I found Thai coconut milk at Smiths but none of the other ingredients to make a Thai curry. No curry paste, no lemon grass, no kaffir lime. I really love green curry now so I'm seeing Albuquerque in the future. Wonder how long the lime leaves keep?

Quinoa flour is here but not the whole grain. I did pick up TVP at Smiths but if nutritional yeast is here, I don't know where they put it. I suspect they wouldn't really know where it should go. I should have checked the baking aisle!

I'm mostly looking for asian foods but I did order a cook book of vegan comfort foods (Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Foods by Alicia C. Simpson) that has a lot of vegan versions of non-vegan foods. I'm figuring out now that those kinds of foods tend to be loaded with fat, salt or sugar. They're vegan but not healthy. Well, we all need a little comfort some time and maybe it'll help ease the transition.

I was drawn to Isa Chandra Moskowitz's book Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. Beautiful cupcakes, fabulous flavors! Not healthy, per se but such a fun treat. But I looked at some pages on Amazon plus I went to the author's blog and saw some more recipes. Until Socorro gets soy margarine and soy yogurt, it's not happening. Deleted that book from the wishlist.

Meanwhile, an online Asian grocer is sending me red and white miso, a couple different sesame oils, dried shitakes (which I could get but the price was actually better online) and a few other things that are escaping my memory right now. In fact, it just now occurs to me that they may have wakame, another thing I couldn't find here. Shipping was a mere $5 for fedex ground. Lovely!

Food Fight in Oregon is sending me nutritional yeast, some locally-made Thai curry paste, some low-salt organic vegetable bouillon cubes (no vegetable bouillon at Smiths, I didn't check Brooks) and Braggs Liquid Aminos. The Braggs is weird but it seems to be a staple and is a healthier substitute for soy sauce. I'll give it a try.

>Bob's Red Mill will get an order to get the quinoa for sure and they have so many other delightful things. They also are touting new, lower shipping costs. Shipping kept me from ordering very often so I'm really quite excited. I hope I don't over-spend.

Speaking of money, it sure isn't cheap to eat healthy. However, a lot of what I'm buying are staples that will last a while so I think it'll get pretty cost-effective so long as I stay away from the prepared foods - except for Boca portobello burgers. Those are just plain good! They have them at Smiths.


  1. What a huge shift! And a great one; you're sure to feel a lot better once your body gets used to it. Nicole has found Cathy McQueen at Supermart to be very helpful in ordering things for her, such as cases of Bob's Red Mill products; she's a great person and might be able to help you get your hands on stuff they don't normally carry. Good luck; I went gluten (wheat) free 6 months ago and... oy. But it's doable, and worth it! Thanks for the awesome tips, too, BTW!

  2. Thanks, Anna! I'll ask Cathy about the refrigerated soy products. Gluten-free is way harden than vegan! I have it easy but Bob's just got a $125 order! They really have reduced the shipping, though.

  3. what about the local food resources in magdalena? farmer's markets, etc? do they exist?

  4. Almost none, Micah. There is a Farmer's Market in Socorro on Tuesdays - I can go after work. Some of the vendors come to Magdalena on Thursdays but it's while I am working in Socorro. So I go to the Socorro one but it's small, scanty and seems there are more non-food vendors than food vendors. Sometimes there are temporary roadside stands but not often. No u-picks or co-op farms here. It's really ranching country!