No, not Crapmas, although one unnamed retailer began running ads with a Gingerbread man in September this year (seriously: fuck you guys). Rather, my favorite American holiday, one to be celebrated with the frantic accumulation of cheap consumer goods, is not Christmas, Black Friday, or even one of those "let's honor the sacrifices of our veterans with a bitchin half-off sale" Memorial Day shindigs.

I'm talkin' 'bout Halloween.

October is my second-favorite time to shop for clothes, housewares, and makeup. My absolutely favorite time to shop for all these things is All Saints Day- aka the day after Halloween, when all that awesome crap is 50% off! Hey-oh! It's not all crappy plastic fake bones and rubber bats, though. You can get some fun stuff that you can use year-round that doesn't necessarily scream "HALLOWEEN BLOOD PUMPKINS!" and isn't super chintzy. 

Here are some of my favorite scores from years past, as well as the best of this year's finds so far! Naturally, these Halloween finds are used and enjoyed year-round in my household:

Housewares

Do you love it? I love it! I got it at Ross! These three nesting bowls are really nice and have a repeat skull print on them. And yes, I got them at Ross.
Look at these sparkly skull votives! They look classy and sophisticated because they are. These are straight-up Pottery Barn, y'all. Nicer stuff that upper-middle class folks buy at full price to complete their DIY Martha Stewart tableaux. I bought these at the Pottery Barn in The Castro the day after the 2008 election. It was an emotional time- we had just elected our first Black president, but Californians had also made same-sex marriage "illegal."* I found comfort in the simple things, like insane discount clearances of nice housewares with bones on them. In addition to these votives, I also picked up a lovely set of glossy black salad dishes with various animal skeletons printed on the underside with silver, but I think maybe my ex ended up with those in the split. It's okay, we're still friendly-- so I can stop by some day to hang out and then steal them back when he goes to the bathroom.

*How'd that work out for you, bigots?
Picture
Seriously, do NOT touch the thermostat.
Picture
The last season of David the Gnome went to a really dark place.
There may be a bit of zombie overload in popular culture today, but as long as that results in zombie garden gnomes available for purchase, I'm okay with that. I got this little guy (suggestions for names? I'll take them) recently at a Spirit Halloween store. You know, the roaming seasonal stores that, for a brief two months, revive all the vacant retail spots that are likely proliferating in your local American city. This dude was was with a bevy of other zombified gnomes (and one zombie lawn jockey), but they're all pretty pricey, so I may have to go back for his friends in November. I actually think this is a bit too scary to put out front where the little Trick-Or-Treaters can see it, but it's definitely going to be a year-round fixture in my back garden (once I get it going).

Clothing

Lately I've taken to saying (in reference to Spirit) "what the fuck is Halloween? This is my favorite new clothing store!" It's my corny schtick, for now- once November hits, I'm going to move on to addressing any and all females (including cats and babies) as "girlfriend." Anyhoo, these skeleton leggings are not only going to be happily worn year-round by me, they're also the most slimming pair of leggings I own!
Seriously. There are Adventure Time knee socks with Finn and Jake and I'm expected to only wear them one day out of the year? I love the Jake sock- he's saying "I'm a sock!" I like to look down at my calves, chuckle, and say "you sure are, buddy!" Also check out these sexy metal/goth chick cross tights! Oh, sorry-- I meant 'sassy.' Sassy is the new sexy. 

Cosmetics

One of the best parts of Halloween is all the fancy lady stuff you get to buy! Like extra gory nail stickers. I got these two packages at Walgreen's this year. Spiderwebs with a blingy dewdrop and a golden spider, and vampiric stickers that alternate between dripping blood, splattered blood, and sexy red lips with jutting fangs. I've heard of vagina dentata, but digital dentata is just craziness. Halloween is also a good time to source and stock up on glow-in-the-dark nail polish!
My friend Katie alerted me to the fact that every year Wet-n-Wild puts out a line of Halloween makeup called "Fantasy Makers." Wet-n-Wild does not do any animal testing, so any of their products which contain no animal products are vegan. I spent a while in the aisle of my local Walgreen's trying to read the erratic ingredients printed on shrink-wrapped plastic, but I'm pretty confident that I came away with a few good vegan items.

The mascara was way more subtle than I had expected it to be. I like the green, even if I think it could be punched up a bit more, but the pink was hardly there and if anything had the effect of making my eyelashes disappear. There was also blue but I didn't buy it. The eyeshadow palette ("meteor shower") is the only one in this year's line that I am pretty sure is vegan. The ingredients have one of those "May contain" caveats which lists cochineal, but as this palette was the only one without any pinks, reds, or purples, I figured it was safe. 

Overall, like the mascara, the eyeshadow and the eyeliner (in "techno," ha) were decidedly underwhelming. When I gave it a go I didn't look like I was ready to hit Carnivale so much as I was recovering from a glittery black eye. So I used a little more to make it more realistic- this may end up being my Halloween costume: Sassy Glamorous Faerie Prizefighter. 
Picture
I'm a winner!
Picture
Yeah, well, you should see Tinkerbell.
Happy Shopping, and Happy Haunting!
 
 
It's another Freaky Friday! This week I'm swapping with Ultimate Cool Friend Kittee, also known as Cake Maker to the Stars, ooh aah! She is the absolute bee's knees, as is her scruffipup Vee. Vee's the bee's knees. Enjoy!
Picture
Hello Excellent Sews Before Bros Readers!In case you don't know me or my blog, Cake Maker to the Stars, my name is kittee bee and I'm writing today as a Freaky Friday blogger on Erika's blog. 

I am a big fan of Erika's crafty ways, and am super delighted to be posting on her behalf today. If you're desperately missing Erika today, run over to my blog where she is posting in my stead.

Erika and I met on the internet many moons ago, but we are lucky enough to be friends in the real world, too. We have lots of stuff in common besides our vegan ways including our love of crafting, sewing, being clever bitches and dogs!

All month on my blog I've been posting Ethiopian dishes, so I thought I should carry the theme over here as well. I tried and tried to think of a way to tie Ethiopian vittles with our common interests, and the only thing I could come up with was Kale Tails.So that's what you're getting. Ethiopian inspired kale chips next to a very cute dog's butt.

Picture
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F and get cooking. 

Here's what you'll need:
7 cups coarsely chopped kale, which has been cut from the thick inner rib or kale bone (from a nice fat bunch of kale--I like to use the dino variety)
3/4 cups soaked and drained sunflower seeds
1/4 cup nooch
7 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon Ethiopian berbere 
1 tablespoon evoo
1 teaspoon onion granules
1/2 teaspoon garlic granules
1/2 teaspoon salt

Picture
Here's what you do:
Pulverize the sunflower seeds in a food processor with the water, lemon juice, berbere, evoo, onion, garlic and salt until smooth.

Put the kale in a giant bowl and pour the sunflower seed sauce over the top. Massage the kale to completely cover it in the sauce (if you're dehydrating, toss in the grated carrot now).

Line a baking sheet with parchment and arrange the kale on top in a single layer. Sprinkle with extra nooch and berbere, then bake for 25 minutes. Flip the chips and bake for ten more minutes. Then keep flipping at 5 minute intervals until the kale chips are completely crispy, about 1 hour baking time total.

If you want to be fancy, you can call these chips Ye'zelbo besuf kolo. Which basically means a crunchy kale and  sunflower seed snack.

Eat up!

xo

 
 
Part of my Vegan MoFo 2013 is doing blog entries dedicated to each year I've been vegan.
Well, here we are in the present day! I've still got the job I love, I've got two super awesome dogs, I just moved into my very own house, and I just celebrated a one year anniversary with my smokin' hot, smartypants boyfriend. And I started this site, so things are going pretty good. 

Although I love my boyfriend to death, there is one place he simply won't eat with me: my favorite falafel (aka 'flaff') truck. His dad ran his own falafel truck for several years, and he's simply burnt out on the stuff. I can imagine no crueler fate than to have reached your Lifetime Falafel Limit far too young. Especially before you've had the chance to try Liba Falafel. 
Picture
Beep beep! Falafel coming thru!
Picture
Lines for days
Picture
The Condiment Bar of the Gods
Liba Falafel travels all over the East Bay and San Francisco, but the two places I usually catch them are at the monthly Alameda Antiques Fair or every other week at Off the Grid a quarter mile from my office. Off the Grid is an organization that puts together rotating temporary 'pods' of food trucks for weekday lunchtimes and special events in San Francisco. 

Their menu is short and sweet, but even so you can expect a long line- it goes to show you don't need to make a ton of things if you make one thing really, really well. You can get your falafel in a pita or on a salad, with a side of sweet potato fries (although most people [me] just skip the trouble and put the fries right in the pita or salad). The condiment bar is so heavily laden that it's possible to make another meal entirely of add-ons. With the exception of feta and raita, everything at the condiment bar is vegan. Load up heartily, but just follow the Liba rule and don't return for more once you've started.
Picture
Falafel salad with (clockwise from 9 o'clock) hummus, tahini, coriander chutney, rosemary peanuts, pickled onions, deep-fried pickled onions, sweet potato fries, Moroccan carrot salad, cardamom pickles, harissa, and beets.
Picture
Thanks are due to my very patient co-worker Kat, who kindly waited while I photographed her lunch.
 
 
Picture
At least, I'm pretty sure it'll be new to you, unless you're my friend Maria from Helsingborg. 

This is an avocado half with the pit filled with tångkorn. Tuh-what?! 

Tångkorn (pronounced toang-corn) is a Swedish caviar substitute. My Swedish bretheren looove their nasty salty fish eggs, and often buy it in a tube from a guy named Kalle (don't mix it up with your toothpaste, no matter what you do). It wasn't until one of my many pilgrimages to Sweden that I first encountered a vegan option, made of seaweed. 

About a year ago, I saw it for the first time stateside: in the food section of Ikea! So if you've got an Ikea near you, just swing on by and pick some up. While you're there, you can also pick up some Kex cookies (they are amazing with vegan cream cheese, btw), some lingon and hjortron (cloudberry) jam to put on your pannkakar (pancakes), or some elderflower juice syrup. Yum, smackar som sommar-- tastes like summer! My friend Kat recently told me that the potato pancake mix sold by Ikea is also vegan- I'mma have to check that out!

While Swedes generally like to have their kaviar on knäckebröd (hardtack) with hardboiled eggs or cheese for breakfast, my friend and fellow vegan Maria turned me on to the idea of serving it in half of an avocado. It's a great snack or side-dish: the salty caviar cuts through the rich avocado, and the gelatinous little bubbles are a perfect textural counterpart to the smooth creaminess of the fruit. Give it a shot!

 
 
Fuckin' magnets-- how do they work?!
Picture"please enquire with the maitre d'."
Earlier this month I was farting around at work, looking at Buzzfeed, as you do, and came across a collection of photos from this year's Gathering of the Juggalos. 

Despite their questionable taste in music, juggalos endear themselves to me: they're like a bunch of toddlers who discovered the magic fortune teller game from Big, weed, and boobies, all in that order. All they want to do is hang out with their friends, wearing as little clothing as possible, getting blasted out of their skulls, rockin' out and breaking shit with a giant ball of duct tape. What's not to like? I mean, aside from the scabies you're pretty much 100% guaranteed to catch, or the fact that you could wake up next to a dead guy? Just remember, if you do attend The Gathering, that your cash money has limited use, as the juggalos are a titty-based economy. 

PictureDrew Ailes, Village Voice
In keeping with the clown-based tradition of The Gathering,  most of the food there is straight out of the carnival: corn dogs, funnel cakes, turkey legs, and pink popcorn. Something new in this year's batch of photos, however, caught my eye: the stoner bowl, a concoction of french fries topped with cheesesteak meat, peppers, and onions, doused liberally in nacho cheese. I knew the second I laid eyes on it I would have to veganize it. 

Drew Ailes, who wrote about The Food of The Gathering for the Village Voice, succinctly described the stoner bowl as "hardly brilliant," but also "probably one of the best things we ate from the [food] stands."

Here's how I assembled my homemade stoner bowl: One large order of oven-baked fries from a local vegan-friendly burger joint. An assembly of sauteed sweet white onion, jalapeno pepper, sweet Italian pepper, and thinly-sliced homemade seitan (I used the Seitan Cutlets from Veganomicon). Three generous soup-spoons full of Food for Lovers' Queso. I had a beer handy to put out the fire, and a Faygo root beer for dessert. Healthy living!

I'm gonna be honest with you: the final result smelled like a big ol' juicy vagina. I don't normally eat vagina, so I don't know how the stoner bowl compares, but if vagina tastes this good, then sign me up! It was a sloppy, disgusting, spicy, gooey mess and it hit the damn spot. I think my homemade stoner bowl would be worthy of any true down-ass 'lette. Typing this the morning after, however, I can definitely confirm that actions such as eating a stoner bowl have consequences
 
 
Part of my Vegan MoFo 2013 is doing blog entries dedicated to each year I've been vegan.
One day in February of 2012, I was at work, around midmorning, probably sipping a coffee as I do at all times. I heard the back door open and in walked one of my co-workers with what appeared to be a susuwatari on a leash. I remember saying "who's this?!" Resistance was futile. And that is how Pepper walked into my life. 
PicturePep & I on the day we met.
The co-worker had recently moved into a new apartment which was pet-friendly, and had immediately signed up as a foster with Copper's Dream, an organization that travels to far-flung corners of rural California to save dogs from local kill shelters and find adoptive families for them in the Bay Area. Pepper, who was then called "Maybelle" (bleah), was three days away from euthanasia in the Central Valley SPCA in Fresno when Copper's Dream got her. She'd recently had puppies despite only being a year old and was very well house-trained. I couldn't believe nobody had come to the shelter in Fresno to claim or adopt her. 


PictureSenior Portrait
I hemmed and hawed for two weeks while falling deeper and deeper in love with her every day at work. I finally worked up the nerve to ask my landlady, and the next day I took Maybelle, already re-named Pepper, home with me. Pepper got her name because she is the embodiment of the word 'pep.' She's also black like pepper, and while she was overcoming the kennel cough she'd picked up in Fresno, she'd have occasional sneezing fits. It just made sense. 

A 10 lb. schnoxie is the only black pepper I can handle in my life. I'm not a huge fan (not any type of fan, honestly) of the spice that comes from peppercorns. Any other color of pepper, however, load me up! In addition to my FAVORITE type of Pepper, here are some of the trusty hot sauces I always rely on in my kitchen!

Melinda's XXXtra Hot

Melinda and I go way back, all the way to Philly. I remember when I first went vegan, making spicy tofu triangles with nothing but fried tofu and a buttload of Melinda's. Melinda's is still my trusty stand-by (I've got an extra bottle in my desk drawer at work) and it's rare I eat mac and cheese or hashbrowns without a few dashes. Its heat is offset by a tart fruitiness. The texture is slightly chunky with lots of habañero seeds. 

Pain is Good

This bottle is what I refer to as 'the big guns.' This one rarely leaves my kitchen shelf because it is so. hot. Which only endears itself to me all the more. I simply can't and won't throw it out. All I can bear to use is a few drops (seriously) in a big vat of beans. There are two other varieties of this and all the labels feature various dudes making these faces. That is the face you will make too if you eat too much of this.

Secret Aardvark

This is my first bottle of Secret Aardvark! It seems to be the Official Hot Sauce of Portland Vegans, and I enjoyed it during my last trip, so I grabbed a bottle from Food Fight! before my flight home. It's a nice alternative to when I'm not in the mood for Melinda's- it's also a habanero-based hot sauce, but it's more of a smoky heat than a fruity one. I also like the texture on this one better- much closer to ketchup than Melinda's.

Sol Food House-Made Hot Sauce

This remarkable hot sauce comes from Sol Food, a nearby Puerto Rican restaurant with a delightfully passive-aggressive letter concerning their garishly tropical color scheme in the display box where most restaurants put a menu. This hot sauce, homemade and stored in recycled soda bottles, somehow manages to strike the perfect resonant balance between garlic, vinegar, and chili pepper. I think it might be made using black magic, you guys. I first discovered it while snacking on Sol Food's delicious tostones con mojo (that's double-fried green plantain with garlic sauce, no big deal but it's AMAZING AND LIFE-AFFIRMING). Now I eat this hot sauce on pretty much anything. It's like the culinary equivalent of a black cardigan: it just goes with EVERYTHING. 
There you have it. These peppers all find a welcoming home on my food and in my belly. As for Pepper, she got a welcoming home in my heart! I like to joke that she was saved from a fate worse than death: life in Fresno. Yes, I'm a snob. But a snob with a cute dog. So there.
 
 
It's Freaky Friday!!! That means I'm swapping blogs for the day with Mo of Mo Betta Vegan! Now does that make me Lindsay Lohan or Jamie Lee Curtis? Cocaine or yogurt? WHICH ONE?!
Picture
Howdy MoFos!  Mo here from Mo Betta Vegan.  I'm super excited to be trading blogs with Erika on this most excellent Freaky Friday.  Erika further proves my theory that Erikas-with-a-K are the absolute best people ever!

Dudes.  I have a problem.  My other friend, Erika, tried to give me a legitimate intervention about my pancake obsession the other day.  Here's the thing...I can pinpoint the exact moment I fell in love with pancakes.  2006.  I opened a book that would change my life forever, Vegan with a Vengeance.  The first bite of those delectable pancakes made me throw away every vegan pancake recipe I had ever tried before.  I had conquered my first vegan battle!  It didn't stop there, though.  I was serving these at brunches.  Mother's Day?  You bet your butt.  No pantsSunday?  Hells yeah.  My ex-husband and I even served it at our rehearsal brunch.  To quote one of the groomsmen, "These pancakes are hot fire!"  Yes, they are.

I have some basic rules to pancake making.  First of all, kick anybody in the shins who tells you to throw that first pancake away.  This isn't home economics class!  You better not be wasting that precious flapjack batter.  Get yourself a thin, preferably metal spatula.  If you're like me, have yourself a pan that you use for pancakes.  I like to have a smaller one so I'm not compelled to use too much batter.

Picture
Rules to Happy Pancakes
  1. DON'T overmix the batter.
  2. Heat the pan while you make the batter.  I find medium high to be a good temp.
  3. Thoroughly coat the pan with cooking spray or oil.
  4. NEVER flip before you see air bubbles AND dry edges.
  5. Slather on your favorite buttery spread and drench in maple syrup.
  6. Go ahead and throw some fresh berries up in there to get your health on.


Just beware: pancakes are a gateway drug.  Next thing you know, you'll be fiending for brinner and snorting up grapefruit mimosas.  THE HORROR!  THE HORROR!  The delicious, pancakey horror.

 
 
Part of my Vegan MoFo 2013 is doing blog entries dedicated to each year I've been vegan.
Major things happened in 2011. In March, I landed my current job, which I can say over two years later is one of the best jobs I have ever had, if not the best. In August of that year, I attended the first ever Vida Vegan Con, and got  inspired and invigorated about the future of the vegan movement through online media. Then, almost immediately after returning from that trip, my boyfriend of almost 11 years and I split up. It was, like any break up, a tough time, but I'm happy to say that we are still great friends, and share custody of our dog Molly, who enjoys having two houses to lord over. 

I was a single lady again! What with being out and about doing Internet Dating and other such fun things that the kids do these days, I was often getting home just in time to go to bed and get up and head to work again. It was perfect symbiosis, therefore, that my new bachelorette pad was a short walk to a Trader Joe's and their bounty of vegan snacks, ingredients, and ready-made meals. TJ's kept me nourished and ready to party on short notice!
Inspired by the article Corner Stourmet in The Bold Italic (one of my favorite magazines), I decided to whip up some Pretentious Fancy Bachelorette Lady Food based on vegan items available at Trader Joe's. Above are just a few of the many ingredients I used, all of which were from Trader Joe's.

Now I know this is a fancy place, so it's in poor form to complain about the price, but when did Two Buck Chuck* become Two-Buck-Fifty Chuck, huh? I thought you were cool, Joe. Anyhow, let's take a look at the menu, shall we?

*Charles Shaw label wine was available, until recently, for the price of $1.99 a bottle (now $2.49). It's actually not horrible wine.

Amuse Bouche

Pan-fondled coconut coq au mirepoix sheltering on a petite flotsam of Persian flatbread

Hors D'oeuvre

Minced Asian crudite in a gyoza purse, roosting on a trio of hand-selected edamame in a nest of toasted coconut shavings, revered by a crescent of shoyu dewdrops and a whimsy of scallion.

First Course

Medallions of maize, courgette, and pulse enchiladas anointed in a dusky chile mole and a coriander tiara

Second Course

Char-grilled filet of bean curd on a pillow of albino maize pearlettes, 
choux juliennes taunted with lime essence and coulis hollandais.

Dessert

Gluten-free toaster waffle and vanilla soy ice cream sandwich with a coronet of Speculoos cookie butter, buoyantly ensconced by an exuberance of re-hydrated raspberry and Cabernet reduction.
 
 
Part of my Vegan MoFo 2013 is doing blog entries dedicated to each year I've been vegan.
I don't really remember anything exciting happening in 2010 exceeeeeppppt taking a really fun trip to London to see my boyriend's brother's gratuation from med school!

Obviously it was a great time to catch up, see some old friends, see my boyfriend's family again, and enjoy the person my brother-in-law had matured into (he was only 13 when I first met him, now he's a smartypants doctor!). But let's get real, you're here in MoFo for one thing and one thing only: the food. And I went home with a lot of belly-memories and a suitcase full of goods, to be sure. 

Here's a list of the vegan goods I stock up on every time I find myself across the pond:

Marmite

Picture
There are very few people in the world who do not have a strong opinion one way or the other about Marmite. It's possibly an acquired taste, and a condiment that is best used sparingly, in my opinion. Essentially a concentrated yeast product, spreads like Marmite are a byproduct of beer brewing. The sludge at the very bottom of the cask? Why, you scoop that up and put it on your toast, my friend. Marmite is packed with a punch of folic acid and B vitamins, including the ever-important B12. It's incredibly salty, and a big enough glob of it will make my teeth hurt. I use it sparingly and thinly on breads and crackers, and the umami flavor is very cheese-like. It's also great as a soup stock.

OXO Vegetarian bullion cubes

Picture
OK, I know this one is seriously boring, but I cannot get enough of this bullion! It's delicious! In America we know OXO as a manufacturer of cool rubbery kitchen utensils,  but in the UK they're also a food brand and they have a skyscraper that has become a landmark of the London skyline. 

Jammie Dodgers

Picture
I know they're meant to be enjoyed with a cup of tea, but I'm an American, so I have to have these with coffee. I love these little cookies! Or, as the Brits would call them, biscuits. It's a sandwich of two vanilla cookies and a sweet, chewy dollop of strawberry jelly in the middle. Not only are these vegan, but I think at least one or two of the major supermarket generics of Jammie Dodgers are vegan, too, and cost less!

McVittie's Digestives

Picture
If you've got a hankering for a biscuit but want something rich and chocolately rather than tart and fruity, then McVittie's has you covered. Their dark chocolate digestive biscuits are dangerously habit-forming. Most of the food chains, like Marks & Spencer or Tesco, have a generic brand of McVittie's, and I think those are most often vegan as well- but check the label, cause it's been a while for me! 

Linda McCartney's Mince Pies

Picture
OK, this one's a bit of a cheat as I can't really load up on these frozen pies so much as enjoy the everloving hell out of them while I'm on British soil, but they still count as a fantastic find while in ol' blighty. Before her sad passing, the late Mrs. McCartney founded a line of vegetarian "boil-in-the-bag" food for Go-Getting Greeneaters on the Go! When I lived in the UK, I would have one of these with a big fluffy pile of mashed potatoes at least once a week. There are a lot of delicious options in the Linda McCartney line, including other flavors of pie as well as traditional British sausage rolls, but my Trusty Old Standby is always the country mince pie. If you have an oven or toaster oven in the place you're staying in the UK, or if you have some room in that cooler full of human organs you're couriering over the Atlantic, grab a box from the freezer!

I'll be back with another MoFo post tomorrow. Tally ho, chaps!
 
 
Part of my Vegan MoFo 2013 is doing blog entries dedicated to each year I've been vegan.
In 2009, I decided to be a single lady doin' it for herself. Leaving my boyfriend at home, I traveled for three weeks across Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden. While all of it was fantastic, the highlight of my trip was returning to Sweden to see friends and family, most of whom I hadn't seen in eight years.
PictureCrustaceans & cheese: together at last!
Sweden is not a country from which one usually draws culinary inspiration. It is arguably one of the only countries in Europe with a traditional cuisine nasty enough to give the British a run for their money. I see your blood pudding and raise you a tube of räkost (shrimp cheese). Spotted dick, you say? Let me introduce you to the Swedish national food, surströmming, which is herring that has been canned and is not opened again until the can is bulging at both ends. It's not all rotten sea creatures in Sweden, though. This is, after all, the country that gave Swedish Fish to the world!

One lovely Swedish tradition that I appreciate is that of fika- a coffee break and mid-afternoon snack. Fika (pronounced "feeka") literally means "to take," so it should speak to how, despite being a relatively recent tradition, coffee has become deeply ingrained in Swedish culture: when your friend asks you "ska vi fika? Shall we take?" the natural word to place at the end of that sentence is kaffe (coffee).

Naturally, the centerpiece of any fika is strong, hot coffee: my cousin Cathrine, in describing how Swedes generally take their coffee, uses a phrase which loosely translates to "miscarriage-inducing." But equally important as the coffee is what you serve along with it.

Kanelbullar

Picture
Ah, kanelbullar. If there were a national pastry of Sweden, these would be it. Kanelbullar are so ubiquitous that you can even buy them from 7-11 (yes, Sweden has 7-11). Kanelbulle literally means 'cinnamon bun,' but it's far from what Americans would call a cinnamon roll. The distinct flavors that dominate these treats are cardamom and cloves. It's a pretty simple process- a yeasted dough, rolled out and coated with a spiced margarine, then rolled up, sliced into buns, and sprinkled with pärlsocker (pearl sugar). One of the defining touches of an authentic kanelbulle is the little pleated pastry cup it's served in. White is usually the norm, but some bakeries will go fancy with striped cups or even cups with ornately scalloped edges.
 
Making vegan kanelbullar at home is super easy- the only ingredient that may present a challenge is the pearl sugar. If you have an Ikea nearby, their food shop will undoubtedly carry it. Alternately, check with specialist baking shops or European food importers. I cannot 100% guarantee, but it's very probably likely that any pearl sugar imported from Scandinavia will be vegan- Denmark is a huge producer of sugar beets and bans the importation of cane sugar to their country. Because pearl sugar is an ingredient specific to Scandinavia, pretty much all brands that manufacture it use Danish beet sugar. Beet sugar production does not use the charcoal filters, often made from animal bone, that many commercial cane sugar producers utilize.

Smörgåsar

Picture
A Swedish smörgås (pronounced "smurr-goass") is often not what an American would think to call a 'sandwich.' For starters, they're usually open-faced. They're often eaten with breakfast as well as during fika, dinner, or any other time of day. They may contain familiar ingredients like ham, cheese, or lox, but they also contain some mystifying ones like hardtack or the aforementioned shrimp-cheese in a tube (also available: crawfish-cheese and moose-cheese).

I've mastered what I think is a pretty decent (and flavor-wise, pretty accurate) vegan smörgås, perfect for fika. Although I prefer using Siljan's knäckebröd, I think Wasa or Finncrisp brands would work just fine (and probably be a more conveniently-sized package for kitchen shelves). Alternately, you can also build your smörgås on a thick slice of fresh limpa (baguette) or tunnbröd (think Arctic lavash).

Of course, a generous smear of smör (Earth Balance in this case) goes on first. If you've got some fancy vegan cheese like Cheezly or Sheese, then go to down on that with an osthyvel for a few thin slices to lay down on top of your EB. I don't routinely stock fancy expensive cheeses in my kitchen, so to get that hint of umami, I like to spread a thin layer of Marmite over the EB. Thinly-sliced gurka (cucumber) and tomat (o) are great toppers, as is a wee sprinkle of salt. If you have some vegan bacon or rashers, this would be a great place to use them as well.