Today is Monday. As my hero, Bloom County’s Bill the Cat, would put it: Blech! Ack! Thbbft! Granted, it’s the Monday before Christmas, not your usual, run-of-the-mill, shoot the alarm clock Monday. Still, Monday is Monday. Before I had a nervous breakdown and opted out of the rat race, I’d start dreading Monday about 5 pm on Saturday. The biggest advantage of Monday holidays was that I could enjoy spending half of Sunday with a pot of coffee and the Sunday New York Times without a pit in my stomach. I was a Monday hater of the first order. So much so that I started hating Sunday because all I had to look forward to on Sunday was Monday. I hated Monday even when I was enjoying my job.
My lunaediesophobia — yep, there’s a word for fear of Mondays — was to do with the prospect of having to drag my self out of my safe, restorative little introvert cave, put my happy mask back on, and gather the energy to play the role of an extrovert for another week.
It only makes sense to introduce my Ninth Cookbook of Christmas, Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*ck (Rodale, 2014), on a Monday. This is a cookbook with a Monday sort of attitude. But it is also a cookbook that should come with one of those “explicit language” labels Tipper Gore made the record companies put on Death Metal and Gangsta CDs. Gordon Ramsay has nothing on these guys. I am not shy about foul language, so it doesn’t put me off. When I was a military history graduate student, we employed the f-word liberally as noun, verb, adjective, and adverb. I had to go through f-word detox before I re-entered polite society. And I can still let rip under the right circumstances (and I find there are a lot of right circumstances), much to the chagrin of my gentle, non-swearing husband. A recent study found that a large vocabulary of profanity indicates a larger than normal active general vocabulary. I heard this on Radio New Zealand — rnz.co.nz — so it must be true. I can swear in more than one language. I must have a gargantuan vocabulary, despite the fact that my Facebook word cloud says the word I use most often is “accordion.”
Even if you are squeamish about the f-word, please try to get past it and get this cookbook. Especially if you are vegan, but even if you are not. Even if you have impressionable children and have to hide your copy in your underwear drawer. Even if the only way you can cope is to black out all the bad words in your copy, which will wind up looking an US Air Force response to a Freedom-of-Information request for documents on the aliens at Area-51. Why? Because it is far and away the most awesome f-ing vegan cookbook in the whole f-ing universe. That’s why.
I am not vegan. At least not yet. I still eat eggs and dairy, but I struggle with both. I can resolve my misgivings about battery chickens and my suspicion that in New Zealand, as in the US, the “free-range” designation on eggs is dubious by keeping my own chooks. But it is highly unlikely that we will adopt our own cow. And recent exposés concerning cruelty in the New Zealand dairy industry make it increasingly difficult to look the other way. So, I try to cook vegan often and am constantly on the lookout for amazing vegan recipes so that, if and when we make the leap, I will have a solid cooking foundation. Most of the time, I am disappointed. Thug Kitchen, and the website from which it is compiled, http://www.thugkitchen.com. is a standout, a mother-ing awesome standout.
What is so awesome about Thug Kitchen? First of all, these are Thugs on a mission to liberate their world from crappy food. As they point out, “there is an aura of elitism surrounding eating well, and so many people tend to associate health with wealth.” Why do I love this book? The intro says it all: “Welcome to the Thug Kitchen, bitches. We’re here to help. We started our website to inspire motherfuckers to eat some goddam vegetables and adopt a healthier lifestyle. Our motto is simple: Eat Like You Give a Fuck.” The Thugs really are speaking to an audience of people who probably never cooked and quite possibly never ate food that didn’t come from a drive-in, a box or a can. The thug life is about overcoming struggles, disadvantages, and bad influences to succeed and thrive despite any obstacles. The Thug Kitchen is “a fucking wake-up call. This for that section of the grocery store that you avoid. This is for the drive-thru lines so long that they block traffic. This is for ketchup and pizza qualifying as fucking vegetables. This is for everyone who wants to do better but gets lost in the bullshit.” The Thugs understand what Jamie Oliver doesn’t: Have a f-ing sense of humour!
Then there is the food. It doesn’t strive to be cute and clever, and it doesn’t rely on play meat. This is vegan food jam-packed with flavour and attitude. Every recipe I’ve tried in the cookbook has been f-ing delicious. So far, my favourites have been soups and tacos/burritos. The Thugs are absolutely spot on when they warn that the Chickpeas and Dumplings could cause a “f-ing food coma.” It really is that good. So is the Wedding Soup with White Bean Balls and Kale, a more than plausible veg version of traditional Italian Wedding Soup — especially if you make it with the Garlic Broth from the Kale Whisperer’s Fourth Cookbook of Christmas, Mediterranean Harvest, which you will have bought by now.
The Mexican-style recipes are kick-ass. The Roasted Chickpea and Broccoli Burritos are regulars at our house, as are the Roasted Beer and Lime Cauliflower Tacos with cilantro coleslaw. In honour of this week’s festivities, I’ll make them with purple cauliflower because I am a woman who is willing the push the boundaries.
And the BBQ Bean Burritos with Grilled Peach Salsa is the bomb, even when peaches are out of season and you make the salsa with strawberries and tomatoes instead. Got a Superbowl Party coming up? Thrill and amaze your friends with Thug Kitchen’s Pineapple Guacamole. In fact, don’t wait for the Super Bowl, that over a month away! Make it right f-ing now!
The Roasted Sriracha Cauliflower Bites with Peanut Dipping Sauce are a satisfying stand-in for Buffalo Chicken Wings.
Don’t believe me? Try them. The cauliflower bites also make a dandy pizza topping with a little blue cheese and chopped celery. I also use the spicy chickpeas from Thug’s Spiced Chickpea Wraps with Tahini Dressing — a sort of deconstructed felafel — as a pizza topping. And how can you not love a cookbook that recognises that Sriracha is a major food group?
I cannot sell my adorable soul mate on kumara (sweet potato), which isn’t a huge problem since I’m not much of a fan myself. But if you are a kumara fan, the Smoky Black-eyed Peas with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Collards (or Kale) are the absolute f-ing bomb. If you aren’t, make the peas anyway and eat them on a white potato. Or maybe some polenta/grits. I just thought of that. I’d try it this very f-ing moment, if I didn’t already have a Complete Beet Pizza in the pipeline.
And pizza does count as a f-ing vegetable when it has beets on it.