Drying Pineapples — Photos

I bought a food dehydrator in early 1997 while I was still involved as an adult member in Scouting, and began by drying (mostly) various fruits for Scout Troop camping trips; Troop members were eager to test out the results of my efforts. While I am no longer involved in Scouting, I have continued drying fruits; I quickly decided that my favourite by far was dried pineapple, which comes out like candy to me.

A short overview of my very early experiences with drying food, from a Scouting perspective, is at what would have been a blog back in the late 1990’s before blogs were a thing at https://www.malak.ca/super.html#dried.

Drying the pineapples:

I keep an eye out for sales on pineapples, and brought home six pineapples last week:

Six pineapples (one is on its side)

I brought my cutting board, knife, and corer down to the bar area downstairs, where I normally do my fruit drying:

Cutting board, knife, and corer taken out

A bucket for the compostable trimmings was also set out:

Bucket for compostable trimmings taken out

My food dehydrator was of course taken out, with all its extra trays …

Food dehydrator and trays taken out

… and the unit was plugged into an extension cord caddy that was plugged into an outlet in an adjoining room, since the bar has an old outlet that doesn’t accept polarized plugs:

Food dehydrator plugged in

The food dehydrator was set to 135F for drying fruits and vegetables:

Food dehydrator temperature set

Now to the pineapples: The labels and their plastic tags were removed from the pineapples:

Labels removed from pineapples

A pineapple was placed on its side in order to trim off the top:

Pineapple placed on its side

The top of the pineapple was sliced off:

Top of pineapple sliced off
Top of pineapple sliced off

The top of the pineapple was placed in the scraps bucket:

Top of pineapple placed in scraps bucket
Pineapple tops in scraps bucket

The pineapple was rotated so as to slice off the bottom:

Bottom sliced off pineapple
Bottom sliced off pineapple

The bottom of the pineapple was placed in the scraps bucket:

Pineapple bottom placed in scraps bucket
Pineapple bottom placed in scraps bucket

The pineapple is now ready for the rest of the trimming:

Pineapple ready for trimming

I started trimming the skin off the pineapple:

Trimming the skin off the pineapple
Trimming the skin off the pineapple

As part of trimming the skin off the pineapple, sometimes the bottoms have to be trimmed too because of the somewhat rounded shape of pineapples, making it tricky sometimes to trim off the skin in full slices:

Bottoms to be trimmed as well

The trimmed pineapple skins …

Trimmed pineapple skins

… were placed in the scraps bucket:

Pineapple skins placed in scraps bucket
Pineapple skins placed in scraps bucket

The trimmed pineapple was again placed on its side …

Pineapple placed on its side

… and sliced into two halves roughly at its centre, essentially to accommodate the length of my corer, although the resulting slices tend to be of a convenient size as well:

Pineapple cut in half
Two pineapple halves

An apple corer was used to remove the pineapple cores:

Coring half of a pineapple
Coring half of a pineapple
Cored pineapple half

I began slicing pieces off the cored pineapple half, roughly two milimetres thick:

Slicing piece off pineapple
Slicing piece off pineapple

The slices were placed on a drying tray:

Sliced pineapple placed on drying tray

More slices were sliced off the pineapple, to about half of the pineapple half:

Almost half of the half pineapple sliced off

… until the tray was filled:

Tray filled with pineapple slices

The filled tray was placed on the food dehydrator base:

Filled tray placed on dehydrator base

The top of the dehydrator was placed on the tray:

Top placed on the dehydrator

Oh and here’s my cat to help me out:

My cat helping me out

I continued trimming and slicing the pineapples, filling twelve trays; as can be surmised from the following picture, in 2012, I added an additional eight trays to the original four I’d bought in 1997!)

Twelve trays filled with pineapple slices

The twelve trays were filled with a bit more than four and a half of the pineapples I’d purchased, leaving at this point a little less than one and a half pineapples to slice up later as the slices in the dehydrator dried and made space:

One and a half pineapples left after filling twelve trays

At this point, the breaker on the extension cord carrying case decided to trip (in my experience, unusual for a single device with a peak draw of only about 550 watts, although I do suspect that the caddy does have a lower trip level than a normal household circuit breaker):

Tripped breaker

Quickly, a new extension cord was taken out:

New extension cord taken out

… which was plugged into an outlet, and the dehydrator plugged into the new extension cord:

Dehydrator plugged in to new extension cord

Back to the pineapples, the scraps were placed in the scrap bucket, which was ultimately emptied into my municipal compostable waste bin:

Scrap bucket filled with pineapple trimmings

At this point, Mom asked for some mashed pineapple, and got a total of six containers, which were placed in the freezer:

Three of the six containers of mashed pineapple Mom got

After about six hours, here’s what a tray of partly dried pineapple slices looked like, including the size shrinkage:

Tray of partly dried pineapples

The partly dried pineapple slices were shifted around to make space:

Space made on tray

After space was made on all the trays, four trays were emptied:

Four trays of space freed up

… and the first few pineapple slices dried to my liking were removed from the trays. Allowed to completely dry, pineapple will become crispy like potato chips; I like dried pineapple that is still a bit chewy and flexible, while there is still a very small amount of humidity left in the slices. As such, I remove slices when they have a leathery feel, and after the surface of the slices are no longer sticky.

Almost completely dried slices of pineapple

A zipper style sandwich bag was taken out to store the dried pineapple:

Zipper style sandwich bags taken out

… and the dried pineapple slices were stacked and placed in the bag:

Dried pineapple placed in bag

At this point — seven hours in — I finished slicing the rest of the pineapples, spread them on a couple of the emptied trays, and inserted the filled trays back in the dehydrator stack, for a total of ten trays:

Ten trays after seven hours

After nine hours, here’s what the pineapple looked like:

Tray after nine hours

… and a few more slices of dried pineapple were taken out for bagging:

More dried pineapple after nine hours
Collection of dried pineapple after nine hours

… and my dehydrator was down to seven trays after nine hours:

Seven trays after nine hours

After twelve hours, the dehydrator was checked again:

Tray of dried pineapple after twelve hours

… and more dried pineapple was taken out after twelve hours:

Dried pineapple taken out after twelve hours

… and stacked for bagging:

Dried pineapple stacked for bagging after twelve hours

… and bagged:

Dried pineapple after twelve hours

… and after all the shifting around and bagging, I was down to five trays in the dehydrator:

Five trays after twelve hours

At this point, I had gone to bed, but I woke up after a couple of hours at midnight, and checked on the dehydrator, shifting pineapple slices around and removing dried sliced pineapple. Here’s the bagged cumulative production after fourteen hours:

Total production after fourteen hours

… and I was down to four trays after fourteen hours:

Four trays after fourteen hours

Finally, after seventeen hours — in this case, three in the morning! (yes, I had set my alarm) — I emptied the dehydrator and bagged the last of the dried pineapple slices, for a total of five bags of dried pineapple slices, from a bit over five pineapples:

Five sandwich bags of dried pineapple

After a couple of days, I started eating the dried pineapple — yes, like a kid in a candy shop! 🙂

Making Eggplant au Gratin — Photos

It has been several months since I’ve done an entry on a recipe from my collection of recipes, mostly just because last winter and spring, I’d run through most of the recipes that I regularly make and which at the time I had considered to be of “sufficient” note to highlight here, save for the recipe which is the subject of this post (but yes, there is a small number more which may eventually be featured!) As such, many of my recipes from my collection of recipes have since been made at least once, and in many cases, several times, over the past few months.

Over the past couple of weeks alone, I did a lot of cooking at the cottage while on holidays, making:

Yes, that’s a lot of potatoes, ground beef, chicken, onions, carrots, eggs, flour, cheese, olive oil, and other secondary ingredients prepared, as well as beer consumed, during the multiple cooking sessions! And, yes, this is how I like to spend winter holidays at the cottage!

Note that this recipe is vegetarian of the lacto-vegetarian variety (basically, meatless) if the tomato sauce used does not contain meat.

Making the Eggplant au gratin:

First, a nice beer was taken out — Brune d’Achouffe, a Belgian brown ale 8,5% alc/vol in a 750mL bottle, brewed under licence from the Brasserie d’Achouffe by Brasseurs RJ in Montréal, Québec.

Beef taken out

Next, the beer was poured into a glass:

Beer poured out

… and of course, right away I had to do a bit of quality control on the beer:

Yes, this is a good beer!

Now to the cooking of the eggplant au gratin, really, this time:

Ramekins were set out — as it turns out, another ramekin was needed to be added later on:

Ramekins set out

An electric skillet was taken out and plugged in:

Electric skillet taken out

The skillet was turned on

Olive oil was added to the skillet:

Olive oil added to skillet

The olive oil was spread out in the skillet with a plastic spatula / egg flipper:

Olive oil spread out in skillet

A couple of eggplants were taken out:

Eggplants taken out

An eggplant was rinsed with water:

Eggplant rinsed with water

The eggplant was trimmed:

Eggplant trimmed

Coins were sliced off the eggplant:

Coins sliced off eggplant

Slices of eggplant were placed in the hot skillet:

Eggplant slices in skillet

After a few minutes of frying, the slices of eggplant were turned over:

Eggplant slices turned over

The fried slices of eggplant were placed in ramekins:

Eggplant slices placed in ramekins

The rest of the first eggplant was sliced, the resulting eggplant slices fried, and the fried eggplant slices were placed in the rest of the ramekins, such that the fried eggplant slices were roughly equally distributed amongst the ramekins:

Eggplant equally distributed amongst the ramekins

Half of the zucchinis were taken out:

Zucchini taken out

The zucchinis were rinsed with water:

Zucchinis rinsed with water

The zucchinis were trimmed:

Zucchinis trimmed

In order to quickly slice the zucchinis, a food processor with the slicing blade attachment was taken out:

Food processor with slicing blade taken out

The zucchinis were fed into the running food processor in order to slice them:

Zucchinis fed into food processor
Sliced zucchinis

Zucchini slices were placed in the electric skillet with more olive oil:

Zucchini slices frying

The zucchini slices were turned over:

Frying zucchini slices turned over

Fried zucchini slices were placed in ramekins:

Fried zucchinis placed in ramekins

The rest of the first half of the zucchini slices were fried:

More zucchinis frying
More zucchinis frying

The rest of the fried zucchini slices were placed in the rest of the ramekins, such that the zucchini slices were roughly equally distributed amongst the ramekins:

Fried zucchinis placed in ramekins

Onions were taken out:

Onions take out

The onions were cleaned and trimmed:

Onions cleaned and trimmed

The onions were sliced in half:

Onions sliced in half

The onions were sliced into thick half coins:

Onion half sliced into thick half coins

The onions were roughly chopped:

Onions roughly chopped

The chopped onions were placed in a bowl:

Chopped onions placed in bowl

About half the chopped onions were placed in the electric skillet with more olive oil, and salt was added:

Chopped onions in skillet with more olive oil and salt

The chopped onions were fried:

Chopped onions fried

The fried chopped onions were roughly equally distributed amongst the ramekins:

Fried chopped onions spread in ramekins

At this point, my beer chalice was empty and needed refiling:

Beer chalice refilled

It was time to repeat the process, and the second eggplant was sliced and fried the same way. When the eggplant slices were placed in the ramekins, the contents were patted down with a fork, in order to get rid of deadspace in the ramekin:

Ramekin contents patted down with a fork

The rest of the steps were repeated with the zucchinis, and the chopped onions, and both were placed in the ramekins in the same order as above, after the second layer of fried eggplant. Note that at this point, another ramekin was added to accommodate what proved to be more ingredients than I originally estimated that I’d had:

Ramekins filled with all fried ingredients

A jar of commercial (meatless) tomato sauce was taken out:

Tomato sauce taken out

The tomato sauce was spread over the ingredients in the ramekins:

Tomato sauce spread over ingredients in the ramekins

A block of mozzarella cheese was taken out:

Mozzarella cheese taken out

Mozzarella cheese was sliced off the block of cheese:

Mozzarella cheese sliced off the block

Cheese slices were placed on top of the ingredients in the ramekins:

Mozzarella cheese slices placed on top of ingredients in the ramekins
Mozzarella cheese slices placed on top of ingredients in the ramekins

Zipper bags were taken out and identified:

Zipper bags taken out and identified

Filled ramekins were individually placed in bags for freezing:

Filled ramekins placed in identified zipper bags

The bags were placed in a freezer (in this case the freezer door) for future eating:

Bagged eggplant au gratin in the freezer

A few days later, an eggplant au gratin was taken out, defrosted, baked, and eaten; of course it was yummy!

Making Vegetable Soup (Big Batch) — Photos

I started making vegetable soup in large quantities several years ago at my church to serve after services, and this weekend I made some for myself to have in the freezer.

Making the vegetable soup instead of another recipe from my recipe collection that I had planned was a bit of a last minute decision, given that the decision to go to the cottage this past weekend was made at the last minute. As such, being at the cottage, I was cooking in a different kitchen using different equipment from usual while making the soup (see pictures).

My 16 quart pot was placed on the stove:

Large pot on stove

A can each of crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes were taken out:

28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes

The crushed tomatoes were poured into the pot:

Crushed tomatoes poured into a pot

The can with crushed tomatoes was rinsed with water, which was poured into the pot:

Rinsing crushed tomatoes can with water, and poured into the pot

The diced tomatoes were then poured into the pot:

Diced tomatoes poured into pot

A can of kidney beans was taken out …

19 oz can of kidney beans

… poured into the pot …

Kidney beans poured into the pot

… and the kidney beans can was rinsed with water, which was then poured into the pot as well:

Kidney bean can rinsed with water and poured into the pot

A 32 ounce (900 mL) box of vegetable broth was taken out …

A roughly 32 ounce (900 mL) box of vegetable broth

… and was poured into the pot:

Vegetable broth poured into the pot

About a kilogram (a bit over two pounds) of mixed frozen vegetables were taken out …

About 1kg of mixed frozen vegetables

… and poured into the pot:

Mixed vegetables poured into the pot

At this point, I started mixing the ingredients:

Ingredients in pot mixed

A 32 ounce (945mL) bottle of multi-vegetable cocktail was taken out …

32 oz (945mL) bottle of vegetable cocktail

… and poured into the pot:

32 oz (945mL) bottle of vegetable cocktail poured into the pot

At this point, the burner on the stove was turned on to start heating up the soup:

Stove under pot turned on

Throughout the following steps, I kept on mixing the soup in the pot to keep it from burning on the bottom of the pot.

Next, a couple of onions were taken out …

Two onions

… then the onions were cleaned and trimmed …

Onions cleaned and trimmed

… then the onions were sliced …

Sliced onions

… then the onions were chopped …

Chopped onions

… and the chopped onions were placed in a mixing bowl:

Chopped onions placed in mixing bow

A potato was taken out …

A potato

… and the potato was cleaned and trimmed:

Potato cleaned and trimmed

The potato was sliced along its length …

Potato sliced along its length

… the potato was then sliced into spears …

Potato sliced into spears

… then the potato was sliced into cubes …

Potatoes sliced into cubes

… and the potato cubes were placed into the mixing bowl with the chopped onions:

Potato cubes placed in mixing bowl with chopped onions

Two carrots were taken out …

Two carrots

… the carrots were cleaned and trimmed …

Carrots cleaned and trimmed

… then the carrots were quartered to make spears …

Carrots sliced into spears

… then the carrots were then chopped coarsely …

Carrots chopped coarsely

… and the chopped carrots were placed in the bowl with the potato cubes and chopped onions:

Chopped carrots placed in mixing bowl with potatoes and onions

Throughout all the vegetable chopping, I mixed the ingredients already in the pot while it was heating up, in order to avoid burning on the bottom of the pot.

Next, olive oil was added to the bowl of chopped vegetables …

Olive oil added to the chopped vegetables

… then the chopped vegetables and olive oil were mixed together to fully coat the chopped vegetables:

Mixed vegetables and olive oil mixed together

A cast iron skillet was preheated on the stove:

Cast iron skillet preheated on the stove

… and the mixed chopped vegetables and olive oil were transferred to the skillet:

Transferring mixed chopped vegetables and olive oil to the cast iron skillet
Mixed chopped vegetables and olive oil in the cast iron skillet

Salt was added to the frying chopped vegetables:

Salt added to the frying chopped vegetables

Once the chopped vegetables started to brown in the skillet, they were transferred to the soup pot that was continuing to be heated up:

Fried vegetables transferred to the soup pot

The skillet was deglazed with water …

Deglazing hot skillet

… and the deglazing liquid was added to the soup pot:

Deglazing liquid added to the soup pot

Half a cup of rice was measured out:

Half a cup of rice measured out

… and the rice was added to the soup.

Rice added to the soup

Water was added to the soup pot to bring the liquid level up to the eight quart mark:

Water added to soup pot to bring it to eight quart mark

The soup was continued to be heated:

Soup heating up

… and brought to a boil:

Boiling soup

The heat was reduced and the soup was simmered for over half an hour:

Simmering soup

I continued adjusting the salt level in the soup until it was to my taste.

While the soup was simmering, plastic containers (in this case, reused yoghurt containers) were laid out:

Plastic containers laid out

Once the soup had simmered for over half an hour (probably coming on to an hour), the soup was taken off the stove, and transferred to the containers with a ladle (the golden sheen is the olive oil reflecting the camera flash):

Soup transferred to plastic containers

And the containers were covered, and placed in the freezer:

Containers of soup placed in the freezer

Of course the soup is tasty!

Making Bread and Butter Pickles

Before beginning to make pickled eggs, I had never cared much for pickles of just about any sort all my life, although over time I have come to realize that I wasn’t as averse to pickled items as much as I thought, demonstrated by having begun making pickled eggs and continuing to love them for many years now.

My mom, on the other hand, has enjoyed several kinds of pickles as long as I remember. While I was growing up, every summer into the fall, she would be part of a group of ladies at our church who would be making various jams, jellies, and pickled vegetables to sell later each autumn at the church’s fund-raising bazaar. This in fact was an indirect inspiration for me, a couple of decades later, to make my pickled eggs to contribute to the same church bazaar table. To this day, every year my mom makes an English-style chutney containing rhubarb (which she grows in her garden), raisins, and onions, using the recipe the church group assigned to her to make in the early 1980’s.

Over the years, one of the things that I have been keeping my eyes out for at roadside farmers’ stands on my way up to the cottage are artisanal jars of pickles from the local farmers to keep my mom supplied with pickles, usually of the bread and butter pickles, and pickled beets, varieties. For several years, one stand in particular sold bread and butter pickles that my mom really liked; however, the stand has since closed. I won’t be trying to find out whether the lady who made them distributes them elsewhere; conversations over the years indicated that she found that making at least her bread and butter pickles was becoming too much trouble for the price she was able to charge.

A growing nagging feeling that I should at least experiment making bread and butter pickles for my mom has been developing over the past couple of years.

This year, after having found a different road side stand distributing various pickled vegetables from a local cabane à sucre (maple sugar shack) (here’s my archive), I bought some jars of the bread and butter pickles for my mom. She tried them, and found them to be representative of the style but not as good as those from the closed farmer’s stand, and further, that the jars appeared not as fully packed as the other jars.

This proved to be one of two imps pushing me over the edge to experiment, the other imp being having found a three litre basket of pickling cucumbers at my local grocery store shortly thereafter, which I decided to purchase.

I almost looked for a recipe for bread and butter pickles on the internet, but just in time, I discovered on the back of a packet of the pickling spices I use for my pickled eggs a recipe for bread and butter pickles (here’s the recipe I developed, based on the recipe on the back of the bag.) I was mildly amused to see it there, having never noticed it before in all the years that I had been using this brand of pickling spices for my pickled eggs.

Already having a supply of onions, sugar, and vinegar, I proceeded to wash then slice the cucumbers in my food processor using the slicing tool. The recipe was based on cups of sliced cucumbers, so given the number of cups of sliced cucumbers I actually produced from what I’d purchased in the three litre basket (14 cups, as compared to the base recipe’s 20 cups), I adjusted the amounts of each of the rest of the ingredients accordingly.

I deviated from the original recipe in the following ways:

– The original recipe called for thinly slicing the onions, while I coarsely chopped the onions;

– In addition to the pickling spice blend in the bag, the original recipe called for mustard seeds, turmeric, and celery seeds, which I did not have, and which I simply omitted;

– The original recipe called for packing sterilized jars with the cucumber slices, onions, and pickling solution immediately once bringing the mix to a rolling boil, and then boiling the sealed mason jars in a water bath for 10 minutes, while I instead boiled the cucumbers and pickling solution for ten minutes, then packed them in sterilized mason jars, and finally proceeded directly to cooling the jars, over concerns that, not having used the water bath method before, I would suffer jar breakage.

Tasting a leftover pickle that didn’t get bottled, I could tell that it tasted roughly like what I knew bread and butter pickles should taste like.

The whole process, including cleaning up, took about two and a half hours, and produced five jars of about 450mL each. I was pleasantly surprised at how relatively easy it was.

My mom was thrilled to learn that I’d conducted my experiment, and anxiously awaited my next visit so that she could try the results.

In the meantime, I had a nagging guilt about not following the instructions and not treating the filled jars in a water bath. The following week, when I happened to be back at the grocery store, I happened upon another display with more pickling cucumbers, and yet another imp convinced me to buy a three-litre basket of cucumbers.

This time, I decided to follow the recipe a bit more closely, given that I already had what I considered to be an otherwise successful batch of pickles in sealed jars already in storage: While I decided to continue omitting the turmeric, mustard seeds, and celery seeds, I sliced the onions thinly and into coins; I brought the cucumber slices, sliced onions, and pickling solution to a boil; then I immediately packed the sterilized mason jars with the mix; and then boiled the sealed jars in a water bath for ten minutes. I did not have any jar breakage. The second basket I’d purchased seemed to have more cucumbers than the first basket (16 cups of sliced cucumbers), and I produced seven 500mL mason jars, as well as one 250mL mason jar.

In the meantime, my mom had made some pickles using some instructions she’d received from a friend, involving the use of pickling solution saved from a number of previously consumed jars of pickles, and some English cucumbers she’d purchased.

The following week, I visited my mom, bearing a jar from each batch, and we set up a taste-test. Fortunately, I am not outright averse to bread and butter pickles; they just aren’t something for which I’ve acquired a taste – yet. 🙂

We had four jars of pickles to compare, which we rated as follows by preference (1 – liked the most, 4 – liked the least):

1: My batch #2 – perfect, and crunchy (refrigerated)

2: My batch #1 – almost as good as “my batch #2”, but not crunchy, at least not enough, and otherwise very good (not refrigerated)

3: Current roadside stand pickles – okay, but not as good (refrigerated)

4: My mom’s recycled pickling solution experiment with English cucumber (refrigerated) – fourth place, and okay but decidedly unremarkable.

We came up with a suspicion afterwards: Since “my batch #1” wasn’t refrigerated while the others were, we wondered if that could have made a difference in the crunchiness.

I received a phone call a couple of days later about “my batch #1”: After refrigeration, they were declared a complete success, since they developed a certain crunch in the fridge.

So my experiments seem to have been successful, at least until and unless I find some spoilage in the jars of “my batch #1” after a few months, if they last that long, and of course which I am not expecting to occur anyway.

And, who knows? Maybe I’ll develop a taste for my bread and butter pickles!

In the modern world of prepared foods, it must be challenging to be vegetarian. Vegan, extremely difficult.

For the past several years during my summer holidays, I have been visiting the grounds of a Buddhist monastery near my cottage as an activity. Normally, my visit centres around going about mid-day and bringing a picnic lunch to be enjoyed on the grounds, as well as walking the grounds and admiring the scenery, the various Buddhas throughout, and of course the temple.

At the gate, there is a sign with a crossed-out pictogram expressly, at least on a literal level, forbidding chicken, steak, and eggs to be brought onto the grounds. Obviously, the pictogram more widely means “no meat or animal products”. Underneath, it says “only vegetarian food”. The specific use of the word “vegetarian” confuses the matter.

As per my understanding of vegetarianism, generally eggs, milk, honey (surprise — made by bees, it’s an animal product!) and a few other animal products are acceptable; the interpretation to which I personally subscribe is “no animal flesh”. I assume, given the inclusion of the egg in the pictogram, that the policy is actually veganism, as in no animal products whatsoever. (If I am incorrect on this point, then that is only somewhat beside the point I am trying to raise here. Update 20180805: See notes at the end.)

I typically eat three meals a day of the meat and two vegetables variety, although peanut butter, pickled eggs and cheese are central to typical breakfasts. However, especially since in the past I have flirted with vegetarianism of the meatless-but-eggs-and-cheese-and-other-animal-products-are-fine variety, I don’t have a problem with the sign; I consider myself to eat a wide enough variety of foods that it isn’t an issue. Further, I do not have any food allergies or particular dietary restrictions — for instance, I do not have any dietary requirement to eat, let alone at every meal, certain foods; certainly for the purpose of this post, foods which contain animal products.

And of course, the monastery is clearly and very well within its rights to place such a condition on the guests it invites to visit its grounds: One does not need to visit the grounds if one is opposed to the condition. In any case, when I have visited, I have never had my picnic lunch bag verified at the gate. Once, I noticed a gentleman eating his lunch on the road just outside the gate; I imagine that he didn’t know in advance about the condition, and his lunch presumably contained some offending ingredient. I can only imagine that based on my personal experience, the gentleman saw the sign, and complied of his own accord without any intervention from the monks.

Nonetheless, planning my picnic lunch for these visits has proven to be quite the challenge over the years.

I bring foods which I enjoy and which I assume are vegan. I even now somewhat plan in advance for this lunch, including when I go to the grocery store on my way up to the cottage. I usually check ingredients lists. As revealed below, obviously not well enough.

And, so far, I realize after the fact every year that I have failed to bring only vegan foods.

One year, I made a peanut butter sandwich on Challah bread. That’s the braided bread often found in delicatessens and jewish bakeries. Challah bread nornally contains eggs.

Another year, as I was planning my lunch, I looked at the ingredients list of various products I wanted to bring: One cake contained eggs. Another commercial snack cake also contained eggs. Two favourite varieties of flavoured potato chips and similar snacks contained milk products (sour cream and onion, and cheese flavoured snacks). Pleased with myself, I did not bring either of the cakes nor the chips / snacks. However, I failed on the sandwich I’d brought: I made my peanut butter sandwich on the bread I make at home in a bread machine. I later remembered that the bread recipe I use contains milk.

This year, I thought I was really well prepared: My peanut butter and jam sandwich, on a very plain bread that did not contain milk nor eggs. Dried pineapple, which I had dried myself. Caramel popcorn, whose ingredients list did not contain any animal products. Juice boxes. And a few other items, which I deal with in the following paragraphs.

To my amusement, though not surprise, I learned after the fact that the roasted and salted cashews I brought may contain milk, along with peanuts and other tree nuts. This is in a grey zone, as the warning’s purpose is to inform that the cashews were prepared in a facility which prepares other items which may contain the offending items, and that cross-contamination might have occurred, not to indicate that the cashews actually contain the offending items, at least by design.

The following items were also brought, and which I later realized were not allowed under the above-mentioned presumed vegan food condition:

– a brand of salt and vinegar potato chips, whose “seasonings” contain lactose, and whose label states they contain milk, to my great surprise: I had bought the chips on the presumption that they contain potatoes, vegetable oil, salt, and vinegar;
– a variety of chocolate buttons candy, whose label states it contains milk (this should have been a no brainer, since they are in the milk-chocolate range of chocolates);
– a store brand of a swiss-type chocolate bar, whose label states it contains milk and eggs (again this should have been a no-brainer, at least for the milk);
– a chocolate-coated granola bar, which contains honey and multiple mentions of milk and milk products (once more, this should have been a no-brainer).

As such, I guess I will yet again have to plan better for my visit during my holidays next year: I will have to buy fruit cups and fresh fruits, while excluding the various above-mentioned items. These aren’t a real problem for me, but I do admit that these items are not always the first things that come to mind when I go shopping or make a last-minute grab for food for my lunches, be they regular daily lunches, or my visit to the monastery grounds.

In the past, I have subscribed to the mostly-meatless form of vegetarianism, for environmental reasons, principally in that meat consumes enormous amounts of water to produce. (As a side bar, one complaint I had was that prepared frozen pasta dishes could have been made in one extra variety: In addition to the vegetable lasagnas that are made, why not make traditional meat lasagnas exactly as usual, save that the meat hoppers are not filled during some runs?)

However, I am generally typical of North Americans in that I eat meat very regularly. Lately, for health reasons, I have been somewhat, mostly only very slightly, cutting down on my meat consumption; the environmental reasons of water requirements and carbon footprint in the form of methane production (21 times as efficient as CO2 as a greenhouse gas), have also been present in my mind.

But this little exercise makes me wonder how a vegetarian, let alone a vegan, or for that matter, someone who is lactose-intolerant, suffering from celiac disease, allergic to eggs, nuts and peanuts, or seafood, or who has some other intolerance to some food ingredient, is able to navigate commercially prepared foods, restaurants, and even dinner parties serving only foods “made from scratch” but in kitchens with the following ingredients, given the omnipresence of meats, milk, eggs, honey, other animal products, wheat, nuts, peanuts, seafood and any other I consider to be common and basic foods, and which in and of themselves are mundane, at least to me.

Yes, I am aware of various commercial foods and food management systems, such as nut-free candies and gluten free foods, and restaurants catering to the various issues raised above. I am also aware that making foods “from scratch” present options for my picnic lunches. My point here lies in the insidious degree to which certain common ingredients are used in food products not purchased for the presence of said ingredients.

Update 20180805: I have done some cursory checking into Buddhism and vegetarianism, and according to the wikipedia page on Buddhist Vegetarianism, (here’s my archive), the traditions of the particular monastery I visit likely fall under the “no meat, eggs and dairy” category, although strict veganism does not seem to be the case.