March was a record-setting month of posting recipes for me. I posted 7 Extreme Vegan Makeovers; 8 if you let me count the one I wrote in March but posted on April 1st. It felt like I was on a roll and I was having so much fun posting recipes and getting positive feedback including that I should write a cookbook. To that I said, “Yeah, right” but it felt really good to hear. It motivated me to keep cooking, creating recipes and posting blog entries. And truth be told, that seed of a cookbook suggestion started to sprout and I thought, “Maybe…”
All the postiive comments by people on Facebook and in the comments here on the blog raised my self-confidence to new levels. The more people brought up the cookbook idea, the more my thoughts turned to “Ok, I will…as soon as I figure out how.” It didn’t hurt that the people encouraging me included friends who are writers themselves. I mean, when someone like Tina Volpe, co-author of The Missing Peace: The Hidden Power of our Kinship with Animals and author of The Fast Food Craze, tells you to write a book, it’s probably a good idea to listen.
Then on April 9, one of my heroes and biggest fans, Shirley Wilkes-Johnson, passed away. As I wrote in my tribute to Shirley, I sent her a copy of every recipe I posted and she would post it on her Facebook page with comments such as “Here’s another amazing recipe from my beautiful friend, Rhea. She’s lost 113 lbs. and is a great Vegan activist.” I would see her words and my heart would swell. This great woman, this Vegan warrior, this beautiful, loving person thought so highly…of me! That would propel me to cook, always thinking “I bet Shirley will like this one” and I couldn’t wait to send her the recipe and get her reaction.
After she died, Carol Adams, author of The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory, e-mailed me and wrote that Shirley had told her how she was encouraging me to write a book.
After writing my tribute to Shirley, I was given a “One Lovely Blog” award by a fellow blogger. That was sweet and it required a “pay it forward” gesture of awarding it to 15 other blogs. So I wrote about that but I still didn’t feel like posting recipes.
Then Passover came and I felt obligated to post some Vegan version of a holiday favorite so I posted a recipe for Fried Matzo/Matzo Brei. I went through my routine: posted the recipe, had Tom proofread it, fixed the ever-missed spelling error, posted the entry to my Facebook page, added the title to the My “V” Recipes list on the blog and then realized I couldn’t do the next step…e-mail it to Shirley. My heart sank. She wouldn’t see this recipe, tell me how I was making her eat too much, tell me to write that cookbook. Suddenly, it just wasn’t as much fun.
Yes, I continued to get positive, wonderful comments on my recipes and I appreciate and value every single one of them. But my motivation was missing. I wrote about the Mercy For Animals undercover investigation. And then I wrote a note to Shirley on her Facebook page, telling her how I had lost my momentum without her here to encourage me. And her husband, Ben, responded and told me “Don’t stop now, keep up the good work, our mission isn’t over yet. The world needs us!!! Now more than ever.” And I realized I was being selfish.
Creating Vegan recipes and posting them on my blog is just one of the ways I am a Vegan activist. I might love cooking and of course, I enjoy the attention but in the bigger picture, this isn’t about me. This is about promoting and advocating Veganism. This is not about my getting praise (though that’s nice too) but it’s about keeping the movement alive and each one of us has an important part to play. This is all about the animals.
Reading Ben’s words, I felt my motivation returning. And I realized that Shirley IS still here, still encouraging me and always will be.
So here is my newest recipe, a Vegan Philly “Cheezesteak.” Comfort food, for sure, because every now and then, we all need a little comforting. This recipe is dedicated to Tina, Carol, Ben and especially to Shirley. A Vegan hero for my Vegan heroes. I know she would have loved it 🙂
2 tsp. olive oil
6-8 Portobello mushroom caps, sliced
½ tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 clove garlic, left whole
½ large onion, sliced
Salt to taste
1 Tbs. Vegan Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp. liquid smoke
2 long or 4 short loaves hero bread of your choice
Olive oil cooking spray
Vegan mayonnaise (optional)
1/2 – 1 cup Vegan cheddar cheese, shredded
Preheat the broiler. Heat a deep skillet with olive oil. Add the sliced mushrooms and let brown, about 8-10 minutes. Add the pepper, thyme and minced garlic. Mix well.
When the mushrooms are browned and shrunken, add the onion and salt to the skillet. Cook about 5 minutes until the onion is caramelized and softened. Add the liquid smoke and Worcestershire sauce and mix well. Continue to let cook about another 3-4 minutes.
Slice open the loaves of bread and place on a baking sheet. Apply the cooking spray (or drizzle olive oil) on the bread. Take the remaining clove of garlic, cut the tip off, and rub the garlic on the bread (you may also use dried garlic powder). Spread the vegan mayo on the bread, if using. Fill the loaves with the mushrooms. Top with vegan cheese. Put the heroes in the broiler for about 4-5 minutes or until the cheese has melted.
Cut the heroes into halves. Get a lot of napkins.