What have we here? A perfectly innocent looking milkshake.
If you’re not familiar with the show Firefly, you may want to just stop reading now and content yourself with the peaceful notion of a lovely vegan milkshake. Otherwise, the ick factor may outweigh the entertainment function of the remainder of this post.
No? Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I’ll at least give you a little back-story so you know what you’re getting yourself into. In “Jaynestown”, perhaps my favorite episode of Firefly, the intrepid cast of characters finds themselves on a planet inhabited by hardworking laborers whose major industry is mud. Yeah, mud…like dirt, but wetter. They make mud. So they’re called “mudders”. Hardworking as they are, they enjoy a stiff drink when they come off the job, and the beverage of choice is called “mudder’s milk”. We learn that it has “all the protein, vitamins and carbs of your grandma’s best turkey dinner, plus 15 percent alcohol”, and that the ancient Egyptians would provide this beverage to the people they enslaved, as it “kept them from starving and knocked them out at night so they wouldn’t be inclined to insurrection”.
Still sure you want to know what’s in my milkshake?
Okay, if you insist.
My friend Joshua and I were recently discussing seitan, the enigmatic “wheat meat” which I have recently learned to make from scratch. It is most commonly prepared in a savory style, and Joshua began to muse over whether a sweet application could be created.
So, I set about to give it a try. I put 5 cups of water and 1 cup of apple cider vinegar in a pot to boil, where ordinarily I would have used a savory stock with onions and garlic. In a mixing bowl, I combined 1 cup vital wheat gluten, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup crushed peanuts, and 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon and ginger powder, then added 1 cup of water and kneaded it by hand to make a dough. When the pot reached a boil, I lowered the heat to a simmer and added 2 tablespoons of maple syrup (where if I were making my regular version I would have added 2 tablespoons or so of the nearest hot sauce). Then I ripped the dough off in clumps and plopped them in the “broth”.
It became clear right away that this thing I was now making would be quite unlike my ordinary seitan. I laughed at myself a little as I watched the not-at-all-absorbent bits of peanut separate themselves from the dough and float to the top of the pot. (Note to self: peanuts do NOT behave like nutritional yeast.) I figured, okay, I’ll let this do its thing for 45 minutes and then COME BACK AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS.
After about 40 minutes I was getting a bit antsy about what might be going on in that pot, so I went to check. Little fluffy clouds of protein greeted me. Oh boy!
I poked a spoon in so I could taste it. It actually tasted pretty good, despite having the most absurd texture of anything I had ever considered putting in my mouth on purpose before.
But what on earth was I going to do with this?
In the back of my mind, where my most trusted spirit guides normally hang out, I heard the voice of Jayne Cobb: “…all the protein, vitamins and carbs of your grandma’s best turkey dinner…”
There was only one thing to do.
I had a crappy day so I’m not really very hungry, and thus can’t account for whether it’s actually a good idea to drink that whole thing. I can tell you that it tastes a hell of a lot better than you might imagine, though as a non-drinker I can’t tell you whether it would improve in quality if it were actually 15% alcohol.
All I can say is, if you choose to make this on purpose, I take no responsibility.
Edited to add: Apparently I should have clarified! I do NOT RECOMMEND that anyone try this! There are at least 5 meals worth of seitan in that glass. I drank about three sips and then poured it down the drain. It tasted good but PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF YOUR COLON do NOT actually make this! I’ll make a good one and report back.