When Sam turned vegetarian four years or so ago, we tried not only to learn new ways to cook vegetables but to source vegetarian products as well. Meatless cooking was a struggle for me in the beginning. Sure, I could do stir fries. But when I wasn’t making stir fries for Sam, I was smothering her food with butter, cream and cheese. How else was I going to make her vegetable meals tasty?
Then, there was the matter of finding meat substitutes. It helped a lot that Speedy has a cousin who owns a vegetarian restaurant and she gave us a lot of tips including the use of chickpea flour as a substitute for eggs when baking cakes.
We located the stores selling soy-based meat substitutes. We even managed to find vegetarian “oyster” sauce. I did buy chickpea flour and even tried making Italian farinata with it. But because Sam is ovo-lacto vegetarian, I felt no urgency in finding egg substitutes.
Then, disaster struck. A childhood egg allergy came back. Not Sam, but me. ME. If I ate eggs or anything with eggs for three days in a row, I’d get rashes. I couldn’t even eat sandwiches because what’s a sandwich without mayo? And mayo — real mayo — is made with egg yolks. The only solution for me was to eat eggs and anything with eggs only every few days. A fried egg on Monday, for instance, and a slice of egg-rich cake on Thursday. After several months, my diet was back to normal. But I know that my egg allergy can recur without warning.
At the height of my allergy episode, I started wondering if, perhaps, I ought to entertain thoughts of eggless baking. Speedy’s cousin, the vegetarian restaurant owner, said chickpea mixed with water is as good a binder as eggs. I’ve tried it and made eggless mushroom burgers, and it worked. But that won’t solve my mayo problem.
I came across an article about hamptoncreek foods, a company most known for its eggless mayonnaise. Instead of eggs, its Just Mayo product is made with yellow pea flour. Having already tried chickpea flour as a binder, that caught my attention. I did a little research and found that Serious Eats’ J. Kenji Lopez-Alt has conducted a taste test on four brands of vegan mayo and declared Just Mayo as the winner.
A little more digging revealed that the company’s approach to food echoes Sam’s perspectives on vegetarianism and the food chain. But the company also has a strong stand on sustainability issues. And although it was the eggless Just Mayo that made the company famous, eggless cookies and cookie dough have been added to its roster of products.
Won’t cookies fall apart without eggs? No, not always. I have baked eggless cookies and they were wonderful.
In the photo above, my vanilla melting moments cookies. Eggless. But so good. Sam and Alex loved them so much that I was baking vanilla melting moments for four weekends in a row. So, “eggless cookies” and “eggless cookie dough” do not surprise me at all.
So, the eggless cookies and cookie dough are made with pea flour too like the Just Mayo? No, apparently not. The binder is sorghum. Note that — the binder is sorghum but the dough itself may not be made entirely with sorghum.
What is sorghum?
Sorghum is a plant genus. Of the known 27 varieties, 17 are native to Australia.
In Africa and some parts of Asia, sorghum has long been an important food crop. It grows in arid lands and does not need fertilization. For the poor, it is an easy and inexpensive source of food. Sorghum can be made into couscous and porridge. Sorghum flour and starch are made into cakes and bread.
If sorghum is such a significant food source, why hasn’t the rest of the world heard about it? It has. However, outside of Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia, sorghum use has mostly been limited to the production of animal feed and fodder, and alcoholic drinks. But one important characteristic of sorghum flour and starch has the world re-thinking that, perhaps, sorghum should be given more importance as an agricultural product. Sorghum flour and starch are gluten-free. In a world where gluten intolerance has become a serious issue, sorghum farming just might be a viable solution.
What have I learned today?
Well, I’ve learned that for people with egg allergy (like me!) and for those who are gluten intolerant, there are options that don’t include giving up mayo and cookies and bread. For every ingredient that one person cannot eat, there is a substitute. We just need to discover them.