The Tipsy Vegan Q & A with Best of You Today
Turn Every Vegan Bite into Happy Hour With John Schlimm
(Originally Posted on BestOfYouToday.com)
So, how do you make a vegan dish sexy? Spike it with a little booze, says John Schlimm, author of The Tipsy Vegan: 75 Boozy Recipes to Turn Every Bite into Happy Hour. Schlimm, who has written several cook and entertainment books as well as a novel, believes that a little alcohol adds fun and flavor—to recipes as well as hanging out with friends and family. With recipe categories that bear titles like “Plastered Party Starters”, “Boozy Soups”, “Staggering Salads” and “Drunken Desserts,” the book takes you on a humorous, creative and delicious adventure into vegan dishes that have, well, a little somethin’ somethin’.
BOYT: The Tipsy Vegan: 75 Boozy Recipes to Turn Every Bite into Happy Houris not the typical cookbook. Can you give us a run-down of what this unusual book is all about?
John Schlimm: HA! Nothing I do is “typical” – What’s the fun in that?! My goal with The Tipsy Vegan was to create the ultimate party-in-a-book; a party that everyone is invited to—whether you are a lifelong vegan, an occasional visitor, or merely hungry. Reality is checked on page 1 and its party-time from there on out. I also wanted to redefine what vegan food is. I think the word “vegan” is mysterious and even scary to a lot of people, and it shouldn’t be. The Tipsy Vegan is about smashing through those tired stereotypes and misconceptions and getting down to what really matters: friends, family, great food, and LAUGHTER!!! There’s a lot of humor that ties this book together.
BOYT: Why did you choose this particular kind of cooking for the book?
John Schlimm: Food and alcohol literally run through my veins. I’m a member of one of the oldest brewing families in the U.S. My great-great-grandfather, Peter Straub, founded our Straub Brewery in St. Marys, PA, in the 1870s. Today, it’s one of the few remaining breweries to still be owned and operated by its founding family. I’m very proud of this heritage, which initially inspired me to write a few beer cookbooks several years ago, including The Ultimate Beer Lover’s Cookbook, which is the largest beer cookbook ever published and was awarded both “Best Beer Book in the U.S.” and “Best Beer Book in the World” by Gourmand International. The Tipsy Vegan is very much the next evolution in my affinity for boozy entertaining, and was the result of my transition to a plant-based lifestyle. The Tipsy Vegan embodies my new lifestyle, and my overall outlook on life as an adventure to be lived to the absolute fullest!
My own journey through various career paths leading to The Tipsy Vegan has been very much influenced by my great-great-grandfather, who at age 19 left everything he knew in Germany—his family, friends, home—and went off in search of the American Dream, with nothing more than a few pieces of gold sewn into his jacket and a recipe for beer. One hundred forty years later, his dream is still alive and putting smiles on people’s faces. This immigrant’s story is one that has played out in just about all of our families, and is one from which we can all garner hope and inspiration when in pursuit of our own dreams!
BOYT: As a vegan, what is the message of The Tipsy Vegan?
John Schlimm: The message of The Tipsy Vegan is to live life to the absolute fullest, no matter who you are, no matter what your circumstances, and no matter what pathway you choose. And, to LAUGH as much as possible! After all, we only pass this way once and it’s for such a brief time! We need to make the most of it!
BOYT: Recipes with alcohol are influenced by the flavor; what kinds of qualities do they bring to vegan meals?
John Schlimm: Alcohol should be thought of as an amazing and flavorful seasoning for dishes, especially vegan dishes. It supercharges dishes and adds a zip that wasn’t there before. For example, the combination of rum and hummus for the Carousing Cucumber Rounds with Rummy Hummus is a perfect marriage of two smooth, beautiful ingredients. In this case, the rum infuses the more modest hummus with a power punch of flavor that will dazzle as much at a fancy cocktail party as it will around a campfire. People shouldn’t hesitate to add a dash or swig, as it were, to their dishes. Besides great flavor, alcohol turns dishes into electrifying conversation points.
BOYT: What beverages are good for flavoring what kinds of food? For instance, what is vodka good for and what kind of quality does it bring to the dish?
John Schlimm: Just about any alcohol can be added to something. For example, beer as an ingredient works with just about everything short of maybe cereal (But then beer is kind of like liquid cereal if you think about it–HA!). Also, the Cointreau in the Slur-Baaaaked Peaches, the amaretto in the Party Monster Pancakes, the dark rum in the Chugging Pumpkin Soup, the tequila in Tequila Seduces Guacamole, the wine in the Cockeyed Cranberry Compote, and so on all add their special magic to the dishes, transforming them into a special occasion on the plate.
And, VODKA(!!!), which is one of my favorites, takes salsa, gazpacho, roasted potatoes, pasta, and so much more in The Tipsy Vegan to a whole new level of boozy decadence.
BOYT: You also include recipes for cocktails in your book. Are these unique cocktails that you developed, or are they simply some of your favorites from among more common recipes?
John Schlimm: I started every chapter in The Tipsy Vegan with a cocktail recipe to drive home the point that cooking should be just as fun as eating. I had fun playing around with various concoctions to create the drinks, and I didn’t have to look very far for willing samplers, I might add—but I also enjoyed taking a classic like the dirty vodka martini, which is one of my all-time favorite drinks, and switching it up by adding jalapeno juice instead of olive juice, thus resulting in the FAB and fiery Extra! Extra! Dirty-Hot Martini!
BOYT: You also have a new novel, Twang, about the world of country music and you used to be a country music publicist. How did you get from publicist to vegan writer to novel writer?
John Schlimm: That’s the beauty of this life—it’s an amazing adventure that can lead you in a million different directions, one more fantastic than the next. Once upon a time, I was a publicist in Nashville for various country music superstars, which was a wonderful experience and taught me more than I can ever explain (and before that, I worked in then-Second Lady Tipper Gore’s communications office at The White House). In fact, while I was a publicist deep on the inside of the celebrity machine, I pretty much saw and heard everything you can imagine, which was eye-opening, to say the least, for this kid from a small town. The eccentric and marvelous characters I had the pleasure (most of the time) of interacting with while in Nashville inspired me to pay homage to them and the country music industry in Twang: A Novel. The novel is very much my sizzling and humorous love letter to Nashville, which just happens to have everyone from theNew York Post’s Page Six to other media and fans across the country playing the ultimate guessing game.
However, I decided to leave Nashville and pursue my secondary teaching certifications in English and speech communications, and ultimately my master’s degree in education at Harvard. After Harvard, I returned home and taught public relations at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. It was during this time that I published my first boozy cookbook, The Straub Beer Cookbook, which then led to another, and another, and another…And here we are now with The Tipsy Vegan!
BOYT: Lastly, can you share your favorite Tipsy recipe or meal?
Carousing Cucumber Rounds with Rummy Hummus
These little ditties will have you and your guests spinning round, round, round while the good times roll. The crunchy cucumbers cool down the assertive and spicy, lightly rummy hummus, bringing balance and satisfaction to your tummy.
- 1 (14-ounce) can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained thoroughly
- 2 canned chipotle peppers, stemmed if necessary, with a teaspoon of the adobo sauce they were canned with (add more peppers, if desired)
- 1 large garlic clove, coarsely chopped
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons tahini (mixed well before measuring)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white rum (or more to taste)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
- 1 large English (seedless) cucumber (usually plastic-wrapped at the supermarket)
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted in a dry skillet just until golden brown
In a medium bowl, place the chickpeas, chipotles, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil, white rum, cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Puree with an immersion blender, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, about 2 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Or use a standing blender (see note below).
Use a vegetable peeler to peel the cucumber skin lengthwise at 1/4-inch intervals to create a striped pattern around the circumference of the cucumber and slice it crosswise into 1/4-inch rounds. If the cucumber skin is tough, peel the entire cucumber. Arrange the cucumber discs on a platter.
To assemble, just before serving, lightly salt the cucumber rounds. Top each round with a generous teaspoon of hummus. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Yield: ABOUT 35 HORS D’OEUVRES
Note: Don’t be tempted to use a food processor to make this spread because you won’t get that perfectly smooth texture.
About John Schlimm
John Schlimm is a member of one of the oldest brewing families in the United States. The award-winning author of several books, including The Ultimate Beer Lover’s Cookbook and The Seven Stars Cookbook, Schlimm holds a master’s degree from Harvard and lives in Pennsylvania.
Twitter: Follow @JohnSchlimm on Twitter