These recipes and many more fill Bake and Destroy: Good Food for Bad Vegans. If you thought vegans ate nothing but beets and sawdust, Natalie Slater’s new cookbook will make you think again.
How did her recipes get so creative? They stem from Natalie’s naturally eclectic personality, but got even odder once her son was born. “He doesn’t want to eat anything,” she said in a recent phone interview. “If it makes him laugh or he thinks it will be silly, he’ll try it. But if I just put a plate of spaghetti in front of him, he’ll yawn and walk away. A lot of it comes from trying to get my kid to eat.”
Early Interest in Cooking
Natalie was born just outside Chicago, where she now makes her home. Her early influences include her mother, wrestling, and punk rock. Natalie has many fond memories of time spent in the kitchen with her mother and grandmother. “I was the only child for six years before my little sister came along. So if my mom wanted to get dinner made, it meant popping me on the counter and letting me help her out.”
She attributes her interest in wrestling – which shows up in some of her recipe names, including the Samoa Joe Cupcake – to her cousins, all of whom were boys. She grew up wrestling with them and watching the sport on TV. Natalie doesn’t keep up on wrestling much anymore, although her good friend CM Punk is still in the business. In fact, he wrote the foreword to Bake and Destroy, making it perhaps the only cookbook to have a foreword written by a pro wrestler. He offers this endorsement: “A lot of these recipes have been battle-tested by carloads of angry, 250-pound, starving pro-wrestlers who, if you told them after eating any assortment of Natalie’s delicious treats that these goodies were, in fact, vegan, they would beat you up.”
When Natalie’s son Teno was small, she started her Bake and Destroy blog, which later developed into her cookbook. The book is divided into six sections, which cover sweets, breakfast, entrees, snacks, side dishes and cooking tips.
Between deep fried mac ‘n cheese balls and totchos – tater tot nachos — junk food fans will find plenty to love. Decadent desserts include Rhonda Shear’s Up All Night Cake, which combines chocolate cake with caramel sauce and whipped coconut cream. For a slightly nutritious breakfast, whip up Natalie’s whole wheat choco-coconut donuts, which are made with tofu.
Each recipe starts with a brief, funny story inspired by the dish. That’s also how she develops her recipes. “I start with an idea of what I want, basically what the story is,” she said. “Then I figure out how to tell it using flavors that make sense and a presentation that makes sense. I might decide that I really want to do a recipe as an ode to the season finale of Game of Thrones. Then I start thinking about what they typically eat on the show or the personality traits of a particular character.” She writes her titles before her recipes.
What’s next for Natalie? “I’ve been talking to my son about doing something together,” she said. Teno does video reviews of kids’ recipes and snacks on Natalie’s website. She’s thinking of collaborating with him on a vegan book for kids.
For now, her fans should have plenty of recipes to keep them busy in Bake and Destroy. Natalie has been pleased with the feedback so far. “There’s a couple of people who have pretty much been making their way through the book from cover to cover,making every recipe,” she said.– Story by Teresa Bergen, RFT Vegan/Vegetarian Editor
Natalie’s Chicago Vegan Restaurant Picks.
Natalie said visitors are often surprised to find out how vegetarian-friendly Chicago is. “We’re pretty much famous for Polish sausage and deep dish pizza, and not really for our love of vegetables,” she said. But most restaurants have vegan options, and lots of businesses are entirely plant-based. She keeps an up-to-date list of veg-friendly Chicago spots on her website.
Chicago Diner is probably the best known vegan restaurant in Chicago. “I have friends that come to Chicago a couple times a year that get off the plane and head straight to Chicago Diner,” Natalie said. She recommends the milkshakes made with Chicago Vegan Foods’ soy ice cream. www.veggiediner.com
Quesadilla La Reina del Sur is a tiny, all-vegan Mexican restaurant with very reasonable prices. Natalie is awed by their array of fake meats. “You can get a soy sheep taco,” she said. quesadillalareinadelsur.com
Natalie’s favorite date night restaurant is Karyn’s on Green. “It’s really modern,” Natalie said. “A little bit fancy. The food is pretty much comfort food.” Natalie recommends the chicken legs over sweet potato hash. Owner Karyn Calabrese rounds out her vegan empire with a raw food restaurant and a deli. www.karynsongreen.com —Teresa Bergen, RFT Vegan/Vegetarian Editor