“I believe that we can change the world with just a meal: It’s our daily routines where we create sense, and it’s our everyday life’s where all the magic happens. If we smell a mushroom’s earthy flavor or carefully watch our rice pudding simmering slowly on the stove, we might feel inspired to take care of ourselves and of nature, and maybe even to make better choices.”
Claudia Hirschberger, Food With A View, Berlin Germany
Mindful Cooking with Claudia Hirschberger, 2nd place prize winner in the Share Your Veganism: 2020 Photo Essay Contest.
Apart from philosophy and psychology, mindful cooking, as explained by Claudia Hirschberger, has much to do with the cycle of nature and seasons that we are a part of. From wild herbs and edible blossoms in spring to late berries and nuts in autumn, the treasures of urban greens are Claudia’s way to connect with nature. And there is more to it than just a little foraging: being mindfully aware of our food habits may lead us to the sustainability aspects of nutrition. Be it fairness in global trade, local consumption, ecological agriculture, plant-forward eatings, no-waste habits, food sharing and many more. Mindful cooking embraces the idea that climate protections starts with our choices as consumers, and that carrot we have been marveling at tells the whole story.
Claudia Hirshberger is a visual storyteller, Ethologist, passionate home cook, dedicated writer and awarded cookbook author. Welcome to Food With A View.
It was in the second year of my sweetheart’s turn to a vegan nutrition when we were sitting in a beautiful café on a lovely Sunday afternoon, somewhere in between late summer and early fall. The place was famous for its New York cheesecake, yet there wasn’t a plant-based alternative on offer. I felt so sorry since I knew that this treat had always been among my darling’s favorites, and he didn’t enjoy it for such a long time.
I just had started that beautiful journey of fully vegan cooking & baking, diving deep into the amazing world of plant-based ingredients, so manifold and colorful. And I planned to give it a try: if there is no vegan cheesecake out there, I will create one myself. The masterclass of seducing creaminess, oh my. And it was a road to travel. I experimented with silken tofu, vegan yogurt, cashews, lots of baking powder, starch and many more. But it was only when I started to prepare fermented cream cheese from scratch and skip the oven that we were finally there. With that sparkle in our eye. With that certainty that it doesn’t need dairy products to enjoy a heavenly dense and creamy cheesecake. Matcha cheesecake has been our favorite since. Here comes its story from cheese to cake.
Fermented vegan fresh cheese is my base for many alternative dairy-products. Its preparation takes up to two days, and it is worth every moment. Not just because of taste, texture and the control we have over the ingredients that we use if we make something from scratch. It is special also for the lesson in patience.
I love to see soy-milk curds, temperature and time work their miracles in the fermentation process, and I have much awe for this age-old process of making cheese and dairy products. With all respect to this ancient tradition, I feel yet comfortable with a contemporary plant-based twist to it. Because the joy of being able to care for our own food supplies is deeply rooted in our human culture, with the road of tradition having its place in it as much as new ways have.
With just a little lemon juice and a hand-held blender, I turn my fresh cheese into seducing cream cheese. Because this is where any perfect cheesecake starts.
Matcha is among my magic goodies in vegan cuisine. It is made of carefully shade-grown green tea leaves, and it is supposed to come along with many health benefits. If of good or best quality, the taste is divine.
Having a cup of matcha in the afternoon is very different from having coffee or tea. You can’t do it as a sideline, since already its preparation demands for attention. The right temperature of water. A proper cup to whisk. The right technique to use the bamboo whisk chasen if you want to end up with a beautifully dense foam. Matcha is traditionally served in tiny cups, and it is so for a reason. With every sip, you enjoy this very moment. There is nothing else to experience than this.
Compared to this, dusting a cream cheese base with matcha is more on the prosaic side. But there is still that enchantingly surreal color, those green and flowery scents, that incredibly fine powder. Add some vanilla and you are in heaven.
There is something miraculous in making cake with all its components showing different colors and textures. Which is no different when it comes to no-bake cake: all the handcraft and whisking and pouring is as wonderful as it has always been. Oh, that pouring! – at times I’d love to prepare cheesecake just for this beautifully sensual step. And besides a lovely sight, it’s likewise about green living.
Whenever I prepare a small cake only, I choose a no-bake version, or I bake a dough in my skillet-pan on the top of the stove instead of using a lot of energy to heat up a big oven. While eating plant-based is a wonderful part of climate protection already, a conscious consumption of energy beautifully joins in that path. A night on the fridge, if not a whole day, will bring all that goodness to the cheesecake that we wish for: full flavor and heavenly creaminess.
If I were to choose my favorite season, it would be that special time in between late summer and early autumn. It’s that time of the year when I forage the most, and friends and family endow me with treasures from their gardens. And it’s all vegan by itself, ain’t that beautiful. Whenever we feel like a plant-based nutrition would come along with dispensation, we just need to take a look into nature’s cabinet of wonders all around the year. Because it’s all there, the bounty, the bliss and the joy.
Cake is a wonderful treat to celebrate the seasons, each with its range of local fruit. And it might happen at times, that my cake is already prepared, waiting to be shooted and shared, when a random find in urban nature makes me change my plans. If not for the filling, than at least for decoration. Because we eat with our eyes not the least.
Like these wild hop cones who later that day were joined by some beautiful apples. And it was just a smell step from plain matcha cheesecake to that little beauty in its early-autumnly dress.
Giving final touches to a meal is a special moment, and this is oh so true when it comes to cake. Because these delicate treats are meant to be lovely more than anything else. Choosing the plate or stand, watching the colors, finishing with a little dust or frosting, decorating with fruit: It is an intimate moment, dedicated to togetherness and to gathering. We can have any food on our own, but a cake is something that we want to share. We surprise our beloved ones with cake. We mark a special moment with cake. It’s a labor of love.
Are you with me that cutting the cake is an exciting moment? Whether the filling turns out as dense and creamy as we hoped for, and if the crust is crisp and delicate: we will know it with the first serving. I am always a bit nervous before that initial cut. But if everything falls into place beautifully, what a magic moment it is. Is it really plant-based? Vegan cream cheese can do just that? It can. And it does. Few things in kitchen give me such vibes of happiness as a vegan cheesecake’s beautiful consistency. Because everything that is important to me in mindful cooking and green living is in that cake, from plant-based delight to seasonal bliss to the joy of old and new ways. My pleasure to share this with you.