Seitan, alchemy, the pantry

i am eating homemade seitan! i was resigned to creating an inedible learning experience on my first try (or two), but the results of this first attempt are just fine. a little denser than the packaged stuff i usually buy, but tasty. best of all, a $5 bag of vital wheat gluten looks like it will produce at least 12 packages worth (street value $36).

(for the uninitiated: seitan is a chewy vegetarian protein source, made by boiling a dough made from wheat gluten. also known as wheat cutlets, and the usual ingredient in mock chicken dishes. these are my seitan recipes.)

i don’t yet understand the correlation between pre-boiling consistency and final product. the transformation from wheat flour to fake meat is a weird one. i thought my dough would fall apart during boiling for sure, but it came out huge and puffy and dense. how can something be puffy and dense? meat replacement is alchemy. next time i won’t knead it so much.

this reminds me of canning, in that i have a giant and very heartening stash of seitan in the fridge now. galen wisely asked if seitan could be frozen. at that point, it would become a full-fledged member of the long-term food stores, which is always a satisfying occasion.

the pantry seems so noble, despite being basically a glorification of material gain. maybe the nobility comes from crediting outside sources (the bounty, the harvest, the earth, the fields!) for the treasure. or from the alchemy of turning cheap raw materials into valuable stores using a laborious ritual. (and such a ritual! complete with charts of numbers, specialized glassware, rules that can be bent and rules that can’t.)

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