Here’s a word that was completely unknown to me 24 hours ago: aquafaba. As this definition on the Oxford Dictionaries website tells us, it’s “water in which chickpeas or other pulses have been cooked, used as a substitute for egg whites, particularly in vegan cooking.” Its origin is very recent (2015), “from Latin aqua ‘water’ + faba ‘bean’”.
I came across the word yesterday while flicking through the various supplements in the Weekend edition of the Guardian, before throwing them out. There are many references to aquafaba in the weekly food magazine. The magazine is called “Feast” and this week it’s a vegan special. The advert on the back page is for non-dairy Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Inside, among other things, is an A-Z of vegan food, “A beginner’s guide”. I quote in full the entry for A:
“It’s been called a miracle ingredient, a secret weapon, and the one thing vegans have been waiting for since the term “vegan” was coined in 1944. Aquafaba, or bean water (the liquor from cooking pulses), perfectly mimics egg’s ability to trap air (cue vegan meringue), emulsify (vegan mayonnaise), thicken (vegan ice-cream) and bind (vegan meatballs). For something that until four years ago was only ever drained down the sink, it’s revolutionary.”
You can read the whole A-Z here. The entry for A contains a sentence that wasn’t in the print edition, about “an aquafaba mozzarella that can be sliced, grated and melted – properties that had eluded previous vegan cheeses”.
There has been much talk about veganism this month (in the press, on TV and radio, in adverts for supermarkets). People are being encouraged to go vegan for January. It doesn’t feel like 12 months since the last lot of pull-outs, suggestions and recommendations for the New Year. I recall reading, over a year ago, one journalist’s revelation about going vegan: you save a lot of time and decision-making about what to cook and which unhealthy things to avoid. It’s pretty much all healthy. You don’t need to trade off a midnight kebab or a sausage and egg McMuffin at breakfast with healthier, meat-free options. You leave out the kebabs and the McMuffins altogether. The only time that I’ve managed something similar is during Lent. By avoiding crisps, fizzy drinks, chocolate in all its forms, sweets and snacks generally, you are left eating, primarily, food and not junk. You don’t need to trade a chocolate bar against a cycle ride or a swim. You skip the chocolate bar completely, until Easter Sunday.
As a family we have never even discussed going vegan for a month but if we ever gave it a go I suspect that the following two things would apply: we wouldn’t call it “Veganuary”, and aquafaba would feature heavily in our diet.