Gluten-free, Kanten, Manhattan, Raspberry, Union Square, Vegan
Readers, I have made a huge mistake. Well. Sort of. I went on a diet! No, it isn’t some silly thing to lose boatloads of weight, primarily through ingesting nothing other than cayenne-spiked lemonade. I embarked on this three week journey because recently my food choices have been wayward. There’s been too much takeout and too little healthy home cooking. And thus, a diet was born. It’s nominally a “detox” (I really hate this meaningless term) exclusion diet that prioritizes whole, natural foods over processed and artificial foods. Along the way it cuts out gluten, dairy, meat and poultry, and – gasp! – added sugar.
Luckily for all the Celiacs out there, New York is a veritable wonderland of delicious gluten-free desserts. Unfortunately, even a gluten-free, vegan dessert usually has some form of sweetener, like agave nectar. That’s a no-no for me. The phrase that comes immediately to mind is, “Trapped in a hell of my own making.”
Alright, things aren’t so bad. I’ve adjusted well. Kind of. I’ve only had minor cravings, probably because I don’t eat much processed food and have already cut down on meat in favor of vegetables. But the real conundrum – and believe me, it was a puzzle – has been what to blog about during this diet.
Finally, after a lot of menu searching, I found something that not only fit my dietary constraints, but was not simply fruit salad. The answer: the fruit kanten at macrobiotic spot Souen.
Kanten, for those of you who are not in the know (like I was several days ago) is a Japanese jelled dessert made from fruit and agar-agar, a vegan gelatin substitute derived from seaweed. Essentially, it is vegan Jell-O. It can be molded and studded with slices of fruit and berries, which is more along the lines of what I was expected from Souen, or it can apparently be chopped and broken down until it is almost like a sauce.
On the day I went to Souen, the front pastry case was loaded up with a raspberry kanten ($4.50) that had been blended with apple juice (juice is permitted on my diet, hallelujah) to create something that had the taste and texture of a chunky raspberry apple sauce. Admittedly, this was a far but not unpleasant cry from the 70s Jell-O dome that I was expecting. I like raspberries. I also like apple sauce. There was absolutely nothing unlikeable about this dessert. It was refreshing if a tad plain. While it won’t go satisfying anyone’s craving for a hulking piece of chocolate cake, I could definitely see myself going to order this clean, cool dessert on a warm, summer day.
One week down! Two more to go. And for all those of you with involuntary dietary restrictions, kudos to you. Living in a city like New York, with its bounty of options, can be both exhilarating and tantalizing, depending on how stringent you need to be. If nothing else, this diet has already made me aware of how carelessly I choose my food on a daily basis. So for those of you who must be mindful: respect.
Three locations in Manhattan (I went to the outpost in Union Square)