Vegan Secret Suppers
The excesses of Thanksgiving have barely concluded, and holiday consumption will soon begin again. With the pressure to eat healthier while entertaining and impressing guests, hosting can be a challenging job.
Self-taught cook Mérida Anderson leads by example; she started the Vegan Secret Supper (VSS) dining club five years ago and has just released her first cookbook. Anderson is not promoting tofu or packaged, processed faux-meat substitutes; this is authentic vegan fine dining. The 150 recipes include Split Pea Bisque with minted coconut cream and cumin croutons, Hazelnut Rye Crisps, and Butternut Squash and Almond Gnocchi sautéed with sage-garlic butter.
“It is more work to make a vegan meal,” says Anderson. “You use more spices, it’s more of a complex cooking idea. You can’t just say ‘there’s my meat and I added a vegetable,’ but I think that’s a good thing. And as a vegan you definitely eat more. It processes in your body faster. It’s cleaner food, and goes through you like it should.”
Influenced by her peers at the time, Anderson has been vegan since age 16. So where did the desire to create meals for others begin?
“It all started when I was travelling on a bike tour in Eastern Canada about five years ago and was in Halifax, when I went to my friend Rob’s vegan supper club,” Anderson relates. “He had a large house where all the rooms in the main floor were set up with tables. It was such an amazing experience, and I thought, ‘I wish we had this in Vancouver!’ So I came home and told my roommate that I wanted to have a vegan supper club in our tiny attic apartment, and there it began.
“I’m always creating things,” she continues. “I like to start from scratch, and this was just one more thing. I had taken a break from fashion designing and was running an art gallery. Seeing the supper club, I thought ‘I could totally do this!’ I’d been working on a cookbook since I was 16, and thought ‘I can test out all my recipes and it will be really fun!’ Opening a restaurant seemed unattainable, but a supper club seemed totally possible.”
The VSS proved to be immensely popular and has expanded. Now based in Montreal, Anderson also regularly hosts suppers in New York and Vancouver. In the new year, she’ll cast the net even wider.
“I’m planning a supper tour next spring, all over North America. It’s a very community-oriented thing. I’ll be posting it and reaching out to people who want to host me. It will be a really interesting project, because it relies on a community of people, in whatever town is interested. I’m really excited.”
What is Anderson’s advice for others who have a passion or interest to pursue?
“Not being scared to just start, whatever level you’re at. For example, people who want to learn to draw: if you drew every day, in a year you’re going to be doubly as good as when you started. I think everybody has the potential to do so much, they just have to try. Whether it’s singing, drawing, playing music, or cooking; even if they say they can’t draw or cook, they can. You just have to work on it. And be okay with starting out with drawing a stick figure, or just learning how to cook rice.”