Suki chatted with the Smith & Deli-cious authors about their book release:
Describe your new cookbook, Smith &; Deli-cious; Deli Food That Happens To Be Vegan in 3 words.
MW: Accessible, exciting… delicious (of course).
SM: Just like grandma. !
When my copy arrives, which recipe should I try first and why?
MW: Really hard to pick! Probably batch up things that will make your life easier for the week ahead. Bolognese is one Shannon and I recommend to everyone, especially when you’re trying to impress meat eaters. You can make heaps and save it for lasagne, pasta sauce, pizza, everything.
SM: Scalloped Potatoes: there are few things as comforting as a giant bowl of Scalloped Potatoes. Your mom made it, my mom made it, everyone has a connection, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who would say no to this dish.
Which recipe was the most fun to come up with?
MW: Because I don’t come up with any of the recipes, it’s so much fun to watch Shannon actually translate her recipes from brain to paper as she rarely writes anything down. Plus when deciding what went into the book. That was really hard to decipher what to give away and what to hold close to the chest. There has to be more books to come!
SM: It’s my job, it’s all fun. The most challenging was getting the brownie right. The classic thing that makes brownies, eggs, that’s what gives the fudginess. There was a lot of versions of this before it became the brownie in this book. Otherwise, it’s just chocolate
What new creations are you working on bringing to life in your ‘little science lab’?
SM: Choux pastry. One day I will make a vegan croquembouche.
Dogs get not one but two double page spreads in the cookbook! Do you have any furry, four-legged friends at home?
MW: With our crazy lifestyle the animal wouldn’t get enough care, so having so many dog visitors to the Deli is a close second. We do, however, do a lot of pet sitting for friends. Patsy, in particular (Pg 14 in the book), we joke is our stepdaughter, we get her every other weekend while her mums are away.
SM: Don’t be fooled by him amongst the dogs on page 15, Axl has passed away; hence the dedication to him in the thanks section.
It sounds like an amazing place to work – as well as eat – what’s your favourite story about the staff or a crazy day at the deli?
MW: Putting together the perfect team was crucial to making the deli work. Shannon and I believe in making really strong and efficient, fun and above all respectful teams, it’s really important to dispel the usual hospo work environment, especially when you’re working under such extreme conditions. Putting together the managers’ profiles and quotes and writing the segment on the staff was a really special moment, their sharing of the place, and it being unable to be replicated. There were some tears when I was writing that part.
Crazy days at the deli happen all the time, particularly on Saturdays and we really have to behave as a perfect machine. Our little space doesn’t warrant for much faff, so we get to a point in the mayhem where we’re just arms and legs and don’t even have to look at each other or speak, we’re literally moving like the best choreographed dance or well oiled machine. Those are my favourite moments. Then when Lara, our manager breaks it up with a little speech about how the wait will be worth it, and makes everyone crack a sweaty smile, that’s the best.
SM: The day was really hot, the queue was massive, so I cut up a watermelon and handed it out in line.
You can feel so much emotion when you talk about how Shannon (still) isn’t vegan – if
you could say one thing to critical vegans out there, what would it be?
MW: Please focus your energies somewhere else. If you want to get fired up, there’s a lot of people out there doing really really bad things to the environment, animals and each other; put your worries with those people. I would say it’s less vegan to criticise a vegan business. Any negativity translates as well. Each time something bad is recorded, that’s a tick against someone potentially giving us a shot. And if that means that person who eats meat just goes somewhere else rather than our shops, thats a step in the wrong direction.
SM: Stop worrying about what I’m doing, and start doing something yourself. For the vegan community and cause.
Most of our readers are in Brisbane, so we won’t have the chance to visit your iconic deli in person, do you have any plans to expand to other states?
MW: We want so much for the business, but we really do have to do things and do them right. Hence why the book is so crucial. It’s like having your own little Fitzroy in Briz.
SM: Not currently. But we try to do events interstate whenever possible to make up for that.
The photos in the book are brilliant, how important is it to show what goes on behind the scenes at the shop?
MW: We say in the beginning of the book that the deli is more of a feeling than a place, and community is so important. We wanted to share that while the food is amazing and innovative, the place is also so very very special. This also feeds into the very important facet in life that’s quickly depleting, the human connection, a place where people know your name and your order, can help you through a break up or ask you about your trip.
SM: It’s important for us to show that it’s real people making real food, it isn’t a factory.
Be honest, there really is no substitute for bacon! How close does your rice paper bacon recipe compare? And where, oh where do you get liquid smoke from?!
SM: It doesn’t compare. But it gives you certain components bacon gives you. Smoke, greasiness, flavour. As we say in the book this is no means bacon. Liquid smoke, most every day delis and specialty food stores. And Latin grocery stores. And vegan grocery stores should have it. When all else fails, the internet has it. !
One final question – are all the recipes in your cookbook really vegan?! Just kidding!
SM: No. But you have to guess which one is not.
MW: Ha. I love this. But really, people do ask us this every day, all the time. It’s the best seeing the faces light up when they realise they can eat everything!