Beanstory: It's so nice to connect with you. Part of what I love so much about having started Beanstory, is that I now have a chance to have conversations like this that would have never been imaginable to me before. To start, I've been wanting to ask you...where does the name Occasionally Eggs come from? It sounds like there's a backstory.
Alexandra Daum: The name comes from eggs being too expensive for me to use in all the constant, daily baking I did as a kid and it driving my mom up the wall, so I learned to bake with less or no eggs.
Bs: I love that - how a constraint led you to be creative in new ways. You obviously baked a lot as a kid, was your childhood very food focused?
AD: It was - I helped my mom cook most meals when I was small, and it was something we bonded over. My mom is an immigrant so most of her friends in Canada were also immigrants when I was a kid, and that informed a lot of the cooking we did. Italian, Indian, Mexican recipes from friends, and then of course traditional German cooking from her family recipes. We always ate a lot of vegetables and there was variation in what we ate, so it's not like I grew up on canned soups, and it was a pretty easy transition to the way I eat and cook now.
Bs: I know you mainly use seasonal ingredients in your cooking now. What are some of your go-to-meals at this time of year (March)?
AD: We eat a lot of lentil burgers / patties, oven potatoes with cabbage and lentil salad, refried beans, tray bakes with chickpeas, a lot of soups and stews and curries, and sourdough veggie pizza every Friday.
Bs: That's a nice way to kick off the weekend. Sadly, I can't eat gluten. It all started with a rash and generally makes me feel awful. So pizza's out for me, but the rest sounds lovely.
AD: Well, if it makes you feel better, I can't eat dairy. It makes me puke.
Bs: Ouch. From taste or you can't physically tolerate it?
AD: I can't tolerate it. I have a dairy allergy so it causes migraines, hives, and stomach upset.
Bs: Oh wow. I'm so sorry to hear that. On the upside, it's better for the environment! But is dairy something you miss?
AD: Not at all, I really don't feel like I'm missing out. Like you, I don't want to feel crappy all the time, and for me, when I started eating more carefully, I noticed how much certain foods would make me feel really sluggish, or bloated, or anxious. So now that I have kind of realized that, I wouldn't want to go back to feeling that way all the time.
Bs: Exactly. I feel the same way. Except for when I'm in Europe. That's when I gorge on bread and can hardly contain myself. Although I don't get the same reaction - which says something about the different quality of ingredients between the US and Europe. Do you think you'll ever move back?
AD: I had a dream last night where, where my husband said we're going to move back to Saskatchewan, and I was like "NO!" Ha. I can't see us ever moving back, even though I love it. If we were to go somewhere else, we'd likely move back to Germany.
Bs: Because of family? That's what led you to move in the first place. Right?
AD: Yeah, most of my maternal family is in Germany, with just my mom in Canada. My first overseas move was to Germany. I wanted to be closer to that side of the family. From there, we went to the Netherlands and now Sweden.
Bs: I know there are so many good reasons to live in Europe, but what do you miss most about Manitoba?
AD: How clear the air is...and the parks. There are nice parks in Sweden and they're really easy to access, but nothing is as wild as it is in Canada. I really miss seeing the northern lights most evenings in the winter and how bright the stars are at night, especially when it's -40."
Bs: You somehow make minus 40 sound appealing - but I'm not sure I could handle that - even for the Northern Lights. What do you love about living in Sweden?
AD: Public transit! I grew up in a rural farming community about half and hour from the closest town / city with a grocery store. The 'town' my school is in has a handful of houses and the two schools that serve an area of maybe 50 kilometers. But I love the trains and trams, and would never have a car again.
Bs: I never thought I'd have a car living in NYC, but we got one during the pandemic and now I'm a regular driver here, which is weird, but strangely convenient. Now that you're living in Sweden, do you mainly stay local or do you enjoy traveling?
AD: I don't really travel, but I like going to the woods. We go hiking every weekend in the parks around Gothenburg and I find that really grounds me and can get me through the following week.
Bs: Do you have any other practices that keep you grounded?
AD: Outside of cooking and photography, I do a lot of handwork - goldsmithing, ceramics, sewing, needle felting, and am always making something. And gardening, of course.
Bs: You grow a lot of your own food...I have to ask, have you ever grown beans?
AD: Yes! We grow them every year for green beans, and when we've had enough space, we also grow them to dry. We've also tried growing lentils, but they haven't done as well.
Bs: That's awesome. You're clearly a big bean and legume fan. Do you have any varieties you can't live without?
AD: Ooh it's a toss up between green lentils and chickpeas! I think probably a nice green or brown lentil, though red lentils are also a very important legume and I use them a lot...I've always adored lentils. Truly, even as a kid. Now we always have loads of different legumes in the house.
Bs: Red lentils are in the recipe you've shared with us...which is so great. Thank you. My teenage kids devoured the Lentil Patties, which says something. I also told them that you share their affection for salt + vinegar chips. Which might have warmed them up a bit first. Hope you don't mind. What makes a stand-out chip in your books?
AD: Okay, so the perfect S&V chip should feel like it's burning a hole in my tongue. I cannot get good super acidic chips like this in Europe. I'm pretty sure it's some kind of additive that's illegal here. Remember those rave chips, I think they were called? Must be crispy and not oily, too. Good organic chips, especially if they don't come in a plastic bag, are virtually impossible to find. I buy regular salted chips now and dip them in vinegar, no joke.
Bs: I love vinegar on fries, but haven't tried dipping chips. Although, I'm clearly not faced with a shortage of burn-your-tongue chips with illegal ingredients in the US! Do you have any other recommendations? What about books?
AD: I'm a BIG reader and read several books a week...When I was a kid we didn't really have access to a library, so I read the same books over and over...Margaret Atwood...Alias Grace, Handmaid's Tale, Edible Woman...Diana Wynne Jones. One non-fiction book that had a real influence was Tangled Routes, which gives a moving overview of how women act within the food system. It's a big reason why I shifted to buying organic food. I had a strong reaction to thinking of farm workers being so impacted by the sprays used as they're working
Bs: Your reaction reminds me of our own story and how reading We Are the Weather led us down this path to Beanstory. And also how your own book - your cookbook - was really the impetus for this whole conversation, too. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat and for sharing your delicious recipe.
A: It's a pleasure. I've been following what you're up to and wish you the best.
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