Brian Tronsgaard wasn’t a vegan when he met Brenna Peterson.
He wasn’t even in America.
The musician was at home in Denmark when he and Brenna met online after Brenna had seen a band he sometimes played with at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2006.
She fell in love with the Danish group, went online to find out everything she could about them and, in the process, met Brian. They started corresponding. He came to visit for a three-week vacation and moved here for good not long after. They married in 2012 on top of Mount Bonnell.
A longtime vegan, Brenna’s eating habits started rubbing off on Brian. They started volunteering and then working at Johnson’s Backyard Garden, and he decided he was going to learn not just how to prepare food without animals products, but how to do it well.
"Three years ago, I didn’t know anything at all about cooking vegan food," Tronsgaard says.
He cooked every recipe out of the "Casa de Luz Sauces Cookbook," from Austin’s famed vegan restaurant, and discovered a book called "The Great Life Cookbook" by a vegan couple in New York state who have been hosting a Friday night supper club every week for nearly 20 years.
Tronsgaard reached out to the authors, Priscilla Timberlake and Lewis Freedman, to get some encouragement about cooking for a large gathering that would likely include non-vegans, who might be skeptics that vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds could make a fancy dinner party.
"We were eating all this incredible stuff and I wanted to share it with our friends," he says. "I wanted to show people what vegan food can be."
After he started to master some of the techniques for turning seemingly boring ingredients into something worthy of a dinner party spread, he and Brenna decided it was time to share what they’d learned in a supper club in January 2013.
After the first dinner party, Tronsgaard was wiped. "I thought, ‘We’re never doing this again’," he says, but Timberlake and Freedman gave them the motivation to continue. Before long, they were hosting monthly supper clubs and weekend breakfast clubs that featured Tronsgaard’s vegan, gluten-free waffles.
With the exception of some of the oils, seeds and grains, nearly every ingredient comes from a local farm, and Tronsgaard shops at farmers markets and farm stands several days a week leading up to the Thursday night Commerce Street Supper Club dinners.
You can find out more about upcoming meals at informaldinner.wordpress.com and read the rest of the column, which appears in today’s print food section, over on MyStatesman.com.
Sauces are one of the keys to eating well as a vegan, Brian Tronsgaard says. They not only add new textures and flavors to traditionally prepared vegetables but also sneak in extra protein, vitamins and minerals. This "tea-hini" sauce is Tronsgaard’s adaptation of the popular tahini sauce served nearly every meal at Casa de Luz. You can buy kukicha twig tea at Wheatsville both in bulk and in tea bags.
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup tahini (homemade or store-bought)
3/4 cup kukicha twig tea or filtered water
3 Tbsp. shoyu, tamari or soy sauce
1/4 cup brown rice vinegar
3 scallions, sliced, for garnish
Black seasame seeds, toasted, for garnish
Place all ingredients except the scallions and sesame seeds in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Garnish with scallion tops and black sesame seeds and serve on top of steamed greens, rice, salad or just about anything else you’d like.
— Recipes from "Casa de Luz Sauces Cookbook"