By Brieanne Graham
Believe it or not, the story of how Sarah Louise Foster fell in love with cooking started at a truck stop diner in Strathmore. Not because of the food, but because the owners were her parents. Sarah now runs a vegan baking business and teaches vegan food classes in Edmonton, but for this self-taught cook, that experience helped inspire many important decisions in her life.
As the diner sourced from local farms, Sarah accompanied her father on those visits, which helped her realize where food comes from. Then, at the age of eight, Sarah started eating less meat.
"I was a curious kid who asked a lot of questions," says Sarah. "Luckily, my parents were honest and supportive, because once I starting making those connections, I realized that I had to do something. That eventually led to me becoming a vegan in high school, but it started with my parents subscribing me to Vegetarian Times after we fell into a rut veggie-fying our regular dinner go-to’s."
Unfortunately, vegan options in her community were limited, so she was grateful to the magazine for helping build her foundations in cooking. From there, Sarah started experimenting with ingredients and creating her own recipes. In fact, during the summer, one of her hobbies would be taking one of her grandma's cookbooks and trying to vegan-ize recipes.
That experimentation continued as she left for university in Calgary, which provided Sarah with access to more ingredients than she could ever imagine. While in school, she started a vegan blog and discovered her interest in vegan baking. As she started to share her creations with others, Sarah reached a point where people wanted to buy her products, so she started to sell her baking at the Market Collective in Calgary on weekends.
After graduating with her degree, portions of her jobs developed teaching skills at a time when Sarah decided that she wanted to do something more with vegan baking. Business classes were the first step through Momentum, a Calgary program focused on female entrepreneurs.
“From there, I did a lot of market research on food-related businesses with a plant-based niche,” she said. “I ultimately decided to move to Edmonton and started my business through the local farmer’s market. Eventually, I worked up the courage to teach a course at The Pan Tree in 2015. The rest, as they say, was history.”
Sarah continues to teach at The Pan Tree and started teaching classes for the City of Edmonton last year. In her classes, Sarah enjoys teaching people different types of food, including fresh pasta in her Italian food class. However, deep down, Sarah still has a soft spot for teaching baking.
"People have come a long way when it comes to vegan food, but I find they are always the most skeptical about vegan baking," she said. "However, there are plenty of substitute options out there. I even have a chart for my students for egg substitutes."
In case you’re curious, flax works for things that need to bind and silken tofu works for custards or pies. Or, to replace egg whites, use aquafaba.
“Aquafaba is the literal water from chickpeas. Most people throw it away, but you can actually use it to make meringues and French pastry.”
For meat substitutes, along with tofu, Sarah recommends using textured vegetable proteins. She recently taught a class where they used that to make tourtière and it went over extremely well.
As the number of alternatives continue to increase, vegan food has become more popular, which makes it harder to surprise people. Still, when it comes to cooking, Sarah’s favourite part is recipe making and seeing people’s reactions.
“Whether it’s selling, serving or teaching vegan food, it is truly fun to make people happy with food,” she said. “You put a lot of love into it, and a bit of faith if you’re baking, as you toss it in the oven and hope that it turns out. But when it does and people love it, or when someone is appreciative for learning a new skill, it is so satisfying.”
Sarah intends to bring that passion to Eat Alberta next month, where she will be teaching participants how to make pulled BBQ & slaw sandwiches, as well as vegan salted chocolate chip cookies.
"I'm thrilled to be a part of Eat Alberta 2018, especially under a theme like ‘More with Less,’ as people are searching for plant-based options," she said. “These sandwiches provide multiple opportunities to have fun, especially in the fixings, which could include homemade maple BBQ sauce and aquafaba mayo.”
The event is quickly approaching, so don’t miss out on taking Sarah’s session.
Or, you're in Edmonton and are interested or curious about vegan baking, Sarah’s company, Blue Rose Baking Co., sells vegan cupcakes and seasonal goodies. The cupcakes are available year-round at The Tea Girl or you can join her not-so-secret Cupcake Club. Or, if you’re interested in her classes at The Pan Tree, visit http://register.thepantree.ca/