Some say vegan cabaret singer, dancer and actress Mistress Ginger is nothing more than a stage persona created by someone named Justin Leaf. That same rumor also says Leaf – a 37-year-old Minneapolis, Minn., resident with a degree in dance performance from Juilliard – is the real author of a recently released cookbook titled Mistress Ginger Cooks! Everyday Vegan Food for Everyone.
But if that's the truth, then how did the person claiming to be Mistress Ginger know so much about the book? Recipes for stuff like Swoop-me-up smoothies and Gingersnatch cookies aren't common knowledge. And her answer regarding her stint as a dominatrix is specific enough to convince even the most skeptical skeptic.
Based on her answers, it's safe to say Mistress Ginger exists – and she's got a new vegan cookbook. In it, we learn how to follow a vegan diet that allows for sweets such as Pound-Me Cake while still allowing us to fit into our tights.
Squid Ink: How did you learn how to cook? And, more importantly, how did you learn to become a mistress?
Mistress Ginger: It was a gradual process. After running away from home, I had to figure out how to feed myself. Trying to make it as a showgirl, exhausting myself with kicklines and shimmy ripples, I needed to fuel this dancing body. I tried living on cheap frozen pizza, but that wasn't working. Before long, I had some lovers who happened to be vegan and they shared the wonders of plant-based foods with me.
I dabbled in Macrobiotic cookery, feeding myself a very pure whole foods regimen. I eventually loosened up the regime, adding some more decadent vegan treats like my Barbarian Torte – and I found myself quite satisfied, surviving and thriving, as you can see.
I should mention that on my way to becoming the upstanding showgirl you see before you, I took a detour or two. At one point, I was working at Professor Rottenbottom's Pre-Opera House of Whores, where I was headlining as the resident dominatrix. It was sort of a song-and-dance-meets-BDSM kinda thing. It was there that I acquired the “mistress” moniker. I have since hung up my whip, but the name stuck. Of course, every now and then I find use for the whip. And I'm not talking about my Tenderly Whipped Topping.
SI: Speaking of which, what does it mean to be a mistress? And when does a mistress find time to cook?
MG: These days, being a mistress means being the hostess with the mostest. I'm the mistress of my culinary domain, where I whip up whatever dish suits my (or my lover's) fancy. I'm the mistress of theater, where I command the stage with delight. And I'm the mistress of my home – affectionately referred to as the gay Batcave. I love throwing parties for friends. I love intimate, romantic dinners for two, four, or maybe more. Essentially, I love showing people a good time and that's what it means to be a mistress. That, and I love telling people what to do.
Cooking is a part of my life, but I don't slave away in the kitchen. I typically keep it simple. Many of the culinary creations in my book are geared towards those living a glamorously busy life. The Swoop-me-up Smoothie is a perfect breakfast treat – so easy to throw together in the midst of a foggy morning haze. Gorgeous Grains is perhaps my simplest recipe because I'm essentially teaching you how to boil water. But grains form a fantastic foundation for many a meal, and can be used as leftovers. And you can dress them up in a variety of tantalizing ways – just like me.
SI: I'm just guessing here, but I'm assuming being a mistress involves having a cocktail at all times. Am I right?
MG: I wouldn't say “at all times,” but I'll certainly say yes to a cocktail now and then. First, I just love the word “cocktail.” Secondly, I have a great recipe for a cocktail in my book: It's called Love Juice and is made with fresh cherry juice, apple juice, sparkling water, cherry liqueur, agave nectar and – of course – love. Optionally, the beverage can be made virgin, but for me, at this point, non-virginal is my only option.
SI: Most people are good at only one thing if life. Not you. You dance and cook. How'd you do that?
MG: What, did you not get the memo? I can do a hell of a lot more than that. I've actually reached that elusive quadruple-threat status: singer-dancer-actress and vegan know-it-all. How did I acquire all of this? Maybe it's because I'm a Gemini. You know, we can't just do one thing and be satisfied. The same applies to the boudoir.
SI: How is an LGBT vegan cookbook different than a non-LGBT vegan cookbook? And, since we're talking about LGBT, you appear to be a woman, so what's the LGBT connection, anyway?
MG: When you open the book, you are assaulted with a barrage of rainbows, glitter and unicorns. Wear goggles.
No one said I was a straight gal. Though I speak of my dalliances with hot, hunky men at length, I don't really put myself into one category. In fact, during my stint as a dominatrix, I had a lover of the female persuasion. Her name is Saliva Goodwife. I love you still, Saliva! Oh, and I had a creative adviser for the book by the name of Justin Leaf and he's as gay as they come. You think I'm man-hungry? You ain't seen nothing.
SI: Who is this Justin Leaf fellow and how can we stop talking about him and start talking about your recipes?
MG: What? You want me to talk more about myself? I think I can handle that. What more would you like to know about my recipes? So often my peeps ask me which recipe is my favorite and I just can't pick one. It's like picking a favorite child. No! I love them all.
SI: You have a recipe for midnight pancakes, which you describe as “a perfect snack to fuel a pair of hungry lovers.” Is this true? Because if it's late night and I've got a lover, do I really want to waste my time with mixing non-dairy milk, sugar, oil and vanilla extract?
MG: After a first round of love-making, a batch of Midnight Pancakes will give you fuel for a second round. It's carb-loading at it's finest. And if the batter mixing should erupt into some elicit kitchen shenanigans, well, who can say no to that? Feel free to use that butcher's block as a makeshift jungle gym.
SI: Based on titles alone, my favorite recipe of yours is Pound-Me Cake, although I suspect that could go in the opposite direction if my mind was in the gutter. What's your favorite recipe title and why?
MG: My mind is always in the gutter, which is where I had to live in order to write this book. Fortunately, the gutter is equipped with a well-stocked kitchenette. Though I don't have a favorite recipe, some of my recipe titles stand out to me as exceptionally evocative. I adore Gingersnatch Cookies. One reason I love this title is that I didn't come up with it. No, one of my beloved Facebook fans posted it on my Facebook page when I asked for some recipe title ideas. Two heads are better than one. I'll let your gutter-bound imagination do what you like with that statement.
SI: Let's say I was a cabaret dancer. What recipes of yours should I avoid to make sure I fit into my dancing clothes?
MG: Some of my more decadent dishes can be found in the dessert chapter, titled Put a Little Sugar in My Bowl. Beware of the Tie-the-Knot Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie, Coconutty Ginger Cheesecake, Babooshka Bundles and the aforementioned Barbarian Torte. Of course, if you enjoy these treats in moderation, you're not likely to bust a button on your gold sequin onesie. The unruly amounts of fat and sugar and refined flour are to be saved for that special occasion … like Tuesday.
SI: Speaking of dancing clothes – I didn't go to the prom. That's not really a question, but feel free to answer as if it is.
MG: Ryan Ritchie, are you asking me to the prom? Well, I'd be thrilled to accompany to you. You know, I've not been to a prom either; they didn't have them at the reform school. But I think we could crash a high school prom and do a lot of good for the teens today. I've been wanting to teach these young people how to walk in heels. Most of them look like they just got off a horse and are on their way to plow the fields. One day, I'd like to start a charm school for girls – open to girls and boys, of course.
SI: I really want to enjoy your food but I have a concern: As a young, straight, white male, will your recipes taste the same to me or will my young, straight, white male privilege not allow my palate to recognize your flavor profiles?
MG: The subtitle of my book is Everyday Vegan Food for Everyone. Everyone means you too, Ryan. Of course, you'd have to be okay with the pictures of shirtless, hunky men strewn throughout the book. Something tells me that your straight white maleness wouldn't be threatened by those images of masculine beauty.
SI: I had a mistress once and she was vegan. Any chance it was you?
MG: Hmm. it could have been me. Or if it wasn't before, it can be now. You know how to reach me.
SI: Your resume mentions that you're part of the cabaret circuit. Pardon me, but what year is this? I ask because I thought that died in 1908.
MG: Are you speaking of the vaudeville circuit? Yes, that's something of a defunct operation. However, the cabaret circuit is alive and well and fabulous, at least it is in my neck of the woods.
SI: How much crossover is there in the vegan and cabaret communities?
MG: Michael Feinstein and Nellie McKay are vegan. So there! And there may be others. Beware, we're on the cusp of a vegan cabaret revolution and I am a pink-haired revolutionary with my heart set on cultural transformation and universal upliftment by way of song, dance and delicious vegan cookery.
SI: I'm vegan, 5'10'' and 160 pounds. Can I make it as a cabaret dancer? I've always wanted to see my name in lights.
MG: What a coincidence, I'm also 5'10'' and nearly 160 pounds. So the answer is yes, you too can be a cabaret diva. Now if height and weight aren't enough to get your name in lights, as a last resort, you could legally change your name to Mistress Ginger. Then surely you'd see your name in lights. That's what I did and it worked for me. What? You didn't realize that Mistress Ginger was just a stage name? Yes, it's true. My real name is Mary Morningstar.
Turn the page for Mistress Ginger's recipe for Midnight Pancakes[
From: Mistress Ginger
Makes: 12 pancakes
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking salt
Pinch of salt
2 cups plain nondairy milk
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons canola oil plus more for oiling the skillet
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups frozen blueberries
1. As the clock strikes midnight, preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. It's gotta be midnight somewhere, right? Maybe in Tokyo? (Use that as your excuse to make Midnight Pancakes any time of the day or night.)
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large measuring cup or small bowl, mix the nondairy milk, sugar, oil and vanilla extract.
3. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture. Stir gently until the flour is just moistened. Fold the blueberries into the batter and let sit for about 5 minutes to thicken.
4. Heat a thin layer of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low and add the batter to the skillet, using a scant 1?3 cup of batter per pancake. (Each pancake will have about a 41?2-inch diameter.)
5. After about 3 minutes, when the pancakes begin to look dry on the edges but still wet in the center and small bubbles form on the tops, flip them to the other side. Have fun flipping your pancakes and see how much air time you can get. (Nine-foot-high ceilings are a must!)
6. Let the pancakes cook until the other side is golden brown, about 2 minutes, and transfer to a pie pan. Cover the stack with a clean dish towel and put in the oven to keep warm until you're ready to serve. For subsequent batches, refresh the oil in the skillet as necessary.