04/01/2014 05:11 EDT | Updated 06/01/2014 05:59 EDT

A Plea for More Tempeh

My name is Giselle, and I am a tempeh convert. I was once skeptical because I didn't know what to expect when I first tried it a few years ago, but it has really grown on me lately.

Sure, tofu is great and it works wonders in many recipes, and lentils and beans provide a meaty texture in countless veganized dishes. However, I have a special place in my heart for the nutty flavour and chewy texture of tempeh, tofu's less processed cousin.

'Addicted' is a strong word, but I would at least say that I am a bit hooked and usually crave tempeh once a day. What some might call a 'habit' I call an 'intense appreciation.'

Dependence issues aside, the problem with my strong personal protein bias is that while vegan cookbooks run rampant with tempeh-based recipes (and cookbook authors' apparent assumptions that this ingredient is easy to come by), tempeh can be a bit of a hassle to track down in Calgary.

While a quick trip to practically any big-name supermarket in the city can usually guarantee tofu in a variety of textures, many of these stores won't have an ounce of the slightly fermented soybean cakes.

Do they stock tempeh bacon? Yeah, they might have that.

Tempeh burgers? Maybe you'll luck out in the freezer aisle.

But straight-up, unflavoured tempeh? Not likely.

The few places in the city you will be able to score this item are health food stores and specialty stores like T&T, which can be a bit of a trek for some.

While it's great to know where to score some tempeh, I'm more interested in advocacy and would love for mainstream stores to stock their shelves high with the purest of tempeh cakes so that curious shoppers can take a chance on this fabulously tasty and healthy food. My hope is to spread the gospel of tempeh and convert skeptics into connoisseurs, thereby fueling the need for change and influencing the chain of supply and demand.

I propose tempeh fans everywhere band together and ask their local, big-box grocery stores to stock more of this magical product so we can make shopping for tempeh (and appeasing smug vegan cookbook authors everywhere) easier for us all.

If you're on a wild goose chase for tempeh in Calgary any time soon, don't be afraid to speak up and chat with your neighbourhood store's manager about the possibility of them stocking tempeh (or any other hard-to-find vegan items on your wish list). I'm sure that if stores take our requests to heart, we'll make someone's day when they find that instead of embarking on a long and arduous citywide search for obscure ingredients, they've only had to travel two blocks to the nearest Safeway to get what they were looking for.

But please don't blame me if you suddenly get hooked on tempeh and start daydreaming about the many ways you could prepare it. If my love of this protein powerhouse is any indication, the allure of tempeh is contagious and you may be left powerless - though happily satisfied. Beware, and enjoy!