Monday is Ms. Miriam’s day off, and she continues to spend it the way she likes: researching new techniques at home and testing them in the evening on friends who serve as both guests and guinea pigs. “I like to try maybe two or three new recipes a week,” she said.
Many of her recent tests have focused on the transformation of vegan ingredients into simulations of dairy: whipped cream, butter, cheese and ice cream. She found that adding cocoa butter was crucial to her vanilla-black pepper ice cream’s luxurious melting sensation on the tongue.
Three years ago, a regular customer brought in a copy of Miyoko Schinner’s “Artisan Vegan Cheese” for Ms. Miriam, and it sent her down a rabbit hole of nondairy cheese-making, a pursuit she had previously dismissed.
Now Bloodroot’s take on vegan cheeses, made from cultured nut milks, are part of a new happy-hour special, served with wine alongside an intensely flavored mushroom-walnut pâté that has been on the menu since 1984.
The best of the cheeses may be a deeply flavored Cheddar-like number with a ripe, softly alcoholic aroma, named after the writer Willa Cather. And the restaurant’s whipped coconut butter, spread on thick slices of warm, tangy house-made rye, is as pale and creamy as its dairy counterpart.
But Ms. Miriam has already moved on to her next project: finding out how that vegan butter performs in a laminated dough, like puff pastry, so she can update even more dishes.
Ms. Furie and Ms. Miriam met in 1972. They were both, as Ms. Furie put it, “dissatisfied housewives.” And at a series of chapter meetings held by the National Organization for Women, they discovered they were not alone in their dissatisfaction.
“You have to act on what you know,” Ms. Miriam said.
One thing they knew was that they loved to cook. They began by charging $8 for a weekly buffet for women. They cooked lavish and flavorful vegetarian food — asparagus and buttery sauce Maltaise, thali platters crammed with many kinds of dals and vegetables. For dessert they made warm poppy seed strudel, or, when there was something to celebrate, Julia Child’s absurdly rich Queen of Sheba cake.
With help from Ms. Miriam’s parents, they secured a mortgage to buy the space that would become Bloodroot, for $80,000. They had looked in nearby towns and in commercial strip malls, but were won over by the old machine shop, which also had room for a garden.
“Being in a working-class neighborhood is a really good thing,” said Ms. Furie, who moved to Bridgeport from Westport, “and we think it’s absolutely critical to being a human being in the world, to have an intimacy with many different ways of thinking and being.”
When the restaurant opened in 1977, the local vegetarian scene was small, and the no-tipping policy Bloodroot adopted wasn’t yet part of the national conversation about restaurant labor. But informed by their feminism and a desire to live their values, Ms. Furie and Ms. Miriam ran their restaurant their own way.
Ms. Furie had worked unhappily as a server. She imagined a restaurant where no one “waited” on anyone else, where customers picked up their food directly from the kitchen and cleared their own plates and silverware, a bit like at home. A sense of hospitality and warmth would come from the people in Bloodroot’s kitchen.
The women who work alongside Ms. Furie and Ms. Miriam at Bloodroot are immigrants from Brazil, Congo, Haiti and Mexico, and each helps make the menu what it is: an international miscellany.
On any given day at Bloodroot, there are tender beans cooked in clay pots, tofu pockets stuffed with grilled greens, and many kinds of soups and stews. The restaurant serves eggs, but its menu has leaned more and more vegan over the years. Queen of Sheba cake has made way for vegan banoffee pie.
Carol Graham, who comes from Jamaica, has been reporting for eight years to the long, sunlit kitchen, where a framed photo of Thelma and Louise hangs over the stove. Though she hadn’t cooked vegetarian food before arriving, it didn’t take her long to improve on Bloodroot’s jerk tofu and seitan.
If Ms. Graham’s jerk were taken off the menu, “there would be serious complaints,” said Ms. Furie, polishing off a bowl of mushroom soup. Ms. Graham, seated across from her as she ate her own lunch, acknowledged this truth with a smile. (She will teach a class on her jerk recipe at the restaurant this Sunday.)
The restaurant got its striking, witchy name from a plant, native to the Northeast, whose white flowers start to bloom in March. Over time, its rhizomes grow deeper, connecting with others nearby, getting stronger as they form an invisible network under the ground.
This year, Ms. Furie and Ms. Miriam want to celebrate not only their own work, but also the work of those who have grown all around them.
They have invited chefs from vegetarian restaurants in other parts of the state to cook with them in a series of dinners that began on March 5 and will end in mid-April. They include two Jamaican restaurants, Fire & Spice in Hartford and Shandals in Bridgeport, and Navaratna, a South Indian restaurant in Stamford. Claire’s Corner Copia, which opened in New Haven in 1975, will also be there.
It’s nothing like their usual birthday party, a dinner on the Wednesday closest to the spring equinox. But Ms. Furie and Ms. Miriam agreed that a 40-year anniversary called for something more extravagant.
“It’s good to explore new things,” Ms. Miriam said.