My Week as Almost a Vegetarian
The New Year has been very busy. Even though it is well into February, I want to share my holiday season.
Last December (2015) I went to Denver for a week at Christmas. It was a great time with my daughters, Mande and Emily, that passed too quickly. Now that both girls are in Denver, visits will be easier to coordinate than when one there and the other in Austin.
My daughter Emily is a vegetarian and describes herself as almost vegan “except for that cheese and egg thing.” This started more years ago than I dare share when she was in high school. I respect her dedication and work to accommodate her dietary preferences when we are together. I am quick to remind her of an old New Yorker cartoon in which two women are dining in a posh (tiny table, white table cloth) restaurant. One held her martini in her hand and confided to the other, “I became a vegetarian to be a pain in the ass.” (At least I laugh at that cartoon!)
My almost a vegetarian week started immediately after Mande picked me up at the airport. We went to Emily’s apartment and we decided to go to the neighborhood pizza joint for dinner.
Denver had had a heavy snow the week before and there were a few icy patches left in shadowy places and some snow plow drifts here and there. We hiked through a dark alley with icy patches as a short cut to the pizza place. Just what a desert dweller with no real boots for snow needed to experience in the dark!
We made it safely to the restaurant. It was dark wood charming and had been there a long time. It was obviously a neighborhood favorite. We enjoyed a very good vegetarian appetizer and veggie and cheese pizza made even more tasty by a few good beers.
When we left the restaurant, we took the long way back to the apartment on the sidewalks, rather than through the icy alley.
Emily had to work the next day, so Mande and I did some errands and then drove to a grocery store that caters to a Mexican-American neighborhood. I felt like I was back in El Paso and recognized many of the same products and brands my local stores carry. We were there to pick up ingredients for a new recipe I’d been working on for nopal (prickly pear cactus) enchiladas. This store carries fresh, sliced nopales and frozen green chile. We were well on our way to dinner!
I showed the girls how I sauté the sticky sap off the diced cactus. We thawed and squeezed the water out of the chile, chopped onion and garlic and grated cheese. A sweat for the onions and garlic, and the addition of cactus and chile and the assembly began. Another trick for the girls was making pickled red onions to garnish the finished casserole.
Heated through and cheese melted, sprinkled with chopped cilantro, the enchiladas were attacked by a hungry vegetarian and the carnivores.
We are chimeras chile eaters) and proud of it! The girls made and canned red chile sauces to give special friends for Christmas. I got to sample it as one of my favorite breakfasts- red enchiladas montadas (it means stacked, not mounted) topped with a fried egg! Lush.
Enchiladas montadas (stacked) with egg. A favorite breakfast treat!
Emily was off the next day, so after we all went shopping, she made Reuben sandwiches for dinner. Remember, Emily is the vegetarian. No corned beef or pastrami on her Reubens! The protein was tempeh – a mystically transformed soybean pseudo-meat that when seasoned and browned and actually very good! Tempeh, sauerkraut and mustard on rye and coleslaw on the side was great.
Tempeh Reuben sandwich on rye with a side of coleslaw. Who needs corned beef?
Christmas Eve was a culinary adventure. Mande and I made a Vegducken – a vegetarian take on the three-fowl stuffed Turducken. We used a butternut squash, an eggplant and zucchini layered and stuffed with trimmings from the vegetables, minced mushroom and butter. All trussed up, it was impressive!
While the vegducken roasted in a crockpot, we picked up our friend Callie, had a quick brewski and went to see the light display at the Denver Botanical Garden.
Christmas Eve Dinner untied and served. The vegducken was worth the work! A champagne toast celebrated a beautiful Christmas season with my wonderful daughters, and hopefully the start of a new tradition of holiday togetherness.
Christmas Day was lunch out and a light dinner. I enjoyed pork belly and egg on pita points. I love pork belly and sadly have to say there wasn’t enough on the serving to offend any of the noncarnivores in the room.
The day after Christmas, I woke weak and trembly. I knew what I had to do. I dressed and braved the morning chill and icy patches on the sidewalk and the parking lot. I made it in one piece to the McDonald’s around the corner. Bacon and sausage biscuits got Mande and me set for the day. Maybe the Mickey Dee munchies were related to what Santa left in my stocking.
No photographic evident of the meat run exists.
Mande treated me to a fabulous seafood buffet on Sunday.
Oddly, Emily declined the pleasure. She did get her turn. For dinner that evening we has polenta topped with steamed greens and poached eggs. Emily’s first attempt at poaching eggs was a success!
On my last day in Denver, Mande poached eggs and served them on green chile and cheese polenta. Another poaching success!
It was an incredible week with my kids. Good times together doing fun things, trying restaurants new to me, enjoying time with the girls’ friends and the three of us loving cooking together. I survived almost being a vegetarian for a week!
My first night back home, it was a satisfying steak and potatoes.