I wrote recently that as a result of my surgery I am not supposed to have red meat for three to six months after the procedure. I also wrote that I wasn’t thrilled about a diet of strictly poultry and seafood, and that I was going to want to include some vegetarian cooking in the mix. While my sensibility, as I wrote, is that if you are going to cook vegetarian you should cook vegetarian in and of its own right and not try to emulate meat, I am nonetheless not adverse to a good veggie burger or using soy crumbles to make vegetarian chili.
A former manager of mine read the blog and noted how much her family loved the Beyond Burger. I was familiar with it because the Carl’s Jr. fast food chain had been heavily advertising the product on baseball television broadcasts. Their version is the Beyond Famous Star. What I did not know was that the uncooked Beyond Burger is available in the grocery store.
I was doing a major shopping trip at Winco, our local discount bag-your-own-groceries supermarket and I found the item in the meat department. I bought a package and grilled one of the burgers on our new stove’s grill top. I buttered a slice of sourdough bread, sprinkled it with Parmesan cheese, and added it to the grill. I added mustard to the bread and topped to burger with tomato and onion.
The result: marvelous. It tasted just like a beef burger and was just as satisfying, although it didn’t stay with me as long. It’s a bit expensive: two patties cost me nearly six dollars, but it’s a really nice treat.
I still want to try the Carl’s Jr. version.
When we did our kitchen remodel in Gilroy in 2007 we bought a stove with a convection oven and a proof setting. Before that time I made bread using a bread machine. After our remodel the bread machine was retired and I regularly made bread using the proof setting for the rising phase and the convection setting to bake the bread. Not only was the bread fresh and not only did it taste great, but it was great therapy for me.
After moving here to Hemet I did not take up baking bread. We had a perfectly fine oven and I no doubt could have, but without the convection oven and the proof setting I simply did not have the motivation. I suppose there was an element of sour grapes in all of that, but that’s how it was.
Earlier this year our oven quit working. The cost to repair it would have been $250. We thought that was hardly worth the cost, especially since earlier in the winter a power bobble caused the clock display to stop working.
Terry and I found a stove with a convection oven that we liked at Lowe’s. The white version was not immediately available, but we were promised that it would be along in two to three weeks, and it was nearly half the cost as the same stove in stainless steel. As it happened it was seven weeks, but that all was forgiven when the stove arrived. Especially since by that time I was past my surgery and well on the way to recovery from that ugly complication which arose. I was more than ready to jump in and made good use of our new appliance.
So here I am baking bread once again. I purchased the basics locally and placed an order with King Arthur Flour for the more specialized items that I needed. I am up and running, and am delighted about that.
This memoir was a delightful diversion.
The second world war played a lot of havoc with the lives of many people in England. (There’s a serious understatement.) André Deutsch was a Hungarian who was stranded there at the outset of the war. After the war he started a publishing house with an absurdly small amount of capital. Warned against giving the firm a foreign-sounding in the wake of the war, he called it Allan Wingate. Stretched thin financially and having alienated his investors, he ceded the firm to them and founded André Deutsch Ltd.
With him from the very beginning was Diana Athill. The circumstances of wartime employment and the oddities of wartime personal relationships brought the two of them together and she continued to work for him in spite of his difficult personality and eccentricities.
While the two firms were tiny compared to the U.K.’s big publishing houses, Deutsch and Athill recruited a significant portfolio of distinguished authors, including Terry Southern, V. S. Naipaul, Jack Kerouac, Philip Roth, and Simone de Beauvoir.
Those of you who enjoy “inside publishing” memoirs will not be disappointed by Athill’s recollections.
As a result of my surgery I have one really big dietary restriction: no red meat. Not for three to six months from the date of the surgery. Now exactly what that means depends on who you talk to. When my surgeon’s assistant tried to clarify that for me she got varying responses. She told me that two nurses said that it meant only beef, while two doctors told her that it meant both beef and pork. The nurse who removed my staples and who is very familiar with my surgeon said it meant only beef. But when I finally had my follow-up with my surgeon he couched the restriction in the broadest possible terms: no beef, pork, lamb, etc.
Now as a practical matter only the first two affect me (I never eat lamb), but that still creates a huge impact on my diet. It means I am restricted to poultry, seafood, and vegetarian dishes. Given that I’m not keen on a diet based exclusively on chicken and turkey, and since a diet heavy on seafood is not practical, I have to open myself up to more vegetarian food.
Long time readers of this blog may recall that I have flirted with a vegetarian diet in the past, and more than once. This is not exactly new and unfamiliar territory for me. I know a vegetarian diet is healthier for me as an individual and it’s far better for the health of the planet. That is one thing that has not changed a bit since Frances Moore Lappé first published Diet for a Small Planet in 1971.
The question, then, is how to eat vegetarian. It’s the same question I have asked intermittently since the 1970s. The easy path, the path taking the least amount of thought, is to go with meat substitutes. I bought a package of veggie bacon strips which were awful. Some of the meat substitutes aren’t so bad, however. Soy crumbles make a great vegetarian chili when properly seasoned, and black bean burgers can be very tasty.
A vegetarian snob, however, and even a serious vegetarian who is not a snob, would say that one ought to cook vegetarian dishes that stand on their own and which do not try to emulate meat dishes. Perhaps that’s not as easy as it might first sound. Mollie Katzen admits that in her first edition of The Mousewood Cookbook she tried to create recipes specifically so the meat wouldn’t be missed. But that was decades ago (1974) and a lot of vegetarian cookbooks have been published since then, a good number of them with some very tasty, savory dishes. Martha Rose Shulman, one can make the case, is a master of this sort of recipe in her cookbooks.
It’s not an easy journey right now, but it is one that is highly manageable.
La lucha continua, if I may be so presumptuous as to borrow from those engaged in the fight for social justice.