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Awww au jus!

I used to live on roast beef sandwiches and au jus sauce. Any time I saw French dip listed on the menu of a restaurant, I ordered it. I loved taking the two slices of soft warm bread, stuffed with slow roasted beef, and dipping it until it was soaking in au jus sauce. My mouth watered at the mere thought of getting a French dip sandwich.

But then I became a vegetarian. It wasn’t always easy, especially in the first few years as my body adjusted to my new diet and I learned how to curb my cravings. I started eating meals made with meat substitutes, like tacos made from Morning Star Crumbles and fajitas from Smart Ones Chik’n Strips. Not only did it satisfy my body’s need for protein, I took comfort in the familiar tasting food* without sacrificing my principles.

When I meet new people and they learn I’m a vegetarian, they often ask if I miss meat. My answer is always the same: I miss French dip. There’s no substitute for beef drenched in hot beef broth. I can get a fake turkey for Christmas and Thanksgiving. I can have “bacon” and eggs for breakfast. I can even make “meat” loaf.** But I can’t find anything to replace the taste and experience of French dip.

Until now.

I was recently in Whole Foods, searching for Tofurkey Deli Slices when I saw they had a variation that I’d never seen before. I don’t know if it’s new or that my grocer in Indiana never sold it, but either way, I was happy to see it. It was their roast beef flavor. Roast beef! I couldn’t believe it! I grabbed a few packages, resisting the urge to buy up all the stock. After all, what if it wasn’t any good?

Later, when I was getting ready to make my first roast “beef” sandwich in 15 years, I flipped the back of the package over and read the suggestion to try it with vegan au jus sauce.

WHAT?! Au jus sauce can be made vegan? HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS?

I grabbed my keys and headed back to Whole Foods, bent on finding this sauce. Surely, if the Tofurkey people were suggesting vegan au jus sauce, then someone out there must be producing it. And if someone was producing it, then Whole Foods would have it.

But I couldn’t find it. I walked up and down the soup and broth aisle three times before it occurred to me to pull out my phone and search the internet. Thankfully, there were recipes for what I was looking for, including one that mentioned eating the Tofurkey Roast Beef slices with it. So, after much more searching through the store, I got the right stuff, went home, and made my first batch. As the sauce heated up on the stove, I took my hoagie bun and put several slices of roast “beef” on it and stuck it in the toaster oven.

After a just a few minutes, I sat down with my toasted sandwich, the bun warm and soft, and the vegan au jus sauce steaming up my glasses. I’d been waiting for this moment for the past 15 years and hoped that it wouldn’t disappoint. I dipped my sandwich and pulled it out soaked. I took a bite and closed my eyes.

Oui!

*Some meat eaters have tried these meat substitutes and say they’re pretty spot-on, but not all meat substitutes are created equal.

**I never ate real meat loaf when I did eat meat, so I don’t know if the recipe I have even tastes like the real thing. Also, if fake bacon is called facon, then wouldn’t fake meat loaf be called feat loaf?

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2013 in About me, Everyday Life, Food

 

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Happy Non-turkey Day!

“What do vegetarians eat on Thanksgiving?” I am often asked.  There are actually a number of options, including Tofurkey (I don’t recommend that; it’s a bit rubbery).  But the dish I always make is Quorn’s Turk’y Roast.  Made out of mushroom, the roast is made to taste similar to turkey.  How close is it?  I can’t tell you for sure, as it’s been 12 years since I’ve had the real thing.  But several of my meat-eater friends have tried it and liked it.  I’m sure it’s not exact but it’s still pretty damn good.

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2010 in About me, Food

 

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Veggie burger in paradise

Whenever I order a veggie burger at a restaurant, I ask if the patty is grilled with the regular burgers.  More often than not, they are.  For a vegetarian, this defeats the purpose of a veggie patty.  Hell, it defeats the purpose for a health nut because they’re still getting the grease from the burgers on theirs.  Last I checked, Chilis and Denny’s were both perpetrators but one that isn’t: Cheeseburger in Paradise.

I never would have gone to Cheeseburger in Paradise if it hadn’t been for Judy, a pesco-vegetarian*.  Still, before I ordered my veggie burger, I checked with the waiter.  “Are the veggie burgers cooked with the regular burgers?” I asked.  His answer surprised me.  “Everything has a separate grill.  One grill for the beef burgers, one for the turkey burgers, one for the grilled chicken, and one for the veggie burgers.”  I cannot describe how ecstatic I was to hear this.  Why didn’t other restaurants do this as well?  Pushing aside space issues, this is really a great idea.  What if someone had a severe allergy to, say, chicken but their beef burger was cooked right next to a chicken patty?  Or on the same space a chicken patty had just been and the grill wasn’t cleaned between the two?  Why risk contamination and a possible lawsuit?  More restaurants should take a page from Cheeseburger in Paradise’s book.  Not only are they safe for vegetarians and those plagued with allergies, but they have a little something for every taste.

*Pesco-vegetarians eat fish but not meat.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2010 in Food

 

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Don’t call me a picky eater

One of my pet peeves is when people call me a picky eater.  I am a vegetarian and I made that choice 12 years ago.  I am not “picky” about what I eat; I am conscientious of what goes in my body, as we all should be.

I became a vegetarian after watching my sister go through the transition.  I looked up to her and wanted to be like her so I followed suit.  The first year was a bit rough.  Jess was away at college, which made it hard to consult her, and we didn’t own any vegetarian cookbooks.  A lot of peanut butter sandwiches were consumed that year.  The second year was a bit easier since I was just starting college and the cafeteria always offered a vegetarian selection.  As the years progressed, Jess and I found some vegetarian cookbooks we enjoyed and when we visited Mom and Dad, they were always willing to try out a new recipe.

When a vegetarian stops eating meat, after a while the body will stop producing the enzymes that break down and help digest the meat.  Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way.

About 8 years into being a vegetarian, I took a little trip and visited my two best friends from high school.  We went out to eat at one of my favorite local Italian places.  My family and I had gone there on countless occasions when we lived in Illinois.  But after I moved away, I missed it, especially the warm bread and butter that came with every meal.  Imagine my excitement as I sat down in one of my favorite restaurants after a decade of being away.

There weren’t many vegetarian options on the menu so I went with the cheese ravioli with marinara sauce.  One of my friends ordered the same thing.  As we chomped away at our salad and bread (yummy!), we chatted and caught up on our lives.  The entrees came and I eagerly dug into mine.  About half way through the meal, I started to feel a little dizzy and something was not sitting well with my stomach.  I excused myself to the bathroom.  When I came back, I felt better and figuring that it was just a fluke, I started eating again, finishing off my ravioli.  But the same thing happened.  Again, I went to the bathroom.  I was feeling a lot worse this time and so I stayed in there a little longer.  At one point some teenage girls came in and one exclaimed, “It smells like shit in here!” and I thought, “Well, we are in a bathroom…”

After paying for the meal I was starting to regret eating, my friends and I headed outside.  I’d moved to the stage of nausea and it wasn’t easy to walk without wanting to throw up.  We couldn’t figure out what it was that was making me so sick.  It wasn’t food poisoning because no one else was sick.

I refused to get in Lynn’s new car until I felt better so we stayed out in the cool night air for a bit.  As I emptied my stomach behind my once-favorite Italian restaurant, Celeste crossed the road to get me some water and gum (I’d never fully appreciated gum until that point!).

I felt a little better after that but still nauseated.  Lynn drove me back to her place, a plastic bag gripped in my hands and the window rolled down so I could feel the air on my face.  I crawled into bed that night, apologizing profusely for ruining the evening.  Like any true friend, Lynn was only concerned about my well-being.

The next morning I woke.  The nausea was still present but considerably less than when I’d fallen asleep.  I forced myself out of bed and through my morning routine.  My sister was taking the train up from the South and I had to pick her up.  The station was halfway between Lynn’s place and my place, but still a good hour and a half away.  I figured that if I could just make it there, then Jess could drive the rest of the way.

It was a rough ride, but I didn’t get sick.  By the time we were close to home, I’d started to crave crackers.  My health improved as the day progressed.

It wasn’t until three months later, when Lynn was visiting me, that I learned why I’d gotten so sick.  The marinara sauce was actually the same sauce as the beef sauce.  They just strained the beef out.  So all the beef juice was still in the sauce that I’d so readily consumed.  After 8 years of being a vegetarian, my body knew of only one way to deal with the beef juice: expel it.

Now I know to ask when eating out if my veggie burger is cooked on the same grill as the hamburgers (a surprising number are; I have to shout out to Cheeseburger In Paradise, the only restaurant I’ve found that has a separate grill for everything).  So, if you’re dining out with me and I start asking questions about how my food is prepared, don’t make a snide remark about “picky eating.”  (And don’t tell me I can “just eat a salad.”  Do you eat salads for your meal?  No, and neither do I.)  If you do, I may just purposefully eat something cooked with beef juice just to throw up on you.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2010 in About me, Food, Rants

 

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