Friday, January 11, 2013

Tried & Tweaked Thursday, Gone Bad.

During my first solid year of 100 % veghead living, I wasn't frantic as some get, since I'd long been used to eating veg-centric meals; but I did want to increase my repertoire, if only to have a better chance at pleasing my picky-eater of a partner. He still ate meat, and I wasn't wild about making the whole meal-with-meat-on-the-side thing happen every damn day. In those days we frequently had dinner guests, too, and I was determined to show them all that plant-based food was not going to leave them starved and unsatisfied. In Indianapolis, saying I was vegetarian was often taken to mean I dined only on salad, tofu, and a side of self-righteous anger.

So I stretched out, subscribed to some new food mags, and went on a deep search of my old cookbooks for overlooked recipes. In Rose Elliot's Complete Vegetarian, I discovered a world of easy, adaptable recipes that didn't strain a grocery budget. There were fancy mains, inventive and classic salads, sauces I'd never dreamt of, and simple, pleasing family-style dishes like Veggie Hotpot. This was a casserole of sliced potatoes, layered with some chopped veg and a walnut-studded tomato sauce, flavored with oregano. The kind of fireside comfort food best served with a plain green vegetable side and maybe some rolls.

Once we tried it, and it passed muster, I made it again and again, learning to slant it towards whatever flavor mood I was in. As written, it was a great and easy meal for a busy university student (as I was at the time), because I could throw it together in minutes after coming home from my last class and then stick it in the oven while I wrote papers, read chapters, or did laundry.

Back then I mostly chunked the potatoes, and often used jarred salsa in place of the chopped tomatoes-- still a good way to go. I rarely bothered to pre-cook the taters, preferring to add more liquid (like a cup of vino and a splash of soy sauce), so that they would just cook through while adding their starch and absorbing enough of the liquid to make the sauce, well, saucy.

 Yesterday, when I opened the old book to refresh my memory, I decided on another tweak-- one I've done in the past, though it's been years. I mashed the potatoes, along with a rutabaga. And layered everything with some leftover cheese fondue (otherwise, it's a perfectly vegan dish) and served it bubbling hot to my (current and final) hubby-man.

 Who hated it. In fact, he said it was "bland and depressing," which I didn't agree with or even understand. He clarified for me, saying it tasted like something you'd feed an orphan in a Dickens novel. Not the reaction I was hoping for. I spent the evening calling him Dick Whittington (not actually from Dickens), but was crushed anyhow.

 I make it a policy not to share things here that haven't garnered a good response from others, so I won't share this recipe yet, not till I've gotten my zing back and found a version that is LOVED. But I feel it's possibly helpful for others to note that we all make cooking mistakes, have failures. And I am enjoying the leftovers, and would disagree heartily with my man's assessment. Taste varies, and we can't get around that sometimes.

 Maybe I'm just attracted to picky guys. Peace, Mari


  1. I would really like to try vegetarian living but I don't quite "get" how to plan meals. I don't eat much meat anymore--mostly stuff like pepperoni on pizza (is it even pizza without pepperoni?) and bits of meat in soup. I love making soups and can go days without eating meat.
    I'm afraid heavy reliance on potatoes would not be a good alternative for me. I try to alternate from potatoes to pasta to rice for variety.

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    1. Heavy reliance on potatoes isn't good for anybody, I think, and we don't eat them that often here, either. I vary my mealplan constantly; and when this dish was part of a regular rotation, as mentioned above, that meant at least once every couple of months, not every week! But even a once-a-week potato meal isn't overkill for a vegetarian diet.

      For help in understanding how a healthy vegetarian diet works, may I suggest several books to you, which are available at the library (mine, at least): Rose Elliot's New Complete Vegetarian--

      Laurel's Kitchen--

      And Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone--

  3. I'm just laughing at your comment that you spent the evening calling your husband "Dick Whittington." Funny.

    1. Glad someone found it funny. He did the first sixteen times, but not afterwards.