Thanksgiving has never been my favorite holiday. As a vegetarian, I know that Thanksgiving traditions aren’t exactly geared towards me. In past years I’ve tried to make my own contribution to the big dinner with a vegetarian entrée that everyone would enjoy. With a highly carnivorous father, a mother who is a vegetarian but doesn’t like anything too “flavorful,” a skeptical brother who hates beans, and a sister whose food aversions seem to change with every season, a vegetarian crowd-pleaser is a tall order. One year I made spanakopita (spinach pie), another year I made tiropita (cheese pie), and more recently I made a mushroom tart. All were vaguely accepted, but with the traditional Thanksgiving fare competing for attention, I felt as though I was making an entrée just for little old me. For a fleeting moment I thought I’d stay strong and make another entrée this year in the name of vegetarianism, but as I was leafing through recipes for lentil-stuffed swiss chard and whole grain pasta with chopped brussels sprouts, I remembered my cooking motto that started when the boy and I began compromising in the kitchen. It grounds me, forces me to branch out, and best of all, it only asks for a simple “yes” or “no” answer: Would a dude eat this?
With the decisive direction from my motto, I decided to step away from the main course and move into an area where my efforts are usually more widely appreciated (read: by more than myself). Cherry pie is something I’ve only had a handful of times, but love more and more with every plate given to me. I had never made my own pie crust, or a double-crusted pie for that matter. Since I knew my mom, ever the stickler for tradition, would have the usual spread of pumpkin and french silk pies available at our Thanksgiving, I figured it wouldn’t matter if I botched this one up. With a little piecing together of cherry pie recipes, and two brave grocery trips on the day before Thanksgiving (tip: AVOID this is possible), I grabbed my mother’s pie pans and dove into the unknown. Or the slightly known, if you will. And I think you will.
When I’m not busy at work I tend to daydream. Sometimes the subject matter includes beaches and frozen drinks decorated with umbrellas, sometimes it involves frolicking in a winter wonderland type of scenario, and other times it’s as simple as picturing myself a few hours later, listening to music, and making whatever the heck I want for dinner. Such was the case this past week, when around 3:00 I finished a task and found myself free to be with my thoughts. I was feeling adventurous, and the boy was at deer camp again, so I knew I could go with the random vegetarian flow and try something new without disappointing anyone other than little old me.
The Minnesotan tundra had started freezing over, so I wanted something warm and cheesy, but after a weekend of eating my weight in cookies and hydrating myself with wine, I thought I should try to fit in some wholesomeness too. At the grocery store that evening I decided to venture outside of my usual vegetable choices and wandered over to the pile of eggplants. So pretty, so exotic, and so confusing to me. I had a rough go of eggplant failure a couple years ago when, blinded by size and price, I grabbed two extra large ones at $.99 each thinking, “These will feed me for DAYS!” Unfortunately, despite several recipe attempts, I only got a couple bites in each time before deciding the spongy, chewy texture was more than I could handle. Two years older and wiser, I figured I wouldn’t let the eggplant win again, so I grabbed one and headed out to make…something.
After looking at the available assets in my fridge, I decided to do my own take on lasagna, but with layers of vegetables in lieu of noodles (stay with me here). I thought back to my days studying abroad in Greece, when my classmates indulged in creamy, mysterious Moussaka while I, the sole vegetarian, was given a slab of flaky Spanakopita. Although Spanakopita is one of my favorite foods because of this routine, I was always curious about the lasagna-esque Greek creation. I couldn’t see any reason why lasagna couldn’t be one with moussaka, and vice versa, for just one evening, so I decided to bring the two cultures together in an 8 x 8-inch pan.
At the ripe old age of 25, I like to think that I know myself pretty well. For instance, some known facts are: my favorite color is purple, I like dry humor, I have no sense of direction, and I fall into ruts. Not the kind of ruts the Boy loves, where deer are running around seducing each other and people like him are creeping up in a tree. No, the kind of rut I’m talking about is the one of routine: I like what I like and I don’t venture very well. I’m also a bit of a masochist, which is why I’m writing a blog where, for interest’s sake, I’ll need to go ahead and embrace the new and unfamiliar.
Which brings me to my next point: Asian food. Don’t get me wrong, I love picking up some greasy chow mein, and just destroying it right out of the perplexing little box. Unfortunately, much like my Asian Studies course in college, it intimidates me. I have no idea what’s in it, how they fit such an absurd amount of food in what appears to be a tiny little package, and what could possibly make it taste so. damn. good.
In addition to me stretching outside my comfort(food) zone, this blog is about compromise, so I said, “Hey [Boy], what kind of Asian food do you like?” He said stir fry with beef. I corrected him and said that he probably meant to tell me that he likes vegetable chow mein better, and we were off.