Friday, April 8, 2011

Vegan Diner

Diner food reminds me of my grandfather Clifford. He loved "greasy spoons", as my mother called them with a hint of disapproval and a slight shake of her head. On my childhood visits to see my maternal grandparents, we would always make at least one trip to a diner. The staff knew my grandfather and I think this was the allure of diners as much or more than the food. I don't remember what he ordered, but as I remember he always ended a meal with a slice of pie. Although I was nothing close to vegan back then, I don't have any taste memories of the food which I can't recall if I liked or not. What comes to mind is the happy feeling exuding from my grandfather. People smiling at Clifford and enjoying him, my soft-spoken and funny grandfather in his element. Everyone has, or should have, at least one special place where they feel welcome, comfortable, and nourished. I think if my kids felt that way about a restaurant, it would probably be a Thai restaurant. This makes me smile to think how different the two experiences are, but maybe not so much. It really isn't the food, but the feel. Knowing the staff and/or the owner, being served something you like to eat just the way you like it, someone knowing you enough to guess what you might want before you order. Someone who takes the time out from serving tables, or cooking in the busy restaurant kitchen, to come and chat as if you were someone special. Someone who remembers your family members, who only come to visit a couple times a year, and even what they usually order. Someone who asks about your family and offers sympathy, encouragement, or congratulations when appropriate. Sure, there is probably a good tip at the end of the meal, but that is only fitting for good service. What has passed between people is more than food and the check, a connection is made. It is made over food and that makes it even more nourishing to the soul.
So it is no wonder that diner food is often called "comfort" food. It is also usually not the healthiest fare in the world, but as I said there is nourishment that is not just the sum of nutrients. Clifford died just a few months ago, well into his 90's. I was by his bedside in his last day and he visited our house for a meal just weeks prior to his death. He was ready to go, or so he said, so I celebrate his life and the time we had with him. Mourning doesn't seem appropriate for a life that is not wasted or cut too short. I think of him often and while I was cooking from a new cookbook, Vegan Diner, I smiled at the "greasy spoon" lunches I had forgotten .
Vegan Diner's Pastrami-Style Seitan Roast, mashed potatoes with carrots, garlicky kale, kiwi
Grilled Cheezy Sandwiches from Vegan Diner
Vegan Diner's Cheezy Mac with peas and carrots, Vegan Diner's Pastrami-Style Seitan Roast on Strawberry Fields' Veggie Seed Bread, strawberries and blueberries

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