Friday, July 28, 2006

A Moveable Feast of imitation meat

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." Ernest Hemingway, quoted in: A. E. Hotchner, Papa Hemingway, pt. 1, ch. 3 (1966 ed.)

Vegetarians face an aesthetic dilemma. Should they eat plant-based food that looks and tastes like meat? Or should they eat dishes that celebrate plant-based foods for what they are?

The first approach mostly appeals to new vegetarians who miss their old meat diet. Good vegetarian chefs can do a lot with soy or tofu to make them resemble meat. Sometimes these dishes taste a lot better than they sound.

The second approach is more aesthetically honest. The focus of a vegetarian diet is vegetables. Cooking vegetables is an art in itself, and some of the most beautiful and wonderfully tasting foods are made without meat. Why eat imitation meat?

Now that I am no longer vegetarian, I usually prefer food that does not pretend to be something else. I like vegetables to taste like vegetables. I like meat to taste like meat. But back when I was a vegetarian eating out in Houston, I took what I could get. I often went to A Moveable Feast on West Alabama. Now that location is gone, but you can visit A Moveable Feast at 9341 Katy Freeway, outside the Loop, near Blalock.

I returned to A Moveable Feast for one of my favorite vegetarian dishes - vegetarian tamale pie. It comes with tamale-like corn breading, soy jack cheese, brown rice, black beans, and pico de gallo and costs around $7. Although I have to add some hot sauce for spice, the dish has a real tamale flavor. I almost forget that the tamale has no meat.

As I eat this fake tamale pie, I have to come to terms with the purity of my aesthetics. Sure, I prefer the flavor of the real venison tamales I get from my friend Bob, the deer hunter. They have a gamey, meaty flavor and a lot more grease. Yet I feel a lot better, and I worry less about dying from a heart attack, after I eat the vegetarian tamales at A Moveable Feast.

A Moveable Feast has a number of vegetarian, as well as healthy meat-based, dishes. The food tastes only pretty good -- but it is great for your health. Like Hemingway said, "wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you."

1 comment:

"Bob" said...

It's not the venison but the authentic lard that makes those tamales so good and greasy. Venison from the wild is a VERY low fat, natural, and healthy meat. But pork fat rules, as Emiril says. Movable Feast is stuck with vegetable oil, at best.

Nice to see you back with characteristically trenchant observations on chowing down in H-town. Keep on chewin'