‘Never eat anything with a face’
There are those who say we are traitors to tradition here at Clear Creek Ranch. We eschew chewing on turkey at Thanksgiving, or any other time. Nothing against turkeys, poultry in general, or feathers for that matter – we took the vow of “never eating anything with a face” years ago and became vegetarians.
And how “traditional” can turkey dinners be, if the Butterball Turkey Hotline gets thousands of calls each year? Dialing that traditional 800 number, just like mom and all my ancestors always have.
Anyway, our vegetable stand poses a problem during the food-gorging rituals that are integral to most major holidays. Tofu is one protein alternative. It can mimic the look, texture and taste of meat products. Sales of To-furkey and Veat, two successful meat substitutes, soar during the holiday season.
But there is something philosophically dishonest about eating a “turkey” constructed of soybean curd. Why not skip the whole animal shape thing altogether? Tofu is so pliable it can be formed into any shape – a topographical map of Turkmenistan, perhaps. The only limit is the chef’s imagination.
The centerpiece of the Ranch Thanksgiving meal looks like half a gravy-covered basketball on a serving platter. It is not a basketball, although my first attempt had “skin” that was almost as tough. It is a tofu hemisphere filled with stuffing. Tasty, but visually mundane.
Last year, with company coming (including children), I wanted a fun alternative. Little kids love dinosaurs. We would be the vegetarian Flintstones and serve tofu Tyrannosaurus Rex.
I bought a novelty cake mold. The illustration on the box looked truly terrifying.
The tofu entity that came out of the mold did not. The kids thought I’d baked TV’s Barney. And although “he” was brown now, the cranberry sauce was purple and that was enough to wet cheeks with tears rather than whetting any appetites.
The only other cake mold I liked was teddy bear shaped. I’m not sure that would have gone over any better. Which puzzles me, since kids like to eat the arms, legs and heads off of gingerbread-persons.
As regular readers know, in addition to pimping for tofu, we also recycle out here at the Ranch. Here is a holiday recipe in that spirit: Old Jack Soup.
Remove the candle wax and/or light bulb from last month’s organic jack-o-lantern, which is probably STILL sitting out on your porch. Warning: this recipe will NOT work with plastic or ceramic jack-o-lanterns!
Cut the pumpkin into quarters and bake at 325 degrees for an hour. Scrape out the pulp.
Apply burn ointment to fingers if you didn’t wait for it to cool first. Mash up the pumpkin with your remaining good hand, or run it through a blender if your wife allows you to operate electric kitchen appliances.
Saute onions, garlic and mushrooms lightly in oil. Add vegetarian soup stock, pumpkin puree and salt (if you don’t give a darn about your blood pressure!). Simmer for 30 minutes, thinking about your burned hand.
Stir in some cream before you dish it up. Garnish with paprika, parsley, or whatever seems appropriate. If your garish-of-choice is old Halloween candies, remove any non-soluble wrappers first.
And don’t forget to give thanks! This year I’m thankful for the renovation scheduled for the old town library (providing they don’t change those charming old bookcases and countertops). Maybe they’ll make room for a vegetarian cookbook section.
Not that I need any written help in the kitchen. Traditionally, the “reading room” here at the Ranch is in another part of the house.
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This letter is in response to Elias Funez’s excellent article on the relationship between the Nevada County Airport, Cal Fire and the Loma Rica development.