Happy New Year from the Unlikely Vegan

I started this article way ahead of time because I knew the holidays would be hectic. And I was right. This whole season has been pretty amazing. My wife planned and executed a Meat and Vegan Thanksgiving for 26 people. Traditional turkey and gravy and all that for the meat eaters. My older brother in law came down from Oregon with three of his kids, so he did a lot of the meat cooking. For the Vegans (and the adventurous) we had Mushroom Wellington (which was even better leftover 2+ days later) with homemade gravy and bread. My buddy Renzo was the hit of the whole evening with his creamed corn – he made both Vegan and Non Vegan versions, and everyone LOVED it. There were so many people at my father in laws house, my guys and I ate out in the shop using a bike lift as a table. We always have the “Orphans” Thanksgiving, making sure that every who doesn’t have family has a place to eat, including all my East Coast buddies who have moved west, and our Cali friends who just can’t get back to the Bay area for the holidays. Plus any other strays we pick up along the way. A great time was had by all, and, in timeless Thanksgiving tradition, we ate leftovers till we were sick of them.

While texting back and forth with one of my friends in Texas, we got on the discussion of sandwiches. I was lamenting  that one of the only foods I genuinely miss is an Italian combo. Not that stuff you get out west where it’s a little ham and salami and some oil and vinegar (they put mayo on them out here!! MAYO!!) I mean a legit east coast, 10 types of meats with banana peppers and provolone, ITALIAN COMBO (which, if you ever find yourself in Hawthorne/Valhalla, NY, check out Pops Deli. Get menu option C4 – best Italian combo ever). So I was on a quest to get as close as I could to those flavors, and I feel that I’ve come pretty close. I got a loaf of French bread, roasted red peppers, cucumbers, onions, banana peppers, pickles, pimento olives, garlic stuffed olives, and of course oil and vinegar. Add a little salt and pepper and you’ve got yourself a pretty damned good Italian sandwich that absolutely filled that need for me. I ate that at least once a week till Christmas.

Somewhere around this time, my wife took Trader Joe’s “Everything But the Bagel” seasoning and baked it into bread. It’s totally amazing, and we’ve been eating it like crazy. It’s a simple 4 ingredient recipe (Flour, water, yeast, and the “Everything But the Bagel”). And it’s made in a dutch oven so it’s not super complicated. We brought it to my In-laws to have with Chili. My mother in law made kick ass vegan chili for us for Christmas eve. And Vegan “Christmas Crack”- which is melted chocolate and vegan butter on crackers, baked until its like crunchy caramel ( my mother and father in law thought it tasted ‘burnt” but me and my wife thought it was delicious). My wife made peanut butter cookies that everyone loved. Other than that, we didn’t try anything new or exciting really – lots more Pastas and Curries and Pad Thai.

The highlight of this whole holiday season for me was the news that my best friend of 30 years was coming to visit for New Year’s, and that he’d be asking his girlfriend to marry him on Christmas (she said yes). So I got to ring in the New Year with one of my oldest friends, and new friends and new family. Since his fiancé had only been to Vegas once, and only on the strip, they did a lot of sightseeing. The night before New Years eve, we wandered the Fremont district, culminating in a stop at our (relatively) new White Castle. My friend lives in the Bay area, so there are no White Castles there. So he got his fix, and I got to try their Veggie burger. I wasn’t sure if they were vegan, because I know they’re due to start carrying the Impossible Burger. But I’ve been assured they are. And it was very good. I would definitely have more. I am however looking forward to when they have the Impossible patty. Now that there are some decent Vegan cheeses we could have some legit vegan White Castle sliders. And on that day, I will be a VERY happy man!

2018 has been a year with a TON of changes for me. The vast majority of them have been great, and led to great things. The ones that haven’t, really weren’t that bad… This is the time for people to make changes. Hopefully some of you may want to try Veganism, or Vegetarianism, or even meatless Mondays. Give it a whack – see if you like it.

Happy New Year. Let’s see what other mischief we can get up to.

by Phil Shainmark