1980. i'm six years old and i'm going to a birthday party. at mcdonalds. everyone's eating quarter pounders. fries. sundaes. i'm eating an extra order of fries instead of the cow packed between two slices of bread. someone asks me for the seventh time "don't you have any cravings for a good juicy burger?" no. i've never had meat. it's hard to have a craving for something you've never had. "so do you eat lots of salad then?"
1984. i'm ten. and my mom walks in with the groceries. i'm looking for the good stuff. snacks. chips. doritos. brownies. peanut butter and apples. peanut butter and anything. vegetarian eating habits can be unhealthy. fat vegetarians do exist. buddha was a vegetarian. i hear he was fat. as i rifle through one of the brown paper bags i push aside hamburger buns. i take a moment. i'm stunned. she's never bought hamburger buns before. and somewhere below, there is a box of morningstar grillers. meat flavored substitute patties. i nuke one and put it between the buns. i search for a slice of cheese to top it off and douse it with ketchup. i'm eating a burger. it tastes really good. and i feel very american. i go to school the next day and guess what i'm eating for lunch. jaws are agape. whispers resonate. "subbu's eating meat." and i love every minute of it.
i've matured. a little bit. i still like eating fake meat, but not to turn heads and fool those around me. a lot of the meatless meat products that are available are good. i mean they taste good, not that most of them tend to be good for you (although they usually are). so for those of you who think fake meat has no place in supermarkets and in restaurants, i say try it, and judge it just for what it is. a food product. would a meatless burger substitute be acceptable to you if it wasn't in a patty form?
SOUL VEGETARIAN EAST. so i read annieb's post on fake meat, and i was excited when she mentioned this place. i've never had real soul food, so i may as well try the fake stuff. it's on the southside, east of the kennedy on 75th street. the waiters and cooks are all dressed in african influenced attire. big smiles greet you. lots of people wait for carry out orders-- a good sign. the restaurant itself is very small-- and the decor is minimized. i wouldn't say cheap, but some might say so. the prices are cheap. i visited for lunch with my sister (in town from boston). we ordered the mixed basket of fried vegetables (tofu pieces, cauliflower and mushrooms) as an appetizer. it's served with BBQ sauce. and it was okay. i've had better. the batter had some cajun spices which perked it up a bit. and then we each had a pair of the BBQ twist sandwiches. wheat gluten with a bit of peanut butter, deep fried and soaked in BBQ sauce. it had a good texture, but it was way too sweet for me. i think it might have been better if it was spiced up on the hot side. in fact, i asked for hot sauce, and they didn't have any. there is a shaker of cayenne pepper on every table, but really, that didn't do zilch to spice up something soaked in sweet BBQ sauce.
i'll probably give this place one more chance. the prices are cheap, so it's worth a try. i'll be searching for more spicy options on the menu. and i'll make sure to have a bottle of tabasco sauce in my pocket as well.