Saturday, November 22, 2008

Macaroni and Cheese

Non-vegans are always confused when I get excited about vegan versions of meat and dairy dishes. The inevitable follow-up question is always: "Why do vegans want to eat imitation versions of non-vegan foods?" Some people use this as supporting evidence for the theory that my body craves these dishes because HUMANS ARE SUPPOSED to eat meat and dairy. I firmly believe that the real reason that I crave these dishes, however, has little to do with biological impetus and much more to do with the comfort associated with eating the foods that I was raised on. The quintessential "comfort food" that comes to mind is macaroni and cheese, so I will dedicate this entry to discussing its vegan analogues.

There are a number of restaurants that make dairy-free macaroni and cheese. Unfortunately, I have yet to find one that gets it right. Here are my takes on some of them:

1) Soul Vegetarian - It's hard to say anything too specific because the preparation is highly variable. Sometimes the macaroni are swimming in oil, other times they taste too much like nutritional yeast. Occasionally Soul Veg bakes the macaroni with herbs mixed in, which hides the nutritional yeast flavor and makes the dish taste more like a casserole.

2) Karyn's Cooked - Overpriced is probably the best adjective in this case. A tiny bowl of bland-tasting macaroni and cheese will cost you $4 (it's about $1 per forkful). The color is fairly off-putting - rather than the traditional yellow or orange, the macaroni and cheese at Karyn's is beige.

3) Chicago Diner - Of all of the restaurant versions of macaroni and cheese that I've tried, the Chicago Diner's LOOKS the most appetizing. The macaroni and cheese is covered in breadcrumbs and sprinkled with paprika, then baked. The outside edges are slightly crispy and the inside is warm and gooey. The dish would be great if only the flavor matched the appearance. Instead, it tastes like noodles dipped in soy sour cream.

4) New Ethic Cafe - If you order the vegan macaroni and cheese at New Ethic Cafe, you'll get a generous helping of orange, buttery-tasting noodles. The problem is that the butter flavor is the only flavor in the dish. I wouldn't have known that it was supposed to be macaroni and cheese if it hadn't been for the color and the name listed on the menu.

VERDICT: Don't order vegan macaroni and cheese at any of these restaurants. Particularly if you still remember what good macaroni and cheese tastes like. You will almost definitely be disappointed.


Beverly said...

The Mac Daddy recipe from Veganomicon is pretty good!

allie said...

I vote for soul veg style I have their cook book so I make it myself now. It's delicious even if it is not fooling anyone.

Your blog is awesome! Thanks for pointing me to it. I miss you, Lola!

BTW, my CAPTCHA verifcation word is: do meth
(space added by me.)