Dispensing Happiness

A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.-Elsa Schiapirelli

That's me, the magical good cook.

Borrowing from my friend Dexygus, I've created my own food blog.

Read of my exploits in the kitchen! Salivate over the descriptions of fabulous desserts and savory meals I've concocted!

No, seriously...go ahead. It'll make my day.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Black Bean & Corn Chilaquiles with Roasted Tomato & Chipotle Sauce


Or, this post has almost nothing to do with food

Some...er, uh...many, well, a long time ago in a town I remember with a mixture of fondness and seething hatred, when I was out on my own for the first time and paying for things like health insurance (because the radio station didn't cover us; heck, they refused to call 60 hours worked in one week over-time), I decided I needed to have my eyes checked.

It'd been about a year since my last check-up, and as my eyes like to cause all sorts of trouble for me, it seemed like a good idea.

The doctor I'd been seeing for a number of years is partially responsible for my deep & abiding distrust and avoidance of the medical profession. Of course I believe we, as a society, need doctors and hospitals and modern medicine: I just don't want anything to do with them personally

When I go to a doctor's appointment, I'm anxious, and on the defensive, and desperately wanting to disappear. I've had a lot of bad news, bad experiences and a fair amount of misogyny over the years.
I'll go if I absolutely have to, but I do my best to avoid unnecessary visits.

This was also a time before I learned to drive (the women in my family are kind of late-bloomers when it comes to driving), and I walked everywhere. Luckily, my hometown was is small enough that practically any thing I needed, any place I wanted go, was walk-able. It might take half an hour, or more, but I never minded.

So, I walked. And one place I frequently walked to was the public library. I spent a lot of time there; it was a kind of refuge, a safe haven of sorts from childhood.

It's not a large building, and on what could be called a residential-ish street. It shares a street name with a B&B-style hotel, a funeral home, a residential towers for the elderly (and are located a little too close for my comfort), a Catholic church and their now-defunct elementary school.
Lots of houses, nice ones, too.

But very close by is a doctor's office. An eye doctor's office.

In fact, it was the office of one of the very first eye doctor's I'd gone to, who just happened to be the father of a classmate.

He'd retired, and the practice had been taken over by someone from outside the area.

That was the first reason to go to her.

Second, the doctor was, obviously, a woman. I have an even more difficult time dealing with male doctors. All my issues are compounded when it's a guy. It's all I can do not to bolt.

But women, well, it's not as bad. I'm not saying it's the proverbial walk in the park, but it's easier.

I made the appointment, and when I got there, immediately felt at ease. Well, at least, for me. There was a welcoming feeling, perhaps in part by the obvious remodeling that had taken place. It's was more open, and brighter, than I'd remembered. No stuffy wood paneling here.

The staff was incredibly friendly, too. That always helps, when you walk into a doctor's office and the receptionist/nurses don't treat you as though you're one more annoyance in their day.

Naturally, I had to fill out some paperwork, and then I had a short wait before the doctor was ready to see me.

I looked through the magazine racks, and oh, my gosh. I saw something absolutely wonderful and amazing.

I saw copies of Vegetarian Times.

Three or four of them.

That may not mean anything to you, but for me? It was...like finding the Holy Grail, only without fighting Nazi's.

At this point, I'd been a vegetarian for a couple of years, and to say I'd been winging it would just be funny. Get it? Wing? And vegetarians don't eat...oh, forget it.

What I mean is, I became a vegetarian because I cared too deeply for animals to eat them. But in my hometown, I was not just a minority, I was a carnival attraction.

Open the local newspaper, and see photos of men, women and kids dressed in their camoflage finery, sitting next to the quite evidently dead deer they'd just snagged.

The first days of deer hunting season, doe & buck? School holidays. That's right: don't come to school today...go kill something!

And eating out? Impossible for a vegetarian. Everything has meat in it. On it. Around it.

( Wait, the secret ingredient in the beef is ... beef? )

Even the salads, and salad bars, contain meat. Hungry times for a veggie who really didn't know what she was doing.

And there, in front of me, was a magazine dedicated to vegetarianism? I didn't know such things even existed.

I paged through while I waited for the doctor, and couldn't believe what I saw. Recipes, yes, but articles about how food is made and sustainability and ec0- and animal-friendly products. It was a page-sized piece of heaven.

It wasn't long before the doctor was ready for me, and I liked her from the start. She was young, and friendly and just so...positive.

We talked...that was one of the best things. She asked questions, and listened. And we talked about more than just eyes and vision. About the town, where she was from, etc.

As we were finishing up, I mentioned the magazine and how in-awe I was, of their existence and placement in my hometown.

She told me she was a vegetarian, too...and that, in fact, all her staff were veg-friendly. (I suppose today many of them would be known as flex-itarians)

And then, as she walked me out to the front, she veered off towards the waiting area, gathered up all the issues of Vegetarian Times she had there, and gave them to me.

I was flabbergasted. What a gift! What an act of kindness!

I thanked her, probably more times than was necessary, and headed home.

When I got there, I suppose the proper sentence would be 'I devoured them'. I read those magazines cover to cover. Every article, every recipe, every product, every ad.

And then I subscribed.

I've been getting Vegetarian Times ever since. That's got to be...close to nine or ten years; I've lost count.

I eventually left my hometown. Moved to California. Vegetarian? Everywhere I looked, products, recipes, restaurant dishes for me. It was delightful, and a bit overwhelming.

We're in the South now, and at least in a college town. Still plenty of options around.

But my copies of Vegetarian Times are still dear to me. I love their 'Carrot & Stick' page, and the fact they've been incorporating soy-based meat substitutes into their recipes. I learn, I grow, I cook, I eat.

The April issue was a particularly good one; I made four or five of the recipes.

Including this one.

Browned tortilla strips, topped with a mixture of roasted tomatoes, onions and garlic, with chipotles in adobo, all pureed.
That was covered by black beans, corn, red onion and queso cotija, more sauce, and baked.

Spread with lime-thinned sour cream, and serve.

Invites to April's Blog Party are out, and this month we're celebrating our favorite Diner, Street, and Pub foods by fancy-ing them up and turning them into appetizers!

Your favorite virtual cocktail party is taking to the streets, or rather, our food is.

RSVP by Thursday, 17 April...and I hope to see you there!

I'm hosting the latest Retro Recipe Challenge, and this time, it's all about Mom!

Pick a recipe from a year before your mother was born (thank you John, Paul, George & Ringo) and send those URL's in by Saturday, 26 April. So, tie up those apron strings, paste a pretty smile on your face, and get cooking!

6 Thoughts for food:

At 4:08 PM, Blogger Erika W. said...

Oooh that looks tempting! Thanks for the reminder...I got my April VT while out with the flu, so it didn't get more than a passing glance.

At 5:56 PM, Blogger Judith said...

Stephanie, I loved your story! I can definitely sympathise... I grew up in a Southern college town, but before that mean that veg was an option. I ate at home a lot, but in the cafeteria I had the "vegetarian option," a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, for lunch every single day for five years. And I HATED grape jelly. Eating out was also an ordeal. "Can I have the salad without the chicken please?" Waitress grumbles. "Well, all right." Salad comes. "Um... could I have it without bacon bits, too?" I've been considering subscribing to Vegetarian Times for a while now. I love Gourmet, and it gives me brilliant travel ideas, but you definitely have to pick through it to find veg options. It's sometimes just relaxing to have a collection of recipes and know you can eat EVERY SINGLE ONE. Looking forward to blog party! I've got a French street food-themed post planned, just have to go to the store :-)

At 12:46 AM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Erika...it was really good, but it almost needed something.

I would suggest using it as a filling for an omlette, or wrapping the whole thing up in another tortilla. But the flavor was great.

At 12:51 AM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Judith...isn't it terrible when you feel as if you're the bad guy, when all you're trying to do is find ONE dish to eat?

Asking how the stock for a soup is made...that innocent looking potato or tomato, even vegetable!, soup may in fact be made with chicken broth.

And yeah...no bacon, please? And picking he pepperoni off a pizza just doesn't count!

You really ought to subscribe; the recipes are interesting, and full of flavor. And they have something for everyone. Vegans, tofu-lovers, even people like me who eat soy-based foods like Morningstar Farms and Boca.

And perhaps the best part: rarely, if ever, are the recipes labor-intensive. I renew for two years at a time, just so I don't miss an issue!

At 3:13 AM, Blogger Judith said...

Ooh, yeah, the soup thing - GRRRRR. I was especially always annoyed at Panera, my former employer, as they are semi veg-friendly (you can customize all the sandwiches but the paninis to make your own off-the-menu creation, salads are all available without meat, etc) but they always have just the two vegetarian soups, *occasionally* a third. When they bring in a seasonal soup, like the portobello mushroom one they have in the wintertime, that you would expect to be made vegetable based, it never is. Beef stock. How hard is it to make a vegetable soup with vegetables?? Anyway. Hehe. Yes, I will consider subscribing, probably to replace Vanity Fair next year (which I really never, never read).

At 1:41 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Judith; personally, I'm just grateful Panera even has veg-options! Love the veggie sandwich...they use peppedews!

Pick up an issue or two from the store. If you're not hooked, don't bother. But I think you'll love it as much as I do.


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