I am not vegan. I tried to be, for one month. It was the grumpiest I have ever been in my life. The stipulations involved in the diet were constantly shocking, even though it is quite simple: Don’t eat any animal products or byproducts. But when you’re an hour into your Kroger shopping trip because you forgot your glasses and have to read the tiny, tiny print on the food-packaging label to see if they, for some undisclosed and mystifying reason, snuck dairy into, say, green beans, you start to get a little mad.
I couldn’t suss the vegan life. Since then, I’ve fallen farther from pristine dietary grace and embraced a full omnivore lifestyle. Ex-vegetarian guilt is real, but so are barbecue pulled-pork sandwiches, so I try to find a happy medium. It’s this medium and the changing leaves that have led me to today’s experiment: Can a full Americana holiday dinner be vegan and gluten free?
Brands like Tofurky and Field Roast, both popular meat-replacement companies, have rolled out a coup de grâce to satisfy our American bellies: vegan protein “roasts” that, while shaped like real meat, are completely animal free.
I didn’t want to just try a roast and call it a day, though. I needed to see if I could pull off a full holiday dinner that virtually anyone without an uncommon allergy could eat. This meant I also needed at least one totally delicious side dish and a dessert. (I did skip buying and preparing a vegetable, as those are, well, already known to be vegan.)
I settled on a Field Roast 1-pound Celebration Roast for my centerpiece, Daiya Deluxe Cheddar Style Cheezy Mac as my side and Daiya Cheezecake with So Delicious Dairy Free CocoWhip! as my dessert. This properly fattening and soul-appeasing holiday dinner ran me about $20 and could serve four. It was all for me, though, so let’s get started.
Field Roast’s website boasts the Celebration Roast as “luxuriant grain meat seasoned with rubbed sage, garlic and lemon juice” filled with “rich and savory sausage-style stuffing made from Field Roast grain meat, fresh-cut butternut squash, mushrooms and Granny Smith apples.” The Celebration Roast truly looks like a hunk of meat, though what kind of meat, I’m not sure. The taste is… good. Really.
I’ve eaten a lot of veganized food in my day, and there’s almost always two types: food that looks like the regular version and tries its best to also taste like it, or food that looks nothing like anything you know and tastes delicious. The Celebration Roast was a blend of both. I could tell it wasn’t supposed to taste like meat, but golly it looked like a slice of meat on my plate. It had a crumbly texture, and the spice blend knocked it out of the park. Overall, a solid 7 out of 10, but I don’t believe my roast was gluten free, which knocks it back to a 6.
My macaroni was all I could ever ask for. It looked exactly like Velveeta mac and cheese. The science of it amazed me as I ate it. This wasn’t cheese or noodles in the way that I knew both foods growing up. The sauce tasted like movie theater popcorn butter, which isn’t bad for having no butter involved. I doctored the dish with olive oil and fresh cracked pepper. It ended up tasting like cheap, regular macaroni and cheese. However, it did have hands down the best gluten-free pasta I’ve ever had from a box, so I’ll give it an 8 out of 10.
My dessert looked the most boring. I sliced myself a piece from the incredibly plain white cheezecake and dolloped on the dairy-free CocoWhip!. It was white fake cream on white fake cream and for a second I wondered what I was doing. Then I took a bite, and it was the best thing I’d had all day.
I eat dairy daily and I would not have been able to tell that it was dairy free. It was just as creamy as Cheesecake Factory, with a packed buttery graham cracker crust. The only downside was that between the whipped coconut topping and the creamed coconut cake, there was a weird coconut flavor in my mouth. While it wasn’t pumpkin pie, my holiday dessert was a 10 out of 10.
If you’ve been following along, this means I’ve given my holiday dinner 24 points out of 30. And if I, a woman who cries with joy while eating a good steak, can be happy with my dinner, you can be, too — or at least please your surly teenage cousin in a Morrissey T-shirt.
Contact Madge Maril: [email protected]