growing up in rural IL, "comfort" food was the main dish of every meal I'd eaten until I was well out on my own a couple years ago. Meat, meat, and fried, and baked . . . every form of preparation you can think of. Bacon, hamburger, porkchops, chicken in every way. These were the foods that I'd grown up with. In fall of 2008, I decided to become vegetarians (still to the bewilderment of my family). At the time, and still true now, I was dealing daily with severe migraines, in a place where I was (am) concerned with what I put in my body, and really wanting to know where my food comes from. No one of these reasons is really stronger than the other; they all combined to lead to my decision. And while the last fourteen months have not been completely meat free, I feel different, better, instantly feel terrible if I eat meat [I just cannot say no to my mom's handmade chicken strips or shrimp on Christmas Eve].
It's actually been a really difficult journey. At the beginning of my not eating meat, I found myself only eating cheese in its place. You can imagine the havoc this wreaks on one's digestive system. It took me a few months to stop eating only french fries. I've spent this time really researching and trying out different foods. I've learned of gads of vegetables I like that I wasn't aware of and that if I steam them, there are veggies I like that I didn't think I liked.
Red and I actually just signed up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box through Irv and Shelley's and should be getting our first selection of seasonal vegetables tomorrow., delivered to our house.
Through this process, the way that I obtain food has shifted and continues to do so. I've realized that I cannot and should not expect to ever eat fast food. There are a few exceptions like Giordonno's spinach pizza and Burger King's veggie burgers which I really like (but can never be sure that they're prepared separately from meat products). I also don't rush to the nearest grocery store to load up on vegetables because they're imported from who knows where, injected with who knows what, and are just as bad as McDonald's french fries in the length that it takes them to rot. We frequest local fruit markets, but I also have questions as I don't know where the produce comes from and it likely could be imported from Mexico and travel the same distance as food at Dominick's. The produce from the CSA is local and certified organic. Hello, no hormones.
So with all this jazz about eating fresh and local, I forayed into the world of Chicago's best known vegetarian restaurant last night. and let me tell you . . . it was AMAZING. Elyse and I met up at the Chicago Diner which I have wanted to try for months -- all my friends from out of town tell me how great it is! Located just north of Roscoe on Halstead, parking is sparse, but they provided limited parking on the northside of the building.
Once inside, you wonder how such small of a space can provide such wonderous food. Although it was packed, we managed a booth and I set to look over the menu. So many things caught my eye immediately and having the normal "vegetarian reaction" I was like, "Damn, I can't eat that." Then I remembered that everything is MEATLESS! It was a fun process to be disappointed and re-excited each time. Elyse had a gyros which from what I could tell looked, smelled, and tasted just the same as the gyros my husband always gets from tiny corner diners. I finally settled on the "Chikin Fried Steak" [homecookin' I'm tellin' ya] and an Acai Lemonade which was phenomenal. The Chikin fried steak [which was breaded and oat-crusted seitan] tasted more original and authentic than what my mom makes, though I'd never tell her that! It came with delicately sauteed veggies in a pesto sauce as well as mashed potatoes and gravy which we all know is my absolute favorite. I found myself taking the smallest bites because I didn't want it to go away!
For dessert we tried the vegan chocolate chip cheesecake which was equally delectable. The service was great, the prices were totally reasonable, and I was the most satisfied I have ever been with a veggie meal. I find myself already wanting to make plans to take everyone I know and find myself wanting to learn more about this delicious satan seitan!