I wish all meals on tour look and tasted like this, but that's just not the case. I've been away from HungryOyster for the past month because my band is on tour in the US. We'll be home in 4 days.
I have a recurring dream where I'm back in my kitchen, apron-clad and happily plodding between stovetop and counter. I begin to miss many things, but really, none quite so much as my 10 inch chef's knife. Ask any avid cook, and I'm sure they'll get that misty faraway look in their eyes when they begin talking about their favorite knife. Oh yeah, I miss my cat and I definetely miss my plush bed. But what I really miss chopping onions, deboning a chicken, or really doing anything that amounts to simply feeding myself.
It sounds like a lovely idea to eat out virtually every night for 4 weeks, but it gets tiresome after awhile to be fed restuarant-food. Everything begins to taste the same. I find myself craving almost-ugly homespun meals, a craving that was partially sated by a trip in Atlanta to Soul Veg.
Soul Veg is a soul food joint owned by African Hebrew Israelites. It's set up like a cafeteria where servers dressed in blinding white caftans greet you as "brother" and "sister," lifting giant silver catering lids as you approach the counter and everything down to the banana pudding is completely vegan.
The food does not look good. Everything is buffet-style, and the catering pans display an array of baby-food colors, intended to be spooned easily in a massive heap or hunk onto a plastic plate for your gustatory pleasure. Did I mention that there's a big place in my heart for downright delicious ugly food?
The collards look greyish-green, but they're nicely lemony, and studded with garlic, perfectly stewed. The yams are probably the prettiest thing there, amber-hued and glistening in a deeply spiced syrup (maple syrup perhaps? we never could figure it out). There's jerked tofu redolent of turmeric and rosemary, balancing perfectly on the edge of charred and chewy. The best thing on my plate is a nondairy mac-n-cheese, which is perfectly creamy and cheesy, without any of the loaded heaviness that keeps me from ever ordering it. The cornbread is simple and honest, in fact everything is honest. It's a simple meal, but soul food seems like an understatement. A very jolly employee comes by to tell us that their secret is alkaline water, which they attain through a very elaborate filtration system. He asks us to taste the water, then tells us that everything needs to start with excellent, clean water. I know nothing of this, but keep eating like a happy pig, grabbing for the crazy-good tahini dressing on an otherwise throwaway green salad. This food tastes like love, like you're being taken care of. It's home cooking, but unlike any homecooking I've ever had. Maybe on the road, that kind of provisioning is something you learn to do without. Boy, had I missed it.
Of course, I have no photos to show you, because I was too busy eating, too consumed by how delicious it all was. Perhaps it had something to do with just being crazy-ravenous, or perhaps it's that food made that well forces us to stop everything and sigh with joy as I did when I tucked in to that mac-n-cheese. Not once did I stop to think "pretty good for a vegan meal," and again this is the thing that great food does best: it gives us a moment of pause. Everything was seasoned perfectly, and in spite of the Olympian portioning, I left feeling pleasantly full and happy. No hollow legs were necessary. Soul food indeed.
I'll be back next week with recipes, but until then XOX!