I have recently (i.e., within the last year) come to a startling realization: I do not care for super spicy foods. I say “startling” because I have long used my seeming tolerance for spiciness as a marker of some kind of courage and as something that sets me apart from my wimpy Midwestern friends who pale at the sight of sriracha. I grew up on spicy foods thanks to my dad’s predilection for them, and for quite a while I think I confused “able to eat” with “enjoy.”
No longer! I’ve recently realized that I just don’t enjoy super spicy foods. I don’t enjoy having to keep a tissue on hand to wipe my streaming nose. I don’t enjoy not tasting the rest of what’s on my plate. I simply don’t appreciate spice for spice’s sake anymore, and frankly, I don’t think I have a particularly high tolerance for it either. Heat can be great when combined with other bold flavors, but you have to be able to taste those flavors!
I mention this because tonight’s dinner included quite a spicy element. I had an after-work happy hour, meaning I arrived home a bit later than usual. Steven had dinner in the oven, and the timer dinged almost literally the moment I stepped through the door. What bliss! He’d made a big ol’ pan of mac and cheese and some BBQ tofu, using a homemade, sriracha-based BBQ sauce. I added a simple side salad for some greenery and had myself a nice big plate of food.
So, that BBQ tofu. It packed quite a kick. I kept eating pieces and feeling the burn until I realized something incredibly obvious: If I ate it at the same time as a forkful of mac and cheese, it was not nearly as painful, and it added a nice kick to the pasta.
I mean. This is not rocket science. But as a person who likes order and clearly delineated lines (in pretty much every aspect of life), I do not typically mix two types of food on a fork. I like one thing at a time, so I can taste it individually. (On Thanksgiving, I have to purposefully remind myself to put some mashed potato and stuffing into my mouth at the same time.) Yet clearly there is a benefit to mixing things up, to using a more neutral element to temper a stronger one. Even if I have to consciously remind myself to do it, it’s worth it. That BBQ tofu — so painful, so tissue-requiring on its own — became deliciously palatable when paired with the creamy neutrality of the mac and cheese.
(There’s a metaphor in here about balance, I’m sure. Feel free to read whatever you’d like into this revelation.)
And about the mac and cheese. Steven used this much-heralded VegWeb recipe, reducing the oil (!!!) and adding some shredded Violife parm for good measure. It was nice and creamy and a good reminder that sometimes old-school vegan recipes are worth keeping around, even when newfangled fancy products seem so much flashier.
Quite a satisfying meal overall, and doubly so because I didn’t make any of it! It reminded me of the platters at NuVegan Café, a local chain serving up Southern-style vegan classics. You typically order a main and two sides, and I can never resist their mac and cheese. So filling and so scrumptious.
Now I’m debating making dessert, possibly one of the stone fruit crumbles or cobblers that have been my go-to this summer. But do I really want to turn on the oven again? More to the point, do I really want to get up from the couch?! I predict a “no” on both counts.