The Parable of the Steak*

October 22, 2008


*Or, Raising the Steaks. Or, A Steak in My History. 

[No, that is NOT a real steak in the photo! Seriously, it’s a mushroom.  No, really.]

Before the days of the Great War, and yet after the infestation of the Rats (Pack), and the invasion of the Insects; when the great pioneers left this land and sought out Greene-er pastures, there was a young girl-child, and she went by the name of Ricki. And she and her sisters were raised to obey and respect their elders; and they were raised to eat with their family; and so they did.

And during that time, The Father, a Butcher, commanded his brood: “You must eat meat, for it is good.”  And so they ate meat, and they ate it every night.  And on weekends, they ate “mixed grill,” for which they sacrificed the lamb chops, and the beef liver, and the hamburger, and the pig of cloven hoof, and the steak.  And they were thankful for the bounty.  And it was good. 

But then came one day, the child called Ricki was tempted by the graven image of the Golden Arches.  And she yearned to enjoy the pleasures of this calf (meat); and she asked, “Father, may I taste a McDonald’s burger?”

And the answer came, “NO!”  And the Father said, “All restaurants are crap.  You must eat only the meat prepared by your Mother, and only that of the Home Kitchen.” 

But the girl-child was rebellious, and so when she visited the wilderness country with her friends Gemini I and Gemini II, she did eat from the Golden Arches.  And yes, she thought it was good.  And suddenly, with the flash of a thunderbolt, she was stricken down; she felt pain in the abdomen, and pain in the gut, and the burger sought revenge on her. And then, she barfed.

“It was not meant to be,” The Father admonished. “You must listen to me, my child, and never again partake of the tainted meats of the Golden Arches.”

And so the years passed. And yet once again, Ricki rebelled.  When she was three and twenty, she determined to partake once more of the fobidden meat.  And so she went, of her own volition, and sought out the great king, Harvey.  And there she found the freedom of choice, and the selection of the multitude of burgers. And she took pleasure in the ability to have it her own way.  And once again, she thought it was good. 

And lo, once again, the burger sought retribution.  And once again, she barfed.

And so the decades wore on, and grasses grew up in the wilderness, and the world saw the twinkling of stars and the rolling of stones, and the descent of fortunes, and the ascent of virgins

And then, without warning, Ricki was again struck down. And the shaman proclaimed, “We will draw your blood.” And so they drew her blood; and then they examined it.  And the shaman pronounced, “Your albumen levels are too low.” And the trusted healer commanded, “You must eat meat.”  And yea, once again, Ricki was swayed. And she and her HH sought out the vast storehouse of the cattle, and they heartily accepted the steak.  And so she ate. 

And no, this time, she did not barf; but lo, nevertheless the steak tumbled and growled and gurgled in her belly for days, like heavy sand under the turbulent waves.

No more!” she cried.  “I shall eat the meat no more!”  And she pounded her fist, and she gazed up to the sky, and she shed a heavy tear. 

And Ricki then began her quest in earnest. 

She fought mightily, and she sought out a new source of strength and inspiration.  She befriended the warrior, Kale, and she was blessed with the tint of the beet juice and the flower flour of the spelt.  And she found her salvation in the NAG, and the young bean, and the heavenly nectar of the cactus.  And she learned her lesson: while The Father’s intentions were good, Ricki could not trust the meat.  And then, she found her peace (and piece–of mushroom).  And she and her HH continued to live thus.

* * * * * * * * * *

And so (if you haven’t taken off in a huff yet), what is all this talk of steak and burgers doing on a self-proclaimed vegan blog??  

Well, I’ve mentioned before that the HH and I tend to visit our favorite restaurant once or twice a year for very special occasions.  One of my favorite dishes is the portobello “steak.”  The first time I tasted it, I fairly swooned, but was quickly overtaken by anxiety. I waved madly, summoning the waiter, to ask (in what I’m sure must have been an accusatory tone): “Are you absolutely sure this has no meat in it?” Because, really, it so closely brought to mind my recollection of the taste of steak (not to mention the Parable of the Steak). 

“No,” he assured me, “this is our vegan entrée.  It’s made without any animal products at all.” Hmm!

“Definitely no animal products?” I persisted.  At that, I think he got a bit worried.  (It’s like when the HH and I are leaving to do errands on the weekend, and just as I slide my leg into the car, he asks, “Did you lock the front door?”  Well, it might be two seconds since I withdrew the key from the lock, but the very question itself has me doubting my own memory, so I get up, go back to the doorknob, and test it again.)  “Let me go check,” he said, and trotted off to the kitchen. 

A few moments later, he returned to assure me that no, there were no animal products in the dish. Obviously, the chef had spent some time and skill perfecting this recipe, because the flavor and texture were glorious.  Intensely juicy, not in the least unyielding as some mushrooms tend to be; it was toothsome and savory, a mushroom to drool over, to rip apart with gusto, to smack your lips about. And yes, it was good.

Well, I knew I had to reproduce that mushroom.

So yesterday, I decided to cook up my own portobello steaks for my birthday dinner (I know, I shouldn’t have been cooking at all on my own birthday.  But I’d met my friend Gemini I for breakfast, and then met the HH for lunch, and I basically OD’d on restaurant food. Besides, we’ve got the “real” celebration planned for Saturday evening, and I won’t cook for that).  I recalled an inspiring portobello dish on Happy Herbivore’s blog, and thought I could begin with that recipe, then tweak it according to my memory of the “steak.” 

I added some oil to the mix (sorry, Lindsay!), more wine and some steak spice to evoke a really robust, hearty and meaty taste.  I also marinated the mushrooms for most of the day in the refrigerator before cooking, to infuse them fully with the various flavors.

We both fell in love with this dish.  We had the steaks with spanish rice and garlicky kale, and it was a perfect meal.  “Keep this one on the repeat list,” the HH directed as mushroom juice trickled down his chin.

The moral of the story?  Do not mess with the animal kingdom; but the vegetable kingdom is bountiful, and welcoming, and will bring you much happiness. 

And it will be good!

[Thanks, everyone, for all your amazingly supportive comments about my recent weight loss! Slight as it was, it does help to see the little line on the scale move in the “right” direction (that’s correct, I have a spring-loaded, not a digital, scale–call me a luddite).  Anyway, it was also my birthday yesterday, so it felt like a pretty good day all around (and wow, that Facebook is quite amazing when it comes to letting people know about significant dates–thanks for all the good wishes!) 🙂 ]

Portobello Steaks (adapted from Happy Herbivore)


 A perfect main dish for a cold winter day when you need something robust and filling.  As long as you remember to marinate them ahead of time, these come together very quickly.



34 Responses to “The Parable of the Steak*”

  1. i still love you 🙂 and i like how you made it a steak!

  2. Lizzie Says:

    HAAAAAAAAA! That made me crack up. You are too funny Ricki. I hope your cookbook will have a few of your stories in them!

    The “steak” looks amazing. It may even fool the A-man into eating a vegan meal 🙂

  3. VeggieGirl Says:

    The stories that go along with your recipes are always impeccably written – I love it!! And I love that portobello 🙂

  4. i usually don’t have patience to read long posts but this one was so great! and a great recipe to boot. thanks 🙂

  5. Courtney Says:

    Happy (late) birthday! I hope you had a good day…even though you had to cook :o)

    This looks great–I love portobellos. I am going to the farmers market this weekend and will keep my eyes open for them so that I can try this recipe!


  6. You’re the funniest blogger I know.

    More! More!

    I know that feeling at a restaurant of, “Is this really vegetarian? No is it, really?” Then I sit there with a queasy look the whole meal.

  7. Johanna Says:

    Happy birthday! Love your mythical meanderings through your meaty misgivings 🙂

    I dislike food that looks too like meat as I am naturally suspicious (and a couple of episodes in restaurants have shown it warranted) and I find these mushroom steaks don’t do it for me – I think I still fondly remember being told that vegetarians have no need for knives to eat dinner with – seemed such a liberating thing! But I do love your photos and your reflections on it – it does look scarily like the real thing

  8. that was too funny. Glad you found a steak that could make you and your body happy.

  9. ttfn300 Says:

    my my, belated wishes Ricki!! this sounds fantabulous 🙂 and loved the story, too!

  10. Cmoore Says:

    haha, I love this post, for so many reasons, the number one probably being the punniness involved 🙂

  11. BitterSweet Says:

    Wow, that does look amazingly realistic! I can’t really stand the texture of cooked mushrooms, personally… I guess because they’re too “meaty” for me, as weird as that sounds!

  12. Celine Says:

    I should come out and state that I’ve never tried a Porto ‘shroom.
    happy belated birthday, Ricki!

  13. lindsay Says:

    hand me a napkin i’m drooling

  14. aTxVegn Says:

    This really is one of my favorite entrees. But I’m the only one in my family that likes mushrooms so I don’t get to partake very often. Your plate looks so healthy and delicious!

    Just the smell of fast food burgers makes me sick…

  15. Lisa Says:

    Goodness, I honestly thought that was a picture of steak for a minute! I was delighted to find out is was a juicy mushroom. Of course, I will be trying this.

  16. Tofufreak Says:

    I love your story! It was so cute 😀

    That mushroom looks so amazing!!!! can’t wait to try it out!!!

  17. Andrea Says:

    Happy Birthday! What a wonderful meal for your birthday dinner.

  18. Happy belated birthday, you incredibly gifted woman! I loved this post, your writing skills are amazing! The mushroom steak looks so “steaky”!

  19. shellyfish Says:

    You should have told us it was your birthday!!! Hey, I would have sent an extra chocolate!! I hope you had a wonderful birthday!!!!!!!!
    I loved this post!! “Harvey’s makes a hamburger a beautiful thing!” That was my favourite place to go when I was little – mostly because we could chose what went on the burger, not for the burger itself which I could have taken or left (and which I left forever in 1990). I have the hardest time finding portobellos here – M. Fish has never heard of them…I must research this injustice!

  20. gail Says:

    Happy Birthday! Your story had me laughing out loud, despite it being about eating meat 😀 I must admit that I am not a fan of portobellos, but this makes me think that I might need to give them another try.

  21. meg wolff Says:

    This post is fantastic. I was also once wooed by the golden arches. Loved this story. You should submit it to Vegetarian Times! And the photo is great. The recipe a keeper. 🙂

  22. Ricki Says:

    Hi Everyone:
    THANKS SO MUCH FOR ALL THE BIRTHDAY WISHES! Much appreciated 🙂 I’m generally low-key about such things, but since this was my first b-day celebrated as a blogger, I thought I’d share. You guys are the BEST!!

    I’m going to quote the HH about this here: “For a minute I thought this was meat. It really has a meaty taste.” So don’t tell the A Man, and see what happens! 🙂

    Thanks, Michelle. Glad you enjoyed it!

    As my friend Babe might say, Thanks so much–but looks aren’t everything. 😉

    Johanna–I love the idea of eating with my hands!

    I know–very close resemblance, isn’t it!

    Aw, thanks! I’m blushing. 🙂

    Hmmm, more chocolate?? What was I thinking–hey, by the way, it’s ELSIE’s birthday next month. . . !!

    Thanks so much. I had never thought of sending it out anywhere. Will look into it! 🙂

  23. Srivalli Says:

    Belated HB wishes!..seriously I would thought otherwise…:)..nice to drop in here…very interesting..will come around to check out more..

  24. Vegyogini Says:

    You’re making me crave portabello steak! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

  25. Yummy! My mom often makes similar “steaks” for me– and the rest of the family, too!

  26. Jes Says:

    Those look delicious!!! Portobellos make my world go ’round. I’m going to have to try your recipe very very soon and see what my omni boyfriend thinks. 🙂

  27. Russ Says:

    That made for very amusing reading!! Love it! Can’t really go wrong with portobellos – they just taste so damn good, but your recipe sounds like a winner. I’ll try it out next time I cook for my friends, and let you know!

  28. Hope Over Fear Any Day Says:

    I love your cute story and that steak looks wonderfully delicious. I really want to try this!

    Happy Birthday!

  29. Lisa Says:

    Happy Birthday, Ricki! Your parable was fun to read. What’s more, your portobello steak looks amazing and satisfying. I’m interested to see how it will go over at my house.

  30. I was dreaming of a portobello mushroom just the other night. As soon as I mentioned it to hubby he too was drooling with anticipation. And now this post? We’re definitely picking some up at the store the next time we go. I can’t wait to try your marinade (although I’m going to have to pick up some steak spice – something I never thought I would need. Hahaha).

  31. Tom Says:

    Great post, your recipe sounds delicious. I’ll bet it melted in your mouth. I got to try it!

  32. gizmar Says:

    Happy belated birthday. The story was so good. It must take you forever to write a post.

  33. Misty Says:

    Thanks for the comment! I really liked these, though mine didn’t taste like meat (thankfully). That was probably because I made a few substitutions – white wine is all I had on hand, and I used fresh herbs. And my cast iron pan has ridges, so the entire mushroom didn’t get seared. Still, it was great. Even the omnivore husband said they were really good. Happy birthday!

  34. […] routine since I wanted them to be “omni-friendly”, but here was the real winner:  Ricki’s Portobello Steaks.  I grilled the mushrooms after marinating, sauteed some sliced red onion, added the remaining […]

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