Vegan on vacation? Hmmm, not so much

We just returned from a week in the great American South, a few days in Atlanta and Asheville respectively. I could have framed this post around what we did and saw when and where, but food provides such a perfect way to frame a trip, so here goes:

Everyone was very patient--even generous--with our incipient veg*nism. When we arrived, Aunt Shelley served us the most wonderful vegetable barley soup, red cabbage in vinaigrette and ratatouille over pasta. The next day she whomped up a splendid brunch for the omnivorous extended family--12 of us in all--with pasta salad, a savory navy bean casserole, hummous, baba ganoush, tabouli, tuna, bread and other nosharai, some which she prepared ahead, other things seemed to appear by magic, as if her refrigerator was a bottomless magic hat.

Shelley is a remarkably efficient cook; one morning she made pancakes in the time it takes me to blow my nose and a full dinner, table set for guests and everything in less than 30 minutes. She should have her own show. Really.

That night, Mitch's cousins Gregg and Danna put on another veggie feast: Homegrown heirloom tomatoes drizzled in olive oil and balsamic, potato and green bean salad, farro (a new obsession) and stuffed portobellos. I was ready to move in, especially when I spied Gregg's vacuum-siphon coffee maker.

After that things went off the rails, veganwise. At our anniversary dinner (we share the same date with Gregg and Danna) where Danna was so sweet to call and check on vegan options, I ordered the foraged wild mushroom and arugula pasta but couldn't help but plunge my spoon into the pumpkin tiramisu (not to mention the braised cannelini beans in chicken stock). Then at The Flying Biscuit Cafe, a fluffy white biscuit and cheese grits elbowed their way next to my scrambled tofu.

Asheville, N.C.

We visited friends in Asheville, a Brigadoon of a city in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Like Austin, Asheville is the kind of burg where the stickers on rear bumpers read, "Keep Asheville weird." Being the progressive oasis in a largely red state, this really means, "Keep conservatives out."

This time of year the trees in town and the surrounding mountains are lighting up like LEDs in burgandy, gold and orange. Our friends drove us to Pearson's Falls, which gave us a tour of the nearby communities and beautiful hillsides. They also shepherded us to a series of fine meals; the photo at the top of this post was taken from the terrace of the arts-and-crafts-era Grove Park Inn where the carnage was shrimp and scallops on grits (and, yes, there was bacon, too.) We were gobsmacked by the place, dolled up as it is in Craftsman furnishings, which lend the resort a casual, unfussy air reminiscent of the great lodges in the National Parks.

Another culinary find: Chorizo, a Latin-American cafe that presented me with an enormous portobello-stuffed pancake recumbent on a bed of spicy black beans, sweet potato and salsa. So good, I could have tucked myself in and taken a nap.

Mr. Nake-id and I were incredibly touched by the time and care our family and friends took to show and schlepp and share. In Judaism, showing hospitality to guests is a mitzvah, and in these busy, tumultuous times, even more so. We were very, very blessed.

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