Guess I should have been a bit more sensitive to my surroundings.
But it wasn't until I stepped out of my car that I realized I had dressed in leather boots and a wool-blend sweater to attend a vegan cooking class called "Holiday Fixins" at the Spiral Diner & Bakery. That's $40 a person to gain class instruction meant to bring out your inner vegan--at least for the holidays.
I'd also eaten steak and pork for lunch, and I was certain that my classmates would be able to smell the salty suffer-fumes from a mile away. At the very least, I'd avoided wearing any make-up - especially the kind tested on animals. But that was more the result of laziness than any kind of real vegan awareness.
The 7-9 p.m. class got a late start, so I had time to think up an air-tight cover. "Oh, these boots? No. The cow died of natural causes. So did the sheep who gave my sweater. So it's cool."
One more thing: It wasn't as though I was anti-veggie or anything but I had never made a concerted effort to live or eat vegan. Not that there is anything wrong with those who do. My roommate freshman year of college had a boyfriend who adopted Buddhism and vegetarianism in the same week, and he was adamant about avoiding all animal products except for the times when he felt his "body needed meat." Such occasions were celebrated with a Double Meat Whataburger and I was right there with him, eager as always to participate in the ritual.
So I felt unprepared and a bit wary about what I was getting into, though I realized much good could come out of it.
Spiral Diner offers a vegan menu to patrons who are vegan, vegetarian or "trying to be healthier," owner and class instructor Sara Tomerlin told me. "What we do is based on animal rights, health and environmental concerns."
Although it was Tomerlin's first time teaching a class, Spiral Diner has long offered these classes to customers who have seen its food and wanted to re-create it. There's even a cookbook in the works.
"We're definitely not afraid of giving out our recipes," Tomerlin said. "We want to give people vegan options. What we do is a service."
Classmate Jessica Harris sat next to me and wore a funky hat and toe-shoes. She told me that she'd been a vegetarian all her life.
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"I'm going to see my family for Thanksgiving and they eat meat," she explained. "So I want to get some vegetarian recipes."
Around 7:30, a man moved two large bicycles, set up an electric burner and we took off.
To the class of 25, Tomerlin presented seven recipes: traditional mashed potatoes, rosemary garlic mashed potatoes, sesame glazed green beans, coconut sweet potatoes, cranberry pecan dressing, biscuits and brown gravy. Our recipe packet had bonus recipes for sweet potato pie, peanut soup and pasta salad.
While most of the ingredients were pre-chopped or pre-boiled to save time, Tomerlin expertly handled the rest, folding mixtures and mashing potatoes and fielding the few questions from my classmates. The class watched her work and kept up a constant dull chatter, which wasn't so bad, though the cell phone that went off three times grew somewhat annoying.
I thought the ginger ale tasted soapy, but that's why there's no cooking class for soda. But overall, Holiday Fixins didn't disappoint. On the contrary, it delivered in a huge way. The food was savory and full-bodied and filling. After instruction, the staff set up a buffet and Tomerlin invited us to "get a little scoop of everything," and then we could go back for seconds or snag some take home.
I made the untimely mistake of eating slowly, so I missed out on the take home. But with the holidays around the corner, I knew for certain that at vegan biscuits and sweet potato casserole were in my immediate future. Also a plump, mesquite-smoked turkey. Just sayin'.