We're moving into feasting season, that time when the butcher's cash register starts to overflow and carving sets are disinterred from the sideboard.
But what about those whose idea of a holiday doesn't include the communal tearing of the flesh? Do vegetarians feel the absence of that "oooooh" moment omnivores get when their roast beast arrives at the table intact, its glistening crust radiating plenitude beneath the slavering gaze of assorted uncles and step-cousins?
It seems they do, because how else can you explain the existence of the tofu roast?
Tofurky, with its loaf-like form and core of stuffing, defines the faux turkey genre. But there are locally made alternatives. The following is a bite-by-bite report on three vegan-compatible substitutes for the festive bird.
YING YONG SOY FOOD TOFU ROAST with stuffing $19.95/kilo Preparation: steam for 15 minutes Sides: none Availability: Ying Ying, St. Lawrence Market, basement level, 905-616-1331; Big Carrot Rating: NNN
Sold at Ying Ying's St. Lawrence Market stall and by various retailers across town, the company's handmade nigari (a traditional coagulant derived from seawater) tofu is already appreciated by Torontonians. And it's the dense, appetizing heft of the tofu that makes the roast worth considering.
Available in whole rounds or halves, it's filled with "an old Canadian-style stuffing," according to owner Christy Zhang. The faux-turkey tasting panel found the bread stuffing was very old-Canadian in style but over-herbed to the point of bitterness. Nothing a little gravy or cranberry couldn't cure, but you will have provide these yourself.
TOFURKY WHEAT GLUTEN AND TOFU ROAST WITH STUFFING, $25.95 Preparation: Bake for two hours with carrots, onions and potatoes Accompaniments: Eight cranberry-apple-potato dumplings, "rich tofurky giblet' gravy and our signature Tofurky Jurky Wishstix" Availability: Whole Foods, the Big Carrot Rating: NN
Nothing brings the Volvos and Birkenstocks back to the homestead like a big ol' box of Tofurky feastin' fixins'.
The roast's dense wheat gluten and tofu exterior encases a rice-based stuffing. The dumplings have a pasty texture but taste good, as does the stuffing, which benefits from the addition of wild rice.
Both the actual Tofurky (who decided there's no "e" in "furky"?) and the gravy have a processed-food aftertaste, which is surprising given the chemical-free list of ingredients.
HEARTH TO HOME VEGAN CUISINE INDIVIDUAL TOFU ROAST , three meals a week/$59 Preparation: Bake for 15 minutes Sides: roasted potatoes, fresh vegetables and gravy Availability: www.hearthtohome.ca Rating: NNNN
To get this little tofu terrine treasure you have to be part of Hearth To Home's entree program: they deliver to you, in a snappy nylon pack full of Tupperware, three oven-ready meals every week.
Forgoing the puff 'n' stuff format, the H to H roast is a small round of La Soyarie tofu layered with a delectable stuffing based on chef Raisa Jari's mother's recipe. Our sample didn't include any vegetables, but the roast potatoes were a good addition. Combine it all with the silky mushroom gravy and this would satisfy all but the most fanatical turkey lover.
Unfortunately, you're too late for Thanksgiving, but it will be available again at Christmas.