The Food Matters Cookbook Chronicles: Rocky Mountain Seitan


I love Denver. First and foremost, a guy called me a “swell fellah.” You think that EVER happens in New York? No. “Good guy” maybe, but that’s not the same thing.

Denver is a tad generic, but the people are – as they are most everywhere in the West – from all over the place, generally friendly, and generally genuine. The weather is spectacular, or it has been whenever I’ve been here. The airport is essentially in Nebraska, but you can drive really fast so it only takes two hours to get into town. (This is an exaggeration but anyone who has flown in knows it can feel that way.) It takes an hour to get from curbside to the gate, too; this is the biggest airport in the country.

The town, as I say, is unspectacular; even the pleasantly Western downtown has been Mall-ified beyond belief; you have never seen so many uninteresting looking restaurants in such a small area, I swear. Pasadena has more soul.

The LODO (LOwer DOwntown) area is sort of an exception. It was there I was headed, for a talk at The Tattered Cover, one of the country’s strongest and best remaining independent bookstores, ranking with Elliot Bay in Seattle and the unique Powell’s in Portland. (Both of which I think I’m visiting next month.)

First, I was on KMGH-TV news at 11, located outside of the center of town. I was with anchors Bertha and Mitch. I got to sit at the anchor desk, which I believe was new to me, though I do forget things. (You can’t imagine how many staged tv cooking demonstrations I’ve done over the years.) I liked them both a lot; sometimes local news anchors can act like Brian Williams looks, but these two are genuine. That’s Denver.

Sitting there, I learned that there had been record-breaking heat on Tuesday: 92, and the old record was 89. Has anyone else noticed it’s been a warm year?

I learned that a woman in Littleton loves her husband enough to have gone to the local ice rink, gather up a truckful of Zamboni scrapings, and dump then on their lawn for his birthday, because he likes snow. So on a 92 degree day he came home to snow! Come on! Is that love or what? We all liked that story. Now segue back to the weather guy. 92!

Mitch and Bertha reported on mudslides in Mexico, which seemed serious, and rockslides and car crashes in Colorado, which did not. Mitch and Bertha are smart and lively and did the best with the material they had, but somehow it seemed there was one national story – President Obama is fighting back, goshdarnit! – and everything else was a little, er, as if Denver were the center of the universe. But local news is local news. I had the feeling the only reason the Mexico mudslide made it on is that the video footage was incredible.

Thus I was surprised and even honored that they had me. Could it have been that, in the half hour I saw, I had perhaps the most important message of the day, except maybe for that of our bold President’s newfound determination? What did I say? The same thing I always do: that our diet is making us sick, that it’s damaging the planet, that we need to eat more plants and less of everything else, and that we need government help to get this done. Take that, car crashes!

I went from there to lunch at Watercourse, with my friends Scott and Jenny. I drank local beer and ate seitan disguised as meat (“fajitas”), which ate like crispy roasted French toast injected with vegan butterball solution. I do like seitan, but perhaps not this style. I think the food here might have been pretty good, actually, but obviously I ordered the wrong thing. (In fairness, I did order the seitan fajitas because I thought they were the weirdest thing on the menu. I liked the place, and both Scott and Jenny were pleased with their food.)

It was gorgeous. We sat outside and I baked. At this time of year, even if you’re traveling to Miami next week – as I am – you don’t know when your last great encounter with the sun will be, and I relished it. After a tech-check at Tattered C., I headed to the hotel for a few hours’ work on the talk and a “where-the-hell-am-I” nap.

The talk was well-attended, and I think went well; it was the first time I’ve given the new, all-out, no-holds-barred thing you’ll probably have a chance to watch online by next week. The Denverites seemed happy – only one person fell asleep, and, judging by the question he asked when he woke up, he might’ve been stoned – and no one left in the middle or booed. There were lots of questions and I signed many books, and everyone seemed glad they came.

I then went out to dinner with radio show host Dave Sirota , and had lively intelligent conversations with him and his equally brilliant wife Emily. We are all on board to change the world. I felt a little like The Oldster but that happens.

I write from the plane to Minneapolis, where I’ll be speaking three times in 18 hours before heading home. Maybe I’ll get called a swell fellah there too. Stay tuned.

(Photo Credit: D_Brookes via Flickr)

Posted in Travel


  1. Anonymous said...

    We Western staters are exceedingly charming. And we’d love to come see you at Powell’s. I’d probably make a trip from the high desert for that. However, we do have some WONDERFUL small book stores in Bend, Oregon. Please come. I’ll cook for you!

  2. Perfect__Mess said...

    Glad to hear you enjoyed your visit to my town. Watercourse is one of my favorites. If you ever return you should try the buffalo seitan. I dream of it …. it’s that good!

  3. Anonymous said...

    Love Denver too…transplanted 35 years ago…help, you didn’t tell us where you had such an entertaining dinner!

  4. Alex M. Pruteanu said...

    Sure, in Denver you’re a "swell fellah" but in NYC you’re a "Goodfella." I’ll take the latter, please. I haven’t been to LoDo in probably 5 years–its nice to know they still haven’t spoiled it.

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