Unlike other meat-free dishes I've tried, this one has enough flavour and texture not to have me missing the meat. It's something that frequently confounds me, that in spite of my animal-loving, compassion-for-all-living creatures ways, I enjoy the taste of meat. They are uncomfortable roommates in my consciousness, these two characteristics.
The first time I tried this, I thought, "Sure, it tastes good, and sure, you don't long for the filling wholesomeness of meat. But is it worth all that time?"
The 15 minutes or so of slicing?
The nearly two hours of pre-roasting the slices? And then nearly half an hour arranging everything in careful layers? And then another 45 minutes of baking?
The second time I made it was after I decided that yes, it's worth the time, but I'd feel the pinch much less if I paid in instalments.
Hence, on the Sunday, the slicing and roasting, the transport of the frozen mushroom-and-potato puree from freezer to fridge. The recipe calls for white sauce, which is made of butter and white flour. I pooh-pooh your refined carbs, your empty calories, Recipe People. (Save them for the pasta sheets.) A few weeks ago I had tried and failed to make a mushroom soup thickened with potato rather than flour. The failure turned out to be quite a success in making a respectable white-sauce substitute for lasagne.
Then on Tuesday, after a hairy day at work that made me think those hard-nosed Temperance types with their wholesale shunning of alcohol consumption do have a point yes they do oh someone please get me a nice dim room with no stimulation and also hmm only about a kilo of chocolate yes milk is fine but at least 50% cocoa please, I came home needing to bake and voila! For once, something was already all set to be baked. Well, layered first, but after a day like that it was nice to have something so tactile and structured and real to turn my hands to.
And again I did that thing where I forget to photograph a cross-section before storage, when these vegetables with their watery cells tend to lose their shape and photogenic attributes. But before I took a knife to it, there it was. Inviting me to partake of the stretchy and the gooey and the crunchy and the mushy and all that is around and in between, to remember that what had happened that day at work and what sat before me in a baking dish had equal place in my life. That "life to the full" doesn't always mean what I imagine to be "life to the perfect", but it is good anyway.
So worth the time.