The vegetable plate–a lunch special comprised of several vegetable or starch side dishes–is a venerable Southern tradition, kept alive by cafes, diners, lunch counters, and cafeterias. It’s my favorite thing to order at a “home-cooking” restaurant. I can’t resist the often hand-written lists: field peas, baby green limas, stewed okra & tomatoes, broccoli casserole, candied yams, cauliflower, macque choux, smothered squash, baked macaroni, creamed potatoes, creamed corn, red beans, white beans, snap beans….If I’m in luck, one of my all-time favorites like speckled butter beans, purplehull peas, lady cream peas, or shrimp & mirliton will appear. (About the only vegetable I’ll pass up is smothered cabbage.)
Lasoyne’s Meat Pie Restaurant in Natchitoches, LA (622 Second St, 318.352.3353), oddly enough, offers a fine daily vegetable selection. Earlier this week, I had lima beans, fried okra, and broccoli casserole, and I polished off my dining companion’s side dish of field peas. Now, by vegan standards, this isn’t an all-vegetable meal. The broccoli wallowed in orange cheese,the limas tasted of smoky pork, and the field peas contained bits of bacon. But what vegan in his/her right mind would darken the door of a place calling itself a “Meat Pie Restaurant?”
The meat pies, by the way, are quite tasty. Made of 80% beef and 20% pork, the handmade pies are deep-fried to a dark golden brown. (My own meat pie recipe inverts this proportion, and I use green onions and red pepper in the filling.) It was nice to see that the meat pies are still handmade, in-house, as they have been since 1967.