The Grit in Athens, GA remained a major favorite for locals and visitors alike for decades. As a vegetarian teen, I delighted in their strong savory plates and selection of pies whenever we’d travelled to the Southern college town just an hour or so east from Atlanta. Occasionally trekking out to see Glass Candy or Sleater-Kinney, usually doubling music with a side of vintage shopping, we always made time to stop at The Grit, no matter the occasion.
Located in an old brick building, The Grit introduced me to my absolute favorite vegetarian comfort meal of all: Golden Bowl.
Warming, filling and perfect for colder nights, the crispy tofu and broccoli, seasoned to the nines over rice, becomes distinctively its own thanks to a lather of tasty nutritional yeast gravy a-top. Especially now that The Grit closed its doors just a month ago, having access to The Grit Cookbook: World-Wise, Down-Home Recipes and periodically making Golden Bowl at home for a solid 15 years feels like a blessing, though bittersweet.
With November and December dinner parties upcoming, vegan relatives and those with sensitivities can happily enjoy a smattering of Goddess-sent Golden Bowl gravy on many dishes, as it goes wonderfully with potatoes, rice, veggies, stuffing, biscuits, Tofurkey, etc. Our experiments in whipping up vegan gluten-free versions have been met with almost exact similarity to the original! Just make sure you have your whisk arm ready. You will be whisking the entire time, a very important (literal) exercise for your gravy’s smoothness and success. It’s a simple and quick recipe, but takes some attention and a bit of a symposium over the stove.
I prefer almond flour and almond milk for a GF version, not just because this is what I primarily have on hand day-to-day, but their slight nutty flavors compliment the flavors.
- 1/2 cup vegan margarine (or 1 stick regular butter, if preferred)
- 1/3 cup whole wheat flour OR gluten-free all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 cup UNSWEETENED soy, oat or almond milk
- 1/4 cup soy OR tamari sauce
- 3/4 cup hot water
- 1 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire substitute (optional)
- Heat margarine in a saucepan til melted, then add flour and yeast. Using a whisk, blend until a roux forms and starts to bubble on medium heat. Keep whisking for a couple of minutes or until the mixture starts to thicken.
- While still mixing, add milk little by little. The trick is to consistently whisk until smooth.
- Add soy sauce, worcestershire and hot water while still whisking on low heat.
- Adjust levels. If too watery, add a little more flour, too thick, add a little more milk. For taste, you can simply adjust by adding slightly more nutritional yeast or sauces. I like to sprinkle a little black pepper and Spanish paprika as well for extra seasoning.
The tofu for the Golden Bowl dish itself is very easy for those interested in trying the whole she-bang. Just cut up extra-firm tofu into cubes and sauté in a lightly oiled pan on high heat ’til golden brown, add soy sauce to taste. Remove tofu and coat the rinsed+dried (or new) pan with new oil to further brown, add tofu again with more nutritional yeast to bring to a further crisp, making sure to evenly coat tofu with nutritional yeast fully until outsides resemble a toasted “fried” texture.
The Grit’s Golden Bowl is not just delicious but in perfect link with a fondness for Athens, GA in general. The documentary Athens, GA: Inside/Out is an incredible glimpse at the past music scene of this college town, especially for those interested in seeing The B-52’s in their earlier days. R.E.M. songs themselves sound like the countryside drive to Athens, + the queer ache of Decatur, GA-born angelic Stipe is quintessential alternative ‘80s and ‘90s Americana. The doc also features interviews with the great folk artist, Howard Finster (feature image).
This modified recipe is included in The Grateful Veg, the November feature of our Patreon. Our combined Concoctionary cookbooks are also available on Etsy with a “pay what you can” option via Ko-fi. Remainder 2022 sales of the Etsy bundle will be donated to Unearthing Farm & Market, a local org in which our lead graphic designer, Liz Yo, volunteers with.