The vegetarian shit list

So Mike and I finally got our butts to a meeting of a group of local vegetarians for dinner on Friday. We had a great time, including great Indian food. But I think the best part is finally being surrounded by people who get you — the people who have also been the weird ones at every table. Of course, even within that group there are a lot of differences in diet and differences in opinion of just how serious a thing this is. But overall it was a very welcoming thing, and a nice change of pace to be the majority in the room.

After 3 1/2 years sans meat (wow!) there are a few things that are always the same and always irritating about being veg (or pescetarian in our case). And I will preface this by saying that I love love love and appreciate the efforts by my friends and family to accomodate my diet. It wasn’t their decision to cut the bacon out of their baked beans but they do it anyway, and for that they are supa-awesome.

But that also leads me to point one, which is that nothing makes me want to shrivel up and disappear than someone making a big fuss out of having a vegetarian at the table. “Oh yeah, I forgot, you’re a vegetarian!” Really, it’s fine. Even if I have to slap together a cheese sandwich I’ll be fine. I’ve done it before. In fact, I have no problem making something for myself if need be. I think sometimes people forget that many things in our diet are already vegetarian (ever had spaghetti with marinara sauce? A PBJ? Eggplant parm?) So it shouldn’t be any kind of crisis if you’re having a vegetarian over unless you were planning to roast a pig in the backyard and eat it with your hands. And then, okay, I’ll bring something for myself.

Point two is that the number one substitute for meat always seems to be mushrooms. I get it — they are meaty-ish tasting and also brown. But I have a real aversion to mushrooms because of the texture, so it really sucks that they’re everywhere among vegetarian options (which are already few on local menus). So I suppose it’s my fault for being extra picky, but seriously. There are plenty of other foods besides mushrooms people could cook with. Come on.

It also seems like chefs are on auto pilot when it comes to putting that token vegetarian dish on the menu. Let me guess – pasta with vegetables. Woo hoo! I think because I’ve chosen to make my diet more varied and I love to cook and try new recipes that I’ve discovered just how many zillion things you can make vegetarian. And if I had to choose out of all of them what I wanted for dinner, pasta with vegetables would be like number 126. Or, okay, now I’m on a roll — what’s up with the vegetarian sandwich or wrap that’s basically raw vegetables and a squirt of bland sauce? Did you even taste it? Because if you did you’d realize no one wants to eat that for lunch. Even a wacko vegetarian!

It was soooo nice when we were on vacation (or last weekend in Eureka Springs) when we would get to a restaurant and 2/3 of the menu was vegetarian friendly, including things like vegetarian biscuits and gravy, vegan hollandaise, tofu scrambles. I mean, I could just go back to the kitchen and kiss somebody for being both creative and considerate. I know every restaurant serves its community and this community just isn’t that vegetarian, but sometimes I miss that ease of ordering.

So what would make me happy? Just a diversity of options. There are so many in the world (and let’s face it, this is a world community of well traveled people now) so there’s no reason for chefs and home cooks not to take a chance on some different recipes. Let’s get some hummus and falafel, polenta cassrole, eggplant curry, peanut stew, sesame noodles, black bean chili, bean and kale soup… up in here. Would that be so bad?

If you want to take a chance on a new recipe, I really recommend the Moosewood cookbooks. And of course there are plenty of good recipes right here.