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Monday, May 12, 2008

Slate: Vegetarians steamed at chefs

Posted By on Mon, May 12, 2008 at 11:08 AM

With the possible exception of an entrée that stares back, I’ll eat just about anything. Yet with friends and even offspring of the meat-free persuasion, I take no issue with those who voluntarily restrict their diets. If anything, I feel protective of my vegetarian pals – particularly when we’re dining at a restaurant, where tasty, meat-free options can be rarer than a ten-buck ribeye. ... Frankly, it’s embarrassing: Inviting them out, only to discover there’s nothing on the menu that they can eat. Or, if there are some meatless offerings, they’re likely to be things like onion rings or beer battered pickles – not exactly the cornerstones of a healthful diet. It hardly matters whether we’re talking Lola or the local tavern, pickings are slim for those who don’t eat meat. Salads? Sure -- although there’s nothing like hanging with a veg-head to make you notice how often the greens come topped with chicken, tuna, or bacon bits. Meatless pizza, pasta, or a grilled cheese sandwich? Most kitchens can muster them up -- just don’t expect them to dazzle. No, when it comes to offering a broad selection of fabulous, meat-free cuisine – as cleverly conceived, attentively prepared, and knock-your-socks-off yummy as the rest of the menu -- it just ain’t happening in most eateries. So we got a kick out of a recent story in Slate, where meat-free writer Taylor Clark dishes up some insight into vegetarian travails, including this spot-on riff on the trouble with restaurants:
“As long as we're discussing restaurants, allow me a quick word with the hardworking chefs at America's dining establishments. We really appreciate that you included a vegetarian option on your menu (and if you didn't, is our money not green?), but it may interest you to know that most of us are not salad freaks on a grim slog for nourishment. We actually enjoy food, especially the kind that tastes good. So enough with the bland vegetable dishes, and, for God's sake, please make the Gardenburgers stop; it's stunning how many restaurants lavish unending care on their meat dishes yet are content to throw a flavorless hockey puck from Costco into the microwave and call it cuisine. Every vegetarian is used to slim pickings when dining out, so we're not asking for much—just for something you'd like to eat. I'll even offer a handy trick. Pretend you're trapped in a kitchen stocked with every ingredient imaginable, from asiago to zucchini, but with zero meat. With no flesh available, picture what you'd make for yourself; this is what we want, too.”
Are you listening, chefs? --- Elaine T. Cicora Read Elaine Cicora's restaurant reviews, food news, and comprehensive dining guide on the restaurant page at



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