Accidental vegetarian

This morning I was wondering what to eat for brunch after a trip to Moore Wilson's (think grocery-slash-specialty-store. It is a supermarket, but it's got a lot of the good stuff that you won't find in your normal supermarket, like special ingredients that you'd only find in restaurants or mentioned on the Food Channel). I skipped breakfast since I woke-up pretty late, and I did kinda want to eat out anyway. So across the street from Moore Wilson's is the Brooklyn Bakery, and it was in their cabinet of delicious-looking sandwiches that I was searching for my between-breakfast-and-lunch meal.

Cafe food cabinet

While the picture above wasn't taken from the Brooklyn Bakery, what they had on display was very similar; lots of breads/buns/paninis filled with all manner and combinations of cuts of food. The one I eventually settled on was right next to an egg and bacon roll (which, when I looked at it, decided not to have because I had eggs for breakfast yesterday), so I went up to the counter and asked for "a roast vege sandwich please".

I also asked if they had any nice cold drinks (it's been very hot the last couple of days) and they suggested an iced chocolate. I didn't even know they did those, but it sounded like a cold version of a hot chocolate (which is what I usually get at cafe-type places instead of coffee because I'm not a coffee person) so I thought to roll with it and come what may.

When I sat down at a table a thought struck me, I ordered a vegetarian sandwich didn't I?, and it wasn't the first time in my life that I mentally smacked myself for choosing the meatless option.

For every animal you don't eat I'm going to eat three

My history with vegetarian food has been very hit and miss. Examples of misses include:

  • eating falafels on World Vegetarian Day - they look delicious, but they taste so very bland
  • choosing this pasta dish at a family dinner - it ended-up being basically tagliatelle pasta with nuts and spinach in some indistinct sauce
  • there was a lasagne and I can't remember exactly what was in it, but it was mostly tomato sauce

There are more instances which I can't remember, but in each one I chose the meal on purpose - either to expand my eating options or to just try something new - and in each one it was followed by a feeling of still being hungry maybe 2 hours later: a tell-tale sign that my appetite wasn't satisfied. Disappointment came soon afterwards.

Those experiences have tainted my view of vegetarian food and always makes me reluctant to try again.

As for 'hits', there have been so few that I can remember all of them:

  • ordering the 'Tuscan' bagel at Wholly Bagels - eggplant, pesto, mushrooms
  • eating non-meat sausage rolls at a friend's flatwarming
  • picking the spinach and feta omelette for lunch with a friend

Yes, that's it. Just 3. In my entire life.

What made those moments positives in my impression of vegetarian food in general is that they tasted really good, and they didn't make me hungry soon afterwards. And in each of those 3 cases, I picked them completely by accident.

With the Tuscan bagel, I thought the eggplant was some sort of special meat I hadn't eaten before (I've eaten eggplant, but not presented in that manner). With the fake sausage rolls, they did such a good job of imitating real sausage rolls that I didn't know they were vegetarian until I had gone through at least 2 of them and the friend who was cooking them up told me. As for the spinach and feta omelette, it was the nicest looking thing in the food cabinet at that time and place that wasn't a salad.

How I discover good vegetarian food

What was the roast vegetable sandwich going to fall under? Well it wasn't a complete accident (there were meat options right beside it after all) and I chose it because it was the most colourful of the sandwiches there*.

Did choosing it for the colour make it an accident? Not entirely. I hadn't had breakfast yet, so was it going to fill me up? I didn't know. So when the sandwich arrived, all warmed-up from the toaster, I was hesitant, but I was hungry. I dug into it, and... it was one of the best vegetarian meals I have ever eaten.

* I'll explain that in a future blog post; it needs a whole new entry for itself