I never realized before how deeply meat is embedded into our culture. Once you decide to eat less meat, or go vegetarian or vegan, it is kind of a shock to see how difficult it can be to find good meatless choices. We put meat into almost everything sandwiches, soup, pizza, salads and the list just goes on.
Hawaii was one example, but since it is an island, it does have certain limitations. And I don’t see a tofu luaua happening soon. In August we went to Eastern Oregon, the home of Painted Hills beef. In all of the restaurants we ate over those 3 days, there were either no meatless choices, or maybe grilled cheese for the kids. I was able to order my salads without meat, but none of them were originally meatless. Since there was no veggie option, I ordered a hawaiian pizza without the ham causing complete confusion. It is not the kind of place with true cowboys and cattle ranchers lounging around that you want to mention vegetarianism too loudly.
While in California yesterday for a quick business trip, my client suggested Black Bear diner in Napa. It looked very country and homey. Out of ALL the many lunch (and dinner) options on their extensive menu- there was literally only 1 vegetarian option. An iceburg salad that was just not very good.
At the airport in Sacramento, hoping to get something better for dinner, I surveyed the choices in Gate B area. Mexican cafe- chicken or pork were the 2 options listed. You could ask for it without meat, but then it is just rice and beans. Not to mention if you want to avoid cheese too. A grilled vegetable option would have been all that was needed.
The sandwich place and food kiosks all had meat in them. There was one pizza that was veggie- but if you don’t want the cheese? The burgers place did have a veggie burger option. I am suspicious of veggie burgers since they are not all created equally. Some can be delicious, but most are just some frozen store-bought patties that have been sitting around in the freezer forever since no one orders them. There is a big difference between having an actual vegetable option like a portobello sandwich that is equally as good as the other items on the menu, or having some kind of bland default or back up item.
I’m just bringing this up because I would like restaurants and cafes to actually provide good options and choices, and not make it so difficult. Have some delicious vegetarian and vegan options, and people will eat them.
At our office, the little coffee shop offers pastries and sandwiches from local bakeries. The owner orders little vegan pies- usually roasted vegetables. Those seemed to do well and he started also providing a vegan sandwich filled with hummus and roasted eggplant that is truly delicious. Those have become very popular, and probably not only with vegans.
It shouldn’t feel like you are getting the leftover dregs if you don’t eat meat. I’ll continue to support the restaurants that make an effort, and hope that their success catches on. I’ve never been to a vegan restaurant or bar in Portland that wasn’t busy. In cattle country, it would be difficult, but if people don’t even have the option, how can they choose meatless?