Eating out: the actual test

Until now, I must admit, this has not been a particularly difficult challenge. As I’ve mentioned, I rarely cook meat just for myself (sob), so, apart from rejecting the lovely fishy things coming out of the test kitchen at work, I haven’t had to make many sacrifices. On Monday night, however, I met up with some school friends at Viet Grill on Kingsland Road, and I realised the hardest part of being a non-ideological vegetarian is ignoring the best things on ‘most every menu (not that vegetarian food can’t be just as good, just that the selection at restaurants is generally so limited that you have to be very lucky to find something that really sets your world on fire).

No summer rolls bursting with plump shrimp for me; no “porky” aubergine, no beef pho. Generously Anna (chief photographer) and Alex agreed to the vegetarian sharing platter (three words to strike fear into any heart), which is is pictured above; I can’t summon the enthusiasm for further description, save to say that tofu appears to be one of the few foodstuffs not to be improved by frying. The vegetarian section of the menu, meanwhile, consisted of five different green things, all cooked with garlic, and some sweet and sour tofu. I went for Morning Glory with garlic (oddly served in whole cloves), which was fine. I like green things, and I like garlic, so this should have been less depressing than it sounds, but frankly it was just a bit dull. Nice HIX IPA though, on the plus side (anyone telling me that this is fined with isinglass or similar can go and boil their heads).

Last night was the Guild of Food Writers AGM. The canapés, sponsored by the Lincolnshire tourist board, looked pretty good, particularly as every single one contained either meat or fish (another first, cringingly enquiring if something is vegetarian. Hopefully by the end of this challenge, I’ll be able to do it without apologising for the very question), including the local speciality, chine (pork shoulder stuffed with parsley: the picture above is some I brought back from a trip to Louth last year, a market town stuffed full of independent butchers, bakers and even breweries, which is well worth a visit – go and see the seals at Donna Nook while you’re at it) and lots of pork pie. In my desperation, I overdosed on crisps, cheese and Lincolnshire Plum Bread instead: the picture below shows a fine slice of Poacher I bought from the Cheese Shop Louth, but we were eating Cote Hill blue.

Next big test, someone inviting me round to dinner. This may, of course, not happen before Easter, and if it’s my mum, she will probably disregard my vegetarianism in any case, but we shall see.


3 responses to “Eating out: the actual test”

  1. I’ve been a vegetarian since 1972 and made that choice to not eat meat, so I don’t go to restaurants and wish I could eat meat dishes. I think your ‘project’ is interesting but as it isn’t something you would have chosen to be otherwise, I can see that the menu choices could seem a form of abstinence. Believe me, it is a lot easier being a veggie and eating out in 2011 than it was in the 70’s. Having said that, renewed interest in butchery has made it more difficult again in smarter cheffy restaurants. I get round that by not going to them.

    1. felicitycloake Avatar

      Hi Gloria; yes, it’s an odd one, because it’s not unusual for me to go into a restaurant and pick the vegetarian option anyway (and always where I’m not sure about the quality of the meat), but I realise now, as a completely unfussy eater, how much I appreciate having the choice of everything on the menu, rather than just one mushroom lasagne and one beanburger. On the plus side, I think it will encourage me to make more interesting choices, rather than just zooming in on the pork belly or the Dover sole. I suspect I might have to learn to love tofu and mushrooms more than I currently do however.

  2. For various reasons, I’ve eaten out five times since the start of Lent. I’m now suffering from a surfeit of caramelised onions, sweet potatoes, and goat’s cheese – a mushroom or piece of tofu would be a relief!

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