Monday, April 26, 2010

Standing up for Vegos

I am an avowed omnivore - love a good steak and wouldn't give up cooking and eating good things like goat and rabbit and duck and venison and kangaroo for anyone. However for the last 27 years I have been preparing two separate meals most nights of the week because I am married to a vego and my oldest daughter went over to the other side at age 15. I am known to mutter darkly about these arrangements, but in reality I think the whole family is a lot healthier because for my sanity we tend to all eat vegetarian at least two nights a week and do eat much less meat than the average Aussie family.

As a result of my long experience cooking for vegos I have little or no tolerance for restaurants which don't cater for them. There's nothing worse than going to a function where you've informed the venue that a vegetarian meal is required and having them essentially presented with the vegetables served up with the meat option. Of course the opposite can be true too - sometimes vegetarians end up with a better quality meal because it is prepared individually (and airline food is often better if you tell them you're a vego).

The other night we were catching up with friends (both of whom are vegetarian) and I booked a table at a new local restaurant about which I had heard really good things - small menu, nice atmosphere and apparently excellent food. We arrived and I checked out the small menu (around 7 mains in total) to find that the only choice for vegetarians was no choice at all, a mushroom pasta or a roast vegetable salad (this on a cold, wet hills night). The 3 vegos insisted that the pasta would be fine, but I just didn't think it was good enough and did something I've never done before - I politely told the waiter that we wouldn't be staying because there really wasn't enough choice for the vegetarians. We walked up the hill to Earthly Pleasures cafe where among their choices were a tasty roast vegetable and goat's cheese stack, vegetarian lasagne or a vegetable tagine. I enjoyed a beautiful wild Barramundi steak served with a reduction of the sweet sticky sauce in which it had been marinated. Earthly Pleasures is a great example of a restaurant playing to it's audience; the chef and owners are locals who have worked out their market - a slightly grungy, alternative, environmentally and socially conscious crowd who care about the provenance of their food (all produce and wine is organic). The old bluestone house (built by the Jorgensens) is very atmospheric, and is much more laid back than when it was home to the fine dining Jorgie's restaurant. There is enough choice in the menu to cater for different budgets, and importantly they also know that the hills are alive with vegetarians (and their meat-eating partners) who'll patronise the restaurant and tell their friends (and blog-readers).


K_Bom said...

I completely agree with your sentiments - I'm a borderline vego myself owing to many vego friends who've opened up my world to the stunning possibilities of a meat-free diet. I LOVE the Earthly Pleasures cafe - so many beatiful, healthy choices and the fact that it's difficult to get in on a Friday/Saturday night speaks volumes.

Robyn J said...

Hi, I've just discoverd you & your blog after visiting the Healesville library, waiting to hear back from a friend to book in.I too just love meat & probably eat far to much meat (probably a carnivore in a former life) You also have my favorite supermarket on your blog Med-w/s in Brunswick, did you know there's another little supermarket very simmilar just up Sydney Rd further ? Looking forward to meeting you next week !

Barbara said...

Thanks Robyn I;m looking forward to the talk - always happy to meet fellow cookbook tragics!!