Tuesday, September 21, 2010

you people = a (welcome) challenge

I have mentioned before that I was kind of a thorn in the side of the catering service at our old offices, asking pesky questions like, "Is there chicken broth in the vegetable soup?"  I don't like to inconvenience people, but I will admit that I was quite pleased when after a few inquiries, the catering manager did two things: first, he started labeling whether a soup was vegetarian or not; also, there were two tureens, and after a short while, I found that one of them always held a vegetarian soup to balance whatever was in the other.  I appreciated this effort and was sure to thank him and make compliments where appropriate.  More time passed and I found that creative and substantial vegetarian options were finding their way into the weekly menu, and again, I found the time to thank the staff for that effort.

Two months ago, we moved into our new offices and acclimated to a new on-site caterer.  As a welcome and thank you gift, each member of the staff was given a travel mug (emblazoned, of course, with our brand logo) and inside was a $5 giftcard to the cafeteria.  With nothing to lose, I wandered in one day...and wandered around...and came up relatively empty-handed.  I greatly appreciate their ingredient cards beside their soup tureens, but on the day I was there, both tureens contained animal soup.  All the hot food was also out-of-bounds and even the salad had chicken on it.  To their credit, they carry Luna bars, and I was about to try to make a meal out of them when I remembered some colleagues excitedly telling me the salad bar had tofu.  Spunky had also shared that there were snack-sized hummus-n-pretzel cups.  Just as I was wandering toward the salad bar, the chef came out from his station and asked if he could help me find anything.  I told him I was vegan and was just investigating my options.  He looked dismayed, but as I was to learn, he was not dismayed because I was being difficult.

What have I learned from these two experiences?  Real cooks/chefs welcome the challenge someone like me brings to the table.  I think they don't realize how bored they get within the established parameters of "normal" cuisine until someone comes along and says, "Well, it's great what you're doing here, but can you make something substantial and palatable that does not involve dead animals?"  Since that first interaction, the chef has approached me twice - once in the cafe, while I was making another salad, he came over to show me the marinated barley salad he had added to the line, proudly showing it to me and telling me it is vegan and that he plans to experiment in coming months with a variety of heirloom grains he had ordered.  Today, we had a health fair at work, and the catering company was represented and had a tray of adorable little bamboo boat with plastic demitasse spoons so you could eat the mini wheatberry salads.  They even gave out recipe cards, and again, my new friend was there, excitedly letting me know that the salads were vegan.  I was touched.

This is a marked improvement over HotDogMan.

Last night, I made Coconut Curry Rice from Vegan on the Cheap.

The best part about this was how well-portioned it came out.  It provided enough for Mister and I to fill our bellies, as well as providing my lunch today.  It was tasty and smelled good, but was nothing special.  I realized while putting together the ingredients that the way Robin keeps things so cheap is by relying heavily on frozen foods and pantry staples.  I don't think I would make a menu exclusively from this book again, once I get through this week - I need more fresh foods, especially when I am so aware that the winter is coming with the threat of stealing all my fresh foods from me.  It is inexpensive and convenient, but I can't eat a whole week of pantry foods.

Tonight, we had the Tuscan White Bean Pizza.

It was so good and I was happy for the freshly sliced Roma tomatoes decorating the top.  The base is a simple but flavorful "sauce" of mashed beans and garlic, and I used a pre-made pizza crust from Whole Foods.

Served with a bowl of mixed olives, we heart pizza!

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