Category Archives: fail

all vegetarian boxed lunches are not created equal: or how i ate a brownie and a pepsi for lunch and wasted food

So now I officially feel pretty stupid for complaining about the vegetarian boxed lunch way back in this post, because I think we experienced the holy grail of seriously gross and inedible vegetarian cuisine this past weekend when we volunteered for another History Day event.  Here’s what the lunch looked like:

Okay, that’s a Pepsi, a bag of carrot and celery sticks, a “Mediterranean Veggetable Wrap,” and a brownie.  Now, there were actually two vegetarian wrap choices: the one pictured, and some other non-Mediterranean wrap, so I’ll applaud the catering company for the variety.  To bad the variety was DISGUSTING.  The options weren’t labeled beyond identifying them as vegetarian, so I had no idea what was in the box before I opened it.  I had to open the wrap to inspect it to see if there was anything that would trigger my mushroom allergy (spoiler alert: there was what looked like a portabella mushroom in there, so I’m glad I checked); here’s what it looked like:

So that’s some weird-looking pesto-type spread, some kind of feta-like cheese, and a bunch of soggy, cold, (potentially grilled?) veggies: some zucchini and squash, something that resembled red onions, maybe some tomato and carrots?  And upon poking around with my fork I located what looked suspiciously like a mushroom.  Great.  I couldn’t eat it, in part because I was afraid of triggering my allergy but also because IT LOOKED TERRIBLE.  One of the women on my judge’s panel let me check one of the “regular” veggie wraps, which looked like the same exact crap minus the pesto-ish spread.  I ate the brownie and carrot sticks and drank a Pepsi for lunch that day, while people around me were eating Turkey-Bacon-Asiago sandwiches.  I would have KILLED for the veggie sandwiches they had at the last History Day; those boxed lunches included chips!  And pasta salad and a cookie!  I seriously wish catering companies would just TRY HARDER.

We did, at least, have a total blast judging History Day entries again.  Ryan got documentaries this time and I was judging websites; we saw some pretty cool stuff and met some awesome kids.  Ryan and I are marking down 4.5 hours apiece for this one, and now that summer is around the corner, we look forward to finding more volunteer opportunities soon.

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mistake #2: why are there meat products in everything delicious?

So a week ago I came down with this pretty wicked sinus infection.  I’m not going to use that as an excuse here, because I am completely responsible for this screw-up, no matter how sick I was.  Lesson officially learned—if it’s not listed on a menu as explicitly ‘vegetarian’, ASK.  Because I didn’t ask, and I consumed something with fish sauce in it, and it was totally my fault.

Zen Zero has been one of my favorite restaurants since I’ve moved to Lawrence.  It’s cheap, and while it’s probably not terribly authentic and most likely falls into that murky “asian fusion” category of food, it’s damn delicious.  There are a couple of menu items I get there pretty regularly and I would always get them with tofu, because they manage to do a pretty good job of cooking their tofu, which is nice (a lot of places screw tofu up pretty badly).  The Massaman Curry dish is one of my favorites: it’s spicy if you ask for it to be, coconut milk and potatoes and tofu and peanuts; it’s just this giant bowl of awesome.  Last Saturday was the first day I started feeling pretty sick with this sinus infection, and I could barely breathe.  I felt pretty lousy, but I made Ryan take me to Zen Zero in hopes of getting a big bowl of spicy curry that might open up my sinuses a bit.  Not only did it not make me feel much better, but that trip accounted for my first accidental meat consumption this year that I’m aware of.

The trip was made of fail from the beginning, because of those damn delicious shrimp chips they bring to the table when you sit down.  I should have made the server take them away, so there was mistake #1.  Ryan and I had to stare at these things the whole time without being able to dip them in that delicious chili sauce and chow down.  Ugh.

 

Now here’s where I really screwed up.  Ryan was smart, and ordered the Thai Basil Tofu from the section of the menu that read ‘VEGETARIAN.’  I was afraid to try something new and sort of out of it AND I had been dreaming about that damn curry so I just went with it, EVEN THOUGH IT’S NOT IN THE VEGETARIAN SECTION OF THE MENU.  Again, totally my fault.  I just figured, TOFU.  There’s no meat in this.  RIGHT?  Wrong.  DEAD WRONG.  I realized after I had eaten most of it that I might have made a mistake, and the server confirmed that there was fish sauce in it.  Fail.

Thai Basil Tofu: Vegetarian

Massaman Curry: NOT Vegetarian.

So that was my first conscious screw-up.  I learned my lesson and will force myself to ask any time something isn’t explicitly listed as ‘vegetarian.’  I hate having to ask about stuff like this because I hate bothering servers/food preparers (especially after my long history in food service).  They often don’t know off the top of their heads about specific menu items, and sometimes the information is hard for people to find.  Ryan has a story about another scenario where he tried to ask about ingredients in a menu item and the people couldn’t confirm whether or not it was vegetarian, but I’ll let him tell that story.  So here’s the first big lesson I’m learning from the vegetarian part of the challenge: meat products are in A LOT OF FOOD.  Stuff that appears to be meat-free often isn’t, and that is pretty counter-intuitive.  If vegetarianism means simply abstaining from eating animal flesh, it would be a hell of a lot easier.  But because of the presence of things like chicken stock and fish sauce in products, you’ve got to do your homework.

Dining out seems like it’s getting increasingly difficult, thanks to this revelation.  Cooking at home has been a lot easier.

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