Meatless Monday: Where Have the Vegetarian Menu Options Gone?
As a former vegetarian of many years, I’ve seen this diet and lifestyle choice move from the marginal to the mainstream, and now—could it be?—back again.
It seems the current foodie crop is deeply obsessed with all things animal. And while it’s great to see a focus on local and so-called more sustainable snout-to-tail menu options, it feels like vegetarians are once again being left out in the cold. Have you noticed this?
Recent visits with my sister, who is still a strict non-meat eater, have really brought this into focus. On several occasions we’ve wanted to try some new hot spot restaurant, both in LA and Toronto, only to discover that there’s barely an item on the menu that doesn’t contain some kind of meat. It’s not that veggies aren’t prominently featured everywhere, they are, just not on their own. Even the former safe bastion—the side dish—is being adulterated by animal parts.
You’d be hard-pressed these days to find a side of roasted Brussels sprouts that doesn’t contain bacon, or a swisschard sans chorizo. Even french fries are being done in duck fat.
While I acknowledge that pork does make things extra delicious (though I’m sorry, duck fat fries = overkill), I’m wondering where vegetarians and non-vegetarians are supposed to break bread together these days. Sure, there’s always Indian food, but if she wants a steak—or say, pork belly tacos—and he wants something that doesn’t feature pig ears, lamb neck gravy, lardo or marrow—just a few of the items featured on two new trendy LA menus I glanced at—they’re going to have to cook at home.
I’m being a bit hyperbolic of course: There are surely still great steak houses where a vegetarian can get a side of mashed potatoes or mac and cheese, and most of these trendy spots are both overpriced and overrated. (I don’t know about you, but I tend to go to the same three restaurants on the rare occasions I’m not cooking at home.) But fast food places seem to have given up on any attempt at veggie options too.
Remember that moment in time when even McDonald’s had a veggie burger and maybe a few meatless wraps? No more. These days road trips don’t offer a whole lot other than fries or some nasty salad that you have to pick the ham off of.
The only spot I can think of is Harvey’s in Canada, which makes one of the meanest veggie burgers I’ve ever had, but it seems they keep closing down.
The irony is that this food trend is cloaked in some kind of hunter-gatherer cool that purports to be more planet-friendly—but eating more meat, even the local kind, will never be as sustainable as eating more veggies. And while I now like to eat both, I still think Brussels sprouts are often better without bacon. There I said it.
Have the vegetarians and vegans in the crowd been a little miffed at this latest food trend? Where do you guys go where you can find great options for all?