Friday, October 16, 2009

Everybody needs to eat lunch.

This is a story about the time my coworkers ate a vegan lunch. I busted my ass making it for them, so you better enjoy this.

At my last job, my team members frequently went out for lunch. I didn’t, because I’m cheap and my lunch options were basically limited to the Whole Foods across the street. The Whole Foods tempted me, though. Anyway, one day they came up with the bright idea to make lunch for each other. Each person would bring lunch for everyone else, one day a week. It sounded just as expensive to me; besides, why would you let someone else decide what you’re going to eat for lunch? I played along, because even though I knew I wouldn’t be getting much out of the deal, I wanted to surprise them all with a vegan feast.

They were more accommodating than I had expected, actually. I had a lovely Greek salad one day (the girl’s boyfriend worked at his family’s diner). Another day, I think I got some green beans to supplement whatever I had brought. The green bean dude was kind enough to ask in advance if they would still be vegan if cooked with the pot roast and then removed before serving. When I told him no, he was skeptical about the potential of green beans to taste good plain, but he gave it a shot anyway.

In the days leading up to my turn, everyone wanted to weigh in on the mysterious vegan lunch. Despite the fact that they regularly exclaimed over how good my food smelled, they were cautious. No tofu. No nuts (squeamishness, not risk of anaphylactic shock). I tried to nip it in the bud, but my goddess, they were picky. I refused to tell them what I was bringing. I was dead-set against bringing a lame pot of spaghetti or massive salad, but agonized over what I could possibly make that they would eat.

The night before, I cooked like a madwoman. It was going be delicious, and they were going to like it. I vowed that my presentation would be as good as it could be when cubicles and plastic containers were involved. Damn if they weren’t going to eagerly await lunchtime. Their first vegan meal was going to rock their faces off.

I was usually the first person in the office, so I took advantage of the extra time to create a menu. When they arrived and checked their email, this greeted them:

Subject: Vegan Gourmet

Good morning, dearly beloveds!

Submitted for your gustatory approval today:

Chickpeas Romesco: chickpeas (garbanzo beans) simmered with fire-roasted tomatoes and red and green peppers
Saffron-Garlic Quinoa: like rice, only better!
Almond-Anise Biscotti: delicious with everything from cappuccino to herbal tea

Enjoy! All recipes are from the Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.

Yours in animal-friendly deliciousness,
v.b. :)

I may have even made little labels for each dish; I can’t remember. My boss, a staunch tofu opponent who delighted in good-naturedly ribbing me, admitted that I’d outdone myself. I went with quinoa instead of rice in order to expand their horizons a little, and also to dispel the protein myth. I did include nuts, because 1) there were only a few of them and 2) if I make you food, you don’t get to dictate every detail. It was also one of my first attempts at biscotti, and I was stoked at how fabulously easy and biscotti-esque they were. Goodbye, $4 café ripoff! Hello, awesome homemade biscotti!

My coworkers were floored. Chickpeas? Quinoa? Whaaaaa? But they gamely tried everything, and even the two who ended up getting salads from Whole Foods said they were glad they’d finally experienced vegan food. The next day, another exclaimed loudly over the, ah, miracle the chickpeas had worked on her GI tract. It was a strange, yet tender moment.

The moral of the story? I don’t know—I’m a badass cook? Veganomicon has the power to convert the infidel? They were all appreciative, didn’t leave work hungry, and learned a little about my choice to be vegan. As Vegan MoFo swirls around us in a haze of intoxicating photos and recipes, let us remember that pulling out all the stops for a hardcore omni audience (one girl ate pigs’ feet, for Christ’s sake) and feeding them silly may eventually result in a first step towards a kinder life.

That, and pass the biscotti.


  1. I love this post, it is always awesome to hear a great tale of vegan activism through delicious, delicious food! Sounds like you were a hit and I can see why, that menu is scrumptious! My dad is in the US right now and I gave him strict orders to bring back a copy of Vcon for me! I've heard such great things...

    OH, and don't be afraid of okra! Hahah! It is delicious! You can chop it up into soup, bread it and fry it (mmmm....) or do what I do most of the time: leave it whole, toss it very lightly in olive oil, salt, pepper, and spread it out on a pan, roast in the oven at about 400F till it is browned and crispy. Delicious!

  2. Hurrah! It is always fantastic to introduce people the the wonders of vegan food. There are so many delicious options out there to show them that we are by no means suffering because of our dietary choices.

    I made almost this menu from Vcon a few weeks ago, though I made the chocolate hazelnut biscotti. It was my first time making any biscotti, and I too was a bit nervous! Now I also don't know why, it is so easy and super delicious!

    Hopefully your co-workers have had their eyes opened a little.

  3. Thanks, Susan! I loooove the chocolate hazelnut biscotti. I made little gift bags of biscotti as Christmas gifts, and now I'm afraid my family will revolt if I don't do it again this year!

  4. I've come to believe that serving fantastic vegan food to omnivores is our best outreach tool. Good for you, V.B.!