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:
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!
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,
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.