Why I’ve lost my appetite for eating out as a vegetarian

The Irish Times: We Love Food – Angelo McGrath, premedia department


I rarely eat out these days, and its not the only recession that’s driven me indoors, it’s mainly being vegetarian, or a “fussy, awkward eater” as it still seems to be viewed.

Vegetarian food, as with all other food, comes in waves and is driven by trends, and in the case of vegetarian food, the trends are rarely good. The first I remember back in the 1980s was the plate of boiled vegetables, sometimes with the remnants of the recently scraped-off meat still stuck to the edges of the plate.

To hide the lack of protein, and the fact that it was just boiled vegetables, it became known as a “Medley of vegetables”. If that fooled you more than once, it was your own fault.

Next trend was the vegetarian lasagne. The only enticement in this was guessing whether it was going to be a hard brick with curled up crispy edges, or a slushy mess.

The era of the veggie lasagne lasted a long time, but was joined sometime in the 1990s by the vegetarian stir fry. This again varies in style from soup with some hard vegetables floating in it to a soggy unpalatable heap of vegetables held together by a sauce poured from a jar.

Today, it’s generally something with goats cheese in it, or wild mushroom risotto. As my wife is also vegetarian, and likes neither goats cheese nor risotto of any sort and really doesn’t care if the mushrooms are wild or tame, this is a major restriction.

Vegetarians rarely get a choice in restaurants, sometimes the person taking the order will have to check with the chef to see what he can cobble together, pasta being the most common offering. But I cook pasta when I’m “too busy to cook”. As an alternative to the ever-present goats cheese starter, my wife once got offered an avocado that the chef helpfully cut in half, no dressing no filling, he obviously felt cutting it in half was keeping up his end of the deal.

There are, of course, exceptions to all of this: ethnic eateries are generally better than Irish, and there is in fact a good restaurant in Naas that has a separate vegetarian menu. When the next trend comes along, I’ll venture out again . . . unless that trend turns out to be goats cheese risotto on a medley of vegetables.

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