It’s an odd title for a piece on my first sampling of Vegan cooking. For one thing, there was no meat. No eggs, no cheese, no dairy either. Just a lot of…everything else.
I had invited my coworker Jim to lunch that Wednesday. The outside of the restaurant, on Concord’s Main Street, was a plain brick building. Inside, we were greeted by a man who seemed to be the owner. He informed us the price per lunch was $8.99 per meal and we could pay on the way out. He then took us, still holding our hats and coats, past rows of long tables to the rear of the large room where a buffet style spread was laid out. With pride, he showed us the day’s luncheon entree, Curry with Brown Rice.
But first, soup and salad.
The owner filled two bowls with a dark green salad, applied dressing, and handed them to us. He also gave us Pear and Watercress Soup with croutons. We took them back to a random table, sat down and began to eat. The salad was okay, but I didn’t care for the soup; it had a strange sweetness and a greenish tinge.
After we finished our salads (Arugula and Alfalfa Sprout with Lemon Basil Vinaigrette), we went back for our curry and rice. But now another entree was available: Linguine di Monzone. Jim had a helping of each. I asked for curry only, since the linguine looked green and strange. But Jim took a bite and seemed to like it. Once I was done with my curry (which was delicious), I went back for seconds.
When I got to the buffet, a young woman had replaced the owner, who had left to greet new guests at the door. “More curry, please,” I said. “Oh, and can I also try some of the linguine?”
“Sure,” she replied. She then put two large spoonfuls of the green noodles on my plate, about twice as much as I wanted. I wondered at this, a buffet where someone else served you. I would much rather have served myself.
I returned to my table, my plate loaded down with food. I got a glass of icewater from a nearby table, and sat down to resume my lunch. Jim and I talked shop and chatted about everything else under the sun.
After polishing off the curry and rice (again, delicious), I started on the pasta. The first bite wasn’t bad. A little bland (no eggs were used) but somewhat tasty. The second bite contained a surprise – a small grain of sand that I could both feel and hear as it ground between my teeth. I swallowed and bravely went on. My third bite also contained sand. So did my fourth.
As I chewed this last bite, I laid down my fork with a sigh. As a former restaurant worker, I know it’s almost impossible to keep every tiny fragment of foreign matter out of the foods we eat. But three grains of sand in three bites?
My appetite was not completely ruined. I sampled two of the tasty Carrot Cardamom Chai Muffins and might have eaten a third, but the buffet plate only contained eight muffins for everyone, and I didn’t want to be piggish.
Jim and I had eaten everything served, except for the remains of my soup and a mound of linguine. It was time to go. I went to the cash register and paid the $18 bill. But as we left the restaurant, a line from an old Western song I had learned in elementary school entered my head:
“The chuck we get ain’t fit to eat / Press along to the big corral / There’s rocks in the beans and sand in the meat / Press along to the big corral.”
In my case, the sand was in the linguine. But I could sympathize with those cowboys of yesteryear as I recalled the lunch I had just eaten. It wasn’t a bad lunch; on the whole it was good. Sadly, those three grains of sand wrecked it for me.
Would I try Vegan cooking again? Yes, after a spell. But not at this place. If I were to walk by it at lunchtime again, I would most definitely press along to somewhere else.