Dinnertime in our household was always something of a pain, partly because I was seldom in the mood to cook after working all day and partly because we had finicky kids to feed.
These days, though, dinnertime has become even more of a challenge. Our family now consists of a meat-and-potatoes man, a vegetarian teen, and a pescatarian/near-vegetarian who also happens to be lactose-intolerant. If I cook, I generally have to cook a few different meals each night; this is not my idea of fun.
Eating out has always been a big part of our family’s entertainment budget, but even that has become a chore. In a city that prides itself on its food, there are surprisingly few options for people who are lactose-intolerant, and even fewer for vegetarians. If you happen to be both, God help you. The next time you eat out, take a gander at how many of the restaurant’s items are swirling in butter, topped with a cream sauce, or smothered in cheese. I’ve found out the hard way that many restaurants, particularly chains that ship prepackaged foods to the individual branches, have dishes with hidden ingredients that will trigger the most violent lactose-intolerance reactions. I’ve actually prayed that God would just take me now to end the suffering, all over a stupid pasta dish that wasn’t supposed to contain butter.
I know that restaurants can’t address every dietary condition, but it shouldn’t be too hard to have someone present in the restaurant who knows if a dish contains dairy products. It’s not rocket science, folks.
As for vegetarian fare, most mainstream restaurants can only offer house salads, and that gets a little old after a while. The only place that we’re all happy is a Middle Eastern restaurant, but my husband gets a little tired of lamb chops in place of his favored filet or prime rib.
A friend of mine called me from the French Quarter the other day asking for help. She wanted me to recommend a reasonably-priced restaurant in the Quarter where both the omnivores and her vegetarian niece could get a hot meal. I like a challenge, but I thought I’d have better luck picking the winning lottery numbers. It took a while, but I finally discovered that Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville actually serves a vegan plate. Kudos to them for realizing that a vast majority of Americans are either reducing their consumption of red meat or eliminating it completely, and that a restaurant in a tourist city is wise to address that fact.
Vegetarianism is not just a fad; it’s a healthy way of eating that’s been around for a long time. Pythagorus, the mathematician who gave us that theorem we had to memorize in high school, was a vegetarian; he was born before Jesus. More recent vegetarians include Leonardo daVinci, Robert Louis Stevenson, Thomas Edison, Albert Schweitzer, Albert Einstein, Dr. Spock, Charles Darwin, Coretta Scott King, yada yada yada.
Granted, they’re all dead now and presumably won’t be dining in local restaurants, but there are a lot of living vegetarians who would like the opportunity. So can we start broadening the spectrum for those of us who want a hot meal that doesn’t include meat?
If you’re a vegetarian or you’re just looking for some delicious food locally, I have to pass on my latest food find.
I almost wept with joy when I discovered that Pinnur Foods has a stand at the German Coast Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings. When I walked up to the booth, I was greeted by the nicest man selling some of the tastiest food I’ve ever eaten. I knew that I loved Hummus and Baba Ganoush – and theirs is quite possibly the best I’ve ever had, but I had no idea that I would actually crave Lima Bean Plaki, Tabouleh, and Red Lentil Balls.
The lady who cooks this food is from Turkey, and I think she’s a culinary genius. I’ve heard a few people ask if they’re planning to open a restaurant in the area; we can only hope.
E-mail Barbara Munson at email@example.com