Next Step 2010

Besides goals for the blog itself, I have decided on a few next steps for myself.

I started this blog a little over a year ago with the idea that I would review restaurants from the vegetarian perspective. At the time, I was hoping if I complained loudly enough, someone would hear, and restaurants would start including more creative options for vegetarians. Well, this squeaky wheel did not get the grease.

In fact and frankly, the restaurant scene in Minneapolis is pretty boring for vegetarians, and in my humble opinion, has even deteriorated. We have many fine new restaurants, but unfortunately most of them offer nothing more than a few sides or a single vegetarian pasta dish. Unless the pasta is in an Italian restaurant, hand-made ravioli or the occasional, and very unique nightly special, to see pasta on a menu flabbergasts me. That’s right, I said flabbergasted. Without swearing, I cannot think of another word that so clearly defines my complete and utter disgust. I stare at the word “pasta” with shock and awe. You have got to be kidding me! Have I missed something? Have we all been living with the eighties mullet and puffed up big-hair bangs for the last twenty years and not even realized?

I have seen trends in food all my life. Once supper clubs and diners got old, other firsts started. Remember the first pizza, submarine sandwiches, bagels, shrimp, seafood, calamari, Greek, Mission Burritos, Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, Northern Italian, and Sushi?  I bet if you think about it, you’ll be able to remember other firsts. The food and restaurant industries follow trends for all eaters except vegetarians. Don’t get me wrong, I like pasta, but at home in secret where I can repeat my mantra, “Pasta is so 80s!” Please, most of us have long ago evolved, and our diets include a diverse and exciting palate of grains, legumes and vegetables. Chefs have you ever thought that perhaps nobody orders the vegetarian option because it is so darn lack-luster? That’s right, I said lack-luster.

Well, around the time my CSA box started it’s weekly visit last summer, I got tired of begging and searching for something wonderful in the restaurants, and loved the challenge of getting creative with whatever was in the box, so decided to start posting a few recipes of my own. This was a turning point for Vegetarian Perspective. I no longer dreamed about lovely dinners in a restaurant, but instead dreamed of the fabulous meals I would create at home.

The arrival of the CSA posed a unique sort of challenge that thrilled me. You get this lovely box of fresh produce, you think about the guy who pulled it from the ground yesterday and the other guy who so nicely packed it and delivered it, and you don’t want to let a bit of it go to waste. How could you when you know personally the work that went into the growth and creation of the box? So here you have this produce, and you have to fit it into a recipe. In our modern world, cooking a recipe means deciding what you want to eat before you go to the grocery. You make a list of what you need, set out to purchase, and then come home to prepare the dish. With a CSA it is the other way around, and that stretches the creative juices. You have to cook what’s in the box.

As you know, vegetarians can consume large quantities of vegetables. The first year we participated in a CSA, our full-share was another farmers half, so we switched farms, because we were out of veggies three days after the box delivery. In sharing CSA stories with friends, I soon began to see that some people struggle with their CSA because they’re not sure what to do with all the produce, or they don’t have time for the creative process. So from May to September, Vegetarian Perspective had a clear focus: To create recipes for folks who get a CSA.

Once the CSA share ended, I found myself again trying to define the blog, and I also found myself back in the busy classroom with a new batch of students and very little time to cook. Things slowed down on Vegetarian Perspective, and I missed it. I missed my summer of morning cooking sessions and evening gatherings around the food.

Cooking has become addicting to me, and posting to the blog has been one of the results. But I am also beginning to understand how the social part of food motivates me. I need to make this food, and I need to share it because somewhere deep down, I want people to understand that meatless is wonderful, and can very easily replace a meat-based diet. My CSA box produced a lot of meals this summer, and we began to invite guests to enjoy it. We had a summer filled with parties and great food. Going to a restaurant was the last thing on my mind because everything I wanted was right here at home.

As I have confirmed in my search, good vegetarian food is not coming out of many Minneapolis restaurants. And, I also think that restaurants with their set menus have become too monotonous for modern culture. People want to be surprised, want something new and want things to change. Outstanding in the Field, Dinner on the Farm, and meals in Art Studios are growing in popularity. Because of this realization and my experience with last summer’s CSA cook-off, I have been inspired to venture into the Underground scene. Beginning in a few short months, Vegetarian Perspective will exist in both the virtual and carbon-based world. During the warmer months, I am going to attempt to prepare a weekly vegetarian meal based on my ideals of fabulous food. The menu will be outlined each week, but specifics may not be determined until the meal is actually prepared. Each meal will be based on whatever foods are the freshest at the time. I am not going to limit myself to only local fare for this first run, but will most likely participate with one or two only-local meals in August during the Eat Local Challenge. The main goal is to provide a venue for fabulous vegetarian food, and secondary goals include teaching vegetarianism and creating a larger social network of friends.

To start, the guest list will be by invite only and include friends of friends, but eventually I would like to open to a larger audience. Please feel free to send me your contact information through the vegetarian perspective email, and I will let you know when I open to the public.

Last summer I dubbed one of our parties, Dinner on the Driveway and another Picnic on the Patio, but the VP Underground is yet to be named. I just read of a new underground called Hush, and was reflecting on the irony of the fact that my never-came-to fruition restaurant was to be named “Bulla” (boo-ya) which is Honduran slang for “making noise.” I wanted to make noise about vegetarian food back in 2002 when I thought I might open a restaurant, and here I am again. Perhaps we should call it No Hagan Bulla! – Stop Making Noise! Any thoughts? I’m open to suggestions.

Again, thank you all for your readership. It’s been a fun year of creating and connecting with people across the Blogosphere – I have learned a ton from you all.