Our youngest has recently developed a vegetarian eating habit, except for the occasional McDonalds, and invited us to join her for lunch in the city at a funky (my description) vegan restaurant.
Getting into the place was kind of like what I expect going through the wardrobe would have been in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
- transported immediately from the familiar world into a disturbingly similar yet possibly uncomfortable one: you enter through what seemed to be a tiny unmarked wooden doorway off Rundle Street East End, up old wooden stairs, to another door at the top of the stairs. This door was closed and there were warning (my description) signs stuck on the door:
'New Staff Member - please be patient.'
'If you are in a hurry don't enter!'
'This door may be closed for extended periods.'
We bravely and ignorantly pushed through the closed door, deciding to take our chances with a new staff member no matter how slow he or she was today. We were in this experience with our beloved child, no matter how long it would take.
The decor inside was kind of in the style of rococo, I guess. Several large, heavily textural mosaic-framed images hung on the walls (wouldn't want one of those falling on my head while eating a vege-burger.) Interesting and precise hand-written menus on the walls that someone had spent more time than might be reasonably expected making. Is this, I don't know, 'vegan culture'? I had a fleeting memory about my days as a budding ceramic artist and the purists who wouldn't use clay that they hadn't dug from the ground and processed themselves. Sure we could all hand-write our menu signs. But I've got a computer and printer.
I don't know much about vegetarian food but I normally eat all my veggies, and I'd actually like to learn to cook vegetarian meals other than really unimaginative baked pumpkin blobs and things like that. Seriously. I do make a pretty mean spanikopita from a Greek cookbook that I stole from an old girlfriend, but that has cheese and eggs in it and I think vegan prohibits any animal products in the food. But it does taste good! Think lots of melted butter between those layers of filo.
I'm also known to make falafel in pita bread and learned that if one eats too many of them in one sitting that you'll soon be blasting loudly and noxiously from the backside. 'Everything in moderation' my dear wife would sensibly remind me. But I do love a good falafel in pita wrap.
So the falafel wrap on the hand-printed menu was my choice. I know falafel, and I like falafel. My wife ordered a different wrap. Youngest ordered a vege-burger - but without chips or Diet Coke.
Our food came-out pretty quickly in spite of the warning signs. I said to the server that I had the falafel wrap and the other wrap went to my wife, and of course that left the vege-burger through a process of elimination. The wraps were contained in Glad-wrap, which I thought would be an affront to vegan culture. Shouldn't they be in greaseproof paper or something a bit more eco-friendly? Brown paper? I don't know. My wife cut her wrap in half through the plastic, and I completely unwrapped mine. Big mistake.
The restaurant was a little underlit so I couldn't really see what was in my wrap but it was tasty. And oh so chewy. How can vegetarian food be so chewy? I tasted sultanas, coconut, alfafa sprouts - actually felt them more than tasted them as they are kind of hairy damp semi-crunchy nose-ticklers most of the time, something like blocks of butter but what turned-out to be avocado, and lots and lots of sunflower seeds. But did I find any trace of falafel in my wrap? No. Youngest child was wading through her vege-burger. Dear wife was enjoying her wrap saying 'this is unexpected'. I was chewing, chewing, chewing through mine while also watching it disintegrate in my hands. Shouldn't have unwrapped my wrap.
I got about 3/4 the way through eating my wrap, enjoying it but feeling a bit cheated that I couldn't find any falafel at all in it. But is one allowed to complain? Is falafel too expensive to use in a falafel wrap so instead it is padded-out with the rest of the ingredients? What if I upset the new staff member by complaining and she or he broke-down as it was the first day and the best effort possible and why was this customer being so unreasonable?! So I didn't. And I also thought that we had pushed our way into this tiny little restaurant despite the sign on the door and that perhaps vegan culture would have had us wait outside the door until invited in. We could have broken so many vegan rules without knowing it.
You know when you visit a foreign country and the customs are just different enough from your own that you don't know if some small, possibly accidental occurrence is just that, and not 'the way they do things here' that you make it out to be in your mind? That's vegan-land for me just now. I don't know my way around this place and what its rules are yet. What did that sign about the door being closed actually mean anyway?
Afterwards we paid for the meal - cash only of course. And like any group or amateur restaurant reviewers we dissected our meals while walking back to the car. I said that my wrap seemed to have a lot of coconut and avocado and sprouts and sultanas and sunflower seeds but not a bit of falafel which disappointed me, but that it was tasty, as my summary. My wife said that she was surprised that there wasn't a bit of avocado or coconut in her wrap but it tasted like a falafel dish, nice though. And youngest said she should have ordered a half serve instead of the full one.
Should have guessed it.