Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Vegetarian in Brussels: A One-Act Play

The following post will either read as a rant, or an offering of vegetarian humor, depending on your/my state of mind:

The other night, I was invited to a work dinner at the Brussels Food & Wine Academy. My invitation offered a slew of culinary options - gluten-free, shellfish allergy, nut-free, even Kosher, for God's sake. Given that I actually keep kosher, I knew better than to request that option (waaay too complicated to figure out unless you live it), but I thought "surely, I'm safe if I take vegetarian. Vegan for Gidon." Famous last words.

I will qualify all of the following by reminding you that I am not vegetarian, and Gidon is not vegan - but for the purposes of the Food & Wine Academy, they should have been planning for those cases. Therefore we reserve the right to condemn them.

The evening started innocently enough with passed hors d'oeuvres. The only ones we could eat were the vegetables, which a vegan couldn't dip into the Russian dressing (mayonaise = eggs). We cheated on our vegetarian/vegan guises by partaking of the smoked salmon.

We sat down to dinner and starters were served. Salad for Gidon - so far, so good. Scallops for me. Houston, we have a problem.

Scene: a restaurant. Vegetarian diner seated at table. Enter waitress, with scallops.

Diner: Excuse me, these are scallops.
Waitress: Yes.
Diner: I am vegetarian.
Waitress: Yes.
Diner: I don't eat fish.
Waitress: Oh. You are vegan.
Diner: No, I am vegetarian. I don't eat animals, and I don't eat fish.
Waitress: So you're vegan.
Diner: NO, YOU RAVING IDIOT! (throws chair at Waitress)

All of that was true except the last line - which may, in fact, be the most believable part of that conversation. Having been (in)appropriately reprimanded by my superiority-complex endowed waitress, my scallops were finally removed and replaced with a salad.

Forty seven hours later, our main dishes arrived. By this time, they had conveniently placed me in the "vegan" box, so Gidon and I both got a few spoonfuls of rice, 6 cooked mushrooms, and some baked jerusalem artichokes. I have no complaints with the quality of the food, just the size of the portions, since thus far they had provided us with enough food to starve a rabbit.

In short, we came home at midnight and made dinner. Oh, the humanity!


Anonymous said...

Just stumbled across your blog and enjoying it very much!

Your dinner reminds me of many that I had during my years in Brussels. I have endured many fancy dinners being served either a plate of pasta or a heap of oily green beans. I always bring a power bar in my purse now!

Glad you are writing about veggie-friendly resto's in Bruxelles. If you want any reader tips, I would be happy to give you some!

Best wishes, Erin

Sharon said...

Hi Erin - Yes, always most happy to get pointers to new restos with good veggie options that I haven't tried yet. Feel free to send those suggestions along!

TriniGourmet said...

Hilarious :) Is there a kosher restaurant scene there? :) Are they as bad with vegetarian options?

Sharon said...

There is indeed a kosher scene here but it's super small! You've inspired me to put up a posting on one of the kosher places, although it's far from vegetarian. So that's my work for this evening!

Jovanka said...

As a former vegetarian now vegan living in Belgium I have noticed that can't-tell-the-difference-between-vegetarian-and-vegan thing too. Sometimes I find it's best to spell it out: "without meat, without fish, without cheese, without milk". In response to your comment on my blog, here's a quick guide to vegetarian restaurants in Brussels: http://www.happycow.net/europe/belgium/brussels/

I hope that helps!


Sharon said...

Thanks Jovanka. Indeed, finding the vegetarian places is easy enough - it's finding the vegetarian-friendly places that can make you just want to stay home with your quinoa and vegetables!