Having a party? Entertaining at work?
Does vegetarian food even cross your mind?
It should do because nine times out of ten, the vegetarian food always seems to disappear the fastest.
I say this as someone who has gone to buffet tables only to be faced with piles of chicken nuggets, barbecued ribs, ham rolls, cocktail sausages wrapped in bacon – you get the idea – and ALL the vegetarian food has disappeared.
What is it with meat-eaters that they always go for the vegetarian food?
Just for the benefit of anyone who isn’t clear yet, vegetarian food does not include fish or chicken. It does include dairy products, and free-range eggs. Cheese must not be made with animal rennet but a vegetarian substitute should be used.
For anyone who doesn’t know much about rennet – here you go:
Production of natural calf rennet
Natural calf rennet is extracted from the inner mucosa of the fourth stomach chamber (the abomasum) of slaughtered young, unweaned calves. These stomachs are a by-product of veal production. If rennet is extracted from older calves (grass-fed or grain-fed) the rennet contains less or no chymosin but a high level of pepsin and can only be used for special types of milk and cheeses. As each ruminant produces a special kind of rennet to digest the milk of its own species, there are milk-specific rennets available, such as kid goat rennet for goat’s milk and lamb rennet for sheep’s milk.
Dried and cleaned stomachs of young calves are sliced into small pieces and then put into saltwater or whey, together with some vinegar or wine to lower the pH of the solution. After some time (overnight or several days), the solution is filtered. The crude rennet that remains in the filtered solution can then be used to coagulate milk. About 1 gram of this solution can normally coagulate 2 to 4 liters of milk.
This method is still used by some traditional cheese-makers, e.g. in Switzerland, Greece, France, Romania, Italy, Sweden, United Kingdom and Alp-Sennereien in Austria.
Deep-frozen stomachs are milled and put into an enzyme-extracting solution. The crude rennet extract is then activated by adding acid; the enzymes in the stomach are produced in an inactive form and are activated by the stomach acid. The acid is then neutralized and the rennet extract is filtered in several stages and concentrated.
Alternative sources of rennet
Because of the limited availability of mammalian stomachs for rennet production, cheese makers have looked for other ways to coagulate the milk since at least Roman times. There are many sources of enzymes, ranging from plants, fungi, and microbial sources, that can substitute for animal rennet. Cheeses produced from any of these varieties of rennet are suitable for lacto-vegetarians to consume.
So there you have it. (ta wiki)
Back to catering. It would be even nicer to cater for vegans too, which is pretty simple, just miss out the dairy produce and eggs.
A long time ago we took a trip to Paris with BA. For some reason on a national and non-charter airline we couldn’t book vegetarian meals in advance. By the time the staff (can’t remember the current term for air hostesses/stewards/waiters etc) got to us, there were no veg breakfasts left. Really? The plane was so full of vegetarians? I think not. And basically they weren’t carrying enough veg meals. Everyone knows that the vegetarian option on flights is better than the ordinary stuff. The vegan ones are better still.
On the way back there was nothing vegetarian for anyone to snaffle before we did. Just nothing. After politely expressing our dissatisfaction they plied us with alcohol! Lots of it. We staggered off the plane having drunk all they could throw at us, and weighed down with tiny bottles of wine and spirits. Unbelievable. Food would have been preferable.
At one point in my heady career I used to order catering for a number of meetings. One of these was the prestigious monthly board meeting of directors.
My predecessor had arranged for a HUGE banquet to be served including half a dozen desserts, cakes, trifles, you name it, a load of cold meat, varying salads, and a load of other carnivorous goodies as well. This was for about eleven people. It was ridiculous and after every meeting, there was more than half the food left, so staff got to pick at it. But what a waste of public money. Oh, my predecessor had a catering qualification which may or may not have explained such largesse. She certainly didn’t have a financial qualification.
At one point the directors actually mentioned the food and agreed they would be quite happy with sandwiches. Well that saved me bringing in the axe on the banquet. So sandwiches they got. And a few other cold savouries, but at least it wasn’t the wedding feast of previous meetings. I changed suppliers, used a public sector catering firm, and always ensured there was something vegetarian.
I chaired a bi-monthly meeting at lunchtime for busy doctors. I did actually ask what people wanted to eat and they said they were perfectly happy with the selection I had chosen which was primarily vegetarian, although none of them were. Maybe it was a change for them? Regardless of that, if people are giving up their lunch hour for a meeting that helps me do my job, I want them to be happy with the food.
One medic did complain though. He wanted more meat. I ordered more meat for the next meeting and he didn’t turn up. The meat went untouched. I received a grovelling apology (he’d heard about the excess of meat on the clinical gossip network). I went back to the previous buffet menu and he never complained again.
Partner went to a Christmas works do a few years ago. Would there be vegetarian food? Yes, they had checked that out for him. When it turned up, the meal was roast potatoes, chips, and boiled potatoes. And while he likes potatoes he was pretty racked off with that.
We went to an opening night of a bar here in Gib. Same question, same answer. There was lettuce garnish next to the dead animals and deep fried peppers stuffed with cheese. There may have been one other non-dead item. There was nothing vegan. There were a lot of chicken legs, spare ribs, fish things etc etc.
Some twenty years ago we went on a cross-country skiing holiday in France with the Ramblers Association. I mention the RA as it was a crap holiday so I wish to slag them off for it, especially as they never responded to my complaint. The vegetarian food was not good. It took until the end of the week before the chef had the slightest understanding of what we ate, and no, picking the ham out of the peas was not adequate.
These days I’m not sure we are any further on in terms of understanding.
It is very tedious being treated as a second class citizen. Or third class. Or actually, non-existant. If someone says they have a particular dietary need or choice then it shouldn’t be too difficult to cater for them, whether they have diabetes, gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance or follow dietary rules based on religion.
Put simply, vegan options – without gluten or nuts – suit just about everyone. So why don’t more caterers or food suppliers do that? It must be far easier than providing separate Kosher, Halal, diabetic, coelic, vegetarian, vegan, casein/lactose-free foods.
Easy and tasty food?
Roasted and marinated peppers
These are all dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan and don’t offend religious rules. Sure, by all means add meat/chicken/fish to your entertaining, but do give a thought to those of us who really don’t want to eat non-vegetarian cheese and pineapple on a stick.
Post inspired by ‘No. I do NOT eat fish’ from More than Greens.