Thursday, September 16, 2010

At the Picnic: Pass the Cheese, or Pass on the Cheese?

Each September, I attend a fundraising picnic for the retirement home of the chef's association my sweetheart belongs to. You may recall the dinner dance we attended last winter. A picnic table is much more my speed. While he cooked up a storm, I enjoyed the festivities with my parents.

Petit dejeuner: a croissant, $1, and coffee, $1.

Tombola, 3 chances for $1. Push the paper out of the plastic, and if it has a number, you've won!

Prizes included everything from Pepperidge Farm cookies and chocolates to cookbooks and champagne. After about $25, I walked away with a bottle of red Bordeaux and two white Bordeaux.

Marching for the last time in this year's picnic, Les Cadets Lafayette. They said they are having a difficult time getting younger people joining. I've read of similar issues with a local VFW, which was closing down its hall.

An enthusiastic show of patriotism.

Now, for the feast...

You can't not have bread at a French picnic? I love the simple centerpieces: flowers picked right from the garden in Orangina bottles, which they reuse each year.

Hors d'oeuvres. No pate, seafood salad or sausages for me. I savored the tomato salad in a mustard vinagrette, and mixed bean salad. Apples and plums also adorned the table, as did French wine, bien sûr: Côtes du Rhône and white Bordeaux.

The entree: grilled beef with mushroom sauce. Pass. For me: string beans, carrots and pearl onions, sauteed in garlic and onion.

Salad with a huge brie cheese came to every table (about eight people per table, and this was the equivalent of buying six brie cheeses individually at the shop).

For dessert, a mixed berry tarte, and watermelon. This was the only thing different from last year (a pear tarte was usual).

People wanting to eat vegan often deal with scenarios where they must decide for themselves the merit of passing on certain foods that they would love to eat. Communal situations are particularly difficult, and what to do when there's an enormous amount of something you love in front of you? And then factor in reality: it may likely get thrown out even if you don't consume it. I constantly hear the drum beaten of "veganism is so easy," which I don't find helpful, and often, it's not so black and white.

Cheese often tops the list of tempatations, and even Alicia Silverstone has admitted to eating cheese occasionally. I love her honesty and relate to her and Sarma Melngailis (read I'm Not a Vegetarian) more than the "there's no slipping ever" crowd. Almost no one will want to explore a diet if they think they have to be perfect in every situation for the rest of their life.

As for "perfect" vegans who are judgemental, I think a) They're misleading about how strict they are. I'd love to see a list of what they eat. Really - no honey, no pat of butter, no dollop of cream, no eating a slice of non-vegan birthday cake, no piece of your co-worker's banana bread when your stomach is growling at 10 a.m. ever ever ever? Or B) They are secretly annoyed they are held to such high standards (although shouldn't we set the standards for ourselves and not others?) Who wants a vegan police discouraging people? I don't.

I savor the vegetarian, non-vegan fods I eat at events like the picnic. No apologies, no guilt.


Candles by Nature said...

MMM that mixed berry tarte looks like perfection. I'm such a sucker for sweets!

Catherine @ The Vegan Good Life said...

It was delicious! It was a generous donation from a pastry maker. I really savor sweets too. All part of life's great pleasure of eating.