By Ezra Klein
Let’s get something straight: A vegetarian is someone who doesn’t eat meat. It’s not someone who loves vegetables. Or dislikes composed meals. Or thinks food doesn’t benefit from seasoning, and saucing, and a variety of textures and grains and cooking methods.
I’m speaking, of course, about the dreaded “grilled vegetable plate.” I was at a popular D.C. restaurant today for a lunch panel and the room’s special menu didn’t include a vegetarian option. No problem, the hosts assured me they had other vegetarians and had cleared this with the restaurant beforehand. So when the waiter came around, I asked after the vegetarian meal. “Butternut squash risotto,” he said. Perfect.
Then he came back. Actually, the kitchen was doing a grilled vegetable plate. He hoped that was alright. It wasn’t. The grilled vegetable plate — or the GVP — is so lazy as to be legitimately offensive. That meal cost actual money. Was pasta really too difficult of a charge? A sandwich? Frittata? Stir fry? Gazpacho? Stew? Curries? Pizza? Salad? Bruschetta? Dumplings?
I can keep going. And this isn’t secret knowledge. There are a lot of books about cooking things without meat. And the menu at the restaurant in question actually includes items without meat. I would’ve been quite happy with the Porcini ravioli, for instance.
I ended up asking for pasta and being told that four other people had ordered the grilled vegetable plate. But after an uncomfortable exchange (where I might’ve called GVPs terrible, which I probably shouldn’t have done) I got some pasta anyway. So what’s the point of this post? Bad publicity, mainly. Vegetarians of the world need to stop accepting the GVP. It’s an insult, both from the kitchen to the diner, and from the kitchen to itself. It’s not that hard to cook without meat, and choosing to eat less meat shouldn’t result in a form of culinary punishment for diners. We can do better. Change is possible. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.