Our company hosted its annual summer BBQ today, complete with poorly rasta-fied cover music and free chips, soda, dessert, and – the pièce de culinary résistance – hamburgers and hotdogs. And you didn’t have to go either or, no! Each guest was entitled to both a hamburger AND a hot dog, along with his or her fill of all the other goodies, no substitutions please.
I don’t even ask about vegetarian options during the free lunch fiestas anymore. Last time I opened my mouth with such an innocent inquiry, I earned a long lecture on the difficulties of planning a free meal for 3,000 onsite employees, and can’t I just eat the bread and chips with ketchup and be happy? Well, who am I to question the judgment of burgers and dogs during our HEALTH CARE company BBQ?!
So today I ditched the BBQ and went off campus for lunch with my girlfriends. I asked our waitress to confirm if the spinach and grilled vegetable tortellini in basil cream sauce was vegetarian (you’d be surprised what they sneak chicken broth into these days), and she said she was pretty certain it had turkey sausage. I told her I didn’t think so, since the menu only described the grilled veggies, but she told me she’d make sure either way.
The food arrived, and that pasta was nice and rich, so so good. Until the last bite, when I found a nugget of aforementioned turkey sausage, still in its casing. Which means 1 of 3 things:
- The dish came with sausage and she picked it out before dropping it on my table;
- The sauce was made with sausage and she did her best to eliminate the offending meat, assuming like many that if you can’t actually see chunks of meat, it counts as vegetarian;
- A chunk of meat fell from another dish to the very bottom of my bowl, under all the tortellini. Hmmm.
Whatever. Yes, you heard me right. What. Ev. Er.
Recently Alex and I have been chatting about eating overseas and how I would feel totally rude-American and lame if some family hosted us for dinner and the main course was goat stew, and I started whining about the immorality of it all. I decided I would do what I could to be a grateful guest, drawing the line at intestines, testicles, and eyeballs but otherwise grinning and bearing it.
And that made me start thinking I should stop being such a wiener (no hot dog pun intended) about a piece of meat accidentally touching my otherwise vegetarian food, because after all we’re very fortunate to even have such luxuries as food in this country and I can certainly set the offending flesh aside and eat my vegetables without making a scene (exhibit A, circa 2005: “Excuse me, I need this without bacon!”). Besides, if I’m not preparing it myself, chances are it’s touching meat in the kitchen or on the grill, anyway.
Thanks to my recent decision not to be such a wanker anymore, I set aside the sausage coin and finished my tortellini, telling myself it was an accident and that the sauce was not cooked in sausage fat. I was quite pleased with myself, too.
When I returned to the office, my veggie office mate told me that they actually had veggie burgers this year at the BBQ! I was shocked, and just a little bit jealous to have missed out on all that great reggae-slash-elevator music. I made a mental note for next year.
Then, random people in the hall started offering up their heartfelt congratulations! Odd, I thought. How did they know that I overcame my private sausage-hurdle only minutes earlier? Next, I got a call from an IT tech about another issue, and he also congratulated me. WTF?
Turns out my name was drawn for a prize at the summer BBQ! Mr. IT said he didn’t want to get me too excited because he couldn’t be sure exactly what I won, but he thinks it was something really cool. Well, I’d seen the prize list on the BBQ fliers touting the hamburger-AND-hotdog menu. Airline tickets, digital cameras, etc. I made him tell me what he thought I’d won, and once I promised I wouldn’t hold him accountable if he’d assigned the wrong prize, he confessed, envy creeping in to the dark corners of his voice:
“You won a $200 gift certificate to Del Frisco’s!!!”
He paused, awaiting my grateful and excited response. Del Frisco’s!
But instead, all he got was a chuckle. He probably thought I was crazy, because he doesn’t appreciate the irony of me skipping out on the BBQ because there wasn’t a vegetarian option, then narrowly escaping accidental sausage ingestion at the off-campus dining establishment of my choice, only to learn upon my return that the BBQ did serve veggie burgers and… I’d won $200 at Del Frisco’s.
The neighborhood steakhouse.
Oh cruel, cruel God of Summer Contests, Prince of Commerce and Agribusiness! Why hath thou forsaken me?!