Disclaimer: I am vegetarian, so when I snark, I snark with a bit of love. But like any microcosm of humanity, foodism has its share of cranks. This is for them.
This afternoon I was offered the splendid opportunity to sample manufactured gourmet vegetarian food and feed back to the companies that produce it. This translated in my mind to "free food! On a Sunday!" Little did I know that I was to be thrust into the market research equivalent of Parks and Recreation town hall meetings.
Our journey began with great promise. Many of the presentations had to do with items that were traditionally non-vegetarian, but for no obvious reason (i.e. wine, cider and cheese. The finer things in life.) So much of the time was spent explaining chemical and manufacturing processes (some might find this screamingly dull, but I thought the hour on cheese-making was fascinating. Not just because he gave us free cheese, of course). Apparently the Italians use robots to cut and shape their parmesan. Robots! More importantly, did you know that wheels of cheese are acceptable collateral to Italian banks? (at this point, theoncominghope desperately seeks puns about Berlusconi, predatory lending and wheels of cheese. She fails. Help her out in the comments).
But on the other side of the room, there sat Nemesis. "Well, let me start off by saying, I personally see everything as living things, even vegetables." Oh boy. This was gonna be a doozie. My soapbox-shield protected me from the rest of her diatribe, but I knew, at that moment, that this wouldn't be the last time I'd face her: Nemesis.
We hapless babes harnessed our newfound strength, derived from the manna of free samples big enough to comprise three meals, and launched ourselves at the next event, with a manufacturer of frozen breakfast/snack foods called GoodLife. But, little did I know that this wasn't to be a presentation, but rather an impromptu focus group (though when I say focus group, I mean focus village).
First comes the warmup. They passed around freshly baked "dippers," lovely breaded and fried things filled with mozzarella cheese and spicy sweet potato. Mmmmmmm and yum...at least until the first nut crawled out of the woodwork.
"Why do you feel compelled to use animal product in your product?" said one lady, oblivious to the clunkiness of her sentence. I was confused as to what she meant, and so was the host. Then a light bulb went off. Cheese! Vegan Encounter 1.
The host hemmed and hawed and quickly changed the subject. New topic: Do we prefer vegetable based products, or products designed to imitate meat. Seems like a straightforward question. But no.
Up sprang Nemesis. "Well, for me, because I am a moral and ethical person, being a vegan ties into that. My motivations for being vegan are 100 times more honorable than yours! And also, carnivores should die."
"I doubt there are many carnivores here--" interrupted the Peanut Gallery.
Said a new lady, "Well I'm vegetarian, but I eat seafood and fish--"
"Pisser-caterians!" shouted Nemesis. Da-ha! Such wit!
And so it went. We spent the rest of the afternoon running in abject terror from judgmental vegans. Now I cease to regard the 'vegan police' scene in Scott Pilgrim as comedy. Nay, it is horror.
I thought the day couldn't get more strange. But then we went to the "medieval cooking" hour. Yes, the speak was in period dress, but that wasn't that strange (relatively). Not as strange as our new companion.
With an untraceable central European accent she introduced herself: "I'm really into big game, you know, fresh fowl, reindeer, even bears." Craig and I just looked at her, flabbergasted, like what are you doing here, lady? Throughout the talk, about how basic peasant cuisine in ye old days were overwhelmingly vegetarian (and VERY strange), Ladyhunter regaled us with tales of conquests made on Russian steppes. One could only hoped that she would write her own fictional masterpiece, The Fat Woman and the Deer, for high school kids to pretend to read for generations to come.