Day four of my Memphis Vegan Challenge, and I’m feeling pretty great about it. My body feels good. My mind feels good. It’s been completely manageable in Memphis, TN to order vegan food without sounding like a complete jerk. You know EXACTLY what I’m talking about:
Vegan Customer: “Excuse me, but I’m vegan. What can I order?”
Server: “Well, there are several things on the menu that have no meat. Is egg or dairy okay?”
Vegan Customer: “Absolutely not! That’s what vegan means… no animal products. Jeeze. Get it straight if you’re going to work in food services.”
Server: “Well, I didn’t want to assume. You are wearing leather shoes.”
Annoying, right? I’d like to not come off as a total ass, so I’ve been either looking online, calling ahead, or asking informed questions to the servers that don’t include, “I’M VEGAN. LOOK AT MEEEEEE! BOW BEFORE MY SELFLESSNESS AND ASPIRE TO MY SPIRITUAL ELEVATION!”
Now, not being an idiot to servers is easy when you’re going somewhere like Paradise Cafe in Memphis. Just ask for no cheese or mayo on the sandwich, and make sure the veggie gazpoucho doesn’t include meat or meat stock. Nicely asking informed questions isn’t hard or annoying, especially when it’s done with a smile and in a timely manner. Paradise Cafe is a small place in East Memphis that focuses on healthy choices for lunch. They’ve been around since I was little, and I remember going to get fruit and yogurt plates there with my mother.
Then again, trying to not come across as weird at somewhere like the Cracker Barrel would perhaps prove to not be so effortless.
I wouldn’t have chosen this place on my own. I’m not actively searching out places to write about for this challenge… I’m just living my life. The elder members of my family wanted to get everyone together (a few Memphis expats like me were in town at the same time) and so, of course, let’s go to Cracker Barrel. I didn’t put up a fuss. I just knew I needed to do a little research as to what I could or could not order.
I thought, “Hey, they’ll have a salad and several cooked vegetable sides I can order. Perhaps a soup! I’ll be fiiinnnneeee.”
Nope. The vegetables are all cooked “in the old style” with meat seasoning. I just don’t understand why the hell anyone would cook meat into vegetables. Oh, wait… yes I do. If you have a crap vegetable product you’ve bought in bulk and have boiled the stew out of it… you might end up with a genetically-modified flavorless mash that once pretended to be a vegetable and now must be infused with bacon lard in order to be palatable. Disgusting.
Anyway, so I know that there are only two items on the menu I can order. Armed with this information (and a little baggie of nuts to chow on the way back home) I entered this fine racially discriminatory, “formerly” homophobic, and sexist establishment.
I had a small salad without bacon with oil and vinegar (which they very kindly poured into two cups from the kitchen… I’m pretty sure they didn’t get asked for O&V often.)
And a plain baked potato. I put some pepper on it.
Verdict: Cracker Barrel is not where to go if you want to have a clean meal. It is not vegan friendly, but vegetarians who don’t have a problem with butter have many more options.