March 15, 2010

Maybe It's Me: An Edgy Veggie in a Seafood City, or, How Champagne and Tom-Foolery Will Someday Pay Off

I love writing.

And I love eating.

And in my perfect world I somehow combine these two passions and take over the world!

Or at least get paid handsomely to perhaps write about eating.

I mean, really, who wouldn’t want to read something a sassy vegetarian wrote about the gastronomical adventures her and her carnivorous friends go on? It would be sexy, it would be tasty, it would be downright freakin’ awesome. I know would certainly read it!

Then again, I’m biased.

This fanatical obsession with becoming the next big thing in food stemmed from a conversation with a friend when she and I were watching a Disney movie neither one of us had seen in years. Our running commentary during the film was, and this is a non-biased opinion, hysterical (for example, neither one of us could get over the fact that the waist, neck, and eyeballs of the leading female character were all the same size). We were sober throughout this movie, but wondered how much funnier and more clever we would really be if we had perhaps consumed some adult beverages prior to watching it.

“What if,” we wondered out loud, “we tried to find a corresponding adult beverage to the children’s cartoon movie we were watching? Like . . . champagne with Beauty and the Beast! It. Would. Be. AWESOME! We should record ourselves, too, and then put it on the internet – people would LOVE IT!"

Such high hopes were dashed when this friend got married and moved on.

Another friend quickly stepped up to bat and volunteered her liver and time to the project. We got three bottles of the cheapest (and our favorite) champagne, went home, and started perusing Netflix. To our chagrin, there were no Disney options for immediate viewing, so we decided to go with something from my collection (which mostly includes foreign films about dreamers, documentaries on nature, indie films that end awkwardly, and Mario Brothers).

We put in Mario Brothers, drank our fill of champagne, and made the funniest comments about it, life, and things totally unrelated you’d ever imagine. When the movie was over, we watched what we had recorded (the entire movie again, but with our commentary over it), laughing uncontrollably.

But somewhere between drinking that third bottle of champagne and going to bed, the commentary never got saved. Thus losing everything we had worked so hard for that night.

Trust me, though, it was funny stuff.

Even though I can’t really remember what was so funny about it all.

The entire project was put on hold, but this new friend and I often spent our evenings drinking champagne and watching Travel Channel food shows hosted by men. Men travelling the country to enter food-related eating contests. Men travelling the world to eat exotic foods. And yet, it seemed to us, that women food shows always featured them in a kitchen cooking (most likely barefoot).

“We could do that! WE COULD DO THAT!" we exclaimed exuberantly while watching this men-dominated genre of food-related television.  "Besides, I think people would be way more interested in two cute girls entering a contest to eat a six-foot long burrito, or seventeen wings covered in ghost peppers than some burly dude!”

I am convinced this is true. As a result my obsession to take the two things I love - food and writing (or at least talking about it) - has begun.

My best bet seems to be blogging about food (since it seems The Travel Channel has a “cease and desist” order on me and my endless attempts to overthrow their stupid male food show hosts). I was recently offered a job as the restaurant reviewer for Examiner.com and I thought for sure: “THIS IS IT. All that champagne and tom-foolery paid off. I am going to be a food writer!”

So, I sent them a sample article and they loved it. Just loved it! “Welcome to the team!” they said! “You’re really going to contribute something special!” they praised! “We look forward to watching you grow!” they exclaimed. We set up my account, we talked money (which was barely anything, but I was going to be doing the thing I loved and promote my book at the same time), and I wrote my first article.

And suddenly they weren’t as impressed with what I had written. “It’s really good, but . . .” they started. “Great! But, please change this . . .” they recommended. “We’re sure you have great ideas, but we really want to control you like a robot and have you write everything we dictate to you because we believe in conformity in our regime!” they basically stated.

So, my dreams of writing about food and getting paid to do so (because working for someone else just isn’t working for me anymore, and writing is clearly what I was created to do) were dashed.

For now.

Since it belongs to no one, and I’d rather share it than let it collect cyber dust sitting all by its lonesome in my “Food Writing” computer folder, I’d like to share with you now my very first article that took my two passions – food and writing – and brought them joyously together . . .

Bon appétit!

“An Edgy Veggie in a Seafood City”
By. Steff Deschenes

Being a vegetarian in a city that boasts of the best seafood in the country is rough. And while Portland, Maine was recently named one of the best “Foodie Cities” in America, it’s still quite difficult to find both delicious and filling meatless meals. One would think that a chef would take great pleasure in the challenge a vegetarian or vegan offers. It gives these hard-working, creative minds an opportunity to use their skill set to impress and delight a group of consumers who are generally overlooked and underfed, yet some chef’s still seem unsettled with questions like “was this made with chicken stock?”

It’s not impossible as an edgy veggie to thrive in this seafood city, but it is a gastronomical scavenger hunt, especially in the winter when fresh produce isn’t as abundant or when one has made the dedication to not eating at chain or box restaurants.

One just has to be smart. It’s important to recognize that there aren’t enough restaurants in Portland that are veggie-oriented to rely on without eventually burning-out on. Yes, they are great places run-to when one needs a reliable meal that they didn’t have to prepare themselves (which is the most tiresome part about being a Veggie) though. Restaurants that cater to veggie-eaters also seem to be pricier than normal, simply because they can be – vegetarians like to be fed well, regardless of the cost. But that doesn’t hold so well in this day and age where everyone is strapped for cash. And, finally, it’s hard to escape the same undercurrent of faces that frequent these locales; and, when you don’t identify with the stereotypes of the more hardcore vegetarians/vegans, it’s especially important to be able to break away from them and surround yourself with different people in a different scene.

Taking the burn-out, price, and social factors into consideration, being flexible when it comes to eating in Portland than is key. It’s incredibly important, no matter what the dietary restriction, to be able to navigate one’s way through all menus in every kind of restaurant.

And to survive in such gastronomically uncooperative restaurants, what’s even more imperative than that is the ability to call out a chef on things that seem questionable.

Like chicken stock.