I have a new(ish) local friend who is, like Otto, a professor, and therefore is free to do all sorts of things in the summer which she will be far too busy for once classes start up again. Me, I’m all slacker, all the time, but I’m coming to the realization that summer is a mystical time for most people here in Universityland. For one thing, most folks are working a lot less in the summer. For another, you can actually go downtown for pizza or whatever and FIND A PARKING SPACE. It’s lovely.
Anyway, my new friend—let’s call her Foodie, because it will make her laugh—and I have been engaged in an educational project of sorts. Yes. The education is mine, and it has to do with the fact that I’ve lived here for over a year and yet I’d only been to maybe three different restaurants in town, because we hardly ever eat out. But it’s SUMMER and she’s not teaching and there is parking to be had, so we are studiously touring many of the finer local eateries for lunch.
Here’s the reason that this is interesting: Foodie is a vegan. And I am an omnivore. Also, prior to meeting Foodie, every vegan I’d ever met was somewhat, ahhh, ZEALOUS, shall we say, in their belief that ANIMAL EXPLOITATION IS RUINING THE PLANET. I assume that Foodie ALSO believes that animal exploitation is ruining the planet, but she’s much more reserved in forwarding her theory. Sure, she occasionally sends me links to funny-looking cartoon characters talking about why human beings are designed to eat plants, but she’s not pushy or weird about it. And she has excellent taste in restaurants.
When I say that I’m an omnivore, I immediately think of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, but I have to tell you that I disagreed with him, kind of. I mean, the REAL omnivore’s dilemma is “would this be better with cheese or with bacon?” (Answer: BOTH!) Honestly, EVERYONE knows that.
This is to say that it’s possible that I am a bit obnoxious in my animal-product consumption, at times.
But no, really, it is always a delight to go out to lunch with Foodie. I’m actually (*insert martyred sigh here*) trying very hard to cut down on my meat consumption, eat more foods which are local and in-season (like, oh, I don’t know, everyone with a brain is trying to do at this point), and so when we go out to lunch I have been eating vegetarian, though not vegan (as I always tell her—you can take my cheese away by prying it out of my cold, dead hands). And as we live relatively close to each other she often stops by with a homemade vegan ice cream for me to try or berries from her backyard to share.
Well, I’m a firm believer in give and take. And I’ve struggled with this, a little bit, because I also really enjoy cooking, but I rarely have something on hand which I could give her that she would be willing to eat. So one time I trimmed back my basil and gave her enough to make pesto, and that made me happy; but in general, I cannot propose an equitable swap because she doesn’t want any of the [insert cheese-smothered or meat-filled dish here] that I just made for my family.
Last week we went out to lunch and both had a cup of cucumber gazpacho with our meals, and it was just about the best thing I’d ever put in my mouth.
“Oh my God!” I said, “this is SO GOOD! I wonder what’s IN this?” Because, you know, I had figured out the cucumber part, and maybe cilantro, and I was also tasting something that was clearly citrus, but I was wondering if the secret ingredient was COCAINE, because it took all of my willpower not to lick the cup clean.
Foodie agreed that it was quite delicious. We had a lovely meal and parted ways, and that damn cucumber gazpacho has been on my mind ever since.
Yesterday, I set my sights on a recreation. I had shopped for ingredients carefully, after perusing countless cucumber gazpacho recipes and picking and choosing which ingredients I was sure needed to be included. I peeled and seeded my cukes. I picked over the cilantro with the greatest of care. I juiced limes and chopped green onions.
The result? Not exactly the same as the restaurant, but pretty darn delicious.
We had company for dinner last night and I served the gazpacho and no one died (well, I don’t think anyone did—I might not have noticed, as I was face-down in my bowl, still, as everyone else moved on to the chicken), so I’m calling it to a success. This will become one of my go-to summer dishes for sure. It’s light! It’s crisp! It’s refreshing! Delicious!
I was so excited about it, I told Foodie I needed to give her some! Because it’s so yummy and she would love it! So we arranged for her to come pick some up this morning.
I’m sure she was confused when I contacted her in a guilty panic right before she left.
“WAIT!” I said. “I’M A MORON!”
The other main ingredient in my cucumber gazpacho? Yogurt.
You know, creamy animal exploitation that comes in quart containers?
Fortunately, Foodie is an excellent sport. She picked up her container of gazpacho vowing to give it to her (non-vegan) husband and to have a little taste, herself, to see if she wants to recreate it with vegan yogurt. And she didn’t even call me a moron.