Anyone who’s been a vegetarian for any length of time nodded along in recognition with Ezra Klein’s post about the dreaded Grilled Vegetable Platter, or GVP. It’s usually encountered at big group events where one or two proper dishes have been assembled, with the GVP tacked on as an afterthought for the vegetarians, who (it’s presumed) will be satisfied with anything containing a vegetable, and really ought to be grateful that anyone bothered about them at all. Actually, the GVP isn’t the worst of it—one used to encounter the Steamed Vegetable Platter with equal frequency. I mention it just because I’d really love to see kitchens that pull this lazy bullshit, especially at events that are supposed to be somewhat fancy—with a commensurate price tag for the hosts—openly humiliated for it often enough that a chef would sooner send out a dead rat as the entree than commit reputation seppuku by GVP.
Apropos of which, a little story from college. The NYU debate team had, as you might expect, quite a few vegetarians on it. And as a result, something like a third of our table at the banquet for the national parilamentary debate championships one year ended up staring glumly at—surprise, surprise!—our old friend the GVP. And despite the combative reputation of debaters, when the head caterer (or whatever) at the venue came around to ask how everything was, most of us just tried to nod politely as we gnawed on our flavorless hunks of soggy broccoli. Except Aaron. She was already bustling off when he piped up—and I still remember this damn near verbatim:
Excuse me, wait a second. It’s actually not OK. This is not a meal; it’s totally unacceptable. Nobody put any thought or preparation into this at all, it’s just unseasoned vegetables. It’s embarrassing. Take this back and tell them to send out—whatever, some pasta, maybe something with a sauce or some actual flavors in it—but some kind of real meal.
The woman turned absolutely crimson and hustled off with the GVP, then returned about ten minutes later with a pretty damn delicious looking pasta dish. The rest of us exchanged envious glances as we prodded our GVPs with our forks.
Was it a little rude? Maybe, but so is feeding people livestock slop. And it probably only takes a few of us committing to be a little more demanding before they all realize it’s worth the scintilla of extra effort to make the default “vegetarian option” resemble real human food.