I’m a major foodie, but I don’t go out to eat a lot, mainly due to my dietary restrictions: vegetarian and I don’t eat onion, garlic, leeks, chives, or hing (asafoetida). Basically, everything in the genus Allium, which also includes leeks, shallots, scallions, etc. What makes it a lot easier is that my entire family follows the same diet so in order to satisfy my craving for foods of all kinds, I end up cooking. A lot.
Why? Purely because though America is getting on that vegetarian bandwagon with things like Meatless Mondays and an increasing amount of vegetarian-friendly restaurants in addition to the all-vegetarian/vegan eateries, those aforementioned spices that I don’t eat are often featured in the food. It also saves me the waiter/waitress the trouble of having such a “difficult” customer and me the trouble of trying to figure out what in the world I could eat. As a note, my brand of vegetarianism is more Asian-based; if you go to Taiwan, all vegetarian restaurants there actually make their food without those spices (I was in Gastronomic Heaven there). Traditionally, Buddhist vegetarianism doesn’t include those items. Of course, this differs by the country, but if you trace it back to the very beginning, that’s how it was. There are several folklore-like stories of why this is which leads back to how eating those items was akin to eating meat itself. Then more scientifically, some of them, like garlic, is touted for their antibacterial character… which is great when you have tons of germs that need to be killed when eating meat. What is it going to kill when you’re only consuming plant-based foods? In a sense, you’re just harming yourself… plus, people that eat it mainly do it for the flavor it imparts and not its ‘benefits’. That’s just a nice side effect.
Plus, I frankly avoid them now because they’re so pungent. Comparably speaking, it’s all right if other people eat it because it’s easy enough to avoid them, but it’s hard to get away from yourself when the smell is, well, coming from yourself. Interestingly enough, I have met some people who have an actual allergy towards onion and garlic, so if you’re wondering, that is an actual allergy. Personally, I’m not allergic though if it’s strong enough, my eyes actually water and my nose stuffs up to the point that I feel as if I somehow got severely congested (and blinded by the influx of tears) in the matter of 5 seconds, so I guess I am somewhat allergic in a sense. That only happened once to me and I never want it to happen again. Trust me, if you avoid them for just a week or two, you’ll start feeling the affects due to your increased sensitivity towards them.
So, on this trip up to the Midwest, I found myself battling the constant frustration of trying to find food other than sweets, salads, or sandwiches that I could have, since I no longer had access to my beloved kitchen. Plus, I hate buying food that I can make. It seriously bothers me. To make it more simple, I would either tell my waiter/waitress that I was allergic and if I found myself in an Indian restaurant, I would tell them I ate Jain vegetarian, which also avoids those spices, among other things.
A funny thing I found was that more often than not, going to a vegetarian restaurant meant that my choices were limited to just salads, sandwiches, and other rather simple foods. I frequently felt that eating at those supposedly vegetarian-friendly places actually was comparable to dining at a Steakhouse, which was rather saddening. There were so many times where I wanted those “homefries” (off limits due to the garlic powder used for seasoning), vegetarian poutine (off limits due to the gravy which likely contained onions), or some other more substantial item (but also less healthy – I was on “vacation” so I let myself slide) off the menu, and was sadly declined and steered towards the salad or that BLT.
I have nothing against the classic. I just didn’t want to keep on eating a veggie BLT sandwich for the entire trip. I also apologise to all the people I inconvenienced with my multitude of questions and seemingly strange dietary restrictions. After all, I was mainly in Bloomington, a small college town. I wonder how many other people with strict dietary restrictions goes through that town.
I left Houston with a long list of potential restaurants (I was rather excited about all of them, as I was still mentally positive that I could have something new I never had before) and I made it a point to visit as many as I could. Half the time, I would call before going to see what I could have. It was my mistake to only explain my restrictions and ask, “Is there anything I can eat?” Of course – the salad. The sandwich. The dessert.
There were some gems found, but generally speaking… Let’s just say I have a long list of food that I plan on creating in my own kitchen so I can finally eat them, since my hopes of food I wanted being cooked by other people and served to me were promptly dashed. Even so, I did enjoy it (I do still love food, no matter how underwhelming they ended up being) and I made a point to keep a food photo journal of sorts and have posted them up in a slideshow.
Note: although I was on a trip, I was also still working remotely so my days often consisted of myself waking up early, getting breakfast, finding a new coffee shop to park myself and work (hence the “work snacks” and many other “snacks” that doubled as my rent as I used up a table to do my thing).
Highlight: Deep Dish Pizza at Uno’s
Major Disappointment: (other than the lack of poutine and other comfort food-like foods during my trip) Challah French Toast from Scholar’s Inn Bakehouse — WHERE WAS THE CUSTARDY GOODNESS??
Day 1: Bloomington, Indiana
Breakfast: Apricot Marzipan and Peach Tarts from the Pie First Bakery stand and drinks from various stands at the Bloomington Community Farmer’s Market
Brunch: Veggie Scrambled Egg Combination and Vegetarian Eggs Benedict from The Runcible Spoon
Snack: Brown Country Coffee Ice Cream in a Waffle Cone from The Chocolate Moose
Dinner: Wisconsin Mac and Cheese with Sauteed Spinach, Mushrooms, and Red Bell Peppers from Noodles & Company
Day 2: Bloomington, Indiana
Breakfast: Vegan Pumpkin Ginger Muffin, Strawberry Lime Donut, and a Laura Palmer (Lavender Lemonade) from Rainbow Bakery
Lunch: Vegetarian Artichoke Heart Whole Wheat Sub from Which Wich
Snack: Lemon Custard and Chocolate Basil Ice Cream from Hartzell’s Ice Cream
Dinner: Leftover Sub from Which Wich
Snack: Bubbly Boba Green Tea from Bapu
Day 3: Bloomington, Indiana
Breakfast: Run Through the Garden Scrambler, 2 pcs of Lightly Buttered Toast, and Plain Yogurt from The Village Deli
Snack: ChaiCoffsky (half black coffee, half chai latte) and Vegan Linzer Cookie from Soma Coffee House (Kirkwood location)
Lunch: Saag Paneer, Cumin Basmati Rice, Naan, and Mango Shake from India Garden
Dinner: Greek & Mesclun Salads (Olive Oil as a dressing), a side of Mashed Potatoes, and Chocolate Pecan Buttermilk Cake from Uptown Cafe
Day 4: Bloomington, Indiana
Breakfast: Instant Oatmeal, Yoplait Plenti Peach Yogurt, and half of a Bolthouse Farms Tropical Goodness Smoothie from Kroger. Leftover toast and jam from The Village Deli.
Snack: Chocolate Brownie and Banana Spinach Smoothie from Pourhouse Cafe
Lunch: The T.L.T. [Tempeh Lettuce Tomato] Sandwich with a side of Roasted Corn and Goat Cheese Butter with a London Fog (a milky Earl Grey) from Feast
Snack: Bottled Thai Tea from Tenth Street Market & Deli and Miss Vickie’s Sea Salt Potato Chips from Hubby’s Leftover Snacks of the Day [unpictured]
Dinner: Build Your Own Burrito from The Laughing Planet
Day 5: Bloomington, Indiana
Breakfast: Pretzel Bagel with Almond Honey Schmear and Minute Maid Orange Juice from Bloomington Bagel Company
Work ‘Snack’ 1: Mocha from City Bakery
Lunch: Aloo Gobi from Taste of India
Work ‘Snack’ 2: Iced Chai from Bloomingfoods Coffee Bar
Dinner: Leftover food from India Garden and Taste of India. Cranberry Pecan Quinoa Salad and Brussels Sprouts from Bloomingfoods (Elm Heights). Dessert of Triple Chocolate Graham Cracker, Chocolate Chip, and the Peanut Butter with White Chocolate and Oreo’s Cookies from Baked!
Day 6: Bloomington, Indiana
Breakfast: Challah French Toast and a Cappuccino from Scholars Inn Bakehouse
Work Snack 1: Strawberry Smoothie from Pourhouse Cafe
Lunch: Salad Dish, Vegetable Pide, and Baklava from Turkuaz Cafe
Work Snack 2: Honest T (Green Dragon Tea) from Bloomingfoods (Elm Heights)
Random Snack: Chocolate Cake with Milk from BLU Boy Chocolate Cafe and Cakery
Snack for Later: Chocolate Cookies with Mint Chip, Sugar Cookies with Reeses Pieces, and Raisin Oatmeal Cookies from Baked!
Dinner: Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Side Salad from The Owlery
Day 7: Bloomington, Indiana, and Indianapolis, Indiana
Breakfast: Lemon Blueberry Poppyseed Pancakes and Scrambled Eggs from The Village Deli
Work Snack: Strawberry & Cream Smoothie with a Raspberry Scone from Soma Coffee House (Kirkwood)
Snack: Taro & Black Sesame Boba and Milk Tea with Boba drinks from Bapu
Dinner: BLT and Gyro from Three Carrots
Day 8: Drive to Chicago, Indiana
Breakfast: Leftovers in the car
Snack: Power Green Juice and 1871 Dairy Yogurt from Chicago’s Green City Market @ Lincoln Park
Lunch: Scrambled Tofu Deluxe, S.U.V. (Straight Up Veggie) Sandwich, Waffle Fries, and Vanilla Chai Milkshake at The Chicago Diner (Logan Square)
Dinner: Mushroom Melt Flatbread Sandwich from Potbelly Sandwich Shop (Millennium Park)
Day 9: Chicago, Illinois
Breakfast: Pistachio Croissant, Almond Croissant, Lavender Macaron, and Belgian-style Iced Coffee from Hendrickx Belgian Bread Crafter
Snack: Banana-based Smoothie from store in Hancock Tower
Lunch: Bombay Aloo, Paneer Makhani, Rice, and Naan from Gaylord Fine Indian Cuisine
Dinner: Mushroom Spinach Cheese Crepe, Greek Yogurt Bowl, and a Carrot Apple Ginger Juice from BeeZzee Fresh Food
Day 10: Chicago, Illinois
Breakfast: Fresca Omelette with Signature Berry Bliss Belgian Waffle from Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe (Schaumburg)
Snack: Rejuvenator Squeeze Smoothie from Surf City Squeeze
Lunch: Artichoke-Mushroom-Eggplant Deep Dish Pizza and Bell Pepper Kalamata Olive Deep Dish Pizza from Uno’s Pizzeria and Grill (Schaumburg)