How to Seduce a Vegetarian

by Nicole Kimberling

Wed 25 Jul 2018 - Filed under: Free Stuff to Read

Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet No. 29 coverThis is LCRW Cooking Columnist Nicole Kimberling’s third column for LCRW and was originally published in LCRW 29. Check out the first, Sending All Your Love—In the Form of Brownies Through the Mail, and the second, Feeding Strays.

Step One: Find Likely Candidate

In years past, finding a vegetarian to seduce was more difficult than it is today. Back when vegetarianism existed mainly as a symptom of some sort of religion, a VILF-hunter could go weeks, even years, without making contact with a likely target.
Fortunately, today things are different. Now, even straight men can be found abstaining from plate-loads of surf, turf and sky. So pick a non-meat eater that you like the look of and invite him or her to hang out sometime, like at a park or something. Choose a venue that allows you to bring your own food. This is key because to claim the love of vegetarians you must prove that you can, and will, feed them.

With vegetarians so varied and bountiful, one would think that ensnaring one for a night, or perhaps even a lifetime of passion would be easy.

This is not so.

For the vegetarian is, by nature, likely to be choosy and have what we in the world of professional cooking call, “standards.” You might have to try a few different leads before one takes the bait. In this case the bait will be a cold sandwich, which you will prepare and then present to your vegetarian, proving that you have the goods to make him or her happy.

Step Two: Make a Sandwich

Long have the vegetarians of the world been subjected to inferior sandwiches. You want your vegetarian to not only enjoy their snack, but to spend the next hour imagining ways that they will make love with you rather than devising ways to hide their uneaten food from you.

First, consider the four basic parts of the sandwich. They are the carbohydrate, the protein, the vegetable and the condiment.
The carbohydrate is, of course, the bread. Your choice of bread will depend on the relative wetness of the rest of the sandwich contents. Personally, I gravitate away from sliced bread when making vegetarian fare, because it’s often much wetter than the average ham on rye. Baguettes, hoagies, even hot dog buns tend to work better for the sorts of fillings that I favor.

Protein is, of course, the hardest element. Prepared baked tofu is a true friend in this situation. It comes in all sorts of flavors, is available at most large grocery stores, is sliceable and has a pleasing texture.

But there are also legume pastes. Standard hummus is made with chickpeas and flavored with garlic, lemon and tahini. But with the help of a blender or food processor, any legume can be made into a hummus-like spread, flavored any way you like.
After you’ve decided on your protein, choose vegetables that complement the protein either in terms of flavor, texture or both. Raw vegetables add crunch, which is nice, but don’t be afraid to use cold cooked vegetables as well. Teriyaki-baked tofu would match blanched, cooled asparagus spears very nicely. Mushrooms sautéed with olive oil and smoked paprika go very well with traditional hummus. Ratatouille, hard-cooked sliced egg and deep-fried chickpeas make an excellent combination.

Finally, pick the condiments. Some sandwiches will not require more than a little butter to moisture-proof the bread. Others might be graced with chipotle mayonnaise or bits of Moroccan preserved lemon.

Here are some general tips:

  1. Cheese can be a little bit of a minefield. Some VILFs eat any cheese, others only eat cheese that is made with vegetable rennet, helpfully marked “suitable for vegetarians.” My advice: avoid cheese on the first round. You need to study your prey more closely before leveling up to serving him or her cheese.
  2. Toast the bread. Always. This will add a savory quality as well as texture.
  3. Slice raw vegetables thinly, so that they are easy to eat. When using hard roots such as carrots, beets or radishes, grate them.
  4. A sandwich should easily fit in your vegetarian’s mouth. Too tall, too fat sandwiches are sloppy and embarrassing to eat. You do not want your target to exhaust their capacity to endure sloppy or embarrassing situations before they even make it to your bed.
  5. Before you put any condiments on the bread, mix a small portion of each together and taste them as one. You might discover a thrilling new flavor combination, such as harissa mayonnaise. Or you might also find that that although you once felt you should apply teriyaki sauce, branston pickle and ranch dressing to a sandwich simultaneously, the resulting mixture looks and tastes like circus barf and should be re-imagined.
  6. If using a relatively wet legume paste, such as hummus, for the protein element, chose bread or bread rolls that are crusty all around, such as baguette to avoid the dreaded soggy, disintegrating sandwich.
  7. Wrap each sandwich tightly in plastic wrap. Baggies are inadequate to the task of transporting most truly interesting sandwiches.
  8. Think carefully before using peanut butter, because if you do, your sandwich has got to be fucking amazing. That said, peanut butter, cold fried tofu, curry mayo, cucumber and fresh cilantro might very well make a fucking amazing sandwich, so experiment. You’ll never know till you try.
  9. Eat at least one version of the sandwich before giving it to anybody else in order to get the balance and seasonings right.
  10. Prepare yourself to be questioned about all elements of your food. Read every label. Be sure you know what all the ingredients in every product are. When in doubt, look it up. Under no circumstances allow yourself to get angry or defensive during this inevitable interrogation. If this romance works out, you will be scrutinizing products like this for the rest of your life, so you might as well get used to it.
  11. Finally—and I cannot stress this enough—save your morbid jokes for after you and the VILF are married and have at least one baby on the way. Do not glibly claim that tofu is “baby panda organ meat.” This will only serve to make your target feel disrespected and suspicious and will lead to no joy.

At this point you might ask, “but is it worth it?” Well, are you a VILF-hunter or just a poseur with a package of cream cheese and an avocado? I’ve given you enough information to be both suave and bulletproof. Now go forth and conquer!