I work for a non-profit, and one of my jobs recently was to order lunch for 73 new Americorps members for training.  This means that I also had to order special meals for people with dietary restrictions.  Fortunately, there are several places in Austin that are great at accommodating special food needs. 

We had a few vegans, some vegetarians, and one person who couldn’t have gluten, dairy, soy, or peanuts.  I ordered meals for about half the week, and had a hilarious conversation with a lady at Thundercloud Subs who assumed that the person who couldn’t have dairy, soy, gluten, or peanuts was also a vegetarian, which meant that for every meal that had some of those requirements, it was missing others.  For example, they have vegan bread, but it included soy or there was a gluten free option, but it contained milk powder.  Finally, I was like, “Just order her a salad.”

Then, that person, who we’ll call “Jessica,” dropped out of the program before it even started.  That meant that, while we usually had a few leftover chicken burritos or turkey sandwiches, we also had this meal that looked a little different.  Since, I knew we could find plenty of people who would be willing to take a leftover turkey sandwich home, but the salad labeled “gluten free, no dairy, no soy” would be a harder sell, I always ate Jessica’s meal.

And they were delicious! The Freebirds burrito was a bowl of meat, beans, and rice, which I tarted up with some salsa, lettuce, and pico for a totally satisfying lunch.  And the salad!  Lettuce, cucumbers, a little carrot, guacamole (!!), and because Jessica was not vegetarian: turkey and bacon (!!!!)  That was an amazing salad.  It didn’t even need salad dressing (which Thundercloud couldn’t guarantee met all of the dietary restriction) because the guacamole blended in nicely.  It was the kind of salad that could make me love salads. 

I am tempted to continue ordering meals for Jessica, so that I can claim them for myself.  Although, I eat peanut butter at least once a day, so that part of her diet doesn’t work for me.  The truth is, though, that I am reading Mark Bittman’s VB6, and after seeing that vegans can eat pretty well in a city like Austin, I’m going to flirt with daytime veganism instead.  But maybe on nights when I’m eating alone, I might recreate that heavenly salad.  Because a salad with bacon is a beautiful thing.

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