I've never understood haute cuisine. I've never even understood spending in excess of 15 minutes–or $15–procuring something to eat. I think what most confuses me about fancy, expensive, time-consuming food is that, no matter how succulent the duck or the steak or the lobster thermidor, it will all soon quite literally be excreta (or, on a bad night, ejecta). I've got a lot of reservations about the fashion industry, too, but at least a $300 pair of jeans with sequins on the behind will keep you warm for a few months in the winter. This is probably why it was relatively easy for me to become a vegan.
Nevertheless, I still believe Ezra Klein is right. The prevalence of the GVP (grilled vegetable plate) as the sole vegetarian option at many restaurants is offensive for a whole host of reasons. Besides being only marginally nutritious and woefully reliant on salt, GVPs are also limp, flavorless testaments to the lack of imagination of most chefs. Because as all meat abstainers know, cooking vegetarian isn't only a great way to feel superior, it's also cheap and simple.
With that, I give you a baker's dozen of dishes for the vegan or vegan-leaning vegetarian in the big city who cooks and eats not for the joy of it, but so he won't feel dizzy while running errands. Enjoy!
Make sure nobody's looking. Squeeze mustard onto the back of your hand. Lick it.
Veggie Dog in a Piece of Wheat Bread Folded to Resemble a Hot Dog Bun
Dress it up with your roommate's spicy habanero ketchup to taste. Great for breakfast on the go!
Half a Tortilla and Hummus
Smear the hummus around with the back of a spoon and then lick the spoon. Only using half the tortilla will make you feel like you're saving money, even when you eat the other half five minutes later.
Handful of Your Roommate's Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Quick, simple, delicious and a great way to get some protein before going drinking. Not vegan? Humbug! It counts as vegan as long as you're not directly contributing your own money to the production of animal products. That's why you can eat pretty much everything at dinner parties. It's also why you shouldn't do annoying stuff like send back your salad if they mess up and put a little bit of mayo on it. The eggs have already been used and nobody's going to account for the fact that you returned them on principle. You're just going to look like a whiny asshole who wastes food.
Hand Goddess Dressing
Just like hand mustard but less viscous, so lick quickly.
Tofurkey Roast and Ketchup
Cut the raw roast into thin slices and use a spoon to eat the stuffing from their centers. Heat up the gravy from the roast package in a microwave and, when it's done, throw it in the garbage because it looks gross. Squirt some organic ketchup (more lycopene!) on the now stuffingless slices. Serves one, as nobody else will eat it. (Trust me, do not cook the roast. Doing so adds nothing to the flavor and takes four times as long as consuming the thing will.)
Veggie Sausage Served on a Paper Towel
Trader Joe's makes Italian-style veggie links that are great just by themselves. That said, I don't think it's a coincidence that they fit perfectly in the neck of the Goddess Dressing bottle. Dip 'em!
Spoonful of Hummus
Super simple. For a kick, sprinkle with some ketchup and a bit of your roommate's cheddar cheese.
Penne with Onions, Red Peppers, Veggie Dogs and Yellow Soy Cheese Slices
Sauté the veggies with the veggie dog, cook the pasta and cut the soy slices into small pieces. Add everything together while the pasta's still hot so the "cheese" melts. Pour Goddess Dressing over everything and then let it cool in the fridge. For some reason, this will taste like the crab giovanni your mother used to make.
Goddess Dressing in a Lettuce Cup
Rip off a leaf of iceberg lettuce and pour Goddess Dressing into the part where it's most concave. Eat over the sink.
Microwavable Hash Browns with Barbecue Sauce
In a pinch, substitute Soy Vay Island Teriyaki for BBQ.
A Raw Potato
I like Yukon Golds, but there's no reason you can't use reds. Eat it like an apple and ignore the stares.
Worcestershire and Onion Mushrooms
Put some fake butter in a sauce pan and let it melt. Sauté a bunch of old mushrooms and one chopped onion while scouring your cupboards for something else to put in the pan. Find an old bottle of Lea & Perrins and dump a quarter of it onto the onion-mushroom mix. Simmer for an arbitrary amount of time and then dump everything into a big bowl. Feel sort of grossed out just looking at it and put it in the fridge. Come back in a few hours and eat it all, preferably while drunk.
Cord Jefferson is a writer-editor living in Brooklyn. His work has appeared in National Geographic, GOOD, The Root and on MTV.