SUZANNE HARRINGTON: I might be vegan, but I still have a sweet tooth

This week’s column is brought to you by First World Problems, because I have one. Technically, it’s not a problem, more a First World Irritation, but where better to moan than here, in my own column, where I can monetise my displeasure.

Because I am displeased. Irritated. Exasperated.

Here’s why.

Picture the scene. A fine dining establishment in Cork city, promising ‘upscale global cuisine’. The kind of place that serves butter balanced on a stone, inside a wooden box. I’m excited. I love fine dining. I love a baffling foam, a puzzling deconstruction, a challenging amuse bouche, all served up on roof slates. Why not?

Food should be fascinating. Otherwise, go and make yourself a sandwich. Anyway. We tell the restaurant, in advance, that one of our party is vegan. The menu offers vegan options, so everyone’s a winner. Except, it turns out, the vegan. Me.

My Middle Class Irritation reaches its zenith, not at the starter (two matchsticks of courgette and a cherry tomato, arranged like a Miro), or even the main (carbs, untroubled by protein), but at the dessert.

As my dining companions swoon over rich deliciousness, presented with panache, elan, and pistachio crumb, mine turns out to be a Zero Fucks Dessert. Basically, a chopped apple. Do chefs hate vegans so much that they cannot be bothered to even plate a chopped apple properly, instead, sending it out in a bowl, like something you’d give a toddler watching cartoons?

I stare at my terrible dessert, and feel — I’m not kidding — actual dismay.

Now, this is not a restaurant review: I can do that on TripAdvisor, far more vociferously. No, this is a question: why, when veganism has become so mainstream that the most comforting, innocuous, mainstream television programme ever — the Great British bloody Bake Off — is about to do a vegan week, can’t mainstream restaurant chefs up their vegan game?

Chefs can do all kinds of trickery with calves liver, force-fed geese, pigs’ feet, monkey brains, whatever, but they can’t come up with anything more imaginative than a chopped apple for a dairy-free dessert? How is that fine dining? Or any other kind, other than apple-chopping, while charging fine prices?

Is there a belief that vegans only like chopped apple, because we are all swivel-eyed health freaks? Let me stop that rumour, right there. We like fat and sugar, the same as the rest of you; we like creamy, gooey, sticky, dense, rich, calorific, unctuous. Just not from cows.

Come on, chefs. How can anyone call themselves a chef, if, without animal products, they can only do ultra-basic? This isn’t limited to the city centre place with the butter in a box; last time, at a world-famous cookery school in Co Cork, it was the same. Hopeless. Expensive and hopeless.

Get with the proper vegan options, chefs. We are not going away. And we’re hungry.

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