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04 April 2007 @ 03:13 pm
Putting the Ham- back in your Veggie Burger  
There is a rapidly aging fish-out-of-water / chicken-out-of-coop / pea-out-of-pod joke which you all have doubtlessly watched grow stale before your eyes.  A vegetarian visits the home of his/her boy-/girlfriend's family, perhaps even they are even prospective in-laws. Often the maybe-in-laws-to-be are immigrants or, at the very least, Southerners. When they all sit for a meal it is announced, with either defiance or embarrassment, that the guest is a vegetarian. The mother is stopped dead in mid-meat-serve and takes a second to gulp down her confusion and regain her flesh-fed composure.  The awkward silence is broken when someone chimes in and declares this to be fine, they can eat chicken. Whew! Tragedy averted and hilarity ensues. Thought the audience then mistakes the "Applause" sign for the "Groan" sign.

The one sure fire way to revive a moribund punchline is heightening. And Jeebus bless Chicago's Hyde Park for heightening culinary incompetence to an art. Meet the newest eatery in the 'hood: Veggies to Go. As you can see from the take-out menu below this is "The Tasty Alternative Sub Shop." Hmmmm. Sounds good I guess, but "alternative," you say? Why, yes. Can't you see what's plainly in front of you? There are pictures of fresh green vegetables and brightly colored smoothies that are sure to be the freshest and salubriest in town. The antioxidants practically jump off the page and mug the toxins in your body. Look, they spelled the goodness out for us: "Featuring VEGAN & VEGETARIAN products only. NO MEAT!" Ah hell, they even used a carrot for the 'i' in veggies. Wowsers.

I feel ruddy and vigorous from just looking at the menu, but be warned: bewildering advertisements are a fixture in this neighborhood (1, 2). It almost makes it worth hauling my ass down here every morning, but not quite. In any case, as someone with an abiding interest in language and with some training in semantics, I was especially interested in the relation of the proud meatless claim on the front of the menu and the pictures and actual food on offer on the back.

I see. For those playing along at home, six of Veggies to Go's eight "Famous Subs" have meat ("Famous" for their extremely rare ingredients of vegetables made from real slaughtered animal product!), and one of the two remaining subs is tuna - another possible punchline to the awful joke that started this entry. Six of their seven "Signature Sandwiches" are similarly be-fleshed. The biggest picture on the menu is of a tower of deli meat. And, not leaving any ambiguity as to the question of their incompetence in formulating restaurant concepts, the first ingredient listed in the "Veggie Hamburger": beef pattie. Only the wraps seem to pass muster. It must be wonderful to be a vegetarian and have such choices.
(Anonymous) on April 4th, 2007 11:58 pm (UTC)
Um - perhaps all the "meat" is fake? Just seems a complete disconnect otherwise.

(Anonymous) on April 5th, 2007 12:05 am (UTC)
As a follow up, I tried to call them, but the number isn't in service. However, an online review of the place said (again) that it was all vegetarian. I strongly suspect the "meat" is fake.

(Anonymous) on April 5th, 2007 12:08 am (UTC)
I finally got through. Everything is vegetarian. The "meat" is fake. Way to do your research, Mr. Research!

debaclypsenowdebaclypsenow on April 5th, 2007 12:15 am (UTC)
Figures that the one day I decide to actually do my job instead of researching my blog I pay for it. Mea culpa. Still, in a city where retailers are addicted to putting words in quotations, it's odd that this one plays the straight man. And why use the word beef when describing a veggie burger? Anyway, the good news is that they have riblet which I love as meat or "meat."
(Anonymous) on April 5th, 2007 03:57 am (UTC)
Did you know that it snowed in Hyde Park and I won a dollar? And all the snow was vegetarian.-- Rev Transit
(Anonymous) on April 5th, 2007 04:02 am (UTC)
Shannon, we have a concept in this country called "truth in advertising". If you put out a menu and you use words like "chicken" and/or "ham", legally those sandwiches should contain "chicken" and/or "ham". Even if somewhere else on the menu it says "no meat", the descriptions should make clear that it's not really "chicken" and/or "ham".

I don't fault Evan, here.-- Rev Transit
(Anonymous) on April 5th, 2007 12:28 pm (UTC)
I don't fault Evan too much - the menu is confusing. But considering the giant "NO MEAT" and "ALL VEGETARIAN" on the front, it just seemed too much a reach that the "meat" would be real. And, frankly, a phone call to clear the whole mess up does take considerably less time and effort than a blog entry... ;)

Besides, no way am I letting Evan off the hook for this one.

debaclypsenowdebaclypsenow on April 5th, 2007 02:50 pm (UTC)
There are three things that really threw me here and which I will use in my defense should I have to appear before Congress to explain my actions: 1. Is there a difference between veggie chicken and veggie turkey? That seems pretty subtle. 2. Why on earth would they say that they Veggie Burger has a beef pattie? Everyone knows what a veggie burger is. 3. If it is implied that all the meats are really "meats", why specify that the riblet contains "veggie ribs."

These people are obviously amateur meat simulators. They need to learn that there are three accepted codes for veggie foods: one using quotations (e.g., "bacon"), one using veggie neologisms (e.g., tofurky, soysage), and one that literally describes what is being served (e.g., wheat gluten, TVP, etc.). I think that this naming of things on whims must stop and I will here propose the start of a Veggenglish First Movement!
orangezenferret on April 5th, 2007 05:09 pm (UTC)
I did raise an eyebrow at the signature sammiches. I definitely would have asked if they really were fake meat when they specified "gyro meat" and "steak" (sans quotes) in that category, but "blackened tofu" "...tofu" under "wraps."

Under Wraps. heh, I loved that album.
(Anonymous) on April 5th, 2007 11:45 pm (UTC)
Shawn Cassidy?
Please tell me you really did mean the Under Wraps by Shawn Cassidy...please? Oh man did I love Sawn Cassidy. I had the Under Wraps poster when I was nine.

orangezenferret on April 6th, 2007 01:39 pm (UTC)
Re: Shawn Cassidy?
I can't BELIEVE anyone got that reference!!!! One Buttress sets me up with my One True Love with a pair of tickets to a Sox game; another finds me my soulmate through a misdirected blog rant. I am truly blessed!