I have the best family. They have been supportive of my decision to become vegan, never criticizing me for following a lifestyle that is so different from what they grew up with. They are thrilled to try anything I make and have been pleasantly surprised at how tasty vegan meals are. They support me in so many varied ways and, sometimes, they take me to dinner. Last night was such a night. The day hadn’t gone well for anyone (except me-I felt wonderful!) and my family felt like they needed a treat. Off we went to Tres Margaritas, one of our favorite places for burritos, enchiladas, and tamales. I was curious to try my McDougall diet in a restaurant setting.
Tres Margaritas is very vegan friendly but what about McDougall diet friendly? The restaurant offers complimentary chips and salsa: they are placed on the table the moment one sits down. I eyed them with suspicion. The chips left no oil stains on the liner but I still exercised restraint. I turned my attention to the menu. There are a few vegetarian items on the menu where the only special order I have to place is ‘no cheese, please’ and one completely vegan burrito: the garden burrito. The description of the burrito includes the words ‘sauteed vegetables’ and I figured the odds were high they were sauteed in something Dr. McDougall would say was a no-no. One of my go-to meals at Tres Margaritas is the black bean soup. It’s garnished with fresh tomatoes and cilantro, no sauteing in sight. Black bean soup couldn’t have much oil in it: I ordered it and a side order of rice. I checked the plate when the rice came and no oily residue was left so I called it safe to eat. I stirred the rice into the soup and tucked in.
I only ended up eating half. Oil content was not an issue: salt was an issue. I was surprised at how salty the meal was and I’m not usually one to quibble at salt. It’s been a while since I’ve patronized Tres Margaritas. Was the food always so salty and it’s only as I’ve cleaned up my eating habits that I finally noticed? I’m thinking back to my Chili’s Challenge and, yes, I remember that being salty as well. It must be me. As I’ve cleaned up my diet, eating more and more fresh fruits and vegetables, my tastes have changed. My tongue seeks out delicate layers of flavor and last night it was overwhelmed with salt. I don’t wish to disparage a business: Tres Margaritas is a wonderful destination for great service and friendly staff but I’m no longer certain it’s a place my taste buds wish to go. What does this mean for eating out?
I don’t know. It’s nice not to have to scrub the stove and do dishes at night, but the food I make myself is 100 times better than anything I’ve found in a restaurant. And, as excessive salt causes health problems, it’s better to maintain control over the level of salt in my food. I have Robin Robertson’s One-Dish Vegan cookbook. I’ll take a look at those recipes and McDougall-ize them as necessary. Best of both worlds: home cooked food and minimal clean-up! One thing I will say, the restaurants are better at presenting food. My presentation consists of dumping the food on the plate and hollering; “There! Eat your dinner!” (Channeling my inner Fagin). Okay, I don’t really shout that but I can’t deny there’s room for improvement in making my food look pretty on a plate. All the more reason to practice at home.