Remember Sarah Bishop
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Emilie Shireen Press

This is a story about me, Sarah, and a certain restaurant idea we cooked up over our own kitchen experiments when we lived together in the spring of 1997.

Sarah and I both loved to cook. Fueled by our new-found joy in all things vegan (including field trips to the awesome Seventh Day Adventist market for bulk food and Tofuti Cuties), we decided that we should, of course, open a restaurant. We cast all of our friends in supporting roles: Jared Sam, the maitre de, would seat people and oversee the restaurant. Josie Bockleman would make each plate, bowl and cup by hand. Matt and his buddies would provide the music, Nath would be able to read his biology books while washing dishes. I think Isaac was the prep cook, and Joseph was to make the furniture. Each of our friends added a new aspect to our dream, and we were in the center of it all, stirring and frying and trying not to bump into each other.

We talked about this a lot.

One day, someone who had been hearing about our endless plans let us know about a contest he heard about on the Internet. Whoever entered with $100, a vision statement and the best sample summer lunch menu would win a vegetarian restaurant in Banff, Alberta, Canada.

This was it, our big chance!

Let me tell you, we went at it full force. We researched recipes, agonized over our vision statement, talked endlessly about whether or not we would rename the place, how we would decorate and whether or not we’d be able to buy local organic produce. We were so excited, we came up with 2 options for each course (soup, salad, entrée), and decided we’d let our friends be the judges.

We had a banquet. We tracked down long tables and extra chairs. We managed to find a tablecloth or two, and some cloth napkins. We sat everyone down in the living room/dining room/Nath’s bedroom, and went to work.

Fruit soup, grilled portabella sandwiches, spinach salad, some kind of pizza bagel thing, on and on it came out of our hallway/kitchen. We made our friends eat both meals and then vote.

Once we set our menu items, we asked Jared to describe everything with his special flair (“sun-ripened tomatoes on a bed of fresh baby spinach greens”…), typed the menu and our vision statement into my computer and printed it out on really nice, earthy paper. We bound the whole thing as if it were a handmade menu, including on the front a cute (and last minute) photo of the two of us in the back yard. We sent our entry off to Banff, and then waited. How could we not win?

The day came when the restaurant owners would let the winners know by phone that they were now proprietors of the only vegetarian restaurant within the Banff city limits. We made sure that even when we were at class, someone was by the phone waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

The call never came. We woke up the next day hoping that we would still hear from them, that perhaps they had forgotten that they were supposed to call us and let us know that we’d be packing our bags and moving to Canada. That day too, the call never came.

As it turns out, the contest needed 1,000 participants to make it worthwhile for the owners to give the restaurant away. I think they got 100 entries, maybe 200. Although they had people send in menus from as far away as Korea, there weren’t enough people involved for the owners to, in their words, move to somewhere warmer without selling their business to another pizza joint. They went the conventional route, Sarah registered for her next semester of classes, and I went to India.

They ended up sending us our money back, but they kept our menu. Good thing we didn’t include the recipes.

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