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