This week’s post is a little different. You may have noticed that today is Monday, making this a day late, but we thought we’d see how a weekend retreat works for vegetarians. This time, rather than a team of three, only the vegetarian went, so I’ll be writing directly to you. I’m the normal writer, but usually the information comes from all of us.

After spending the weekend at a retreat in the woods, I’ve discovered (or confirmed) three things: the mass-produced vegetarian foods from the freezer section are not camping-friendly; vegetarians are more common that we might think in Texas; and people will go out of their way to accommodate you even when they could get away with serving you PB&J.

I was lucky enough to be at a retreat with a full kitchen in the dining hall, so keeping Boca and Morningstar Farms patties frozen was easy. I had access to a microwave, so cooking them wasn’t difficult, either. But while I watched my burger spin on the carousel, I wondered what I would have been doing if this retreat had been held where we had to use tents and camp fires. First, it’s August in Texas, so we’re under the summer burn ban. But even if fire were an option, what would I have done to keep the patties frozen? I’ve taken specialty foods to the lake or park in a cooler on day trips, but never where they would be without a proper freezer for more than 24 hours. That would not have been easy. Since the sponsors supplied all retreat food, I ate what I was given and was thankful for what I got. That probably would have been the situation without a kitchen, only I’d have either burned myself trying to keep the patties on a stick to cook or survived on pickles, nuts and cereal. Thank goodness I had access to that kitchen!

While opening the burger patties, one of the other volunteer staff members came in asking if that was for the other vegetarian. About the time I opened my mouth to ask who this was (I was excited to not be alone on BBQ day), another staffer said four of us had signed up for the retreat. Since we had about 40 people there, that’s 10% vegetarian! (OK, maybe there were a few more people and it was only 8%, but I’m still excited about this.) Not only was I not alone, I was part of a decently sized group! But, either two of those registered didn’t show up or they made do with potato salad and pickles because the only one I found joined me in the kitchen to watch the burger patties go round and round.

*Note: ancient microwaves do not heat evenly nor do they heat quickly, so be patient if you find yourself in a camp dining hall with a veggie patty to cook.

When I registered for this camp, I listed my dietary preferences in the allotted box and added, “but I survive on PB&J so there’s no pressure.” The organizers took it upon themselves to make sure they had enough vegetarian options for multiple meals and that we vegetarians had a choice. Sure, it boiled down to (fake)beef or (fake)chicken, but it was still more of a choice than I expected. Maybe it was the people I was with, but I found myself appreciating their kindness and willingness to go out of their way to make sure I had enough to eat. They even got special buns to go with the patties. (Everyone else had sliced beef or sausage, so they didn’t need buns for their barbecue.)

So, the next time you organize a retreat, remember that vegetarians could (maybe, if we try) make up 10% of your guests and we love it when you take it upon yourself to make us feel just as welcome as the “normals” in the mix. I appreciated everything that was done to make me and the other vegetarians feel welcome this weekend, and I’m sure others would, too.

Next week we’ll look at Ethiopian cuisine and I’ll do my best to be on time. Thanks for waiting this time.

Until next we meet, enjoy great food and keep a happy heart.

Come back next Sunday for another ride through cattle country.