Our campaign before Christmas – which more than 200 people joined online -, encouraged people to reduce their meat consumption. Meat production (feeding and keeping the livestock clean) is a lot more water-, energy- and raw material intensive operation than growing vegetables, fruits or grains; thus having a higher impact on our environment. Nevertheless regular meat consumption has become such a strong part of our eating habits, that many of our readers cannot even imagine what they would eat if they had to leave out the meat from their lunch now and then. There is pasta, potatoes, grilled or steamed veggies and fruits, walnuts, almonds, peanuts and chestnuts…and we haven’t even mentioned cheese or fish yet. Unfortunately, traditional Hungarian cooking does not provide a lot of choices for meat-free meals that are healthy and delicious. Fried mushroom or cheese with tartar sauce and rice, pasta with cheese and sour-cream or with tomato sauce – these are the well-known vegetarian dishes that can be very boring even after a short time.
Luckily however, every now and then plum- or cottage cheese dumplings, or a sztrapacska can „peek in” at the canteen. Oven-baked casseroles are also getting very popular nowadays. But for instance millet or buckwheat can be hard to find, and when we finally see them on the menu, they are dry and tasteless. Eggplant and zucchini are very rarely prepared the way they really should be. If catering had a penalty code, surely cooking the vegetables in water would be a serious offense. All the nutrition content and taste stays in the water – which is poured out after the cooking -, so no wonder that a Hungarian tongue, being used to very intense tastes, will not choose greens on the side very often. Beetroot, sweet potato, rhubarb, or chard are not familiar to many – and I wonder how many people know what a pattypan squash tastes like, which grows in Hungary from July to February? Even spellcheck does not recognize this word. Pumpkin was „discovered” a couple of years ago by Hungarians, and luckily since then we can eat a creamy pumpkin soup – rich in vitamins -, almost anywhere when it is in season. Of course above I was talking about the canteens where an average worker goes every day to fill up his tired brain with vitamins and minerals for only a thousand Forints. So the target of our post today are those who generally do not cook for themselves, thus have an everyday problem to find a decent restaurant near their workplace, or they follow a special diet to stay healthy or regain their health. The popularity of our previous article on a gluten-free restaurant proves that in Hungary restaurants that offer special meals are in demand.
So far we have not been investigating too many food delivery service providers, since we can hardly imagine less environmental damaging activity than throwing out tons of plastic dishes every single day. There are a few establishments that are willing to collect these and after cleaning them out thoroughly, reuse them, but many of the delivery companies think of this process as a real burden. According to public surveys, customers are also not in favor of returning the plastic dishes, because then they have to wash them and store them somewhere, and they feel obliged to order from that place again where the dishes came from. Biodegradable plastics just starting to become popular in Hungary, but they are still quite expensive. (So this particular problem is still waiting to be solved by the Heroes of Responsible Dining!) However, we start to recognize that ordering food is more popular than the traditional „dining out” at the restaurants, especially when the employees have only about half an hour for lunch, or there is no restaurant around that serves decent food.
We bumped into the Avocado Food Manufacture through our meat-free campaign that we have mentioned earlier. This company provides with food delivery only – without the dining in option. Daily menu can be ordered easily over their website, but breakfast or dinner is available also. They even offered a special menu and the very seasonal poppy seed roll around Christmas!
But why are they so unique? As in most of the cases, personal reasons motivated the owner to reform his own eating habits, when a few years ago Gábor Szűcs was forced to go on a heart friendly diet. He started to wonder: if he cooks healthy meals for himself, why not help others to be healthy as well?
This approach represents the whole company: they only offer food to their customers that they would happily eat themselves. There are three different kind of menus available: reform, vegetarian and vegan. The meals are totally free from preservatives and additives, they do not contain artificial flavor enhancers and colorants, and they consist mostly of organic ingredients. When buying goods – contrary to their name „Avocado” – they prefer to choose local producers. The menu they offer had become more and more special in the course of time, and is adapted to the needs of the Hungarian population. They are among those rare places which sell vegan menu es well, thus saving plenty of time for those who follow this lifestyle. We especially value that they have such a wide range of menu selection that almost all types of diets are covered by them: restoring pH balance in the body, protein-rich for athletes, low in salt- and fat for people with heart conditions, gluten- or lactose free for people with food allergies. The next week’s order must come in by Friday midnight the latest, so that way they can calculate the portions precisely and by this, they can practically minimize their food waste. Moreover, they can plan the delivery routes to minimize the distance traveled. Sometimes you can even get get your lunch from the owner himself! Menus can be combined, so if you are not totally vegetarian, but you just rarely eat meat, you can choose from both the reform and vegetarian menus alternately.
But what do those meals really taste like? Many people tend to avoid „reform” or vegan meals because they think these have no taste at all. But the owner’s more than 30 years of experience with gastronomy guarantees the variety and tastefulness to all the meals that are served under his lead. Avocado organized a culinary event in December, where we tasted some of their meals. There was fake cottage cheese dumplings made of millet (I could not tell that it had no real cottage cheese in it!), pea puree with mint, fake potato casserole, seitan, carob cream, chickpea sauce, etc. Unfortunately we couldn’t try everything, but the ones we did were really delicious! It is better not to expect McDonals-type of salty and fatty tastes when trying these goodies – but those of you who read this blog already know the taste of real food.
At this event, the owner shared long and encouraging stories about the environmental principals he respects. We also heard about his regret of not being able to solve the problem of setting up a system for collecting and reusing the plastic boxes so far – but that they have managed to use recycled plastic boxes for delivery. They installed aerators into the faucets, the staff uses water-saving toilets and they have energy-saver lightbulbs. They collect their recycling separately, which is taken away monthly.
Seasonality is a great concern for them at the time of purchase, which also makes economical sense since the prices of vegetables and fruits can change seasonally. They also like to use fresh ingredients, and not ones that travel thousands of miles. When they buy organic products, they base their decisions on personal experiences and trust with the producers. Although they believe that there are no products anymore that are totally free from chemical derivatives – due to the overall contamination of the ground (e.g. waste water, flooding of the Danube river, contamination of the groundwater supply) -, they avoid buying chemically treated products.
The point is – which we have made already long time ago – that healthy life starts with what we eat and continues with what we do for our environment; and the two are inseparable! It’s comforting to know that some of the people out there whom we entrust with „feeding” us feel the same way.
Thank you, Katalin Hall for translating the original article to English!