Thick and juicy hamburgers. Mouth-watering European sausages. Taco in a bag. Deep-fried everything.
I am standing in the middle of the Grub Hub at Westerner Days wondering where’s the kale?
Ask just about anyone and they will tell you that food is one of the biggest draws to any county fair or carnival.
They will tell you that devouring a corn dog or a bucket of mini donuts is just part of the experience.
You only live once.
But what if you’re a proud plant-eating vegetarian who wants to dine on the healthy front while enjoying the five-days of action-packed fun? What are the options?
I decided to find out.
Some 27 food trucks and vendors line the Food Hub in the heart of the fair.
Booths with flashy signs and appetizing photos tempted many taste buds.
Local favourites like The Stache and Chedda’ Heads were offering smiles and yummy eats. (Try the falafel taco my friend Sona Macnaughton raved about and veggie breakfast sandwich at the Stache if you get a chance.)
Strolling through the aisles, I scanned the menu boards and took stock of the options. All the typical fair cuisine was there — Mexi fries, poutine, cotton candy, popcorn and the like — but I was determined to eat something good for me.
I was immediately drawn to the Kelowna-based Wrap Daddy’s. Its simple menu is straight to the point — “beef, chicken, vegetarian.”
I chatted with owner Mike Morter as he prepared my $10 cone-style soft tortilla filled with sauteed organic veggies, veg protein and fresh salsa.
Mike said his vegetarian tortillas make up 30 per cent of all his sales and the number is quickly growing. His gluten-free options are also gaining ground among the food truck connoisseurs.
He said people are simply making the choice to lead a healthier lifestyle, which means eating more veggies.
Mike says, “We like to collect as many yeses as we can,” in his response to my question about tweaking his menu for vegans and vegetarians.
The tortilla satisfied my every vegetarian food need that morning. It was flavourful and had a succulent mix of spices and herbs. A meal in itself, the tortilla filled my belly.
Next up, I needed a taco.
There were many options for veggie tacos. I had to devour at least one.
I randomly selected Hot Chihuahua (mainly because I liked the name), based in Red Deer.
Deb Peckham served up two bean tacos at a bargain $3.50. Veggie quesadilla and burritos were also on the menu.
Deb told me that some days her vegetarian options are big sellers, other days it’s all about the beef or chicken. It depends on the crowd but people appreciate the options, she said.
The bean tacos were zesty and tasty, perfect for a light snack.
Next, I stumbled upon the Drumheller-based Mustache Bros. Inc. food truck, where I was pleasantly surprised to find the pencil stache.
It was described as a 100 per cent vegan patty deep fried, with arugula, pea sprouts, tomatoes, onion and mango chipotle sauce.
Save for the “deep-fried” bit, I was excited.
Arugula and pea sprouts at the fair? Show me the grub.
I handed over my $9 for the last vegan burger from owner Josh Kuzmic.
Josh said they had sold out of patties and more would come the next day.
That sounded promising.
I attacked the “burger” with abandon. It has been a long time since I have truly enjoyed a good veg burger. I was in love at first bite. The flavouring of spices (which I can’t quite place) tickled my taste buds. Try this burger if you want to taste a little vegetarian heaven.
All in all, I was impressed with the choice for vegetarians and vegans.
Most vendors were quite accommodating and flexible to my requests.
As more people turn to meat-free diets, the demand for menus with flexibility and vegetarian or vegan eats is growing.
While finding vegetarian grub at events rooted in cowboy beef culture can be a challenge, it is not impossible.
Still I was slightly disappointed not to find any kale chips on the menu.
Maybe next year?