Can you convert a carnivore?
Compelling was this question as I visited FareStart in Seattle to try the Founder's "Field Roast" Sandwich ($9.25, accompanied by choice of fries, cup of soup, or small Caesar salad).
Founder refers to David Lee, the chef and entrepreneur who formed the FareStart organization in 1992. Over the past twenty years, FareStart's culinary program has trained and placed about 6,000 homeless and disadvantaged individuals into jobs, while at the same time serving over 5 million meals to disadvantaged men, women, and children. Remarkably, more than 85% of FareStart's graduates find employment within 90 days of program completion.
Lee later became interested in vegetarian meats, integrating his European culinary background with his fascination for Mien Ching (or "Buddha's food," since 7th century Chinese monks developed it)—the protein-rich result of extensive kneading of wheat flour. (The Japanese would later simmer this product in shoyu kombu to create Seitan, though it's not really known in Japan outside of macrobiotic circles.) In 1997, having created a charcuterie-style vegetarian grain meat, Lee and his brother established the Seattle-based Field Roast Grain Meat Company.
FareStart's Field Roast sandwich contains Lee's signature hazelnut-encrusted lentil and sage patty. It's served on vegan potato bread with arugula and tomatoes. The patty itself has decent flavor to it (I believe I detected garlic and lemon), with smears of vegan fig mayonnaise and Dijon mustard spiking it up. I was pretty impressed with the dense texture, making this a little like a vegetarian meatloaf, and naturally it never hurts to have the "meat" fried.
I'm not converted, as I still prefer the flavor and texture of real meat, but let me say this: You can always convince a carnivore to support FareStart—where eating the Field Roast sandwich is satisfying on a number of levels.
About the author: Jay Friedman is a Seattle-based freelance food writer who happens to travel extensively as a sex educator. An avid fan of noodles (some call him "The Mein Man"), he sees sensuality in all foods, and blogs about it at his Gastrolust website. You can follow him on Twitter @jayfriedman.