As some of you know, I have been an AP art history reader for 3 years now. I greatly enjoy reading the ever-increasing numbers of exams, and having a chance to hang out with fellow art historians for a week. For the last two years, I have gone to New Jersey for this assignment. However this year, they moved us to Kansas City.
As I hopped on the train for the 4-hour trip from St. Louis, I was excited to get a chance to visit a new city, and I eventually ended up much to love in a city known for its BBQ and steak.
First, work food:
When I showed up, I found this sign in the vegetarian food line at the ballroom of the Kansas City convention center. I was relieved that there was a dedicated section for veg. food- but I soon found out why the sign was there. According to my colleagues, the food at the convention center was so bad that people were flocking to the vegetarian food, thus causing the food to run out before actual vegetarians had gotten their meals!
How bad could the food be? Well, let's just say it was... institutional. The above image is a collection of some of my breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. As you can see, it wasn't too difficult to eat vegan, and by the end of the week, there were even some pleasant surprises (tofu! tacos! beans!). I also noticed some signs saying "brown rice available for vegans." Which, great, I love brown rice, but did I miss the memo that said that only vegans could eat it? (You guys already know how I feel about needless food segregation and weird definitions of veganism.) The food was honestly not that bad, but very bland and extremely repetitive. (Especially since I'd been spoiled for good fresh veg. food in New Jersey, as you can see in this post from last year.) By the third day, the thought of veggie sausage for breakfast again was enough to make me ill. As you can see in the mosaic, by the end of the week (top photos) I had resorted to drinking soda with my meals just to settle my stomach, and I (like many other readers) started skipping dinner.
Here is a shot of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, a giant and wonderful museum that I happily got to visit a couple of times while in K.C.
Still Life No. 24 by Tom Wesselmann, 1962, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Here is a work of art by Tom Wesselmann that speaks to some of our worst fears about American food- packaged, processed, and bland. After a few days on my institutional diet, this piece really made me think. It's funny how distorted the promise of plenitude has become in the American psyche, isn't it?
Fortunately, there was a whole other side to my visit. First of all, I was lucky to have found a wonderful yoga studio within walking distance of my hotel. At Kansas Siddhi Yoga, I got to work out the kinks in my neck and shoulders, but more importantly, work out the negative attitude that was starting to take over my mind.
Taking advantage of the Kansas City Veg. Restaurant Guide, the advice of fellow bloggers and PPK-ers, and the convenient and cheap K.C. public transportation system, I finally found enough time one evening to get myself to Eden Alley Café. When I saw the specials list, I knew exactly what I needed to get: watermelon gazpacho! This raw dish, bursting with fresh ingredients (a gazpacho of watermelon, cucumbers, apples, and tomatoes, served with a big scoop of guacamole and topped with sprouts and lime juice) was the counterpart to the bland food I'd been having all week.
House-made sourdough bread drizzled with a green and fruity olive oil
And gazpacho! I can't tell you how good this meal was. It was totally worth the trip, and getting caught in a thunderstorm on my way back!
Especially because my awesome server slipped this chocolate lavender cookie to me after my meal, for free! This cookie let me have something awesome and healthy to enjoy as everyone else snacked on candy bars during our reading the next day.
There were so many other vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants that I still wanted to try in Kansas City, but I ran out of time. Good thing I'll be returning here for work every June for the foreseeable future. My yoga class allowed me to have gratitude- not only for the extraordinary vegan food at Eden Alley, but also for the quite ordinary food at the Convention Center. I was reminded that even though I complained about it, it was still food, vegan food. And that is something to be thankful for.
Eden Alley Café
707 W 47th St
Kansas City, MO 64112