I really, really like cheese. Don’t even get me started on eggs. But as I’ve grown up, I’ve also become more aware of the fact that animal agriculture has wiped out rainforests, decimated grazing lands and increased the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. I’ll never be a full-fledged vegan, but for the sake of my conscience I could maybe try a little harder. For help, I turned to my only vegan friend, who confirmed what I already suspected: The answer is Buttercup Market and Cafe. The little breakfast and lunch spot on Helen Avenue is as unfussy as they get, with cafeteria-style tables covered in brightly patterned plastic tablecloths throughout an open, sunny space. Another perk is Mary Butowicz, a grinning brunette barista who’s been a vegan for almost a year. She has tips for substitutions that can make almost anything on the menu vegan. For the coffee, people rave about Buttercup’s hemp milk. And any dish with eggs can use tofu instead.
Ah yes, tofu. As a person who’s a little iffy about its texture, I decided to disguise it a bit and order the bánh mì sandwich. It’s a slice of marinated, baked tofu on a baguette, topped with carrots, pickled veggies and a crazy-good vinaigrette. A sandwich without meat or cheese is difficult to pull off, but this tofu is just the right thickness and flavor to make it a full, satisfying experience. Tip: crumble some of the accompanying tortilla chips onto the sandwich. Every sandwich in the world can benefit from extra crunch. For me, the lesson is this: There are cheeseless foods in the world that are worthy of my time. Especially this sandwich. And I was a little nicer to the planet today than I was yesterday, which is enough to celebrate. So settle in at Buttercup, snag a window seat if you can, and watch the morning crowd filter in and out. Eat your tofu. Look what a great person you are.