In the beginning of 2017 I took over the operation of a pay-what-you-can vegan lunch café here in the heart of meat-and-potatoes Midwest America. On December first, I gave myself a daily blogging challenge to write about this café, to tell its story, and maybe figure out a little of my own story in the process. This is Post #22.

There is always one item on the plate that runs out first. Sometimes it’s the dessert, in which case I often have a substitute available, like a piece of chocolate bark or a date truffle, something I made for a previous meal that holds well and can be swapped in easily. I have to be sensitive to this, though; swapping in a piece of chocolate for the fruit that’s on the menu is usually well received, not so true the other way around.

If you promise chocolate, you better deliver chocolate.

Or pie. Don’t try to swap out pie.

Yesterday I ran out of greens. They were a side to the main dish, but an important side, they completed the plate and once they were gone, I didn’t have a substitute. It was late in the meal service, we’d already served a few more lunches than I’d expected, I was satisfied with the day. So I put up the “sold out” sign.

A few minutes later a regular customer came in. “How sold out are you?” he asked.

“No greens,” I said. “I have the chickpeas and rice.”

He considered. “What’s the dessert?’

“A chocolate mint cookie.”

“I’m in.”

Somehow I don’t think a fresh orange would have garnered the same reaction.