Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Vegetarianism- Now, here’s an issue I have a lot to say about…

Wikipedia defines Vegetarianism as: The practice of a diet that excludes all animal flesh, including poultry, game, fish, shellfish or crustacea, and slaughter by-products. The reasons for choosing vegetarianism may be related to morality, religion, culture, ethics, aesthetics, environment, society, economy, politics, taste, or health.

I am a vegetarian and I can honestly say that it is for none of the aforementioned reasons. Read on for more information.

I have found that the idea of vegetarianism carries with it a significant amount of negative connotations. I can just picture it now; if you will, imagine someone describing an acquaintance as “a vegetarian”- the portrayal is most definitely accompanied by a curled upper lip. Rarely have I been at a dinner party where at least one person at the table does not refer to vegetarians as “tree huggers,” “health freaks” or even “hippies.” None of these names particularly offend me but I can attest to the fact that they are far from true in my case. Enthusiastic meat-eaters/carnivores lose a degree of esteem for vegetarians believing that they gain no enjoyment from their food- or even go so far as to assume that they don’t appreciate the wonderful sense of taste we humans have the capacity to appreciate. I am more than aware that in some of the best restaurants in the world, I am a persona non grata. I have been told that I don’t live life to the fullest because I don’t eat meat. Again, I beg to differ.

My vegetarianism;

In short, I don’t eat anything with eyes or parents. And no, there are no animals with only ONE parent- fertilization doesn’t just happen on its own. And yes, I eat potatoes- don’t ask me stupid questions.

The unabridged version of the story is as follows; I was a little over three years old and my grandparents took me to a farm. One thing I remember particularly well is standing on one side of a chain link fence while a baby lamb eyed me from the other side with his little wet nose poking through. I am told that I proceeded to kiss him until I was scolded, while my face was scrubbed clean with none other than someone else's saliva. Later that evening, back at home, my mom served lamb chops for dinner. Being the clever little lass that I was, I immediately put two and two together and realized that the “lamb” chops had the same name as the “lambs” on the farm. Someone (most likely my mother) cleverly described to me the inner-workings of the food-chain and how humans are meant to eat meat. At hearing this news, I ran to my room in tears and refused to eat the rest of my dinner. For the next week or so, my parents served me everything from fish sticks and chicken filets to veal burgers. Each night I would wait for an opportunity to put the offending meat under my shirt in order to bring it to my room and hide it under the large cushion of a wicker chair. This ploy worked until my housekeeper discovered the source of the smell that had been wafting into the hallway and “outed” me to my family. The moldy meat incident resulted in a round of doctors’ visits including psychiatrists, therapists, pediatricians, and a few nutritionists. What can I say? My parents thought it abnormal for a three year old to give up meat on her own accord. Furthermore, they were worried that I wouldn’t develop correctly due to malnutrition. I was fine. Still am. Ultimately, my choice to deny myself anything that clucked, mooed or baah’d was accepted by my loved ones (save for the time my grandma served me a veal parmesan sub telling me it was eggplant.) I did continue to eat poultry for a few more months until I bit into a Chicken Tender from Burger King and hit an enormous indigo vain. That was the end of that and it officially solidified my status as a life-long vegetarian.

My family has always been considerate of me (other than when they served veal at my bat-mitzvah), but they never went out of their ways to cater to my culinary needs. This, I appreciate. It’s the people who constantly scan the menus and then feel the need to recite what I can and cannot eat that annoy me…or the men I have dated who make ME choose the restaurants because I am the “difficult eater.” To be fair, I love steakhouses- no one does creamed spinach or mashed potatoes better than a decent steakhouse. And I am the LAST person to complain about a choice of restaurant. After all, vegetarianism was my decision and I wouldn’t think of denying anyone else gastronomic pleasures. I have NEVER been to a restaurant where there is absolutely nothing for me to eat- bread and butter will always hold me over if need be.

Vegetarianism is just a part of my daily life. Nothing more- nothing less. It’s not my identity- it’s not a factor of “who I am” and I would NEVER EVER name it as one of my defining characteristics as some annoying vegetarians do. All it is, is the result of an incident 24 years ago. Do I miss meat? No, I don’t remember what it tastes like. Do I ever want meat? Yes! The smell of bacon cooking is deathly.

My friends tell me that I am the most carnivorous vegetarian they have ever met. Put a gorgeous leafy salad in front of me and a plate of delicately grilled vegetables and I will squirm like a little kid. If I’m REALLY hungry, I might even pout. Sometimes, and my friends can attest to this, I get so pissed off that I send my rabbit-food back and order a cheese platter and a plate of truffle French fries with garlic mayonnaise dip. Now, that’s food.

If I could get past my mental blockage for just one day, I would definitely make my rounds; my morning would commence with eggs Benedict and a massive side of bacon. For a snack, I would eat beef jerky (odd, I know- but ever since a camping trip where everyone lived on jerky- I’ve fantasized about it). For lunch, I might have steak tartare with a raw egg cracked on top. If I’m in warm weather and lobster is in season, I’ll dig into a huge Maine lobster and maybe a shrimp cocktail and crab cakes. I’ll have to try an oyster or two. Oh, and fried calamari drenched in fresh lemon of course!! For a late-afternoon snack, I would stop by a local Thai restaurant and order chicken satay with peanut sauce. I may, and I hate to say it, drive through Mc. Donald’s for some chicken nuggets. If I were in Miami, there is no doubt I would end up at Joe’s with heaps of stone crabs on my table. Now comes dinner- the Pièce de résistance- I would begin with an appetizer of foie gras and a plate of prosciutto cotto with buffala mozzarella and melon. My main course would be Bistecca Alla Fiorentina from Acqua al Due in Florence (I don’t care how much it will cost to fly the fucker in) AND a bright pink flaky tuna steak with truffled potatoes on the side. My midnight snack would be a Japanese schmorgasborg of Kobi beef, popcorn shrimp, spicy tuna rolls, california rolls, assorted sashimi (salmon, eel, squid, tuna, mackerel, yellow tail, octopus and the like) and plenty of cold sake. There will be NO tofu involved, you can be sure of that.

I suppose I am a carnivorous vegetarian after all- I cannot tell you how much fun I just had making up that fantasy menu. Alas, I will never eat any of those delectable treats. As much as I want to, I just can’t. I bring a flesh filled fork to my mouth and all I see is a furry little animal hopping around enjoying its own life- breathing, eating, pro-creating. How can I take that away from them when there is so much soy in the world?? Mind you- I wear leather. No point in commenting that I am a hypocrite- I already know that. It’s just that the thought of wearing animals is far more appealing than ingesting them. Somehow I am able to separate the two when it comes to clothes and I can’t when it comes to food.

Vegetarians in General;

I hate to admit it but I tend to agree with the “health-food-freak haters” out there. Vegetarians are annoying, preaching and exasperating. I despise it when I am put into this category without being given the chance to explain myself. The majority of vegetarians I have met are generally arrogant and opinionated. These are the vegetarians that make gagging noises as a juicy burger is placed on the table or the ones who rant about animal cruelty as you order a steak sandwich from your favorite take-out. Who wants to hear that? Don’t accept an invitation to Peter Luger if you can’t maintain the common courtesy to keep your mouth shut!

I recently read “Kitchen Confidential, Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly” by (now) celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. He wrote, “vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food.” Part of me wants to hate him. Part of me wants to sit him down and explain that sometimes vegetarianism isn’t a choice, it’s inherent- and I still love food. But the biggest part of me wants to be his friend. I think I would love him. By the way- it’s a great book, I recommend it to non-vegetarians the world over.

A few afterthoughts;

-You are not a vegetarian if you eat fish. Get over yourself.

-I am so sick of the same tired “vegetarian options”; Portobello burgers, spinach and ricotta ravioli, and the “chef’s special” grilled vegetable platter. You are a artist...employ a little imagination please!

- I’m still stuck on where yogurt stands. My morning yogurt said “not suitable for vegetarians” on the container and I was gutted. Do “live cultures” count?

-For the best carnivorous veggie snack in the world, do try;
I lived on the stuff until Whole Foods stopped carrying it.

-I resided with a family in southern Spain for the summer when I was 16 and I told them I was a vegetarian in the few Spanish words I knew. I figured it was a non-issue, but when I wouldn’t eat the bowl of snails placed in front of me, they called the program and told them I had an eating disorder. Looking back, I should have invested in a better dictionary.

-Vegans are nuts

-I once had a poster in my room that claimed “Meat is Murder, Abortion isn’t.” I bought it on Venice Beach in California circa 1997. You could say that was my first brush with activism.

-Russia is the worst country in the world for vegetarians- unless you like cabbage salad with a side of vodka. And as far as animal hide is concerned- even the bums wear fur.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

on the list of things to do before I die: take you to the hypnotist and reverse your endearing childhood encounter which has sworn you off of meat and fish...and then we're going to sit down to the best, most obscene carnivorous meal ever! on me, of course. -lana xx