Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Now, run along and wipe that face off your head. You're getting rancid.
Last night my husband and I had his friend and colleague Bob over for dinner. I hadn't met Bob before, but we laughed and slapped a gleeful high-five when we discovered we were both vegetarian.

Let me clarify. There are a few sub-types of vegetarians. Bob is a pescatarian (no beef, pork, poultry, just fish). I am an ovo-lacto vegetarian. No beef, pork, poultry, fish, or anything in between. Occasionally I'll eat cheese made with vegetarian rennet, and sometimes cage-free, organic eggs (and I still love ice cream). If you want to get really specific, I don't eat anything with a face. 
Except for these guys. Yum!
(Source: Happiness is Cookies by Clawson Cookies.)

If this information makes you want to scream and punch a wall, that's fine by me. I'll admit--it is a bit confusing.

Related: I've lived all over Indiana, Minneapolis, Baton Rouge, and now Reno, NV. Over the last eighteen months, I've traveled to NYC (twice), and to Tulsa, OK (more than twice). 

Of the six locales mentioned above, can you guess where I was hassled for being a vegetarian? I'll give you a hint:
  1. Indiana
  2. Minneapolis 
  3. Baton Rouge
  4. Reno
  5. NYC
  6. Tulsa
Yes--my beloved, progressive, Earth Day-founding Minneapolis and the Seat of the Empire, A-#1, King of the Hill, top of the heap: New York, New York.

I'll back up a bit.

I grew up on the north side of Indianapolis, just blocks away from an adorable vegetarian restaurant called The Stillwater. 

I couldn't find a photo of The Stillwater, so here's a yearbook photo of Dave 
Letterman, graduate of Broad Ripple High School, class of '65. He looks like my Dad!

My mom took me to the Stillwater once when I was ten years old, and I was baffled by the concept of a meat-free menu. You see, I was raised on a very meat-ful menu, which was down to my father, a big Irishman who loved his meat, his potatoes, and sometimes sausage for dessert. To this day he still prefers corn beef, meatloaf, and pork chops, but won't touch chicken since he was raised in Illinois during the Great Depression, when chicken was all anyone could afford.

When I was away at boarding school during my teen years, I developed a taste for beef tacos from Taco Bell, Burger King Whoppers, Big Macs, and greasy pepperoni pizza--stuff I wasn't allowed to eat at home (my parents divorced in 1983 and I was mostly raised by my mom, a health nut who ate chicken, turkey, and a ton of veggies. She now eats fish and veggies). I gave up fast food at the age of twenty, but continued stuffing my face with processed meat products--frozen cheeseburgers, Italian sausage, and corn beef--well into my twenties. 

In 1995, when I was twenty-two years old, I got very sick and discovered that red meat made me projectile vomit. I couldn't even stand the smell or sight of it. It wasn't difficult for me to quit red meat. 

For the next two years, I ate only chicken (I never cared for turkey) and the odd vegetable. In mid-1997, I decided to try going vegetarian. It fit with my belief system (I'm a hardcore animal lover) and I knew it was healthier than fried chicken, the only meat product I found it hard to live without. The last time I ate meat of any sort was Labor Day, 1997. My last carnivorous meal was a half-order of white meat chicken from KFC. I thought "well, I might not be able to do this, but here goes nothing." 

To my surprise, I was able to quit meat altogether and I never looked back. In the last sixteen years, I've haven't had a craving for anything besides--again--fried chicken, and that was during my first year of being meat-free. I even found a healthier alternative: fried cauliflower. Same texture as chicken, wonderful when fried and breaded. It's still one of my favorite dishes ever, along with vegetable pakora. 

 Above: Fried cauliflower. It's de-lish.

In my mid-twenties (ca.1998), I had lunch with my Mom once a week (I miss that). She introduced me to India Garden in Broad Ripple, and I decided right then that I could probably live off nothing but their potato samosas, palak paneer, tikka masala, dal, Basmati rice, and, of course, vegetable pakora (pictured above).  

India Garden spoiled me for Indian food. I was unable to find an Indian restaurant in Minnesota that came close to their perfection. I couldn't even find anything comparable in England, either. India Garden is the BEST. The next-best curry house is a cute little restaurant in Baton Rouge called India's.

John and I have already found an Indian restaurant near downtown Reno, called India Kabob and Curry and it is YUM (still not as good as India Garden, but relatively close. And they have great pakora.)

Okay, wow. I never intended to write a food blog. That market is saturated, so now I'll just bitch about dumb things that were said to me in Minneapolis and NYC in regards to my vegetarian diet. 

The Minneapolis comments were made by acquaintances that I'm no longer in touch with. The NYC comments were those of an oddly curious waiter in Hell's Kitchen. 

I'll start with the Big Apple, then I'll take a bite out of the Mini Apple.

ON-DUTY WAITER: "You're a vegetarian? Oh my god, really? So...no turkey on Christmas?"
Oh hell no. As I mentioned, I was never fond of turkey, because turkey is prepared two different ways: Bone-dry (roasted) and slimy and wet (deli). I won't be having either, thanks.

I wish I could properly convey the astonishment in the guy's voice. He was a native English speaker, so there was no language barrier. And he waited tables in Manhattan, so he had to at least be familiar with the concept of vegetarianism. But he didn't act like it. In fact, he seemed utterly mystified, like I'd just told him I was a Roman Catholic nun and I loved the feel of old lady pantyhose against my skin. (I'm not. And I don't.)

"So, do you eat asparagus all day and then sit around and fart?"
Let me just blow your mind: I rarely need to make time in my schedule to sit around and fart. I can multi-task. I do like grilled asparagus, though.

CUSTOMER: "Oh man, vegetarian? I could never do that. My grandfather was a proud truck farmer (or goat hoarder, or bullshit wrangler, or dog snatcher, or whatever)." 

Truck farming. Yep, that exists.

Good for grandpa. Sorry that you lack the mental resources to imagine a different lifestyle. Still, those trucks ain't gonna farm themselves....

SOMEONE: "I wish I could be vegetarian. But I'm Latvian/German/Hungarian/Icelandic/Spanish/Brazillian/Italian and I need my meat."
Don't loan your meat out to anyone else, then. I'm Irish/English/Choctawand I will continue to eat whatever I damn well please, including (but not limited to) a metric shit-ton of kale.

*For years, I mistakenly believed that my maternal grandfather was Cherokee. It turned out that no, he was Choctaw. But he grew up in rural Oklahoma in the 1920's, a time when people didn't exactly broadcast their Indian heritage or care to know much about it. Unlike my dad's family, who will tell anyone who doesn't run away screaming all about the awesomeness of the Emerald Isle and its people. (I do love them Irish.)

SYNAGOGUE, ST. PAUL, 2005 (I worked in the admin office).
CONGREGANT: "No meat? Is that a religious thing? What are you, exactly?"
Ummmm....a Democrat?

"Oh, I looooove meat. How can you not love meat? That's ridiculous because....BACON!"
Enjoy being an unpaid shill for the pork industry. I'm sure they appreciate your efforts.

"Real girls eat meat!"
Congratulations. You're in fine company. Check it out: 

Go cram a cheeseburger in your head, dipdouche.

I just need to stop and have a mild rant here. What's with the T-shirt manufacturer's creepy aversion to the word "women"? "Real girls" sounds all underage and icky. It's probably from Abercrombie and Fitch, proud proprietors of all things underage and icky. 

Sadly enough, the bizarre comments I've listed here are just the tip of the iceberg. I'm still perplexed that I heard brain barf like this from randoms in one of the coolest cities I've ever seen. Also, 95% of the people I knew in the Twin Cities: friends, neighbors, countrymen, urban cowgirls, etc. were--naturally--open, sympathetic, and usually vegetarians themselves. 

The rest of 'em got more brains in their stomachs than in they heads.  

NOTE: Thanks to my John for coining the term "dipdouche" when we were out in traffic the other day. I just felt privileged to be in the presence of the original Master of Brookovian Wit when he spontaneously busted out a new drollery, one that he doesn't mind me borrowing when the situation calls for it (see above).


Ms Sparrow said...

I heartily support vegetarianism of every sort! I'm reminded of Ian Hutson's blog "Owl Wood". He related how he was at a dinner party and informed the hostess that he didn't eat meat. Shocked, she wanted to know what he ate. He said he would eat cheese. When dinner was served, he sat down to a plate with a big chunk of cheese covered in gravy. I'm surprised you encountered so much negativity about it in Minneapolis.
Happy Anniversary to you and John!

andiepants said...

Thank you!

Yeah, I've seen Ian Hutson's posts on your blog. I'll have to check out his site. Gravy...? Ew!!!