My wife is a vegetarian. My brother is a vegetarian. My wife’s brother is a vegetarian. Sounds like a joke, right? Wrong. This is my life.
Oh, it’s not that bad, really. And I’m not here to bash my veggie cohorts. I think Denis Leary said it best when he said not eating meat is a choice; eating meat is an instinct. But I respect that choice. Truth be told, I consider myself part-vegetarian. Sure, I eat whole chickens and beef brisket and pork ribs. I’ve tried horse. I have a soft spot for Vienna sausages. So I can see where an onlooker may be skeptical of this claim.
My defense is that I know that Seitan is more than just a slight mispronunciation of the Dark Lord, and that tempeh is neither a shade of pastel blue nor a French compact car. But I’m mostly basing my assertion on my affinity for tofu. My wife and I developed a fondness for the stuff in Japan, where the beef was really expensive, the chicken sketchy, the crab moving. We found a good local producer of the extra-firm variety here, and we still have it once or twice a week. I like tofu, I do. But it’s not the same.
Now, cookouts notwithstanding, my general rule is that I am a vegetarian at home. More of a guideline than a rule, I suppose, but I pretty much stick to it. I cook a lot of Indian and Mediterranean, and substitute beans or tofu in many dishes. We try to eat fresh veggies, limit the processed foodstuffs. I’ve never been a huge meat-eater, anyway, so it’s no big deal. But I like to have the option.
My wife is the best or worst kind of vegetarian, depending on who you ask. She’s a vicarious carnivore, living out all of her grandest meat fantasies one barbecue platter at a time. Before I can even take a bite, she is hovering over my plate, basking in the aromatherapy that is smoked meats. She looks at live chickens and salivates. Eating a burger often turns into a bite-by-bite, me channeling my inner Al Michaels. She doesn’t want to eat it, but she wants me to eat it.
Enter the Bubster, and you can see her conundrum, now that he is eating more and more real foods. She’s not a bean sprout crusader; she obviously makes it pretty clear that meat is delicious. She just chooses not to eat it. But Bub can’t really choose for himself, doesn’t know meat from Shinola, so what do you do?
As usual, we heard all kinds of things from all kinds of people. One friends’ daughter was eating Mickey D’s before she could walk. And loving it. Another has two completely vegan pre-schoolers who wouldn’t give meat the time of night or day.
There were discussions, negotiations. I wasn’t advocating for meat, but we tried tofu, and it was not very well-received, to put it mildly. Bub has turned out to be quite the particular eater, gagging or even physically removing offending food items from his mouth. Sometimes he throws it on the floor. Sometimes he raspberries it on Daddy. We need to work on table etiquette.
I just wanted him to be able to decide for himself whether he wanted to get to know meat better, or if they were better off as just friends. My wife insisted it would have to be all-natural, hormone-free, organic, grass-fed, cage-less, left-handed, albino.
So I got some chicken, marinated it and everything. He took a bite. Ehhhhhhhhhhh, could best describe his reaction. What else you got? This past weekend I got some meatballs at an Italian place, offered very generously to share with Bub.
I don’t know what I expected to happen, really. My wife was secretly worried his face would take on a new tint, he’d become hooked. Wouldn’t be long before we’d find him loitering in the White Castle parking lot, just trying to score a slider. Just one more, to get through the day.
It was a colossal letdown. Pretty much the same reaction he had to the chicken. No screaming, no Frisbee-ing, just general apathy. He went back to his bread. Ate another kiwi. Had some juice. Moved on with his life. I guess we should, too.