There are times being a vegetarian in Texas cattle country feels much like being a nudist at a sandblasting demonstration, very uncomfortable. I was not born a vegetarian; oh wait, yes I was. I only drank milk which technically would make me not a vegan but certainly a vegetarian so scratch that last statement. Anyway, at some point when my teeth grew in, I began eating meat, loving it and never gave a thought as to the source from whence it came. My mom was British and while she could bake, a great culinary artist she was not. She rarely ruined the meat portion of our dinners which made them the most sought after prize. Growing up in a house with six siblings, our table often looked like a scene from a Discovery Channel show in the wild filming a wolf pack vie for the choicest pieces of a kill. Hands and fingers could be seen grabbing, grease flying, gravy dropping and slick digits losing prize catches to other more adept and less oily.
I grew up on the Texas coast near Houston and while I certainly saw cows and other animals, there was an enormous disconnect for me as to them standing in a field chewing on grass and the package of meat in the grocery store. My parents were European, never owned a gun, never hunted, never fished and the only sporting event I ever attended was baseball. We didn’t eat baseballs, we threw them, caught them and tried to knock them over the fence. My glove was leather but I never once thought about it coming from a cow and I know I never considered how the skin came off the cow. Who knows in my crazy world maybe I thought cows went to the beach for a day and like me, came home and their skin peeled off!
Any of you ever have one of those siblings, you know, the perfect kind that you just wish would do something really, really bad so just once it would be them and not you that gets blamed for the demise of the world? I called mine Little Miss Perfect and to make matters worse she was a little less than two years younger than me. I hated vegetables when I was a kid, despised them so much I would try to swallow them whole. Have you ever tried to swallow asparagus whole and in your haste to get it off your plate forget to cut it up? Well, don’t! Little Miss Perfect would eat all hers and then stare at the pile on my plate so my parents would notice I hadn’t touched them. I am sure it is Little Miss Perfect’s fault I have a dysfunctional relationship with vegetables today and they have become the only food I eat.
For informational purposes, lettuce has a head but no lungs, voice, legs, blood or disgusting veins unless while being harvested, some bug or animal is harvested along with it. Tofu is bean curd and when prepared well takes on a texture and taste that could surprise even the most ardent of doubting souls. While many are of the opinion vegetarians do not know how to cook, quite the contrary is true because one must learn to use spices, sauces and imagination to elevate the culinary standards of the ingredients used. In regular people talk that would mean if your cooking white rice you better make good gravy or else it is going to taste like a wad of paper stuck together with school paste. When people think of salad they normally think of lettuce, tomato, and maybe a few croutons thrown in for good measure. When I think of a salad I think of something that would make a field of vegetables beg to be picked first just to show off.
I have taken my fair share of teasing around town because of my culinary oddity. It isn’t like I went around trying to convert people or sat across from them gagging every time they took a bite from their hamburger. I must, however apologize to the butchers of the world for the gas mask wearing, Haz-mat, suit, and use of tongs when forced to buy meat in the grocery store. Furthermore, I am not one of those animal rights kind of veg heads and I am not even married to a vegetarian. He puts steaks in the frig all the time although I do make him cook fish outside and he is not allowed to open sardines or tuna inside. More than once I have been told I would not be quite so puny if I would sit down and eat a rib-eye or two. I am sure there is truth to what is said about the merits of protein and meat and am certainly not a good vegetarian when it comes to that. Potatoes have eyes, lettuce has a head, carrots have a top but so far I haven’t heard my dinner complain, try to run to another pasture, or look at me with soulful eyes. Even if I wanted to not be a weirdo vegetarian anymore, it is too late because a cow hasn’t sat on my plate in over thirty years and while it might not break my plate, it would certainly break my stomach! Don’t tell Little Miss Perfect but I love you guys best!