James and I were preparing for the birthday shindig earlier this month, making sure we had plenty of trashcan punch to keep our friends a bit saucy and enough tasty treats for everyone. I reminded him that some of the attendees, including my sister, brother-in-law, and other friends, are vegetarians. He said “Oh yeah. Let’s chop up some vegetables for them.”
The vegetarians in the audience are surely familiar with this type of “accommodation.” Your life choices are represented at random events with a pile of grapes or a little bowl of black olives. Or you get handed a bowl of an uninspired, 2-ingredient salad that took thirty seconds to throw together, while everyone tears into large hunks of barbecued meat that mercilessly still look like the original animal.
I told James “No way, man. We have to make something good. We’re not going to leave a little pile of celery out for them to nibble on, like they’re a litter of bunnies that we found under the back porch. “
So we made a delicious dip from soy chorizo, salsa, and vegetarian refried beans, along with a spicy cheese dip and a mountain of cheese pizza rolls. Nailed it.
I’m always fascinated by the motivations of the inspired vegetarian. The reasons seem to be varied from person to person, usually some mix of compassion for the animals who take a boltgun in the forehead to give us that Big Mac, or religious beliefs, or for the health benefits, or simply because they don’t like chewing on something that closely resembles their own thigh.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a vegetarian accommodater, but I’m also a meat eater. I support anyone’s choice on what they want to stick in their mouth, but I also have a love affair with beef jerky, smoked meats, and big fat juicy steaks. If I were hungry enough, I’d hit a beaver in the forehead with an arrow just to see what he tastes like on the grill, wrapped in bacon, brushed with a little-based soy marinade and maybe some caramelized onions.
The compassion-based vegetarians make the most sense to me. I can see their point – that they don’t want to support this industry of raising critters in tiny pens, in horrible conditions, pumping them full of hormones, just to slaughter them in some tremendously terrible way. I think if more of us were required to visit these farms and slaughterhouses, that we’d see bean burrito, quinoa, and tofu product sales go through the roof.
I notice that we mostly eat the ugly animals. The otter, with his little human hands and adorable whiskery face, is permanently exempt from the dinner plate based on cuteness alone. But what if they happen to taste amazing? You might be super conflicted if Otter Fajitas were the best thing ever. Or Koala Bear Dumplings.
The one exception to this is the deer. That seems to be the one super-adorable critter that we’ll go ahead and eat. After watching Bambi as a kid, I was super Pro-Baby Deer and did not root for the Hunter. But then when I had my first taste of venison stew, I guess my priorities shifted over to deliciousness over compassion. I may revisit Bambi again and see if it pulls me back to the Pro-Baby Deer side of things.
I’m conflicted. And all this talk about food is making me hungry.