The Foodie Report
Ruminations on food, cooking in and eating out in our area.

It's entirely possible to be a vegetarian in Porkopolis. Pop culture reporter Lauren Bishop blogs about products, recipes and restaurants she's tried for others who eat meat-free. E-mail her at lbishop@enquirer.com.

Nicci King is an unabashed foodie and the Lifestyle/Food editor in The Enquirer's features department. She loves to discover new food faves, and she's on a daily quest to answer one burning question: What's for dinner? E-mail her at nking@enquirer.com.

Enquirer Weekend editor Julie Gaw tends to order the same dish every time she eats at a restaurant, but periodically ventures out to discover something new and fabulous. After living in China, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Thailand for more than 8 years, she craves tasty Asian food. E-mail her at jgaw@enquirer.com.

Food/dining writer Polly Campbell loves every quirk and secret of Cincinnati's food personality, and is on a constant lookout for something good to eat. Keep an eye out for her restaurant picks, or see how she's progressing toward becoming famous for her apple pie. E-mail her at pcampbell@enquirer.com.

Communities reporter Rachel Richardson is on a mission to prove vegetarians eat more than lettuce. She shares both her graduate work on American food culture and food-related news.. E-mail her at rrichardson@enquirer.com.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Let's make a deal

I rarely shopped at Wild Oats, but after Whole Foods bought the chain out, I've been finding new reasons to fall in love with the new store with each and every shopping trip. Lower prices tops the list, but it's their hot and cold bars that make me swoon. My husband and I are vegetarian, but we're bad vegetarians. I am not down with tofu; I am not seitan savvy; I cannot make brilliant bulgar-based meals; I do not even know how to pronounce quinoa. And my inability to follow even the most simplest of directions precludes any possibility of following recipes for such fabulous meals. I also do not keep track if I am getting enough protein or calcium or any of those other nutrients my mother still anxiously asks when I politely decline her breakfast casserole surprise.

I say this to preface why it is seeing vegan General Tso's chicken on Whole Foods' deli bar sent me squealing in delight, dropping my bags and speed dialing my husband.

General Tso's chicken was my dish before I went vegetarian and I haven't had anything like it since. Until now. The texture of Whole Foods' faux brand was a bit off, but overall it's pretty tasty and as close to the real thing as I'm going to get, unless, of course, my appetite ever triumphs over my morals. Whole Foods also has an awesome vegetarian meatloaf and vegan dal and a stellar curry tofu chicken salad. (And no, I am not a paid shill for Whole Foods nor have they promised me my body weight in their vegan General Tso's chicken for extolling all the ways in which I love the chain - but on the chance any Whole Foods execs are reading, let's talk).

My husband, the avid Slate reader, sent me a link to one of the most hilarious stories I've read in a good long while, "Meatless like me" by Taylor Clark. The story is a must read for anyone who's vegetarian/vegan and those meat-eaters who know and love 'em anyway. For those of you who happen to think us all to be a collective mass of tree-hugging, Kum ba ya-singing, hand-holding, Peta fanatics, think again. Vegetarians like food as much as any meat-eating foodies and some of us even like and miss the taste of meat; we just now don't eat foods that once had a face. I'm talking to you, Max & Erma's, and your burgers that come with fries while the charred frisbee you call a veggie burger is served with a side of limp lettuce.

Writes Clark:

Imagine a completely normal person with completely normal food cravings, someone who has a broad range of friends, enjoys a good time, is carbon-based, and so on. Now remove from this person's diet anything that once had eyes, and, wham!, you have yourself a vegetarian. Normal person, no previously ocular food, end of story.

It might surprise you, meat-eaters, that many veggies, including myself, find Peta to be as obnoxious as you do. Perhaps the antics of Peta radicals is why, whenever I offer up my vegetarianism as simple fact, I have apologetic carnivores falling all over their leather shoes disqualifying their dietary choices. Clark articulates it much better than I, though:

Which leads me to a vital point for friendly omnivore-herbivore relations. As you're enjoying that pork loin next to me, I am not silently judging you. I realize that anyone who has encountered the breed of smug vegetarian who says things like, "I can hear your lunch screaming," will find this tough to believe, but I'm honestly not out to convert you.

I've met my share of arrogant vegetarian evangelicals at the veggie potlucks I used to attend years ago and trust me, I 'm not one of them. Nope, not even close. There were the pure raw foodists, who looked disdainfully on the vegans for molesting potatoes to a sad, mushy pulp. The vegans, in turn, looked down on the vegetarians, as if we drank milk right off the cow's teat and like Rumpelstiltskin, stole the first-born eggs of every poor mother hen. You could always spot the vegetarians in this crowd, especially the recently converted: We were the ones standing about looking a bit bewildered, wondering where to set our macaroni salad with eggs and mayonnaise among the melee of raw, vegan, lacto-ovo, and ovo marked tables.

Stereotypes and misunderstandings will continue to be par for the course between herbivores and carnivores, but I just ask that we all follow the golden rule of dietary cuisine: I won't inform you in gory detail on how exactly that factory-farmed bovine you're biting into died or speculate if it might contain Mad Cow Disease, if you won't make jokes on how I can go pick my dinner from the flower bed or lecture me on how humans have naturally and genetically evolved to dine on flesh.



at 2:24 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post Rachel! The quality of the writing on this blog has improved greatly in the past week or two. Both you and Polly are doing a great job.

at 4:01 PM Anonymous TJ Jackson said...

Agreed, good post.

That said, I have no beef (pun intended?) with any vegetarian, really - I just wish that there were more omnivores represented among the contributors to this blog. No biggie.

at 4:48 PM Blogger Michael said...

My wife announced yesterday, after again finding only one vegetarian item on Chile's menu, that if she wanted a vegetarian burger we would just go to Red Robin.

Can't recommend Red Robin enough for the Vegetarians with meat eating spouses.

at 4:49 PM Blogger Rachel said...

TJ - Never fear. Nicci and Polly are both omnivores and Lauren eats seafood. And judging from Polly's reviews, she eats anything. Seriously, she's like Mikey.

at 6:00 PM Blogger Cin Twin1 said...

Hey Rachel,

I have to assume you went to the Whole Foods at Hyde Park. My husband on the way to Columbus a couple of weeks ago stopped at WF in Mason for dinner. We walked around for about 15 minutes and didn't see much that looked good. SUCH a big difference between those two stores. We were very disappointed. You didn't need a masters degree to figure out which one was better! (I have been saving that for awhile!)

at 7:47 PM Blogger nasty said...

The Hyde Park WF is nice but if you want a real WF experience you have to go to the one in Dublin, OH. It is one of, if not, their biggest stores outside of Austin and is like a theme park for your taste buds. Even though the WF here are small they are far better then when they were Wild Oats.

at 9:20 AM Blogger Polly Campbell said...

I've been to the one in dublin--it's almost overwhelming there's so much stuff. They've got a tofu bar that'd keep a crowd of vegetarians happy for a week.

I also think the WF is a big improvement over WO. Though I haven't been going much because I've already got my grocery-shopping stops: biggs, Findlay, Trader Joes, Pipkins, now the farmers markets. This time of year I start to feel like a paleolithic hunter-gatherer. I'm thinking of going up to the Oxford Farmers Market, and the Burlington one is really good. . ..

P.S. It's true--I'll eat (almost) anything --not into stunt eating like bugs and certain organ meats just don't work for me, and the Cool Whip in an aerosol can that was sent to me the other day will never cross my lips. . . .

at 10:42 AM Blogger Cin Twin1 said...

Ohhh! I have a blog post topic suggestion...can we poll readers to see what there favorite TJ products are? I love love love that store. I have found a few hits and a few misses though and would love to compare notes...just a thought.

at 12:13 PM Anonymous vudutu said...

I do think that there would be a heck of a lot more vegans if everyone had to go kill, dress and cook at least one meal before they could get their Krogers Plus card.

CinTwin1, good idea, I would also like to see a local restaurant "favorite dishes" topic

at 2:44 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have just one question for the vegetarians out there; How did you ever give up bacon? That had to be a tough one!!!!

at 9:05 PM Anonymous Chad Edward said...

No deal! Because, just as you disdain pushy and obnoxious non-meat-eaters, I'm annoyed by meat eaters who can't stomach the process by which animal flesh is delivered to their plate. You don't have to want to slaughter a pig necessarily, but at least acknowledge the gift of life the animal has sacrificed for your pleasure and sustenance.

I was once in Marseille with an American girl who went on about her love for seafood, but couldn't eat fish in Marseille because it's served head on.

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