On the subject of vegetarians, I’ve long been silent, which is odd, because it remains a question mark for me. I have opted to not have an opinion, because I believe in live and let live and I know, and like, and am related to, several vegetarians. Honestly, I’d like to grill every one I know. Hm, that came out wrong. I’d like to ask each of them to explain it to me, but even that seems marinated in judgement.
I’ve happily cooked vegetarian, and even vegan, meals over the years when given proper notice. (See plate of roasted butternut squash along side a lovely pot au feu, which included the traditional broth, marrow, and meat courses.) But in retrospect, I do try to avoid these situations. And not only do I not (or rarely) knowingly invite these mental allergists over, I chronically forget about their restrictions. When a friend asked me why I always told her specifically about great steaks I had enjoyed or even asked for good burger recommendations, I was stumped. Why was she asking me this? Ah, yes, we’ve been friends for a decade, and she’s always been a vegetarian, or, rather, Hindu. Nuts, this has got to mean something.
Recently, I stood at the head of my table, bloody serving spoon in hand, running down a haphazard list of non-meat, non-recently-touched-meat options when a guest had ordered off-menu. And I felt bad. And I continued to feel bad about feeling bad. What kind of host was I?
And then I read Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw and a smile crept onto my meat-grease-covered face:
Okay. I am genuinely angry–still–at vegetarians. That’s not shtick. Not angry at them personally, mind you–but in principle. A shocking number of vegetarians and even vegans have come to my readings, surprised me with an occasional sense of humor, refrained from hurling animal blood at me–even befriended me. I have even knowingly had sex with one, truth be told. But what I’ve seen of the world in the past nine years has, if anything, made me angrier at anyone not a Hindu who insists on turning their nose up at a friendly offer of meat.
I don’t care what you do in your home, but the idea of a vegetarian traveler in comfortable shoes waving away the hospitality–the distillation of a lifetime of training and experience–of, say a Vietnamese pho vendor (or Italian mother-in-law, for that matter) fills me with spluttering indignation.
No principle is, to my mind, worth that; no Western concept of “is it a pet or is it meat” excuses that kind of rudeness.
I often talk about the “Grandma Rule” for travelers. You may not like Grandma’s Thanksgiving turkey. It may be overcooked and dry–and her stuffing salty and studded with rubbery pellets of giblet you find unpalatable in the extreme. You may not even like turkey at all. But it’s Grandma’s turkey. And you are in Grandma’s house. So shut the fuck up and eat it. And afterward, say, “Thank you, Grandma, why, yes, yes of course I’d love seconds.”