Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

by Annette Dashofy

Some people who begin a yoga practice eventually become vegetarians. I, being rather different, became a vegetarian prior to discovering yoga. My reasons had to do with the things industrial farmers put in the cattle and chicken feed; the hormones injected to make chickens produce bigger, juicier breast meat and the cattle produce more milk; and the toxins dumped into the oceans and waterways and ingested by the fish. But after becoming enmeshed in the yogic lifestyle, my already vegetarian diet fit nicely with the principle of ahimsa, the yogic practice of doing no harm. You know that commercial where the bespectacled monk rescues spiders and tiny turtles and then suffers pangs of guilt over using the kind of tissues that kill viruses? He’s practicing ahimsa.

One of the toughest aspects of vegetarianism is eating out. And I do so love to eat out. Some restaurants just don’t get the concept of food without meat products. And I’m relatively easy to please. I do eat eggs and dairy products. But some places insist on making their pasta and pizza tomato sauces with beef broth. Soups generally use chicken or beef stock as a base. And McDonald’s has historically gotten into deep trouble with vegetarian Hindus by using beef flavoring in their French fries.

But I can deal with restaurants. I know where I can and can’t get a meal by now. The hardest thing is dinner with the family. Including, but not limited to Thanksgiving.

The rest of the world enjoys a bountiful meal requiring either loosening the belt after dinner or the wearing of stretchy pants. I tend to get a sparse meal of salad, mashed potatoes with no gravy and a few veggies. If I’m lucky, someone in the family thinks of me and runs out to pick up a frozen vegetable lasagna or a box of Garden Burgers. But most of the dishes that get passed around the table bypass me.

So let me offer a few little known tips about vegetarianism in case you happen to have one coming to dinner tomorrow:

Skip the tiny marshmallows on the sweet potatoes. Or perhaps, cook a serving separately for your visitor. Marshmallows aren’t vegetarian. Neither is Jell-o. Both contain gelatin which contains…well, I don’t want to ruin the meal for the rest of you, so just trust me on this.

Rice or stuffing made with chicken or turkey broth does not qualify as vegetarian. Just because you can’t see chunks of meat doesn’t mean it isn’t in there.

If the pumpkin pie crust was made with lard, please warn your visiting vegetarian.

Often, we vegetarians aren’t simply being obnoxious or stubborn in our request to know the contents of a dish, secret recipe or not. I know for me, if I inadvertently eat meat products, I get sick. Nobody wants their guest to spend the afternoon in the bathroom with the door locked. So, don’t divulge the secret recipe, even if the secret ingredient is meat-based, but PLEASE warn you visiting vegetarian to steer clear of that particular dish. They will thank you.

And, as long as they don’t contain the aforementioned lard, pies and desserts are safe!

Now there’s something for vegetarians to be thankful for!


Tory said...

My sister-in-law (from Seattle) has a funny story about lard. She'd always heard it was so much better than Crisco for pie crusts, one Xmas she has to try it out. She tends to be very politically correct about food, shopping in the co-op, etc., as fits her Seattle lifestyle.

Not having ever purchased lard before, she was sneaking around the grocery store, looking for it. She asked an employee for help. He shouts out at the top of his lungs, to a fellow employee an aisle or two away, "Hey, the lady wants lard!" Red-faced, she did finally find it and buy some.

Our verdict: Crisco pie crusts taste better. You're not missing out on anything, Annette, denying yourself the lard.

I'm afraid I can't say the same about the gravy, though in my vegetarian days I did make a pretty good substitute with toasted sesame seeds and kuzu. Still, not the same . . .

Happy Thanksgiving, all you Working Stiffs out there!

Cathy said...

We're in the opposite quandary here, for the children are coming for Thanksgiving dinner. We vegetarians will be joined by the carnivores. We're cooking the turkey, and I felt sad for the little turkey (young turkey, the label says). But it's for a good cause.

I don't know if I can sleep not knowing what's in the gelatin. Happy Thanksgiving!

Anonymous said...

Cathy, I don't want you to lose sleep. Carnivores out there, close your eyes...

Gelatin is made from beef marrow. Yuck.

Anonymous said...

By the way, I think I'd make one of the visiting carnivores bring the turkey, Cathy. One of the things I've never missed is handling slimy chickens and turkeys.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, vegetarians and carnivores alike!

lisa curry said...

This was very educational for a carnivore like me, Annette. Thanks for the insight! I have never cooked anything with lard, personally, but I remember the days when people did. What I remember most about lard, though, was that my grandmother used it to clean my feet when I indulged in one of my favorite summer pastimes -- popping tar bubbles on her street with my toes. (I loved the feeling of that warm, squishy tar under my bare feet, much to Grandma's chagrin.) I don't know if Crisco works as well as lard at de-tarring little girls' feet. :-)

mike said...

Annette, your piece brings back ancient memories of lard, not in food (tho my grandma and mom used it) but for one's hair. Yep, the boys living on the farm one field over used lard to slick back their hair (this was in the days of young Elvis). The family was dirt poor and huge--21 kids the last time I saw them. We could afford Brilliatine (sp?); lard was the best they could do.

A friend and neighbor and, like you, total vegetarian, is still making a complete turkey dinner tomorrow for his guests, two Pitt students, one from China, the other from France. Tony said he couldn't let them leave the U.S. without having at least one traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

The Tour Manager's mother told me that gelatin was made from horse hooves, which is decidedly un-kosher and the reason she buys only kosher marshmallows. (really. If you keep kosher, just skip the marshmallows. AND the non-dairy whipped cream, too.)

Anyway, you are welcome at our table, Annette. We'd make sure you had enough choices. Heck, this year, we're having one of my son's guests, whose list of allergies is a mile and a half long. Have any of you ever heard of someone allergic to garlic???

Still, we're making sure we can feed the kid.

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow sibs!

Gina said...

As one vegetarian to another, Annette, all I can say is, "Amen!"

Anonymous said...

Garlic, Susan? He's not a vampire is he???

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Ooh, Annette, I hope not. But that just might explain why he's sort of foggy during the day, huh? *wink*