Girl Meets Boy, He Eats Meat

Every conversation begins with hello, so let’s start there. Welcome to my virtual kitchen.

I am a home cook, a wife (more about that in a minute) and mother of two, and a vegetarian by birth, which is to say that my parents gave up meat in the heat of the sixties. They were convinced by my dad’s brother, who had dropped out of college and started living in a tee-pee. While my uncle is now a steak-loving corporate lawyer, my parents never went back — sticking to a vegetarian diet that included eggs and milk-products, as well as fish.

In college I dabbled in meat — turkey sandwiches, curried chicken salad, and bacon … mmmm — though I wouldn’t know a chump chop from a loin and organ meats have never touched my lips. As an adult and now as the main cook for my family, I’ve settled happily back to a vegetarian diet along the lines of my parents.

The term “vegetarian” means different things to different people, so for the moment, let me describe the food cooking up in my kitchen. First of all, it doesn’t scream vegetarian. No tempeh or bulgur. Though I grew up in the Northeast, my cooking style is a blend of Italy (my mother grew up outside of Florence and still thinks she’s Italian) and San Francisco — a foodie’s town (and my former home) where cooks enjoy an almost year-round bounty of fresh produce and even classically trained French chefs are influenced by the flavors of the Pacific Rim. (I’m still a sucker for the high-end Japanese and Chinese food served at restaurants like O Ya, Oishii, and Myers + Chang, all in my current hometown of Boston.)

But enough about me. Let’s introduce you, my readers. Some of you eat meat — you grew up eating that way and now, for one reason or another, you’d like to eat less of it, but you dread a lifetime of joy-less meat-free meals. Some of you are vegetarians married to (or otherwise cooking for) meat-eaters who would like to shift your menus towards vegetables and grains but know that if you don’t deliver tasty and satisfying meals your eaters will rebel. And all of you care about eating good food.

Which brings us to the all-important question: How can a meat-lover trust my opinion that any given dish is tasty? “Why,” you might think, “her taste buds haven’t been drenched by a juicy burger in so long they’ve forgotten what ‘tasty’ really is!” The answer is, you don’t have to. Meet my husband, a lover of lamb and duck and all things pork. As a Southern-born black man who loves him some pork ribs, if he can learn to enjoy and even look forward to a vegetarian meal, anyone can. Now a professor of philosophy, he will be grading every dish, making comments, and analyzing the flavors. He’s fair but honest and, in short, he has taste buds you can trust.

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