When my husband and I turned vegetarian in 1977, we had the sense to do it while living in Europe, so by the time we got back to the good old U.S. of A. in July of that year, we had a false sense of how easy it was going to be.
We had toyed with the idea of meatless living for a couple of years beforehand. We were young and full of an idealistic passion for harmless and healthful living, but we discovered in very short order that there’s a lot more to ‘harmlessness’ than just not eating hamburgers. What about our leather shoes and belts and purses? No leather furniture or car seats for us! What about the lard in the refried beans in that Mexican restaurant? Is there chicken stock in that vegetable soup? Imagine our dismay when we discovered what gelatin is made of!
On our first Thanksgiving back home, at my mother’s house, I nearly wept when it dawned on me that my meatlessness meant not only no turkey, but no dressing or gravy either.
And in the olden days of the ‘70s and ‘80s, when vegetarianism was just beginning to spread, there weren’t nearly as many ready-made choices for meat substitutes. No Boca Burgers, or Morning Star Farms bacon. Instead, if you could find it, a company called Loma Linda offered canned patty or wiener-like things, or something that looked kind of like dog food. It didn’t really taste like meat, but I must say, it was (and still is) quite tasty and versatile. We made our own veggie burgers out of rice and flour, beans and mushed vegetables.
We bought dozens of ethnic vegetarian cookbooks, some of which I still use to this day. I remember a particularly delicious dish I often made called Yogi steak, the recipe for which I got from a Sikh cookbook. It was kind of a ‘meatloaf’ made with 2 cups of soy flour, 2 cups of corn meal, 1/4 cup of paprika, 1/2 cup garlic powder, 3/4 cup of poppy seeds (don’t take a drug test for 48 hours after eating), a couple of teaspoons of cayenne, 1 1/2 cups of yellow mustard, a cup of tamari, 1/2 cup water, all mixed together, then mixed with 1/4 cup grated gingeroot, 2 cups of chopped scallions, 2 cups of chopped parsley, and 2 cups of diced celery. Then you pat it into a pan and pour another 1/2 cup of oil over it and bake at 375 for 30-45 minutes.
You cut it into slices like meatloaf and serve with lots of plain yogurt on the side, which believe me you will need, because this stuff will clear your sinuses, and clear a whole lot more, too, if you’re not careful. If you like hot, this is to die for.
But I digress. The point was, how far did we want to go with this? Did we want to go all the way to vegan, or did we just want to be vegetarian? Being vegetarian would mean we could include eggs and dairy in the diet. Being vegan would eliminate anything that came from an animal, including honey. Until the advent of digital cameras, vegans and some strict vegetarians even avoided taking photographs, because film was coated with a fish emulsion! We decided to wade into it slowly with ovo-lacto vegetarianism, and see how it played out. If in time we discovered we had the will and ability to go not just meatless, but completely without animal products of any kind, we would entertain that idea.
Next week - A Whole New Way of Eating