It is a question I’ve had to answer again and again. If it doesn’t come up the first time meeting me (what tipped you off — the obviously thrift store jeans or the decrepit Earth shoes?) I know it still dwells in my new friend’s/coworker’s/grocery store checker’s mind. Maybe they open my fridge for another beer and encounter a meat drawer full of cheese. Perhaps they suspiciously eye my container of leftover tofu pad Thai. Whatever sparks it, I always know it’s lurking below the surface like Jaws, if Jaws ate black beans instead of people. “Are you a vegetarian?”
The answer, strictly speaking, is no. The answer, compared to most Americans, is basically, yes. I first heard the term flexitarian a few years back, and I actually suppressed a gag reflex. Sorry ES, I know they once received a nomination for eater of the year, but I am not ready to unite my eating habits with the soy hemp pomegranate latte crowd. At a recent foodie gala thing, I overheard someone say, “I don’t know what I’m going to eat when I go home because this is my first Thanksgiving as a pescatarian.” Cue aforementioned gag reflex, and accompanying eye roll. I mean, come on, you could practically cut the sanctimony with a fillet knife. Blech.
So, my answer, like most real ones, is, it’s complicated. I like happy meat from happy cows and you likely won’t find any animal parts in my fridge unless my husband has a hankering for sausage on his homemade deep dish pizza. One coworker dubbed all of my leftovers “nut-berry casserole.” But…I believe in hospitality, both giving and receiving, so I will eat (and enjoy) any lovingly prepared food, animal or otherwise. Don’t knock the West Virginia pickled hot dog ‘til you’ve tried it. And if the only place to watch the Illini game is Buffalo Wild Wings, bring on the hot and spicy wing platter.
I don’t think telling you how great vegetarianism is will convert you any more than telling you how often I go to church is going to make you a Christian. But St. Camillus does have a fabulous 10:30 mass if you ever care to join me, and if you come for lunch afterward, I dare you to leave any nut-berry casserole, I mean Gado Gado, on your plate.
Gado Gado (A dish so nice they named it twice)
Adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook
Gado Gado is the best kind of dish — similar to bi bam bap, you can make it a million different ways. Basically, there are three parts: the rice, the toppings and the peanut sauce.
Make two cups cooked rice, adding 1 t turmeric to the rice as it is cooking to give it a lovely yellow color.
Choose from the following (my recommendations) or whatever else is around:
Hard boiled eggs
Barely cooked green beans (still crunchy)
Boiled red potatoes (with skins)
The peanut sauce:
1 c. good quality peanut butter (no Skippy unless you are desperate)
1 heaping T grated fresh ginger
1 cloves minced garlic
3 T brown sugar
1 1/2 c. hot water
4 T cider vinegar
2 T soy sauce
1 t or more salt, to taste
Crushed red pepper to taste
Puree in food processor. Cook briefly on low heat in a small saucepan to thicken.
You can lay it all out on a lovely platter to impress your guests. Serve in bowls by layering rice, then toppings, then sauce.