All good things must come to an end, and luckily, so must all self-imposed vegetarianism. Rejoice, for my month-long exile from flavor and texture has come to a close! But alas, it’s not all so simple…
Flash back to Good Friday: It was a dark and stormy night. No, seriously, it really was. What was supposed to be a fun-filled, light hearted evening at the ball park was taking an interesting twist. I should have known things weren’t going well when in place of a classic ball park hot dog, I had smuggled in two vegetarian “NotDogs.”
Instead of player stats and replays, the scoreboard at Busch Stadium was sporting a giant blob of red covering the entire STL metro area and an announcement that their bathrooms had magically transformed into tornado shelters. The cheery tones of Scott Schaefer’s organ were harmonizing with the atonal storm sirens as huge rain drops began to cut across the bright stadium lights.
Huddled in a bathroom stall with thousands of other fans, as nearby a tornado slammed Lambert Airport, I had only one thought: “I am not going to die with nothing but a vegetarian NotDog in my belly.” So, Vegtastic Voyage be darned, I went and got an all-beef hot dog. And brother, let me tell you: it was magical. You know how in the movies romantic comedy characters have a “meet-cute”? This was a meat-cute. (Holy cow, you guys, I just had the BEST idea for a movie.)
Now, the more astute of my readers will notice that in the above photo I’m enjoying the aforementioned hot dog in the grand stands, not next to a filthy bathroom stall crammed with Cardinals fans dodging flying debris. OK, fine, so the real story isn’t as dramatic as I may have led you to believe.
Yes, the tornado sirens were sounding and yes, a twister hit the airport just 14 miles away and yes, the bathrooms definitely did do double duty (hooray for alliteration!) as storm shelters. However, I (along with Megan and two of our friends) never took refuge in them. And, more importantly, that hot dog was not the first meat I’d consumed that day. Dun dun DUN!
A few hours earlier while en route to St. Louis, Megan and I had a very frank and honest discussion about our Vegtastic Voyage that boiled down to this: “I hate being a vegetarian. It all tastes nasty, is making me sick, and I miss bacon. That tofu from last week is still giving me night terrors and I’m pretty sure the two “notdogs” in my camera bag are planning to mug a homeless guy later tonight. I want to quit. Wait, you want to quit too? Really? I’m so happy you said that! At the next town is a Hardee’s, a Sonic and a Jack-in-the-Box; which one do you… Whichever-is-closest it is!” [stomps on accelerator]
So yeah, the first meat after 23 days of vegetarianism wasn’t a ballpark hot dog; it was a fast-food bacon cheeseburger from Hardees. Not to take anything away from the hot dog I would later enjoy at the game, but this was something special, too. So special, in fact, that we didn’t want to spoil the purity of moment by taking pictures and documenting it. You know how sometimes your stomach will growl? Mine was singing the Hallelujah Chorus. Easily one of the Top 5 burgers of all time. And I don’t even like Hardee’s!
I don’t feel even the tiniest bit bad about it either, and I’m pretty sure my partner in veggie crime is on the same page. We weren’t doing it for any reason beyond fun and saying that we had done it. By golly, I hereby declare that three weeks is just as big an accomplishment and by the way, someone bring me a steak, medium-well. I still have the smug satisfaction of knowing I did something most of the country couldn’t do. (Although one show-off friend did the whole vegetarian thing for the 46 days of Lent, in which case quitting early would have had a much worse vibe. Her take is much less snarky than mine, although we both arrived at very similar conclusions. Coincidently, Megan and I both got very tired of explaining that our veggie only experiment had nothing to do with Lent).
We were never doing it to be healthier, and once we decided cheese was OK, that opened the door to pizza well, there you go. In the end, it simply ceased to be fun. Fairly quickly. I know, right? Who woulda thunk it? It ceased being fun when it took over our lives and made everything a chore. When I woke up in the morning, I didn’t think about what I had to do at work that day, or that the yard needed to mowed or hey, tonight is a new episode of The Big Bang Theory; I was stressing about which meat-substitute I could tolerate for dinner. We couldn’t go out with friends after church, because short of pasta, pasta and more pasta, it’s pretty slim pickins at most restaurants (McAlister’s does have a fine vegetarian chili). Megan had to skip free BBQ at work, and no-meat at Easter dinner with 30 people isn’t going to be a picnic (terrible pun intended). What if that storm really had caught us with nothing but a NotDog in our bellies? What if the Queen had invited Megan to the royal wedding and she horribly offended Her Royal Highness by refusing the little bacon-wrapped goose liver pate thingies at the luncheon? What if I had been trapped in a Saw-like scenario where if I didn’t eat the boneless chicken wing, a bear trap would crush that cute little puppy over there in the corner? These are the kind of questions we should have considered before embarking on such a short-sighted adventure. Take it from Uncle Brian, kids: don’t go give up meat on a whim.
I’m sure that real vegetarians would (gently) point off that we did it wrong, that even they don’t like tofu, and oh, if only we’d tried this recipe we would have achieved veggie nirvana and gone on happily without pork chops for years. I’ve even had a few random Internet veg-heads stumble across my site and offer encouragement! But you know what? I really don’t care. I’m not trying to be mean or smart alek, I really just don’t care. I’m glad you guys are happy in your food choices and I don’t think you’re quite the group of weirdos I thought you were, but dagnabbit I like meat and have no ethical, moral or religious qualms about it. That’s it, pure and simple.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a pulled pork sandwich to eat and a blockbuster romantic comedy script to write. I think I’ll call it… Boy Meets Grill.