Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Seriously, being a vegetarian is not unusual.

I've been a vegetarian since I was about 16. I am not going to delve into my reasons -- they are mostly environmental and economic, if you need a general idea -- because I am not looking for an argument. Let's just say it's along the lines of religion: I'll leave you alone if you leave me alone. I've encountered many more evangelist meat-eaters than vegans in my life, and I am not interested in converting.

But that's not the point of today's blog.

It's been 15 years since I've eaten meat (excepting a bite of octopus when I was in Japan and a bite of conch in the Caribbean and a few unwitting broth inhalations, I'm sure) and I have never had a problem finding something to eat. Most food in the world is NOT meat, so I find it comical when people ask me, "What do you eat, then?"

Having spent the last week in Lubbock, Texas, however, I have a new love for Louisville restaurants. Lubbock was essentially first time in my life where there was truly nothing vegetarian on the menu. And not just at one restaurant, but at most of them. If there was something, it was loaded with cheese and/or deep-fried, probably in animal oil.

The family was thoughtful and considerate about dining options, thinking surely a Tex-Mex place would have something veggie for me. But I ended up having to invent something on the menu, eating more cheese than I like, and surely eating tortillas made with lard (I chose not to ask) and asking for extra lettuce and guacamole, and basically being that pain-in-the-a** diner.

I felt horribly guilty that the family had to keep my "condition" in mind, even though they were great about the whole thing and kept telling me not to feel bad. I just really don't like to make a big deal about vegetarianism. It's never been a issue, so it was bizarre.

Here's the thing: I know it's not just Lubbock. Surely it's loads of other cities. They are just cities I've managed to avoid, seeing as I've only lived in Louisville, Chicago, and New York.

I'm realizing how incredibly lucky I've been in my homes. My years in New York were easy as could be. Every dining hall at NYU had a vegetarian station, not just one option, but a whole menu, and every New York restaurant understands that a variety of cultures means they need a variety of options. Louisville has more veggie options than I can begin to count.

So, Middle American entrepreneurs, heed this: put some good veggie-options on your menus. It's a good business move. There is a vegetarian in the group more often than you think, and if you've got good veggie-options on your menu, then the entire group will go to your restaurant. The carnivores don't care where we go, but the vegetarians do. We're happy with just a few options. We stop at Burger King on tour all the time, purely because it's the only fast food place with a veggie burger.

Specifically, could someone PLEASE open a veggie-friendly restaurant in Lubbock? It would make holidays much easier, plus, there is clearly an open market. And while you're at it, please open a Taco Cabana too.

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