For those of you like me who do not eat red meat, you know life gets a little complicated. Last night the menu for dinner said “Spaghetti and Meatballs”, but an inspection of one chafing dish revealed noodles swimming in sauce sans meatballs and the other had noodles and meatballs swimming happily together. Just to be safe, I asked the attendant if one was meatless before piling it onto my plate. It’s a pretty simple question: Is there any meat in that sauce? The answer, I thought, was clear: yes or no. The attendant, however, assured me that there was no meat in the sauce– it was tomato-based. I again surveyed the chafing dish, my suspicions not assuaged– had someone possibly scooped out all of the meatballs? I put on my Sherlock Holmes cap and queried him further, noticing he was obviously a man who categorized his thinking, “Are there any meatballs in that sauce?” “Oh, yes, ma’am. There are meatballs in that sauce.” “Both dishes have meatballs?” “Yes, ma’am.” I sighed. I would have to find dinner elsewhere. His face brightened as he offered, “I can get you a plate with no meatballs!” I thanked him as he disappeared into kitchen. He came back baring a plate of bare-naked spaghetti noodles. No meat. No sauce. He proffered the plate to me and I’m pretty sure I stared at him in open-mouthed wonder. “Did you want sauce?” he asked. I nodded my head, and he ran back to the kitchen. Finally, I had a plate of spaghetti with sauce and no meatballs.
I didn’t choose to not eat red meat so I could become high-maintenance, but apparently I am. Nothing puts people on edge more than a person who does not eat the status quo. There seems to be something suspicious about those who don’t eat beef. To clarify my preferences, I state that I don’t eat anything with four legs or fur. This elicits such questions as, “Do you eat chicken? Do you eat eggs? Cheese? Fish?” If I say I don’t eat pork or beef, I still get these questions with the inclusion of rabbit, venison, and bison. If I say I don’t eat red meat, I become the unwilling participant in the game of “Gotcha!” about how pork is the other white meat and how salmon is red. I have been called the vegetarian who eats chicken and fish (once on a double date, I ordered fish and the other gal, amazed at my selection of a piece of meat that did not ooze blood all over the plate, asked, “Like, are you, like, you know, a vegetarian?”).
One night to appease my husband’s steak hankering, we went to the Buggy Whip steak house where I ordered fish. I didn’t know every meal was served with a bowl of minestrone with big chunks of ground beef floating in it (their only selection) until it was plopped in front of me. I didn’t fling it in the waitress’s face and sneer, “How dare you serve me dead cow!” I just didn’t eat it. She came back to sternly inquire why I wasn’t eating the soup, and I apologized that I didn’t eat beef. She stared at me while determining if she should send for security to escort my obviously vegetarian-granola-eating-communist-pinko butt out. She took away my soup stonily and directed all of her attention to my “real” meat loving husband. I am sure there is now a picture of me behind the maitre d’s podium labeled “Suspect”.
Some people lovingly try to accommodate my choices. One student was disappointed when I didn’t eat any of the lumpia (yummy Filipino eggroll) she brought for class because it contained pork. The next time she made it she brought me a special pork-less plate. I ate a piece, but noticed tiny bits of brown flecks that did not look like vegetables. I complimented her on her lumpia, and she exclaimed, “I’m so glad you like it! My mom and I spent a long time picking out all of the pork!”
When I first stopped eating red meat my dad was rather flabbergasted and probably wondered if I was really his daughter. Over time he has grown to accept my choice, but recently we ate dinner at a family style Chinese restaurant, and my aunt and uncle planned on ordering broccoli with beef. My dad put a kibosh on that plan by interjecting, “Amy doesn’t eat beef!”. It was the first time I’ve ever heard him advocate for me regarding no red meat; I don’t think he knows how much that meant to me (even though I didn’t care if they if ordered beef, I just wouldn’t eat any).
My choice to not eat animals with four legs and fur is my choice only. It’s not a criticism of what others eat or the choices they make, but I do want to know: “Is there meat in that sauce?”