This story was originally published in the July 15, 1980, issue of the Boston Phoenix.
Last month my life was wedged between a relentless exegesis on suntanning and a compulsively complete investigation of built-in dishwashers. Consumer Reports
, a magazine I happen to like (where else would run a terse correction stating that its condom ratings were incorrect?) picked on my eating habits. While answering such questions as "Is Butter Buds the better butter?", "How much is a dollop?", and other pressing queries of our day, the CR editors thought you might like to know what vegetarians eat.
Being the suspicious person that I am, I didn't trust their motives. "Oh, c'mon," said an optimistic co-worker, "I think it's nice that they publish this stuff. How else can Middle America find out about vegetarians?"
Bologna, you should pardon the expression. Regardless of how much Middle America (or anyone else, for that matter) reads about vegetarianism, I will still be considered odd. Middle America can educate itself; it my friends I worry about. Meat-eaters do the strangest things. When they're in the same room with me and a plate of food, they feel compelled to tell anyone who will listen about my eating habits, as if it were essential to the conversation, as if I were an Aleut or a transsexual, as if this information might liven up an otherwise dull party. And they tell this to perfect strangers, which I wouldn't mind if said strangers took me out to lunch after garnering this information (they never do). They just look at me and murmur "how interesting," when I know they're really conjuring up an image of an old skinny person eating wheat germ, or a hearty member of the Hog Farm scooping out soggy brown rice.
Ninety-five percent of all my carnivorous (oh, they hate being called that) friends panic within 15 minutes of asking me over for dinner – it takes them that long to realize I will not be happy with veal chops. I get nervous calls in the middle of the day: will I eat cheese ravioli? Do I eat margarine? Do I drink? Do I mind of the vegetable stew is made with beef stock? After this exhaustive interrogation I go to their house and am served meatballs, chicken, or worse. Honestly, I can't figure it out.
The most tiresome experience for vegetarians is the press party. Those people you see talking to door knobs? That's right, the vegetarians. The only food available to soak up all those drinks are olives and lumps of La Vache Qui Rit. No, I was wrong, the jokes are even more tiresome. Meat-eater like to tease us about tofu, sprouts, and rice cakes; an otherwise level-headed co-worker asked me last week whether I was "going out for some brown rice." I try not to respond to suck things. I juts stand there and listen to the guy's arteries harden. Anyway, I don't think the Consumer Reports article will make me any less of a mystery. People who care so little about what they put in their systems are not going tot read nine pages on something that might be good for you. And when you come right down to it, why bother? There are greater puzzles: is God a woman? Why can't I get Channel 6? What is a McChicken? Consumer Reports could have taken a different, less plodding approach that would not have left me feeling as if they thought I was a steam iron. Like Margaret Mead, whose real name interest was Samoan mating rituals, you, I know, are after the juicer stuff. Herewith, the dirt.