I became a vegetarian for a dame. I know—the things we do for love. But when I met this lovely lady 22 years ago, my meat consumption was minimal. I was a waitress at a steakhouse and serving grilled flesh all the time made me shiver and my nipples spin. And then one day, the employee meal was roast beef and since I hadn’t eaten that in years, I had a few slices. By the end of the evening, I was so sick with food poisoning, my hair hurt.
When I met my veggie gal, my varmint intake had dwindled down to fish. And this is going to sound corny but I wanted to be more spiritually connected to this plant eating babe so I told her I was going to become a meat-free mama, and she said, “Do not change your eating habits for me. And, put on some pants.”
She was right, I had to make a food choice for myself and make sure it was ok for my body. On June 14, 1989 on my 30th birthday after my last lunch shift at that beast serving restaurant, I went to my favorite health food cafe in Burbank. I forget the name but it served a diverse menu: chicken, tofu, woodpecker, creature from the black lagoon. I ordered a big ol’ halibut steak and I ate every last morsel. I told the waitress this was my last meal as a carnivore and she said, “You’re a lesbian, right?”
And I said, “How could you tell?”
And she said, “Your sideburns. Oh, and the fact that you’re wearing your bra like a tool belt.” I winked at her and licked her face.
By June 15th, I was an official vegetarian and that was fine by me. The months that followed, I didn’t miss eating the little Red Hen or Bambi or Elsie the Cow. I didn’t mind going to bar-b-cues, actually the smell made me nostalgic for Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.
My family took my new found flora based diet a little hard. “Ay Monica,” my mom sighed, “We can barely handle you being from the “other side of the fence”, but not eating carne asada tacos—that is a sin!”
Initially they would make fun of my food that I would whip up at my mom’s house when we all got together. “Tofu is gross,” my brother would tell me as he chomped away on dead animal, skeletal system included.
But because I’m a good cook, my vegetarian entrees soon became their appetizers. “This is made from soybeans?” Everyone would ask as they shoveled my tofu carnitas in their mouths. “This is tasty. Can we have some more?”
Here’s the secret, my darlings: you have to make tofu taste like something before you make it part of an entrée. Otherwise it does taste like styrofoam. Those of you who despise tofu, it’s because you have never had my cooking.
Book Monica Palacios for your upcoming university and cultural events that focus on: LGBT, Chicana/Latina, Theater, Women, Gender, Performance, Race, Class, Sexuality, Vegetarian Food.