How did you decide on that title?
A friend asked me the other day how I came up with the title for my cookbook, So You’ve Inherited A Vegetarian . . . Now What? I wish I could claim credit for the idea but the truth is that my wife, Robin, suggested it.
One day, at the age of 25, I eliminated all meat and fish from my diet. When I told my dad I had become a vegetarian, he asked, “What do you eat?” I told him about my diet and he replied, “You’ll get over it.” My mom was basically the same. With concern in her eyes she said she didn’t understand but added, with love, “When you need a good meal let me know. I’ll fix you a pot roast dinner. It has vegetables in it.”
When my friends asked why I did not eat meat or fish I would say, “It is a healthier lifestyle for me.” The inevitable comeback was, “You’re weird.” People just didn’t get it then. Part of the misunderstanding was that people saw vegetarianism as a fad, or saw it as one of those things hippies did, even though it had been a healthy lifestyle, worldwide, for thousands of years. I found myself replying over and over again, “Yeah, I am weird but it has nothing to do with my diet. Vegetarianism may not work for most people but it works for me.”
I remember eating at Lawry’s Prime Rib restaurant in Beverly Hills as a fledgling vegetarian. I was with six other people from work. This was in the summer of ’76 and I was the only one who did not eat meat.
If you’ve eaten at Lawry’s you know that this was the place to get a good cut of prime rib in Los Angeles. When I ate there they had a silver cart that came to each table. When it came to our table the server opened the cover revealing an enormous slab of prime rib. He asked how many wanted “some of this fabulous roast”. Everyone but me drooled as he began taking orders and slicing inch-and-a-half pieces of meat onto large serving platters. A baked potato complete with chives, sour cream and crumbled bacon accompanied the prime rib.
The server came to me last asking with a smile, “And how would you like your prime rib?” He taunted me by drawing his knife across the face of the meat indicating a good two-inch thick slice. “I, uh,” I stuttered, “I uh. . . uh . . . don’t eat meat or fish. Could I just have a baked potato without bacon?”
His jaw dropped for an instant. When he recovered he silently put his knife down on the cart, drew out a platter and plopped a small, bare potato on it. The platter looked empty without the meat. As he served the potato he stared at me as if this had never happened at the restaurant. For all I know it never had. I accepted the platter and, before he could move on to the next table, politely asked, “Could I get some butter, sour cream and chives with that?” This was not the first, nor was it to be the last, challenge I faced as a vegetarian in the 70s.
When I met Robin’s parents for the first time in 1977, she introduced me and added, “He’s a vegetarian.” Robin’s mom, Hattie, smiled and turned to Robin to ask, “What’s a vegetarian?” Robin explained that I didn’t eat meat or fish. Robin’s dad, Jack, looked back and forth between Robin and me asking, ”What do you feed him?”
So began my relationship with Robin and her family. When Robin and I got married, Hattie welcomed me to the family saying, “We are glad to have inherited you and your vegetarian self. Welcome to the family.” And that’s how Robin came up with the name for my cookbook. She also suggestion that it contain not only vegetarian recipes but advice for omnivores who, like her parents, inherited vegetarians of their own.
Today’s fledgling vegetarians have it easy compared to the challenges I faced every time I ate out. Today, I have yet to dine at a fine restaurant where the chef will not accommodate a lacto-ovo vegetarian – even if the restaurant is famous for it’s meat dishes.
Although we have wonderful restaurants were we live, I prefer to eat at home where our garden has a variety of fresh vegetables growing all year long. Robin and I are thankful for our garden harvest and host dinners where friends share in our summer harvest. We refer to these as our garden-to-the-table dinners. One of my favorite recipes made each spring from the bounty of our garden includes grilled Ojai avocados garnished with heirloom tomatoes, thin slices of serrano chilies, fresh Ciliegine whole milk mozzarella balls and fresh squeezed lime juice.