Monday, April 12, 2010
barbecuing without bigotry
(image from LOLCats, obviously)
Yesterday my better, meatless half and I went to a BBQ restaurant (I know, but I can't make it every time I want it). When we go, she has to get a potato and salad because there aren't any vegetarian entrees, and then she has to request that they leave the bacon off her salad because there also aren't any vegetarian salads. Admittedly, this is hardly just a BBQ restaurant issue, and she claims she loves the potato and cornbread muffins there, but one of the waitresses was also wearing a shirt that said "vegetarians are free... to change their ways."
I noticed this attitude on the various internet BBQ and grilling/smoking sites as well when I went looking for vegetarian modifications to ABTs, this defensiveness masquerading as apathy towards vegetarians, this total unwillingness to make even the tiniest concession to non-meat-eating guests. It's like the point of BBQing is to make some sort of puerile statement about your machismo, a middle finger to all those who would look down on your cheese-filled bacon-wrapped sausage fatty topped with mayonnaise, a bottle of Wild Turkey, and a George Thorogood CD, like vegetarians and environmentalists and your doctor.
Fuck all 'em! I do wut I want!
When did BBQ become an expression of conservative white male angst and fear? Why can't it be about making good food that everybody can enjoy?
Put another way, is it fair or polite to ask people to check their diets at the door when they come to your cookout? Do you really want the event to have this undercurrent of hostility that will make some of your guests feel unwelcome?
I approach grilling/smoking from the perspective of someone who loves all kinds of food. I've had not just mind-blowing steak, but wonderful tofu dishes. I love fajitas, pizza, and cheeseburgers as well as sushi and Szechuan vegetables and bhindi masala.
And yes, there have been cookouts where I nailed the meat dish, but the best thing that came off the grill was still the vegetable entree. Portabellas drizzled with balsamic vinagrette and studded with garlic cloves, people. They're not just for breakfast anymore!
Don't be a dick: when you make your menu, whether it's for a restaurant or a Saturday cookout, be considerate and remember that other people's diets aren't about you. People aren't refusing to eat steak or sausage because they secretly hate you and your vile capitalist ways. Yes, some people do so out of an environmentalist, ethical or anti-meat industry stance (which is fine, again, because it's not about you), but others do so because it's healthy and can help with weight issues. Some attendees may be eating kosher, halal, Hindu, or Catholic/Lutheran/Episcopalian during Lent (do you know the religious affiliations of all your guests? I often don't), while still others may have high cholesterol, lactose intolerance, digestive issues, or any number of other things. Don't make your friends choose between your food and their beliefs or health.
What you'll quickly discover is that vegetables do wonderful things when exposed to smoke and an open flame, too. There's a whole world of food out there outside the realm of meat just waiting to be explored. I recommend starting with the peppers.