Sunday, April 24, 2011

Selective vegetarianism and chorizo sausage

Octopus on Capitol Hill in Washington DC
A lot of my friends know me as a vegetarian, but to a true vegetarian I'm an embarrassment to the title. I prefer to refer to myself as a selective vegetarian or lazy and easily persuaded if you want to simplify it. I very rarely cook with meat (maybe twice a year), but if someone else happens to present a very tasty looking pasta dish or soup with meat in it I will go as far as picking around any large meat pieces and hope that the smaller cooked down flesh doesn't make it onto my plate. Why? Cause I'm likely starving and it looks good and my self control is actually very limited. I also have other 'clauses' in my personal vegetarian contract: First, seafood doesn't apply. I do try to go out of my way to get sustainable seafood if possible and actually consume very little overall within a year. And everyone knows fish don't have feelings anyway (waiting for PETA out-lash on this one). Realistically I just love Sushi and attempt to rationalize. Second, I can/will consume meat if I am out of country. This is rationalized by the fact that as an American tourist I should always attempt to take part in the local culture and experience traditions while abroad. Somehow this seems to also create a loophole for states that are far from my home state of Michigan. Clearly if I'm in California or Maryland it is so different from Michigan that it could appear as if I were somewhere abroad and therefore selective vegetarianism applies. Example: One block from a hotel I stayed at while attending a conference for work in San Francisco was Farmer Browns. After the days schedule I stopped in to get an order to go. The top 3 choices were:
  • winter vegetable ragout over falls mills organic grits roasted squash, baby carrots, greens, tattagon pesto, toasted pinenuts & parmesan
  • crispy corn meal catfish w/hush puppies, candied yams, pickled onions, sauteed greens & tartar sauce
  • southern fried chicken light & dark meat w/hamhock greens, macaroni & tillamook cheddar cheese 
Farmer Browns fried chicken
with mac and cheese
Farmer Browns  is about supporting local and african-american farmers. So I assumed the winter vegetable ragout or even the catfish w/hush puppies would have been fine choices that also support local farmers in the area; I opened my mouth to order one of these and must have blacked out because I walked out of there with southern fried chicken. Did I forget to tell you I'm currently 6 months pregnant? Feeling guilty I actually took a picture of it and sent it to my husband, blushing while admitting this was my dinner choice for the night. The BEST fried chicken EVER. I ate all of it. The mac and cheese was also incredible. I highly recommend this restaurant if you're in the area.

Mary's chicken with our own Brussels Sprouts
and potatoes from the garden
So what does this have to do with Chorizo? Apparently a new 'clause' is making it's way into my vegetarian contract. As my inner urban farmer is coming out I feel the need to experiment time to time with locally grown, organic fed, humanely treated pork, lamb and chicken. (I'm really just not a fan of beef overall and tend to avoid it completely). No one treats her pets livestock better than my cousin Mary. Each year she raises 4-6 Berkshire/Hampshire cross pigs to butcher. On kill day it's basically a carnival for them - there's donuts, cider, apples, cookies and a .22 pistol (ok, most carnivals don't have a .22 pistol). She swears she even lets them watch Oprah all afternoon before they meet their fate. The point is, the pigs have no idea it's coming. They have lived a healthy, active, privileged life prior to 'carnival day' as each animal raised by humans should be treated. Last year I started considering raising a few pigs on my own for profit and food (as most good vegetarians would). So Mary set me up with a 'care package' to see if I liked the product enough to raise my own. She gave me a whole chicken, 2 dozen eggs, 4 thick pork chops, bacon, homemade maple syrup, ham cured in her homemade maple syrup, breakfast sausage and one package of chorizo (a Mexican spiced sausage). For about 2 weeks last year I was a regular 'ole American eating a sizable portion of meat each and every dinner. To be honest, the guilt was too much and the taste was not enough to overcome it. And then I cooked the chorizo. I swear to you I plan on raising 6 pigs just to turn them all into this amazing sausage I have deemed as 'crack.' The first hit from Mary was free, but now I want more! I split the bag in half and for breakfast I cooked thin sliced potatoes right in the chorizo sausage. There was very little grease, just enough to keep everything from sticking - that is one of the beautiful things of homemade sausage. I fried some of Mary's eggs to go with this and was in heaven for a few brief moments here on earth. The next day I used the rest of the chorizo sausage and and cooked onions, banana peppers and green peppers right in it. I added a little milk and then tossed in el dente angle hair pasta and let the noodles soak up some of this sauce. The skies parted and heaven opened again for a few brief moments.

I just felt like this sign says it all.
Wanting to stay somewhat true to my vegetarianism that was my last encounter with a scalable amount of meat for any meal (uh, well except for that fried chicken dinner a few weeks back). It was delicious, but my only source for this 'crack' was my cousin Mary and I figured I needed to kick the habit right away because her supply was near the end and 'carnival day' would not happen for another 10 months or so.

And here we are almost a year later and I relapsed over the weekend. It was my brothers birthday and he requested I make him homemade pizza. My brother is a "man's man" and enjoys things like aqua velva after shave and a straight razor, his idol is Clint Eastwood and he can build a fire with no matches on a windy day with just a pair of glasses and 2 green leaves (ok, that last one might have been a stretch, but you get the point) there was no way he wanted a nice spinach and goat cheese pizza. Perfect excuse for me to call Mary. Just one more time I say. Just one more package of chorizo and I'll get it out of my system. **Hands shakey mouth powered white skin all itchy** I call. She has 2 baggies. I say Ill be there in 10. What I made from this package of chorizo will be worth the years of rehab I will have to endure. Again with the thin sliced potatoes cooked right in with the sausage, but this time I lay them on top of a homemade pizza. The sauce boasts a little touch of sugar, anise seed, pepper and basil. I top it off with locally produced goat cheese from The Cheese Lady and bake it to perfection. Of course I save a little in the bag and in the morning made plain baking powder biscuits and chorizo gravy with some more of Mary's fresh eggs. Falling off the wagon feels really good. I think I might have to start that urban pig farm after all.

I will never condone eating meat at every meal or even a majority of meals. The carbon footprint is often too high and the health benefits are not there for me. However, everyone has their weaknesses and apparently pork (usually in the form of chorizo sausage) and sometimes fried chicken are mine. I break down a few times a year and indulge in these delicacies, but I treat them exactly as that; something to be savored, enjoyed and appreciated. Not just mindlessly eaten without acknowledging exactly how it came to my plate.



do you have a hard copy vegetarian contract? if so i would love to read over as am looking for one(:

Admin said...

TAYTANKENGINE, My favorite is the 'vegetarian' who just doesn't eat red meat. But chicken, fish, and bacon are of course fine :D

You're right, everyone has a different idea of what it means!

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