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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

I am about to be a vegetarian.

August 24, 2009

I’m not going to be one of those I-still-eat-chicken-and-fish vegetarians. I am going to be a die-hard, I-eat-nothing-with-a-face-or-a-tail vegetarian, a hardcore vegetarian, a no-turkey-with-my-tofu vegetarian.

For the entire month of September, I will abstain from eating beef, pork, poultry, fish, or seafood of any kind— nothing with a face or tail. For those who have followed this column for the last 12 years, this development will come as a 90-degree fork in the road. Some might think it a ruse. It’s not. While veg-heads have always been an easy target for this column, I am doing this for real. I’m taking that fork in the road and loading it with broccoli. This devout carnivore is about to become a yogurt and sprout eating bunny hugger.

There’s been a big stink in the news lately. The animal activist group PETA, posted a billboard in Florida with a photo of an obese woman in a bikini with the tag line, “Save the Whales, Lose the Blubber: Go Vegetarian.” A lot of overweight people were offended. I’m a fat person, and I thought it was funny. If I had my choice, I’d rather see PETA’s scantily clad model campaign, but I don’t mind a good chuckle at the expense of a fellow fat person.

I wasn’t offended, though I was intrigued by the premise. Could I lose the blubber by going veggie? It sounded like a challenge to me, so I’m going to take the challenge.

The next five columns will chronicle my journey into the dark side of living as an herbivore. No ribeye steaks, no barbeque pork ribs, no cheeseburgers, no bacon sandwiches, not even a can of tuna fish. As of September 1st, it’s sayonara sushi, hello beans and greens.

Some people might find it easy to make a decision like this at the spur of the moment and hang in there for a month. Not me. I have put a lot of thought into it. My career revolves around food. Creating food, serving food, writing about food, and— most importantly—eating food. For the past 47 years beef, pork, poultry, and fish have been at the center of my writing, the center of my heart, and in the center of the plate.

As I’ve pondered this, I have actually begun to look forward to the challenge. I like the hip, cool way that I say, “I’m going to be a vegetarian.” Sometimes when I’m feeling really hip, I just say, “I’m going veggie.” I think it makes me sound like I know what I’m doing. My wife says it just makes me sound like a dork.

I feel cool typing it. V-e-g-e-t-a-r-i-a-n. Ahhh. I’m no longer the overweight hunter-gathering carnivore. I’m a vegetarian. A 21st Century man. I’m going to find my Birkenstocks, buy some clothes made from hemp and break out the nuts and seeds.

I’m taking the PETA challenge. Some friends have asked, “Why now? Why September?” Others have guessed that I chose a month with only 30 days. Stay tuned for answers to those questions and many more.

Two things are for certain— on August 31st, I’ll be eating steaks and hamburgers, and a month later, on October 1st, I’ll be eating sausage, bacon, and ribs. But in the meantime, I’ll be living off of legumes, fruit, and bread. I’ve got a free pass on the cheese train. Hello pizza. Hello French fries! I might actually be the first vegetarian who gained weight by giving up meats.

Pineapple Pico (grilled fish topping)

1 1/2 cup fresh tomatoes, small dice

1/4 cup red onions, small dice

2 Tbl green onion, thinly sliced

1/2 tsp fresh garlic, minced

2 Tbl. cilantro, chopped

2 tsp fresh jalapenos, seeds removed and minced

1 cup pineapple, small dice

1 tsp lime juice

1/2 tsp Salt

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve. Best if made 2-3 hours in advance. Serve atop grilled fish.

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