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Robert St. John

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

Life Through Spinach-Colored Glasses

September 14, 2009

Welcome to day 14 of my 30-day excursion into vegetarianism.

Here are some observations from the other side.

Observation 1.) I’ve actually become a carbotarian. As long as it doesn’t have a face or a tail, I’m eating it. Pancakes, French fries, bagels, hash browns, nachos, Cap’n Crunch, and cheese pizza all have one thing in common— no meat. My motto this September: No meat, I eat.

My wife said, “That’s cheating. You’re supposed to be eating only vegetables.” Who said so? I have several good friends who are vegetarians. They love pancakes and stuff like that. I’m just following their lead. No veggie burgers and soy patties for me.

Observation 2.) People walk up to me in restaurants and check my plate. “Got any meat on there?” one man said last week. Nope, just waffles, eggs, and hash browns.

Observation 3.) I forgot how much I love seafood. I don’t think I’ve ever gone 14 days without seafood. That’s 14 days with no shrimp, no fish, no oysters, and no crabmeat. No crabmeat.

The one consolation going into this challenge was that it’s been a bad year for soft-shell crab. At least I won’t be missing soft-shell crab, I thought. Wrong. After a spotty spring and summer, now in the fall, when soft-shells are usually dwindling, we’ve got abundance. It’s some type of late-season fluke that we haven’t seen since way before Hurricane Katrina. It’s killing me.

Observation 4.) Forget water-boarding, I know true torture— sitting in my restaurant eating the Vegetable Sampler— sautéed spinach, roasted asparagus, mashed potatoes, and sugar snap peas, while the table of four next to me is eating Soft-Shell Crab.

When we added all of those vegetable options to the menu, I had no idea I would be relying on them so much. I have become the best customer for the Crescent City Vegetable Sampler. Fried Green Tomatoes, Cheese Grits, and steamed broccoli don’t have a face or a tail, so they’re all fair game. Book it, October 1st, I’ll be eating soft-shell crab for breakfast.

Observation 5.) PETA, the group that has sent me hate mail for 10 years, now loves me. I received an email from the president of PETA this weekend.

Yes, people are joining you: Steve-O just did (see new blog on He has lost weight, but he did cut out the dairy and eggs too. Kind regards, Ingrid Newkirk, president, PETA

Observation 6.) The folks at PETA are obsessed with people who eat dairy and eggs.

Observation 7.) I am not going to give up dairy and eggs.

Observation 8.) If one writes in the newspaper that he is going to become a vegetarian for a month, many will follow. It’s amazing. There have been over 100 people who have written or approached me in public to tell me that they are going vegetarian with me in the month of September. Fools.

Observation 9.) People who eat fried chicken live longer. I just read an Associated Press story about the death of the world’s oldest person. Gertrude Baines died last week. She was 115-years old. The article stated that her favorite foods were, “Fried chicken, bacon, and ice cream.” I knew it.

When the doctor visited Baines last week, she only complained of two things: Pain in her right knee, and her “bacon was soggy.” Think about that, you make it 115 years, and— despite all of your potential maladies— your top priority is the crispness of your bacon. God bless that woman. There’s a special place in heaven for her, and plenty of bacon, too.

Observation 10.) I miss fried chicken

Observation 11.) No Southerner should ever have to give up fried chicken. It’s against some type of law or code we have down here, I’m sure of it.

Observation 12.) Actually, I don’t have an Observation 12; I just needed an even dozen to end the column.


Creamy Tomato Soup

18 Tomatoes, ripe

1 tsp Canola oil

1 1 /2 cup Onion, minced

1 /2 cup Carrots, shredded

1 /2 cup Celery, minced

1 Tbl Garlic, minced

1 /4 tsp Dried Basil

1 tsp Black pepper, freshly ground

1 /8 tsp Dried Thyme

1 quart Hearty Vegetable stock

2 cups Robert St. John’s Bloody Mary Mix (can substitute V-8 juice)

1 /2 cup Butter

3 /4 cup Flour

2 cups Cream

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place tomatoes on a baking sheet and roast 25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. When cooled remove the skin. Rough chop the tomatoes and set aside, reserving as much juice as possible. In a large heavy-duty stockpot heat canola oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, garlic, salt, pepper and dry herbs. Cook for six to seven minutes, until vegetables become tender. Add chopped tomatoes and their juice continuing to cook for 10 minutes. Stir often. Add in broth and V-8 juice and bring to a slow simmer.

Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat and stir in flour to make a light blond roux. Stir the roux into the simmering mixture and continue cooking for 10 minutes.

Add cream and bring back to a simmer. As soon as soup reaches a simmer, remove it from heat and serve.

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