No, I Don’t Want A Salad

Foodie Friday

Jan 13, 2012 by

“We’ll be having prime rib; if you don’t want to eat that, there’ll be salad and stuff…since there’ll only be two of you who don’t eat meat.” – a friend inviting me to a New Year’s feast.

Oh! Boy! I could hardly wait to go feast on “salad and stuff.”

This week’s lead article in the NYT dining section was Meatless in the Midwest: A Tale of Survival. It’s the story of an NYT reporter who moved to Kansas City, Mo and is a hard-core vegetarian (I’m not).

However, I can really relate to her being told by a waitress – after working the way through menu options (made with lard, made with chicken stock, etc.) – “You want a salad.”  Well, no she really didn’t. But that’s what she got, and iceberg.  Sigh. I’d bet it was mostly the white knarly stuff, brown around the edges (being a veteran of heartland “salad bars” myself.)

I’m (usually) a vegetarian. Or, more accurately, a pescetarian (I eat seafood).  However, I used to be one of the biggest carnivores on the planet. I ate Thumper, Bambi, and pretty much anything else. (Note, snake doesn’t taste like chicken.)

Beginning in my 20s, however, I gradually started losing my taste for muscle tissue (Sorry, happy meat eaters, but that’s what it is…) My gradual loss of love began with hamburger.  I LOVED a good, drippin’ grease chili cheeseburger…but I never loved those mysterious little bits of gristles and other stuff. I started taking a good look at the raw stuff…um…not so yummy.  Then, I gradually became aware of what they pump into the animals…and how they treat them in factory farming. I once knew a fellow who had worked on a chicken factory farm in college; it was enough to turn him off chicken forever (and the stories he told…those poor, poor baby chicks.)

All that said, I STILL give into a craving once in a great while and have some bacon (that stuff is like crack) or some barbecue (I come from southern folks, it’s in my DNA). And, as such things go, I sometimes politely eat (some of) what’s put in front of me when I’m a guest. But, often, while everyone is digging into the feast…I’m faced with – um – salad.  Now, I like salad, but I don’t usually make a whole meal of it. I’m also polite when people who have known me for years conveniently “forget” I don’t eat meat.

But, here’s the thing. Just where does my good manners obligation as a friend and guest end and that of the host begin?

I’m fine with making a meal of side dishes; I do it home. It’s amazingly easy to turn a “side” into an entrée if you know anything about cooking. Yet, somehow, many people (still) assume us weird veggie people will be happy with a salad, and by salad, I mean lettuce, maybe some carrot and a pale slice of sad tomato. Yummm…Or, hey! We got you tofu! (This when I had repeatedly said I loathed the quivering white stuff.)  And, almost invariably, the vegetarian option at hotel banquets is flaccid pasta with canned sauce.  Sigh. Really? You went to culinary school for this, chef?

ANYWAY…Like I said, I usually cut people some slack. So, if you’d like to do vegetarian, here are just a few suggestions (thousands of options are only a google away):

Eggplant Parmesan.  There are any number of variations that don’t require standing over a hot frying pan for an hour.  Grill (or broil) sprinkle cornmeal on it, pour over homemade (or good jarred) sauce.  Grate over a little parm and bake at 350.  (You can google and come up with all kinds of good recipes.)

Fried Rice.  Insanely easy. Can be insanely good (and good for you).

Au Gratin dishes. Potatoes. Cauliflower. Mushrooms. Squash. Onions. Cheese. Some combo of any or all of these. (I do a version with potatoes, smoked tuna and carmelized onions. One of my “go to” quick and easy comfort dinners.)

Chile Rellenos. Again, many, many variations. You can even forego the breading/coating and bake as you would a stuffed pepper (since that’s what it is…)

Enchiladas.  Take about 10 minutes to put together, meat not required. Really.  (Something my mom just cannot understand, but – hey – she’s over 80, and from Oklahoma.)

Stuffed Peppers. (The anglo version of rellenos. Mushrooms. Rice. Onions. Garlic. Endless variations.)

Pasta, pasta, pasta.  Really, if you can’t boil water and dice up a few veg, there’s just no hope for you. It’s also very easy to go vegan with pasta.

Mac & Cheese. Eleventy-billion variations.

Soups & Stews.  Many recipes are almost embarrassingly easy, and filling.

Pretty much any”ethnic” cuisine. – Thai, Chinese, Indian, good ol’ Italian…many recipes are vegetarian and simple.

Need a little “expert” help?  No prob. Rachael Ray, Jamie Oliver, Mario Batali…and many, many others provide good, even great vegetarian recipes. Check out web sites, such as that of Saveur – lots of veggie options (here are eighteen main courses.)  And, Epicurious can get you started on vegan recipes (no cheese, eggs, dairy)… So, really, no excuses.

Lastly, we vegetarians (and variations thereof) don’t refuse meat simply to be difficult or “holier than thou” (see above about my falling off the wagon on occasion.)  Our bodies don’t like it. “She’ll never know there’s lard in it” translates into “She’ll be sick for two days.”

P.S.  Iceberg can make a wonderful salad, but a main entrée, not so much.  It also goes great with vegetarian tacos and enchiladas. Love that crisp snap as a complement to the spice!  Here’s a quickie for you.  Finely slice, chop up a good tomato.  Toss with white balsamic vinegar, freshly ground pepper and some coarse sea salt.  Serve as side to home-cooked beans or a comfort food casserole.

P.P.S. I took a vegetarian hoppin’ John (black-eyed peas and rice) and made from scratch cornbread to the New Year’s dinner.   The salad was excellent; I had two helpings. J

About the Author

Mary Schmidt Has Written 26 Articles For Us!

Mary is a proud Corporate America refugee, having long ago decided that quality of life is far more important than quantity of stuff. However, that said, she thinks money is a very good thing - when used as a tool, not a success measurement. In addition to writing for us, she blogs about business development and marketing at and about marketing to and by women at In her consulting business, her clients have ranged from mega-corps such as Hewlett-Packard to local Mom & Pops.
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