Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a Jewish vegetarian? Of course not, because who does that?! What with delicacies like pickled herring, lox, brisket, pastrami, cabbage rolls, chopped liver and kreplach (which sounds like some sort of diarrhea medication), what Jew in his or her right mind would give all of that up?
It actually wasn’t that difficult renouncing meat consumption entirely. After all, for the prior year I ate only fish, and the year before that just fish and fowl. I wanted to see if I could actually do it, and I discovered that I quite enjoyed the new recipes I found and the relatively lower cost of feeding myself. Except, of course, for name brand soy meat-like offerings such as fake chicken wings, meatless meatballs (which, in my book, were simply balls), porkless sweet and sour pork, and veggie burgers. Those things are EXPENSIVE!! (Yay for cheap tofu and beans!)
As I was saying, my new dietary routine was rather facile. Until my mother took me to “New York Deli Night” at her favorite casino’s buffet. I have been there quite often, and it was difficult enough trying to find dairy-free vegetarian fare on a “normal” night (except, of course, for “Steak Night”—another appreciated yet misguided suggestion on her part). But what made this night different from all other nights? Hundreds of round little “active seniors” schlepping plates piled high with the aforementioned delicacies back and forth, to and fro, here and there; dumping the less messy foods into empty plastic bags in their oversized purses like my Bubbe used to do “for later”; and repeatedly asking me, “Is that all you’re going to eat?”
While carefully piercing my pickled beets with my fork so as to not stain my clothing, my gaze steadily drifted to the zaftig Jewish woman sitting at the next table whose plate looked like a family platter from Katz’s Delicatessen. She noticed, and asked me, in a thick Brooklyn accent, why I was drooling on her lap. I explained the situation and asked if I could live vicariously through her clogged arteries, high cholesterol, and likely, subsequent heart attack.
That’s why I became a vegetarian. Health. And because of that horrible YouTube slaughterhouse video.
That evening, I enjoyed the most expensive salad and plate of broccoli in the history of Las Vegas. And a macaroon.
Oh, and in case you may be wondering why I didn’t partake of any matzo balls, two words: chicken broth.
“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” ~ Julia Child