Patrick was vegetarian when we met 30 years ago, and I generally do prefer plant foods. We’ve always eaten with a strong emphasis on vegetable cuisine—it’s just what we enjoy. But then he had this sudden hankering for meat, especially steak, which he had a lot of growing up. What could I do? I cooked it for him. And, you know, I found I liked it, too.
Patrick’s a cancer survivor. It was in his throat, and it was very, very hard on him. The treatments left him feeling really depleted—I think he’s still feeling the effects of it, four years later. I do wonder if that’s connected to his sudden interest in meat, after eating a certain way for much of his life.
Whatever the reason, we’ve started to alternate—meat one night, vegetarian the next. We had a lot of sausages. We ate a lot of pork, because we have a neighbor who raises pork, and he gave us roasts and things like that. I made fried chicken. And corn dogs kept coming up. I said, “I’ve never had a corn dog. What is it?” I went on YouTube and got the instructions, ground my own flour, and used Niman Ranch beef frankfurters. It was pretty good (though it looked more like a chile relleno when I was done with it, all flattened out).
I have never seen myself as a vegetarian, even though I spent most of my career writing vegetarian cookbooks. There’s a quote I love from Wendell Berry’s essay collection Another Turn of the Crank that helps explains my concern:
‘Even the most scrupulous vegetarians must use the world—that is, they must kill creatures, substitute one species for another, and eat food that otherwise would be eaten by other creatures. And so by the standard of absolute harmlessness, the two available parties are not vegetarians and meat eaters, but rather eaters and noneaters. Us eaters have got ‘em greatly outnumbered.’