Monday, January 30, 2012


Growing up, I knew instinctually that there were two kinds of people in this world: normal people and vegetarians. I also knew without asking that the vegetarian existed in an unholy realm no Wagner should ever dare enter. Just as children of strict Catholic parents know they risk disinheritance if they leave the church, I knew that becoming a vegetarian might create an insurmountable schism between myself and my father.

And yet, I felt pulled to it. Like a theater-loving boy in small-town Texas checking out Sondheim scores at the library, I used my library card to access the stuff of temptation. I found secret treasures in the cookbook section. An illicit thrill prickled up my spine the day I brought home my first vegetarian cookbook, but I was able to hide the titillating vegetarian nature of the recipes from my family, for I had found an ethnic cookbook, charming all of us with exotic ingredients from faraway places. I'd found Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant, and it proved to be a gateway drug. It took me a while, but I found my way to become an herbivore.

Now, almost twenty years later, I've been revisiting the Moosewood collection of cookbooks. I've made something out of almost every cookbook they've written, and Sundays remains a favorite. The past three weeks, I've made almost nothing that wasn't a Moosewood recipe (or at least, Moosewood-inspired. If you've read this blog before, you know I can't stick to a recipe for love or money). I'm happy to say that we've eaten like kings.

Vegetarian kings. My dad would laugh his butt off at the thought.

Monday, January 02, 2012


A couple of weeks ago, I was walking with my eight year-old daughter downtown. We passed a store window full of fancy shoes and talked about the different styles. Then as we crossed the street to continue on our way to our library, a man began shouting at me. "Lady," he bellowed, "when I have kids I'm going to protect them from the sick culture you're inflicting on that girl. Bad! Bad! Bad!" He kept shouting until we were out of earshot.

My natural instinct was to push the guy out into on-coming traffic, but I just ignored him. I sort of wish I could have taken him out to coffee and told him just how dumb he was being--not just because he was wrong about me (or I think he's wrong; the reason we were downtown that day were to pick up a pair of shoes from the cobbler, thus instilling the value of repairing over replacing, and to visit the library and the history museum, which I think are pretty worthwhile cultural endeavors), but because he clearly doesn't understand what good parenting is all about.

A good parent knows that we can't protect our kids from our sick culture forever. We live in a country that bombards kids with messages about how to look and how to shop. If I simply kept my daughter under house arrest, or raised her in the wilderness without exposure to store fronts and advertising, I could expect her to enter the world as a very confused young adult. Or a very rebellious one.

Instead, we looked at those fancy-pants shoes together, and I pointed out the fur-lined heeled boots that I wouldn't wear because I can't stand the thought of adorable animals like foxes killed just for fashion. Even though I swooned over the gorgeous stiletto spectators, I had to explain that I'd never wear them because they'd hurt my back and worsen my foot problems, and that looking good isn't worth that kind of price to me. It was a worthwhile conversation about some of the real costs of fashion.

But that guy only saw two females talking about shoes. He didn't see the second-hand clothes or much-repaired clogs or bags full of library books. He didn't hear that thoughtful discussion about shopping or any of our later conversations about Oregon history or banned books. He let himself jump to conclusions.

Of course, if he knew more about us, he would have probably been horrified to know that we headed home to finish playing Resident Evil: Code Veronica.

Because a really good parent wants their kid to be ready for a zombie outbreak.