Grumpiest vegetarian on the block


I love bacon.

I don’t think you understand.

When I was little, I used to arrive at breakfast on Saturday mornings at my grandmother’s house with one eye on my two uncles and one eye on the plate of bacon we were all to share.

My parents married young so when I spent Friday nights at my grandmother’s house as I did every weekend as a young child, my mom’s two brothers were mere teenagers. I would go wake them, at my grandmother’s urging, ask them how many eggs they wanted for breakfast and bound back into the kitchen to report what I’d found out to my grandmother. She would stand frying eggs in her housecoat and slippers.

“Mark said two,” I’d say. “Allen said five!”

“Five?” my grandmother would say. “He can’t eat five!”

Looking back, I’m sure my uncles dreaded my early morning chirping, removing the covers from their heads to inquire about their breakfast choices when, in fact, it really wasn’t a choice. I later discovered I was a plant, a proxy on the part of my grandmother, a God-fearing woman who didn’t like it when her boys drank too much the night before. If they were irritated by a spunky four-year-old waking them early and asking what they’d like for breakfast, well then, it served them right for staying out too late. Note that she didn’t wake them, she sent me.

But I knew nothing of the mother/teenage son politics going on then. I knew only that I’d scurry to the table before they came sleepily down the hallway. My grandmother would have set the table and I would find my place at it in the spot next to hers. She would fry eggs a few at a time and put them on plates and somewhere along the way she’d place a plate of bacon on the table.

I’d sit at the table on my knees in my nylon nightgown and stack pieces of bacon in front of my plate so my hungry (growing teenage boys as they were) uncles wouldn’t take it. Who knows how many pieces I’d stack but I had full intention of eating all of them. I can still remember guarding my stack from my uncles at breakfast. I monitored it closely and every now and then one of uncles would try to sneak a piece. At this point I should tell you that I was the first grandchild on this side of the family. I was the twinkle in my grandmother’s eye. One cross word aimed at me or a whine on my part, and my grandmother would send my uncles moping back to their rooms. But every now and then, one of them would tempt fate and steal a piece of my bacon. With one look my grandmother would banish them from the table, which they probably welcomed because it meant they could go back to sleep.

If I could I’d still stack bacon in front of my plate, mark my territory and call it all mine. I told a friend about year ago how often I ate bacon and he laughed then said something along the lines, “No, really, how many times a week?” I think the number of times I’d handed him was irrationally high and he thought I couldn’t be serious.

He lives with a vegetarian, what can I say?

Turns out, his instinct must be right, at least, according to my cholesterol count.

I had it tested a year ago and it was high, I had it tested a month ago and it was higher. Last year, faced with a higher-than-normal reading, I adjusted my diet. I cut the crap and went on a vegetable, meat, nuts and some fruit kick. I could still eat bacon, I reasoned, and I’d cut out the processed stuff. Must be good for me, right?

Evidently not.

When I came home with my even-higher-than-normal reading this year, I felt duped. I’d given up so much joy during the past year all in the name of lower cholesterol only to open the results to a higher number printed in red.

In an attempt to sympathize, Seth went to the bookshelf and pulled off Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

“I think this is where it’s at dude,” he said. “We eat a lot of bacon.”

There are so many things I wanted to say to him in that moment but I didn’t. I flipped through the pages: Cauliflower sautee! Butternut squash soup! 14 kinds of tofu stir-fry!

All of that would taste better with bacon on top.

So I’m adjusting, giving it a go without one my favorite things in the world. I’m trying but, to be honest, it all feels a little hollow. Stuffed peppers last night, Thai curry soup tonight. Eh. I’d trade it all for a couple of slices of crisp, not burnt, bacon.

I’ve recently fallen for Twitter. I know, how 2008 of me. It’s not just for their IPO, I swear. It’s for all the reasons everyone else loves it. It’s quick, it’s pointed. It’s 140 characters in a busy world. But for me, it’s also about hash tags. It’s about getting a point across is so few words, it’s a challenge and luxury. My new favorite, #grumpiestvegetarianontheblock, sort of sums it up because this is where I’m headed. It’s what I’m aspiring to. It’s exactly what I’ll be without bacon, sweet bacon, in my life.