By Joe Yonan
I’ve been calling this my second “coming out,” because it reminds me of the first time.
For one thing, when I tell people about my recent switch to vegetarianism, I’m getting the same kinds of questions, especially from chefs and fellow food journalists, that I did so many decades ago when the news was about my sexual orientation. A few weeks ago, when I broke the news to a friend over dinner, she responded with “When did this happen?” and “How long do you think it’s going to last?” I’m expecting someone, somewhere, to say, “You know we love and support you, no matter what you eat.”
Actually, the reaction from some quarters has been not too far from that: One interview subject, founder of an imitation-meat company, said something along the lines of, “The food editor of a major daily newspaper is vegetarian? This is huge!”
I’ve been talking – and writing – about this trend in my dietary choices for a while now, with frequent mentions in my Cooking for One columns. But I’ve always qualified it because, the truth is, I’ve been worried about the reaction from food obsessives who think you can’t be serious about the subject unless you’re an omnivore. Most famously, Anthony Bourdain has referred to vegetarians as “bad travelers and bad guests,” “a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn” and “the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit.”
Maybe he just hasn’t met the right vegetarian yet. Maybe he hasn’t wanted to. Or maybe his are the views of a food-world dinosaur. I get his mission to convince people to swallow up the world in all its grease-spattered glories, and to never say no to somebody’s grandmother. But anybody who doesn’t understand the compulsion to eat less – or no – meat isn’t paying attention to news about its environmental impact, or doesn’t care.
In any case, I’m compelled to make the veg-head proclamation now because, among other things, I think it’s only fair that readers understand the tastes of the Washington Post food editor, and to reassure them that the section’s omnivorous nature will remain intact. Besides, unlike Bourdain, I’m not a purist about any of this. I’m still tasting little bites of meat, poultry and fish here and there because I’m curious about a chef’s new take or because I need to keep up on a trend for my work.
Mostly, though, I’ve come to think dietary choices are like religion: Eat and let eat.