No More Sacred Cows

Article excerpt

Byline: Jennie Yabroff

The latest cookbook by Mollie Katzen, author of vegetarian bibles The Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, includes recipes for spinach lasagna and vegetable tofu stir fry with orange ginger glaze. It also includes a recipe for beef stew. No, not "beef" stew, in which some soy-based protein substitute is dressed and spiced to look (and sort of taste) like meat. Beef stew. With real beef. From a cow.

Considered one of the chefs most responsible for the mainstreaming of vegetarianism in the 1970s and '80s, and a vegetarian herself for 30 years, Katzen began eating meat again a few years ago. "Somehow it got ascribed to me that I don't want people to eat meat," Katzen said. "I've just wanted to supply possibilities that were low on the food chain."

For as long as people have been foreswearing meat, they've also been sneaking the occasional corn dog. The difference is, vegetarians used to feel guilty about their sins of the flesh-consumption. Now, thanks to the cachet attached to high-end meat, they are having their burgers without sacrificing the moral high ground.

The word "flexitarian," meaning someone who mostly eats vegetarian with the occasional cheesesteak thrown in, has been around for a while. But only recently have former vegetarians been so smug about their forays to the dark side. "There is something almost primal about it," writes lapsed vegetarian Tara Austen Weaver, describing her first meat-buying expedition in The Butcher and the Vegetarian. "I haven't actually hunted dinner myself, but I set my sights and claimed the prize I sought." The "primalness" of the meat-eating (or meat-purchasing) experience comes up a lot in these conversion narratives, which inevitably take place at a quaint, family-run butcher shop. Some of these shops are even run by former vegetarians and vegans, such as Fleisher's, the upstate New York store where Julie Powell (of Julie and Julia fame) learned to carve up a steer for her forthcoming Cleaving. …