Carnivores: people for whom the word "tofu" resonates with about as much familiarity as "quantum physics" or "proper hygiene."
Nowadays, more and more people are turning their backs on the trans-fatty world of $1 double-cheeseburgers and discount buckets of fried-chicken - vegetarians like Chips' writer Emily-Kate.
For weeks, Emily-Kate has been observing Armin, a self-described lover of all creatures great, small and medium-rare. She's watched as he mercilessly downs pepperoni pizza slices and 10-packs of chicken nuggets. She has finally decided to make her move.
She will convert him.
Mung bean pancakes, here we come!
"We're here, why?" asks Armin, dismayed to find that Emily-Kate's promised "fried chicken joint" has not only mysteriously moved but has now turned into a popular vegetarian hangout. He's troubled to discover that his hunger for flesh will not be satisfied - at least not at Mark's Kitchen, a Korean-American restaurant in Takoma Park that boasts a wide vegetarian selection. In a restaurant where almost half of the customers are herbivores, Armin is clearly out of his element.
Emily-Kate however, sits right down and without taking so much as a glance at the menu orders the usual - tofu fried rice and fried man doo dumplings. Armin looks around nervously, deciding which sounds more appetizing - the grilled tofu with bean sprouts or the spinach tofu cakes. He eventually settles on the tofu and avocado club, complete with grilled tofu, fake bacon and vegan cream cheese.
When the food arrives, Emily-Kate starts making her pitch.
"Did you know that according to http://www.vegsource.com, obesity is much less common in vegetarians?" Emily-Kate asks offhandedly.
"Are you calling me fat?" he asks.
"Oh, never mind," Emily-Kate says. "You heifer," she mumbles under her breath.
Emily-Kate delicately picks up a veggie dumpling with her chopstick, an olive branch of good will. Armin gladly accepts, although he still can't imagine going an entire lifetime without fried beef wontons, even if that lifetime is, according to Emily-Kate, an average of seven years longer. Armin wonders if it's worth it, eventually deciding that meat " potential heart attacks aside - is essential to his diet.
Armin decides that one good outing deserves another. He tells Emily-Kate that it's time to step into his realm in the most extreme way possible - at the local Outback Steakhouse.
Meet your meatChip's odd couple ends up at Outback Steakhouse, a favorite of Armin's. Emily-Kate soon learns that Outback's slogan - "no rules, just right" - does not apply to vegetarians.
Glancing at the menu, she is happy to find a salad section, yet a close examination of the salad menu reveals that each selection features chicken, steak, shrimp or - for the especially carnivorous - all three.
Emily-Kate beckons the help of the waitress, who further will be referred to as TFW (The Friendly Waitress).
TFW jots down Armin's choice, the seven-ounce tenderloin, but Emily-Kate is still unsure. She asks TFW if perhaps there is a vegetarian option on the menu that she overlooked in the fit of nausea brought on by the restaurant's ambient odor of roasting flesh.
TFW just stares back blankly.
Emily-Kate tries again. "A vegetarian entrée? Like one with no meat in it?" she says.
This time TFW has a response. "This is a steakhouse," she replies with a hint of impatience. "We have salad, rice, salad and soup," TFW, who will henceforth be known as TMW (The Mean Waitress), informs us.She's not only redundant, but wrong, thinks Emily-Kate crying deep down inside. Animals died to make every salad here.
TMW finally fesses up. "I'm just gonna be honest with you," she says. "Everything on the menu has meat in it," she admits.
"Even the vegetables?" Emily-Kate whimpers.
"Even the vegetables," TMW says, explaining that the vegetables may or may not be cooked in animal fat.
In a fit of sheer desperation Emily-Kate, red in the face and sweating green, orders just about every side on the menu, from the aussie chips to the bloomin' broccoli.
After the food arrives, Armin's seven ounces of steak has nearly disappeared from his plate, within a matter of seconds. Emily-Kate takes things a bit slower, what with the disconcerting possibility that her vegetables were sautéed in the leftovers of Armin's cow. After a few bites she can feel her stomach churn, and a mere six nibbles later Emily-Kate decides that she's had all the lard her vegetarian stomach can handle.TMW returns and asks if their meal was satisfactory.
"Perfect, just perfect," says a sarcastic Emily-Kate. Perfect if you want your arteries clogged before age 30. She flashes TMW a smile, and TMW asks if Emily-Kate would like any of her practically-untouched side orders boxed up.
Yeah, I could really use some cold lard in my lunch tomorrow, Emily-Kate thinks, imagining herself dancing on the rubble of a razed Outback Steakhouse.
"No thank you," Emily-Kate chokes out before turning to Armin. "I want to throw up," she tells him.
Armin shrugs his shoulders and takes his last bite of steak.
After a good night's sleep for Armin, and a long night of painful indigestion for Emily-Kate, the meat-eater and the vegetarian sit down together and reflect on being deep-fried in each other's respective worlds. Although Armin has learned that cream cheese can effectively be made without the aid of either cream or cheese, he still can't fathom wasting thousands of years of evolutionary domination for tasteless bean curd and faux bacon.
While Armin remains a carnivore, Emily-Kate realizes that it's not her duty to try to convert him. After all, meat-eaters and vegetarians are pretty much the same; one just has slightly less sympathy for the cows and sheep of the world, not to mention a lower risk for c-sections. Armin's a big boy, and if he wants to needlessly shear seven years off his life, then more power to him.
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