Before I took up with a vegetarian, I had no idea how meat-centric Americans are, Southerners in particular. While I’ll never be one to turn down fried chicken in lieu of mashed chickpeas, I do find myself wishing that more restaurants would consider herbivores when menu planning, if only to increase my date-night dining options. There’s only so much Thai food a girl can eat.
And if it’s tough finding veggie choices in Seattle, Lord knows how scarce they are in Mississippi. Last time I checked, the hippie food options at Kroger were 1. Two types of tofu 2. A few cartons of soy milk and 3. Some vegan cheese-like substance. Yum!
Don’t get me wrong, you’ll find plenty of vegetables choices in Southern restaurants (mac and cheese being one of the most popular). But most likely, these veggies are flavored with one of Southern folks’ favorite spices: pig. They will also be so overcooked that they no longer resemble a vegetable in any way, but that’s a whole other story…
Our secret ingredient in baked beans? Bacon. Black-eyed peas? Ham hocks (also known as “pig legs”). Collard greens? Bacon grease. These days, potatoes are mostly fried in vegetable oil, but you never know when the deep fat fryer is full of lard.
Even if a vegetarian successfully dodges the hidden meat in a Southern meal, he’s not home free come dessert time. What’s that lurking in the pie crust, cookies, frosting? Lard. It’s so versatile!
I don’t want to scare y’all into thinking that every food you encounter in the South is fork-deep in pig fat. Much of it is not. Just steer clear of entrees, vegetables, salads, appetizers, and desserts and you should do fine. I’ve never once heard of meat-tainted sweet tea. So drink up!
p.s. If you want to experience the ultimate sweet/salty, meat/vegetable Southern delicacy, make yourself some green bean bundles. This recipe is pretty much the same as mine, though the soy sauce is a new addition. I HIGHly recommend lining your baking dish with tin foil, unless you want pyrex soaking in your sink for a week. And whatever you do, don’t try to healthy up the recipe with turkey bacon, splenda, and light margarine. Unless you want the villagers coming after you with torches.
What’s your favorite meat-flavored vegetable dish?