I’m by far the least vegetarian of any vegetarian I know.
For starters, I occasionally eat fish. This means that the correct term for my dietary preference is actually “pescetarian.” This is a term that I refuse to use because it sounds obnoxiously pretentious. You would judge me if I walked into Book Trader and asked which of the day’s soups were pescetarian. I would judge myself.
If I can’t see the meat, it’s not there. If I can see it and remove it, it was never there. Last Friday night at Chabad, I found a delightful bowl of matzoh ball soup in front of me. Then I saw pieces of something other than matzoh ball floating in it. I scooped them up. Chicken. Thankfully, a carnivorous friend offered my poultry chunks refuge in her bowl. I happily ingested the remainder of my soup, assuring myself that the stock was made of things that grow in the ground. Self-deception is such a wonderful tool.
Worst of all, I make exceptions. Since declaring myself a vegetarian at the beginning of last summer — admittedly because I thought I would eat healthier, though the moral arguments I’ve heard since have been a nice pat on the back — I’ve consciously broken my vow four times. The first was during Camp Yale, when I was still a newbie and succumbed to the powers of a late-night Wenzel. (I’ve since successfully transitioned to the eggplant variety.)
My second act of disobedience was a bit more predictable: Thanksgiving. Though the meat became less desirable after my parents named our turkey “iTurkey” — some homage to Steve Jobs whose implications I still can’t wrap my head around — it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a bird. I limited myself to a small piece. No seconds. No leftovers.
My third transgression came over winter break when I was travelling with my family in Thailand and was made aware of the fact that a certain beef dish at the hotel restaurant was something along the lines of “the best in the world.” The gullible tourist in me ate this endorsement right up, along with one bite of a pretty good, but certainly not life-changing, beef. No one in America would ever know.
I blame America for my fourth, and most recent, instance of misbehavior. More specifically, I blame New Haven. Allegedly (according to Wikipedia), the hamburger was invented in New Haven in 1900 at a little brick building called Louis’ Lunch. I could not leave New Haven without indulging in the historically significant ritual of lunch at Louis’. And though I joked on my way over that I would limit myself to the potato salad, there was no doubt in my mind as I entered the little red door on Crown Street that there would be meat with my potatoes.
If I were going to start a Bucket List therapy group, I would hold it in Louis’ Lunch. When I tell friends that I am going to make a trip to Louis’, most respond with something along the lines of “Oh, I’ve been meaning to go!” I end up there with two friends — a senior and a junior (precocious!) — who are also first-timers. After navigating through the French tourists, I see another senior friend sitting in a window booth. He too is on a senior spring-provoked excursion. He has no shame; he took a picture outside.
The potato salad does little more than help me pass the time as I wait for my burger, which I get with tomatoes and onions. I’m a little wary of the sign above the counter that says, “All Burgers are Cooked Medium Rare. If You Would Like Yours Well Done. Please Tell Us Prior to Cooking …” In my carnivorous days I was always a medium-well kind of girl. But when a lapsed vegetarian at Louis’ …
The medium-rare is worth it. The meat is perfectly pink and juicy, melting onto the bun toast. The tomato adds a hint of freshness; the warm onions, just enough sweetness. Together, they truly do cancel out the need for ketchup (writes someone who can’t even eat eggs without gobs of Heinz). I savor every bite, in part because it is really that good and in part because I know that, if all goes according to plan, I won’t be eating cows for the foreseeable future.
So, seniors, if you haven’t already, go get yourself a burger. If you’re a real vegetarian, I can send you a picture. I was too embarrassed to snap one outside, but I did sneak one of my fourth — and hopefully final — piece of exceptional meat.
Zara Kessler is a senior in Ezra Stiles College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.