Preaching to the Converted

It was one of my proudest moments as a cook. The night I converted two vegetarians.

It was a warm summer evening at our home in West Los Angeles, a few years back. We were hosting some out of town guests — my dear friend Paul, who will eat anything, and an up-and-coming chick songwriter from the south who had just performed at a crunchy music festival up in Santa Barbara. Our other dear friend, Heather, was in attendance.

I was cooking a cochinita pibil — a pork specialty of the Yucatan in Mexico. (I’ve put a recipe in the Recipe section if you wanna cook it too.) Heather and the up-and-coming chick songwriter whose name escapes me were vegetarians and skinny yoga students. So I made them some quinoa. They were happily sipping their fruity white wines and talking asanas when the pork, which had been marinating in orange juice and achiote paste for a day and slow cooking for five hours, emerged from the oven. The scent was seductive. I paraded the earthenware dish of banana-leaf wrapped pork through the house to the table, where there were flour tortillas and red onion salsa awaiting it. One by one, the heads in the room rose up like predators catching a scent of their prey — primal looks on every face, including those of the vegetarians. “What… what is that??” the up-and-coming songwriter said almost guiltily, as if she already knew and felt remorse even being interested enough to ask. “Cochinita pibil,” I said. “Oh, and I’ve got some quinoa and steamed vegetables for you guys.”

We all sat, the carnivores spooning the fork-tender meat and its juices into tortillas with the salsa, and moaning with an almost sexual satisfaction with each bite. Heather was the first of the vegetarians to fold. “Well, I guess I could try a little taste of it,” she said and she shoved the quinoa aside and dug in. “Oh, you’re going to try it?” said the up-and-coming songwriter, “Well, I suppose a little bit wouldn’t hurt.” And soon they had joined the wordless chorus of mastication and lip-smacking. They ate more than any of the rest of us! It’s as if they were catching up for all those years they’d been trying to fill up on quinoa and tempeh.

Heather came to dinner last night with her brother and his family from Minnesota. “Y’all being from Minnesota, I trust we’re not going to have any vegetarian or wheat free kind of issues?” I said. They smiled and nodded. I told them the story of Heather’s conversion all those years before. And then I served a Tuscan-style grilled rib-eye on the bone. (See Recipes). Who do you suppose ate the most?

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: And to Think It All Began with a Pan | skinny girls & mayonnaise

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