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Oddchester: Pass the tofu

This month marks one and a half years since the dinner at which daughter Emma, then 6, made the thoughtful and conscientious decision to become vegetarian.

She made the decision, possibly, based on her sensibilities regarding factory farm conditions or health concerns over red meat intake or the bigger belief in some universal morality regarding the treatment of living creatures.

Or, more likely, it was based on the fact that she was eating a"drumstick," and realized at that moment that the term "drumstick" isactually adult-speak for "area between a chicken's knee and ankle."

Like many things our kids get into, wife Lindy and I hoped Emma's vegetarianism would last a day or two, tops. Eighteen months later, Emma has still not eaten meat or fish, even when faced with special occasions at Outback, or the smell of bacon at our weekly breakfast-for-dinner dinner, or the time I made ribs.

When it comes to healthy eating, Emma does not get her willpower from me.


Four years ago, while doing a story for Rochester Magazine, I attempted to go vegan for a week.

Vegan is like vegetarian's stricter, more serious sister, especially if that sister yelled at you for eating honey.

Vegetarian means no meat.

Vegan means no meat and no animal byproducts. No eggs or honey. No normal bread. No dairy (milk or cheese or chocolate or, for god's sake, butter).

Oh, and no Gummi bears, since they they contain gelatin, which is apparently made from the "bones and hooves of horses and cows." Also, because they're shaped like bears.

Here is a look back at the worst week of my life, at least food-wise.

Day One

Lindy buys a copy of "The Kind Diet," a vegan cookbook written by Alicia Silverstone. I have, apparently, entrusted my health to the actress who starred with Liv Tyler in that one Aerosmith video.


12:55 p.m.: First vegan meal: Lunch of an Oat Pecan Burger, pita chips and flavored water from The Good Food Store.

6:13 p.m.: First vegan dinner: Chipotle. Burrito Bol with black beans, fajita veggies, rice. No cheese or sour cream. I can do this.

Day Two

8:22 a.m.: My wife hands me a brown bag lunch as I leave for work. "What did you possibly make?" I ask.

"Why? You're not still doing the vegan thing, are you?" she asks.

"It's for a full week. It's only been one day."

"I just never thought you'd make it this long," she says, then rummages through the kitchen for something vegan.

12:44 p.m.: Open lunch bag. Two bananas, Wheat Thins, peanut butter.


5:55 p.m.: White rice and stir fry with tofu sliced into tiny chunks. Lindy vows to add stir fry to our regular dinner rotation. I hope the stir fry replaces Giant Salad Night.

Day Three

12:44 p.m.: Open lunch bag. Two bananas, Wheat Thins, peanut butter.

6:23 p.m.: Giant Salad Night.

Day Four

12:05 p.m.: Lunch at McGoon's Restaurant. I get the spinach walnut salad with no feta cheese and the vinaigrette dressing. And I can't have the roll. My stomach, filled with salad, starts to sound weird.

7:02 p.m.: I'm running late for my weekly poker game, and haven't eaten dinner. Stop at Wendy's and order a baked potato with nothing on it. Nothing. And a Coke. Possibly one of my worst dinners ever. And one summer, for a story on surviving in the north woods, I ate a dinner that consisted of nothing but fiddlehead ferns.

Day Five


3:05 a.m. (guesstimate): I dream about ham. I can't go into detail, but it's borderline inappropriate.

Day Six

12:47 p.m.: Day trip to Stillwater. The kids want to eat at Leo's Grill &Malt Shop. Here's the only thing I can order: "Fruit Plate: Fresh fruit served with a muffin." I can't have the muffin.

12:48 p.m.: Lindy orders the Philly Cheese Steak. I glare at her, as if to say "If you truly loved me, if we were truly soulmates, you would go through this experience with me, side-by-side, every vegan bite of the way." Also, to make my point crystal clear, I say that out loud.

"It wasn't like you stopped drinking beer when I was pregnant," she says, shrugging.

"You apparently don't know this," I yell, "but I didn't drink as much as I normally would!"

6:55 p.m.: Dinner at Smalley's Caribbean Barbecue in Stillwater. Technically, I have one more vegan meal left to complete the week, so I order the half slab of ribs and the coal-roasted pork shoulder and a baked potato with cheese and bacon, in order to get the taste of that plain potato out of my head.

Steve Lange is the editor of Rochester Magazine. His column appears every Tuesday.

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