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By Jason Offutt
The menu at Texas Land and Cattle Restaurant in Arlington, Texas, is as you’d expect. It offers ribeye, filet mignon, smoked sirloin, bacon-wrapped sirloin, steak soup, and steak ice cream.
Although I made that last one up, I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was listed as a dessert right next to the steak and potato layer cake (also made up).
There were a lot more beef-related selections on the menu, but I was concerned about one item that wasn’t there. Vegetables.
“What can I get you, hun?” the waitress said in that pleasant Texas way that makes you feel at home.
“Could I get the spicy Caesar salad?” I asked.
“Sure. What else would you like?”
“Could you just make the salad, really, really big?” I said. It was Texas, after all.
By ordering a vegetarian meal in this state, I was treading on dangerous ground. In Texas you’re considered a vegetarian if your diet is limited to eating herbivores. To be considered a Texan, I think you have to eat something that, if given a chance, would eat you back. And all I was going to eat was defenseless leafy vegetables. I hope nobody noticed.
The waitress smiled, nodded and took my wife’s order. My wife requested a steak smothered in shrimp and quite possibly a different cut of steak.
I haven’t eaten meat for three and a half months and, although I was at a restaurant that specialized in my all-time favourite food – dead cow – I wasn’t going to start.
My new eating habits happened quite by accident. After watching a “this is where food comes from” documentary, coupled with my wife’s quest for our family to only eat healthy, natural foods, we stopped buying meat raised on factory farms. What happened in the video to get this life-long steak eater to swear off meat? You don’t want to know. Seriously, you don’t. However, since then I’ve lost 13 pounds.
Yeah, 13 pounds.
I grew up on a family farm where each meal was filled with animals we raised (and gave names to), and many wild things we shot and killed (and gave names to their trophy heads). Then in my 40s I started to have a hard time seeing my shoes.
Now my pants are loose. When it comes to age and weight loss, people will do some amazingly crazy things to drop a few pounds, like eating healthy food.
The spicy Caesar salad at Texas Land and Cattle was, luckily for me, delicious. I’m a bit amazed how many options there are for vegetarians (in every place I’ve been except Texas). The variety of foods is astounding, and I’m not going hungry. I’m also not being preachy. The only thing worse than a preachy vegetarian is a preachy vegan, because they’re from Venus, or something.
From the accidental onset of this condition, I’ve viewed my vegetarianism as just something to try, like exercise and buying a stationary bike. One day (after dropping at least 25 pounds), I’ll look at my dusty vegetarianism sitting in the corner next to my bike with clothes hanging off it and go eat a hamburger.
And it will be good. I’ll expect a “welcome home” card from every one of you.
Jason Offutt’s column has been in continuous publication since 1998 appearing in newspapers and magazines across the United States. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheJasonOffutt.