Smoke wafts from the charcoal grill so thick you can smell it down the block. Some guy, who proudly goes by “Grill Master” or another honorary title, wields a shiny spatula like Tiger Woods wields a nine iron, or his dick (I know, T.W. jokes are as overplayed as “Bad Romance”). Anyway, back to the Grill Master: His chest is puffed as he assumes his crucial position, always eying the grill, and his metal spatula glints under the bright sun. The freshly mowed grass bends beneath many sandaled feet. Music plays from a sleek iTravelTubeThingy. It’s probably that goddamn Lady Gaga. Partygoers’ hands grip cold beer and empty paper plates like thin full moons, awaiting the burger or hot dog. The buns, those starch white dresses, look so lonely on the plastic table beside the grill. Their only hope is to be filled with juicy meat. (Insert your own inappropriate joke here. I will not do it for you.)
“Burger, dog, or chicken wing?” Grill Master yells toward you, flipping the meat like a Top Chef finalist. BBQ sauce cakes the air and you salivate a little, you Pavlovian dog.
“Oh, I’m a vegetarian,” you say.
A hush falls over the backyard. Some guests crane their necks around to see who’s intruded on the fabulous flesh feast. Your friends are suddenly embarrassed. Don’t be surprised if they gradually inch away from you.
The Grill Master is at a loss for words. How dare you come into his kingdom and not taste his meat? (Oh, this is just too easy.)
You can’t say you’d hoped there’d be cucumber-dill sandwiches, so you mutter sheepishly, “Don’t worry, I already ate. (Though you haven’t.) And there are Doritos! Mmm.” Be sure to act extra enthused about the Doritos. Grab a big handful, spill crumbs and stain your fingertips with the chemical seasoning. Omnivores like it when vegetarians can at least accept junk food. Consider Doritos to be the olive branch.
It’s strange to me that vegetarians get that awkward pause after stating their dietary preference, like people don’t know the benefits of going meatless. Many people claim “I love steak too much. And those soy burgers are nasty.” I used to love steak; prime rib to be exact. But after not eating meat for a couple years, I don’t miss it at all. It’s just like when I quit drinking soda in 8th grade; after a while, your taste buds and tummy adapts to other things. Now I can only drink the fizzy syrup with rum. (Hey, I choose my poisons).
I’m not trying to convert people to vegetarianism. (But if I buy you a beer, will you consider reducing your meat intake once a day?) And I’m no devout V-girl: Every four months or so I’ll order coconut shrimp if there’s nothing else on a menu and can’t pay $8 for a house salad, or if my parents cook me homemade chicken noodle soup in the winter. A friend saw me eating a portabella mushroom sandwich yesterday and joked, “You need more protein.” That’s the response everyone parrots, even though I can get healthier protein from almonds, spinach and edamame. I laugh politely at the jokes, burn inside, and take a huge, delicious bite.