I’ve just finished two very productive days of a photoshoot for work. On my way out yesterday morning I grabbed, on impulse, a pile of 1960s-era food-company sponsored recipe pamphlets and booklets that I had out because they had been with something else I pulled down to refer to the other day. These would be fun for us to flip through during the shoot, I thought.

Well. Chalk one up for The Joys of Jell-O, Fourth Edition.

A batch of food professionals can actually talk about food nine hours a day for two days in a row without much trouble, so it’s not as if we needed fodder for conversation. However, one of our number pounced on this book and took a good steady browse through it. We were amused by a number of the photographs of the Jell-O concoctions, but I can hardly do justice to the hysterics on our examination of this recipe for Barbecue Cubes, which was unanimously selected as the winner of Worst Recipe.

Now remember, we were taking food shots during this session, which are style-dependent, and it is entirely possible that someone might look at the work we did this week and laugh at it forty years hence, but this photograph has a spatula with a brownie-sized Barbecue Cube (Barbecube to its friends) descending into a salad of ingredients unidentifiable except for the picture’s caption, and do any of you want to eat that, knowing that it’s described as a Barbecue Cube, not knowing yet what its constituent parts are?

It turns out that it’s basically very stiff tomato aspic – for those of you who aren’t old enough to remember or are not collectors of old cookbooks, think of tomato-sauce based Jell-O Jigglers with vinegar and perhaps onion juice, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, or prepared horseradish.

Then try to put that thought out of your head as quickly as possible, before you accidentally taste it in your mind’s eye.

The barbecue cubes are made with Jell-O Salad Gelatin (any flavor). We were able to discover, through close reading of the salad section, that Jell-O Salad Gelatin was available in celery, mixed vegetable, and Italian flavors. For some reason, none of us could recall seeing that product on store shelves.

Click through for the big version, with the recipe for Barbecue Cubes, as well as Barbecue Cheese Cracker Pie (Serve as an appetizer with sea food, if desired) and Chicken Salad Surprise. (What’s the surprise? I’m not sure, but it must be one of these listed ingredients: lemon Jell-O, garlic salt, onion, mayo, pecans, chicken, celery, olives, pineapple…should I stop? I should probably stop.)

A tip of the hat to James Lileks, of course.

Kinds of Vegetarians

I was reading The Vegan Lunch Box the other day and feeling grouchier and grouchier the more I read. I suppose I was thinking if I didn’t work outside the home I could make time for that level of lunch-involvement for my offspring, if I had any, but then I realized that it wasn’t just the fussiness of the food and the fact that she calls her kid “Little Schmoo” that was getting to me. It was that she was showing behavior that I think of as typical of a Compensating Vegetarian – actually a Compensating Vegan – and I’m not that type.

There are a lot of different kinds of vegetarians. Sure, there are those who eat eggs and those who think eggs are somehow not really vegetarian but have never been able to say exactly why. Beyond the what-do-you-put-in delineations of ovo-lacto, lacto, and vegan and the why-do-you-do-it categories of health, ecology, animal rights and plain old distaste for flesh, there are further distinctions.

Before we go any further, please note that the following type descriptions are intended in a spirit of humor and fun, and that I have immense respect for other vegetarians, no matter how they go at their diets. We can all get A Bit Serious about it sometimes – so if you recognize yourself below (I am here in several guises) please don’t get too bent out of shape. We’re all doing something good for the planet and the animals, folks, and we have to laugh among ourselves at our perceived neuroticisms a little bit because goodness knows the rest of the world thinks we’re nuts.

Compensating Vegetarians are the ones who feel compelled to make food that is as similar to meat-containing food as possible. These people keep the food scientists that work on meat and cheese analogues in business, and have no fear of the sodium level in packaged foods and no discomfort with putting an enormous amount of their food budget and caloric consumption toward plastic-wrapped substances that have TVP as the primary ingredient. They love technology…food technology.

A Compensating Vegan might make a ham and cheese croissant (note homemade croissant made with trans-fat free margarine, ye gods, if I had the time and energy…) with fake cheese and fake ham and maybe even fake mayonnaise (at least the pickle you might have on the side can be real).

It’s just like the real stuff! they’ll insist. They feel they can’t have it look as if they’re missing out on the meat-eating experience because if so, meat-eaters will mock their food. They have a need to conform that battles mightily with their dietary preference. A fake-everything sandwich helps them avoid sticking out and having their food or themselves labeled as different or – heaven forbid – weird.

Is it weird to want to eat a sandwich in which all of the ingredients are ersatz? I sort of think so. Why not enjoy the natural vegetable foods available for what they are and close to the forms they take? Why do they need to be like something else?

There are other vegetarian subtypes.

Continue reading “Kinds of Vegetarians”