March 26, 2019

Dear Diary,

Like every good, soon-to-be liberal arts college coed, I have gone vegetarian. No more McDonald’s chicken nuggets. No more Five Guys burgers with bacon and grilled onions. No more Hannaford’s salt and vinegar wings. Given my mom’s status as a food and sustainability writer, she’ll be happy about that facet of my plan.

I’m not making this decision out of guilt – I’m focusing on sustainability for my future’s sake. I’ve read that one calorie of conventionally raised animal protein takes ten times the energy to produce than it takes to grow one calorie of plant protein. The numbers are less, of course, if we’re talking about pasture-raised animal proteins. But I’ve been convinced by Samira Kazan’s Instagram feed (@alphafoodie) that this is the right path for me.

I’ll use this diary, plus a picture of a cute baby pig set as my phone background, to keep me accountable. I tell my parents tomorrow – wish me luck!

Peace out,

Eliza

March 27, 2019

Dear Diary,

That did not go well. Dad choked on his pork ribs and spilled a bottle of BBQ sauce as he ran from the room in disbelief. We still haven’t figured out how to remove the reddish-brown stains from the couch cushion where he sets his meat-heavy dinner plate on Friday family movie nights. It’s a constant reminder of our new meat schism.

Mom cried, but we were watching a Nicholas Sparks movie. She gets emotional about Ryan Gosling, and the rain, and Ryan Gosling in the rain.

Hopefully, they’ll come around. But I don’t hold out much hope that they decide to join me.

Veggie-powered and feeling fine,

Eliza

Andy offers Eliza bacon-wrapped tofu for lunch. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

March 28, 2019

Dear Diary,

Dad is THE worst. He walked around the house with a bucket of fried chicken so that every room would smell of sizzling grease and crispy skin. What a power move!! Maybe I should have anticipated this behavior from a man who studies presidential authority for a living. But he WILL NOT corrupt my resolve. Vegetarian, or die! Well, maybe I wouldn’t die for the cause, but I’m willing to get a little peckish.

Mom is attempting to be supportive. She’s modifying my favorite Vietnamese larb gai salad with locally sourced tempeh. I’m a little dubious, but also desperate for protein that does not come in an eggshell.

Toodles,

Eliza

March 29, 2019

Dear Diary,

Mom’s larb was killer. Although I did catch Dad trying to sprinkle bacon bits onto my portion. Bacon is a major temptation and Dad knows it, considering he offered me bacon-wrapped tofu for lunch. Staring at the little piggy who was not going to market on my account kept me in line.

Sleep tight knowing no animals died for me today,

Eliza

March 31, 2019

Dear Diary,

I dreamed of a crispy chicken sandwich last night, covered with pickles and sriracha mayonnaise and served with a side of fries. I almost threw in the leafy towel right then and there, but crunchy dried chickpeas at midnight saved the day.

Given the temptations around me, I remind myself why I am a vegetarian. It’s not a ploy to lose weight for my bikini or achieve peak hipster status. It’s a more sustainable lifestyle without sacrificing quality of life. I still eat delicious, satisfying food, just not animal proteins whose conventional cultivation, transport and packaging account for a hefty chunk of carbon emissions. Vegetarianism, plus buying my clothes secondhand and remembering to keep my reusable water bottle on hand, are ways for me to make a difference in my little corner of the world.

Little steps add up,

Eliza

April 1, 2019

Dear Diary,

Even though Dad is not on board, I’m fully enjoying my vegetarian ways with a little help from my mom, who seems to get it. I think she even likes having a little less meat around, although she does keep dropping the “pescatarian” word whenever she can and pointing out all the things around me that hinge on healthy fishing (and farming) industry.

Oh jeez, I gotta go. Dad’s grilling steaks at the bottom of the stairs again, hoping to tempt me out from my room with the smell. I need to stop him before he burns the house down.

Happily (and vegetarian-ly) yours,

Eliza

EDITOR’S NOTE: While the writer’s efforts to eat more sustainably by eliminating meat from her diet are real, as are her dad’s omnivore ways, the story of him pushing meat on his daughter is merely the family’s annual April Fool’s Day tall tale.

Christine Burns Rudalevige’s modified Vietnamese larb gai salad with locally sourced tempeh. No fish. Yet.

CHICKEN OR TEMPEH LARB

This has always been a family favorite regardless of the protein in play. If you don’t have makrut lime leaves (found frozen in most Asian groceries), substitute 1/4 teaspoon lime zest. This dish has quite a bit of sauce, so my mom typically rounds out the meal with sticky rice to soak it up.

Serves 2-4, depending on how hungry they are

2/3 cup fresh lime juice

1/3 cup Vietnamese fish sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons Asian chili-garlic sauce

3/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth

1 pound crumbled tempeh or ground chicken

1 cup thinly sliced scallions

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onions

3 tablespoons finely minced lemongrass

2-3 makrut lime leaves, finely minced

1 tablespoon thinly sliced Thai or serrano chilies

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves

Salt and pepper

Sliced cucumbers

2 small heads Boston lettuce, separated into leaves

Eliza Rudalevige’s dad, Andy, tries to sprinkle bacon bits on her mom’s modified Vietnamese larb gai salad with locally-sourced tempeh. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Whisk the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and garlic chili sauce in medium bowl and set aside.

Bring the broth to a simmer in a heavy, large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken or tempeh, breaking it up with a spoon as it simmers. The tempeh will take only 3 minutes to warm, while the chicken needs about 8 minutes to cook through. Add the scallions, red onion, lemongrass, lime leaves and chilies. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender and most of liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in lime juice–fish sauce mixture, cilantro and mint. Season with salt and pepper. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.

Spoon into lettuce leaves, garnish with sliced cucumber and serve.

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