Sunday, June 12, 2011

Days Twenty-Five & Twenty-Six Part 2: Eating in Iowa

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Any vegetarian, or budget traveler for that matter, backpacking in Europe knows that if you want a decent meal for not so much money, you find the Hare Krishnas. They aren't hard to find; they usually find you. You eat their food, decline their other offers of circle chants and head shaving parties, and voila! You're back in action.

What I've learned more recently is that if you are a vegetarian or a budget traveler road tripping in the Midwest, you follow the university students. May I introduce Ritual Cafe in Des Moines and the Red Avocado in Iowa City. Oh, but don't go running to the pork farmers – I'm sure those crazy kids are just in an “experimental phase.”


Before we left Walnut, Iowa, we were treated to a free continental breakfast where Isaac eyed the Fruit Loops with the little grin that he uses when he knows something is off limits but he'd going to try anyway. I cupped my hand under the dispenser and pulled the lever gently. “Here,” I said, handing him the colored sugar Os, “This is your lifetime allotment of Fruit Loops. Enjoy.”

Looking ahead to Annawan, Illinois – where we bailed to a hotel because the state park we wanted to camp in was 90 degrees and 85 percent humidity at 9 pm – we'd enjoy things like the Annawan “salad bar” that included, in fact, many salads: tuna salad, macaroni salad, bean salad, potato salad, jello salad... Then there were the “fried cheeseballs” which in desperation we ordered from the menu and Isaac wouldn't touch (bless his little California heart). Have these people even heard of leaves?

But before all of that, there was also this...

I got one for ya. No, no, listen. Okay, here goes – a pork farmer and a vegetarian walk into a bar. Pork farmer says...

We were at Glenn's Pub in Walnut, our one and only choice of eating establishment, ordering homemade pizza from the owner, whose name, naturally, was Jerry. “And I'll have a beer,” Mike says. “Bud Light?” says Jerry shooting my husband with his finger gun. It is not a question. Mike stumbles momentarily, “Uh, I...Sure. Bud Light.”
We were pretty much exhausted; we wanted to eat and crash. But the three locals sitting behind Bud Lights at the bar would not let the foreigners off easy. You see, it had come to their attention that we had not ordered any meat toppings on our pizza.

“You ain't veg-e-tar-ians, are you?”

I thought about shouting “Boo!” and seeing if that'd take care of it. These were (GMO) corn-fed Iowans, though, better go for the big guns. Hocus-pocus vegetable stew, bring me some wheat grass or I'll infect you!

The next 30 minutes of my life were dedicated to trying not to ask my pork farmer friend if he enjoyed ramming his fist up pigs' asses. “Wull, whyyy are you a ve-ge-tar-ian?” He'd ask again every so often. But mostly he talked. And talked. Punctuated by the always good for a punchline phrase, “What you hear in the (Ed.'s note: bleeding heart liberal) media is bullshit! It's bullshit!”

Look, I don't preach and I don't pry. Eat whatever the hell you want to. I sit across from friends eating meat all the time. What had I done to deserve this??

“One of my best friends is from Iowa and she still talks to me,” I tell him, desperate for peace.

“Yeah, but not much.”

“What would you do if your granddaughter married a vegetarian?” I ask.

“It'd be okay with me. I just wouldn't pay for the wedding.”

May she marry a vegan.



2 comments:

Daryl said...

They are the reason my husband always tells me not to answer when asked why I dont eat meat .. tho I did once tell an annoying asshat that I was allergic to meat .. that shut him up long enough for me to get what I ordered and leave ..

ruby said...

isn't it strange that people respond more emotionally to food differences than to religion or politics? pork farmers i understand, because their livelihood is involved. but your average omnivore can react with robust hostility. weird.

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