We will soon be in mid-summer – time for hamburgers and hot dogs on the Fourth of July.
But what about festivities with vegetarians? Five percent of Americans identify themselves as vegetarians, so there is a good chance you may have a few in your family.
The vegetarian question has more meaning in 2020 than any other year in the past. With coronavirus spreading through American meatpacking plants there has been concern about shortages of meat on the grocery shelves and the rising prices of meat. Add to that a certain amount of pressure to raise fewer animals for meat, dairy and eggs because the animals increase greenhouse gasses that are a factor in climate change. One author, writing in the New York Times, has reported, “The end of meat is here.”
In our family we have two couples who are vegetarians. One has a girl almost 4 years old who has never tasted bacon. But I won’t release any names to prevent charges against the parents.
We probably won’t see either couple for the Fourth of July because of social distancing, but we’ve had them for holidays in the past.
But before I write one more word about our vegetarians, let me clarify my position. I respect vegetarians. Most them follow that practice for one of two reasons: to have a healthier diet, lower in fats and higher in fiber (to reduce heart disease, obesity and cancer); and for the ethical reason of reducing cruelty to animals. The side benefits are losing weight and keeping it off, reducing medical costs, slowing aging, living longer and reducing global warming.
But the issue I want to deal with today is preparing meals for a large family when some of them are vegetarians. In our family, the vegetarians prepare and bring some of their own dishes. They can do more with rice and beans than most of us can imagine. They have some very creative and tasty concoctions.
And the fast food business is catching on. We can now get burgers with no meat, made of all vegetable ingredients. I’ve had a bite of one and it left me disappointed, but I can imagine it might become an acquired taste. And science has gotten into the act with meat-tasting products that don’t contain meat.
When we make baked beans for the entire family, including vegetarians, there is no bacon. It is not quite as tasty, but still delicious. We also have a delicious wild rice casserole that would normally have bacon and probably contain beef stock, but bacon is out and vegetable stock is used instead of meat stock. Same for soup. But we still have turkey for Thanksgiving and probably have ham at Christmas and the veggie group brings their own main dish.
But hot dogs on the Fourth of July have always been genuine hot dogs, even through vegetarian hot dogs are now on the market. The casings aren’t made of intestines, but cellulose or other plant-based ingredients and the filling is usually based on some sort of soy protein, wheat gluten or pea protein.
Will vegetarian hot dogs be eaten on the Fourth of July? If so, only sparingly.
But, to take it a step further, I call your attention to the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest held every year on the Fourth of July on Coney Island, N.Y. The contest is to see who can eat the most hot dogs in 10 minutes. Nearly every year the contest is won by Joey Chestnut. He set a record by eating 74 in 2018 in 91-degree heat.
The contestants train in different ways by fasting, a liquid only diet or in one case by meditation, drinking water and eating cabbage. Don’t ask me to explain. One of the leading methods of actually getting the dogs down is the "Solomon method" where the weiner is broken in half, then both halves are eaten at once and the bun stuffed in at the end.
Nathan’s hot dogs are all beef so there will be no vegetarian hot dogs in the Fourth of July contest. My wish for you is that you have about a half dozen of the genuine articles on the fourth.