I’ve been vegetarian since the summer before 9th grade. Don’t most coming of age tales take place around that age? It’s a tale as old as time. No, I didn’t visit a slaughterhouse or watch a disgusting PETA video nor did I find a rat in my burger, though I do remember this one time at Venice Beach where a man had a stall set up with photos of maimed livestock and dogs. He also sold t-shirts with McShit using the golden arch from Micky D’s. I got to the point where the consumption of carcasses that were rotting and hanging out in cans, on beds of ice, and in freezers in supermarkets and restaurants across the world did not appeal to me. While studying abroad in Chile and backpacking across South America, I decided to adapt as people invited me to their homes for meals and veggie options became scarce. I also made a point to learn how to cook for myself using fresh vegetables from the street markets. As many people are won’t to hustle in any big city, I was surprised to find vegetarian empanadas, veggie burgers, and soy milanesas sold on the streets, outside my university, and in parks everywhere. Anthony Bourdain, eat your heart out.
As Fall slowly drifts over Los Angeles with crunchy leaves, the Santa Anas, and all kinds of pumpkin spice foolishness, nothing gets rid of the shivers or calms a hangover like a nice big bowl of menudo. I found this vegan menudo recipe from Chanfles, where he also includes a little bit about the triumphs and tribulations of being a vegetarian Chicano. His recipe is good, but I totally ignored the part about cilantro, which resulted in a slightly bland broth that became slightly more flavorful the next day. Other than that, things turned out ok and no houses were burned down. As a kid, I was always grossed out by the pork guts that go into menudo, so for me, the hominy has always been the star of the show. Not wanting to veer too far from tradition however, I achieved the gooey, slimy feel of pork by adding tofu. Don’t forget the fixins like onion, cilantro, and lemon.
Also, my favorite cooking music: