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Pass the Bacon Bits

Spring in the Hudson Valley is a time of great hope and promise. First, there’s that cold day in late March where the windy rain turns to sleet. You hope it’s the last gasp of Winter. Soon after, there’s the promise of a warm April day. The day after that, those pansies you planted against the advice of the nursery assistant freeze to death on your patio. You hope that you can soon move to a tropical island. It goes like that.

Today I worked in the garden, mulching a patch of ground where I’m planning a wildflower garden. While I was working, I spotted my cat. He was crouched in the underbrush about to pounce on some tiny defenceless vermin. Hi Tux! I called cheerily. He gave me an evil look, the so-called Glance of Death, which he reserves for times when I am being a particularly aggravating human. I hoped that his brief lapse of attention allowed his prey to scamper home to its vermin family.

While gardening, I was listening to a podcast by my friend Ken Cook. Ken is founder of Environmental Working Group, and his podcast Ken Cook is Having Another Episode features interviews with friends of his such as Erin Brokovich and Moby. Ken is also friends with Michelle Pfeiffer. And, of course, with me. We used to ride road bikes together in Marin County. We had an ongoing argument about who had more stamina on the giant hills. Now I live in upstate New York, so Ken no longer has to eat my dust.

Moby is a longtime vegan, and Ken himself embraced vegetarianism after a flight during which he watched a movie about how animals are raised to be killed and eaten by humans. I’ve flirted with vegetarianism more than once in my life, but I’m not sure I’ve ever really embraced it. This is largely because of bacon. And fish. Similarly, even if I wanted to, it would be impossible for me to become a vegan, and that would be because of Dubliner cheese.

After listening to Ken’s interview with Moby and Andrew Zimmern, I decided to once again become flirtatious with giving up meat. I haven’t eaten much red meat for years, so how big of a deal could it be to cut out poultry and seafood? Ok, just poultry. I could be a pescatarian, the kind who only eats fish that actively want to be part of a crab enchilada? Not that big of a deal.

So I go shopping with my new vegetarian shopping list. It’s so much simpler to shop when you’re plant-based. If you also discount nonfood items such as chips, sodas, and cookies, there are whole aisles of the grocery store you can happily breeze by. But I got waylaid in the freezer section. I was looking for my favorite instant broccoli and cheese pasta. And there it was, buried in the ingredients: bacon bits!

Why? Why must they torment vegetarians like this?

Another tough thing about being a vegetarian, apart from being forced by your moral compass to renounce bacon, is that you might think your grocery bill would be a lot cheaper. Yet it is not. This is because of things like cheese and organic berries and even rice. Rice! Long considered the cardboard of foods, something you could make almost an entire meal out of for fourpence, specialty rices now come in shapely plastic containers that cost about nine bucks.

But I’m happy in my new resolve, even though it’s tricky because I live in a household of meat lovers. And I have to eat chicken tonight because a visitor is cooking us a special chicken dish. She has labored over this dish all afternoon. I feel it would be churlish to tell her that starting today I’m embracing a plant-based diet.

My vegetarian diet will feature lots of cheese sandwiches. It always has before, and I see no reason to go off the rails now and begin cooking things of limited appeal to anyone who likes food, such as dandelion leaves and bulgur.

After I get home with my expensive veggies and rice-based meals devoid of bacon bits, I spend some more time in the garden. It’s raining, but that would not distinguish it from any other day this Spring in the Hudson Valley. I am cheery though, because I’m wearing my stylish yellow wellingtons with the peonies on them that I bought at a yard sale when we first got here. They are fashionably short and instantly welcomed snow to their interiors the first Winter day I wore them. Indeed, though lovely, they proved completely useless for New York weather events and I soon had to break down and buy real wellies. But I love them, and thus, I wear them for gardening.

I’m making myself a potting shed behind our cabin. Actually, despite being no stranger to an electric drill, I’m not known for my construction talents. So it’s a shed without walls or roof. Or a floor. Ok, it’s a couple of pieces of wood balanced on upside down pots, so more a sort of a potting shelf. Like all my construction projects, it’s a wonky piece of shite, and yet I am happy with it. All my planters and pots are now arranged tidily on my potting shelf. When I am done, I make my husband go back there and admire it. He has restored old Victorian houses in San Francisco. He is kind about my project.

Most importantly, I have now eliminated sources of standing water that this Summer would breed quintillions of mosquitos. Of course, it rains here all Summer long so mosquitos have no problem finding the requisite cupful of standing water in which to deposit their eggs. But they won’t be doing it in my unused plant pots. And that is because of my potting shelf. Which I made wearing my fashionable peony-strewn Wellingtons. On the last day before becoming a vegetarian. Again. Except for fish. And occasionally, when the stressors of my life render existence as a plant-based non-meat-eating human intolerable, bacon.

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Apr 15

I miss you my pescatarian/baconarian friend


Donna M Hill
Donna M Hill
Apr 14

It's okay; Tim's brother's vegetarian family snuck full slabs of bacon at breakfast one morning at a restaurant somewhere in the middle of nowhere in CA a few decades and a half back.

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