Chicago Reader Goes Vegetarian For a (Short) Week

Vegetarian dishes at Wishbone.
Vegetarian dishes at Wishbone. Photo: Andrea Bauer/courtesy Reader

Brien Comerford, happy at last with the Chicago Reader! After frequently offending its vegetarian readership (by no means inconsiderable, it being an alt-weekly) with Mike Sula’s chronicles of livestock ownership, sausagemaking and the like (what’s he gonna eat next, squirrel?), not to mention a certain multimedia series with a propensity for gross-out animal proteins, the Reader seemingly atoned this past week with a vegetarian issue.

Of course, it’s only one week— a short one at that, since this week’s issue will come out early due to the holiday; and coming out that close to a holiday associated with orgiastic meat-consumption may seem like a sick joke. But it’s a substantial issue worth a read not only by the converted, but by anyone interested in the subject of how people adjust to a life based primarily on plants, not animal proteins.

Though it begins with an introduction-slash-personal-memoir by staff writer Kevin Warwick, the most interesting part is when it opens up the vegetarian perspective with 17 Chicagoans who range from dietitians and activists to chefs like Shawn McClain (who admits he took a long time to finally banish the last fish from his almost-vegetarian menu at Green Zebra), and Jill Barron (Mana Food Bar). There’s an amusing feature that looks inside the refrigerators of some of the contributors (Hugh Amano of the Food on the Dole blog reveals he still has a prosciutto in there, for the occasional bite of meat at its best). There are profiles of the people behind seitan-maker Upton’s Naturals and the groundbreaking Chicago Diner, though Amano for his part expresses opposition to that brand of vegetarianism:

So much of what they do is to try to trick one into thinking they need a meat substitute—seitan wings, seitan chorizo, seitan steak, country fried seitan, seitan chicken patty. I get that it is supposed to keep with the diner theme, but there is so much out there in the nonmeat world to be creative with. Places like this tend to perpetuate the myth that meat, or meatlike substitute, is required as the center-of-the-plate item.

That’s frankly kind of how we feel about the restaurant review listings (print only), the usual suspects of fake meat vegetarian spots, which is why we were much more intrigued by the slideshow of five favorite vegetarian meals at non-vegetarian restaurants. Finally, Paul McGee (mixologist at The Whistler, who happens to be vegetarian) mixes up a veg-friendly cocktail— though Key Ingredient, which is about haggis this week, is not part of the section.

Eat Your Veggies [Chicago Reader]

Chicago Reader Goes Vegetarian For a (Short) Week