We were trying to mind our good Midwestern manners but even we can’t ignore the outraged din since the New York Times knocked our meat-filled dinners and diners.
Last week, the Times’ man in Kansas City, Arthur G. Sulzberger, wrote a first-person piece about how difficult it is to be a vegetarian in the Midwest. He called us a “Mecca of meat” (guilty as charged), that the safest option at Arthur Bryant’s BBQ is a mug of Budweiser (don’t forget the souvenir cup), and that “bacon comes standard in salads” (hell, yeah).
Even though the region boasts some of the finest farmland in the world, there is a startling lack of fresh produce here. This is a part of the country — and there’s no polite way to put this — where the most common vegetable you’ll see on dinner plates is iceberg lettuce.
Well, I didn’t know that the term “iceberg lettuce” is now a dirty word, but I am a little miffed that he would mock the American Royal World Series of Barbeque as “perhaps the most important event on Kansas City social calenders.” Really? He’s not excited when the BBQ smoke blots out the sun that last weekend of September?
Brock Slabach, a Kansas City resident who grew up on a farm near Wichita, has been a vegetarian for nearly 20 years. He pointed to the fresh, local produce he’s always been able to get at the Hen House Market, a local grocery chain, as well as the many farmers markets. He was most bothered by Sulzberger’s suggestion that vegetarians could go hungry here, if not for staples like beans, rice or Nabisco cookies.
“He made it sound like if you come to Kansas City, you better bring your Nabs and Coke,” Slabach said. “It really kind of ticked me off, to be honest.”
So, to be fair to the young Sulzberger, we have emailed him and asked him to explain his experience. And to be fair to the Midwestern vegetarians, we are having our own non-meat-eater, Harvest's Jessica Naudziunas, produce our story about your responses.