By Terrance Porter
In 2017, my first day after a Vegetarian sabbatical was celebrated with my Father’s gumbo and overpriced crawfish that I had to have before the season was over. Pounds were lost and I felt like I had a more active attitude. For me, going meatless made me feel better, but I still wanted to eat the foods that reminded me of home. Fortunately, my body knows better now. I tried eating pork sausage at a work potluck and found myself with an extreme headache. One weekend, a search for crawfish ended at Shaver’s on Youree Dr where I bought alligator boudin thinking it was safe to eat instead of the usual pork and beef boudin. Wrong! The rice still had the dreadful meats and was more than likely stuffed in casing from cattle or swine. Another headache occurred and a realization that I can never eat even the smallest portion of beef and pork ever again. My belief in eating bad foods in moderation should also apply to better foods. I don’t have to become a dedicated vegan to enjoy a good meal and good health.
Last month was my third trip to Vegan Food House. VFH is a Creole Vegan Restaurant in the Bishop Arts District of Oak Cliff in Dallas. Yes, a Creole Vegan restaurant and coincidentally, it is an area that is also battling tradition versus innovation with its occupants. I enjoyed the oyster mushroom po’boy on my last visit so I decided to scour the menu for something new to try and chose the “Vegan Boudin Balls.” It had to be a mistake my eyes were making, but the menu was correct and read: 2 Deliciously Seasoned Soy Sausage Mixed With Peppers, Bread Crumbs And Rice. Breaded And Deep Fried. Thank you, Chef Elizabeth Anderson for this creation, no headaches emerged and the tartar sauce was not bland. My summer had another memorable experience at a Cajun restaurant.
June was the worst search for healthier options so far this year in my homestate. While in Natchitoches for our family reunion, I made a ludicrous decision to Google “Vegetarian Natchitoches” to see if any viable options would appear on my phone screen. Thanks to a list compiled by Tripadvisor titled, “The 5 Best Vegetarian Restaurants in Natchitoches,” I was awarded a chance to see there was some possible hope near Cane River Lake. (Fun Fact: If you put “Vegan Natchitoches,” three of the seven aforementioned restaurants will appear) Even though we had a list that consisted of IHOP and Domino’s Pizza, my older siblings, nephews, niece and I ventured to a restaurant that did not appear on either vegan or vegetarian restaurants list. The end result of our visit to Ma’s Oyster House was a plate of free bread pudding as an apology for my older sister’s black lettuce salad. I didn’t have to wonder if the other eatries would have been better. Quick lesson: if a restaurant says “vegan or vegetarian friendly,” it means they have side dishes. The “vegetarian plate” is just whatever four side dishes you want to order because that and a salad are the only thing they have to offer. North Louisiana restaurants need to be a little more creative in this information age.
For the month of February this year, I challenged all of my friends and family to go one full day a week without eating any meat. Some did not step up to the challenge while others made it through the four days without any obstacles. I was proud of those that did, but I was frustrated with the circumstances that keep some from participating. I suggested the meatless meats found in the freezer section of most grocery stores to go along with their salads, beans, rice, and potatoes. I remember calling the first Monday of my vegetarian challenge as “meatless Monday.” Eight days before his passing from liver cancer, I was in the hospital feeding my Dad a hamburger he requested weeks ago when he was admitted. I cut up a hamburger and feed it to him in pieces, counterproductive to what I was advocating but was proud of him for also eating his salad. It was nostalgic to fix a salad for Dempsy Porter like I did when I was younger and constantly asked him when the last time he ate a salad instead of just steak. His response was a simple, “Make me one and I’ll eat a salad.” Mr Porter was a genuine man from North Louisiana and taught me a lesson in that moment. People can’t eat better if they do not have the options. I was angry at the hospital for making their patients’ food choices limited, but I cannot make this article a negative review of Willis Knighton for not having black bean patties available on their menu; this is a request to the chefs and restaurants that have a 318 area code in their phone numbers to make vegetarian and vegan foods with the same Louisiana energy.