EDITOR: I just wanted to thank everyone for Min Liao's article this week ["Vegetarian Vacation, Part 1," Nov 14]. I really appreciate the awareness it will create locally about vegetarian issues. I don't usually see much pro-veg stuff in your paper, so this article is especially enjoyable. The tips on different restaurants are exciting, too. Vegetarianism is hard--especially for people who like meat--but it's worth it.
Summer Ventimiglia, via e-mail
EDITOR: I was pleased to hear that Min Liao is looking at vegetarianism. Having been a vegetarian for six years and a vegan for 10 months, I have some tips I'd like to pass along.
Seattle is one of the easiest places to be vegetarian. There is an abundance of veg restaurants and natural food markets that carry veg products. Seattle also has some wonderful groups of vegetarians and activists who hold meetings and potlucks, host websites, conduct cooking classes, and are just plain friendly folk who will talk to anyone with an open ear about anything you'd want to know about going veg.
As far as the actual meals, at first it can be a little daunting. I became a vegetarian progressively, so I can see how it seems overwhelming to cut out all meat at once. People commonly aggravate themselves by substituting all the meat they'd normally eat with meat analogues. This can get expensive and not taste the way you remember, making you want to eat the "real" thing. Another way to [deal with] meals is to avoid basing them around a meat substitute. Instead, make something else the focal point. For starters, center dinner around potatoes or a hearty soup--and stir-fries are always easy.
I fully support you on your new journey into vegetarianism. I hope this has helped give you more support and ways to make the transition easier.
Melanie Lofstedt, via e-mail
EDITOR: Although Min Liao's article included the usual Stranger anti-PC, sarcastic style (which, by the way, I often like), it also goes a long way in speaking to what I suspect is a vast readership of vegetarians and vegans in your audience. As you can tell, I'm fairly exhausted by reading her usual Stranger Chow column filled with lines praising the virtues of meat. This praise is clearly a reaction to the vegetarians and vegans who surround, harass, and (correctly) make many meat-eaters feel uncomfortable. Frankly, it's not cool or hip to be anti-vegetarian. Vegetarians and vegans did not make their lifestyle choice in order to be PC or holier-than-thou, but because they are compassionate and empathetic. We take heart in the statistically increasing numbers of like-minded individuals who know that ultimately their choices make a difference in the quality of life for both animals and humans. Min Liao's article goes a bit of the way in setting the balance toward the correct tilt. We look forward to part two.
Shawn Berkeley, via e-mail
EDITOR: I'm writing to thank Min Liao for exploring a vegetarian diet and sharing this interesting journey with The Stranger's readers. I've been vegan (no animal products) for eight years, and have experienced tremendous health benefits from a flesh-free (and guilt-free) diet. My weight remains stable without effort, and I've never been healthier! Like Liao (and a quickly growing percentage of the populace), I "get it." I know just where sizzling burgers and greasy chicken wings come from: tortured animals who have been injected with hormones and antibiotics. I hope Liao sticks on the veggie wagon--her body will thank her, and so will the animals who won't have to suffer for her taste buds.
Stephanie Bell, via e-mail
EDITOR: I am pleased and impressed with the article "Vegetarian Vacation, Part 1," and I can only hope that we'll be fortunate enough to find a sequel to this story--not just for the sake of exposing vegetarianism and veganism to other readers, but to know that Min is still giving it a chance! If you think that a few words of encouragement might help, then please understand this: Giving up meat isn't easy for everyone. It isn't a "bad habit," like smoking, that you pick up in your teen years because it's cool. It's so much more than that. When you become a vegetarian, you are letting go of decades of conditioning. Most individuals have been raised eating meat as the staple of all their meals, and (understandably) giving up foods that comfort you is more difficult than potty-training a toddler. One must realize that it takes discipline, and rationalism. You have to think about the one, small part of your conscience that's telling you that you want meat, that you need the meat to satisfy your craving. You need to be stronger than that voice inside of you. Initially, each meal will feel like a struggle, but it gets so much easier as days go by.
Kristen Finstad, via e-mail
MIN LIAO: In the time-honored tradition of ridiculous names for meat substitutes, you simply must try "Gimme Lean." Sliced into patties and fried in oil, it actually bears a striking resemblance, in both texture and taste, to Jimmy Dean sausage. It's the only meat substitute I've ever tried that makes me feel truly full--like after having eaten actual meat. And it will leave grease on your lips, too! A word to the wise: Don't try baking it, and don't try their hamburger substitute.
Eric de Place, via e-mail