Townie guide to... veggin' out

Christa Baughman, barista/massage therapist, compulsive cookbook collector, fledgling footy foodie

How can you argue that eating meat is immoral when it's clear that God intended us to eat his lesser creatures-why else would he have made cows out of brisket? It's a little something called intelligent deliciousness, and you can get your steak-hugging flanks out of Kansas if you don't believe in it.

"Religious beliefs aside, part of the reason I decided to go vegetarian was because of the idea that whenever you ingest something, you are taking in the process it went through to become your meal. When animals are killed for food, it is obvious that there was pain and suffering involved, be it 'humane' or not. You are ingesting their trauma and it is then becoming a part of you. Whether you believe in God or not, to have compassion for the 'lesser creatures' transcends that belief."

On the health-side of the equation, aren't you concerned that your heart will get weak when all of the artificial hormones and artery-stiffening gristle is cut out of your diet? It's like steroids for your ticker-although in some cases it is actual steroids in the meat, but that's beside the point.

"Uh, no. All I know is when I used to eat cows, chickens, pigs, etc., I would often feel sick after my meals. Meat would often do a number on my body. That's rarely happened since I became veggie."

How hard is it to find decent vegetarian options in this part of the country? Do waiters ever hiss at you and threaten to splash you with holy water at restaurants? Talk about some of the strategies you employ when you're in hostile territory.

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"Thankfully nothing remotely hostile has happened, but I do find it very hard to find decent vegetarian options in this part of the country. Some restaurants have become vegetarian-friendly, offering veggie burgers, sandwiches and such. What gets frustrating, however, is that you can only eat so many veggie burgers, salads, and pizza and pasta dishes! These options are a start, but there definitely needs to be more creativity when it comes to vegetarian menu options."

That said, what are some of the best vegetarian-friendly spots in the area?

"In Lawrence, Free State is fantastic. What's great about them is that they often have a vegetarian selection included in their daily specials. Some other notables: Mad Greek, Zen Zero, La Parilla, Local Burger, Milton's. I'm sure there's more, but that's what comes to mind at the moment. In Kansas City, the all-vegetarian Eden Alley is my restaurant of choice. Blue Koi and Bluebird Bistro also have excellent vegetarian options. There is also a new all-vegan restaurant called Cafe Seed that I'm dying to try out."

Is it true that eating tofu will grow boobs on men? In your case, will you grow an extra set-maybe on your back or forehead?

"Ha! Probably not. However, with the amount of hormones in our meat and dairy products, I'm surprised there's not more 'moobage' going around!"

What's your advice for those fledgling vegetarians who haven't come out of the closet yet?

"No need to keep on hiding! Even in this traditionally steak and potatoes country, people are becoming more aware of the benefits of an all-vegetarian diet. The options are gradually getting better in our restaurants and supermarkets. And those meat-eaters who chastise you because you refuse their offer of fried chicken and cheeseburgers, don't worry. You're going to outlive them anyway."

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