One of my favorite moments in Pulp Fiction comes right after Jules, the hit man played by Samuel L. Jackson, takes a bite out of a tasty Big Kahuna burger.
"If you like burgers, give 'em a try sometime," Jules tells Vince, his uninterested partner, played by John Travolta. "I can't usually get 'em myself, because my girlfriend's a vegetarian -- which pretty much makes me a vegetarian."
I can relate. Since 1999, I've been the meat-eater in a carnivore-veggie couple.
Things aren't as extreme with me and Marilyn as they are with Jules and his girlfriend. Marilyn doesn't mind if I eat meat when we go out, although she'd prefer I avoid things with bones, like fried chicken, ribs, lamb chops -- er, I'm getting hungry and must move on.
It takes courage to be a vegetarian, especially in North Texas, where sometimes telling people you're one results in them looking at you as if you'd just asked them to solve a tough calculus problem.
It's understandable when people ask if she's a vegan. She's not. It's slightly less understandable when people ask if she eats seafood. Seafood is meat, although there is a word -- pescatarian -- for people who limit their meat intake to fish. And then there are the people who ask if she eats turkey. I mean, c'mon, really?
What she doesn't do is eat meat, hasn't since 1989, when a long-simmering discomfort with where meat comes from and how the animals are sometimes treated led her to the conversion.
There is also a word for people like me: flexitarian, a meat-eater who's mostly vegetarian. I'm not as diligent about it as, say, food author Mark Bittman, who only eats meat after 6 p.m. But at home, and even during most of my lunches, I've pretty much made myself a vegetarian.
An unusual offshoot of being the meat-eater in this couple, though, is that Marilyn has led me to a better class of hamburger. Granted, before I met her, my diet consisted largely of things that could be ordered in drive-throughs and consumed on the ride home, so things were bound to improve. But we've discovered that if a burger joint does a veggie, black-bean or portobello burger, it's usually a sign that it will take care with its beef patties as well.
Marilyn has even introduced me to burger joints -- she was the one who discovered Twisted Root Burger Co., which offers a veggie option on all its specialty burgers, when it was still just one joint on a lightly traveled Deep Ellum street. That experience turned me into a kind of veggie burger scout. Whenever a burger joint opens near us and I'm on a solo jaunt, I'll always ask if it offers a veggie burger. If it doesn't, though, chances are that neither one of us will be back.
Perhaps that's not fair in meat-crazy North Texas. It takes a fair amount of courage for a burger palace here to offer something that resembles a burger but doesn't contain any meat. But we know we're not the only veggie-carne couple out there, and we appreciate the places that cater to both diets.
Every now and then we run into one that tastes like it came from the frozen-food section, but we've also discovered some gems, such as the spicy black-bean burger at M&O Station Grill or even the veggie burger at fast-food chain Mooyah.
And when I've asked about veggie burgers at places that don't have them on the menu, I've sometimes been greeted with "No, but maybe we should -- we get asked that a lot."
So it doesn't hurt to ask. Although there was this one guy who thought "veggie burger" meant a burger with vegetables on it. I mean, c'mon, really?