Animal Writes
From 27 March 2005 Issue

An El Paso MeatOut with Dreams of Austin
By Greg Lawson - [email protected]

At times, it can be hard dwelling amongst the meateaters. At times it can be a challenge. I think we all dream of living in a more vegan friendly city, a veggie paradise, a compassionate commune.

We wish for a place where we don't have to ask 'what's for dinner' with suspicion in our voices. We dream of a land where the lion can lay down with the lamb, after dinner drink in paw, and no worry about workplace conversation at the waterhole the next day.

For a west Texas vegan such as myself, that dream is Austin, Texas. Austin is on PeTA's list as one of the top ten vegetarian friendly cities. I recently did a google search of Texas vegan restaurants and the results I found for Austin caused tears to flow. But you know, I prefer to keep Austin as a dream, we all need a higher goal.

One week before the Great American MeatOut, a few members of the Vegetarian Society of El Paso did a literature and food giveaway table in a park on the University of Texas El Paso campus. I spent the morning cooking several gallons of vegan barbecue with shredded TVP "beef" (recipe follows).

Steve Best brought a table from the philosophy department office and we began setting up the stacks of literature. We taped our MeatOut posters to the table and began heating the barbecue in an electric skillet. I laid out the paper towels and tortillas. We had a good assortment of Vegetarian Starter Kits, Veg Society of El Paso newsletters and Farm Animal Reform Movement flyers on MeatOut. (

Steve said he had to have the first BBQ wrap to make sure it passed his taste test, since my cooking would be an important factor in the conversion process we all hoped to inspire. He wound up eating three wraps that day.

Also helping to give out literature and information were Yvone, Maria and Denise. We began calling out "Free Barbecue Wraps" and "It's All Free." A few people stopped by and took some literature and a wrap. Most were amazed that it tasted so much like the rotting animal flesh BBQ they were used to eating. I take pride in making TVP taste freshly slaughtered.

"It's Vegan and it's Free," I yelled. We were in operation through two class breaks and many people passed; only about one in five stopped to sample our wares. Steve commented how strange it was that college students would pass up a free lunch. "Low Fat," "No Cholesterol," Yvone yelled. "No Intestines," from Steve.

Soon we were joined by Nick, a local TV news anchor and member of our veg society. Nick had a wrap and hung out with us, occasionally yelling with us. "No Bovine Spongiform Encepholopathy," "No Cruelty."

"Free Vegetarian Barbecue," I yelled as I stirred the TVP BBQ. People came up one by one, several times we had a line of students. Denise talked with them and suggested literature, Maria got them to sign the MeatOut pledge forms
and wrapped the BBQ into tortillas.

One guy was approaching the table as we were calling out "Free Food," "Free Barbecue." When I called out "It's Vegan," the guy stopped and backed away. He circled our table at a distance, staring, and finally moved away. Steve said, "Greg !! Don't say it's vegetarian or vegan until after they take a bite."

This isn't working, Steve said, and tried "Free Beer." "Free Sex," I added. "Free UTEP Miners Game Tickets," from Steve. During our slow periods, we chatted among ourselves and it was odd how one city kept creeping into the conversation. Maria asked Denise if she was a student here and she replied yes, but that next year she was moving to Austin to do grad work. "Oh, you will like it there," said Steve, "I did my Ph.D. at Austin."

Nick said that he was soon taking a vacation at a yoga retreat in Austin. Maria said that her daughter was considering the University of Texas at Austin. "I have been looking at a vegan culinary arts school in Austin, thinking about my next career as a vegan chef," I remarked. "Damn, I wish we were in Austin," I said. "No," Maria said, "Then we wouldn't be making a difference here."

I like to think that what Maria said is true, that we made an investment in the future, that of the fifty people who tried our wraps and took our literature, a few were moved further down the path to a compassionate lifestyle. I still dream of living in some vegetarian paradise.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Authentic Texas Vegan Barbecue

Some beef-like tvp chunks, I like catalog number BFC-10 from the Mail Order Catalog,
These are large chunks that can be shredded for this recipe or added to stews or other compassionated recipes.

Onion, Red and/or Green Bell Pepper, Tomato, Garlic
Hot Pepper flakes (or minced jalapeno), pinch of thyme, oregano, other herbs of choice

Bottled Barbecue Sauce, Olive Oil, White Wine

Boil tvp chunks until tender in a saucepan. Add olive oil to a large skillet. Saute minced garlic, diced onion, peppers and tomato. Mince or shred tvp chunks and add to skillet with as much barbecue sauce as you think it needs.
Add herbs and a generous splash of white wine. Serve on some healthier whole grain bread than the white flour tortillas I bought to give the students.

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