You know vegetarianism has made it into the mainstream when a fast food joint whose slogan is “Man didn’t claw his way to the top of the food chain to eat soy” now carries veggie burgers. I made this discovery while playing the where-should-we-eat game with a fellow vegetarian. Sick of Sojourner, sick of Thai, sick of Indian, my friend finally sheepishly suggested Fatburger. Actually she coughed it while turning her face in the opposite direction. “Where?” I asked. “I, uh, hear Fatburger carries Boca Burgers now.”

She had no need to be ashamed. I was thrilled.

My least favorite part of being a vegetarian is people’s assumption that I’m a health nut, consuming small portions of legumes, leafy greens, and soy protein. It’s not that I don’t eat these things; I just smother them in butter, cheese, and seasoning and follow them with a healthy portion of chocolatey goodness. Recently, a meat-eating friend entrusted me to cook her birthday dinner. When I followed the main course-roasted vegetables baked into a buttery, cheddary pastry shell-with peach cake smothered in crme anglaise, she commented peevishly, “If I cooked like you do, I’d be a vegetarian, too.” If there’s any gastronomic institution I hate as much as factory farming, it’s our culture’s obsession with fat- and sugar-free food-like substances.

So I’ve always appreciated Fatburger’s unapologetic embrace of grease. Unlike McDonald’s, they don’t go boasting about their fresh yogurt parfait or chicken salad. They’re not afraid to be up front about what they do: clog happy people’s arteries.

My veggie friend and I gratefully let them clog ours, ordering large fries and milkshakes to go with our ketchup- and pickle-drenched burgers. And though it’s definitely reflected in the price, the shakes are made with real ice cream-not the non-dairy whipped substance most fast food places use-and topped with a generous dallop of whipped cream.

You’re right, Fatburger: Man didn’t claw his way to the top of the food chain to eat soy. He walked down the street into his local corporate fast food joint to eat soy.


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