210 10th Avenue (at 22nd St.)
I thought my hallucinations had subsided after upping my protein intake during the last couple weeks through voluminous consumption of spiked nog. So I didn’t know what to make of it when, while seated in the Empire Diner, I saw the complete field of presidential candidates file in.
With the Iowa caucuses less than a week away I couldn’t imagine why they would come to New York to court the Whorebivore vote. Apparently, our movement has caught on at a faster pace than projected.
Sitting there sipping nutmeggy foam from a Martini glass, I looked on and considered the unlikely candidates primary voters are presented with in 2008. There’s a black guy named Hussein; an ex-first lady who has tried to shore up her image during an unpopular war by becoming red-eyed and scary; a millionaire Mormon; a twice-divorced Catholic New Yorker who has been photographed in drag; a trial lawyer who gets $400 haircuts while championing the working class; a Baptist Minister who plays slap bass; a man of Mexican heritage named Richardson; a former P.O.W. who would be three-quarters of a century old when he finishes his first term; and a thespian (though I guess, historically speaking, that’s not that strange). What a bunch.
Stranger still, I thought, that among all of this unlikely diversity, there is no room among the frontrunners for someone who belongs to a category that is only as slightly unusual as vegetarian? Sure, there’s Dennis Kucinich, but unless Shirley MacLaine can pull some interplanetary strings with the Lemurians, he doesn’t have a fish’s chance in Lake Erie.
What is it about the decision to not eat meat that the electorate finds about as tolerable as atheism? Does the thinking go that one who could not condone killing a chicken would not be able to press the button for war? At this point, is that so unappealing?
The candidates filled up the stools along the long black counter and ordered cups of coffee (Romney had Sprite).
Any good candidate has to be at home in a diner. Can you imagine what would happen if a candidate on the trail frowned at the offer of a blue plate special? It would be like screeching into a uni-directional microphone…or windsurfing…or riding in a tank with a too-big helmet . . . or stubble on the face and a suit the color of wet cement. These things matter when selecting the next leader of a primitive society like ours.
And so the candidates carefully studied the menu, each wanting to impress me with their vegetarianism, but also wanting to walk a careful balancing act, so as not to choose a meal that would cost them Iowa (tofu was out). For example, Joe Biden had the Lentilburger ($10.50) with American cheese. What could be more American than a fully pasteurized plasticky product made of all fat? I had the same. The “burger,” which filled up a halved pita bread, was more mushy than meaty. It was a little bland, too. But a side of creamy, white, horseradish-flavored sauce and sliced tomatoes helped.
Not one of the candidates dared to order the chips and guacamole ($5.50), which could have put them in the crosshairs of Lou Dobbs. It was a serviceable concoction of chunky avocado, spicy onion and cilantro. The warm round corn chips were crunchy and better than I expected.
I heard a lot of murmuring about an item on the menu simply listed as “Today’s Vegetable” ($4). Its very name sounded smart and progressive, such as: “Today’s vegetable is tired of old politics,” or “My wife can be the change agent that Today’s Vegetable has been waiting for.” But when it was rumored that the selection would be French-cut green beans, the candidates also wisely demurred.
Obama took a stand and ordered the mesclun greens ($6), but no sooner did he do so then a Clinton campaign worker made an aside about drug use to a “FOX News” reporter who was hovering about like a jackal. The salad looked to be a pretty straight-forward mix of leaves with garlicky vinaigrette on top.
McCain, ever the maverick, asked for the soup special to be served cold. When the waiter—whose black T-shirt said “Eat Me” on the back—declined to refrigerate the hot soup, McCain asked him if he had ever tasted his own blood—and if he would like to.
Meanwhile, Romney’s staff ordered the Piggy Platter ($19) and nudged it over toward Mike Huckabee in hopes that the former fatty would fall off the wagon and take the Lord’s name in vain.
I soon realized that the candidates were less interested in seeking my endorsement than using me for a quick photo opportunity in this most iconic of New York diners that has a double appeal because of its old-timey appearance and boystown location, something that would resonate with the average middle-American schlub (Joe Six Pack) and the Chelsea-style gay (Troy Six Pack Abs).
When it was announced that there was only one piece of apple pie remaining—and a Royal Rumble appeared imminent—I made an abrupt exit. I did not blame them, however, for fighting tooth and nail for that last slice, which may have meant winning the White House. After all, what candidate could survive politically a shot posted online of him or her biting into coconut custard?
Read more reviews of vegetarian eats at www.whorebivore.com