Crawfish Blues or 76-Year-Old-Virgin
Feb 26 2020

Crawfish Blues or 76-Year-Old-Virgin

By: Phil LaMancusa

It's 2020 and a new year for me-a new beginning; out with the old, in with the new. First, I'm going to forgo dead meat and eat only plant-based (don't say vegan) food. Secondly, I've quit my lucrative side job to hunt down a full-time cooking position in a vegan (plant-based) restaurant. Both are going to be more than challenging.

As far as employment, my age works against me. A warning to all the "mature" applicants: Be aware that you can have boatloads of experience with a resume up the wazoo and still be passed over for someone younger-and probably better-looking than you. You can bring passion and professionalism to the table, and still they'll hire the server's sibling. Dress for success, interview well, have qualifications, and a young squirrel can/will pass you at the finish line. It happens; it's factual ageism. Listen, I enjoy seeing what's considered our "new day" countenances, attitudes, and energies as much as the next person; I really do. What I object to is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed being a deciding factor in employment opportunities. I'm fully aware that I can't sing, I ain't pretty, and my legs are thin, but I can work with a song in my heart and a smile on my face, and I can glide around a kitchen like Fred Astaire.

Going vegan, on the other hand, is almost a no-brainer. My mate is 98-percent vegan, and I do all the cooking at home. Although I'm living a life where I profess that "I'd eat the paint off a chair," feeding ourselves will be a cool runnin'. Also, I've been training for my next gig-sometimes for hours-by cooking more complicated plant-based victuals at home: vegan cheeses, croissants, tempeh, seitan, breakfast sausage, egg replacer, aquafaba, crème brulée, etc. Being vegan comes with conditions and stipulations. Do you wear leather? What about consuming honey or chocolate?

I fall into the category of being a "non-militant vegan," as opposed to a "zealot vegan." What's the diff? Non-militant vegans will eat "meat and dairy substitutes," and zealot vegans are more serious, eating only birdseed and dandelions. What do I know? However, I am a health-conscious eating machine, meaning I try to eat right. But what about beer and potato chips? How about that Impossible Burger at the King? Can
I just pick the pepperoni off the pizza?
What about roadkill?

I find myself driving more-slowly about town. I pass by my favorite fried-chicken place-my EX-fried-chicken place. I feel like I'm stalking a former lover. The same goes for that gumbo joint where I could be sure of anemic crab bodies and a chicken neck or two. Crescent City Steak House brings a tear to my eye. The oysters that I'll never eat again, andouille sausage, boudin, muffulettas. And, tell me, what am I gonna do come crawfish season when C&J Seafood tosses them in garlic, butter, and ginger and make them spicy hot? I'll miss mouthwatering po-boys at the Orange House and Parkway, but, you know, I've got to do this.

First of all, eating a plant-based diet is good for the planet and your body, and you're not killing, slaughtering, or taking the life of a fellow being; no factory farming is in question, no blood-lust brutality, and, really, there's no good reason not to let life live. You'll find that folks who hanker for smoked sausage and prime rib will take Fido to the vet for a splinter and would never consider fattening that sucker up for soup or stew. The same goes for Missy Kitten and a variety of birds, from pigeons to parrots. In my former life, I would ask, "Where's that line? If you're gonna eat one animal, why not eat 'em all? What's the difference between pork and a palomino, except the size of the pan and how much garlic to use?"

I know, I know. It's February, and I should be concerned with Carnival, Valentine's, various festivals from foot races to fancy clothes, and musical events from Broadway to backst. rhythms. I should be enjoying my life and time at this point, at my age, and not be trying to challenge myself to master new frontiers.

Do you know what I did in my final days before veganism? I went to John and Mary's and got a boiled turkey neck and a spicy pig's foot to have for lunch. I drank a YooHoo chocolate beverage and ate cheesecake with gobs and gobs of cream that I whipped up myself. I had a tres leches at Norma's. It was like that last encounter with a lover when you know the next morning you're going to move on, like leaving home and starting over in a new town as a virgin, and like a leap of faith.

Why am I doing this? That's a good question that I've asked myself more than a few times. I realize that, from a culinary standpoint, I will be as lonely as a polecat in somebody's front yard, that dining out will be nearly impossible unless I frequent "alternative" cafés, that I will have to ask a lot of questions about my menu selections, and, by having to defend my choices, I'll be that pain-in-the-ass customer. But I feel good about this.

And from an employment viewpoint, maybe I just want to prove to myself and the world that I am still a viable human being who has what it takes to contribute to a functioning enterprise with a mission statement that is goal- and profit-oriented. And besides that, I can cook.

Wish me luck.

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