by Mike Todd

“I think you’re going to starve here,” I said to my friend Josh on the phone, just before his visit to our house. Josh is a vegetarian who doesn’t eat any processed food, so he was unlikely to find any sustenance in our spray cans of whipped bologna topping.

“Don’t worry about feeding me. Seriously, don’t even try,” he replied.

“I can’t think of a single thing in our house that you’d even eat, except maybe the birdseed in the garage,” I said.

“Is it thistle or suet? I’m not allowed to eat suet, but I could go for a nice sack of thistle. Maybe I could wash it down with some of that red hummingbird juice,” he said.

Josh wasn’t always this way. When we were roommates at Penn State, we’d eat anything that cost less than four dollars, provided it didn’t have visible mold colonies growing on it. Or if the mold couldn’t be easily worked around.

“Hey, want to get some pizza from across the street?” I’d ask.

“Doesn’t that place always give you violent gastrointestinal distress?” he’d ask. We always spoke in clean language like that, just in case any of our words would be quoted in a family publication 13 years later.

“Yes, but a whole pie is only six bucks, split two ways.  For a three-dollar dinner, I’m willing to accept the consequences,” I’d reply.

Three hours later, Josh would knock on the bathroom door.

“You OK in there?” he’d ask.

“It was worth it,” I’d mutter.

But those days are long gone. Josh has turned over a new leaf; in fact, he has probably eaten it. He’s joined the ever-growing list of friends and family members who have gone vegetarian. I greatly respect these people and their will power. The world would be a better place if everyone did what they’re doing. I’d join them, too, if chicken tasted like asparagus. Unfortunately for chickens, it tastes like chicken.

An average meal for Josh consists of a smoothie made from things that an average caveman could have gathered in an afternoon, assuming that the caveman had access to a GNC store stocked with protein powder. He puts in lots of stuff that a normal person would eat, too, like strawberries, blueberries and almonds, but then he told me the secret ingredient that holds it all together.

“Kale,” he said.

Vegetarians are always trying to tell people how awesome kale is. This undermines any other argument they might make, because the rest of us have seen kale. We haven’t tasted it, but we’ve seen it.

Josh might have his near-vegan lifestyle, but I also practice a strict nutritional regimen. Even when I think I can’t possibly muster the discipline, I dig deep and squeeze hard, squeezing and squeezing until all of the excess mayo oozes out of my McChicken sandwich and onto the napkin. Voila! Diet McChicken sandwich.

A variation on that dietary technique can also be applied to pepperoni pizza. Before you take a bite, hold the slice over your plate for a minute, letting the grease and calories drip harmlessly away. I call it the Gravity Diet, because anyone who practices it must be really serious. This is not to be confused with the Gravitas Diet, which went out of fashion at the same time John Kerry did.

In any event, Josh did come to visit for the weekend, and everyone managed just fine. Our success was most likely due to the fact that we didn’t attempt to eat together. While I cooked dinner, Josh went outside and stood under an oak tree with his mouth open, hoping for acorns to fall in.