After ten years in Leiden, I moved to America. My new home base, the sleepy town of New Haven, is incredibly divided. On the one hand, there's Yale University. With 26 billion dollars in the kitty they're one of the richest institutes on earth. And then there's the rest of the city. They are, as the residents of Leiden would call them, paupers.
Gluten-free pasta sauce
The same pattern shows in the shops. There are two supermarkets within walking distance from my home. On the outskirts of the Yale campus there's the `Elm City Market`. Everything they sell is both organic and outrageously expensive. The staff consists of the more vulnerable members of society. This is particularly useful as, even in a town full of homeless people, it makes buying a $12 pot of gluten-free pasta sauce feel like an act of charity. On the other side of the city, just within the ghetto, there's `Ferraro's´. A supermarket that, from a practical viewpoint, closes impractically early. After dark you get robbed on the parking lot.
The majority of what Ferraro's sells is meat. Not your common or garden meat but Meat, with a capital M. The smallest package weighs a kilo. Chickens are sold per two. There's a mountain of pig's heads. Woefully I think back of the – in hindsight – fantastic selection of meat replacements available in Dutch supermarkets. Or that delicious veggie burger I ate in the Mix & Fix in the Vrouwensteeg just before I left. It tasted even better than a normal burger.
Does Ferraro's sell veggie burgers? No chance! With great effort I manage to scrape together a vegetarian meal here. But when I see the pitiful state of the vegetables I give in. Okay, maybe a steak. Or two.
A few days later, some friends and I plump down in the only vegetarian restaurant in town. I order a veggie burger. A veggie burger, at last!
One of my fellow diners looks disapprovingly at my plate: `A vegetarian burger is still a burger. It's like you're giving in to meat culture.` And then, in case I hadn't quite grasped the implication, `That's bad.'
Everything used to be so much easier.