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The Other Red Protein

Meat Is Rare No More in Takoma Park

By Phuong Ly
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 20, 2005; Page A01

In Takoma Park, where the politics have long been left of left, a bronze statue in the town square memorializes a beloved rooster whose free-roaming ways "brought joy into our urban lives," the plaque reads.

These days, when residents look at Roscoe the Rooster, not all of them are dabbing their eyes. Some are thinking of dinner.

Takoma Park residents shop for organic meat at the farmers market. (Katherine Frey -- The Washington Post)

On the same block where Roscoe was killed in 1999 in a hit-and-run attack by a sport-utility vehicle, the Sunday farmers market now offers lamb sausages, veal chops and eggs. Down the street, the food co-op -- breaking with a 20-year tradition -- is peddling flesh, too. During last summer's Fourth of July parade, a float of coop supporters held up signs declaring, "No Drumsticks, No Peace."

The embrace of food-with-a-face in this peace-rallying, tree-hugging, self-declared nuclear-free zone has become so enthusiastic that some residents wonder whether a counter-counter-revolution is afoot.

Jennifer Gillispie, 60, said she never imagined that meat consumption would become so conspicuous -- and that she would be one of the guilty ones.

The Takoma Park yoga teacher once told her most devoted students to become vegetarians. Now, she suggests meat eating as a path to karma.

Of her salad days, Gillispie said, "I was forcing my own being to do something that, clearly, that being was saying wasn't working."

Gillispie, who had been a vegetarian for more than 10 years, said she was feeling weak and unmotivated a couple of years ago and didn't know why. When two formerly vegetarian friends suggested a new diet, she figured she had nothing to lose. She went to Whole Foods, ordered half a roasted chicken and found a table.

"I said a blessing, and I asked forgiveness for the chicken. I took one bite -- and it was like all my cells exploded, 'Yes!' " Gillispie recalled. "I ate the whole thing, bones and all. I couldn't get it into my mouth fast enough. People were staring."

Gillispie knows that some of her fellow yogis think she's gone crazy. She counters that it's time for Takoma Park residents to include meat eating in their definition of diversity and inclusiveness.

"It shouldn't be an option between vegetarianism and sick, antibiotic-filled meat," she said. "We could start to be part of the revolution for lovingly and humanely raised and culled meat."

But other residents are asking whether anything is sacred here anymore.

"There could be a chipping away at the liberal, alternative soul of Takoma Park," said Mike Tidwell, 43, an environmental activist. "I would not be surprised if we started seeing a bunch of hybrid SUVs and organic barbecue parties."

These changes in what residents lovingly call the People's Republic of Takoma Park come as the rest of the country appears to be warming to traditional Takoma values.

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