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A vegetarian sprouts

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Our youngest daughter, the animal lover, recently declared herself a vegetarian.

Since her major food groups to date consisted of macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, and the odd cauliflower sprig (certainly nothing green), I wondered what had prompted this conversion.

"Well, I was eating my lunch and I got this image of a cow being killed. I was so disgusted I threw out my sandwich," she said.

"I see. But, sweetie, you had a turkey sandwich today."

"Dad! You know what I mean."

My daughter has joined a growing demographic. One in 5 Americans look for a restaurant that serves vegetarian items when they dine out, says a Gallup poll. One in 3 say they would order a meatless item if it were on the menu.

So, why aren't there more veggie burgers on menus? The Monitor taste test of a few patties (see page 16) may hold the answer.

Despite an aversion to the aforementioned, our daughter's "veggie phase" continues as firm conviction. We are supportive of her stand, but dining out (which rarely means anything but fast food) is a bit of a challenge.

The pickings are slim at McDonald's and Burger King. Beyond salad (still a nonstarter for our daughter) and fries, the best we can do is a cheeseburger sans burger. Wendy's does better, with a hot and cold salad bar and baked potatoes.

The Vegetarian Resource Group (PO Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203, www.vrg.org) sells a $4 guide to all things veggie at 70 restaurant chains. It notes, for example that Burger King sells a spicy bean burger in Europe.

Given the quality of some patties, you'll have to judge for yourself whether that's progress.

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