Cafe Society

Are vegetarian standards different in New Mexico? Larry Gutierrez of Little Anita's thinks so

Yesterday we finally got to chat with Larry Gutierrez, the president of Albuquerque-based Little Anita's, and he seemed confused as to what, exactly, constitutes vegetarian cuisine.

Earlier this week, we reported that Little Anita's -- which veggies had long thought served vegetarian green and red chile at its five locations in the metro area -- had been using meat products in both of those chiles all along. Gutierrez told us he didn't realize that ingredients such as chicken and beef stock disqualify a dish from being vegetarian; he'd assumed that not containing actual meat was good enough.

He said he was basing his understanding of what a vegetarian is on a definition in an unnamed dictionary. According to

veg·e·tar·i·an -noun 1. a person who does not eat or does not believe in eating meat, fish, fowl, or, in some cases, any food derived from animals, as eggs or cheese, but subsists on vegetables, fruits, nuts, grain, etc.

This is a fairly easy-to-understand definition -- and it clearly does not allow for meat-based stocks in vegetarian cuisine. Cheese and eggs are a different matter; as we pointed out to Gutierrez, the animals are not harmed in their production -- but you don't get beef stock from a live cow.

We directed Gutierrez to, which hosts a wealth of information on vegetarianism, veganism and how to transition to vegetarian and vegan diets -- because a dictionary, however current, is generally not the best place to get detailed information on a dietary lifestyle.

After discussing with Gutierrez the various levels of vegetarian eating (including lacto-ovo and vegan lifestyles), he said that that vegetarians in New Mexico aren't as stringent about their dietary restrictions as Colorado vegetarians, and that New Mexico vegetarians don't mind a little chicken flavoring or beef broth in their entrees every once in a while. We suspect most vegetarians in New Mexico would disagree.

(On a personal note, I've been vegetarian, on and off, since I was fifteen years old, for a total of about ten years in the veggie lifestyle. I've been a vegetarian during travels to several continents and countries, and while living in the Midwest, arguably the most meat-centric region in the United States. All of these places held the same standard for vegetarianism: No dead-animal products. Period.)

Gutierrez promised that all Little Anita's outposts will be carrying vegetarian chile (for real, this time) and said that he'd look into the items on the vegetarian menu that Little Anita's will soon introduce, to ensure that none of them contain meat-based products.

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Amber Taufen has been writing about people, places and things in Denver since 2005. She works as an editor, writer, and production and process guru out of her home office in the foothills.
Contact: Amber Taufen