When I think about food and The Simpsons, I immediately think of season 7’s “Lisa the Vegetarian.” The episode is essentially all about food, centering around Lisa’s struggle to reconcile her veggie beliefs with her father’s unending love of meat. It’s also simply an awesome episode of TV.
I’m not going to pick through every little thing in this episode—I easily could because I love it so much—since I’m sure I’ll be revisiting it for another recipe or two. You see, there’s a lot of food in this one, more than your average Simpsons. In the cafeteria scene alone, there’s Giblet McNiblets, salisbury balls, cow legs, a “possibly” meatless meatloaf, and a plain hot dog bun (“rich in bunnly goodness”). Not to mention Lisa’s homemade gazpacho, Homer’s grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, and flying pig, Marge’s lamb chops, and Apu’s (soy) Premiere Gourmet Hot Dogs, 8 for 99 cents. Oh, and the kids have tripe during Miss Hoover’s class. Cowabunga.
But let’s start at the beginning. The Simpsons take a trip to Storytown Village and stop by the petting zoo. They see a sheep (aww), a younger, cuter sheep (awww!), and then a super cute baby lamb (AWWW!!). Lisa falls in love, and later imagines the lamb pleading with her for his life when Marge serves lamb chops for dinner. Lisa decides she just can’t eat meat anymore, even bacon, ham, or pork chops (which all come from “a wonderful, magical animal”). At school, Lisa keeps setting off the “independent thought alarm” and Skinner is forced to show the kids a classic Troy McClure film about the beef industry. It features an especially good Simpsons graphic titled The Food Chain.
Coincidentally, Homer has decided to throw a BBBQ (the extra B is for BYOBB…that extra B is a typo). Neighbors are delighted by the mounds of grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, and the “pig de resistance,” a whole grilled pig with an apple shoved in its mouth. After enduring a flying burger patty to the face and everyone laughing at her gazpacho, Lisa can’t take it anymore. She sends the pig on a perilous journey and it ends up flying across Springfield just in time for Mr. Burns and Smithers to see.
Burns: You know, Smithers, I think I’ll donate a million dollars to the local orphanage… when pigs fly!
[Maniacal laughter. Homer’s pig flies by the window.]
Smithers: Will you be donating that million dollars now, sir?
Burns: No, I’d still prefer not.
Lisa and Homer fight, and Lisa leaves home only to be mocked by schoolmates for her vegetarianism. She flees to the Quik-E-Mart and, in an act of desperation, takes a bite of a hot dog, giving into societal pressure. Apu shows up and asks if Lisa likes his tofu dogs (“don’t have a cow, man”), revealing his vegetarianism and leading Lisa to his rooftop garden. Paul and Linda McCartney are up there just hanging out, being one with nature. They all have a discussion about being vegetarians, and Lisa learns that it’s okay to be different, but not to judge others too harshly. Lisa and Homer make up, and he gives the still-vegetarian Lisa a “veggie-back ride” home. It’s a very funny but also enlightening episode—one that may very well have changed how vegetarians were viewed on TV.
During their veggie pow-wow, Paul mentions that if you play “Maybe I’m Amazed” backwards, you’ll hear a recipe for a “really ripping lentil soup.” “Maybe I’m Amazed” plays during the final credits, and you can hear Paul reading his recipe, well, backwards. Play it in reverse, and you can hear the recipe below.
I know, I know, It doesn’t seem like I had to do a whole hell of a lot this go around since this is possibly the only time that The Simpsons provides you with a straight up recipe. But hey! I had to figure out how to play an episode backwards with sound. And they didn’t include instructions, so I figured those out for you and even provided some tips. This is also one of the few times that a Simpsons dish is tasty exactly as presented, so I don’t have to eat something super gross before figuring out how to make it edible. I’ll save that for the next one.
Paul and Linda McCartney’s Lentil Soup
2 T vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
2 sticks of celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 cup lentils
1 bay leaf
1 T freshly chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 1/4 cup vegetable stock or water
1. Add the oil to a medium pot and heat over medium heat.
2. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and stir. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is mostly translucent (about 5 minutes).
3. Add the garlic and parsley and stir. Cook 1 more minute until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Add the lentils and stir. Add the broth and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and cover.
5. Reduce to a simmer. Cook according to the lentils’ package directions. Whole green lentils typically take 40-45 minutes.
6. Taste to make sure the lentils are tender and season with salt and pepper as needed.
Tips to make this lentil soup more “ripping”:
- Reserve some extra fresh parsley to add at the very end before serving.
- Add a pinch of cumin or paprika at the beginning for a bit of smoky spice.
- Add a squeeze of lemon juice at the end for added freshness.
- If you’re not vegan (Apu won’t judge you too harshly), top with a grating of Parmesan or a dollop of sour cream.
And now I leave you with an unforgettable Simpsons moment from this episode: the “you don’t win friends with salad!” conga line.