Biker Billy talks tempeh

Hog wild: Fresh air makes you hungry, says Harley enthusiast Biker Billy. Photo courtesy of Biker Billy

Biker Billy, née Bill Hufnagle, has been riding motorcycles since 1986. "I wanted one when I was 17, but my mom knew that I was a little too wild and crazy, so she wouldn't sign on the papers on that one — which probably saved my life!"

Of course, notes the Harley-riding Hufnagle, he's been cooking much longer than that (he’s published four cookbooks so far). "Motorcycling is a quest for personal freedom, self-expression; it's empowering in many ways," he says. "And the outdoor part of it floods your body with fresh air, and I have discovered that fresh air makes you hungry."

Hufnagle's primary tip for a Fourth of July gathering is not to forget friends and family members who don't eat meat. Hufnagle, once the (self-proclaimed) "king of carnivores," has been a vegetarian for 42 years and counting. "Especially here in our community in Asheville, we have a lot of folks, myself included, who are vegetarians," says Hufnagle. "We're an inclusive community in our best moments."

Here are Hufnagle's suggestions for a meat-free feast:

Keep it separated: If vegetarians and vegans are at the party, it's a nice gesture to provide a separate meat-free grill (if it’s in the budget). "They sell wonderful little propane or charcoal grills — whatever your approach to burning carbon fuels is," says Hufnagle. Vegetable kabobs and tempeh are a good bet for grilling, he says, but "tofu can be tricky." Crookneck squash or zucchini, peppers and mushrooms are a great bet.

Fatten up: If you are going to grill veggies, use plenty of fat, says Hufnagle. "I like to use extra-virgin olive oil. In a sauté pan, it has a low smoke point, but on a grill, that's fine. Smoke is wonderful! Brush the grill a little bit before, and brush whatever it is you're putting on the grill."

Put a lid on it: If you can't afford a separate grill, a skillet or sauté pan works fine — some grills even have side burners you can use. If you're cooking vegetarian food close to a grill, though, cover the pan. "We vegetarians are sensitive to the splatter of greasy burgers," says Hufnagle.

Above all: "Remember the blessings of our freedom and democracy," says Hufnagle. "The young boys and girls — some of them aren't so young — that are coming home, welcome them with open arms. And watch out for motorcycles — they're everywhere. We want to get to our Fourth of July celebration safe and intact, with our appetites fully charged from that good mountain air."

— For more about Biuker Billy, visit http://www.bikerbilly.com.

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