Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On Being A Vegetarian

On Being A Vegetarian

I'm a vegetarian. Even though I live in the Pacific Northwest, which is pretty vegetarian- and vegan-friendly, whenever people learn this about me, they tend to give me puzzled looks. Like, what is WITH you? looks. And then they begin to ask questions. And while I do politely answer their questions (well, usually), I'm quite weary of them. So I thought I'd explain everything here. Which probably won't make any difference, since very few people I know will admit to actually reading this blog. Oh well; at least I can say I tried.

Here are some of the things people say when they discover that I am a vegetarian, along with my responses.

When did you decide to become a vegetarian?

When I was about 17. It didn't happen right away, though. For a while, I had a hard time finding things on restaurant menus that were meat-free, so when I was seriously hungry, I still ate meat. Over about three years, though, I weaned myself off.

Why did you become a vegetarian? 

I was never a big fan of meat, even as a kid. If it was kind of disguised (as in hamburgers or corn dogs), that was fine, or if it was just part of something else, like pizza, no big deal. I also really liked bacon, fish sticks, tuna sandwiches, and chicken nuggets. I did not like chicken straight off the bone, or fish with bones, or things like steak and pot roast that you had to chew and chew and chew on before they'd go down. As time went on, I began to notice the little fatty clumps in hamburgers, so I stopped eating those.  Little by little, I cut out meat products from my life. Chicken sandwiches were one of the last things to go. The less of it (meat) I ate, the more disgusted I became by the thought of consuming it. It became easier and easier to be meat-free. I found things at restaurants I could eat. I learned you could ask for no bacon on a salad, or no chicken on your pasta. I'd pay the same price for the meal, sure, but at least it was now a meal I could enjoy.

Did you do it for the sake of the animals?

That may have been part of my reason, but it wasn't the main reason. I do love animals, and I don't like to see them butchered for food. It makes me sad when I watch those "House" shows on PBS and they slaughter a chicken or a pig or something. I think if I lived on a farm it would have to be a vegetable farm.

But if you don't eat meat, how do you get your protein and omega 3s?

Beans, eggs, cheese, milk, yogurt, and vitamins. I survive, somehow.

Are you a vegan?

Um, no. I think this question comes from people who aren't quite sure what the difference is. Vegans do not go for any animal products or things derived in any way from animals. That means no milk, eggs, cheese, butter... and it extends beyond that, too... no leather shoes, no fur coats. Animal-free everything. Vegetarians are sort of middle-ground, I guess you could say, and often eat animal products -- so long as it's not the animal's skin/flesh/body parts.

Vegetables are "alive," too, you know. Studies have shown that vegetables feel pain when you bite into them. So why do you eat THOSE?

This is a strange argument, especially since the "feelings" of my food is not an issue for me. Yes, I love animals, but I didn't stop eating meat so I could spare the life of Buddy The Cow out in Montana. So sorry, Carrots and your feelings, I'm going to eat you anyway. And I'm going to think lowly of anyone who presents this argument.

Speaking of which -- why do people feel the need to change my mind about being a vegetarian? Why do they think they need to convince me that my preferences are "wrong" or "unhealthy"? Not everyone does this, but many have. Usually once I tell people that I've been a vegetarian for 16 years, it shuts them up. I'm not going through a phase; I'm not dabbling in some fleeting fad. This is how I am.

Do you ever eat meat? Even sometimes?

Sometimes, yes, especially if it sneaks its way in. I may pick the Canadian bacon off my pizza and eat the pizza, knowing full well I'm consuming meat juices. I'll eat potatoes and carrots that have been cooked in the same pan as a pot roast (especially if my Grandma's cooking the meal). And if you grill me a Gardenburger on your outdoor grill, I don't care that a slab of beef was there a few minutes ago. On the other hand, I would prefer that my eggs not be cooked in bacon grease... but if I was hungry enough, I'd probably eat them anyway. ETA: I also eat shrimp sometimes, especially the honey walnut shrimp from Panda Express, because it is that good.

If you ate meat, like a whole hamburger, would you get sick?

I don't know... but I don't really want to find out.

Do you ever miss meat?

There are really only three times when I miss it:

1. When I'm eating at someone's house, or at a barbecue, and the main dish is meat, and I'm stuck eating, like, rolls and carrot sticks. Then, yes, I wish I could partake in the main dish like everybody else.

2. When I'm at certain restaurants, like Applebee's, where everything on the menu looks delicious, but nearly everything has meat in it. Same with those restaurants that only offer baked potatoes alongside a $16 steak.

3. When a neighbor is barbecuing hamburgers. The smell is incredibly pleasing to my senses; probably because it brings me back to my childhood or something. But if said neighbor were to pop his head over the fence and offer me a burger, I'd politely decline.

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