Tuesday, September 8, 2009
On Being a Vegetarian
So I've been meaning to write a post on this topic for a while, but with TMF activities, work, school, etc. I just haven't had the time. In August I celebrated my 2 year anniversary of being a vegetarian. I was having a conversation with my sister and she told me that my brother-in-law had secretly thought I would fail within a year of embarking on my quest. They had recently had a conversation about it which is why she mentioned it.
I thought that was hilarious as A). I don't usually fail at anything I feel strongly about and B). I thought it was clear how strongly I felt about being a vegetarian. But the more I thought about it, I guess I could see how it may appear that I don't feel strongly about it. As I mentioned in my previous post about food, I think food choices and eating are very personal. By very personal I don't mean that I don't talk about it at all, since I do devote plenty of blog space to my and Ange's eating and food shopping habits, but I feel like if you come to my blog then you can choose to read about it or not. It's not like I am in your face telling you how I think you should eat or what I think about your food choices. Which is unfortunately how a lot of vegetarians or vegans choose to live their lives. Which makes me mad. It gives other people who want to make animal-friendly choices a bad name. I know that when I say I'm a vegetarian a lot of people roll their eyes and think "Oh she's one of those flaky, PETA fur-haters" and I totally am not. In fact, I generally loathe PETA. I think they are extremists and hate that they are the face for many veggie issues.
I actually wanted to become a vegetarian long, long ago. I think I was about 14 or 15. Now the one thing you have to know about my father is that a). he doesn't like shenanigans and b). you need to have a well prepared argument before going into battle with him. So when I was thinking about becoming a vegetarian I went to the library, checked out some books about it, prepared a nice researched argument. The other thing you have to know about my father is that he exercises he veto power swiftly and sometimes without merit. I didn't get a fair hearing, but like the Supreme Court there is no appealing the Gordo decision. So that was the end of that attempt.
I pondered the idea off and on for a while, and finally two years ago, right before I left for Nigeria I decided to take the plunge. It was a good time to start as I never ate meat in Nigeria anyway. Unlike in the US where we do a very good job of disguising our food from the source where it came, in Nigeria you can very much tell where the food came from. I realized that if it made me squeamish to know I was eating an animal that was probably a sign. So I made the switch and was on my way. You would think I might remember my last non-veg meal, but I don't. I think part of it was that it was a really last minute whim and part of it was that even though I had been eating meat, it wasn't a major part of my life. I lived partially vegetarian without much effort, eating mostly hamburgers and chicken, with the occasional meal of ribs or bacon.
In the two years that I've been vegetarian I've only eaten meat once and it was very much by accident. Long story short, an African friend of mine invited me over last minute for dinner, I didn't remind him that I didn't eat meat, and after he and his wife slaved over the stove I didn't have the heart to tell them I couldn't eat their ground beef stew. I ate it and was sick for the whole next day!
One of the most common questions I get asked is whether or not I miss meat. In general, no. I am happy being a vegetarian, and I wouldn't change that for any reason. However, I do have to say that the smell of bacon, especially this all-natural kind Ange has been buying at the Farmer's Market, smells delicious. It smells good, but I don't have the desire to eat it. The one and only thing I actually miss are pork ribs. Seeing them makes my mouth water. I don't miss them so much I want to eat them, but my God I do miss them. I think part of the problem is that they have no veggie substitute that comes close. Veggie burgers are reasonable facsimiles of hamburgers, veggie sausage is pretty comparable, but there is no replacing a rib. Morningstar Farms has a product that they claim are like riblets, but sadly they do not even come close. I'll just have to realize that they will probably forever be my temptation.
The other question I get is "Why?" People usually present an option "Is it a health thing or a animal lover thing?" and my usual response is both plus more. First and foremost is that I am an animal NUT. I love animals and I can't bear to eat them. I want to kiss them not grind them up and put them on bread. Secondly, I love the earth and the environment and being a vegetarian is good for the planet. Some people like to argue about this, but I don't feel like arguing about it, so check out this resource and make your own choice about it. Finally, I do feel like there are some good health benefits about eat vegetarian. I don't reap all of them because I still eat too much crap, but no one is perfect and there is still room for me to do better.
I'm really lucky to have people around me who do support me and my eating habits. Even my dad who was so resistant before always makes sure he keeps some veggie burgers on hand in case I need something when I'm over. And more than anything, my wonderful, loving partner supports my decision to be a veggie, and I am equally supportive of her decision to not be. Since she does almost all of the cooking she goes out of her way to make food friendly for me, which means she eats mostly vegetarian for many of her meals. If she's cooking for herself or we're out to eat she usually eats meat, but often she just eats what I eat. Just another reason she's the best.
So here's to year 3 of being a vegetarian!