My friend Katie just posted a blog about why she became a vegetarian. It inspired me to do the same.
I’m going to break my thoughts down into a sort of outline so that it makes sense and you can skip around if ya wanna.
1) I’d always wanted to become a vegetarian because I’ve always been a big animal lover. I had a Scottish Terrier named Windsor when I was little and a little Tortie Cat named Mitten growing up. We also always had little lizards, fish, frogs, hamsters and all sorts of other sundry little guys living at my house. I know that these aren’t the sorts of things that humans eat but I just felt like I wouldn’t want my pets’ lives to be foresaken so that someone could blandly eat them. SO it gave me a lot of guilt that I was eating animals. I didn’t think I could ever become a vegetarian though because I didn’t really know any and therefore didn’t know how.
2) When I was in my late teens, early 20’s, I stopped eating red meat and pork (for the most part). This was a two-fold decision.
a. I did it to keep weight off. I, before this, had never eaten much poultry at all. When I was growing up, no one really ate that much chicken or turkey. When I was in my late teens/early 20’s suddenly a weight loss fad started up where people started eating a shitload of poultry. I just went along with it. And honestly, I kept off a lot of weight.
b. My family has a history of heart disease on my Mother’s side. My Mom was on blood pressure medication. My Grandfather and his brother had died of heart attacks. My Uncles were having heart trouble. It just was kind of scary and I didn’t want it to happen to me.
3) In maybe 2000 or 2001, I was living with a friend and her parents. Her father had bypass surgery and was put on a forced vegan diet. Her mother had wiped the fridge out of all cheeses, milks, meat, etc. Everything was made of soy. I kind of got used to black bean burgers, soy milk and soy ice cream. It wasn’t quite the same but if it’s whatcha have, it’s whatcha have.
3) When we moved to Florida in 2002 to work at Disney, we were partnered with four other girls to share an apartment. Coincidentally, two of the girls were vegetarians. Both of them came from somewhat rural areas. Both of their fathers hunted. Both of them had basically grown up naming animals and then seeing them be butchered. (I’m oversimplifying here so forgive me Jamie and Regina!) Anyway, how they ate was just NOT much different from how we did. They bought bread and cheese and condiments and chips and cookies or whatever it is we were eating at the time. Just rather than buying frozen meat, they bought frozen chick patties and veggie burgers. We started buying them too and found that we just liked them a lot.
4) When we moved home, we decided to give vegetarianism a serious shot. Kristyn had moved in with her parents again and I had moved in with my Dad. Before long, we got an apartment and started grocery shopping for ourselves. We’d stock the fridge with the stuff we’d eaten at the DePalma’s house and in Florida. Whenever we craved a real burger or bacon or something, we just had it. So basically we were eating veg but having meat when the fancy struck. That was seriously the best way we could have done it because whenever we DID eat meat, we got really sick. After a few bouts of that, forget it, we were done.
1) Not eating meat felt good because my conscience and my actions were finally in sync. I really felt like I was on the right path in a spiritual sense. In a weird way, animals are kind of my religion. Animals are reactionary. They have their own personalities and feelings. BUT they are put in a subservient position in this world. And they know it. This makes them reactionary. If you treat an animal with kindness and respect, that animal with (most likely) treat you the same exact way. It is this mutual respect with animals that have gotten me through every tough time in my life. To make a choice not to hurt an animal felt right.
2) It was nice to eat “clean”. Meats tend to be greasy. Meats tend to have a high fat content (at least higher than veg food). Meats tend to make me feel gummed up. Veg food made me feel very clean inside which I liked.
3) It was more difficult to find varied foods at first. When we became veg in 2002/2003, there really weren’t a lot of veg options on the market. Thank GOD there are now tons comparatively. But at the time, we ate a lot of veggie burgers.
4) Going out to eat became a serious hassle. At that time, there really weren’t any veg options on menus. If you asked a waiter to change a meal to exclude the meat, you got a serious ‘tude. We had to learn to say we were “allergic” to something in the dish in order to be taken seriously (or be charged more to take something OUT of the meal, risic). Thank god there are a bit more options nowadays (or at least more understanding). Still though there are some restaurants that just do NOT have one meat-free meal on the menu which is always a bummer.
1) Our friends didn’t care about us becoming veg at all.
2) Our families DID. We got a lot of crap from family members who thought we were just being picky. Some people accepted it quicker than others and were extremely accepting/accommodating. Other people took it as an affront and made sure to make every meal an occasion to tell us that we think we’re better than everyone else. *Sigh* This is not what this is about. There’s a lot of that “So you think you’re better than me” garbage when someone finds out you’re a vegetarian. I don’t know why that is. I guess it’s because any time you step “out of line”, someone will be right there to get upset. I guess it’s also because you are doing it out of a sense of personal “right and wrong”. You think you’re doing “right” so that must mean that you think everyone else is “wrong”. I have never pontificated about being a vegetarian once in my life. It’s a personal choice that happens to make me happy, end of story.
3) Eventually our families (mostly) came around. We try to make sure to bring something we can eat to food parties where possible bc:
a. It’s polite.
b. No one should be expected to cater to our needs.
4) Still, on every Thanksgiving, someone has to have a nervous breakdown because we brought slices of Tofurkey to enjoy with Cranberry Sauce. And that leads into a story about the “time we offended everyone by eating Tofurkey” and that we “expected everyone else to eat Tofurkey” and that we “ruined a traditional American holiday by eating Tofurkey”. None of these things are true, it’s just the kaleidoscope that they are viewing the situation. Have your turkey and I’ll have my Tofurkey. I won’t criticize you if you won’t criticize me. The bottom line is: Keep crying, because Tofurkey is coming no matter who likes it or doesn’t. I need something to eat cranberry sauce with goddammit!
Eating veg has:
1) It has allowed us to become more adventurous with what we eat. We are always trying new things.
2) It has made me eat a lot more cheese and bread which has put a lot of weight on me that I now have to take off. This doesn’t help in the heart situation but that’s okay. The pros outweighs the cons AND my blood pressure is in the low side of normal every time I get it checked. (And it’s not “too low”, it’s actually usually 110/70.)
3) Made me learn how to cook. Since it’s harder to find veg food you like out in the “wild”, we need to rely on cooking more often in order to eat the sorts of things we like. (It’s also saved us a bundle in food costs considering that veg food is cheaper and not readily available for take-out.)
4) Cleared up my food allergies. I know this sounds stupid but I actually used to be allergic to fresh food and vegetables. I didn’t even eat them at ALL for at least ten years. I made a decision that it was:
a. Ridiculous not to eat them.
b. Especially as a vegetarian.
c. I started eating them, allergies be damned and they’re basically gone now. Whether they faded through time or through exposure, IDK. But I do know that I eat them and am just fine. *shrug*
Whether anyone agrees or not, this is probably one of the more positive things I’ve ever done for myself in my life. Spiritually and physically, I get more positivity about what I put in my mouth hole than from anything else I do. When the chips are down, I know that whatever anyone else has to say about me, I am following my heart and mind on this one subject and doing what I know is right.
I don’t expect anyone else to become veg nor do I condemn anyone who isn’t. I do, however, think that people who eat meat should find a way to incorporate veg foods into their lives. Here are the reasons why:
a. It tastes good.
c. Good for your heart.
Eat meat, but try this food and see if it’s as disgusting as you think. No, it doesn’t 100% taste exactly like what you’re used to…because it’s not. But if made properly, it can be a great change to your palate and to your life.
Oh and there’s one more thing about us not eating meat that is relevant and those are our “rules”.
All vegetarians/vegans have a set of rules they live by. Some are stricter than others. Here are a couple of definitions to help you delineate the differences:
Vegan: Someone who does not eat/consume any product from an animal’s body. This includes dairy and eggs. May extend to not using products made from an animal’s body.
Vegetarian: Someone who does not eat meat but possibly eats eggs/dairy. May or may not use products made from an animal’s body.
Pescatarian: Someone who does not eat beef, pork or poultry but does eat fish. May or may not extend to eggs/dairy or products made from an animal’s body.
The reason I have so many qualifiers in the above descriptions are because it’s different for every person. We have friends who are strict vegans. They don’t eat anything that could come from an animal’s body and all the products they use are vegan as well. We tried this for a while but found that although emotionally satisfying, it wasn’t something we could keep up with for very long. At that time, we were visiting family and friends a lot and it’s tough to tell your Nana that you can’t eat the homemade macaroni and cheese she made especially for you because you don’t eat meat. “Oh yeah, but that has dairy in it!” And it’s REALLY tough when you go to a birthday party and someone hands you a cupcake. “Is there eggs in it? Sorry, I’m morally opposed to your delicious and adorable baked good.” It just wasn’t something that was for us. Plus we like bread too damn much.
So here are our rules that we’ve cultivated from seven years of trial and error. A lot of hardcores would call us cheaters but they can feck off, this is what works for us:
1) We don’t eat any meat products at all. Sometimes people put meat in sauces. Won’t eat it. Sometimes people use chicken broth in a soup. Won’t eat it. Sometimes people will “take the meat out for you”. Won’t eat it. I even have a problem if meat has been cooked on the same surface as what I’m eating. It’s not that I’m trying to be a bummer, it’s just that my body can’t metabolize it anymore. I get really sick if I do. Also I KNOW it bc I can taste the meat grease. So weird.
2) We will eat eggs if and only if they’re baked into bread or cake, etc. We don’t eat any other kind of cooked egg. I will buy eggs if I’m going to make a boxed cake but if I’m baking a cake, cookies or anything else from scratch, it’s always vegan.
3) We will eat something if milk is baked into it but won’t drink actual milk or cream. That includes coffee, no milk in coffee or tea. We only buy soy milk at home. We ask for soy milk in coffee or tea or just drink it black if there’s no other way. But we don’t mind and are flexible about it.
4) We do eat cheese. We do sometimes buy fake cheese, either grated or sliced. It doesn’t taste 100% the same but we both like the taste. The only problem is that fake cheese is sometimes hard to find. The other problem is that sometimes when you find the fake cheese at the supermarket, it is sitting on the shelf having expired a longlonglong time ago bc no one buys it. SO we go through phases. If we know that our supermarket sells a lot of the fake stuff and therefore cycles it out, we’ll buy fake cheese. If it doesn’t, we get the real stuff and either is fine.
a. Side note about this: When I go off cheese, my allergies are 90% better and that goes for my food, pollen and skin allergies. I’m virtually allergy-free. Weird.
5) We sometimes eat fish. This is a big one that we get haterade on. I agree that fish are no lower of a life form than any other animal. The problem is that sometimes we go out to eat with family and they say, “Ah, they’ll have fish there! You’ll be fine!” or we go to someone’s wedding and are expected to eat fish. It’s really a meat-eater’s problem haha. Meat eater’s don’t seem to see fish as animals and therefore think we’ll be fine eating fish. We don’t have the heart to correct that so off we go to the fish restaurant to have a loving dinner with our families haha. The things you do for love.
Now I’m not saying that we NEVER eat fish on our own, we do. Once in a while we’ll make tuna sandwiches or get in the mood for Salmon but that’s really where it ends. And every time I have Salmon, I kind of realize that it’s not something I want to eat. It tastes good but when I’m eating it, I always kind of am hyper-aware that this little guy had a family too and it’s hard for me to choke down haha.
6) We are aware of what products we are buying. We try to buy products that aren’t tested on animals and do not have animal products in them. Of course, these kinds of products tend to cost a bit more so sometimes we can’t be as good about it. We try to buy canvas/fabric shoes over leather. We buy cotton clothes. We buy shampoos/conditioners/lotions/soaps that are animal testing free (where applicable). We use all the things we have until they’re D-E-A-D. We recycle and donate and buy things second-hand where possible. So in other words, we are mindful of the things we use/buy within reason. We’re not perfect but we do pay attention to what we are doing when we can afford to. (Tip, white vinegar is great for cleaning and CHEAP.)
7) We call ourselves Vegetarians. Although some hardcore people would call us Pescatarians, I feel like that doesn’t fit what we are. We eat fish as an exception to the rule, not the rule. I think what you USUALLY do has more weight than what you SOMETIMES do but I’ve met some vegans who beg to differ. Ah well, so we differ.
Okay, whew! That was a lot, even by my standards. I know I’ve blogged this all before but I felt like there was a lot I wanted to say about this. I hope no one has taken offense, even the people who I mentioned had troubles with our vegetarianism. We’re all human and subject to foibles and misunderstandings. It’s hard to be judged by the people you love for something you feel is right. I try not to take too much offense because I know that what I’m doing is just not in the scope of what I am expected to do or in the scope of what they might do themselves. Therefore some hurt feelings are bound to result. At the end of the day though, I can’t change myself to fit anyone elses’ expectations nor can anyone change to fit mine so it is what it is.
With that, I’m going to post a picture of a breakfast sandwich that I made the other morning. It’s a bagel with scrambled Tofu (with diced onions and mozzarella on top), Facon (fake bacon) and American Cheese. Goddamn that was a good sandwich. Tell me you don’t want a bite of that guy!