It’s October and you know what that means… Vegetarian month! So put down your pork chop and bite into a huge juicy black bean burger (made by Morning Star).
Vegetarians get a bad rap. They are often perceived as self-righteous animal lovers, pale undernourished hipsters, or hairy peace-loving hippies. Luke McGee, a blogger for the Huffington Post UK, wrote, “At our worst [vegetarians] are self righteous, self satisfied, judgemental and often extremely rude.” Meat eaters find themselves uncomfortable eating a juicy burger or thick steak after someone at the table has announced they don’t eat meat. Knowledge that a vegetarian has RSVP-ed to a dinner party puts added stress on the host. “Will there be enough vegetarian options?” and “What is a vegetarian options?” or “Who invited her anyway?” are common questions.
I will admit that I didn’t want to be labeled as one of the aforementioned groups. I had no desire of forcing my friends and family to question the meat on their plate or feel nervous when asking me out to dinner. I had eaten meat my whole life and wasn’t sure I could give up my favorite dishes and flavors for tofu and lettuce. I would try, for days at a time, to eat meatless options before resorting back to a turkey club or roasted chicken. I simultaneously judged and envied my friends who had made the veggie switch. I was impressed with their determination but was skeptical of their reasoning behind the change.
Getting back from the Philippines was the turning point. I had eaten pork dish after pork dish and something inside of me just said, I’m over it. And so my vegetarian life began. Instead of climbing to the tallest mountain top and declaring my rejection of animal flesh, I started off my vegetarian switch without much conscious effort. I didn’t stress myself out about the possibility of failing or setting up a strict diet plan. I just stopped eating meat and days quickly turned into weeks. As an avid foodie, I believed the change would be much more difficult than it’s turned out to be. Sure I eat PB&J more often and learned the hard way how not to refrigerate tofu, but the transition has been surprisingly satisfying.
Now for the million dollar question:
Sometimes this question is asked with genuine curiosity and other times it’s a judgement, thinly veiled by feigned interest. For me, it’s not about intrinsic animal rights. I think humans are built for eating animals. Animal rights on an individual level is a different story. I got sick of hearing about the diseases, living conditions, and necessary chemicals used in the food industry (Remember Sinclair’s The Jungle?) without questioning modern-day food production. By buying chicken, beef or pork at the grocery store I was supporting a wasteful and environmentally unsustainable process the world cannot afford. And neither could I. (Below: vegetarian ravioli from vegalicious.org)
My mom has recently become a vegetarian and my dad eats substantially less meat than he used to. My house drinks only soy milk and eats cage free eggs. I’ve started to notice more of my friends who are vegetarians and we find a closer bond through our mutually exclusive diet. Will I be a vegetarian forever? I don’t know. Nor do I suggest everyone should put the breast meat down in exchange for some tempah or beans. I just think everyone should take a second to look at the food on their plate and think about its origin. Where it came from. What it came from. When it was produced. How sustainable the process was. For me, these questions led me to a meatless option so next time I cook a meal I can say beyond reasonable doubt that
no animals were harmed in the making of this dish.