The Vegetable Freak Speaks: a Memoir

I recently went out to a very nice restaurant, or at least it seemed nice, from what I could tell. There were white table cloths, multiple forks and multiple spoons, good-looking waiters with slicked-back hair, and a wonderfully pretty menu in their hands. My fingers played with the napkin on my lap, waiting to taste the warmth dancing around the restaurant. To my benefit, the drinks were sparkly and strong. To my chagrin, the menu, though dutifully crafted and tastefully ornamented, described no food that I could eat. Everything, from the appetizers, to the entrées, to the sides, was composed of or seasoned with animal products. Even the peas and carrots were sautéed…in chicken broth.
I understand that using chicken broth and animal grease make things tastier for those who dig that sort of thing, but for those of us who don’t, it comes off as selfish and careless, but most of all inedible. Numbers of vegetarians are on the rise, and one would think that the number of restaurants with vegetarian-friendly options would correlate. And yet, they don’t. And I’m talking about more than just McDonald’s, whose french fries aren’t even clear of animal products. I am also talking about big, fancy steakhouses, “authentic” exotic restaurants, and the like. I am talking about a whole society that ignores a rising demand.
Worse is that this demographic, generally speaking, chooses the vegetarian lifestyle because, well, how else can I say this, it’s the healthiest choice. I’m not talking about spiritual, hippie-dippy stuff here, I’m talking facts (though I can’t say that I don’t buy into the hippie-dippy stuff too!). Considering the downright shitty conditions that animals are brought up in, and killed and packaged in, I don’t think it the most pleasing of food options. Creatures killed in tragedy and fear will taste just as bad as the adrenaline, and any other protective substances that the body produces in panic. Furthermore, the drugs these animals ingest throughout their lives—the steroids, the hormones, the mystery serums—don’t sit particularly well in their augmented, and ravaged bodies. They don’t sit particularly well in my stomach, either.
Vegetables, on the other hand, are bountiful, and delicious. They are vibrant creatures of nature that reach their palms to the sun, just to grow, just to feel good. Unlike the torturous means of obtaining a chicken fillet or a well-cooked steak with a little pink in the middle, vegetables can be plucked from the ground, dusted off and planted on a pretty plate, with some brown rice and a few herbs that have made the same swift journey. Vegetables, low in fat and artificial oils. High in nutrients, and low on chemicals.
I said way back in paragraph three that those who fail to offer a vegetarian-freely menu are selfish and careless. I wish to expand on that thought. I say this because, well, for a few reasons. First of all, I’ve been criticized for being a vegetarian ever since I first made the choice to do it. I’ve gotten trouble for having a breakfast sandwich without bacon, trouble that I didn’t ask for. I didn’t make this choice to free the animals or to screw capitalism or to be a tree-hugging hippie. I made this choice because I have always been a picky eater, and because I have been dutiful only to two things in this world: my heart, and my tummy.
Now, I don’t really care whether or not someone likes what I eat, that’s totally up to personal choice; however, I do care how often it seems that going out to dinner involves me facing either scrutiny, or a droopy scoop of ice cream as my only option for dinner. Becoming vegetarian has given me new vision. It has made me think very hard about the things we offer our bodies. It has made me get into the habit of checking labels and nutrition facts before I buy something, let alone eat it. I’ve also realized how heavily saturated in animal products our cuisine is, and I’ve got to say, I really don’t understand why so much of what we eat has to mingle with animal products.
While I can’t eat anything made with animal products—least of all because I don’t like them, and most of all because returning to meat after years of being away could prove to be harmful to my body—those who eat meat can eat literally anything that I eat. Baked organic sweet potato fries with a rosemary finish? Sure. A fine and spicy, authentic ratatouille? Bring it! I, however, do not have that luxury. Offer me a pork chop or a high-grade meatball, and I can’t appreciate its quality. I’d rather not smell it, to be honest. And that is what I find selfish, that an average diet can eat everything that I can eat, and then some, and yet, there is no consideration for me when I’m the one with more specific needs, needs that need to be respected just as much as allergies or religious stipulations. Because having a vegetarian diet and living as a vegetarian are two very different things. Because being a vegetarian can be deeply spiritual. Because being a vegetarian cleanses the body of toxins we have been conditioned to desire, and fortifies the soul not to be swayed by ignorant and uninformed consumerism. It goes beyond being picky for me, it has to do with my health, my body and soul, and what I do to strengthen my body to its fullest.
Being a passionate lover of mother nature, and a fan of all her creatures, I don’t know why so many people seem to “lose it” when there is no meat in a meal, or worse, when you try to offer them a vegan superfood. Kale, they say, now why in the world would I want to eat that? Or, Tofu?! Yikes! Imagine that, a society whose own mothers have brought it up “eating its vegetables,” and whose own children have grown into carnivorous beings who would sooner renounce vegetables than sugar, or fat, or plastic cheese, for that matter. What we need to do is teach our children to love their vegetables, not to tolerate them, like a bug bite or a spoonful of medicine every 6 hours for a couple of days, but like a tender kiss from the earth.

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