by Lakshmi Sadhu
Dietary preferences are a heavily charged topic of conversation. People just don’t like being critiqued for their preferences – vegetarian or otherwise. Growing up, almost everyone I knew, both in my family and extended friends’ circle, were vegetarians. It came with the territory (figuratively and literally speaking), being both Hindu and Brahmin. Vegetarianism wasn’t really a heavily debated topic of conversation at any time.
It was only after crossing the Atlantic Ocean and arriving in North America, that I realised that my vegetarianism was a social and political statement. That my dietary preferences meant more to some people, than they did even to me. I would find myself being confronted with frantic, sometimes well-intentioned, questions about why I chose not to eat the cooked carcasses of animals.
And that’s when it happened.
I went from a kumabya “let everyone do as they please vegetarian”, to “that vegetarian”. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t go around shoving my dietary opinions in people’s faces. It’s just that 22-year-old me, unlike 18-year-old me, is fully armed with an arsenal of counter-arguments to that specific part of the omnivorous population who like to high-handedly question my lifestyle choices. I have no beef (pun intended) with the rest of the omnivorous population who live and let live.
Experience has allowed me to compile the ten most common situations that vegetarians can relate to. This list of course is based on my personal experience. Feel free to mention in the comments below your own unique struggles!
1. The million dollar question: Where do you get your protein from?
My pacifistic ways will be a thing of the past if someone asks me one more time where I get my protein from. Literally no one cares about your protein intake until they find out you’re vegetarian. As soon as they do, everyone suddenly morphs into a nutritional expert, worrying about your protein sources and if it’s satisfying your daily nutritional requirements.
2. So why are you vegetarian exactly?
The real question is, why are you not vegetarian exactly?
Were the comprehensive scientific reports on the benefits of a meat-free diet not enough for you? Are the monstrous and appalling conditions of factory farming too unstimulating for you? Or perhaps, you’ve just decided that the crudest of humans senses, taste, ought to reign over basic compassion and intelligence?
3. The “plants are alive too” argument
I have a mini brain aneurysm every time someone uses the “plants are alive too” argument. Yes, my special snowflake, plants most certainly are alive. However, science has yet to prove that cabbages and potatoes are sentient, that they feel emotions, think and perceive. But you know who science has proven as definitely sentient? ANIMALS!
4. The “How do you do it?” question
You just don’t put meat in your mouth. Every day. That’s literally all there really is it to it. It’s not that complicated, guys.
5. “Is it okay if I eat it in front of you?”
Usually asked by people who find out you are a vegetarian for religious reasons. I honestly don’t care what you choose to put in your mouth, so don’t look so guilty eating that rare sirloin in front of me.
6. When you’re overwhelmed by options
Since you usually only have, at best, two or three options on the menu that are vegetarian-friendly, going to a vegan or vegetarian restaurant is a sensory overload. You’ll want to order every single thing on the menu.
7. So, can you eat fish?
This may come as a shock to you, but fishes are animals too – aquatic animals. I’m a vegetarian, not a pescatarian.
It seems really hard for some people to grasp that you can’t just “peel the pepperoni off the pizza”, or just pick out the chicken strips from a salad before eating the rest. If you’re vegetarian for religious reasons, avoiding cross-contamination is especially important. This makes eating out a little more challenging as well, since you cannot guarantee that the kitchen is complying one hundred percent with food safety standards. Dorm cafeterias are a haven for cross-contamination, perpetrated by some ignorant students. I had a girl a couple of weeks back retort with a very snarky “it’s just the sauce”, when I asked her not to mix up the ladles for the tofu curry and chicken stew.
9. “But bacon is sooo good – you’re missing out!”
I can think of a hundred things tastier than bacon. Butterscotch ice-cream cookie sandwiches, for instance, or crispy waffle fries – neither of which involves disembowelling this cutie patootie.
10. When you can’t help but be slightly annoying to waiters in restaurants
Are these ramen noodles egg-free? Is there any way I can get this salad without the bacon bits? Can I substitute the milk in this smoothie with almond milk? Does the fried rice have oyster sauce? You’re sure these Pad Thai noodles are vegetarian-friendly, right? The soup definitely has no meat-based broth right? RIGHT?!!!