I frowned. I got home on Monday evening, and I’m still getting used to the vegetarian at home thing, despite doing it both winter and spring break. Even though the food at school is, at best, subpar, I have choices. More importantly, I’m not making anyone else suffer because I won’t eat meat. Cooking for five people as opposed to two thousand necessitates a smaller spread. So we—ok, my mom—has to either cook a meat-free meal, or offer me a meat-free alternative.
I’m pretty lucky; my mother is amazing in the kitchen and is quite sympathetic to my dietary restrictions (she has a few of her own), yet I can’t help feeling a twinge of guilt when she opens the fridge and asks “If I put chicken stock in this soup, will you eat it?”
“No, mom. Sorry.”
Making my parents’ job harder than it already is was not my goal when I went veg back in November. In fact, they probably don’t really view it that way. We’re not really a meat and potatoes kind of family. Our meals don’t always center around something that was once walking and breathing. However, my lifestyle has officially made me the pickiest eater in our household, a title I’d almost completely shed before I made the switch. I would go over to friends’ houses and answer “I’m easy, I’ll eat anything” to the dinner question. Now I have to make the awkward and sometimes controversial announcement “Oh, I actually don’t eat meat. But like, don’t worry about me because I can find something. I don’t want to be a burden.”
Sometimes it gets so inconvenient that I just stare at a restaurant menu wishing I could justify eating that chicken pesto panini, because it would be easier. And every so often, I miss meat. The BBQ chicken off the grill? The ballpark hotdog? My grandma’s famed brisket?? How am I to go years or a lifetime without eating foods that were a staple of my childhood?
But I don’t want to go back to ignorance. I (finally) finished Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer, and it’s difficult for me to envision a moment in which I would decide that the temporary pleasure and ease of meat-eating would outweigh the costs. (Except maybe when I’m in Russia and I might starve if I don’t eat meat? Or maybe I’ll just gorge myself on blinis and vodka).
So I’ve decided that I can’t just turn a blind eye and eat meat, like some (my brother) urge me to do. I can withstand some awkward situations and I can create a healthy diet plan. I can make baked beans without bacon and pour barbecue sauce on… well, anything, really, to recreate those beloved tastes in my mouth. I can stand up for what I now firmly believe in, and I can (hopefully) do this without royally ticking off the meat eaters in my life. Maybe I’ll even convince them to dine on plant-based meals a little more often.
The plan for the summer: do it myself. Especially considering I won’t be on a meal plan next spring, I should probably step up my cooking skills a bit. I don’t think anyone has to feel deprived, no matter what they are/aren’t eating. Maybe my family will have to suffer through a few less than stellar quinoa salads or weird tofu dishes, but, at the very least, they won’t be the ones slaving in the kitchen. I think the next order of business is trolling eBay for a nice and cheap vegetarian cookbook. But first… who wants to go to a baseball game with me and two tofurkey dogs? Okay, wait, just kidding. Don’t google that.
by Sarah Zickel