Sharing that I’m a vegetarian is trickier than telling people I don’t drink (and, believe me, that’s super tricky). People sometimes ask why I’m a vegetarian—but not as much as they did 20 years ago.
Thankfully, being a vegetarian nowadays doesn’t make me quite as weird. Wait, I’m an Intuitive Animal Communicator. Never mind—still weird.
Where vegetarians are welcome
I have to say I was delighted when I visited my daughter Andy in India in 2012, where there are bunches of vegetarians. Yes, it’s hard to believe that the second largest country in the world finds vegetarianism okay. Especially when I’ve grown up listening to people say “bacon” as if it was the sexiest thing alive.
Veg or Non-Veg?
When I went to a restaurant in India, they’d ask, “Veg or Non-Veg?” Translation, “Are you a vegetarian or not?” I felt so NORMAL.
And the menu choices! India has created outrageously tasty vegetarian dishes.
That was important because one of the gifts of traveling around the world with the Navy was discovering all kinds of incredibly good food. I didn’t want to lose the joy of eating just because I became a vegetarian.
Restaurant choices that get old
Indian cuisine knows that vegetarian does not equal these basic restaurant choices:
- Tofu (fried, plain, mushed up)
- Salad (No, I don’t want to add meat to that. Really! Neither the chicken nor the cow, thank you.)
- A deep-fried vegetable appetizer
- Pasta and red sauce, with–if I’m lucky–some slightly warmed veggies thrown in
Yes, I am cranky when it comes to this subject.
Luckily, the options for vegetarians are much better now. So I’m less cranky. 😁
“I don’t eat meat”
One thing I’ve learned is that I can’t simply say, “I don’t eat meat.”
From what I can tell, to most folks in the US, meat only applies to furry mammals. Except cats and dogs. It doesn’t include animals that live in the sea or have feathers.
So now I say, “I don’t eat animals.” This declaration jars people sometimes, but it is usually clear. Not always.
Sometimes, I can almost see the thought bubbles over their heads as if we were living in a cartoon strip.
“Are fish animals?” “Are birds animals?”
They ponder, “Well, I learned that everything’s animal, vegetable, or mineral. Let’s see. They’re not vegetables. Not minerals. Okay!! They ARE animals! So she’s not eating them. Got it.”
And then there’s that nuance of, “You don’t eat animals, but it’s just beef stock in that soup. It’s not an animal. What’s the problem?”
Uh, where do you think the beef stock came from? A dead cow. No, thank you.
I was a pescatarian for a while. But then (yes, I am still weird), fish unexpectedly asked me, “How come we don’t get a pass on being devoured? How come you’re still eating us?”
A book changed my thinking
Back in the early 2000s, I read J.M. Coetzee’s (Nobel prize winner in literature) novel, Elizabeth Costello. The book subject is a renowned novelist who, when invited to speak, refuses to talk about anything except animal rights. It drives folks nuts. But her musings got through to my heart.
You can read a shorter version of Coetzee’s novel in The Lives of Animals. And if the topic intrigues you, Google “animal rights books” and get reading!
So my decision to stop eating animals and decrease my use of animal products was and is ethical, not for my health. Although it seems to have helped me there.
As I have jokingly said,
“Talking to animals and eating them is a serious conflict of interest!”
To be transparent, I’m not perfect. But I’m happy I’ve come this far.
Take a few baby steps
As I dig into my Lentil Dahl, remember to do what you can for animals! Here are some resources.
Read my blog!