Never discuss religion, politics or your meat preferences. This is what I have learned.
The ease of being a Vegetarian on this trip ebbs and flows. For some reason, over the last couple of weeks it’s been really tough. Lately, Ive wanted to disapear at meal times. I would prefer to be neither seen nor heard. That way I can eat without constant comments about what is on (or off) my plate. But sadly, as you break bread at least 3 times a day, food choices come up a lot. And what Im realizing is this: It doesnt matter if youre keeping your veggie preferences to yourself, if everyone else at the table is eating a steak, and you are eating a salad…well, then you are a jerk.
That’s not the case everywhere. There are certain places, where it is perfectly fine to be fancy free and vegetarian. It is not at all threatening to the meat eater that you choose to abstain. But that is not national rule of thumb. There are other places in the country where your lack of meat ingestion is a personal stain on the integrity of the dinner table, or the state. There are places where I have had to sit through long lectures about how the way I choose to eat is not right, how a friend used to be a vegetarian but then came to their senses, how other people love animals but they are willing to see “the truth”. Most of these comments are stemming from an already set opinion of Vegetarians…and now, of me. (Or so it feels…) So any discussion, Ive found, is futile.
Why is it so controversial to be a Vegetarian? For those of you who know me, I dont make my vegetarianism a point of vibrant display. Mine is a personal choice — not something that I expect, or tell anyone else to follow. And yet, as of late, I have taken quite an unsolicited beating for my uninterest in meat, and Im getting tired.
Now I will say that there are those kind souls who are totally neutral and really dont care what I eat. And to those people, I thank you. You must realize that at almost every stop on the trip my food preferences come into question, and you, most likely, feel that I deserve a break too. But Ive also met a lot of other people: the ones who want to change me, who think I will grow out of this foolish idea of not wanting to kill animals, the ones who think I am pretentious to turn down any type of food when others dont have that choice. I know Im lucky to be able to make that choice. And I also know Im lucky not to be born a cow, pig or lamb. And come on…you wouldnt question someone’s religious beliefs if it resulted in diet restrictions (ie. Kosher, Hallal). Why question mine?
So I propose a truce: I will continue to not judge your meal of choice at dinner, and how ’bout you let me eat in peace as well? And we can talk about something else. Anything you want — just not religion or politics.