Hello, readers. It has been awhile. I have been working on a post about being a food snob, but that hasn’t been going to well. I can’t seem to formulate my thoughts in non-offensive ways. But that’s OK, because my good friend Lyla Hampton is here to rescue me with a guest post.
Lyla and I met in college. We have been through lots of things together, most of which are safely stored in a box marked CONFIDENTIAL. But here is what I can tell you about Lyla – she is getting a super-smart Ph.D. in brains and psychology and smart people things. She studies brains, BRAINS, which never fails to make me think of zombies, who eat BRAINS. She is also hilarious, and married to another super-smart guy named Stephen, who is in medical school and also knows a lot about brains. They are an uberBRAINy couple (see what I did there?). They are also both vegetarians. A couple weeks ago, Lyla told me I should write about the myths of vegetarianism, those things that everyone thinks about vegetarians that aren’t true. For example, I always picture vegetarians as bunnies, calmly nibbling away at carrot tops. But I know this is not true, because Lyla and Stephen are not bunnies.
So I asked Lyla if she would write this blog post instead, because she is a vegetarian and knows more about it than I do. Clearly. And I was interested to read what she had to say about it. And because Lyla is in finals right now, and tired of writing about brains and would rather write about other things. So here are Lyla’s Myths of Vegetarianism, specially prepared for the holiday season. This will be especially helpful to you if you are an omnivore who will be hosting some vegetarians this holiday season, and are at a loss as to what to serve.
The holiday season is complicated enough. What to get grandma, how much to spend on the guy you just started dating but are really kind of into, and how to seat every member of your extended family (and new boyfriend) at a table for four. On top of it all, you have vegetarians coming to dinner. Just the word sends a shiver down the spine of all those carnivores that relish Christmas ham and turkey. What do Vegetarians eat? Can they sustain themselves on a meal of lettuce? Will I have enough salad? And why must they be so inconvenient? As the wife, sister, and general member of the vegetarian party, I thought it would be helpful (and cathartic) this holiday season to dispel some of the myths surrounding the Vegetarian practice:
Myth #1: All vegetarians eat salads
True story. When my husband and I moved back to Texas, my mom had stocked the refrigerator with three heads of Iceberg lettuce. I asked her, “what is all this lettuce for?” to which she replied “I thought you guys were vegetarians now, I wanted to have something for you to eat!” It was a shock when my husband later skipped the salad for the beans and rice. Cornered, he admitted, “ I am not a big fan of salads.” To which both my mom replied, “ Then what do you eat?” What my husband meant to say is that he is not a big fan of the “typical” salad served at meals: The kind that includes lettuce, croutons, and perhaps some shredded carrots. This salad does not satisfy the hungry vegetarian. Trust me, put a salad of spinach, avocados, nuts and other veggies in front of my husband and he becomes a bottomless pit. Also, the exclamation of “what do vegetarians eat besides lettuce?” kind of dumbfounds me when I think about the extensive variety of vegetables and fruit that make up the produce section. You basically can mix and match your produce, and along the way create some pretty healthy and hearty salads that don’t contain an ounce of Iceberg lettuce.
Myth # 2: All vegetarians are so because of ethical reasons
When someone is described as a vegetarian, you generally picture someone wearing hemp clothing, traveling barefoot, and carrying a protest sign saying, “meat is murder.” At least, that is what I thought back before I became a vegetarian. Truth is, there is a multitude of reasons people cross over to the veggie side, including the love of animals. My husband decided to be vegetarian to reduce his impact on the environment. My sister became a vegetarian after a college class that included the reading of “Fast Food Nation.” I’m a convenient vegetarian, as it is convenient my husband doesn’t eat meat since I do not know how to cook it. While I was living the vegetarian lifestyle before I even knew what it was, I breathed a sigh of relief when my husband declared his independence from meat eating, and went out to buy more chickpeas. Four years later, the lifestyle works for both of us, for very different reasons.
Myth #3: All vegetarians are healthy
When I hear this, the little kid inside me says “SO NOT TRUE!” It is actually very easy to be an unhealthy vegetarian, particularly since bread and cheese can still be on the menu. For example, a cheese pizza is considered vegetarian, and eating a tray of Totinos pizza rolls, pepperoni or no pepperoni, will make you fat. While there are several people that use the term “vegetarian” to limit their overall intake of food, that lifestyle is not vegetarian-it’s an eating disorder. Practicing a vegetarian lifestyle is like any other. You have to eat a balanced diet and make sure you get enough vitamins and nutrients. All in all, it is not the absence of meat that reduces the love handles. It is the refraining from ordering seconds.
Myth #4: It is expensive to be a vegetarian
This statement is true only if you are the kind of vegetarian who lives by packaged food and meat alternatives. The trend has caught on and many products geared toward the non-meat eating populations are pricier because people buy them. But consider what it take to make a meal vegetarian: a basic dinner could be canned beans, frozen or fresh vegetables, and brown rice. A dinner for four can easily cost under $15. During these times when every penny counts, cutting out expensive meat or meat alternatives is not a bad way to go.
Even when dining out, a vegetarian does not necessarily have to spend more than a meat eater. In fact, the cost of a shrimp or fish dish is generally more than the vegetarian hamburger. Plus, there are so many wonderful options for meat and non-meat eater alike in San Antonio! For example, whenever we go back to the Alamo city, my husband must make his stops at Beto’s and Adelante. I recently discovered the joy of Green, which has its own garden to pick vegetables from for their meals! Mad Hatters is a must for a good brunch, and Central Market’s to-go options will never let you down. All these restaurants offer an array of options to choose from, and the conscientious consumer (be they leaf- or meat-eating) can make the most of the variety of options available.
Myth #5: Vegetarians are judging you
It’s interesting to witness the reaction people have when the “v” word is uttered. Many people scrunch up their face as though they smell a foul odor, while others become silent, wary, and may simply say “oh.” Some people want to know more about why you chose the vegetarian lifestyle, and others spend a great deal of time justifying why they just can’t give up meat. There seems to be an instant sense of being judged, to which people put up their defenses. The truth is, most vegetarians don’t care what you eat. They chose to be vegetarians for themselves, and don’t expect everyone else to do the same. Vegetarians may not mind discussing their eating habits with you, but those choices don’t fully define them, just as your choice of religion, occupation, or favorite Kardashian sister does not fully define you. In total, take comfort: there may be plenty of reasons vegetarians will judge you, but it won’t be because you are eating meat.
At the perfect Christmas table, there would be no “vegetarian” label, and veggie lovers could coincide with meat eaters without quarrel. Something about the label sets people off, particularly at holiday meals. But there is hope; all it takes is a little compromise on both ends. As vegetarians in Texas, you have to deal with the centerpiece of the meal begin a humongous piece of meat. You may have to create your own dish, as mom still does not know what you eat. But, as families change, so do lifestyles, and a harmonious holiday dinner is possible. At our Thanksgiving this year, there was turkey, there was ham, but there was also hummus. Meat eaters ate mushroom loaf, and everyone could eat the pumpkin pie. All in all, everyone came to the table, relished each other’s company, and left sated and satisfied. Turkey or tofu, it was truly something to be thankful for.