My decision to become a vegetarian was off-putting to my family and friends. I think that, to many of them, I was perhaps the first vegetarian they ever met.
Let me explain.
In Colombia, there’s basically no one who doesn’t eat meat (except for a few of us). It’s not because our traditional dishes always have meat in them (in fact, there’s a lot of them where it’s just corn flour and cheese), but rather because eating “a protein” for lunch (that is, meat, chicken, or fish) is seen as vital to someone’s health.
So inevitably, I am used to the questions at the dinner table. Here are some of the things I get from people back home.
1. “How vegetarian are you? Like do you eat dairy at least?”
Yes, of course, I do. That’s why I’m not vegan.
2. “So what do you eat, then?”
Hmm, well… I eat lots of delicious things.
When they say this they mean it in the sense that if I don’t eat any meat, then I must be eating “nothing.” When I say that I eat things like fruits, pizza, pasta, arepas, salads, beans, eggs, yogurt, cereal, etc. they start to realize that a lot of things they eat don’t have meat in them.
Yes, I’m sure you eat “vegetarian” for some of your meals, too.
3. “But like, what is a normal lunch for you?”
At this point, is still hasn’t sunk in that lunch doesn’t necessarily require “a protein.” To them, lunch is not “lunch” without meat, chicken, or fish.
I tell them that sometimes I eat tofu and veggies for lunch.
4. “Eww!! What does tofu taste like?”
It tastes like whatever you put into it; it depends on how you cook it. If you eat it by itself it has a neutral taste, that’s why you can cook it with soy sauce.
5. “I could NEVER be a vegetarian.”
Ok! Yeah, I know, some people love meat.
6. “Don’t you miss it [meat]?”
I mean, not really. I decided to become a vegetarian because I don’t like the taste of meat. It grosses me out.
7. “How long have you been a vegetarian for?”
This question is always asked with a dose of incredulity. In their minds, if you haven’t been a vegetarian for too long, it might mean that you’re just going through a “phase.”
But when I say that I’ve been one since I’m 15 years old, they seem impressed.
8. “What would you do if you accidentally ate meat?”
Probably just spit it out (as you would with any other ingredient you don’t like). It’s not like I made a vow to remain “pure” for as long as I can… It’s not a race. I’m not doing it to see how long I can go without putting a piece of meat in my mouth.
9. “Where do you get protein from? Do you have to take any supplements?”
This one is usually accompanied by a grin. They want to see you struggle in coming up with an answer. It’s as if though they were trying to find a “problem” with your diet.
The answer is usually no, I’m not taking any supplements. I get blood tests regularly to check if I have some nutrient deficiency, and that has never been the case. I get my protein mostly from beans.
10. “Can I ask you why? Is it because of animal rights?”
Nope, it’s not. I decided to become a vegetarian because I don’t really enjoy the idea of eating a dead animal.
But honestly, I wish I could just say that it’s none of your business.