Friday, February 26, 2010

The unexpected trials of vegetarianism

I have been to several events in the suburbs now where there was absolutely no vegetarian option available. I take that back, each had a salad made of only greens, croutons and cheese.

I hate salad.

My mouth gets tired of it long before my stomach feels full.

So, I gave in and just ate what was being served. One of the main rules of my burgeoning vegetarianism is that I will never refuse someone's hospitality. Plus, I was at these functions for work and I didn't want to get grumpy because of my hunger.

This experience was unexpected because I feel like every event I have been in the past few years (which all happened to be in the city) have had fairly broad vegetarian options. I notice because Jacob only eats vegetarian when we're not at home. I know that I just plan menus automatically that have vegetarian options built in whenever I am entertaining. (I also make some pretty good vegan or gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free dishes.) I just know a lot of people who go that route and I want to make sure they feel welcome.

Does this mean that vegetarianism is still exotic out in the suburbs?

Maybe it's not geographic. My friend who is serving vegetarian food at her wedding has twice had to tell the graphic designer who is creating their invitations (who is a friend of the groom) that she does not need to warn people that no meat will be served at the reception.

Is vegetarianism threatening to people's ideology: the beliefs they have to protect their security?

That's weird to me because I feel late to the party on this one. Almost everyone I know flirted with vegetarianism in college and many people continue to eschew eating animals even into their 30s and beyond.

This is my first jaunt and I find that my wobble a little, but not unpleasantly so.

Still, I might start eating before these suburban events.


Maria said...

yep - i got used to carrying a protein bar and a piece of fruit with me almost everywhere i go. has been handy! be strong in your meatless ways!

amy said...

When I was thinking about becoming veg a couple years ago this was the point that B made. What do you do if you go somewhere and there isn't anything you can eat? It was very valid since we had recently gone to a friends for 4th of July and it was meat city. not even a bare bones salad.
Maybe eating before you go is a good idea. I get very grumpy when I don't eat so I totally understand. Maria has a good idea too but if i am really hungry an apple and a protein bar wouldn't cut it for me.
Is there a way you can let them know before hand that you don't eat meat?

Buttondown said...

Additional evidence on why it is prudent to avoid the suburbs at all costs.

Neal said...

Do you hate salad, or do you hate crappy salads?

I thought I hated salad too, until I started making/buying decent ones. The bulk of my lunch today was a salad with mixed greens, bell peppers, chickpeas, onions, broccoli, tomatoes, croutons, a little cheese sprinkled on top, and olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I'm pretty darn happy with that.

Anonymous said...

I doubt that I could go vegetarian, because I really, really dislike many of the other ways to get proteins. (In particular, I cannot stand beans.) But my mom (a suburbanite) went vegetarian while I was in college, so I'm fairly conscious about having enough options for everyone--whether I'm cooking or in choosing a restaurant.

Most of the time there are enough options for her to fill up on. Although despite not making an issue of it, I know she sometimes goes home hungry from gatherings/meetings. It amazes me what people will tell her when she says she's a vegetarian. My favorite, which I hear repeatedly: "It's chicken. It's not meat."

My dad also has a severe allergy to nuts. I can't tell you how many times we've had waitstaff tell us that the "almonds are just on top, so he can scrape them off." Um, no. There is also the inevitable conversation about how peanuts are not actually nuts, which is why he can eat those.

I've just realized that there are people who are never going to get it--whether it be a choice or a necessity or both.

ABG said...

I think vegetarianism IS more rare in the suburbs. I see it whenever I go home (not quite three blocks from your folks). It's like " you want some cheese?"

My parents have done amazing things to bless David and me and our kids in our vegetarianism, but beyond that, everyone I know there is bewildered...sweet, and meaning well, but bewildered by vegetarianism.

KC said...

I think vegetarianism is threatening, a little bit. To "down-home" food culture, mostly. It implicitly rejects much of the food that a lot of people grew up on (especially in the midwest, suburban & rural areas, etc). Since food is a big part of culture, people might see it as a rejection of their culture too. Most white Americans probably wouldn't articulate it quite that way, though, because part of white privilege is not having to realize that you have a particular "culture" at all.

Besides the urban/suburban/rural and regional divisions in how vegetarianism is perceived, I think there's also a gender divide. I know plenty of male vegetarians -- but among non-vegetarians I think men are more likely to be skeptical or critical of it than women are. For some reason, eating vegetables has been cast as "unmanly."

On a practical level, if I'm going to a party and I don't know if there will be veggie food there, I usually ask if the host would like me to bring a dish. I make something delicious that adds to the party, and I ensure that there's food for me.

I've been going to a lot of meetings on military bases recently, though, and the veggie options there are invariably disappointing. The best you can do is a weak little salad or cheese pizza (sometimes there's veggie pizza, and that's nice). But I know that about bases now, so when I'm going to a meeting like that I pack some nuts or an energy bar or something to supplement a lackluster lunch. Then I make up for it by having a big delicious dinner when we have time to leave the base.