Saturday, November 3, 2007

Welcome, You Have Arrived

While sometimes it can be more fun to hype up how hard it is, I have to agree with Alex and say that it hasn't been that bad. Do I miss meat? Yes, absolutely. But is it a constant daily craving? Yes. Well not a craving. I probably think about meat daily, something that definitely was not true a little over a week ago. Meat has become this almost sacred item in my mind. It actually means something now. It's no longer food. It's untouchable. Sometimes that can be frustrating, and there are cravings. But in general its just interesting to notice meat so much more. Meat comes up so much more than you notice when you have no restrictions on it.

However, I also must agree with Alex that there is a whole other world of food out there, one that I knew with meat, but am exploring and enjoying without. Growing up in the Midwest I think both of us were raised with the mentality that meat is the centerpiece of every good meal. And it's true that if a meal didn't have meat I would notice. It's just not complete without it. It's like those commercials for cereal that claim their product is part of a balanced breakfast (whatever that really means, I mean come on, who actually prepares toast with butter, and has a banana and apple, and a glass of milk and a glass of orange juice, all with the cereal box as a backdrop framing their meal for breakfast everyday...). Meat retains that balance in a normal lunch or dinner.

But what about those other foods that surround the centerpiece? You may be asking yourself - "Hey Devin, aren't there like 5 or 6 other categories on the food pyramid?" To which I would respond, "if you are asking yourself, why did you address me?" I would also say, "yes, sir or madam, there are indeed other food groups, good ones too. I've heard good things about the grains. And the fruits always make it more festive. Don't forget those dairy products to spice it up, or the veggies to add decoration that will be pushed aside later. (no I'm over that fear.. keep telling yourself.. I am better than my broccoli!)" The part in parentheses I'd think to myself, but you'd get the gist of it, had you asked me the aforementioned question. There is a whole world of food that doesn't care that meat goes around like it's the high school quarterback. After all, everyone likes the wide receiver, and the running back I hear is good. Even the linemen have their place (fats and oils category.. ooh analogies).

So why is my post called "Welcome, You Have Arrived"? Well because on Friday night I was initiated into the vegetarian cult. While I am not proud of what I did with the salad, I was accepted. Ok maybe there was no hazing involved. Actually, vegetarians are pretty accepting people. They are just like you and I. Except they don't eat meat. I know I should have established that a week ago when we started this (sorry for the surprise) but its true.

But I digress. Let us get to the story. Friday night I had an all vegetarian meal cooked by two wonderful vegetarians (they are wonderful people, not wonderful at being vegetarians, I am sure they are just normal at being vegetarian. I don't think there are varying degrees of ability to be a vegetarian. I suppose if you ate meat daily you'd be a bad vegetarian, but that's about it..). One thing they are wonderful at is cooking. The meal was delicious, and I was also accompanied by several other vegetarians. As we enjoyed our delicious black bean and corn veggie burgers (or as Alex would call them, beetles with purple sauce burgers), salad (I made the dressing! Or followed the directions I was given!), and squash, I shared our story of going veg for the environment. It was great to hear some of the other stories for going vegetarian. One was contemplating switching, but was fearing giving up steak. I told him chicken was my vice, but I felt his pain. Another told me that she initially went vegetarian after reading about Buddhism. That was a reason I had never heard. One of the most interesting things about vegetarianism is that everyone has slightly different reasons, yet all are united under the same cause. Many go veg for animal rights reasons, and some at the dinner were into that. I expressed my feelings of general apathy towards animal slaughter, and they still respected me for going vegetarian (if I wasn't vegetarian they wouldn't have respected me... they are ruthless. They say never get on a vegetarian's bad side; its true) (Disclaimer: No one says that). Animal rights, general dislike of the taste of meat, the environment, dietary reasons, Buddhism, challenging oneself for a month so you can have something to blog about - everyone has their reason.

So thank you to Ginny and Alex for the wonderful meal, and to the vegetarian community delegation present at the dinner who oversaw my initiation into the community. Accepting a meat-loving Midwesterner into the vegetarian community is a big deal. Ok I am over-hyping this again. I am sorry I just get so excited. Really I imagined this welcome ceremony. There was no kneeling or oaths or hazing or secret handshakes (*wink wink* I'll show you later). I think enjoying the all vegetarian home cooked meal, for me, made me feel like I could really do it. Like I was accepting it on a personal level. So in my head I was hazing my meat-loving tendencies, and I was kneeling down, giving oaths and pledges, and totally high fiving everyone. I even invited the local authorities and newspaper editors from my stomach and gave them the secret high five, and they are no longer perplexed (what a bad running joke, I apologize...). Regardless - I enjoyed a meal with no meat. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Thought nothing was missing. Oh yeah and we had cupcakes with cinnamon and granola frosting (yay protein). As my friend pointed out, one good thing about going vegetarian is that all desserts are a.o.k. Except my famous ice cream sundae with ham on top. I'll have to cut that out.

Let me quickly tell the story of my dinner tonight before I let you guys get back to what you were doing before you chose to procrastinate and read about what I ate for dinner each night this week (honestly who blogs about what they eat daily...). Tonight I joined a friend for dinner at the Sunset Cantina restaurant - a Mexican themed restaurant on campus that is just amazing. I have to say that so far I have been seeking out vegetarian friendly options. This menu proved just the opposite. If you have been to Sunset, you know that the menu is longer than what you have to read that night for class. Luckily for me they put a green "V" by each vegetarian friendly option. I was glad I wouldn't have to carefully read each item. Especially because after a second it became quite apparent that out of the maybe 90 options on the menu, a grand total of FOUR were deserving of the coveted green "V." Wow, talk about meat as the focal point. That means that they had 86 distinct dishes with meat in them. 86! Meat is everywhere! That means two things: one, that virtually everyone in the restaurant was eating meat, and two, that about 5-6% of people are vegetarians. Ok it doesn't have to mean the second part, but doesn't that seem fair to have your menu reflect the general distribution of your patrons?

Anyway, I got the veggie burger, and it was DELICIOUS. I have to say, I honestly think it was better than a normal burger. Much healthier too. I guess I am transforming into a crunchy granola, hippy, vegetarian. Uh oh... Bring it on.


Alexandra Dyke said...

Okay, a few things:
1. I know you're (half) joking, but still, we're not a cult! (DON'T TEACH ANYONE THOSE HANDSHAKES!)
2. You did amazing things with that salad, the dressing was delicious!
3. You're welcome, again. :)
4. Definitely not a crunchy hippie, and those parts of me that are a hippie come from my Maine upbringing, not my veg status.
5. I don't know about the Cantina, but Suset Grill also has an awesome veggie burrito on the menu (aptly called the "gringo burrito"), annnd I know you like burritos, soo.... I'll stop rambling now.

Devin E said...

I won't show anyone those handshakes. I mean... what handshakes.

I will have to check out the gringo burrito - and Maine!

Thanks for the comments.