If I remember correctly, I’ve been a vegetarian since 1994, though to be honest, it’s been long enough that I may not have the exact year straight in my head. Â Suffice it to say that for the better part of two decades I have eschewed the carnivorous lifestyle. Â I have done this as a matter of personal choice.
That’s the part I think almost no one understands. Â Everyone wants to know the reason, and if you read enough student essays on vegetarians, you will know that there are always three possibilities for the reason — health concerns, animal welfare activism, and religious beliefs. Â I can’t say that I have taken much of a stand for any of the three, nor have I ever really cared that I did. Â I am a vegetarian out of personal choice.
I don’t have an argument to make here. Â I don’t eat meat. Â I just don’t. Â This isn’t about what you eat or what anyone else eats. Â I just don’t eat meat.
Don’t get me wrong. Â I love animals, and I am squeamish about eating them. Â I also believe in the health benefits of a plant-based diet. Â I’m not opposed to the reasons commonly given for vegetarianism. Â I’m just not committed enough to any one of them to claim one as the reason I don’t eat meat. Â I have a brother who doesn’t eat spinach, and I don’t eat meat. Â These are our personal preferences. Â And the one thing you can’t argue someone down on is personal preference. Â If you like blue and I like green, we can argue all day, and you will still like blue, and I will still like green. Â Preferences are not positions supported with evidence, and thus they are not convictions people can be persuaded to or away from. Â They just are.
This is why it doesn’t tempt me when you hold a steak up in front of me and say, “Don’t you just want one bite?” Â I use this example because something like it happens every day of my life that I am around other people. Â I am not tempted because I truly never wanted the steak. Â I wasn’t sitting there depriving myself out of some misguided principle that you will be the one person to lure me away from with your clever ploys. Â If I wanted to eat the steak I would.
But I don’t.
And despite the fact that I haven’t said anything about you eating it and haven’t even thought about what I think of you eating it — because seeing people eat things I don’t eat is no different from seeing people wear shoes I don’t wear — Â my not eating it seems to bother you. Â That’s why when you can’t tempt me, you take up arguing with me and/or ridiculing me. Â Â And yes, I know this is what you are going to do because it happens at every meal, and has been happening at every meal for nearly twenty years. Â My favorite line, by the way, is the one about the bugs in the rice. Â You know you can’t really be a vegetarian if you eat plants because plants always have some bugs cooked in with them, and bugs are creatures too. Â Yes, yes, I’ve heard that.
I say all of this to say that despite the fact that I have been a vegetarian all these years, I have never even attempted to become a vegan. Â The very thought of social interaction as a vegan exhausts me. Â The thought of the number of people who would try to feed me salad with ranch dressing on it, thinking that is what vegans eat, exhausts me. Â The thought of trying to explain in restaurants in Mississippi what can and cannot be included on a vegan plate exhausts me.
I know it can’t be easy. Â The social aspects of being a vegetarian have never been easy. Â Almost no one can resist harassing the vegetarian. Â The vegetarian in the room at any event involving food is always the kid whose mother dresses her funny. Â Always.
Still, I can’t resist a challenge, and I have decided that I am going to go vegan for the month of September just to see what happens. Â Last September, Robert St. John, a self-described devout carnivore did this. Â If he can do it, I can do it.
Already my question is not “what will I eat?” Â I expect I’ll learn a good bit about what is available for vegans, but I do have a pretty good idea of how to go about it, and I don’t think that what I eat will be the hard part. Â I just dread dealing with what people will say. Â I dread the renewed vigor with which people will try to sway me in my eating preferences. Â I dread going to events at which the only thing vegan available is the iced tea. Â I dread what other people will do to try to feed me at these events.
I dread it, but I’m going to deal with it. Â The thirty days of September will be egg and dairy free for me because I want to find out what it is like to be a vegan for a month.
Details to follow…