Like a growing number of Americans, I am a recent convert to vegetarianism (although, as an imperfect human being, I am prone to the occasional slip-up, particularly if dim sum is involved). Different people become vegetarians for different reason, but what drove me to it was a concern for the health, environmental, and ethical implications of how the overwhelming majority of meat in our country is raised, killed, and processed. Fortunately, I live in Seattle, a foodie city where even the local dive bar has a white bean and quinoa burger on their menu. Still, from time to time, being a vegetarian means putting up with minor irritations. Here are some of my least favorites:
1. Acquaintances who force you to defend your position. I do my best not to be evangelical about my life choices. I don’t tell people who to vote for, let alone what lunch entree to select. So when a carnivore (usually someone I have just met) tries to convince me that vegetarianism is actually worse for the environment and has been scientifically linked to spontaneous human combustion, then challenges me to a philosophical debate about the ethics of consuming animals, I usually look for the first opportunity to pay the check and leave.
2. People who don’t know what animals are. Do you eat chicken? No. Beef? No. Fish? Again, the answer is no. If it has a face, chances are a vegetarian doesn’t eat it. We’re generally cool with pescatarians (who do eat fish), but don’t ever confuse us with vegans. Anyone who doesn’t eat cheese or ice cream is not to be trusted.
3. Restaurants that lack imagination. While this falls squarely into the category of “first world problems,” it’d be nice if a larger segment of the restaurant industry could think beyond falafel wraps and caprese sandwiches. One can only eat so much fresh mozzarella. Like I said, I’m fortunate enough to live in a very creative food city, but travelling outside of bubbles like mine can present some real challengers. Trust me, being a vegetarian in an airport is no fun.
4. Poorly Labeled Menus. Every once in a while, I’ll order an incredible “vegetarian” stew only to learn that it was made with beef broth and bacon. Yes, it’s usually delicious, but that’s not really the point. Almost no one becomes vegetarian because they dislike the taste of prime rib.
5. Being stereotyped...accurately. When people learn that I am a vegetarian, they immediately assume that I also drive a Prius (which I do), support local businesses (guilty as charged), and vote Democratic (Clinton 2016, baby!). As it turns out, the only thing worse than having people make assumptions about you is when they’re right.