Recently the Features section published an article entitled “Think hard before going vegetarian,” written by sophomore Owen Deland. While I appreciated Owen’s well-written perspective, as a student who has gone from meat-eater to vegetarian and back again, I thought I would share some of my experiences, both good and bad.
I started my journey to vegetarian land in the ninth grade. One of my friends mentioned that she was going vegan in homeroom one morning, which meant she was refraining from all animal products, both meat and dairy. I thought it was weird, but as I was always looking for a challenge, it gave me a great idea: I decided to go vegetarian for one week. This wasn’t quite as drastic as my friend’s choice. I couldn’t eat meat but I could still munch on cheese sticks, unlike my dairy-deprived friend.
Passing up meat, as I discovered, was very easy for me. Grilled cheese satisfied my tastebuds just as much as a hamburger did. Weeks turned into months, and still I refused to chow down on meat. I went full force into vegetarianism, and nothing could stop me – not a luscious piece of turkey on Thanksgiving, nor prime rib at a fancy restaurant. Little did I know that a tiny piece of pepperoni pizza would be my nemesis. Yes, I did the unthinkable: I cheated about a year in. I ate a piece of pizza without realizing there was pepperoni hidden under the cheese. When I realized I was eating meat after a few bites, I didn’t stop. I was really hungry, and the pizza, to be completely honest, was really damn good. I told myself, “If it’s under the cheese it doesn’t count. Plus, I can’t see it, so it really doesn’t count.” I never cheated again, though I think of that day often, not because I feel guilty, but because it amuses me.
One of the unexpected benefits of being a vegetarian was trying new foods. As a four-year vegetarian, I discovered many foods I liked that I would have never tried had I not thrown meat out of my diet, such as hummus. Though it may look like vomit garnished with parsley to an outsider, this delicious Mediterranean dip made from chick peas contains large amounts of iron and vitamin C. Falafel is another great veggie food I never would have tried. Though not the prettiest food judging by looks, it tastes great in a pita with tahini sauce or without. If you don’t believe me, head over to Aladdin’s on Monroe Ave. and try some.
Then there’s the most daunting of them all: tofu. Though the name sounds about as appetizing as eating a shoe, when flavored and eaten with rice, onions and baby corn, it can actually be pretty good. Tofu is high in protein and low in fat, plus you’ll look incredibly sophisticated eating it next to someone tearing through some red meat. Also, it’s a healthier choice. Red meat can be high in saturated fat, which can increase your risk for cardiovascular diseases. Some studies also link red meat to an increased risk for cancer. Deland says in his article, “show me a person that gets enough protein from a carbohydrate source and I’ll show you a diabetic,” and while he does have a point, I prefer the motto, “Show me a person that eats red meat every day and I’ll show you a dead man.” A little harsh, but sometimes the truth hurts.
Now you may ask, “What brought you back to being an omnivore?” Well, chicken would be my main answer. Buffalo chicken would be a more detailed answer. If you’ve never tried buffalo wings, you’ve been deprived. And I have to say, even while I was a vegetarian, there was always that part of me that craved chicken. Fried chicken, chicken fingers, grilled chicken sandwiches, BBQ chicken, chicken and rice – it’s kind of an amazing food.
As a reformed vegetarian, some of my old habits still stick. I can’t eat beef. It makes me nauseous. I’ll usually pass up flesh-filled lasagna for the vegetarian kind, and I still think fish looks friendlier than steak. And to be honest, there are vegetarian foods that I simply like more than meat, such as veggie burgers – they just taste better, in my opinion. Anyways, eating meat doesn’t always feel “right” to me. Sometimes it gives me the feeling that I’m cheating on a test or something.
There are dangers to being a vegetarian. For example, if being a vegetarian is only an excuse for you to eat bagels and ice cream at every meal, you’re going to make yourself sick. Your body wasn’t meant to survive on just carbs and ice cream. If that was the truth, the food pyramid wouldn’t really be a pyramid; it would be more of a square. Being a vegetarian isn’t something to be scared of, but know the pros and cons, and be ready to dig into some tofurkey if you decide to venture out that way.
Kraus is a member of the class of 2009.