Seven years ago, I woke up one morning and decided to become a vegetarian cold turkey. In my then-crazed obsession with the Beatles, I thought emulating Paul McCartney’s ways was a good enough reason to convert. Little did I know that switching to vegetarianism would be a decision I would stick to long-term. Since I changed my dietary restrictions, I’ve fluctuated from being pescetarian, vegan, cruditarian and ovo-lacto vegetarian, which is what I currently am. My silly fangirling days are over (or at least, I would like to think so). Also, the reason why I commit to my diet is no longer in order to copy my favorite artist. Now, I decide to wake up every day and not eat meat because, by refusing to do so, I lower the pressure meat production puts on the environment. According to Wikipedia.org, growing crops for farm animals requires nearly half of the U.S’ water supply and 80% of its agricultural land. Additionally, eating meat harms health, wastes resources, causes deforestation and creates pollution.
For all of the aforementioned reasons, when I had an uncomfortable dining experience in the Danforth Dining Hall, I thought sharing it with my fellow students would be an eye opener. Creating awareness of people’s oblivion to dietary restrictions is pivotal. A few weeks ago, I went to get dinner with friends and stopped by the pasta station to grab some of what the dining hall employees had labeled as “vegetarian pesto pasta.” When I had finished my first serving, I went to help myself to another because, let’s face it, Danforth servings are never enough to fill you up. As I noticed that there was not any pasta left on the countertop, I asked the cook if he was planning on making more pasta. His reply was, “Yeah, let me just go and grab the chicken broth to mix in to add flavor.” I was taken aback by his response. Not only had I already eaten a plate of said pasta, I also had explicitly checked the ingredient list on the station’s label to ensure that I was eating vegetarian-friendly food. To top it off, nowhere on the ingredient list was chicken broth mentioned.
This experience made me realize that society has a culture that tends to shun vegetarians by labeling them as elitists who consider themselves above everyone else, or as animal lover softies. Instead of taking the time to understand the individual reasons behind why people convert, it’s easier for individuals to judge and shame vegetarians for their minoritarian lifestyle choices. People should be educated about what being vegetarian entails. Some vegetarians like myself do not consume any animal product that kills the animal in its production process; this includes but is not limited to: red 40, gelatin and marshmallows. Also, vegetarians most definitely do not cook their food in equipment that has previously been used to cook meat, nor do they use beef stock, chicken or fish broth to season their meals. Being vegetarian means avoiding all meat, not just red meat. Things like these and other small tips help to make people more conscious of other people’s life decisions. Where I’m from, Puerto Rico, this is a common misconception. Living in countries where meats are the staple food for every meal is harsh on vegetarians. It makes it really difficult for us to find nutritious foods, and sometimes we get snarky remarks from people for not embracing the local food. Receiving judgment and being ostracized for making smart life decisions should not be a thing anywhere.
Why should omnivores care? Vegetarians help lower the production of mass-produced meats and probably lead to better quality meat production. Taking tips from vegetarian friends might be a quick fix for alarmingly high levels of cholesterol or a lesson on how to avoid foods that are high in starchy trans-fat. The bottom-line is vegetarians are cool. Please do not judge our lifestyle out of ignorance. We might seem like a bunch of tree-hugging hippies to you, but chances are, people have a rational reason for deciding to convert. Converting was one of the best decisions I ever made. My digestive system works a lot faster, my breath is significantly improved, I smell better and, contrary
to what many may think, I have managed to keep my iron count surprisingly high, which has enabled me to donate blood, a thing most vegetarians are unable to do. Warning: they say hindsight is 20/20. If you do decide to convert, do not quit on meat cold turkey. The decision to drastically turn vegetarian as an 11-year- old was not a smart one. I initially gained a lot of weight and did not have healthy, well-balanced meals. Make sure to investigate which grains you should substitute for meat in order to get sufficient levels of protein in your diet, and don’t neglect those fruits and vegetables that provide you with essential nutrients for you to lead a healthy, productive life. Overall, I endorse a vegetarian lifestyle, and I hope to see that even if people don’t share the same dietary restrictions they’re respectful and accommodating to our needs.
Blanco is a member of
the class of 2017.