There are two times when people act concerned about my health, and they usually go together:
Them: “OMG you’re so fat, you should really eat better! I’m worried about you!”
Me: “Umm, I actually don’t eat that badly, thanks. In fact, I probably eat better than you do. I’m a vegetarian, for one.”
Them: “OMG that’s so bad how do you get your protein?!”
Vegetarianism has been an on-and-off thing for me over the last seven years. For three years I was pretty strict about it: No meat, no fish, no gelatin. I would read the ingredients on medicine bottles to make sure it was safe for me to take. I didn’t eat marshmallows or my precious gummy bears. I was also a jerk about being veggie: Back then, I was that person who would call out their friends for eating meat or tell them to watch Earthlings or show them a PETA video on how chickens are treated.
Then I moved to Ecuador after college. Ecuador is a meaty society. You can get some of the best and freshest fruits and vegetables in the world, but meat is an important part of many dishes. Still, I stuck it out for a couple months until Carnival, when I went with my friend Orlando to his family home. His mom, a nice old Quechua lady, was super excited to meet me (they were all convinced I was actually Orlando’s girlfriend and would soon be married. I did nothing to help this idea).
Carnival is a time when families get together and celebrate. There’s a lot of drinking involved – from chicha to canelazo to beer – and you basically get wasted and eat and spray foam and dump water on each other for three straight days. The fact that his family let me celebrate it with them, even though they didn’t know me at all, meant a lot to me.
So when this nice, tiny old lady put a bowl of soup in front of me with a chicken leg bobbing at the top of it, I thought to myself, “If I don’t eat this, I’m an asshole.”
So I ate it. And it was delicious. And I ate everything else she made for the next three days, even cuy: farm-raised guinea pigs.
I ate meat for the rest of my time in Ecuador, and I continued doing it when I returned home for a year and the year after that in Korea. I knew some people who were vegetarians in Korea and I have no idea how they did it. Korea is even less veggie friendly than Ecuador and fruits and veg are EXPENSIVE.
It wasn’t until Hong Kong that I decided to cut out meat again. It’s much more feasible here because there’s a greater variety of food to eat. I’m actually a pescatarian – I eat fish – because I travel quite a bit and I don’t want to limit what foods I can try from a different culture, or have to be that person who has to constantly go, “What’s in this dish?” or “We can’t go to this restaurant, there’s nothing I can eat.” (The latter which I still had to do a lot in Japan).
I don’t give a shit if people eat meat around me, and I don’t expect strangers to accommodate my diet (unlike the lady who wrote this article for The Guardian, which kind of inspired me to write this blog post). Friends and family should be a little more forgiving, just like I’ll try to help them with any restrictions they have (I have two friends who can’t eat gluten because of celiac disease and psoriasis). Even though I’ll sometimes joke with my friends about meat, the truth is, I don’t really care what they do.
From what I’ve noticed, the most militant vegetarians and vegans tend to be the new ones: they gave up meat less than a year ago and feel like they need to be very in-your-face to show everyone that they’ve converted. Everyone likes to feel like they are special and enlightened, and this is a way for the newbies to act superior. I fucking hate these people. They comment on Buzzfeed articles with shit like, “HOW CAN YOU TELL PEOPLE TO EAT EGGS? WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO EAT YOUR FETUS?” They give a bad name to the normal, sane vegetarians and make life harder for us.
Equally annoying are the people who are proud omnivores who try to point out that scientists have discovered that plants have nerves or react to their environments or whatever. “So then, why do you differentiate between plants and animals? Why are animals special when plants can feel things too?”
There are a few things wrong with that argument, but the biggest thing that bothers me is that those asshats don’t seem to recognize that not every vegetarian does it for “animals are people” reasons. Personally, I don’t support factory farming and the way animals are treated like shit, pumped so full of hormones they can’t walk and stuffed into tiny ass cages. I’m actually cool with hunting because at least the animal got to run free and enjoy their life before being shot and hey, if you’re going to eat meat, have the balls to kill it yourself.
The main reason I went veg again is because meat is shit for the environment, especially red meat. Raising livestock is a huge contributor to methane gas, and a lot of deforestation is a direct result of the meat industry. In terms of using resources effectively, it doesn’t make sense for a farmer to grow a bunch of corn to give to a chicken so I can eat the chicken; why not cut out the middle man and give it directly to me? Living in one of the most environmentally unfriendly cities I’ve ever seen (seriously Hong Kong, you should check out Tokyo. It will put you to SHAME) I feel like this is one of the few helpful things I can do. If the biggest impact vegetarianism has on my life is that it slightly inconveniences me when I go out to eat, then that’s something I can deal with.
Listen, I get it. Meat is fucking delicious. The smell of bacon is orgasmic. I miss it sometimes. But I’m not going to stuff kale into your chicken sandwich, so knock if off with the shit like “You know what would be good on that mushroom burger? Steak.” You’re acting like an ignorant asshole, and the joke is pretty played out by now anyways.
Also kale sucks ass, and anyone who says they like it is lying or a psychopath.