Hello and Welcome to Vegetarian Confessions

By Dana Jerman

I get asked about this a lot: “You’re a vegetarian?” Yes. “How long?” Since college. I’m dating myself here, but it’s been well over a decade.

I was trying to meet the vegan I was dating at least halfway, as I did not care to go vegan. Vegan meaning no animal products of any kind whatsoever.

The last thing I ditched was the addictive breaded chicken patty sandwiches I was noming from the cafeteria at least two times a week. I looked them straight in the buns and said “Damn. Is this all that’s holding me back?”

Thing is, I learned a lot about what not to eat from Mr. Vegan. Methinks he consumed a little too much from the glorious bounty of The French Fry Tree. His diet consisted of a great deal of textured vegetable protein, seitan and other soy-based highly-synthesized sodium-laden products out of a box (thank you, Boca) which are OK in tandem with other things, (and I’ll give him this, we dug making stir fry and he was a champion tofu-scarfer) but he seemed to scoff more often than not when salads were present.

And I won’t lie, salads make me mad. Not pet-peeve mad like rosé makes me seethe. That sounds silly I know, but salads are frustrating for one key reason—they are made in a way which demands that I take sensible bites of them. I’d much rather wrap them the hell up so I can shove as many green leaves as possible into my mouth at once.

What can I say? Sometimes I’m a ravenous bunny.

So, here’s a simple tenant which has served me well along this path: Become a vegetarian because you love vegetables.

Love them all. Even the ones you want to punch a little. Everyone kind of wants to punch radishes. For others it's beets that totally deserve a kick in the crotch. Kale, poor benign, anti-oxidant rich kale gets the worst of the hating. But balance is balance and when you eat well, your body knows this and thanks you. You’re an adult, so you’re aware of fiber and regularity and stuff. Yeah.

But here it is another way: Peeps are curious as to why, but the question is more like, “Why not?” Doing this sort of thing does not require a massive imagination.

However I do understand the question. After all, my grandma did say to me once “You’re vegetarian! You eat chicken, right!?”

The benefits of sticking to food without a face are vast and include something I’ve personally found to be true, which is the arrangement and array of the taste buds. What is pleasing to the palette expands with sensory definition after you become a vegetarian. In an olfactory way, I enjoy the smell of bacon. Just the scent and I can remember the texture and taste. This serves to remind me of being a kid having breakfast at that same grandma's house, which is all I want anyway.

Short of telling you all about how consuming less meat reduces greenhouse gases and deforesting of landmass in order to raise livestock, I would very much like to convince you that this lifestyle is for you. That is because when you ask me about being a vegetarian, this is actually what you are asking me. You are saying “I think I want to try this. Show me how.”

Perhaps it really is for you. But there is no one right way. You will have to look around for yourself and decide what is worth giving up, and what is worth taking up. What you would like to lose, and what you would hope to gain.

My reasoning for not wanting to go vegan has to do with intake—light to moderate; portions to go with my proportions, if you will—and what I felt it necessary to sacrifice.

Technically, I’m ovo-lacto vegetarian. I consume dairy (despite being a little lactose intolerant) and eat eggs. A hardboiled one is such a perfect treat!

Fritos = Corn, corn oil and salt. Terribly vegan.

Fritos = Corn, corn oil and salt. Terribly vegan.

I try to stay away from fish but dang, shrimp is some kinda seafood catnip. Shoutout to my Ma who makes a stellar scampi.

And hey, you are the one who has to live with your own diet. It should make you happy! Everybody knows too, you can’t eat around a craving. You’ll just eat more and it will be stuff you didn’t want anyway.

Besides, like you, I like to be healthy, so I eat. I like fruits and nuts and beans and copious amounts of delectable cheese. Vegetarianism is by no means an eating disorder. Milk and eggs sneak into a lot of foods I enjoy and consume carefully. Honey is a rare treat and I like it that way. Jelly goes on a sandwich from time to time, and let’s be honest, veganism is about adherence to a stricture. It is really for those who enjoy cooking and having maximum control over their consumption in nearly every way. Which is great if that’s your thing. And necessary if you have certain allergies.

My ex, an MA student at the time, was simply vegan as a lifestyle choice in conjunction with other lifestyle choices (yes, he once considered himself straight edge, to use a quaint term that means no drinking/drugs) that had little to do with the food itself, yet much to do with options and control. He did it for image—it fit inside his own brand of punk to do so. 

I live in a city with many options and enjoy eating out vegan where appetizing and where possible. But I know that, if I’m honest with myself, I would have to develop a more robust fascination with the act of cooking and baking and time spent in the kitchen, in preparation and with recipes, to execute veganism properly.

Come on, I can barely stand to watch cooking shows. And I love to laugh every time I tell someone Fritos are vegan. 

I’d better stick to the ovo-lacto racket.