Category Archives: Reactions

Suitemate Surprises

Something I never expected happened this past Sunday night.  As I sat on the floor in my suitemate’s room eating tofu tacos with her, she asked “Why again do you think meat is bad?”

Speaking carefully so as not to alienate her, I explained, “It’s not that meat is bad; it does have protein.  But it also has cholesterol, saturated fat, and no fiber.  While the amount of fat in our meat has increased over the years because of the way we feed our factory-farmed animals, we’re eating much more of it than ever before.”

“Interesting,” she responded while looking away.  “You know that my Big* is vegetarian, so I’ve actually been thinking about this for a while, and now you’re a vegetarian…”

She definitely had my attention.

“I don’t really eat a lot of meat anyway,” she continued.  “Mostly chicken.  But I think I’m going to try going vegetarian.”

***

I am still really surprised by my suitemate’s decision, as it was never my intention to convert my friends to vegetarianism, etc.  She’s reading Skinny Bitch now, and although I haven’t read it, I’m excited that she’s learning more by reading.  I offered to watch Forks Over Knives with her, so we’ll see how it goes.

Further reading:
Harvard University’s summary of protein and our health

*She has a “Big” (like a big sister kind of deal) because she’s in a fraternity

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My New Lifestyle and the Environment

This just happened:

I throw out a plastic bag that, a few minutes ago, had been full of popcorn I saved from last night.

My roommate takes notice.

“You know you can wash those?  That’s like, really bad for the environment.”

I looked disdainfully at the trashcan.

“Well, it’s in the trash now, so I’m not going to take it out.”

“That’s really bad of you.”

I thought to myself about how often I use Tupperware and not plastic bags.  How I bring a reusable bag almost every time I go shopping.  And then I got a bit miffed.

“You know what’s the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide emissions and methane gases?”

My roommate threw me a nasty look.

“Factory farming.  Of animals.”

“Well I’m doing everything I can to help the environment,” she responded.

“So am I,” was my retort.

“If I went vegetarian, I wouldn’t be healthy.  I get my protein and fiber from meat.”

And I went off some more.

“Meat doesn’t have any fiber in it.  Most Americans get twice the protein they actually need, anyway.”

“I wouldn’t be a healthy vegetarian.”

We each put our headphones back into our ears.

***

From the book Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health by Gene Stone:

“The United Nations has determined that raising livestock for food purposes generates more climate-heating gases than do all carbon-dioxide-emitting vehicles combined—in other words, cows are worse than cars. Some startling figures: The livestock sector accounts for nearly 10 percent of human-induced carbon dioxide emissions, 37 percent of methane emissions (methane is about 23 times more powerful than CO2 as a greenhouse gas). It also produces 65 percent of nitrous oxide emissions (nitrous oxide is 296 times more powerful than CO2) and 64 percent of human-induced ammonia emissions, a significant contributor to acid rain.”

And

“A report in New Scientist estimated that driving a hybrid car could save about one ton of CO2 emissions per year but adopting a plant-based diet would save nearly one and a half tons over a comparable period.”

One more

“According to a 2006 University of Chicago study, the average American diet derives 47 percent of its calories from animal products. This amounts to a carbon “footprint” (i.e., impact) of 2.52 tons of CO2 emissions per person per year.”

***

There are plenty of other great quotes, but I’ll leave it at that.  I’m not frustrated with my roommate – I’m frustrated at the misinformation.  Why would we think that meat contains fiber?  I only know it doesn’t because of my research into vegetarian and vegan lifestyles.  But what about everyone else?

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Learning

I received the worst reaction to the, “oh hey, I’m vegetarian now” from a different friend last week as I ate a veggie burger with my roommate.  His entire attitude shifted once I uttered that phrase, and suddenly he barraged me with comments about never wanting to eat a veggie burger, asking why would I ever choose that over a real burger, and ew, it looks gross.  I don’t enjoy being attacked while I eat (or really, at any time), so I tried to change the subject.  The comments still came though, and I felt his opinion of me change right then.  I smiled and enjoyed my burger.

After watching Forks Over Knives, I spent hours reading online about veganism and the transition to veganism.  I remember one person describing how they lost friends, and I thought that was ridiculous.  Suddenly, I get it.  Why are some people so uncomfortable if their friend eats differently than they do?  Conversely, why do so many people (meateaters, vegetarians and vegans included) feel the need to push their beliefs onto others?  Why does what we eat have such a religious zeal attached to it?  I’m not looking to answer these questions, but rather I am just surprised by these observations.

On a different note, I have grown more confident in my vegetarianism.  It’s been just about 25 days of a meat-free lifestyle.  I’ve been reading more books about food, food policy, veganism, etc.  Perhaps it’s just that I am excited about using my snazzy new Kindle, or perhaps it’s my spiked interest in learning everything I can about food, but I’ve wolfing books down recently.  (I’m currently on The Omnivore’s Dilemma.)

***

My college is known for its vegan and vegetarian options.  While this was a fact I proudly promoted as I gave tours, it’s pretty cool to finally understand what it means.  In the dining hall, I am aware of food options that I would have never considered previously.  The best part is that my suitemate is also exploring these new options.  It’s amazing how my plate has transformed from formally being full of meats and breads, often with few vegetables.  My plate looks a lot healthier now.

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Roommates’ Reactions

Returning to my college dorm room meant telling my three suitemates that, in the past four weeks that we were not living together, I magically transformed into a vegetarian.  The reactions have been varied, but I know their responses are only going to improve with time.

Suitemate 1:  Oh, that’s cool.
Me:  Yeah, I’m going to make some tofu tacos later.  Do you want to try some?
Suitemate 1: Yes!

My roommate seemed a bit shocked when I casually mentioned it to her.

“I leave you for five weeks, and suddenly you’re a vegetarian!” she dramatically cried.  “This ruins all plans I had for us.”

And later:
“I was going to offer you a bite of this sandwich, but OH WAIT IT HAS TURKEY IN IT.”

She calmed down, though, and promised that she would support me.  She even accompanied me to Whole Foods and ensured that I was getting the best deal on my tofu.

All of my suitemates ended up trying my tofu tacos from PETA’s Vegan College Cookbook and enjoyed them.  Luckily, my school is known for being vegetarian- and vegan-friendly, so eating at the dining hall has been fine so far, although I am planning on making more of my own food.

The biggest thing I’ve noticed as far as reactions go is that my friends make snarky comments about being vegetarian.  Whether comparing the look of the tofu tacos to dog food, asking in amazement, “But, what will you eat?” or giving me weird looks when I ask if they want to try tapioca cheese on their tacos (vegan, yes, I know, but it tastes good – none of them wanted to try it, by the way), there is some sort of stigma around vegetarianism.  I’m aware of it – I used to think some vegetarians were just too sensitive about animal rights (I’ve since changed my mind, although this is not the main reason why I’m vegetarian now) – it’s still surprising to see that my friends, all of whom I consider to be open-minded, reacted somewhat strongly.  However, I do believe that their support will continue to grow, and maybe one day in the far future they’ll even watch Forks Over Knives with me.

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Tofu is for Vegetarians

“Grandma was just showing off some of her vegetarian food,” I smiled to my cousin.
“Wait, Grandma, you’re a vegetarian now?” my cousin called out to my grandma in the other room.
“No,” Grandma’s voice sailed in from the kitchen.

A quick moment of silence passed before my cousin turned to me.

“Are you a vegetarian?”
“Uh, yeah,” I responded.
“When did this happen?  Last time I saw you, you were still eating meat.”
“I’m a two-week-old vegetarian.  I just watched one too many food documentaries, I guess,” I played it off.
“Ah, that would do it.”  I figured that she must be thinking about movies of factory farms’ treatment of animals, but I didn’t care to explain that it was actually the science in Forks Over Knives that changed my mind.

***

A similar conversation happened at dinner with my grandma, cousin, and aunt.  I ordered tofu, and the logical conclusion by my aunt: “Are you a vegetarian?”  It’s funny that I can’t eat tofu without someone asking if I’m a vegetarian.  Don’t meat-eaters also eat tofu?  Perhaps my family is just used to me always ordering meat.

“I never ate that great when I ate meat, so if being a vegetarian pushes me to eat better and try new things, then why not?” was my response to my aunt.  She seemed satisfied.

I don’t mind answering questions from my family about being vegetarian; I’m not embarrassed, really – although I do sometimes feel judging or puzzled eyes looking me over – I simply don’t feel the need to make a big deal about it.

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No Meat!

4th day of not eating meat!  How did that even happen?  I’m rather excited.

On New Year’s Eve, my friend came over and helped me cook a teriyaki seitan recipe I found online.  I substituted broccoli for broccolini – it was more convenient – and my friend had prepared the sushi rice using a rice cooker.  Also, I used store-bought teriyaki sauce, but next time I may follow the recipe for the sauce, as the store sauce wasn’t great.

My friend loved the seitan, but I found it a little dry, although it could have just been that I wasn’t fond of the teriyaki sauce.

Yesterday, my mom was going to prepare dinner for the first time since I had made sincere efforts to cut out meat from my diet.  It was finally time to tell her.

***

“Hey, I should let you know that I’m not really eating meat these days,” I threw out as I filled up a glass of water.  My mom just kind of looked at me.

“So then what are you going to eat?  I can make fish, but I thought you didn’t like fish,” she replied.

“Fish is still meat.”

“What do you want for dinner then?

“Just…no meat.”

***

I overheard my mom talking on the phone later.

“Apparently she won’t eat meat anymore,” she said, perplexed.

We ended up ordering from a Thai restaurant, and I luckily found a single tofu dish on the menu, which I ordered (I’m still learning to enjoy more vegetables, so ordering salad all the time does not sound appealing).  I need to learn how to make this stuff, because the two tofu dishes I’ve tried were both really flavorful.

Maybe tomorrow will be Day 5 of no meat…

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