It all started when my sister decided to become a vegetarian. My family and I were, ever since I could remember, avid eaters of chicken curry, cookers of traditional Thanksgiving turkey, and hosts of Fourth of July BBQs. But recently that all changed…
My older sister was inspired to start eating healthily and embarking on a new regime. She decided no meat was the way to go. When she told me of her new lifestyle, I was sad. It was almost like we could no longer share the joy of food. The first question I asked her wasn’t “How will you get your protein?” or “Where will you be food shopping?” My first statement to her was, “But now we can’t go to Red Lobster.” A life without shrimp would have devastated me. I didn’t want a loved family member going through that.
It took a while to adjust to the new experiences as we stood in the fast-food line together and I could no longer share that chicken sandwich with her to split the calories. It was almost like each time I asked, I completely forgot she was in technical terms a “lacto-ovo vegetarian,” or a vegetarian who does not eat meat but can eat eggs. After finally coming to terms with my sister’s vegetarianism, I began experimenting with the new lifestyle myself.
It felt good only eating fruits, veggies, and dairy products for a period of just a few days. My family wasn’t aware of my new little experiment, but I considered the generally good feeling it left me. How could you turn down a lower body mass index, less saturated fat intake, and the environmentally friendly effect of the vegetarian diet. Pretty soon I realized almost everyone I worked with at my new internship was a vegetarian. And not even by religious or cultural reasons. They simply were attracted to the lifestyle.
However, I wasn’t ready to change my lifestyle just yet. Meat was a part of my life since I was a child and that quick easy buck spent on a chicken sandwich was a bit too hard to turn down. I truly realized my mental dependence on meat after a visit to McDonald’s.
It was my sister and I again at the fast food line after a long drive (trust me, we don’t go that often…). McDonald’s was the only available rest stop. My sister ordered first, “I will have a ceasar salad without chicken.” She then ordered for me,”Can I also have a grilled chicken snack wrap with ranch.” I was really craving that snack wrap. There’s nothing like a food item on a fast food menu that doesn’t give you a feeling of being completely indulgent and three times your size. For me, the snack wrap did just the right amount of fatty.
When we got into the car, we all began eating our lunches. I continued biting into my snack wrap waiting for the chicken. “Chomp-chomp.”Lettuce-cheese- ranch-lettuce-cheese-ranch. “Chomp chomp.” I figured usually in wraps the chicken sinks to the bottom. Pretty soon, I realized, there was no chicken. I was never madder about the messing up of a food order than at that moment.
It was much more than simply messing up my food order. Perhaps part of my anger was that we were back on the road and there was no way to get another wrap. But more importantly, it was about the assumption the cashier made while taking our order. She thought since my sister was a vegetarian, I was too. In reality, I wasn’t. I was just her sister, with a different lifestyle, a different perspective on life, and a different take on meat.
The problem with assumptions is that there is room for error. The cashier assumed that I was not eating meat and changed my order so that I would ascribe to her judgment on me. I didn’t appreciate the change in order, but more so I felt like my lifestyle was being held under a microscope of assumptions.
However, after reflection on the experience, I realized I made the same mistake. I thought that I could adopt my sister’s new lifestyle. After the experience I realized an important part of me. I like chicken. And whether that like should be regulated towards a healthy lifestyle is not a matter of vegetarianism. Of course, I would love to dabble in the world of great vegetarian food. But I cannot lose a lifestyle I have been practicing for years. It may work for some, but not me.