At last, the curious fact of my being pesco-vegetarian in the South will be revealed, as it’s certainly different and somewhat difficult at times.
For those of you who are unaware, a pesco-vegetarian or pescatarian is someone who eats fruits, vegatables, grains, dairy, and seafood, but no land animals- thus, I do not eat beef, pork, lamb, or poultry of any sort.
The question often arises about why exactly I decided to become pesco-vegetarian, and the answer itself is rather lengthy and subtle. Most people probably have too little patience to hear out the real response, and oddly, I myself at times at not fully sure why I don’t eat meat.
The idea of being vegetarian first came up in high school when I read a book that included natural remedies and advice on general health. A vegetarian diet, specifically, was recommended. At the same time, I was highly interested in Buddhism and Eastern religions, many of which recommend vegetarianism as a more humane way of life. On and off during high school, I entertained vegetarianism, but I never fully committed to the lifestyle.
My cousins also became vegetarians around the same time, and this helped to influence me- the idealism, learning how the meat industry works, learning the very real dangers of meat consumption, all in addition to the compassion for suffering animals.
In college, I became a vegetarian for one month at one point, and then later on for about four months. This happened spontaneously, as I realized one day in December I had gone several days without eating meat and tried to see how long I could go.
The most recent time, I came to a compromise of being a pesco-vegetarian. Seafood is a fail-safe for protein intake, and that leaves me with at least a few options on the menu.
So, what really drove the vegetarianism this time? I watched a girl stroke the breast of a duck one day, and in a single instant, I recognized the heartbeat of the duck, the life of that beat within it, and that to end such a heartbeat was a horrific and cruel thing- and from that moment, I vowed to not eat meat.
To me, on a spiritual level, it seemed quite clear that God didn’t want me to eat meat. The experience was subtle, immediate, and a complete change.
Since then, I’ve had little desire to consume meat at all. I’ve smelled some delicious meat before and seen, often on TV, dishes that looked tasty, but all in all, I don’t miss it. The reality is that I’ve never liked beef much at all- I despise steak and the taste of ground beef, whether in a hamburger or otherwise (though I did like meatloaf); pork was tasty but usually too salty; eating a lamb or a goat always seemed horrific either way; and even though I find chickens to be ugly and somehow ferocious, the texture of chicken always seemed unpalatable as well.
Being a pesco-vegetarian causes reactions in the South. My father often forgets or simply refuses to acknowledge that I don’t eat meat, for instance.
I’ve been a vegetarian for over a year now, and that’s an extreme track record in my opinion.
Other people don’t understand why I don’t like meat, or ask silly questions such as, "If you don’t eat meat, then what do you eat?" as though there are no other food groups beyond meat.
The problem lies in how often meat is an ingredient in food, especially frozen food. Try finding pizza rolls that are only cheese (done it) or Hot Pockets that are only cheese (done it, they do exist!) or any other kind of frozen food that only requires heating up that does not include meat. It’s extremely difficult! More often that not, chicken, beef, or pork finds its way into the food, and thus it is no longer an option.
Meat substitutes made from soy exist, and they work beautifully in these recipes. Seriously. I can’t tell the difference between the meat substitute and the actual product, and if my cousin wasn’t a vegetarian, I would not have believed her when I ate the Morning Star crumbles in her spaghetti sauce and on pizza.
In the South, being a vegetarian forces one to be more creative and to learn how to cook recipes from other cultures that don’t emphasize meat as the central portion of a meal. I’ll detail those adventures later on and expand upon the vegetarian lifestyle here in the South.
Happy dining and try some soy if you never have!
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