I was at a local burrito place and ordered “Seitan chorizo con papas” (spicy wheat gluten with potatoes) as my protein option. The preparer checked with me to make sure I knew it was vegetarian. I told him that was why I ordered it. He then shared with me that a lot of people freak out when they learn this. They go with the pulled pork instead.
I’ve noticed a lot of people are like this. They are terrified of being without meat for even one meal. It is as if there is a fear of being without meat in our culture, like we will fade away from lack of nutrition. Looking at the obesity rates of Americans, there is no worry about fading away anytime soon.
I once invited a coworker to an Indian buffet. He asked what was available and I started to describe what we were likely to find. He was quite interested in the chicken tikka masala but bored by the spinach and potato dishes. He was a little dismayed by the absence of any beef dish. When I told him that the best dishes were the vegetarian ones he visibly got defensive. “What? Not eat meat? Are you kidding?” I pointed out that there are people who go without meat for their entire lives and they do just fine. One meal without meat wouldn’t kill him. He was so skeptical that he decided not to go.
I remember a conversation with the manager at an Indian buffet many years ago. He said that people in India and in America are both dying because of food. Indians are dying from not enough food, while Americans are dying from too much of it. We are eating ourselves into our graves. We also suffer from preventable diseases for many years beforehand.
Our bodies are temporal houses for our immortal souls. So why do we fill them up with trash? Why do we pollute them with preservatives? Why do we treat our bodies as disposable items – and then wonder when they fail to work correctly?
I haven’t made the full switch to being vegetarian because I like the taste and texture of meat. I also don’t want to limit myself to only two or three options on the menu when I eat out. I don’t want to be a bother to friends when they are kind enough to invite me over to their homes for dinner either. So I eat meat, just not as much of it. And I feel better because of it.
There is a knee-jerk reaction against being vegetarian. It is seen as counter-cultural. It is seen as rebellious. It is seen as other, as weird. But the norm is to eat all you want, spend all you want, and die soon and poor. I don’t want to be normal. I want to live a happy, healthy life. But I also want the convenience of eating out. It is a sign of our culture that it is almost impossible to get vegetables if you eat from fast-food places in America. And when you do find vegetables they are either very salty, deep fried, or cooked with pork.
Perhaps it is time to “occupy” the kitchen. There is nothing more countercultural than cooking your own food. There is nothing more rebellious than taking charge of your health.