Back when I was in high school, I became a vegetarian for a year. I must have been bored in my sociology class when I thought up the idea, because I don’t recall there being any ethical reasons for the decision. I did it just to see if I could, and it turns out I had more willpower than I thought. I set out on my 365-day journey with an open mind and a thirst for adventure, which, as it turned out, contained no meat.
The hardest part was convincing my parents that I was not out of my mind. They probably would have understood if I was some animal rights activist, or if I had any affinity towards animals at all.
Nope, I just wanted to see if I could forgo meat for a year.
Nothing more, nothing less. I probably could have stood to lose a few pounds too, but that was not part of the original plan. So, we bought a bunch of tofu and beans and chickpeas and "Morning Star" products. My largely carnivorous father was not happy about the amount of space in his fridge that was now being used to store “Chik Patties,” or “Tofu Dogs,” but he was the strong and silent type, so his dissent went largely unnoticed. My favorite after-school snack became a "Morning Star Chik Patty" in a flour tortilla with lettuce, tomatoes, and ranch dressing. I probably ate these three-to-four times a week, not because I missed the taste of meat, but because anything breaded and fried has to taste delicious.
As time passed, Morning Star became my mistress. None of the meat substitutes actually tasted like meat themselves, but they tasted good, so I didn’t mind. I learned countless different ways to prepare tofu, which wasn’t too difficult, growing up in an Asian household, where we buy tofu by the bucket. Surprisingly, I didn’t actually miss meat at all. There were plenty of delicious foods I enjoyed that didn’t require dead animals, though my father still seemed to refuse to believe it.
I had no trouble with Thanksgiving. I never really liked turkey much anyway, and vegetable-based gravy was easy to come by. I wasn’t able to secure a tofurkey, but eating vegetables and mashed potatoes wasn’t a bad alternative. Plus, I didn’t have to suffer through as severe of a food coma immediately following the feast either. Tradeoffs, tradeoffs.
I had no trouble with Christmas either. By this time, my aunts and uncles and everybody who knew me at all had accepted that this kid had become a vegetarian. They still didn’t know what my motivation was, but food was made at family gatherings so that I could eat without going against my vows. I underwent much teasing from cousins and uncles during these get-togethers, but something about sticks and stones meant I didn’t care very much.
The trouble came when I was visiting friends’ houses and their parents would cook meals for us. I always felt bad telling them I was a vegetarian, especially since I really didn’t have a good reason to be, and consequently making them cook something I could eat. I eventually just stopped going to friends’ houses and had them over mine instead. And no, I am not even kidding.
So there I was, a vegetarian. I thought maybe it would give me some sort of confidence or self-esteem, but it didn’t. I was just a vegetarian, like many other vegetarians. I think it didn’t give me much of a sense of accomplishment, because it wasn’t as difficult for me to transition. I had heard other people had a much more difficult time than I did, but they were dedicated enough to the cause that they stuck it out. But I was still just me, just not eating meat.
I think this is a good thing. If whatever lifestyle I happen to lead allows me to easily switch from being a vegetarian to someone who eats animal products, and vice versa, then I can become a vegetarian whenever I want. If the day comes (and we all know it will), when I do enough research to finally give up animals forever, I won’t have to struggle to abide by my newfound beliefs.
But high school wasn’t the time, and after 365 days without meat, I ended my vegetarian spree. I remember my father, anxiously waiting with me in the kitchen for the clock to strike midnight. Midnight signaled one year completed, and I wanted this experiment to be exact. Unfortunately, the only meat we happened to have in the house that night was a hotdog. The clock struck twelve. I ate the hotdog, and felt sick for the next 24 hours.
I haven’t gone back to being a full-fledged vegetarian yet, but I don’t eat hotdogs anymore.
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.