Being a Vegetarian Is Harder Than It Looks

I had the most disappointing sandwich of my life today.

I went to a luncheon for work (at the Boathouse, by the way), where, in addition to collective networking and a panel of educated speakers, they supplied a full spread of gourmet lunch buffet.

Perfect. Delicious. I’m famished.

I found a seat, did some of that networking thing, then made my way up to the buffet. I got a little bit of regular salad, a handful of grapes, and an apple. Then I approached the sandwich section of the buffet. My initial thought: whew. What a relief. They have a vegetarian option.

“Whoa, back up,” you’re thinking. Because you might be doing the Cha Cha Slide. Or, perhaps, because you didn’t know I was a vegetarian.

“You’ve never talked about it, bragged about it, or tried to convert me,” you’re also thinking. Because you might be talking to a friend who you just learned is a Scientologist. Or because you never knew I was a vegetarian.

Rewind 12 years ago. I was a senior in high school and I decided to try out the whole “not eating meat thing.” I wanted to see how hard it would be, and if I felt any different. After all, I wasn’t buying my own groceries or cooking for myself, so what better time to try it? (Sorry again, Mom)

Turns out, it wasn’t hard at all and I felt really good.

And so I just never got around to stopping.

It’s not a particularly profound or interesting story. But that’s exactly what happened.

So, fast forward 12 years later. I’m at the Boathouse, being a professional at a professional work event, relieved and, might I say, rather excited, about this vegetarian-option-wrap that they’ve provided.

And then I started to eat the wrap.

I think it would be easier to explain it in ratio form.

  • 80% whole wheat wrap
  • 9% dry cucumbers
  • 7% withered red peppers
  • 4% hummus

Leaving 0% for flavor, in case you were keeping track.

Was I disappointed? Yes.

Was I surprised? No.

In my 12 years as a vegetarian, I’ve had my shares of letdowns.

When I first experienced a vegetarian-related disappointment (discrimination), I was in my freshman year of college. My grandparents took me and my cousins to Florida to visit our great-aunt and great-uncle. The first night there, they had packed a picnic dinner to enjoy on the beach. But, missing the memo that I was a vegetarian (or that vegetarians exist, I guess), they served us fried chicken, ham, mini turkey sandwiches, and potato salad with bacon bits (chopped into tiny damn unpickable pieces).

That night for dinner, I had a bag of baby carrots and a sandy pecan cookie.

Vegetarianism: 1, Rachel: 0.

The next incident of vegetarian-related disappointment (discrimination) occurred my sophomore year when I studied abroad in Guatemala. Overall, every restaurant had been pretty accommodating when they found out they had a vegetarian on their hands. But in this particular situation, we had all sat down for lunch, and were one by one receiving our meals. Everyone’s looked amazing: thick tortillas, handmade guacamole, steaming rice, black beans, and mounds of white chicken. Assuming mine would be the same as everyone else’s minus the meat, I was hungrily anticipating what was to come.

Imagine my disbelief when the chefs (who perhaps didn’t know what a vegetarian was?) sent out a plate piled high with nothing but shredded iceberg lettuce.

Vegetarianism: 2, Rachel: 0.

The last example I’d like to give of vegetarian disappoi– no, it’s discrimination. I’m just going to say it. The last example occurred a few years ago, while I was working full time at a local nonprofit. As with any nonprofit, we had a few annual fundraisers to keep our organization…well, nonprofit. On this particular day, we were holding a golf tournament. All of the board members and directors (ie everyone responsible for my salary) were there, and, as one of the few staff members present, it was looking to be a very hectic day.

We had an early catered lunch before the tournament, which was great because I. Was. Starving.

But who was catering, you ask?

Outback Steakhouse, of course.

There’s no need to go into the gritty details, but, in no mood to go hungry for the rest of the day, I ended up piecing together all of the meat-free foods in an innovative manner that would only make a 7-year-old or stoner proud, through the means of a Lays potato chip sandwich.

I sat down with a group and started eating, hoping no one would notice or say anything. Unfortunately, everyone noticed; but based on the seething look I gave the first person who made a comment (“Boy, you just eat what you like, don’t you!”), no one else dared to make fun of my lunch, and I was properly fueled for the rest of the day.

Vegetarianism: 3, Rachel: 0, Guy Who Made Fun of My Sandwich and Avoided Me for the Rest of the Day: -1.

So, in conclusion, I’d like to dedicate this post to all of you vegetarians out there.

For those times that your friends suggest meeting up at a barbecue restaurant for dinner.

For those times that someone at the potluck adds bacon to a previously vegetarian dish.

For those times that people ask you how you live without Chick-fil-A.

For those times that you have to check soup label ingredients for chicken or beef stock.

For those times you have to admit that tofu actually isn’t all that good.

For those times on Thanksgiving when…well…mashed potatoes just don’t cut it.

For those times that the only thing on the menu for you is a side salad and French fries.

For those times that you get a stomach ache from too much hummus.

For those times that the vegetarian option is a dry wrap with wilted vegetables inside.

For all you vegetarians…this one is for you.

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