At the wise age of 15 I decided to become a vegetarian. Why? Not because it was healthy, or more sustainable, or because I was spiritual, but because my step-father said I was a hypocrite. So merely to defy him and prove him wrong, I stopped eating meat. But there is more to this story....
At the time I was living in a small town in Central Florida that was consumed by trailer parks, mini malls, and residents whose furthest and most exotic adventure was a trip to Tampa. It was a safe town and of course had great weather, but it was definitely void of culture, different perspectives and environmental awareness. Somehow, though, I was the epicenter of these different perspectives and environmental awareness. I wrote poetry about the destruction of Mother Nature, created art that centered on her beauty, voiced my opinions about how to live sustainably, went to animal rights protests, and gave up eating red meat. But despite all my efforts to “save the world” I still ate chicken and turkey because, well, they tasted good.
One evening after vocalizing how horrible my step father was for eating a rare, bloody steak (while I was ingesting a chicken pot pie) he said to me that I was being a hypocrite. Thus to prove him wrong, because that is what teenagers do, I said I won’t eat ANY meat again. And over 20 years later I am still a strict vegetarian, but for reasons of my own truth and not because I am trying to prove something anymore.
In my teen years I admit, I was more like a Greenpeace environmentalist and less like the EPA. I was a bit over passionate about saving the world in a way that was negative and not the most productive. Although surprisingly my step-father and many others admit that they have made positive changes in living sustainably and eating less meat due to the somewhat nagging voicing of my opinions. But that being said as I attended college and studied Environmental Conservation I realized that I needed to go about making changes in a different way. It wasn’t about nagging people to make changes, it was about me living life in a positive way as an example. So I stopped being so vocal and focused on living my beliefs; and being vegetarian was a way that felt true to me in my personal quest to lessen my impact on the planet, heal the destruction, and sow the seeds of love for all beings.
It was then that my vegetarian ways became the target of ridicule, questioning, and defensive attitudes. People laughed at me because I didn’t eat meat, said that I was a wuss because I cared about animals, constantly (and I mean constantly) questioned as to WHY I chose not to eat meat, and almost always had to defend themselves as soon as I said I was a vegetarian. I was really confused as to why people cared so much about my choice of food.
This confusion soon turned to frustration once I entered the professional culinary world. Let me tell you that it is not easy being incredibly passionate about the culinary arts and being vegetarian. After being rejected for apprenticeships, not able to go to traditional culinary school, and laughed at during a pastry chef/garde manger position at a top restaurant, I wanted to give up on working in this field. It became so tiresome that I started questioning my beliefs and thought it would be so much easier if I just ate and cooked meat. How funny. As something as simple as my choice in food could be the source of so much anguish. And it all started because I was a stubborn teenager with something to prove.
A stubborn teen who turned into a passionate adult that holds true to her beliefs despite the ridicule and challenges. And thus I remembered why I choose this lifestyle…because I love seeing curious cows chewing stalks of grass while staring inquisitively, pigs frolicking in the mud like children on a rainy day in puddles, and deer in open fields peering at me with their beautiful eyes. Knowing that my choice allows these animals the right to a long life, the earth to be impacted less, and my body to be full of vibrant energy, brings me joy and peace internally. I honor being vegetarian in a world of meat eaters and trust that this is the right choice for ME. And I am thankful for the day my step father pointed out, in a loving way, that I was a hypocrite. Choosing to be vegetarian is not about proving anything anymore; it is about what feels right, living my truth, and honoring my beliefs.
This blog is an exploration of life, love, adventure and art primarily through the medium of food.