Dear veg heads,

This time of year seems to be hard for us (for the record, I’m a pescetarian, but similar realms). The colder it gets, the more likely people seem to give into their carnivorous cravings. Walking into the dining hall today, I was greeted with a smorgasbord of beef and chicken, with steamed veggies being the only alternative. Of course the university does its best at accommodations, but nothing compares to veggie specialized locales. But I digress. The gist is that many meat eaters have misconceptions about what it exactly means to be a vegetarian or similar variations of such. I hope to help others better explain their dietary restrictions when questioned by other carnivores. Got no beef though, as the classic 3OH!3 tune expresses.

When I got home for winter break, my mother broke into tears at the airport upon seeing me. Finally seeing her son after several months apart, many would understand her sudden cathartic display. But it’s deceiving; she was upset because she thought I had lost too much weight. Many people, especially my lamb-obsessed Southern European family, believe that eating less meat compromises one’s protein supply and ability to maintain an average, healthy weight. My mother nearly had an aneurism when I told her that I was transitioning to my new diet at school. “You’re gonna look sick” and “Pork doesn’t really count as ‘meat’ you know” were her two most common statements. Then she began to pensively wonder if it was something she had done, if she could have forced me to eat a couple more pot roasts in K-12. To assuage my mother’s worries and any parent whose child becomes vegetarian: It’s not your fault. It’s not anyone’s fault. I chose to eat less meat and then eliminate it from my diet because my digestive system is analogous to one of an infant. Literally, eating apple puree and peas is my crème de la crème. While vegetarians will eat more lean proteins, the key fact is that we still eat protein. In fact, because seeking protein is a much more active process, regulating intake becomes much easier and obvious than just randomly eating some beef every couple days. I lost weight in muscle, transitioning from an athlete’s appetite in high school to a more natural, green-centric diet. Alas, my mother baked a batch of some hellishly buttered cookies and watched me eat them all. Mean Girls style.

On the other hand, many believe that all vegetarians are extremely health conscious. Which is true. Every once in a while we splurge on some hot lemon water, but I usually feel guilty about those unnecessary lemon kilocals, you feel? Kidding! Vegetarians are all gluttons! Still kidding. But in all seriousness, I love Twinkies as much as the next guy (RIP Hostess). Some people actually defy all stereotypes and indulge in meatless diets compensated by an excess of everything else processed. I’m talking Doritos for breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night snack, fourthmeal, high tea, fifth course and entree. But what’s for dessert? Lays, duh.

Another final misconception is that all vegetarians are tofu savants. I’m being hypocritical with this, considering I eat tofu like it’s going out of style. Tofu salad. Tofu soup. Tofu pudding. Not really, but it is prime stuff. But many vegetarians prefer other offerings, such as the exotic seitan and tempeh. No, not Lucifer and the city in Arizona. Seitan is a wheat based meat substitute, and tempeh uses different soy fermentation than tofu. Myriads of (non)meat!

Beets and bok choi,