One the most furious debates we can witness on social media is between the vegetarians and vegans versus the meat-eaters. Of all the issues facing the world currently, this conversation can drive such strife on both sides. Recently, I read a post from a friend on social media shaming meat-eaters. Normally, my rebellious nature sets in and I dig in for debate; however, I held back and thought, what would be a better way for vegetarian and vegans to express themselves to the meat-eaters, and vice versa?
Becoming a vegetarian and vegan is more than just a food choice. Giving up eating meat isn’t as simple as a snap of the fingers, regardless of health and moral concerns. We have to admit it can be easier for some than others.
There are those raised in a plant-based diet. Some simply don’t like meat, and for others it is a moral choice; however, it is certainly not something a person can be shamed and guilted into becoming. Like anything else, changing our diet is a process and takes time, which is why many who try often fail or get sick.
I was raised in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country. My diet growing up consisted of meat and potatoes, and plenty of milk (it does a body good, don’t you know). Not only is it a part of my physiology, it is the epigenetics of my ancestors. A meat-based diet is ingrained in my DNA and my mentality, as well as emotionally. When I think of home, I have fond memories of summer barbeques, clam bakes, and pot roasts on cold nights.
To convert to vegetarianism, in some ways, would be like converting to another religion—I would have to give up the traditions of my past. It is simply not as easy a transition as some may think.
Many years ago, when I first was introduced to Eastern philosophy, I heard the calling of vegetarianism. At that time, the choices for vegetarians were salads, steamed vegetables, and rubberized fake meat. While I enjoy a good salad, the rest was a hard pass, and I fell back on my carnivore ways.
Fast-forward nearly 20 years, and I attended a Yoga retreat where every meal was a freshly cooked vegan meal. Mung bean tortillas filled with an avocado salsa—game changer! Pesto zucchini pasta, who knew? This was not your vegetarian meal of old with its bland, rubbery, and tasteless food. I sensed a change on the horizon.
As a shark seeks human flesh after tasting blood, I guess the same goes for me tasting tasty vegan food. This sparked the food explorer in me. What other tasty vegetarian dishes are out there? Nut “cheeses.” No way! Vegan yogurt. Wow! Black bean and walnut burgers. I’m sold! During this exploration of vegetarian and vegan recipes, my relationship with food changed.
Last year, I started writing a book on the ancient Celts and their relationship with nature. I became enthralled with the medicine in plants. I started growing weeds, stinging nettles, and dandelion. I am quite a fan of weeds, and who would have thought weeds could be so delicious.
This path to becoming a vegetarian and vegan is shaped by our connection with our environment, and in a sense, we become one with our ecology. Once we start altering our thoughts and feelings toward foods, we can change not just our emotional attachments to food, but our genetic nutrient requirements. This is what it all is about—our relationship with food.
As a former meat-eater, my attitude was: if meat was good enough for my ancestors, it’s good enough for me. Now, I can say I have a more sacred relationship with my food. Yes, sacred. I conjure up alchemy in my kitchen testing new recipes—baked kale chips (my secret is hemp seed oil), homemade granola (I add cacao), and dandelion pesto, which is delish! Cooking has become as sacred a process as meditation and Yoga.
Changing our diet is an individual journey. We come to it for many different reasons—health, morals, likes, and dislikes. For me, it was neither. It was simple. The more I evolved in my journey of this life, my relationship with diet changed…naturally and organically. I am no longer the girl who loves barbeque ribs—now I crave a veggie burrito.
Our bodies need to adjust to the change. We need to adjust our thoughts and feelings toward food, and yes, in many ways, food is spiritual. We come to see the light of a plant-based diet on our own, albeit often with the help and inspiration of others.
So, for those concerned about the environment and animals, the best way to approach the meat-eater is accepting others’ evolution, genetics, and feelings toward food. We can suggest recipes or food ideas. Perhaps introduce new foods to family members. We can garden and grow our own foods, and mostly get back into the kitchen and become our own personal plant alchemists.
With our ever-changing climate, weather, and even our social climate, the best option is always to give others an encouraging hand.
About the Author:
Jennifer Ott, inspired by watching way too much “Monty Python,” is an author of several fiction titles, including award-winning Saying Goodbye, Vietnam Veterans of America’s highly recommended Edge of Civilization. She writes in a range of genres from satire to international, political thrillers. On occasion, she has meandered into the realm of nonfiction with such satirical titles: Ooh Baby Compound Me, which compares credit card companies to fraternity hazing, and Love and Handicapping, which offers horse racing handicapping tips for those in the dating world. Most recently, she published Secrets of a Recovering Loner, a semi-autobiographical account of the several times she withdrew from society’s demands to pursue creative endeavors. And when writing doesn’t tame her creative passions, she has taken aim at painting portraits of her favorite characters. (Reprinted from Elephant Journal)