Thursday, October 4, 2012

Celebrating Vegetarianism

October is Vegetarian Awareness Month...and no, that doesn't mean you have to buy cards or gifts for the vegetarians in your life. It means you, as a meat eater, should spend a little time trying to understand why someone chooses to follow a vegetarian diet, and how such a choice affects other aspects of their lives.

One example is how some vegetarians also opt to eliminate other animal products, such as leather or fur, from their lives. They may do this because they feel that killing animals for the sake of clothing is inhumane. These are compassionate people. What these people are not are zealots.

They do not leave pamphlets on your doorknobs touting the re-emerging practice of Meatless Monday, a practice born of war. How ironic that something that is now considered humane started from a most inhumane action.

Vegetarians do not gather in front of the meat counters at supermarkets and terrorize those perusing packages of top sirloin or rump roasts. They do not picket or protest or otherwise engage in acts of culinary disobedience.

Vegetarians just don't eat meat. It's that simple, and that complex. As anyone who reads this blog with any frequency knows, my daughter is a vegetarian and has been all her life. Her father and I have teased her, good naturedly, about this lifestyle choice, as she has teased us about our food choices. But her decision, from the time she first started eating solids, to reject meat has presented me with challenges that have proven to be opportunities.

All of us in our family eat healthier because I've always had to include meat free dishes in our family meals. When my husband was put on a restricted diet because of his heart surgery, I was challenged even further, but it would have been all the more difficult if I hadn't already been familiar with cooking from a vegetarian point of view.

With food trends being so well-publicized now, thanks to Food Network and Food Channel and all the foodie magazines, blogs and websites, one would think vegetarianism would be no big deal. But as my daughter points out in her blog post, "5 Ways to Help Vegetarianism While Not Giving Up Meat," some people still don't get it.

She tells of eye-rolls and heavy sighs, and people trying to trick her into eating meat. Shame on them. Shame on them for their deliberate ignorance and their disrespect. Food is essential to our lives, to our well-being, and food choices are a part of who we are as sentient beings.

So take a little time this October to set aside any food prejudices and make a few meatless meals, and offer to break bread with your vegetarian friends. You just may find that they are presenting you with culinary opportunities you hadn't yet imagined.