on labels.


A few years ago I went to lunch with some vegetarian friends, and ordered a tofu dish. One of the group said to me, “Oh! When did you become a vegetarian?”.

Me: “I’m not vegetarian, but I like tofu”.

Dead silence fell around the table.

Friend 1: “So, you’re NOT vegetarian”.

Me: “Correct. I still eat meat. But I like tofu”.

Crickets.

Friend 2: “I don’t get it. You’re saying you’re not a vegetarian? But you’re eating tofu.  Meat eaters don’t eat tofu”.

Friend 1:” So, you’re vegetarian then, right?”

Me: (SIGH).

Why is it that we as a people feel the need to label and categorize everything? I don’t eat meat with every meal or even every day. I subscribe to Vegetarian Times magazine; I do a raw detox fairly regularly; half my cookbooks are vegetarian, vegan, or raw. But I’m no vegetarian.  I like to eat; that is all. And if that means bacon for breakfast and coconut wrappers with cashew cheese at lunch, so be it (hey – cashew cheese is not bad, as I’ve recently discovered) (I just don’t want to eat it every day).

I have been vegetarian in my past. When I was a broke college student in Savannah, it was out of necessity – beans and rice are cheap and plentiful – besides not knowing how to cook meat properly.  Prior to that, I did go through a stint as one of those full-fledged vegetarians who give the stink eye to meat eaters.  It was when I lived in Florida, and my roommates and I threw a party.  A bunch of us decided to drop acid, climb onto the roof of our house, and throw rocks at our other roommate’s boyfriend since none of us liked him very much and it seemed like a GREAT idea at the time (incidentally, I ended up dating that dude a few years later – but that’s another story).  When I climbed down from the roof, I emerged into the kitchen where a couple of people were skewering meat for the grill. And let me tell you, acid and food do not mix. I thought I was going to be sick just watching them putting meat on sticks. And I couldn’t eat meat for a long while after that, until I had a series of dreams about hamburgers and was lured into the Steak 'n Shake down the block from the house.

So why bother with labeling? Does it matter so very much? I roasted a chicken last night, and it was delicious. This morning I had miso and sweet potato soup for breakfast.  I’m not even an omnivore, as meat isn’t the principal food in my diet.  Perhaps I am omnivegetarivore. Let’s make that a word!

As I stated above, I like to eat; that is all.  And that is my manifesto.


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