Once upon a time, I became a vegetarian. I was 12 to be exact. To me, being a vegetarian has been fun and exciting because it opened my world to a huge variety of foods that I otherwise might not have tasted. But beyond that, and my initial reasons for becoming/staying a vegetarian, it hasn’t been that big of a deal. It’s just something I chose to do for personal reasons and because I did so let’s move on.
But I have encountered many people (many, many, many people) who think it is a big deal. It’s either weird or sinful or unbelievable.
One of the most common things I encounter is, if I choose not to go to a certain restaurant or to not eat the offered food at a church social, people will say, “But they have lettuce.” Yes, they do have lettuce. Usually iceberg lettuce, which I was advised NOT to feed my pet lizard because he would die of starvation.
I heard this line once again the other day and wrote the following as a result. It’s meant to be silly (what’s life without silliness?) but it might beg the question: Why do so many people think I survive solely on lettuce?
A Day in the Life of a Vegetarian.
We first see our vegetarian volunteer eating breakfast. She consumes a steady stream of lettuce. “Do you have a favorite kind of lettuce?” I ask. “The green kind,” she says. “It tastes… the greeniest.”
She can hardly speak, however, for the crunch and tear of lettuce as she shovels it powerfully into her mouth is too loud. She uses her hands because it is quicker.
To wash down her lettuce breakfast, our young vegetarian mixes in her blender a variety of green edibles: green lettuce, slightly less green lettuce, deep forest green lettuce, a bit of water, and some kale for good measure.
“Do you ever get tired of just lettuce?” I ask. “No…” she says. “What else would I eat as a vegetarian?” she says with a laugh.
We make our way to the place of her employment: an animal shelter.
“What do you do here?” I ask. “Oh, I’m in charge of feeding the animals and cleaning their shelters. I also exercise them in the yard.”
“What do they eat?”
“They eat a mash of vegetables and fruits.”
“But aren’t some of the animals here carnivores? Like the cats?”
“Haven’t you been listening? I’m a vegetarian. If I don’t eat meat, I’m not going to feed it to another animal. Obviously.” She rolls her eyes.
I watch as she works through the first half of her day. The animals seem to really like her, but the cats look a mite weak.
“What’s for lunch?” I ask.
She stares at me. “Well, yeah.”
The day wears on. Animals feed, are exercised. Cages are cleaned.
I ride in the car home with her, discussing what it is like to be a vegetarian when she goes out with friends. I ask if she finds it difficult to find things to eat at various restaurants. She assures me it is no problem at all. Everywhere you go they’ve got some salad.
“What do you get with your salads?” I ask.
“Mmmm… Usually some extra lettuce. You can never have too much, you know.”
“Don’t a lot of places only serve salads that have meat on them?”
“Yeah, but in that case I just have them bring me the bag of leftover lettuce. It’s usually iceberg lettuce, which isn’t my favorite, but watery iceberg is better than a big bowl of beans any day!”
“Speaking of beans, how do you get your protein as a vegetarian, if you only eat lettuce?”
“I just don’t worry about it. Protein is overrated, anyway. Everything you need is in some kind of greenery.”
I remain quiet and pensive for the rest of the car ride.
When we arrive back at her house it is time for dinner. She offers me some of her meal, but I kindly decline.
She skillfully plucks leaves of lettuce from various pots around her kitchen. The best vegetarian lettuce is grown in your own kitchen. After filling a large bowl with her greens, she sits at the table and starts to eat. With her hands, of course.
“Do you ever have anything with your lettuce? Like a dressing perhaps?”
“Why would I add a dressing?”
I don’t know how to respond so I sit quietly.
As we finish our conversation and our day together, the observer and the vegetarian, I reflect that a vegetarian lifestyle doesn’t seem all bad. Her kitchen is lovely, after all, with all the greenery growing.
But then I notice the greenish twinge that is starting to creep into her skin. I decide to skip the vegetarian life for now.