When I was a young lass, I spent a glorious week of every summer at church camp. Since our church was a very liberal denomination, there was very little ‘church’ about camp, which was fine by me. In fact, the only bad thing about camp (aside from the standard 70:30 female:male ratio) was that as a 13 year-old vegetarian, I had to to force dry, unseasoned red beans and rice down my (normally hungry) throat for nearly every meal. While the other kids got to eat a variety of meals (however meaty), I was stuck with a lumpy, dry pile of grub. If Instagram existed in 1999, I would have posted this:
oh joy, red beans & rice again #fartycamper #desperatevegetarionlookingfordatetothedance #mailmesomefoodmom #oratleastsomesalt
There were other vegetarian kids too, being a liberal church and all. The most infamous of which was a giant, bra-less girl who had yet to discover unibrow plucking (not me, haha, but thx for the thought!). Not the sexiest group of campers, us vegetarians. One night, I was so fatigued by my meal option, I quit after a few bites and figured I could just granola-bar-it-up later in the cabin. Unfortunately, this occurred when I was sitting in the company of the only old-man counselor. He hated children. And he apparently hated vegetarian children the most. He reamed me for an eternity (probably 2 minutes) in front of my peers, mostly about how short my life would be if I refused to eat red beans and rice, which was the only way for a vegetarian to get even a minute amount of vitamins, minerals, iron, protein, and happiness needed for survival. As an informed 13 year-old (my mom gave me The Moosewood Cookbook for my birthday), I wanted to yell, “GO BACK TO 1955 AND EAT A HAMBURGER FOR EVERY MEAL, IDIOT!”*, but telling someone what diet is best for them is rude, so I said nothing. Turn the other cheek- right, Jesus?
Lisa Simpson, Paul McCartney, and Prince were early inspirations, and now that I live in a city-city and cook in my own kitchen, it couldn’t be easier to choose a healthy, plant-based diet. Sure, I have to travel back to One Stoplight Town, MN every now and then, but I can suffer through a greasy grilled cheese at the local restaurant every now and then. And yes, there are still old, white men who want to loudly and incessantly express “pity” (more like a cutesy way of sharing disapproval) for the wonderful life of fun meat-eating I’m missing out on, but I have learned to politely smile and ignore them instead of trying to explain anything about the merits of a vegetable-based diet and how easy it is to get enough protein**. I know that the type of person who loves to express disapproval of others’ lifestyle choices does not in fact, love themselves… and that’s really a bigger issue than whether or not Molly Nelson is going to eat a bratwurst tonight, ain’t it?
Oh, and for the record, beans and rice can be delicious, but Jesus, church camp- salt the rice water or something***!
Stay tuned for the inevitable, Winning Friends with Salad: Part 2, for salad recipes, friendz, and healthy fun (now that the obligatory ‘history of my vegetarianism’ rant is over)
POLISH UP THOSE SALAD TONGS!
*Science sez: If you absolutely have to have red meat as part of your diet, choose the leanest cuts in small, 3 oz portions, only 2 times/week, or run the risk of cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, obesity, cancer, etc. (fancy Harvard citation).
**Like how every PLANT, yes, PLANT contains at least a little protein? Some contain quite a lot– in fact, broccoli has more per ounce than steak! Plus, of course, delicious seeds, nuts, soy, avocados, yogurt, eggs, etc. etc.
***I’d probably also add scallions, garlic, red bell pepper, cayenne, paprika, black pepper, and apple cider vinegar… you know, because good cooking makes food taste good.