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March 26, 2012

Five Tips for Vegetarian Success.

How to live a flesh-free life:

1. Have a strong rationale for ditching meat.

To truly make the change to a flesh-free diet you have to have a reason that keeps you meatless when you salivate over a remembered flavor or when you’re feeling too lazy to think outside the box of meat.

My personal rationale is emotional (and laughably schmaltzy). The little spark my dog’s eyes and her clear preferences have convinced me that she has little doggie ideas. And I’ve decided that if my Sophie has notions and a personality, why wouldn’t a cow as well? I can’t eat things that think.

2. Don’t be an assh*le vegetarian.

Sanctimonious herbivores really eff things up for the rest of us. They’ve induced some meat-eaters to be wary of vegetarians, assuming that we’re out to convert ‘em. And nobody likes the dietary proselytizer.

My policy is this: To each her own. Eat meat if you want. Just don’t get your knickers in a knot when I politely refuse your proffered slab of grilled carcass.

3. Be patient with the carnivorous public.

A ridiculously common but absolute bullsh*t understanding about life without meat is that protein is suddenly hard to come by. But protein’s all over the place—grains, nuts, lentils, soy, and—for those not vegan—eggs and some dairy. Yes, the first few months of a meat-free existence are more mealtime intensive, but isn’t it always a bit exhausting when you’re breaking habits to form new ones?

When confronted by someone claiming that vegetarianism is unhealthy, mumbling about iron and B vitamins, I see a couple viable optoins. Option one—use lab work to prove that they’re wrong. I had my physician do a full blood panel to check my levels of, well, everything. It was sufficient evidence that I, an ovo-lacto vegetarian, am wholly healthy. (It’s my opinion that one ought to do this even if they’re not a vegetarian.) If it turns out that your lab work says that things aren’t so good within your inner goings-on, there’s your chance to systematically fix things. Option two—just walk away. The likelihood of these people being swayed from their meat-need convictions is essentially nil.

4. Make it clear to your peeps that this choice of yours is yours and you take responsibility for it.

When going out with friends it may happen that they turn to you, sometimes in an accusatory fashion, and say, “Well, you’re the one with the special eating issues. You choose where we’re going.” Vegetarianism isn’t a diagnosis. Make it clear that you don’t have issues. You just don’t eat meat and there’s not a restaurant menu out there that you can’t make fit your needs.

Photo: Ashley Thalman

Every menu will have variations on pasta, potatoes, rice, and/or vegetables. So, yeah, you may be in for a starchy dinner, but if you go to a group meal with knowing that you can prepare accordingly (and I’d argue that the point of eating out with people is the people, and food is just a bonus).

5. Learn where meat might be hiding.

Beef or chicken broths in soups. Bacon fat in cornbread. Lard in Mexican food. Anchovies in Worcestershire sauce. Fish stock in miso soup. Don’t be shy about inquiring after ingredients. Remember that your vegetarianism isn’t an embarrassing affliction. You made this choice—own it.

Some carnivores think it’s funny to see if they can trick you into eating meat. Those people are douchebags. Make clear that you aren’t amused, and then, because it’s deserved, unplug their fridge or, at the very least, short-sheet their bed.

Author has been given permission to use photos from: Ashley Thalman Photography.

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Editor: Kate Bartolotta.

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