Wednesday, May 23, 2007

“Almost a Vegetarian”

[Note: This was one of the very first On or Off the Mark columns—obviously and embarrassingly from my pre-vegan days!]

The “almost” vegetarians—I seem to meet them everywhere. For example the scene might go something like this:
I’m out to lunch with a new business acquaintance, and in the process of ordering it becomes obvious that I’m a vegetarian. (“I’ll have a ham and cheese on rye, hold the ham.”) When the waitress is gone my lunch companion says: “So you’re a vegetarian?”
“Yes,” I reply.
“ Do you feel better?” he asks, as if I’d only given up meat two days ago.
“Yeah, I think so,” I answer. I’m trying to remember how I felt 10 years ago.
It’s then that he hits me with the all-too-familiar line: “I’m almost a vegetarian myself,” he says.
“No kidding!” I try to feign surprise. “Boy, that’s great!”
“Yeah,” he says. “My wife and I hardly even eat meat. Mostly just chicken and fish.” Then he suddenly remembers the roast beef sandwich he ordered for lunch. “When I’m out is about the only time I ever eat meat. Yeah, I’m pretty much a vegetarian.”
“Do you feel better?” I ask.
This scene, or some variant thereof, repeats itself at least once a week. A good 75% of the people who discover I’m a vegetarian volunteer that they are “almost vegetarians” themselves. If half of the people who claimed to be vegetarians really were, the meat industry would be begging for our mercy.
I always have to suppress a smile when I find a new “almost” vegetarian and talk to him about his “vegetarian” diet of chicken and fish. There is a lot the general public has to learn about vegetarianism.
But the point of this article is not to make fun of “almost” vegetarians, but to thank them. They represent the mainstream of America, and they are showing themselves to be ever more tolerant of vegetarianism. Perhaps they sometimes still think of it as a health fad, but they accept it nonetheless. And instead of regarding vegetarians as a lunatic fringe, we are a group they want to be identified with.
The end result of all of this has to be good. Good for vegetarianism, and good for the country. Vegetarianism has no absolutes, and any change for the better should be appreciated. People really are becoming more conscientious about their diets. Chicken and fish today—maybe tofu tomorrow.
That’s something I feel better about, don’t you?

1 comment:

Brittany said...

hey this is great-it's good I have finally come across a column written about the 'almost-vegetarians'. To be honest, they frustrate me. I'm at college( in New Zealand. The equivalent to High School and the amount of people that come around and say that they are also vegetarians is annoying. They should have a different word for them. Arg. It's when they compare themselves to me, whilst eating chicken or fish. I mean hell.