Categories: Central AmericaFoodie DelightsGuatemala

A Little Explanation…AKA Why I’m a “Don’t Ask” Vegetarian

I won’t say that it’s the most asked question I get when I’m on the road, but it certainly ranks right up there in the top ten, perhaps after the standard “where are you from?” and “how long are you traveling for?”

People want to know why I’m vegetarian.

And not just why, but also how I fare on the road being a vegetarian.

That’s a tough question to answer – on both counts. Because how I’m faring directly relates to the country…and in some cases to the experience.

So let’s first get the why out of the way – pretty much every answer any other vegetarian has given is a part of mine:

  • I don’t agree with the hormones and antibiotics pumped into animals.
  • I think that animals are treated inhumanely and unethically at the slaughter houses and in factory farming.
  • I neither crave nor like the taste of meat (though I craved hotdogs for the first five years…disgusting, I know).
  • Animal farming for consumption is a big contributor to global warming.
  • I’m currently able to maintain a healthy diet being vegetarian, so it works for me.

Now, how I fare on the road is a whole other issue. I am a vegetarian and have been for nearly twelve years now…during that time though I have eaten both chicken and fish when necessary.

Hardcore veggies would argue – then you’re not a veggie.

Well, I’m a “don’t ask, don’t offend” vegetarian on the road, and that’s why I’m fairly positive I’ve had both chicken and fish.

I prepped you all a bit in my last post, about the amazingly warm Semana Santa dinner that I was invited to at a local Guatemalan’s house. This is one of those situations that veggies on the road have to fear. There’s an unknown element in the situation and it would be entirely inappropriate to request vegetarian food.

Roberto, my host, served a chicken casserole for dinner.

And I ate it.

I did not eat the chunks of chicken (it’s been years and I’m fairly certain I would have been ill) but I did give a huge smile as he served up the chicken, rice and pea casserole and dug in with the rest of the family and friends at the table. The kind man sitting next to me (also American) graciously accepted my chunks of chicken when no one was looking, and I ate up enthusiastically, pretending like my entire dish wasn’t soaked in chicken broth.

And I enjoyed the experience.

And I caused no offense.

And that is, ultimately, important to me. More important than not eating animal juices.

I employ a similar theory when extreme hunger sets in…or depending on environment. Here in Central America, some of the beans are cooked with lard. I would never win the fight against the lard and would thus go hungry or miss many of the tasty street foods. So I don’t ask.

Similarly in Asia, fish broth is in nearly everything. Seriously. I was amazed by how many things had a dallop of fish broth for flavor.

So I stopped asking.

And I had a great time. And I ate well.

I wrote about surrendering to the experience, and this is one way that I give up control and prefer experience over hard and fast beliefs. I never seek out meat, and certainly choose the veggie option when I can, but there are times when I just surrender.

So, cheers to all you vegans and hardcore veggies out there, it’s a struggle and one I think we all have to attack differently. I’m hypoglycemic, which means when it comes down to it, I’m just going to eat something. But beyond that, I feel like there are already components of the experience I’m missing out on – flavors and foods I have no desire to try, but that surely compliment each new region of the world – so I adopt a “don’t ask and don’t offend” policy and the Universe hasn’t smited me yet by putting a huge juicy steak down in front of me…not sure what I will do in that situation!

This post was last modified on June 25, 2011, 12:32 am