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From Turkey to Tofu: My Conversion to Vegetarianism

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A blur of trees and buildings ran along my car as my dad drove toward Target in pursuit of Cheez-its, toothpaste, etc. The blazing August sun heated the car and turned it into an oven where the only thing that stopped my family from sizzling was the air conditioner spouting cool oxygen onto us. I gazed out the window and absentmindedly twirled a finger through my hair, letting my thoughts wander all over the place. Snatches of conversation from my dad and sister, Taylor, slipped through my thought barrier occasionally, but nothing sparked my interest. I continued staring at the forget-me-not blue sky until I caught a word that grabbed my attention: vegetarian. Dad was chatting with my sister about how he thought being a vegetarian would be simple, since his favorite foods were non-meat. My sister disagreed and thought it would be difficult, though she also thought she would be able to do it. The funny thing, though, was that moments before I had been playing with the idea of becoming a vegetarian. I loved animals and felt guilty every time I ate meat, so I had been considering this for at least a year. I had never had the courage though, because I believed I would never be able to keep it up. The fear of failing had prevented me from a meatless lifestyle, but this conversation began to instill bravery into me.

As I strolled along Target, picking out shampoo, conditioner, etc, I contemplated the idea of giving up meat. It was still on my mind as I lugged plastic bags full of different sorts of household and bathroom products through the parking lot. Only did I mention it, though, when we were on the drive home.

“Hey Dad, you know that conversation you were having with Taylor about vegetarianism earlier?” I questioned my dad.

“Yeah, what about it?”

“Well, I’ve decided that I’m going to stop eating meat.” I said defiantly, daring him to contradict me. I thought I sort of sounded grown up, which was what I was aiming for, but my dad raised his eyebrows and Taylor smirked. I could tell they were skeptical, but I wouldn’t be swayed by their disbelief. The next morning, my dad was frying strips of bacon, the succulent aroma filling the air. I smiled at my dad, ignored the smell, and began to cut a bagel in half.

At first, being vegetarian, as Taylor predicted, was extremely difficult. I had never realized how much meat made up my daily meals until I gave up eating it. If my family had meat for dinner, my dad or I would make me an alternate entrée. Sometimes, I just filled myself up on side dishes like potatoes and vegetables. I was even able to find a selection of meatless burgers, Buffalo wings, and corndogs at the grocery store, which helped me very much in future meals.

Restaurants were the hardest places to eat. Before I learned to adapt and look for possible vegetarian dishes in the menu, I had a lot of trouble ordering. I actually had a failure in a restaurant once. It was this delicious little place called Café Belle and I was embarrassed because it was taking me so long to order and the waiter was, well… waiting. The tapping of the man’s shoe was driving me insane, so I finally broke down and ordered a chicken quesadilla, not even realizing I could probably order it without meat. I was filled with remorse the whole time I ate and on the ride home, I resolved to try harder.

Around the time when I was still adjusting to my new lifestyle, I decided to start eating shrimp again. It wasn’t because I longed for it (though I did love shrimp), but because my dad always stressed himself out trying to find restaurants that would suit my tastes. No matter how many times I explained to him that I would be fine, he would still worry about it. To make his restaurant search easier, I began to eat shrimp again. I ate it rarely, so I managed to stave off the guilt most of the time. Yet, even rarely still became too many times for me and not too long ago, I stopped eating shrimp too. Thus, I became a full, non-meat eating, vegetarian.

I admit that it has not been long at all since the summer of ’07, but it feels like at least a few years. During these five months or so, though, many people have asked me the same question: Why did you become vegetarian? The answer is really quite simple actually. I did it because I want to protect animal rights and obtain a healthier lifestyle. This did happen, but becoming vegetarian did something else to me too. Though it wasn’t clear to me at the time, becoming vegetarian marked my first real independent step in life. By changing my way of eating, I have proved that I am now mature enough to make my own choices.




I would like to take this moment at the very end to thank my dad, Peter Matzen, for encouraging me, helping me find delicious vegetarian dishes, and accepting tofu into our nightly meals. You’re the best Dad!





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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

guinea_pig_girl said...
Feb. 7, 2010 at 10:56 am
This was a great article. I am a vegetarian too, but I have a lot of respect for you for being strong enough to make the change-I was raised a vegetarian and plan to stick with it forever.
 
ally514 said...
Aug. 7, 2008 at 11:58 pm
that was really good kelsey!!! your so good at writting i swear your going to be an author. and its true too! love it
 
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