Sunday, June 10, 2007

Chickens apparently grow on trees...

My mother tells people that I am a vegetarian the same way most mothers would talk about their daughter being a drug dealer, stripper or prostitute.

(Actually, I am not a vegetarian, I am a pescatarian, as I eat fish, but don't eat pork, beef or poultry.)

When I yawn, or sneeze, or cough, or am moody, my mother automatically blames the fact that I don't eat meat. My mother is a smoker, doesn't exercise, and eats poorly. However, according to her, it is my vegetarianism that will kill me, while a bacon cheeseburger is considered a healthy serving or protein.

I first became attracted to the vegetarian lifestyle at a very young age. I watched Charlotte's Web for the first time (the one featuring Debbie Reynolds as the voice of the beloved spider) and realized that the ham and pork and sausages my family often ate came from Wilbur.

I couldn't do it.

I told my mother I would never eat meat again.

This lasted for an entire summer. I still remember sitting at lunch with my sister and our cousin. They were eating ham sandwiches, I had my usual peanut butter.

My cousin giggled and shoved her sandwich in her mouth, exclaiming, "I'm sorry, Wilbur...but you just taste SO GOOD!"

I started to cry.

As the years passed, I occasionally ate meat. I couldn't always resist a cheeseburger or sausage with onions and peppers (a fixture at any Italian-American family dinner) and, yes, loved chicken and turkey. While I always have felt a pang of guilt over eating cows and pigs, I never had much of an attachment to chicks and turkeys.

(Also, I couldn't handle the thought of eating lamb. There was a great Greek restaurant across the street from our apartment. There was one "chicken dish" that my mom would always order and that I loved. However, one day I learned that it wasn't chicken, but lamb. My mother had lied to me because she knew I would never eat lamb. I once again cried.)

I'm not sure when exactly I completely stopped eating pork and beef, but I did, finding delight in veggie burders and tofu sausages and not missing the real thing too much. No cheeseburger would ever taste as good as badly as picturing a dying cow made me feel. (Kind of like that dieting adage, "There is no food that tastes so great as being thing feels!")

Two years ago, I realized I was a huge hypocrite. How come I ate turkey and chicken but wasn't eating other meats out of "ethical" reasons? Was it because I enjoyed turkey and chicken too much? Was it because turkeys and chickens aren't cute and cuddly as cows and pigs?

Before I knew it, chicken and turkey were on my "not to eat" list. It wasn't so bad though...Morningstar makes darn good 'chik'n nuggets'. (However, I am not so much a fan of tofurkey...tofu turkey.)

My mom's sister seems to share my mom's opinion of my vegetarianism. She asks me at just about every dinner (after I refuse meat sauce and I remind her that I do not eat meat), "But you eat chicken, right?"

Chicken is not a vegetable.

Chickens have faces.

Chickens do not grow on trees.

Chickens ARE meat!

Then there was the time my mother told me we were having vegetarian chili for dinner, which I often ordered at a local sandwich place. I poked at the "veggie" chili and looked up at my mom. "THIS is vegetarian???" I asked her, wondering what on earth those meat-like pieces were in my chili.

"Yes," my mom told me. "There's turkey in it."

I wonder if turkeys grow in the same region as chickens...

Recently, my mom made a dish of penne for family party.

"Is there meat in there?" I asked suspiciously. My mother rolled her eyes. "No! There is NO meat in there! Why would I put MEAT in there?"

Minutes later, I clearly heard my mother tell my cousin in a stage whisper, "There is prosciutto in the penne! BUT DON'T TELL DIANA!"

My cousin started to laugh, as I was standing right there, and we wondered...would she ever really accept the fact that I just don't eat meat?

Apparently not.

There was also the time that she asked me if I wanted a hot dog or a hamburger at a barbeque. I reminded her, "Neither. Because I don't eat meat. I haven't eaten hot dogs or hamburgers in about ten years."

She replied with, "My life does not revolve around remembering that you don't eat meat!"

Although I am on PETA's mailing list, I don't go around preaching to people to not eat meat, nor am I throwing red paint at anybody. This is a personal decision, and many don't even know I am a vegetarian until it directly comes up.

(Or until they see me wearing my t-shirt with a little chick on it that says, "I don't eat YOUR fingers!")

Diana Rissetto

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