Recently, I read a book called "Eating Animals". The title is pretty telling; it's about a man who flirted with vegetarianism his whole life but decided to dive in wholeheartedly after his son was born. He explores the horrors of factory farms and other aspects of the food industry with unapologetic detail.
For me, this book was a wake-up call that I didn't want. I don't even remember why I chose it; I just know that once I started listening to it, I couldn't stop. And my life hasn't been the same since. I have always considered myself a foodie; I love food, whether I'm eating at restaurants or cooking at home. But suddenly, the thing I loved was transformed into a minefield. I never knew what simple pleasure would be taken from me next.
Maybe I dived into my current lifestyle too quickly, but if you've ever read the book, you can understand why. Suddenly, I couldn't eat burgers at my favorite bars because conventional beef made my skin crawl. Even ordering a cheese pizza was difficult because I didn't know where the milk used to make that cheese came from. This new lifestyle was difficult, even painful for me to adopt, but the times where I really questioned it or where I relapsed entirely and just ate the burger, came when I attempted to explain it to my friends or family. Even though the author confronted similar issues, how could I bring myself to turn down a meal that someone had lovingly prepared for me? Maybe if I had a medical reason for turning down the food, it would have been easier. But to not eat that piece of bacon was a conscious decision that I was making, not for medical reasons, but for moral ones. Unfortunately, even when I did eat the food, it never felt I had made them happy. They could probably sense my displeasure and misinterpreted it as me not liking their cooking.
Perhaps if I had been honest with them from the start, I could have avoided the misunderstanding altogether. But I was afraid to be honest with them. I was afraid of being judged. I was afraid of being labeled as picky or accused of jumping on a dead-end bandwagon. Sometimes, even when we were dining out, my meal choices would make my friends angry. Maybe because they felt guilty; maybe because they felt like I was judging them for not adopting the same lifestyle. All I can do is speculate as to what they were actually thinking or why they acted the way they did because I still have not openly discussed it with them, other than to briefly mention the book and to say that no, I did not want KFC for dinner.
As when any major lifestyle change occurs, an honest conversation needs to happen to avoid hurt feelings and minimize misunderstandings. I hope that when it does happen, I will not desperately try to force my beliefs on them, and they will not react defensively.
I'm a Rhode Island transplant who came for college and stayed because she adored Providence! I have a background in marketing and currently work for The Providence Journal. I love writing, eating, and posting pictures of my cat on Instagram!