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…have you ever seen a fast food ad promoting vegetarian options? Even chains like Subway and Quiznos that are defined by customizable subs, tend to showcase the meatball subs and turkey subs and whatever else.
Ok this is coming from me, the one-time pescatarian (now lapsed), but hear me out.
Raising livestock has been shown to contribute heavily to greenhouse gas production (here is a link to Mark Bittman’s blog post on the subject on the New York Times website). We live in a country defined by the Whopper and the Big Mac. How are we going to cull our meat intake if we’re being bombarded by ads promoting meat?
Vegetarian does not just mean salads and tofu. There are so many options out there, even in fast food. Ok, perhaps McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy’s are lacking (except for the occasional veggie burger in some locations), but sub chains and just plain, old delis allow you to make your own sandwiches. Get a cheese sandwich (I sometimes get American and Provolone), with mixed veggies, and a little light mayo and I guarantee it will be filling. You’re still getting protein from the cheese (one slice of American cheese has around 4.0g of protein, one slice of Provolone cheese has around 7.0g of protein). Usually, at least in Subway, you can get about 2 or 3 slices on one sub. For me (according to this site) I need about 43g of protein per day. I think given that one sandwich will have at least 15 or 16g of protein (not including bread and veggies), depending on how stingy the person making your sandwich is, I think that bodes well for the rest of the day.
Tofu, too, can be incredibly versatile, not just the lumpy, white, flavorless cubes people may be accustomed to. Fried tofu (though not as healthy as plain tofu) packs a lot of great flavor when added to dishes. I thrive on pad kee mao and tofu, even now.
I’m not saying go vegetarian, that would be hypocritical of me to do that. I’m saying cut meat out of at least one meal a day. Push for more advertising of vegetarian options, instead of the same old meat. We are a slave to the media, and since it’s probably hard to play hardball with huge fast food franchises, might as well make the media into a tool for beneficial change. Encourage franchises with the vegetarian options to showcase them in ads. Call for your favorite TV chefs to highlight more vegetarian dishes instead of the usual steak, chicken, and pork.
I love a lot of meat-based dishes as much as the next person, but we need to do what we can to keep our environment healthy. This is one of the few things in our hands. Let’s do what we can.
My friends were right. I like chicken just a little too much. Admittedly, I’m a little embarrassed to be writing this, especially after I had written this. In my defense though, it took me a year and a half to cave.
It wasn’t so much the need for chicken, or meat in general, that made me cave. It may have had something to do with the fact that my hair was falling in record amounts everyday, owing very much to a diet severely deficient in protein. Living on my own was fine, I could tailor my diet to ensure I was getting protein sans meat (minus fish). Yet living at home with a family that finds vegetarianism, or anything remotely like it, just a little bit alien made it difficult to meet my needs when the default meal almost always included chicken. It may have also had something to do with my mother bemoaning the fact that I was somehow betraying the family by treading the path towards vegetarianism. Yet in all actuality, maybe it may have been because I just missed meat. It proved incredibly difficult to stay away from it, especially chicken, since I had been raised on it since I was born. Maybe I’m just weak.
Am I a bad person for becoming (something close to a) vegetarian? Am I even worse for lapsing?
Nairs traditionally eat meat. Maybe that’s why it seemed so unusual to most of my family that I would eschew meat. I kept fish because I thought that keeping at least that form of protein would ensure that my diet was complete, and would ensure that I maintained my intake of omega-3s and vitamins more commonly found in fish than vegetarian sources. Keeping fish–a Malayalee staple–also kept my family somewhat at ease, though not completely.
So why did I even pursue a path to vegetarianism to begin with? There are a few reasons:
1. Animal cruelty: The news is full of stories of meat processing plants mistreating their animals. Mistreating is probably the understatement of the year. PETA and vegetarianism were ubiquitous in the crunchy-granola environment of Ithaca, so it did rub off on me a little.
P.S. PETA wants to rename fish “sea kittens” in an attempt to make the public view fish differently, and perhaps stop eating fish. What do you think?
2. Religious reasons: Compassion is a cornerstone of Hinduism, which explains why so many Hindus are vegetarian.
3. I guess I just wasn’t into meat for a while.
Vegetarianism of course carries with it a long list of benefits, from better health (losing weight, lower LDLs, more fiber, etc.), to a healthier environment (less livestock being raised for meat, less methane emission). I still hold that reducing our meat intake is the only way to ensure some sort of humane treatment for animals, since much of the tactics being employed today are the result of the maddening demand for meat and the need to industrialize the process of raising and slaughtering livestock.
Vegetarianism is still the best option, but clearly I wasn’t ready for it on some level. I probably should have known when I was so reluctant to give up seafood.
I don’t think I entirely expected I’d lapse. Yet I think once I started to have very vivid dreams of eating meat again, I needed to address it. My diet was severely lacking in protein and it was affecting my health. Yes, I still ate seafood, but preparing decent seafood enough times per week was not something I was able to do. So I slipped and fell, or returned to my normal diet, however you’d like to look at it.
Do I feel a little guilty? Oh yeah. Do I think I’ll try to become a vegetarian again? Probably, though further down the road. Do I regret lapsing? Not entirely. I needed to address my health, that was the main reason I went back…though yes, some of it was caving into the general need for non-vegetarian fare. It’s not like I’m about to swing to the other end of the spectrum and go completely carnivorous and eat all kinds of meat. It’s just returning to what I would normally have before my experiment with pescatarianism. This translates to seafood, some chicken, but never beef. I’m trying to stick with organic sources, or at least theoretically organic sources (halal/kosher), though it’s so unfortunate that organic products are much more expensive than the run-of-the-mill variety.
Maybe once I’m living on my own, and have enough time to devote to preparing meals, I’ll venture back into vegetarian territory. Until then though…
Let me set the stage for you:
The girl is a graduate student on her way to applying to medical school next year. She is not in a relationship at this point, and there seems to be no one that has expressed any real interest that would keep mom and dad placated…i.e. Malayalee and Nair. Therefore, the aforementioned parents want to put an ad up for the girl to be married within the next two years, something a la Shaadi.com. The general connotation of Shaadi.com and matrimonial ads of the sort is that of ridicule and considered a “last ditch attempt” by most. Others, however, have found great people (her parents included) through these methods. What is the girl to do?
Arranged marriage has tried to evolve to meet the times, no doubt. Back in the day, couples would be arranged perhaps within the village, but at least within a certain area. Marriages were alliances of families, not just the bonding of two people. It was about preserving one’s identity across generations. In Kerala, for example, cultural and religious practices even differed across the state. Those closer to Tamil Nadu have a culture that melded Malayalee with Tamil rituals. Those closer to the Malabar coast have their own. This is clearly evidenced with my parents, one of whom is from Palakkad, one of whom is from Ernakulam. That union was viewed as almost radical, I mean, a girl from Ernakulam marrying a boy from Palakkad? Insane! That too, they met through an advertisement.
Now it’s my turn.
Being born and raised in the United States my whole life brings about its own set of challenges. I am cynical, which may or may not be a function of my being raised here. I tend to be suspicious of people at first before warming up to them as I get to know them. It seems like my parents were much more open to ads than I am and many of my peers. I tend to think (not entirely erroneously) that half the ads on sites such as Shaadi.com are not made by the person who is being advertised (I’m not including sites like eHarmony and Chemistry because they’re a bit different). “Shaadi” for my non-Indian readers, means “marriage” in Hindi. A quick browse through some of the profiles seems like most were written by their parents, rather than the guys themselves, and that strikes me as duplicitous. Maybe the guys asked for their parents to put the ad in, but if they can’t even invest that much in finding a spouse, I’m not sure I’d want to even deal with them. Part of me still wants to see if I can find someone on my own, who my parents would like as well. Shaadi.com seems like a last resort, if I look at it that way.
Yet there are definitely benefits to this system. At least on Indian matrimonial sites, if you’re so inclined, you can search by region, religion, and caste, which theoretically makes life easier. The same can be said for newspaper matrimonial ads. While my parents are probably more vested in my ending up with a Malayalee, Nair guy, it can’t hurt to have that option available if I want to search for one myself. Like other dating sites (I think) there are the options of looking for profiles with photos and without photos (and praying the photos that are up are not heavily Photoshopped). What’s convenient about Indian matrimonial sites is that you can indicate whether you are vegetarian or nonvegetarian, drink or not, smoke or not, and other things. Me, I’m a pescatarian…yes it’s a word, and you’d be surprised at how things like diet can shape a relationship (there was a New York Times article on it a few months back). I myself am pretty lenient, but I’m just saying…it’s a factor to consider.
Nonetheless, it’s important to get to meet and know the person, regardless of how one found the other. Sometimes that’s a bit harder when the person you met on Shaadi.com lives in India and you live in the States. Even if you both live in the States, getting from New York to say Texas, is easier said than done. Yet the argument can be made that, if there is a legitimate connection between two people, distance shouldn’t matter, right? Still, for me, face-to-face contact is the best way for me to judge a person’s character. Denying me that makes things very difficult. Also (on a slightly lighter note) having my brother play “that brother-in-law to-be” a la Nick Portokalos in “My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding” would be very difficult if the guy’s not around too often before the wedding. It’s an inevitable, right of passage.
So for me at least, the jury is still out on the possibility of me utilizing a site like Shaadi.com, or just plain old matrimonial ads. I’m hoping I won’t have to, that I’ll find someone the “old-fashioned way” but I guess there could be someone special that may be found through an ad. I just hope his picture isn’t John Abraham’s when he actually looks like Mohanlal.