I am a vegetarian. Yes, an Armenian vegetarian. It may sound like an oxymoron, but you’ll just have to deal with it. I am continually amazed at people’s reactions to this uninteresting tidbit about my life.
Technically, I’m a pescatarian – I eat fish, dairy and eggs, but no meat or fowl. For a long time I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian (no fish), but that changed when I became pregnant for the first time and Jayson started pressuring me to eat some fish for the baby’s sake. Some people have asked if I’m a vegan, and the answer is an emphatic no. I’m not quite sure what vegans eat, exactly. Grass? That’s too extreme, even for me.
So how did it all begin? I’m not quite sure. We have an old VHS recording of me eating lulu kebab as a young girl – maybe 7 or 8 years old – that Jayson gets a kick out of. But I’ve always been particular about meat. I could manage burgers and ground beef, but I’ve always had a hard time eating shish kebab or steak. I didn’t have a problem with sarma or lamejun or kufteh. I ate cheeseburgers for a long time. And chicken breast was okay, but never drumsticks or wings. I remember watching my sister eat drumsticks and I just couldn’t do it – seeing the ligaments come off the bones made me sick to my stomach.
One thing should be made very clear – I believe that God created animals to be eaten. I am not a vegetarian for ethical reasons. I do not begrudge anyone for eating meat (more power to you). I just don’t like the taste or texture of meat. It feels like I’d be chewing on my arm, if that makes any sense.
Throughout high school and the early years of college I started eating less and less meat. Red meat was cut out completely, and then chicken. The last time I remember eating meat was at a banquet at the very beginning of my senior year in college (it was white chicken breast, I believe); that was almost 17 years ago.
I speak to my father daily, and to this day he asks if I’ve started eating meat again. “Just a little chicken, Silva,” he pleads. But I really have no interest in it, and I don’t miss it. Sometimes I feel low in energy, and I wonder if it’s because of my diet. But disliking meat makes it so easy to not have it, as opposed to people who give up meat for ethical or health reasons but really miss the taste.
I do believe that a vegetarian diet can be a very healthy one, if it is balanced by vegetables, beans, legumes, etc. (I tend to be very carb-heavy, and need bread with every meal to feel full.) I rarely get sick, and I have a physical every year which shows healthy bloodwork. I want my boys to eat meat and I serve it to them, but Jayson usually prepares it as I have no idea what I’m doing with it.
My biggest pet peeve is when people try to convince me that I need to eat meat. Most cruel is when people trick me into eating meat by serving me something and telling me there is no meat in it, when there really is. This is the fastest way to lose me as a friend, as I have no tolerance for people who lie to me and think it is funny.
I do not tell people how to eat or what to eat, so I don’t understand why people continue to criticize my eating habits. I may not eat meat, but I also avoid fast food and I don’t drink alcohol, coffee or soda. I think my diet is probably healthier than most people’s.
If we are ever out to dinner, and you hear me order a baked potato, French fries, rice and bread, please keep your opinions to yourself. And pass the ketchup.
OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.