Confessions of a Vegetarian: What, you don’t eat no meat?! (The Italian version.)

I’ve been a vegetarian for almost exactly four years now (happy anniversary!), and people still stare at me, slack-jawed, when I turn down a plate of meat.

From carnivore to herbivore

When I first suggested I become vegetarian, I was peppered (a vegetable! yeah…) with protests. I was following my heart, but those who care about me were concerned with the logistics: “How will you get your protein? Is that healthy? But you eat TWO salami and cappicollo sandwiches for lunch! What will you eat? Did I mention protein?”

I understood my family and friends’ concerns; I have a strong interest in nutrition and healthy eating, as you can tell (see name of this blog). I was studying nutrition in school and I had learned a surprising fact: some people adopt a vegetarian lifestyle for the very purpose of being healthy.

Huh?

Turns out a proper vegetarian diet tends to have more vegetables and a controlled, appropriate amount of protein. In fact, most carnivores (including myself when I was one) eat too much meat and exceed their necessary daily protein intake, while failing to meet their daily fruit and vegetable needs. Interesting. (But did I have a proper vegetarian diet? See Confessions of a Vegetarian: I don’t love vegetables.)

I reassured my loved ones countless times that I was very closely monitoring my eating habits. Every year I visit my doctor and my iron and vitamin intakes have been very healthy. Hip hip hurray!

What, you don’t eat no meat?!

Comforting my family was one thing, but try my wonderful Italian relatives. I still eat chicken soup when we visit (chicken broth, but no chicken for me); it’s my way of slowly breaking it to them (and it’s not like my nonna’s chicken soup is absolutely amazing…). The first time I visited as a vegetarian went something like this:

Nonna:
You don’t eat meat?

Flashback to My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Marisa:
No…

Fixes a polite smile, as if to say, “Please don’t have a heart attack over your Italian granddaughter’s decision to never again consume unlimited helpings of cappicollo, salami, prosciutto, and various other Italian meats.”

Grandmother/aunt/all Italian relatives appear concerned, sending frantic glances to my father.

Nonna:
No cappiccollo? No salami?

Nonna’s eyes light up. She grabs an unimaginably large hunk of cow thigh, er, prosciutto, and waves it across my face.

Nonna:
Prosciutto! You can have prosciutto.

Marisa sends a panicked look to her father, the smile still screwed to her face but starting to slip.

And then my father proceeds to hastily yet politely remind my nonna that prosciutto comes from a cow, which is an animal, which I don’t eat.

Some vegetarians may find it quite annoying to have to constantly remind others of their dietary lifestyle, and defend themselves, but I surprisingly don’t mind. In fact, I find it makes a great story!

Continue reading to What, you don’t eat no fish?!

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2 Responses

  1. I was looking at your website for recipes – I’m definitely going to try paste e fagioli and potato salad in the next few days. I found this post as well. Funny, my family wasn’t that bothered when I decided to become vegetarian (at least not that I remember – I was 10) . . . but I’ve had my fair share of “what, you don’t eat no meat!” moments outside of that, so I can relate!

    • Christelle: let me know about those recipes! I absolutely love pasta e fagioli and I’m having it for dinner tonight, actually. Do you have any twists on the pasta salad? I sometimes add chick peas, sometimes don’t, and the vegetables change depending on what I have on hand.

      I’m glad you can relate to my humour and experience. You became vegetarian early; what inspired that change? I always liked the idea of being vegetarian but didn’t consider it seriously until university.

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