Confessions of a Vegetarian: What, you don’t eat no fish?!

Two years after I had become vegetarian, my relatives were still digesting the news. I attended a 50th wedding anniversary, during which us “kids” alternated between delicious plates of Italian food and video games in the basement. The traditional Italian food includes, but is not limited to, a many-course meal of cold cuts, cheeses, olives and bread; pasta with fresh homemade tomato sauce and sprinkled with parmesan cheese; meat; fruit; and dessert biscotti with coffee or tea.

While I was happily enjoying the sensation of cheese melting in my mouth, I experienced a strange feeling, which correctly came from the scrutiny of several gazes. I glanced over to the “adult” table and noticed several of my relatives were eyeing me carefully and whispering. The word “vegetarian” may have been uttered in an awe-struck tone. “Your aunts and uncles are still in shock about your vegetarianism,” my dad whispered over my shoulder. I remembered the first time I had shared the news with my grandparents, my very own “What, you don’t eat no meat?” experience. A chuckle escaped my lips.

“Let’s play some more MarioKart!” someone shouted, so we dashed down into the basement.

Later we were called up for more food (gotta love the Italian relatives!!). I was now enjoying a plate of pasta smothered in an impeccable tomato sauce made perfect by the addition of zesty parmesan cheese and chili peppers. In the midst of my ascension to heaven, I again felt those gazes creep over me, and, looking over to the adult table, I noticed that my relatives were still in awe of my decision. Over two hours later, they were still discussing the no-meat diet!

What, you don’t eat no fish?!

A year after I’d told my grandparents I don’t eat meat anymore, my zia came over to visit us. By now, my grandparents had absorbed and accepted the fact that I don’t eat meat.

So have some fish.

She proudly brandishes a plate of fish.

Sorry, I don’t eat any animals…

Zia is bewildered.



Looks to my father for common sense.


I don’t eat meat, or any animals.

Understanding dawns in her eyes.

Oh! Yes.
But fish aren’t animals.

Of course, we all burst out laughing and explanations were again delivered, in Italian. Two years and several hilarious family stories later, we’ve finally hammered out the news that I’m a vegetarian.

“Fish are friends, not food” or at least, they are animals!

I’ve recently gotten a few reactions from friends telling me they don’t think fish are intelligent or aware enough to be deemed as having “feelings.” Just a reminder that fish, which are by no means one of my favourite animals on the planet, are some of the most diverse, colourful and beautiful ones we could ever see.

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2 Responses

  1. I am an Italian, and can perfectly undertand our cultural need for obsessive meat talk and eating. As a child the only meat I’d eat was pizza toppings and hamburgers, and I was like the black sheep of the family. Actually, everyone I know rants about how I won’t eat chicken or turkey or ham, and I still put people into stressful states of being during all holidays. Sadly, I’ve expanded my meat eating as an adult, but I applaud all veggie eaters. It is very hard to get people to understand that you don’t want the meat the are serving, and they don’t have to make you fel bad about it.

    • Hey, thank you so much for replying! I was very happy to see someone who can relate so much! (And yay, Italian!) “stressful states of being during the holidays” That’s exactly it! Thank you for applauding our veggie efforts and for being so understanding 🙂 On behalf of all vegetarians, it’s much appreciated 🙂

      What’s your favourite Italian meal? 🙂

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