Reflection on a year of vegetarianism

Savanna Hennig

With the arrival of February, I think about a few different things. Immediately I reflect on how many couples lust after cheap heart-shaped chocolates and bouquets of dead flowers.

After a pause, however, I remember that it was a year ago I started to go vegetarian. It was while pink and red Hallmark cards littered every store I was thinking about how my life would be if I never consumed meat again.

My quest with vegetarianism honestly began in 2012 after getting astonishingly sick from eating a rare piece of prime rib. It was around Christmastime when my vomit-hazed brain vowed to never eat meat again. Less than a week later, I stumbled when confronted with the most perfect lasagna on New Year’s Eve.

Last year in February, things got interesting. I started talking to a guy on OkCupid. He was an animal lover, enjoyed being outside, and had the cutest smile in all of his photos. Chemistry rolled between us when we texted, and even more so when we met in person. We were a 95 percent match with one problem: He was vegetarian, I was not.

In order to solve this mismatch, I took a dive into the world of being meat-free. After all, it wasn’t going to be permanent.

The first three months were the hardest. Cravings for meat leaked into my dreams— and I can admit that having a dream about a cheeseburger is really, really weird. You wake up both incredibly hungry and in a panic that you broke your meat-free streak.

Grocery stores and potlucks become this peculiar ordeal where you spend more time nosing through the ingredients than actually eating. Family members are astonished at your lifestyle change.

I remember distinctly my mom and dad, comfortable in their Hamburger Helper way of life, exclaiming over the phone, “Are you okay? If you don’t eat meat, what do you eat?” Or the infamous “Well if you come home, I don’t know what to feed you.”

After this period of trial and error, you become comfortable. You find meatless replacements for your usual cooking and recipes, ingredient lists become easier to read and restaurants become less tedious. You thrive on hummus, black beans and a colorful array of fruits and vegetables. Of course, you still have junk food— such as fake chicken nuggets or seven layer burritos at Taco Bell.

Encouragement for this lifestyle also comes from so, so many articles about vegetarians being healthier than meat-eaters, or how being meat-free reduces your carbon footprint.

My strongest motivator is from the ethics standpoint, slammed into focus by Paul McCartney’s video “If Slaughterhouses Had Glass Walls We’d All Be Vegetarian.” As months tick by, I find myself wondering how many chickens or pigs I would’ve eaten by now if I had continued eating meat; perhaps how many I’ve saved.

As these 12 months roll into a tidy year, I reflect on where I’ve come. I feel healthier and overall better about what I eat. Dreams of bacon or cheeseburgers rarely visit my sleep. My parents, of course, still don’t know what to feed me—But my dad, rather than piling both meats and cheeses onto one single tray for Christmas, separated them out “for the veggie eaters.”

And of course, as February visits me again, I have to remind the same vegetarian guy with the cute smile to buy me some cheap heart-shaped chocolates and a bouquet of dead flowers.