I have been a vegetarian for half of my life. I started on this journey after I graduated high school. My graduation ceremony was my coming of age ritual. I was no longer a child, even if I was one of the youngest students in my graduating class. I needed to find myself, and after two years of revelry, I did. I made extensive changes in my life and lifestyle. The most noticeable change was in my diet. The fascination of friends and strangers with what I decided to put or not to put in my body amazed me. At first, I was reluctant to be identified as a vegetarian because I couldn’t tolerate the constant questions. Everybody wanted to know how a seemingly sane person could choose not to eat chicken or meat. I was reminded daily that my life would not be complete without meat. The situation worsened when people found out that my reasons for not consuming meat were not religious or health related. In Jamaica, there were only two groups of individuals who had dietary restrictions; Rastafarians and Seventh Day Adventists. I was not a Rasta, nor was I an Adventist. I was just a teenager that made a lifestyle change that nobody around me could understand.
Years passed, and the ‘healthy eating’ wave finally hit Jamaica. Today, Health Food stores and vegetarian restaurants can be found on every corner of Kingston. Gone are the days when you had to rely on homemade meals, travel miles for meat-less dishes or endure ‘gas pains’ for lack of nearby vegetarian establishments or Ital cookshops. I remember attending events and not having anything to eat because there were no ‘vegetarian options.’ I remember bringing my food on outings because I knew there was only going to be the mandatory KFC stop. (Speaking of which, somebody should research Jamaica’s obsession with Kentucky Fried Chicken.)
Being a vegetarian back then took a lot of hard work and dedication. Today it is a lot easier and more widely accepted. I no longer get strange looks and barrage of questions when people find out I am a vegetarian.
Recently I made another decision that will affect my diet and lifestyle. I believe I was on this path my entire life, and this was always going to be the destination. I am now 100% vegetarian; That means no fish, eggs or dairy products. If I subscribed to the thought that eating animals and wearing their fur was cruel, then I would be a vegan.
Being in the United States for the past year has forced me to reconsider my diet. In Jamaica, I could easily find food that was not genetically modified or polluted with hormones and other chemicals. That is not the case in America. It is a full-time job trying not to consume the science experiments sold here as food. (In another post I hope to discuss the craziness that is the American food supply.)
I had no choice but to embrace this new path. Embracing strict vegetarianism was the only way I could realistically limit my consumption of genetically modified organisms and genetically engineered food. And though this is not a tenet of vegetarianism; I am always on the look out for high fructose corn syrup, dyes, enhancers and GMO ingredients (to name a few of the culprits) in the products I buy.
Don’t get me wrong; I am aware that a lot of seeds and plants have been genetically modified. In fact, some plant groups[Corn] In America have been entirely genetically altered. The real enemy is not the meat or the plants, but the greedy corporations like Monsanto, who are only interested in making money at the cost of our health. Strict vegetarianism is my way of gaining some control over what goes into my body. If I decide to eat crap, I want to do so on my terms.
It’s been a challenging but exciting journey so far. I am still learning, and I will be documenting and posting it as I go along.