Being semi-vegetarian in the Midwest

I didn’t think it was a big deal. I am not even vegetarian, much less vegan. I stopped eating pork and beef back in 1985. I didn’t really miss it. I wasn’t too into meat. In fact, when I’d stop to think about it, eating in general kind of grossed me out.

Don’t get me wrong. I love to eat now. The flip happened somewhere after my stint in Taiwan and was fueled by my move from the poverty of grad school to the less poverty of working life. Now I feel like I spend so much of my free time shopping for food and cooking. Just for me.

Being a semi-vegetarian wasn’t really hard to do even in the Midwest, even in the last century. It was blissfully easy during my stint in CA where different cuisines abounded.

Now I find myself back in Indiana and it is as if I am an oddity. Vegetarianism and veganism seems to be rare enough that the boundaries of the two merge in the minds of Hoosiers; they simply do not know the difference. Even today. Even in 2015.

I do miss the selection of non-meat choices when I am out and about. Differences in diet and cuisines flourished in CA. In Indiana, food still centers around meat. My welcome lunch at work foreshadowed this: we went to a steakhouse.

I do not miss the comments I heard when I lived in Indiana before—and hear today—the assertion that there would be salad on the menu of any restaurant we go to, as if being semi-vegetarian means that I would be satisfied eating salad all the time.

I was recently flabbergasted at a gathering of people that included those with more worldly experiences. I didn’t expect the woman next to me to confuse the concepts vegetarianism and veganism, or be unable to conceive of a (semi-) vegetarian being able to eat out.

Who knew that in 2015 being a (semi-) vegetarian would be still be so subversive, misunderstood, or unusual?


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