Monday, April 11, 2005

Being A Vegetarian In South Dakota and Other Jokes

Today I brought a snack to the break room at the church.

One staff member was interested in my snack (I have recently undertaken the vegan experiment again). From a plastic container I munched on green peppers, mushrooms and cucumbers. I said that I had been a vegetarian in a previous life for seven years--but South Dakota had brought me to a different place. Actually, life as an ordained pastor has taken me to a different place (more on that later) PETA identified Sioux Falls, South Dakota as the least vegetarian-friendly city in the United States (Green Bay came in second place). The staff discussed whether a vegetarian restaurant could survive in Sioux Falls. We thought not.

However, if I knew that if I was going to be living in South Dakota for the rest of my life (though the place has grown on me, and it has been a good place to live--we will not be living here the rest of our lives--that is, unless I get thrown under a bus in the next few days...) I would open a vegetarian restaurant out of spite to the culture. Why spite? Though I have not seen anyone openly hostile to vegetarians in South Dakota, every so often on the back of a pickup truck I see a bumper sticker that reads: "Eat Beef--The West Was Not Won On Salad." Maybe PETA came to Sioux Falls and made their rankings based on how many of these bumper stickers were seen.

My diet has made an interesting journey over the years.
+ During boyhood quantity was the only issue.
+ In my more youthful athletic years I would religiously eat pasta with nothing on it (carbo load) 2 carrots (for my vision) and cranberry juice (vitamin C so I wouldn't get sick) everyday.
+ To my college years and early adulthood years when I went vegetarian.
+ To my life in the church as a pastor--where food equals love (at least in the upper midwest) and if you reject anything, whether it be snicker salad, tater tot hot dish, or some beefy noodle pork sausage in cream of mushroom soup stuff, you are outright rejecting the bearer of that culinary delight. Oregano is an exotic spice in this life. And dessert is always required.

On my good days I say in my internal dialogue: no one is going to dictate my diet but me. I know what is good--how can anyone argue with me that fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes should not be my primary diet? On my not so good days I say to myself--I know in my heart of hearts that this stuff that you are putting before me is not good for me...but you are so sweet to make something for me, so I'll eat it. Or my internal dialogue will involve that I do not want to deal with the crap of trying to explain vegetarianism. My grandmother seemed to believe that I was in a cult as a vegetarian. Others want to know what kind of political statement I am making and why in the hell I would want to be associated with PETA (I don't). Others want to know--don't you miss steak, or hamburger? Not really.

The stuff I have eaten over the past seven years...ack.
I cannot say that I will never eat cheese, or beef, or chicken, or processed foods ever again--but why if I do not absolutely positively have to? There really are very few times where it is a cultural imperative that I eat something that is contrary to my knowledge of what is right for my body. What I need to do is actually think about what I am eating, taking the few extra moments to make a better decision.

Food/beverages can be a buffer from reality. My Grandfather Elihu used to offer folks a Fresca (yuck) because he had a hard time dealing with relationships between the generations. I never understood why he chose Fresca as that buffer, I guess he thought Fresca was cool and hip. My Grandpa Elihu may have been a dork, but I love him--and that is reality.

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