I think I might be having an identity crisis. I mean, I’ve been vegan for 10 years, and while that may not sound like much, I’ve been this way for the entirety of my adult existence. So it’s really part of who I am. But now I’m trying to give it up, and I’m really struggling. I keep trying to make compromises with myself, as to what I can comfortably eat and what I can still avoid. But that means that I’m still using the v-word, and still identifying as vegetarian, which is completely defeating the point.
Because at home, I have all the reasons I need for a plant-based diet. Animal cruelty, personal health, and unsustainable practices. Ethically, for me in Canada, it’s no question.
But here… it’s a different story. The “industries” are small-scale, sustainable, and much more humane. And they are based on need, not want.
And if I am to have rich and authentic experiences with local people on this trip, I need to participate. And sharing a meal is one of the best ways to do this. I risk alienating myself and potentially offending my hosts by maintaining my vegetarianism. Especially since meals are very often communal and vegetarianism is not universally understood.
So before I left, I decided that I would have to revise my policy. If not for the rude-factor, then also for my own health (1 year travelling in Africa with little-to-no protein is nothing but the recipe for disaster). But how far to go with it? I asked myself this question before, and I’m still asking it now.
So far I’ve allowed myself to eat eggs. In Morocco, most hostels and guesthouses provide breakfast, and most often, you will get an omelette. So do I let it go to waste? Do I try to pawn it off on somebody else? Well, I tried both of those options, and still didn’t feel right about it. So, I decided to let that be my protein source. As for dairy, it’s fairly easy to avoid in large doses (I’m mostly concerned about the fact that my body may not tolerate it anymore), because it’s more readily accepted as a normal personal preference.
For other meals, I have been joining in with communal meals, and eating dishes cooked with meat, but largely avoiding the meat itself. And even if I wanted to, really, every meal is cooked with some sort of animal product, whether I like it or not. Which is an okay compromise, I guess. And slowly, I’m starting to eat full meals with meat or fish in them, when the need arises, such as when I’m offered a meal by a local. When that happens, I don’t feel bad about it; I’m happy and grateful for the experience of sharing the meal.
But when I’m on my own, I’m really struggling to find my way. I just don’t want to eat animals! If I order a meal without the meat or fish, I get a strange look. I sometimes still have to whisper “je suis vegetarienne” and offer an apologetic look.
Vegan I can give up, but vegetarian, I just don’t know. It’s in my heart! I don’t know how not to be this way.
And, for the record: I have no idea how to eat fish.