The Vegetarian Option
In high school, being the fat kid means you’re supposed to be teased a lot. And being habitually at the top of the class also means you’re supposed to be teased a lot. Maybe the PacNo -- not that anyone calls it that; I just didn’t want to get boring with the lingo here -- didn’t get that memo. I was reasonably well-known, generally well-ignored, and kind of did my own thing. The bullies had smaller fish to fry, the jocks had more annoying nerds to bug. I was in the sweet spot just near the top of each out-group.
My memory is too poor to recall when I turned vegetarian. My oldest brother probably did it during his junior year in high school, and it took a couple years before I caught on. That likely would have been during my freshman year. Let’s just say it was, because that’s the only way that I can see for this to make any sense. Unfortunately, the mists of un-newsworthy mid-90s history are a vast and virtually unnavigable realm, and this detail is sufficiently grey to be assumed unrecoverable.
The change was sudden. Both my brothers were vegetarian, and after only mild complaining from our parents, we managed to subdue their carnisaur tendencies and convince them that a person could actually live without consuming animals. At the time, of course, veganism wasn’t really an open concept, which probably made the entire enterprise more bearable -- especially for my cheese-lovin' dad.
Our parents always asked about protein. It happened probably twice a week, not in some clockwork fashion, but persistently and insistently.
At first, their objective seemed to be related to getting us back aboard the meat train: protein is necessary, or we don’t want to cook two meals, or just eat some meat again so I can stop having to explain this to other people. But after a few months, they resigned themselves to the situation and resorted only to the question, How are you going to get your protein? It was open-ended like that, and it almost always resulted in suggestions (from the parents) like “You should eat more beans!”
I have an excellent memory of trying tofu in elementary school. One of my classmates had just returned from Japan (I think it was Megan, who may or may not actually have an “h” in her name; shout out to Meg(h)an G!), and she brought in tofu for everyone to try. It was wet and slimy, a little bit sweet but largely tasteless. I don’t remember thinking it was disgusting, but it didn't make me beg for another bite. And we were in elementary school, where new things were only considered good if they were massively sugared up or absurdly sour. I guess candied tofu probably would have worked, but, shit, 25 years later and I can't even find a Japanese version of that to import. (Royalties from your future development of this product should be sent straight to my local beer vendor in my name.)
Alas, 8 years later even the most high-class stores in my area hadn’t caught up with the Japanese food craze, and I don’t think tofu was widely sold. We made do (or due, depending on whether you care about the history of that particular set phrase) with what we could get, so most of our protein really was, in fact, from beans (my father loved -- and still loves -- making bean stew) or cheese (mostly on pizza). I ate a lot of pasta. Just, you know, to set the record straight, we probably didn't eat enough beans.
There may be a country or two that I ate out of their collective caloric content during high school, proving that I was both a teenager and American. But for 3 years not a bit of it was from an animal carcass.
As time went on, this meat-free diet was subsumed into my identity. So I didn’t get pepperoni on my pizza -- just part of being a vegetarian in high school.
Now 20 years on, I’ve gone through periods of non-veg and veg, always preferring the latter. We'll pass through those on the way to the outhouse, I'm sure.
But I progress to the present, and I need to digress to what's past. Let's egress here, aggressively regress, then ingress where lacrosse and running introgress, I guess.
Next Up: Respawn as a runner!
Mash out. Spin on.
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Some runner person. Also perhaps a cyclist & brewing type. But for your purposes, a runner person.