[Meet Margaret, a freshman at Yale. We’ve been checking in with her every week to see what she’s doing, who she’s meeting, and what new college surprises she’s tackling (or freaking out about) as she embarks on the journey we call college. Or as I like to call it, the best thing since dark chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter cups.]
At my old high school, we were never served veggie burgers, nor did we have to choose between vegan and non-vegan options in the cafeteria. I’m from Cincinnati, a city that boasts about its chili (which is really just a runny sauce on top of noodles…). Needless to say, the infinitesimal number of students who identified with vegetarianism at my school only did so for religious reasons. And some of them cheated.
Keeping that in mind, entering the dining hall at my college was like entering the land of some kind of lotus-eating, vegetarian haven, or, in my case, a carnivore’s personal version of hell. It’s not that they don’t serve meat; they do. But they also serve various other reinterpretations of meat: tofu ravioli, lentil hamburgers, vegan minestrone soup.
Upon seeing these, I became bitter and questioned why tofu ravioli was necessary when ravioli is obviously meant to be stuffed with beef and cheese (at least according to my man, Chef Boyardee). Didn’t all the vegetarians here realize what they were missing out on? Chicken tenders and steak? Bacon and sausage links? What was the point of all this? It’s not like one vegetarian will directly save the life of a cow or singlehandedly better animal welfare. Vegetarianism is pointless.
By being thrown into a new environment where I’m exposed to new people, new ideals and a whole lot of vegetarians, I’ve been forced time and again to re-evaluate what I’ve always known. And most recently, I’ve begun to reconsider the food that I put into my mouth. Whereas before I used to think that vegetarianism was a black and white issue – you either eat meat because it’s tasty or you don’t because you think cows are cute – I’ve learned that it’s so much more.
It’s a fact that Americans didn’t used to eat as much meat as we do today. Really, if you think about it (or Google it, like I’ve been doing constantly lately), the amount of meat we consume today really isn’t natural. And medical reports don’t lie; meat can definitely up your cholesterol and is one of the main contributing factors to our high rate of heart disease in this country.
Now, I’m not sure if I could go completely meatless (I like chicken tenders too much), but I’m definitely cutting back. And in the end, that’s not even the point. While this specific change is about tofu and lettuce, it is only one of many changes I’ve noticed since I got to Yale a mere month ago. Yes, I’m still staying true to who I am as a person, but the naive, sheltered Cincinnati girl I was before coming here is almost unrecognizable. With every new experience I have, class I take, reading assignment I complete and person I talk to, I’m learning more than I ever have before.
And I’m becoming a much more tolerant and open-minded person because of it.
I’m even eating (and enjoying!) tofu ravioli, and those are words I never in a million years thought would come out of my bacon-loving mouth.