This is Mary, and she’s a vegetarian. It’s not like it’s the first thing she tells everyone she meets, but this is what her story is about.
Mary grew up in a really conservative family, and food has always been a very important part of her family’s life. Both of her parents, all of her grandparents, and almost every other relative she knows loves cooking. She’s not sure when it all began, but she’s been told that her great great grandfather was a world-famous chef or something like that. The only person in her family who has never liked cooking is her aunt Annie, and everyone talks about it like there is something wrong with her!
And of course, every meal has something to do with meat. Either it’s bacon or ham or chicken or steak…basically, they’re interested in any kind and any possible way of cooking it. And Mary was okay with this throughout her childhood, because, well, she didn’t know there was another way.
That all started to change several months ago. At her school, Mary has a friend called Julia, and her parents are both vegetarians. She always had the choice to either eat or not to eat meat. And she made her choice to be a vegetarian like her parents.
Julia told her a lot of stuff about the ethical treatment of animals, and vegetarianism itself. She didn’t think about these things at all when she was younger. But then she became really interested, and she started to go deeper into the subject.
She was shocked and inspired at the same time. On one hand, Mary found out a lot of terrible things that were happening to millions and millions of animals every day, and on the other she saw that there was something she could do to help. The “something” was giving up eating meat.
From the very beginning though, she knew that there was no possible way to stop eating meat without her parents knowing. Gathering at the table for dinner every evening was something her family did without question. She knew keeping a thing like this secret sounds absurd. But you don’t know Mary’s family like she does.
“What do you mean ‘give up meat’?!” was the first thing her mom said when she tried to talk to her. Mom interrupted her explanation and just didn’t want to listen. She said that only meat contains protein and vitamins that everyone needs, and it was especially important for a teenager like her.
But she had science on her side. Mary spent the following night doing research on protein, vitamins and a healthy vegetarian diet. At 2 am she was ready to write a book on why giving up meat when you’re fourteen is totally okay.
The following morning she overslept and skipped breakfast, and spent the whole day at school going through her powerful monologue. She spent a long time deciding when the right moment would be to go back home and talk to her mom.
But when she got back, she saw that her grandparents were there too. And the first question her grandma asked her was: “Did you really say you want to stop eating meat?!” She sounded like she had the impression that Mary had lost her mind or something.
Then her dad came home, and he also seemed to know everything. The five of them sat down to have dinner – with all kinds of meat on the table of course. She tried to eat something else and leave as quietly as possible, but all eyes were on her. There was so much silent pressure.
So she cut off a tiny piece, put it in her mouth, and then realized that she just couldn’t do it. She spat it out, started crying and ran straight to her room.
But things didn’t really change that night. For a while her parents would pretend they just didn’t notice that she didn’t eat any meat at dinner, but of course she could see their disapproval. It was all quite hard for Mary, but going back was not an option for her any more.
Once, her mom saw her looking really sad in her room after dinner, and she sat down to talk. It seems she realized that this was really important to her. Mary could now see that her attitude was changing. A couple of times she would even ask her stuff about the vegetarian diet. Mary sees today that she is becoming more and more interested. And now they always have something for her at the dinner table as an alternative – like beans, for example. And her mom seems to be excited about new recipes.
Of course, her dad and her grandparents haven’t changed their opinion as fast. Her grandma gives her a hard time every time they meet, lecturing her about how her health is going to suffer. But Mary is trying to be patient with her. Someday she'll understand that her granddaughter knows what she’s doing, and that it’s her choice!