Debate Magazine

Edible Thursday: Hungry Traveler

By Linsibrownson @CleverSpark

I grew up in the Midwest- in meat, milk and potato land.  Meals without meat were considered a snack and in the words of Ron Swanson“Fish meat is practically a vegetable.”

I always had a serious affection for animals, and in 3rd grade I declared myself a vegetarian after learning about pigs.  I pleaded with my parents for weeks, while they grew more impatient in explaining that as long as I lived under their roof I would eat what was put in front of me.

Baby Pot Belly Pigs

image from

When I turned 18 I became a vegetarian.  It’s hard to say what exactly drove my decision, I think I probably just wanted to see if I could do it.  But over the next 10 years I learned so much about health, nutrition and animal cruelty that you simply can’t unlearn.

I’m not a vegetarian now.  I’m a picky eater.  I won’t eat cows or pigs, not down with duck or rabbit either.  But sometimes I crave meat and nothing short of a hearty turkey burger will do.  I try to avoid carb-o-loading and I can’t permanently subsist on salad, so my appetite and my food needs are all over the place.  I think this inconsistency is part of a balanced diet, but when traveling I am quickly reminded that I am pretty spoiled in my access to fresh, organic, nutrient rich foods.  This is even more apparent when traveling to my home state, where  the vegetarian menu items are often chicken salads (oh, gosh, ya know, just pick the chicken out, hey?).  This is where I am right now.

Here’s my thought: Is it better to take a When in Rome approach to cuisine when traveling?   There are other things that don’t exactly mesh with my lifestyle – cultural, religious and political ideals for example, but I’m not stirring any pots and it doesn’t change my love for the people here.  Maybe my travel diet should be more accepting of my surroundings too.   And what about more worldly travel?  I love learning about cultures, seeing new places and exploring design and architecture.  But with meat such a prevalent factor in cuisine worldwide, I think I might starve if left to my current dietary restrictions.

Do I need a food ‘tude adjustment?  Not being open to eating what’s served can be awkward and sometimes offensive to your host, even with your most polite refusal.  In my family, they laugh at me for ‘eating like a rabbit’, but it’s also inconvenient and expensive to try and feed me food I would actually want to eat.  I do not eat like a rabbit, I eat like a healthy person.  I prefer things that do not come frozen or in boxes with seasoning packets.  But this is a dividing belief because they honestly don’t see anything wrong with the way they eat.  And I’m a guest, here to connect with them, not judge or change the way they live.

So what do you think?  Should I branch out (or suck it up) and eat foods I wouldn’t normally eat?  Or just keep my preferences low-pro and stick to the basics?  I’m hungry.

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