In Praise of Pizza

Thank you Italian-Americans for creating the modern day pizza and the countless marketing execs that spread the idea of “Pizza” all over the world. It’s because of you that I can rest assured knowing that I can eat at an Armenian restaurant.

I’m a vegetarian (lacto-ovo-vegetarian to be precise). Growing up as a vegetarian in California was easy-peasy. I’m sure raising two vegetarians was a challenge for my mom, but we all apparently survived the ordeal. It could have been worse as almost any restaurant we’d want to go to, there would always be something vegetarian. Going off to college was a non-issue as my alma-mater recently tied for first place in PETA’s 2011 “Most Vegan-Friendly College” contest.

Sadly, not all places are as conscientious, wealthy, or hippy-tastic as California. When travelling abroad, my vegetarianism always becomes an issue. When spending an extended time abroad, naturally the question comes up as to whether I’ll take a hiatus from my vegetarianism.

So far I haven’t broken, except for one time in the US. I won’t get into why I’m a vegetarian beyond saying it’s for ethical/moral reasons that I still hold on to today even if I’m not as steadfast as was my eight year-old self. The lapse came when preparing to spend a summer in El Salvador. On one of the last days before I was going to leave New York, I semi-purposefully ate meat. I don’t know what forces made me not correct the waitress at my favorite Thai place when she asked “chicken?” when I had said “veggie chicken.” Regardless, the drunken noodles came with giant chunks of chicken strewn all over the plate. I took a small piece and wrapped noodles around it—no way I could eat it straight—and began one of the most stressful meals I have ever had. I was literally shaking by the end of it and had to go to sit in a nearby park, contemplating what I had done. I hadn’t realize how significant my dietary choice has been to my identity. Since then I realized I would never stop being a vegetarian when travelling.*

Thus, here I am, a vegetarian, in Armenia. There are plenty of vegetarian options around here, admittedly, they’re mostly side dishes and carbohydrate heavy. On a day-to-day level, there is no issue with me being able to feed myself (except for the issues described in my diet post below). The challenge comes when a group of us wants to go eat somewhere. It gets tiring telling a group “sorry, there’s nothing I can eat here,” which I’ve had to do in New York. Fortunately, after pages and pages of meat options, restaurants here will often also carry vegetarian pizza options.**

Mmmm, Zachary’s deep-dish pizza.

This isn’t the first time pizza has been a social savior. One time in Colombia, Lisa Knox and I were starving and couldn’t find a place to eat with vegetarian food. Finally, we found a place that served colombiano food and pizza. I got my slice of veggie pizza (it was fairly good), while shegot a three course meal with soup, meat, bread, and a drink for the same price. She got so much she couldn’t even finish all the food her ~$2 got her.

To stem the tide of messages about how much I’m missing out on delicious food, you’re right. Choosing to be a vegetarian is a trade-off. I miss out on plenty of tasty foods (I imagine) and have to put up with these extra challenges, but it’s a trade-off I happily continue to do. And, with movements like “Meatless Mondays,” it’s generally getting easier with time.

* I will say that there is the possibility of me eating meat that I fully prepared myself (i.e. killing the animal). As I haven’t ever been put in a situation where that’s a necessity, I can’t accurately say how I would act.

** I’m sure there are times when I can specially request something without meat. To begin with, I don’t like doing that in the US. Combine that with no way to communicate this desire here (unless the waiter or waitress speaks English), means I’m not going to do it here.


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