My peers, neighbors, and imaginary friends are all meat eaters, and they have always been meat eaters. And while I have absolutely no problem with meat surrounding me, I do wish there were just as many options for vegetarians around. In elementary school, I remember everyone being excited about pepperoni pizza Fridays. While I sat chewing on my PB and J, I longed for a hot slice of cheese or veggie pizza.
As insignificant as it may seem, this was just the beginning of a lifetime of check marking vegetarian meal plans for school field trips and always feeling as if I was missing out on something amazing. But I know that this was untrue, because when made correctly, I loved my vegetarian food.
There are too many negative ideas associated with being vegetarian that need to be put to an end. Food can actually be tasty! And soggy, deflated tofu does not meet the criteria for my vegetarian lifestyle.
Since arriving in Atlanta, I’ve realized meat is the main focus of everything. It’s like vegetables are the ugly stepbrothers and no one wants to acknowledge their existence. For example, BBQ gets a lot of attention, but it isn’t going to work for me. Veggies deserve just as much of the spotlight as meats do.
I think the reason the South is lacking in a variety of vegetarian meal options is because there isn’t enough information on the topic. Everyone is in love with meat and those that crave vegetarian meals are too scared to come out for fear of never finding a decent-tasting meal again. I've talked to many people in my dining hall about how they wish they could go vegetarian or even vegan, but it's too hard because the options aren't readily available.
There’s an unfortunate misconception in the South that the meals of vegetarians consists of lettuce and...lettuce. This is simply false. Vegetables aren’t the only things we eat. In fact, I don’t even enjoy vegetables by themselves. They have to be in a spicy curry sauce or crunchy taco for me to happily eat them. My mom always tried to incorporate broccoli, carrots, zucchinis, or bell peppers into our meals as kids. Only when these veggies were paired with other types of food did I actually eat them.
My problem isn't just with the South. Some of the Georgia State University dining halls also don’t understand the concept of being a vegetarian. I don’t want to "just pick off the pepperoni." I want food that has been prepared without meat already on it.
I understand that it's nearly impossible to satisfy every individual in cafeteria-esque places, but at least making a section for vegetarians so that we don’t have to eat salad every day would be helpful.
The majority of dorms on campus don’t have ovens or stoves, but if you ever find yourself with some inspiration and the right equipment, be sure to check out some ways to make roasted veggies on your own. And don’t worry, this isn’t anything like the nasty boiled broccoli that you were forced to swallow as a kid.
My hometown, Chicago (cough, the best place ever for vegetarians, cough), is on this list of the best vegetarian restaurants in the US twice while Atlanta isn’t even mentioned once. Disgraceful. However, hopefully once the conversation begins, the vegetarian options are sure to start poppin’ up all over the South.