Column: My three-year wait for pepperoni

Column: My three-year wait for pepperoni

Column: My three-year wait for pepperoni
September 19
12:01 2013

Carina Aquino / Staff Writer

Many people have this notion that vegetarians are tree-hugging hippies who protest for animal rights and try to push their beliefs on everyone they meet. But I’m just a girl who wanted to prove she was right.

About three years ago, I made the decision to become a vegetarian. But unlike other veggie eaters who are drawn in to the diet with a healthy or animal friendly motif, I was out to win a bet.

One day while my younger sister Jessica and I were watching TV, a Wendy’s commercial came on advertising one of their new burgers. This was long after Jessica had already become a vegetarian herself. I remember mentioning how the burger looked good and something about how she should just start eating meat again. This wasn’t the first time she had heard this, from me or from the rest of the family.

“I bet you couldn’t last a month without eating meat,” Jessica said.

So I decided then and there that I would join her in her vegetarian lifestyle. That lasted about 60 seconds before a commercial advertising pepperoni pizza came on.

We just laughed it off, but that night I did a lot of thinking. I didn’t even like touching raw meat and I certainly didn’t eat it for every meal, so I somehow convinced myself that it wouldn’t be hard and that I could do it.

So on the morning of April 1, 2010 I announced to the household I was going to stop eating meat.

My mother kind of laughed it off and said something about how I wouldn’t last a week, and my youngest sister Janelle just thought I was seeking some kind of attention.

“You just want to be able to say that you’re a vegetarian,” Janelle said.

I really wanted to prove that it wasn’t that difficult, but boy was I wrong.

Journalism junior Carina Aquino eats a cheeseburger at Jack-N-The Box. Photo by Zixian Chen / Intern

While Jessica already knew what she could and couldn’t eat, I didn’t. I had no idea how many food items had animal-related products in them. For example, I couldn’t eat any gummy candies because of the gelatin, and I wasn’t allowed to indulge in certain cheese products because of a specific enzyme ingredient.

So for most of the first month I just fed on fruits and veggies until I could expand my knowledge of what food options were out there.

The first week was the worst, because I would find myself in a rush, needing to grab something to eat on the go, but my options were scarce. It became much easier when I found many alternative “meat” products that I could eat, including tofu, seitan and various other fake meat products.

Once the month was over, I decided to continue with my new lifestyle, which was a bit alarming because I hardly ever stick to something, no matter my level of obsession.

A month turned into a year, which eventually turned into three.

On the third of this month, I had a dream where I had one of the best bacon cheeseburgers known to man. I didn’t question it in my dream, but when I woke the next morning, that was all that I wanted to eat. I immediately texted my best friend Nikki and told her that I was thinking about eating meat again.

I knew what to expect from her, because whenever we would go out she would reprimand me for denying myself of delicious things and send me the occasional “humans kill plants” and “leaves are not food” comic strips. She was excited, to say the least.

We had dedicated that coming Friday, Sept. 6, to a meat-eating fest where we were going to eat pepperoni pizza and bacon cheeseburgers.

Over the next few days leading up to the big event I had consulted with many of my vegetarian and vegan friends. I told them about my decision to start eating meat again, even though I was considering going vegan the month prior. They had all been supportive of my decision but warned me that I would most likely get sick the first day, which had completely thrown me for a loop.

It never occurred to me that I could get sick because my sister had started eating meat again two months ago and was perfectly fine. But the thought of getting sick and losing something that I was so accustomed to terrified me to pieces. I nearly backed out.

Friday came sooner than I thought and after explaining to Nikki how scared and nervous I was, we had decided to take it easy and start off slow with just some pizza.

Sitting in the booth with the pie resting in front of me was extremely intimidating. I was conflicted about my decision and grossed out by the fact that I was going to be eating animal flesh again, but I settled down and took that first bite. Nikki even turned her head away to give me the moment to myself.

It was weird at first, but after a few bites in it got a bit better. I only ate one slice because I didn’t want to overindulge and make myself sick.

After posting a photo of myself on Instagram and Facebook, everyone I knew was extremely shocked that I was eating meat again. Especially since many had known me as the vegetarian who would order the bunny platter at roadhouses and hide the fact that I didn’t eat meat until we were at a restaurant.

Looking back on my vegetarian experience, I learned a few things. I learned that being a vegetarian takes a lot of dedication, that people will make assumptions and judge you for your choices and that you really have to read in order to learn.

That’s what the past three years were for me. A learning experience, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Oh, and one last thing. I won the bet!

Journalism junior Carina Aquino first became a vegetarian right out the bat and she stuck with it for three years.  However, one night she had a dream about a bacon cheeseburger. “It sounds really good when I woke up, so I just decide to give it up and start eating meat again.” She says. – Photo by Zixian Chen / Intern

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