Hello! My name is Megan Poland and I’m a new intern here at Garden Dish. I’ll be going into my third year at La Roche College as a Journalism & Professional Writing major. Over the course of the summer, I’m going to be interviewing different people about their veggie lifestyle and researching Pittsburgh’s vegan scene. I’m so excited to share what I learn with you!
I’ve been vegetarian for about 5 years now and intend on sticking with it for the rest of my life. By vegetarian I mean I don’t eat any meat, poultry or seafood, but my diet still includes egg and milk products. I often like to call myself a fruitarian since I’ll choose fruits over veggies any day! There are a few reasons why I chose to become a vegetarian, including my big soft spot for animals. I don’t like the way livestock is treated and raised. The year or two they’re alive they spend in small, unsanitary confinements. Livestock is then fattened up to market weight in an unnatural amount of time (6 months for pigs, less than a year for cows) using antibiotics and hormones.
Here’s my story of the turning point in my life when I decided to go meatless:
In 2009, I went to Florida for the first time to visit my grandma. One of the many tourist-y things we did was visit a petting zoo aquarium. There were many different marine animals, including hermit crab, starfish, and stingrays, and visitors were allowed to touch them. This deeply bothered me since the majority of visitors were children, who aren’t always aware of how rough they can be. I remember thinking to myself, ‘I doubt those little critters enjoy being tossed around all day.’ After exploring all of the tanks and exhibits inside the aquarium, we moved to the outside exhibit where stingrays were held in a pool. I don’t know how many stingrays were there, but it seemed to me that there were too many for the pool they were captive in. “The stingrays love being petted by children,” the marine guide said multiple times. I didn’t believe her. I was relieved when we finally left the aquarium; the whole episode convinced me to change my ways and stop eating animals.
I wasn’t a fan of seafood to begin with, so I had no problem cutting that out of my diet. But how was I supposed to avoid eating meat? It was a fixture in my daily diet, both at home and at most restaurants. I felt out of place and utterly lost as to how I would survive. It took me a few months to actually eliminate meat from my diet. During those months, I did Google search upon Google search to see what I could use as a substitute for meat. I came across many unsettling facts; for instance, ramen and Jello aren’t as vegetarian-friendly as I thought. I cheated for a month or two when I first started; I’d be at a party with little to no meatless food, so I’d take a plate of rigatoni with beef. My biggest meat cravings were for Italian hoagies, bologna sandwiches, and hot dogs. All I could do was resist my meat cravings, and, luckily, I stopped getting them within a few months. I was determined to stick with a meatless diet and it was this determination that got me through the cravings. In order to stick with a vegetarian, vegan, or any other plant-curious diet, I think you need to have perseverance and passion for it. Share with me in a comment below what helped you get through those nasty cravings!
I still live at home with my parents, so I find it difficult to experiment with cooking. When I have my own place, I know I’m going to go into a cooking and baking frenzy. But for now, I stick with prepared veggie foods from brands like MorningStar Farms and Boca. My favorite MorningStar veggie foods are chikn nuggets, chickpea veggie burgers, and veggie dogs. Yum! Sabra hummus is another favorite of mine, red roasted pepper especially. I love that there are so many different ways to eat it: with fried pita bread, on a taco, dipped with crackers or tortilla chips, on pizza—the list goes on.
I’m very excited to be working at Garden Dish! There are so many awesome things that we’re going to be doing over the summer—make sure you stay tuned! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.