For my first 4th of July in Washington, I went to Bellevue Downtown Park, where I happily ate an ear of roasted corn. As an aspiring vegetarian, I was glad to find an alternative to the more typical 4th of July hot dogs and hamburgers.
At the 7-month mark of my (not always successful) transition to a vegetarian diet, I’m starting to think that vegetarians suffer from bad PR. I constantly run across this pin when I search for vegetarian recipes on Pinterest, and articles about dietary restrictions met with backlash by omnivores. The general perception of vegetarians seems to be that they are unreasonable for not eating meat and judgmental towards people who do. While I am sure that unreasonable, judgmental people of all dietary persuasions exist, if I were appointed as the public relations specialist for vegetarians I would definitely want to change that perception and create a better relationship with meat-eaters.
First, I’m sure that most vegetarians have a laundry list of the ethical, health, and economic reasons why they think others should become vegetarians, and that list is probably the first line of ammunition against criticism for not eating meat. I would counsel vegetarians to resist the urge, because it can come across as judgmental. I like to focus on the reasons why eating vegetarian meals makes me happy. I’ve had to explore a whole new set of recipes, so I’ve become a much more adventurous cook. Explaining why I like being a vegetarian is much less confrontational than going on a tirade of why being a vegetarian is the best dietary choice.
Second, show (or in this case, feed), don’t tell. If your family can’t understand why you would choose a life without hamburgers, instead of lecturing them about how meat is murder or a surefire way to develop high blood pressure, cook them a delicious portobello mushroom burger. Help them understand that you can still enjoy food by sharing some of your favorite meals with them, and they will be less concerned about your dietary restrictions.
Good PR is all about maintaining good relationships. Grassroots efforts as simple as speaking about vegetarianism as a personal choice rather than something you want to impose on others and sharing vegetarian dishes with others can slowly change perceptions as more and more vegetarians show their communities that they are nonjudgmental.
Now, I’m off to daydream about my dinner tonight, pumpkin gnocchi.