Cafe Society

An open letter to vegans and carnivores from a consummate omnivore

As Sartre wrote, "Hell is other people." While you vegans and carnivores have been making plenty of noise, there is a population of omnivores silently creeping among you, ducking behind buildings and mailboxes, getting shot at by meat-mongers for ordering tofu on our noodles, and getting gently but firmly chided by vegans on how our meatball subs and pepperoni pizzas are counterproductive to the balance of the universe.

The meat-eaters are usually worse when it comes to judging, and I'd pick a polite vegan over an obnoxious burger-warrior any time, but they are both still pretty annoying.

Being an omnivore is a lot like being bisexual. Under the "pros" column, you have endless possibilities of meal choice. The mood strikes and you order a grilled vegetable sandwich, or sometimes a juicy pork chop takes your fancy. Placing your tent definitively in one camp or another just seems so close-ended and unnatural. But much like being unparticular about gender, the flip side of this joyful, inclusive lifestyle is the truckload of grief you get from both sides of the gastronomic militia. Heterosexuals treat bi people like greedy, opportunistic sluts. Homosexuals treat switch-hitters like lost, confused souls who just need to be brought to the great gay temple of gayness and proselytized to until they finally crack under the pressure and come out. Is it slutty or confusing to embrace a life of beets and bologna? Not really, no. Is it rabidly infuriating to have to listen to the manipulative rats of two groups who make it their point to tell you everything that is wrong with what you are putting in your food-hole? Yep. I grew up on a farm, in the country, and seared cow flesh with an abnormally large baked potato was on the menu more often than not. Saying the word "tofu" to any member of my family is a crime akin to piercing your eyebrow or denying Christ. So when I hauled my cookies out to the big city after high school, I discovered a world of eggplants that weren't breaded and fried in grease, salads that weren't choked into submission with ranch dressing, and this wonderful, delicious paste called hummus. Mixing crowds is not the best thing. I don't bring a vegetable rice pilaf to my family home, and I make sure to have zucchini and squash on the grill at barbecues with my friends. It's only when I interrupt the delicate, symbiotic balance that being meat- and veggie-friendly gets me either a quasi-patient lecture from vegan buddies or a leather shoe hurled at my head from a family member who will inevitably holler, "Yer eatin' to-FU?" Should I pick a side? It would be easier, because then I'd only have to deal with one set of idealistic tirades every time I have a cookout or go to a holiday dinner. But I'm convinced that when the zombie apocalypse happens, my omnivore ilk and I will be in the best position for nutrition, because squealing piggy is just as filling as canned peas. Is hell other people? Well, if you're trying to eat in peace and have a carnivore come at you in heavy-metal screamo fashion because your cheese sandwich is missing the ham, or have a passive-aggressive vegan try to convince you that eating your ham and cheese sandwich is going to make the Jedi order "feel this one," then Sartre was right.

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Jenn Wohletz
Contact: Jenn Wohletz