I’m Greek, OPA! Not eating meat in a Greek household is exactly how it sounds – it’s unheard of. Think present day My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
I’ve been a meat-eater all my life, but last November my take on meat changed and along with it, my pallet. After eating my way through Italy, literally having gained nearly 10 lbs, on a month long backpacking expedition, I came home full.
After a month of indulging in everything with no reservation, my body began to resemble the foods I was eating. My once toned physic became doughy like all the bread and pasta I had and puffy like all the gelato and pastries I enjoyed. And then there was all the meat I devoured with every meal – I ate a lot.
I enjoyed every single bite while abroad, but my perspective on meat changed once I returned home and had to restock my fridge. I went to the grocery store and picked up as many fruits and vegetables as I could and decided my welcome home cleanse didn’t include meat. I thought, ‘will I miss it’?
It turns out, once I stopped buying meat, I stopped eating it, and I didn’t miss it at all.
I then turned to documentaries like Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead and Food Inc. and started seeking out information about the food I was eating and where it came from. Let’s just say, my views changed and I have been meat-free since early November.
I’ve had time to digest this decision; however, it’s taken my Greek relatives a little longer to swallow. My Yiayia (grandmother) for example has no idea and I think it’s best to keep it that way. It’s definitely not a conversation I want to have with her and think her dentures would fall out from the shock.
There’s a part in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where Ian Miller, the non-Greek and vegetarian, is confronted by one of the Greek relatives who doesn’t understand what it means to not eat meat – the concept is as foreign as Ian Miller. In my family, I’m Ian Miller.
I started eating souvlaki before I could even pronounce it, so it’s only natural that my relatives have questions about my decision.
Why? Do you know the health risks? How will you get enough protein? Why the change all of a sudden? How long have you not been eating meat? Is this a phase? What is ‘tofu’? I love my family and know they’re just voicing concern, but I’ve truly never had so many people interested in what I’m eating and specifically, what I’m not eating.
Surrounded by meat, I’ve become quite creative and innovative with my meatless meals and experimental with flavours, textures and food combinations. It’ll soon be my one year anniversary of having gone meat free and most of the Greeks in my life have come a long way with accepting my meat-free lifestyle, but I know there will always be opinionated relatives.
After all, we’re Greek; it’s in our DNA to be strong and opinionated.