Being Vegetarian In A Rural Versus Urban Environment
Moving to New York City right after a two-week long vacation in rural northern Michigan felt like being a kid in a candy store. Gone were the days of scouring the internet for menus at local restaurants, fretting over where my family might decide to go for the next meal, and somehow managing to stomach yet another veggie
burger because it was the only non-meat option available. Simply put, in a place where the only sign of civilization within a thirty mile radius of you is a Walmart super-center, eating vegetarian is hard. Although many restaurants had at least one vegetarian option, there was also a painfully obvious lack of variety. No shade towards veggie burgers; eating anything pretty much exclusively for both lunch and dinner for two whole weeks will undeniably drive you crazy. By the end of my vacation, a single cube of tofu could have brought me to joyful tears. The lack of choices was exhausting, and frankly, I often found myself wondering whether or not it was even worth it to stick to a vegetarian diet. But alas, my personal resolve won out, and I came out of those two weeks feeling seriously blessed that my childhood home was only three miles away from a Trader Joe’s.
When I moved to New York, I had a hard time believing I was even in the same country that I was in just a few days prior; the experience was nothing short of culture shock. Here, the idea of going out for a meal can be daunting because it can feel like there are just too many options; I feel like every time I turn a corner there’s some new salad place, juice bar, or one of those funky, hipster-y, hole-in-the-wall type diners. Being vegetarian is
something I barely even have to think about or plan around anymore now that I’m in an environment that seems to have a limitless quantity of unique dining options. It’s a privilege I might not have even been aware of had I not experienced living somewhere so vastly different. Back in Michigan, it seemed like my days revolved around carefully planning how I would navigate the three meals of the day, but now all I have to do is step out onto the street and walk for maybe three minutes before I can find a place to grab a bite to eat.
If you grew up in an environment surrounded by a plethora of grocery stores, cafes, restaurants, etc., it might sound weird when I say I consider it a privilege to eat vegetarian. But after visiting a place where the food options were so severely limited, I can safely say that being in an environment where it’s possible to be so selective with my food choices is something I won’t take for granted going forward. Everyone knows that if you’re looking to step up your food game in terms of variety, quality, or multiculturalism, New York is the place to be, but for me, it took the experience of living somewhere that was pretty much in the middle of nowhere to fully appreciate everything this city has to offer.