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This summer marks 10 years since I decided to become a vegetarian. It was before my senior year of high school, and I had made a few lifestyle changes to be healthier, and I realized that I hadn’t eaten meat in a couple months. And it wasn’t just the health reasons. I really just did not prefer the taste of meat, and with my new, healthier lifestyle I began to discover a whole plethora of flavors and dishes that I always preferred. So I decided to make the label official and never looked back.

The change was for the most part well-received by the people in my life, but living in Kansas City, MO, the barbecue capital of the world, meant that I definitely found myself on a few occasions being targeted for my non-meat eating ways, especially during summer cookouts. From walking into the barbecue to the point of almost getting ready to leave, this is what it was like to be a vegetarian in the Midwest.

No, I will not fall over and die of starvation right now. There are definitely things here I can eat, and look: I brought my own veggie-friendly sides! (This isn't my first rodeo.) 

Why don't I eat meat? Why does it matter? I’m here to enjoy everyone’s company and generally bask in the lovely summer air. We can talk about my non-meat-eating ways later…over e-mail…maybe.

No, I can’t eat the potato salad just because it’s a salad. It has bacon bits. (Okay, mostly, it’s just that potato salad is disgusting and this is just a nice way of saying it’s not your potato salad, it’s me. But really it’s the potato salad.)

Um, that's a pig. A whole pig. Roasting on a spit in the corner.

Yes, I really do love pickles. I’m not just eating these because they’re one of the main vegetables here.

Just because I don’t eat meat doesn’t mean I want a meat substitute. Veggie burger? Bleck. I'm perfectly fine with these lovely sides that I made and brought from home. And if I gave up meat, why would I want to eat something meant to taste like it?

Grilled veggies? Yes! Definitely. Would love some of those. Thank you for asking.

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Whoa, whoa: Please clean that grill and the pinchers off before putting those veggies on there. I did not sign up for meat-greased veggies when we made that agreement. Cross-contamination is not cool.

What’s that? My sides are the bomb? I know. It’s really not as painful as it may seem to be a vegetarian.

No, I’m not still hungry. As previously mentioned, there is a lot of other food here, and believe it or not, it’s all very filling.

For the last time: I decided to stop eating meat because I started making healthier decisions, didn’t prefer the taste, and found myself eating more of other things and less meat-based meals.

What do I eat? Are you serious? Come on, now. You just saw me eat a full plate of food.

Hold up. Don’t even pretend that you’re interested in becoming a vegetarian, thee with KC Masterpiece smeared all over your face. Talking about it right now is cute, but I know you better (and so do you!). If you really want to, you will. And we don’t have to talk about it.

No, I don’t judge you for eating meat. To each her own. I’m not here to convert. (Just please keep our conversation over here, out of sight line of the pig remains.)

Ohhh, yes, I do eat dessert! I’m not a perfect health foodie. I just eat what I want. And I don’t want to eat burgers and hot dogs.

Hey, there hasn't been an eating-related questions in the past 30 minutes. I think I did it. I think I survived. Or everyone’s just a little tipsy by now and totally distracted. Amazing. Pour me another glass.

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