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On being a vegetarian in Minot, North Dakota

May 20, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
Is it still THAT weird to be a vegetarian in North Dakota?

I'm always amused by the way check out clerks look at the groceries I load onto the counter. You'd think they'd never seen vegetarian cheese or a vegetarian TV dinner with "meatless meat balls" in all their lives, even though the stores have been selling them for years. One check-out clerk in her early 20s last week couldn't quite figure out why I said the TV dinner was vegetarian. "But it has meatballs," she said. "They're made of tofu," I explained. Her nose wrinkled and she looked at me like I was from another planet. She also couldn't quite figure out why I was buying eggs that are two to three times the price of the ordinary eggs in the dairy aisle. I could have pointed to the words on the carton like "vegetarian-fed, organic, and high in Vitamins B12 and D," but the conversation would have taken too long.

Once or twice this year I've stood in line behind an obvious vegetarian who appears to be even more stringent than me. These are the stick-thin people who load up on leafy greens and avocados and nuts and beans, who may actually be vegan or perhaps raw food aficionados. I wonder how they avoid B12 deficiency. I gave up being a vegan after my doctor prescribed weekly B12 shots for six months. These people must actually know how to cook. I hate to cook and am happy enough to spend a bit more than I should to buy those TV dinners or soups in the health food aisle. It's still cheaper than it would be if I went out to eat.

Maybe someday I should actually try to make use of one of the half dozen vegetarian cookbooks I've acquired over the years, though for now I'm glad that some of these special vegetarian foods are available. They weren't when I was in high school and college. I am still a little envious of my cousins who live in big cities where there are vegetarian restaurants and a Whole Foods, where check out clerks don't look at them oddly.

Coincidentally, this is National Vegetarian Week, something I hadn't known when I originally wrote the blog.


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