If you don’t eat meat, people ask you “Where do you get your protein?” a lot.
It’s been so long since I ate meat, I don’t think about protein. I eat what I like. No problem. After nearly a quarter-century including competing at Nationals for Ultimate, running six marathons, getting a PhD in physics, and doing about 50,000 burpees, and various other mental and physical achievements, if any problems haven’t arisen from something missing from my diet, I don’t think it’s going to happen.
So why do so many people ask such weird questions? Why the fascination with protein?
The Brazilian attitude toward diet clarified it. They hardly have any vegetables or variety of plants. Every restaurant’s menu is almost completely based on meat. I half expected that, although most countries and cultures I’ve visited where people told me to expect trouble finding non-meat food had plenty of non-meat options when you looked.
What really got me, though, was at my friend’s wedding’s dinner. It was at a nice restaurant. First came the hors d’oeuvres . Usually when you tell the waiters you don’t eat meat, they bring the non-meat ones to you, but there were none. Everything was meat. I asked the Portuguese-speaking members of our group to help find non-meat food. The answer each time was, “The main food will be out shortly, which will have salad.”
The non-meat options basically comprised lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, onion, cassava, banana, mango, kiwi, and maybe some scraps of other plants. I like each of those foods, but you can’t live on that.
In most restaurants, if you tell the staff you’re hungry, they’ll put something together that has some substance to it. I got the idea at that restaurant and every other restaurant, that they don’t have the concept of eating vegetables without meat. It seems they think not eating meat means their diet with the meat removed, which would be a bland, boring, inadequate diet. So I see why they would ask where I get my protein, because their perception of non-meat food is scraps you can’t live on.
Not eating meat has nothing to do with deprivation, at least not for me. I eat food I love and never feel I’m missing out most of my life except here. Here I’ve eaten a lot of carrots since they seem the most nutritious and filling vegetable at the store. I can’t even find a can of beans without meat in them.
Meanwhile, most Brazilians I see are as fat or fatter than Americans. A sizable number of the men have breasts, for example, and women have bodies that match. That’s fine for men who want breasts, and women who want bodies to match, but I suspect most don’t. Healthy diet or awareness of nutrition seem absent here. It didn’t occur to me that even outside Brazil, in cultures that get that plants and fungi can make up a full diet, many people in those countries still don’t get that.
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