Reflections of a Vegetarian in Lima

Posted on September 10th, 2011 by

Since last fall in the U.S. I was eating vegetarian, mostly for political and environmental reasons.  I am not morally opposed to eating meat, and I enjoy eating it particularly if it has come from a sustainable source, where the animals were treated well. Eating vegetarian in the U.S. was great because I largely had food independence at college (where there also happened to be a fair amount of veggie options). I had time to help cook when I was home, and I knew enough about the food system to explain to people why I ate vegetarian. I figure my own actions make some small difference, but it is also important to use the “why are you eating vegetarian?” moments to spread the word.

In Lima, on the other hand, I live with a host family. I don’t want to impose my diet on a family kind enough to take me into their home. Veggie options are limited: Peruvian cooking tends to feature seafood or meat, and vegetarianism is not particularly established here. I don’t expect to have a great deal of time to cook, since I will be studying and commuting to the university. At this point, at least, I couldn’t begin to say what sort of meat practices I’m protesting in Peru, beyond pure guesswork. And I’m here to immerse myself in another culture, which in my mind includes getting to know the food.

As it’s played out, I’ve been talking with host mom Pola about it. I eat meat and seafood that she prepares, but she also tries to avoid cooking exclusively meat. When I go out with friends, I try to order something veggie for myself, but I try other foods too, to get to know the local cuisine. For students going abroad who are more strictly committed to their veggie diet, I think it’s best to choose a country very carefully, be prepared to make time in a busy study schedule to cook, and research that country’s food system before you go. In Peru, vegetarianism is possible – there’s a wide variety of beans, fruits, vegetables, and especially tubers, and restaurants fairly often have some sort of veggie option (in Lima, at least, there are even a few purely vegetarian restaurants if you go looking for them), but don’t expect people to be overly familiar with vegetarianism, and don’t expect a vegetarian host family.




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