Tuesday, September 14, 2010

two sides of the same coin

It's amazing how two people can react to the same stimulus/influence in completely opposite ways.  I am fortunate to be the catalyst in this particular revelation and I am greatly enjoying watching it unfold.

As you might imagine, working for a weight loss company, food and dietary choices are a relatively common topic of conversation between colleagues.  Sometimes, good-natured joshing results when a pair of folks are comfortable enough with one another to know their jabs will be absorbed easily.  Sometimes, regardless of the intention, the same tired jokes grow old or sometimes, poking fun gives way to not-as-innocent sarcasm and the time for truth takes hold.

As a general rule, I find it useless to attempt a break-through with my colleagues regarding my choice of diet.  For the most part, I ignore that they can't imagine meals without carcass bits and they [eventually] make a "funny" comment about my rice and beans and that's that.  If someone asks me or initiates an earnest conversation about my choices and why I made them, a productive and hopefully illuminating conversation can occur.  Other times, I grow weary of the same stupid "jokes" about my rabbit food and jab back a little....the results are amazing!  Apparently, some people can dish it out, but when it comes to putting something back in their bowls, they come up remarkably shallow and unable to take it.

Here is a Tale of Two Colleagues:

Colleague #1 (henceforth referred to as Spunky because of her excitable demeanor) joined me while I ate my lunch outside in the courtyard one day in early summer.  She initiated a conversation with me in this way: "I'm going to Jamaica with my sisters next week.  While I'm there, I'm going to eat anything I want to" -- so far so good - she is perpetually dieting and then rewarding herself with short, "harmless" binges, so I assumed she was just pre-absolving herself -- "But when I get home, I'm going to be a vegetarian."

What?  She went on to explain that she didn't actually eat a lot of meat as it was, but one of her sisters had recently "gone vegetarian" after watching Food, Inc.  So, Spunky's plan was to enjoy her "last week of meat" and then come home, watch Food, Inc. and become a vegetarian.  That is not the way things played out, but it was also not the end, as I was to learn.

I have to tell you something.  The highlight of my day yesterday, the thing that made my Monday worth the effort, the thing that made me smile was this: Spunky paid me a visit at my desk and said this: "I wanted to tell you before I forget again - I've been a vegetarian for two weeks!"  She seemed so pleased with herself and so happy to share that with me.  I asked her how she felt and she said [with no small amount of overt surprise] that she felt better than she had in a long time and that she didn't even miss it after a few days.  We talked for a few more moments, I congratulated her and offered any assistance I could, and she left for the day.

Colleague #2 (henceforth referred to as Dopey because of his complete ignorance to the big, wide world that exists beyond his minute, traditional existence) doesn't ever get bored about teasing me about my lunch.  Whether I bring pasta with spinach and cranberries, roasted vegetables with tofu, stewed lentils and a hearty roll, or some real-life rice-n-beans, he insists on telling anyone who will listen that I am eating beans-n-rice for lunch.  It seriously never stops being funny for him.  Although Dopey and I do have a very amicable working relationship, as a person, he just bugs the heck out of me.  As an almost inadvertent reaction to his continual "joshing," I subconsciously decided to turn myself into a mirror and reflect some of his ugly behavior back on him. 

To be completely honest, it started as an innocent and well-intentioned effort to help him use the brain bouncing around in his cranium.  Presently, his wife is pregnant, and somehow it entered our conversation one day that although she enjoyed ham cold cuts, she couldn't eat them when she was pregnant.  I saw this as a learning opportunity and asked him why she couldn't eat lunchmeat while pregnant - mind you, he was "enjoying" his turkey and cheese sandwich with diet pepsi during our conversation - and he said it was bad for the baby.  We had previously had the same discussion about his diet soft drink addiction - diet soda was also bad for the baby.  So I asked him why he would want to eat something from which his wife was protecting their unborn baby.  Apparently, this disturbed him deeply, because he moved to a different subject.  Hoping to eventually provoke him to think just a little bit about how he is fueling his body (regardless of whether he eats animals, he shouldn't eat junk), I have resorted to calling meat by its "real name" around him.  He was quite shaken up today when I asked him what eggs were and he looked at me like he didn't understand, so I explained that they were "chickens that didn't happen."  I made a deal with him - I would stop calling his food by the animal names if/when he stops ridiculing my sustenance.  We'll see how tomorrow goes!

It just struck me, though, how disparate their two reactions to my lifestyle are.  Spunky embraces it because she recognizes that I am not crazy and because she is aware of that whole big world around her.  Using her brain to think critically, she is able to come to the logical decision that she does not want any part of eating animals any longer, due to environmental and cruelty factors.  Dopey, on the other hand, is so resistant to learning about things outside of his worldview that if I never spoke another word about food, my lifestyle all by itself would silently convict him.  He uncomfortably recognizes that my intentions are genuine and that I live the way I do because I care about the world around me.  He knows he is eating animals and some part of him knows something is amiss, but it would destroy everything he knows to venture out and think about this honestly.  I feel compassion for him, but it is also super frustrating because he is preserving a point of view that ultimately harms him as well.

In other news, I made Orzo Pilaf with Tofu Feta tonight and it was marvelous:

It was very attractive while cooking and tasted great on its way to my belly.  Because the only ingredients you have to mess with are the garlic, tofu, and spinach, it comes together very quickly and easily.  The tofeta only marinates for a half hour.

If you'll recall, I mentioned in the menu that I was curious to see who had a better tofeta recipe - Robin (above) or Sarah Kramer.  I have to say, I prefer Sarah's.  It's a little more authentic, possibly because the marinade involves vinegar.  This tofeta did not disappoint, but it was not as good as Sarah's recipe.

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