"For my thirteenth birthday, I received a book. Thi..."
University of Virginia
College of Arts and Sciences - What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised, unsettled, or challenged you, and in what way?
0 - 250 words
(University of Virginia)
For my thirteenth birthday, I received a book. This was a common occurrence in my household- from a young age, my birthdays have consisted of carefully-wrapped books, ranging from popular works, like Harry Potter, to more obscure yet poignant reads such as Flowers for Algernon.
However, I could not conceal the disappointment on my face when I opened this year’s book: What the World Eats, a nonfiction work about the dietary and cultural differences between countries around the world. Little did I know that i would spend the rest of the day learning what one week’s worth of food amounted to in Bhutan, Chad, Egypt, and twenty others. As I flipped through the book, I saw pictures of typical families in different countries standing next to their groceries from the past week. What startled me was the lack of what I considered an essential ingredient: meat.
Throughout my life, every meal I ate had been centered around meat, but seeing the colorful vegetarian options created in countries like Bhutan, where meat is only available once or twice a month, challenged my conformity to typical American culture. I realized that just as culture is reflected in religion and traditions, it is also reflected in food, and there is not a singular “right” way to eat.
Realizing a vegetarian lifestyle is possible and even common in other cultures prompted me to research the benefits of a vegetarian diet and to eventually give up meat for good after realizing the profound ecological and humanitarian benefits vegetarianism has on society. What the World Eats changed my dietary lifestyle, but also challenged me to try new things, explore unknown possibilities, and keep my mind open to other cultures.