Southern Groceries, Take 2

As I’ve written before, grocery shopping in South Carolina is quite different from how I used to shop in Maine and Massachusetts. It is not just the fact that it took three markets to find kimchi, and it was not hard to adjust to the lack of dedicated organic and Asian sections. The produce is generally plentiful and varied, and I know where to buy half gallons of rice milk and sprouted tofu.

However, I was completely bewildered yesterday by the interaction I had with the young man bagging my groceries. He picked up a container of tofu, and stared at it, shook it, then looked at me and asked, “what is this, some kind of soup?” Besides that one video I posted to social media earlier this week (Holocaust on a Conveyor Belt,) I generally try not to proselytize my vegetarian beliefs. So I responded, “no, it is tofu.” Realizing as soon as the words left my mouth how it probably sounded pretentious. The kid looked at me, and shook his head while he continued to bag my items. But what should I have said, “oh, that is a food made by coagulating soy juice and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks.” ?????

“So you must be some kind of vegetarian or something, huh,” he continued the conversation.

“Correct. I do not eat meat,” I replied.

“Oh man, you would hate to come over to our house, we have meat everywhere!” I suddenly remembered I’m in the deep south, and that guns and hobby hunting are popular here. I’m envisioning mounted animal heads, bacon toothpaste, leather sofas. “Not even chicken?” the kid asked.

Now I was getting testy. He was not trying (I don’t think) to be rude. But I felt interrogated. Here he was, looking at an intimate portrait of my life (thank goodness I do not purchase tampons at the grocery store), and questioning my lifestyle. I wanted to reply “especially not chicken” but I just smiled, and shook my head no.

Of course I did not open up the conversation with him further by telling him about my recent conversion to veganism (still in its infancy, there are animal products in everything!) but I was so shocked that here we are in 2013, and some people in this country do not understand a vegetarian diet.

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Welcome to the South!

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