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Home » food

Being Mexican. And Vegetarian

Submitted by on April 16, 2011 – 1:00 am6 Comments

vegetarian week tiki tiki

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in the series, ¿Vege-Que? — A Week of Healthy Eating, ongoing from April 11 to 17 on the Tiki Tiki. Please visit the first essay to learn more about the series and enter for the chance to win some awesome prizes.

Teen Rebellion leads to Long-Term Choice

daniela garciaBy Daniela Garcia

The looks I get from people when I tell that I’m a Mexican vegetarian usually range somewhere between surprise and disbelief. It’s also hard to explain how I’ve managed to keep up this kind of diet when I spent the majority of my life surrounded by carne.

My family owns several restaurants in my hometown and beef is a central part of our business. I grew up on the border in South Texas and trips to Mexico were a common part of my life, as was the consumption of countless tacos.

So yes, until I was 12, I enjoyed chorizo, barbacoa and every other kind of meat just as much as everyone else in my family. But after reading an article in an old teen magazine about becoming vegetarian (and needing to fulfill some sense of rebellion against my family and life on the frontera), I declared myself meat-free.

Sticking to being Vegetarian

No one believed me at first, of course. Como no vas a comer carne? my Tias would ask. In a way, they had every right to be shocked. Meat is a central part of our everyday diet; to stop eating it was considered almost downright unnatural.

But I was stubborn and determined enough to want to prove my family wrong. I immediately parted ways with beef and pork, though giving up poultry was a much slower process. Because it’s been so long since I’ve eaten red meat, any small attempt to eat it now usually results in indigestion. I’m still completely capable of eating chicken, but in the last few years, I’ve worked to edge it out of my everyday diet.

After a while, my family eventually accepted my meat-free ways. For family gatherings (where we always have a barbeque), they’ll even go out of their way to buy veggie hot dogs and burgers just for me. I know that they probably still don’t understand my persistence in keeping up this diet, but they do try and accept it, which is all I can ask.

So, do I miss meat? Sometimes but overall, not really. I stopped craving it years ago. But, just because I don’t eat it, doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the smell of carne asada. And just because I’m a vegetarian doesn’t mean that I look down on anyone who does eat meat; I know I’m in the minority, even more so for also being Latina. Overall, while Latino vegetarians are few and far in between, I know they’re out there (my last boyfriend was a Puerto Rican vegetarian).

Personal Choices

Being vegetarian (or even vegan) is definitely not for everyone. Some people can give up all meat, or maybe just red meat, but either way, it just depends on the person, no matter how or where they were raised and what they were raised to eat.

Personally, I know I could never be a vegan; I love dairy products way too much. And while I chose this diet on a whim, I realized not long after that I had made a good and healthy choice for myself.

My mom tries to suggest different recipes for me to try and make that are veggie-friendly, including modifying the quesadillas she makes at her restaurant back home. They’re usually chicken quesadillas, but I usually add extra vegetables instead.


Mom’s Mexican Vegetable Quesadillas


  • 1/4 cup of tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of mushrooms, sliced
  • Olive oil
  • Flour tortillas
  • ½ cup of mixed shredded cheese

In a pan, cook the vegetables together in olive oil under tender. Remove them from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan, warm up a flour tortilla and sprinkle the mixed cheese evenly. On top of the cheese, spread the cooked vegetables, followed by the remainder of the cheese. Place another tortilla on top. Cook both sides evenly, until the cheese has thoroughly melted.

Cut up and serve!

What about You?

Have you ever tried being vegetarian? Did you stick to it, or give up? Think you could completely give up meat?

Check out the Giveaways

Please be sure to read the ¿Vege-Que? Giveaways post to enter for some great prizes, including cookware from IMUSA, copies of Viva Vegan, the e-book Healthy Snacks to Go; and new EatStrong trail mix and bars.

***You must comment in the giveaways post and in one essay, such as this one, this week to be entered to win.

Daniela Garcia is a Mexican-American writer and editor who spent the majority of her life on la frontera (specifically, right in the middle of Texas and Mexico) before moving to Chicago. She blogs at That Mexican Girl.

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  • What an invigorating post for me to read. I am half Cuban, and I have never eaten a piece of meat in my life. I have a metabolic disorder (from birth) that prevents me from breaking down the amino acid Phenylalanine which is found in foods high in protein. It is called PKU- short for Phenylketonuria. I have lived in NYC most of my life, but never been in a Cuban restaurant. The menus of Cuban restaurants, of course, dissuade me. I am looking forward to trying your mom’s recipe- minus the cheese (which is also high in protein). I respect your being able to put aside the cultural norm, and go vegetarian, but also keep eating Spanish food. It makes me want to research traditional Cuban foods, and just rearrange the recipe a bit (where possible). Thank you for sharing your story!
    Lillian Rodriguez´s last [fabulousness] ..Lillian4444- Just wrote a new poem! Bam! That feels good poetry spokenword

  • Patricia E says:

    This sounds amazing. I love mushrooms to no end.

  • Silvia says:

    I love dairy products to much as well, that’s why I don’t think I will ever be vegan, however I’ve been thinking about introducing more vegan and vegetable dishes and have some balance in our diets.

    I am mexican and of course I love quesadillas, yesterday I told my husband I could live on fruit, quesadillas and tostadas de pollo!
    Silvia´s last [fabulousness] ..Felíz Cumpleaños

    • Daniela says:

      I never get tired of eating quesadillas either! :)
      I’m glad to hear you’ll try to introduce more vegan/vegetarian dishes into your diet. Everything is trial and error for me. I’m not a huge fan of seitan, but I was surprised to find that I really like some forms of soy chorizo (the one meat I miss the most!). Whole Foods in Austin does breakfast tacos and I really loved their soy chorizo and tofu scramble taco (it’s much yummier than it sounds). I hope I find a similar recipe soon.
      Daniela´s last [fabulousness] ..music of the moment- he is we

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