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I am not a super-healthy person.  Anyone who has seen the collection of boxed pasta and ramen noodles in my cupboard would concur, but I do think about what I eat, and try to do my best.  It was challenging last year with three jobs, full-time school, and the occasional internship, but now I’ve got no excuse for not trying.  Plus, now that I’m taking running more seriously, I’m realizing just how sluggish these “bad for me” convenience foods make me, so I’m pushing those out of my diet in favor of stuff that spoils faster, and makes me faster.

I used to have a really hard time finding food to eat when I was out of the house because of my vegetarianism.  I spent many a night at a restaurant eating just french fries or mozzarella sticks because there was nothing else on the menu that didn’t have meat in it, and because I used to be afraid of vegetables.  I rarely complained, just dealt with the fact that I made the choice to not eat meat, and these are the consequences.  Prior to that, I was a picky eater living in a town with two restaurants–I’m used to limited selection.  Now it seems like there are a lot more options for people like me, but a whole new set of problems.

Jewish Friend always talks about the “clean plate club” of which she is not a member.  Her parents are enthusiastic eaters, and she has always been more dainty.  They would encourage her to join them in the clean plate club, but she had no interest.  “You’re a member of the clean plate club,” she told me recently, “I bet your parents never got on your case about not finishing your food.”

The problem, in my case, is that I was not a member of the clean plate club growing up–there was no such club in my family, we all fed ourselves.  I typically finished my whole can of SpaghettiO’s, or half bag of Lipton Rice and Sauce, but not because someone told me to, just because that was enough to fill me up.  I ate until I was full, then stopped.  It wasn’t until I started earning my own money, and paying for my own food while out at a restaurant that I joined the clean plate club.  I want to get my money’s worth, and though I often do take home leftovers, I also nibble and nibble until there’s not much left.  This was fine when portion sizes were smaller, but now when a typical entree lasts me three days–it’s become a problem and a nuisance.

On my recent trip to the Virgin Islands, I had to be at the airport at 7am.  I really don’t eat breakfast even though I know you’re supposed to, because I’m not hungry in the morning.  I haven’t been moving, therefore, just don’t have an appetite until around 10am.  Since I was traveling and didn’t know for sure when or what my next meal would be, I decided to see what TF Green International Airport had to offer me in the way of a small, light breakfast.

Options include Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, assorted dinner places, and the Wolfgang Puck kiosk.  I love Dunkin Donuts, but had already had two large coffees at home, and the thought of a wake-up wrap or hash browns curdled my stomach, so I decided to see what overpriced horrors Wolfgang had to sell me.  Most of the offerings were lunch/dinner stuff, but there was a cold case of salads and fruits, and a delicious-looking yogurt parfait.

Once I got closer, I realized that this yogurt parfait was in a 16oz cup.  16oz– one full pint, 1/2 a quart–that’s a whole lot of yogurt parfait.  According to MIT, the standard size for a serving of yogurt is one cup,  which is half of this giant yogurt that I was staring at.  The typical single-serving yogurt cup that I bring to work is 1/2 a cup.  Is it because it’s “healthy” that it comes in such a giant size?  Is it just because the real expense is packaging and Wolfgang, and everyone else, wants to make their money back?  Do people really want to eat this much yogurt in one sitting?

I stood there staring at it for far longer than I should have, because I was really in the throes of a quandary.  Not knowing for sure when my next meal might be (accounting for delays, possibly running to meet my connection, refusing to overpay for terrible plane food, etc.) and knowing that as soon as I reached my final destination I would immediately start drinking heavily–I needed to eat something.  I could buy it and throw half of it away (which I hate to do), I could force the whole thing into my stomach and feel sick rattling around on the plane.

I pictured myself choking down a warmish glass of yogurt, and did not feel good about it, so I turned to walk away and noticed a basket of what was sure to be overpriced bananas.  Bananas are filling and come in a reasonable package size, so I chose that instead.

“$1.17.” the clerk told me.  Then she mumbled something as I was fishing around for change.

“I’m sorry?” I said.

“I said why don’t you help yourself to another one, these are pretty small.”

I mentioned recently that the Grog and Dog Jog is coming up and I’m very excited about it.  I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life for someone to unite my loves of beer and running, and I seriously can’t believe I never thought of something like this before– but no matter. 

Despite the fact that when this event was announced, I turned to Chinese Religious Scholar Friend and said “let’s do this”, and he said “yes”, getting together the rest of the team has been a bit of a challenge.  Canadian Male Friend has recently developed insulin resistance (or is on his way to developing it–I’m not a doctor) making the beer/hotdog part of the race a little sketchy; Curly-Haired Religious Scholar Friend will be out of town that weekend, Jewish Friend just scoffed at me when I asked her and said “There is nothing about what you just said that appeals to me.”

I persevered nonetheless, and just happened to find Early Christianity Religious Scholar stranded at Bed Bath & Beyond, I innocently asked her “Do you run?” She said, “sometimes”, and team The New Hotness was born.

The Grog & Dog Jog is a mysterious event as well, because the website gives little to no information.  Because I am all about this, and don’t want to miss the window of opportunity, I sent an email with 4 pertinant questions:

1. I have a tentative team of four– is that too many, too few, or just right? (Wild Colonial website doesn’t say how long the course is)

2. What time does it start/ what time would you like people to get there?

3. How much does it cost?

4. This is the most annoying pair of questions, and I apologize that I have to ask them– I’m a vegetarian, can I supply my own soy dog?  Also, another member of my team has insulin resistance and is low-carb– can he eat two hotdogs and skip the bun?

Despite all of the rather ridiculous restrictions my team has, we have successfully united, and my insulin resistant friend said that for me, he will eat a carby bun, and drink a carby ‘Gansett– good friend. He also may have to sneak off and throw up his carbs after consuming them.  In preparation for this event, I ran seven miles yesterday and figured out that I still can actually do an 8-minute mile (which surprised the hell out of me).  Next step is to get a pack of soy dogs and do a test run to see how long it takes for me to eat one and chug a beer after I’ve been doing some jumping jacks.

Everything is coming together.

I’ve been a full-blown vegetarian for about ten years.  I say it like that because it sounds funny to compare vegetarianism to HIV/AIDS, and because fifteen years ago I eliminated beef and pork from my diet, then five years later gave up the rest.  When you think about it, I’ve actually been a vegetarian longer than not, because I’m sure I didn’t start eating meat until I had teeth capable of chewing, which happens around age two (the internet tells me).  I started eating canned tuna again about four years ago, and when I moved to the Ocean State, I started eating fish and sea creatures in general, though not very often.

The thing is, for me, I do not really care for meat.  Even when I ate meat, I didn’t eat much of it.  It’s not an animal rights thing, it’s the fact that it sits in my gut like a brick, and I care neither for the taste of most meat nor the texture.  I also don’t eat celery for the same reasons.

Last St. Patrick’s Day, I had dinner with a few friends who have traveled extensively throughout Asia.  We had a lot of crazy exotic dishes that I had never seen before, and I was eager to try them.  About mid-way through a curry-type thing that I was eating, Wise Lawyer Friend said, “Andria, that has pork in it, didn’t you know?”

“You don’t eat meat?” Hostess asked frantically, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t know that.  I should have told you that had meat in it.”

I looked down at what I had been eating, and saw tiny flecks of what could have been pork amidst larger chunks of tofu and other delicious ingredients.  I finished eating it anyway wondering if trace amounts of pork would make me sick.

“How long has it been since you’ve eaten pork?” Wise Lawyer Friend asked me.

“About fifteen years.” I told her.  Hostess continued apologizing, but I shrugged and told her that I really didn’t care too much, and I certainly wouldn’t be an asshole and get mad at her about it, or go throw up the delicious meal she and her husband had prepared– that’s crazy.

Since that meal, I’ve eaten meat on two other occasions: once when DC Insider offered me a bite of his chicken sandwich from Wendy’s and I decided to go for it since I used to like chicken quite a bit; and last week when I was out for brunch and discovered that the quesadilla in my huevos rancheros had bacon in it.  I didn’t realize what was going on with the flavor until I was about halfway through it (since I don’t really remember what bacon tastes like, and I wasn’t expecting it), but I finished all four pieces anyway, and didn’t even tell Jewish Friend for fear of establishing some kind of bacon-eating precedent that would make her entirely too happy.

Now I’ve been informed that the annual “grog and dog jog” is coming up.  It’s a relay race where you run 1.5 miles, and have to chug and beer and eat a hot dog before the next person on your team can go.  It sounds very appealing to me because I haven’t been running at all lately and that short of a distance sounds very manageable, I love beer, and I’ve been craving a hot dog for some reason for a while now so this seems like a good reason to eat one.  Also, there may be prizes involved.

What worries me, is what if I choke?  Not literally, but athletically.  What if it comes down to the moment that I need to eat the hot dog– for the team– and I simply cannot do it.  That happened one other time when I insisted that I wanted chicken strips, and then could not actually eat one.  I held a chicken strip, and stared at it for about ten minutes, but could not make myself bite into it.  I don’t really want to do a test run with a real hot dog, but I don’t want to be that asshole who asks the event organizers to sub in a soy dog just for me.