Interview With A Teenage
Emily Freer is a formerly home educated teenager
whose family lives in Surrey, British Columbia. She describes her vegetarian
NL: How long
have you been a vegetarian?
Emily: I am 16 years old now. I have been a vegetarian for about four
NL: Why did you decide to become a vegetarian?
Emily: I wasn't feeling very healthy. I was feeling dizzy at times,
and lethargic, and had low energy. I had done some reading and come to the
conclusion that a vegetarian diet was healthier all around. I had also read
Frances Moore Lappé's book, Diet for a Small Planet, and shared her
concerns about our environment and the effect the North American diet has on
issues like agriculture and world hunger.
NL: How did you make the change?
Emily: I believe I already had a reasonably good diet. We ate some
meat, but not a lot. I immediately cut out red meat, chicken and pork. I just
didn't take any of the meat at the dinner table but ate the rest of the meal.
For lunch I made cheese sandwiches or similar.
NL: How long did you continue like this?
Emily: I only did this for a couple of weeks. My mother advised me
that I should be eating protein, since I was growing and she felt I was not
getting enough with this diet.
I then started eating fish. The rest of my family did not eat fish, so it was
not prepared for family meals. My mother would buy a small piece of fish for me
and I would cook it in our microwave. Shortly after that I started experimenting
with tofu. I didn't really know how to cook at this time, so I would cut the
tofu in slabs, put some barbeque sauce on it and cook it in the microwave for a
NL: Once you had gone vegetarian, did you miss meat?
Emily: I never felt deprived. The first few weeks, I was hungry at
times because I was just eliminating the meat and not substituting anything
else. But once I started experimenting with alternatives, I enjoyed the changes
I was making to my diet.
NL: Were your parents supportive of you becoming a vegetarian?
Emily: My mother was willing to support my vegetarianism as long as
she felt I was getting the appropriate nutrients. She was always willing to buy
the things I asked her to as I gradually expanded my diet. My father and
brothers made fun of my fish eating stage, complaining of the smell and
comparing me to a seal with accompanying seal barks. I don't think my parents
thought I would stick with being a vegetarian for very long.
NL: Do you still eat fish?
Emily: I ate fish for a few months and then stopped one day. I never
really cared for fish and always intended to become a full vegetarian. The fish
was just a stop-gap.
NL: How did your diet evolve over the next couple of years?
Emily: I started to take out books from the library, learning more
about vegetarianism and vegetarian cooking. I had started out as a vegetarian
only in that I didn't eat meat. I didn't really know much about the substitutes
for meats, combining of proteins and cooking of vegetarian dishes. I expanded my
diet to include beans, grains, brown rice and vegetables that I had never even
heard of, let alone tried.
I made the decision to become an ovo-lacto vegetarian. I may become a vegan
in the future, although this is not something I feel that strongly about.
NL: Describe yourself as a vegetarian today.
Emily: I always cook for myself now, although I eat some things that
the rest of the family eats, like occasional french fries or meatless spaghetti.
I think I have become quite a good vegetarian cook. I soak and cook my own
beans, bake my own bread and can make many dishes from soufflés to risottos.
I have become more knowledgeable about food and nutrition generally. I know I
am eating a well-balanced and nutritional diet. I enjoy cooking. I like knowing
I am eating in a more ecologically responsible way. I am trying to limit my
consumption of refined and processed foods but I don't consider myself obsessive
about it. I really like chocolate.
NL: Do you feel you have influenced the rest of your family?
Emily: The rest of the family still eats meat but they have cut down
on the amount. I think I have raised my parents' consciousness about improving
their diet and I think they eat more vegetables now. My younger sisters like to
sample my food.
My two 14-year-old brothers seem unaffected and in fact, like to wave meat
under my nose and call me a rabbit. Boys are so immature, though.
NL: Are there any difficulties with being a vegetarian?
Emily: Eating at relatives' or friends' houses can be awkward if they
are not aware of my diet. And there is a definite shortage of vegetarian
selections in restaurants, although this has improved. The menus have an excess
of veggie burgers.
This article was published in 1996.