Growing up vegetarian wasn’t easy. Vegetarianism was supposedly a growing trend in the 2000s, along with veganism. Gone were the days of fast food, claimed some. Vegetarianism was the key to losing weight and staying thin!
My family’s reasons for vegetarianism were slightly more traditional and religious. The story went that Hindus considered the cow sacred. Therefore, it was against our ideals to eat any part of the animal we considered sacred. This principle extended to any kind of meat — seafood, pork, chicken, lamb, etc. And since generations of my family on both sides had followed this principle, it made logical sense to continue.
Living in India as a vegetarian would have been fine. But I think the fact that we were living in the US with a fast food joint every other roundabout changed perspective for us. We actively avoided McDonald’s and their French fries, couldn’t stand the smell of Wendy’s and cringed every time an ad for KFC came on television. Taco Bell was one fast food place where we found small solace with sour cream in our chalupas and Mexican sauce that made our mouths water wistfully. But still, it wasn’t until I was 11 that we discovered Chipotle, which changed everything.
A new Chipotle had opened up by the movie theatre in my hometown, and a friend of ours recommended it to us. And so we adventured, the four of us equally curious — and slightly suspicious. There we were, my brother, my mom, my dad, and me, ready to delve into a strange new world. Their wood and aluminum decorations intimidated us a little. There I saw it, their red boards with all their options. VEGGIE was an option, listed right up there next to all the meat options.
I rejoiced, ordered, and met my true love. The salsa and sour cream complemented each other, and I could barely even register that I was eating rice and beans and green peppers and onions. Everything inside that little burrito of hope called to my appetite. I devoured it, enjoying every scoop. For us, it was revolutionary.
Before Chipotle, every vegetarian option we tasted when we ate out was bland, not quite like a good homecooked Indian meal. Chipotle fulfilled our desire for rice and the familiar, adding beans and new flavors and vegetables along the way.
After Chipotle, we tried more and more vegetarian-option-offering restaurants. Slowly, we grew accustomed to good vegetarian food that could be bought, subsequently unlocking each one. Chipotle changed our lives.