10/24/2013 11:28 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Fat-urday: When Eating What You Want Is Cheating



Perhaps everyone--perhaps even most children--knew this before I did, but the marshmallow is not a vegetarian food. I only found out a few years ago (I am a nearly-27-year-old adult woman) when I made s'mores brownies, which I had always considered to be my best and maybe my only recipe, and brought them to my friend's house. I'm a vegetarian and had been one for three or four years by then, but Tara had been one since 16. (She was always edgier than me, ahead of the game with lifestyle choices and asymmetrical haircuts.) Among vegetarians and vegans there is an authority hierarchy and, from Most Ethically Pure to Least, it goes something like this: 1) vegans, 2) strict vegetarians, ranked by number of years lived as a vegetarian, 3) pescatarians, and 4) people who call themselves "mostly vegetarian" but still eat meat once or twice a week. (Even within these there is ample room for subtler power plays; a strict vegetarian who eats a lot of kale and quinoa and endives or whatever ranks higher than a strict vegetarian like me, who eats carbs.) Tara and I were both 2s, but she's a better one. At least, I thought I was a 2, until Tara asked me, "Didn't you know marshmallows have gelatin in them?" and I said, "No, I didn't." I asked her to remind me what that was again (she said "horse hooves," I think for maximum effect, but it can be any number of animal byproducts). And then I ate a s'mores brownie anyway. This doesn't make me a 4, or even a 3, really, but I think that it makes me a very low 2. It makes me a cheater.

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