Vegetarians are the Rodney Dangerfields of the food-consuming world.
They truly get no respect, despite the fact they're living out a moral or health-related choice not to eat meat or, in many cases, not to consume any animal-related products.
That lack of respect is particularly evident at this time of year, as a majority of people all across America are anticipating the Thanksgiving holiday and its tables laden with turkey, ham or some other meat.
Take, for example, this collection of online comments from readers of a letter to the editor from a local vegetarian published near last year's Thanksgiving holiday urging people to "skip the turkey" to avoid "a sleepless night wondering how the turkey lived and died" and to give their bodies "a holiday from saturated fat, cholesterol and hormones."
Among the abuse and derision the writer took on the Banner-Herald's Web site were the following comments:
► "Thanks for proving that the weed-eaters can be just as self-righteously annoying as the religious nuts."
► "... I plan to slather the outside of my turkey in real butter prior to throwing that sucker in the smoker. Mmmmm, that's some good bird."
► "Not a huge turkey fan but I guarandamntee I'll never eat tofurkey!"
► "... (I)nstead of pardoning a turkey this year, I think I'll save my pardoning power for the yams. Blech, I hate those things."
And so it goes, virtually anytime a vegetarian steps up to defend or explain his or her choice, or when the more adventurous among them urge the rest of us to give their dietary regimen a try.
Thus, it's more than a little interesting to note that a group of local vegetarians, the estimated 150-strong Athens Vegetarians, are combining their dietary choices with a bit of noteworthy charity work. According to a Friday story in this newspaper, Athens Vegetarians on Saturday began "cooking up vegetarian vittles for volunteers in the Athens community." According to the story, Athens Area Habitat for Humanity volunteers were to be treated Saturday with vegetarian chili, lentil soup, breads and a number of vegan desserts.
Feeding local volunteers is a win-win strategy for Athens Vegetarians. While this community has no shortage of people willing to volunteer their time for any number of worthy causes, much of that work goes unsung in the wider community. Dishing up food for volunteers is a good, tangible way of showing them that their work is being noticed.
The effort, which just might become a monthly endeavor, could also do much to make vegetarians' efforts to talk about their choice more palatable - pun intended - to a wider variety of people.