Someone close to me has a very strong prejudice against all things vegetarian, both in terms of vegetarian food and people who choose to be vegetarian. It is the kind of prejudice that in an otherwise intelligent, education, and liberal-minded person that is rather odd.
I have watched this person tease vegetarians without awareness that their behavior is making others uncomfortable. This person also is very resistant to going to any vegetarian restaurants and eating a vegetarian meal at someone else's house, to the point where it makes said dining decisions difficult and fraught with interpersonal missteps and bafflement to other folks who don't know about the prejudice.
I live in Southern California, vegetarianism has been going strong in these parts for over 30 years. This person has been shopping at health food stores for at least 30 years and is not afraid of a whole grain or tofu or ...
As I watch this person being willing to eat any number of ethnic foods that are very challenging to the "typical" (whatever that is) American diet, such as lengua tacos, menudo, catfish larb, as well as vegetables & legumes of all sorts, all the while turning down any and all opportunities to go to a vegetarian restaurant, I remain surprised at the strength of the prejudice.
Last week, by dint of who knows what, I was able to convince the said individual to go to lunch with me at Udupi Palace in Artesia, which is a great South Indian pure-veg restaurant. For the first 15 minutes, the person tried to convince us to decamp and walk across the street to Ashoka the Great a non-veg Indian restaurant with a meat-ful buffet.
After a delightful shared lunch of idli, sada dosa, and an eggplant curry, the person declared that they did like the coconut chutney that came with the idlis and dosa. And declared later that they thought I was taking them to Ashoka the Great and felt a little deceived, even though I had thoroughly explained beforehand what the Udupi Palace entailed.
Later I was frustrated as I thought about the whole thing, not just this incident but a series of them over years. I wondered how a person who I otherwise respect can have such an odd, out of place prejudice to the point of disruption about a food type / style, esp. when the person is so willing to try other new foods.
As I wrapped my head around it, I realized that prejudices, be they mild and odd or strong and hurtful are many times without explanation even to the person whose prejudice it is. Some folks say prejudice is based out of the unknown or out of fear.
As the food allergy / gluten-free girl, I completely understand when a person can't eat something due to making one ill. I kind of understand pickiness. If you don't like a food, then you don't like it.
But I guess I am having a harder time with an irrational food prejudice that transcends "I don't like it" into something else entirely. The part that is hard is that the prejudice is so at odds with every other stated preference of the person. Most of all, it is hard to watch a person descend repeatedly into an irrational prejudice and be unwilling to examine it.
Last week's trip to the Udupi Palace was a ray of hope. A hope that maybe the prejudice can be held up and examined, and maybe one day put away.