Dangerous Compassions

the vegetarian pizza effect


Hello, reader.  How are you doing?  Have you ever experienced the vegetarian pizza effect?  It’s when there’s a pizza party, and the pizza orderer says, “Oh, there are not many vegetarians.  I’ll get one veggie pizza.  That should be plenty.”

But there’s a problem.  The vegetarian pizza gets eaten by both vegetarians and omnivores.  This happens because people are curious and like variety.  I love that about us.

But also pizza is a guilt food.  Many people believe they are bad for eating pizza.  Eating veg is considered a way to mitigate the guilt feeling, so they will opt for vegetarian pizza even when they’re not vegetarian.


Then (back when I could eat pizza) I got one piece of pizza only, it’s run out by the time I get to the front of the line, or I’m told “just pick the pepperoni off” by people who don’t understand what vegetarianism even is.  I’m trying to reduce harm to animals and the earth by reducing consumption of animals, not keep myself pure by flicking pepperoni into the trash.

I’ve experienced this in countless situations over the years, going hungry when it didn’t have to be that way.  Pizza at band, pizza as a treat, pizza with activists, pizza at a party, pizza in community.

So confusing!  How many slices is appropriate?  Is there enough to go around?  Is salad served also?  What about dessert or fruits?

Usually pizza is considered easy and done, by the orderers.  So often there’s not salad or fruits.  We’re supposed to just know how many pieces is appropriate, despite our very different bodies and different workloads.

Like anything, ordering food for a group is a skill we can strengthen.

what’s healthy

Once I was at an event where the vegetarians were asked to step forward and get our food first, to limit the vegetarian pizza effect.  Yes, in order to make sure we vegetarians got to eat at all.

That was hard too, just because it was embarrassing to step forward and go first.  Some people see vegetarians as holier than thou, so we were vulnerable and looked at uncomfortably by hungry omnivores.

Food is so tied up with fatness, body shame, and false ideas of health.  Long ago when I was both vegan and fat, I was definitely a “bad vegan,” misrepresenting veganness.  It was so uncomfortable.  In US culture, there are powerful assumptions about who’s healthy and how.

My yoga teacher recently was part of a video about fat athletes.

Yes, I’ve experienced trouble there too, when I was looking for info about fat cycling.

When I stepped forward for vegetarian pizza, I felt judged like, “She doesn’t look like a vegetarian.”  I was also new to the place– it was a mental health clinic in Sacramento that I spent a lot of time at going to groups, which gave structure to my life at a time I needed it.

People were like, “Who the hell is this?” and I didn’t like it.  It wasn’t worth it for some free, delicious food.

food issues

These days I don’t eat dairy, wheat, or tomato sauce, so there’s really no good pizza choice for me.  A local pizza place has a delicious vegan, gluten-free pizza, but it makes me feel sick, especially if I have more than one slice.

My body is weird–that’s fine.  All bodies are valid bodies.  I need to be very kind to myself.  My body has worked so hard for me, and I need to return the favor.  I’m sorry it doesn’t seem to make sense–you’d think gluten-free crust, no cheese, and red pepper spread instead of tomato sauce would work, but that’s actually not good for me either.

I could list for you the things that are good for me, but I bet you have a few quirks of your own to keep track of.  Food is part of culture, part of trauma for many of us, nutritional necessity, tied in with money and politics, part of family and belonging.  It’s comfort and pleasure, yet so often disorder also.

Some people are weird about pleasure.  They think they don’t deserve it, or it’s been turned into a weapon against them, and they haven’t healed that.

Food can be like sex.  How often is sex just sex?  It’s touching a web where you touch one thing and you’re touching everything.


The vegetarian pizza effect is found in pizza situations, but other places too.  When majority rules, can the majority remember its responsibility to protect the minority?

I think of eighth grade social studies class where I learned that concept in terms of government, some sacred things about government that Mr Brody taught me.  I liked reading the classroom posters over and over, knowing “A woman’s place is in the house, and in the senate too.”  We learned about history and government.

Then I became an anarchist and discarded some knowledge like how bills are passed.  But I remember watching Roots and trying to situate my 13 year old self in a tsunami of violence.

Liberation is intersectional–freedom for all of us, or none.  I mean disability justice, queer and trans liberation, fat liberation, autistic liberation, racial justice, gender justice.  Freedom from war, police oppression, domestic violence.  The vegetarian pizza effect might sound petty, but we all deserve some form of pizza–safety, love, understanding, protection from harm.

I will pizza with you if I can, and help you get the nutrition you need, one way or another.

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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