When Jed Martin, 22, submitted his photo to PETA's "cutest vegetarian alive" contest, he never thought he'd win. "Then I got an email . . . informing me that I made top 10 out of some 1500 entries. I was shocked, to say the least," he relates. After another round of voting, Martin, the oldest of the finalists, was declared the "boys" winner. What gave the straight-edge, multiply pierced Vermonter the advantage?
"People like veterans?" he guesses.
The Burlington High School grad served in Iraq for a year and is finishing his term of service at a military base in Hohenfels, Germany. He had already enlisted when, in 2005, he went vegetarian, then quickly became vegan. Martin had been pondering the lifestyle change for a while, but was ultimately convinced by a disturbing PETA video called "Meet your Meat."
Does he take any flak from fellow soldiers about his eating habits? "Not as much as people might think," he confides. "In the Army, this diet is virtually unknown, and as people learn about my choices, they seem genuinely interested."
Martin has been coping well with the limited culinary options. No vegan MREs? During his year in Iraq, he ordered ethical items online and prepared his meals on a hotplate. "Most of the foods there were cooked in milk," he explains. The commissary in Germany makes things a bit easier. There, Martin finds vegan goods such as Boca burgers and Silk soymilk. When he can, he cooks Italian, Mexican or Thai food. A favorite dish: tofu with "some sort of curry or spicy sauce."
Although Martin will return to Vermont this summer before going on to Indiana to join up with his band, Opposite of Amber, local veggie-girls shouldn't get too excited. He's already got a sweetie in Winooski. Besides seeing her, what's the first thing he's gonna do when he gets back to Vermont? Head to Leonardo's for a slice of soy cheese pizza.