I have a confession to make: I’m not an animal-rights person. I recognize that in many vegan circles, this is full blown blasphemy but it is the truth for me. Or so I thought…
Note: This doesn’t get graphic. Nor is it a judgement on anyone who consumes animal products. It is simply a story…my story, just like every other experience on this blog. So I invite you to read on regardless of your dietary lifestyle. If all you do is roll your eyes and groan: that is ok. If you learn something: that is ok. If you skip today: that’s ok too. I still love and respect you with all my heart. :)
When I first gave up meat, it was solely based on taste preferences. I was living on my own for the second summer in a row and had begun down the foodie path by experimenting with new foods and flavors. My cooking and palate have evolved significantly since nightly stir-fries in the dorm, but I must admit, I am where I am today because of two burners and a convection oven in the senior courts! Anyway, one day in May 2009 while eating yet another stir-fry, a thought hit me like a ton of bricks: I didn’t even like meat. Eating had become a truly sensual experience for me, one that I enjoyed with every fiber of my being. Yet what I really enjoyed were veggies…and grains…and fruit…and beans. If I didn’t enjoy eating meat, why should I waste calories on it? And so I became a vegetarian.
I backtracked and did the necessary reading about how to stay healthy on a veg diet. I “came out” to my friends and family. And, in all honesty, I still nibbled bacon and Mom’s meatballs from time-to-time. Those flavored I enjoyed, so I figured, why not?
Fast forward to June 2010. I had just graduated and moved to Worcester where I had a giant kitchen. I began reading more and more about clean eating and vegetarianism and my cooking continued to evolve. By this point the only animal products I consumed on a regular basis were cheese, eggs, and ice cream. I had given up cow’s milk several years prior because I found soy milk lasted far longer in the fridge and, therefore, ended up being more budget-friendly. I enjoyed the taste and mouthfeel of it so much that cow’s milk, with its options of skim but watery or fattening but thick enough, just didn’t cut it anymore.
Somehow I stumbled upon Lindsay’s Blog. I don’t remember the details now but I remember waiting with anticipation for her cookbook to arrive at my door. I remember how after the first week I accidentally ate 100% vegan, I ran to the fridge and consumed some of my prized (read: rather expensive) cheese. I remember scoffing the first time someone told me that giving up dairy helped decrease the severity of their asthma symptoms and post-nasal drip. I remember thinking I could never in the world be “that person” who burdened everyone else with their optional dietary restrictions and preferences.
Fast forward a bit more. The timeline is not exact as this transformation was slow and unplanned and instead evolved seamlessly over time. I’m reading vegan blogs daily, producing vegan foods in my kitchen, and choosing vegan options when I am out. I am able to talk vegan nutrition with the best of them and can counter most any argument against the healthfulness of a veg diet with hard data. I both dream of and crave overnight oats, green smoothies, and quinoa anything. More and more I am asking about the use of eggs and dairy in products I order and choosing differently if they are present. More and more, I’m seeking out veg-only restaurants or calling ahead to mainstream ones to let them know that my dietary
restrictions choices and I are coming for a visit. More and more I’m telling people I follow a mostly whole foods, plant-based diet.
But I’ll still swear to you that its not about the animals. No, it isn’t about them at all. On the contrary, it is about my taste preferences and my health and the earth. And yes I’m happy to help the animals and yes I think cows are the cutest things ever…but no, this isn’t for them. Its for me.
Fast forward to yesterday. My not-quite-yet MIL and I were walking through Stew Leonard’s, a farm-to-store grocery in CT and NY. The store is set up in a maze-like pattern so that you walk through every single section before reaching the check-out. <–smart, eh? We grab samples of bread and muffins and I pick up some produce (3/$3 avocados? yes please!). Eventually we make it to the meat department where she grabs some flank steak…and I’m overwhelmed with a deep feeling of sadness and grief and the threat of a full on breakdown. WTH? We turn a corner and I see the ribs staring me in the face. Despair changes to nausea. On our way out of the store I see children reveling with the beauty of the calves they keep in the small “zoo” outside. Nausea changes to rage.
I want to sob and vomit and rage all at once. I wanted to hit the parents over the head and shout at them about the disillusionment and disconnect they are passing along to their children. I wanted to stomp and stamp and punch and throw out every single piece of meat in there. I wanted to just do something to get my point across: this just isn’t right. Those ribs have bones attached to them for crying out loud. Effing bones! Like, you know, those things that we sometimes break…that make up our skeleton…that keep us walking?
Then I realized that for the past three years since becoming a vegetarian, I’ve been out and out avoiding the meat department. It was easy for me to say that I didn’t care about the animals because I never actually saw them. Sure others ate meat in my presence but never before did the connection become so startlingly clear as in that moment. Never before did it really click that by consuming meat and eggs…we are actually eating another animal’s flesh. <–I now understand why Kris Carr uses this rather disturbing term. *ew*
I eventually calmed down, texted a friend, and told the beau about it. Most importantly, I committed to never consuming meat again. No more, “Just this once” or “Well I have no choice because I’ll burden everyone else.” As for everything else (the eggs, dairy, and honey), I’m still somewhat flexible. I will not be purchasing or preparing them, but if I steal a bite of my honey’s grilled cheese or leave the goat cheese on my salad because its the only thing giving it any depth of flavor, well I’m ok with that. Maybe one day I’ll be content eating a lame salad and recognizing that its about the company, not the food…but for now, well its still all about the food! If this journey has taught me one thing, I should never say never!
After all that though, I still recognize that veganism might not be for everyone, as much as I do believe it can be. All I ask is that you eat consciously. Recognize what you are eating. Educate yourself and your children. Decrease your consumption. Try a new veg food (my momma’s vegan chocolate cake has become her signature baked good thankyouverymuch). Give thanks to the creature which provided you with your meal. <–a little Once Upon A Time reference there…anyone??? Be conscious, be mindful, and know where your food comes from. Honestly, that is all I ask.
And yes, you can still eat meat in front of me. I won’t ridicule or lecture you and I ask for the same respect in return. If you ask, I’ll provide you with
long-winded scientifically-sound answers. If you don’t care, don’t ask and I won’t bring it up. Don’t be totally surprised, however, if I start moaning a bit because my food is so dang good. ;) <–I had to get sassy somewhere, right?
Oh and in case you are wondering: I’m happy to report that cutting out dairy did help with my asthma and post-nasal drip. :)