It’s been three months since I’ve given up meat (as well as pop/soda, artificial sweeteners and overly-processed foods). What started out as a weeklong challenge has turned into a full-fledged lifestyle. Whenever anyone would tell me that he or she is a vegetarian, I’d reply, “I was a vegetarian once…for two days.” I could never imagine giving up my precious, delectable meat. Steaks. Roast beef. Cheeseburgers. Ribs. Greek chicken. Chicken wings. Bacon. Pork roast. Ham. I’d list “meat” under the “favorite food” heading, just under “cheese.” People who know me have been amazed that I have been able to give up meat. It’s a lot easier than I thought.
I’m not going to tell you that you’re wrong for eating meat. It’s an individual choice and my choice has changed. I’ve eaten meat for 27 years (that’s right bitch, I’m 27…again). I just wanted to quickly sum up where I stand today.
Last weekend I went to a Mother’s Day party at my grandmother’s house. Instead of the usual BBQ, we all decided to bring a dish. Unfortunately for me, the entire table consisted of meat courses. Even the salads and potatoes were prepared with some sort of meat in them. As I scanned the table, my grandmother walked up to a very perplexed me and said, “Honey, have some meatballs.” “I don’t eat meat, Nam.” “Oh, well then have some chicken salad.” As humorous as that may be, the response is not atypical. Good thing I brought dessert.
I’m often asked why I gave up meat and if I’ll ever eat it again. I gave it up as a challenge, though my reasoning now is for my health. I never knew how to eat without meat. Most people don’t. On Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution, the DJ interviewing him commented that “we don’t want to sit around and eat lettuce all day,” to which Oliver responded, “I’m not gonna cook you a lettuce.” It’s true. I’m amazed at the variety of delicious, meatless dishes I’ve been able to prepare and the incredible meat substitutions I never knew of. I’m cooking a lot more at home now. I can’t just run to a fast food restaurant because generally there’s nothing there I can eat. Everything is based around meat.
Of course, factory farming is also a large reason why I no longer eat meat. Americans tend to disconnect meat from animals. We buy pretty steaks in pretty packaging. We don’t want to know anything else. I didn’t want to know anything else. The meat industry deliberately, and intelligently, keeps us protected from the process. And you don’t even want to know what the food we’re eating is eating. As to if I’ll ever eat meat again…I can’t say I won’t. I don’t know. I don’t think I will, but I cannot answer that definitively. If I ever were to eat it again, I certainly wouldn’t eat any factory-farmed meats. I’m saddened and repulsed by the horrors I’ve learned. You should be, too.
But don’t cross me off your BBQ lists just yet. I’m still coming; only this time, veggie burgers and veggie dogs (and beer) will be in tow. I’ll even bring the cheese!
*Great read for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer