Posted by: Rob | May 10, 2008

Herbivore – Omnivore: Vegetarian – Meat-Eater

I first encountered the phenomenon of vegetarianism when my then teen-aged daughter J announced that she was no longer going to eat meat. I think she probably meant she was becoming vegan as she still loved scrambled eggs on occasion. The announcement came as a surprise – after all we live just north of the heart of Alberta cattle country – and her mother and I looked at each and wondered how this happened. Was it that fancy-dancy performing arts high school she was attending in Edmonton? Where had we gone wrong that the offspring of affirmed and confirmed meat-eaters would suddenly reject the succulence of flesh?

We worried that she would become nutrient deficient. Having been born about seven weeks premature she was already susceptible to every bug and virus that came along. Denying herself animal protein would just make things worse, wouldn’t it? We caved, though; what else could we do?

As time went by and we became more and more educated (even more so after Shelley’s melanoma diagnosis) about the state of our food supply and what it was, exactly, that we were eating we began to make changes and adjustments to our own diet. Little things at first, like giving up cow’s milk in favour of soy beverage, cutting down on the red meat and eating more chicken and fish. Ramping up the number of servings of fresh fruit and vegetables. We started a small vegetable garden in the back yard that became a summer time boon. Pretty soon we were down to one meat containing dish a week and some weeks would pass with no meat consumed. Despite all these changes, even after I lost Shelley to melanoma, I still ate meat on occasion and could be considered neither vegetarian nor vegan.

And then I met Ann. Ann is essentially vegan due to some long standing food allergies. Her food sensitivities were exacerbated when she had her gall bladder removed about a year and a half ago. For most part she eats primarily vegetables and rice, sometimes adding eggs and fish to the mix. She has written about what it’s like to be a non-meat-eater here and how it is often viewed by others. Our littlest one, K, having been pretty much brought up on the foods that Ann eats (except for those trips to Grandma and Grandpa’s) is vegan too. So where does that leave me? Well, I know what is best for me, actually, and I’ve gotten on the vegan train too…for the most part. Every now and then I succumb. It seems like a time comes when my body just craves meat. And I might have a small steak or some canned moosemeat*. But only every once in a while.

Now, I was somewhat amused by this article “Meatless Like Me” by Taylor Clark that I found on Slate.com. In case you haven’t the time to read the entire article, I’m pasting a couple of the more hilarious passages here for your dining and dancing pleasure:

* * *

Every vegetarian remembers his first time. Not the unremarkable event of his first meal without meat, mind you. No, I mean the first time he casually lets slip that he’s turned herbivore, prompting everyone in earshot to stare at him as if he just revealed plans to sail his carrot-powered plasma yacht to Neptune. For me, this first time came at an Elks scholarship luncheon in rural Oregon when I was 18. All day, I’d succeeded at seeming a promising and responsible young man, until that fateful moment when someone asked why I hadn’t taken any meat from the buffet. After I offered my reluctant explanation—and the guy announced it to the entire room—30 people went eerily quiet, undoubtedly expecting me to launch into a speech on the virtues of hemp. In the corner, an elderly, suited man glared at me as he slowly raised a slice of bologna and executed the most menacing bite of cold cut in recorded history. I didn’t get the scholarship.

Now, when I say that vegetarians are normal people with normal food cravings, many omnivores will hoist a lamb shank in triumph and point out that you can hardly call yourself normal if the aroma of, say, sizzling bacon doesn’t fill you with deepest yearning. To which I reply: We’re not insane. We know meat tastes good; it’s why there’s a freezer case at your supermarket full of woefully inadequate meat substitutes. Believe me, if obtaining bacon didn’t require slaughtering a pig, I’d have a BLT in each hand right now with a bacon layer cake waiting in the fridge for dessert.

As a consolation prize we get tofu, a treasure most omnivores are more than happy to do without. Well, this may stun you, but I’m not any more excited about a steaming heap of unseasoned tofu blobs than you are. Tofu is like fugu blowfish sushi: Prepared correctly, it’s delicious; prepared incorrectly, it’s lethal. Very early in my vegetarian career, I found myself famished and stuck in a mall, so I wandered over to the food court’s Asian counter. When I asked the teenage chief culinary artisan what was in the tofu stir-fry, he snorted and replied, “Shit.” Desperation made me order it anyway, and I can tell you that promises have rarely been more loyally kept than this guy’s pledge that the tofu would taste like shit.

* * *

Go to the link on slate if you liked that and read the rest of the article. There’s several more gems in the entire piece.

* canned moosemeat: a specialty of my mother-in-law, it’s diced moose meat (yes, that kind of moose) preserved in a jar. It’s delicious!

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Responses

  1. being vegan is much more strict than vegetarian – no dairy products and no eggs so your daughter’s not vegan if she’ll eat eggs.

    I’ll never be either because I like to eat lean meat a couple of times a week. can live without bacon and salami type products but not without Thai Beef Salad…..

  2. nm: I can’t get the vegan/vegetarian thing straight. I keep reading conflicting definitions!

    I have to admit that I occasionally break down and consume charred mammal flesh. I’m weak!


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