Somehow a former co-worker and I had gotten into a conversation that led to him asking “Do you eat meat?” Which has really become a standard question asked of me.
“Yes,” I answered, “but not a lot.”
“What’s your favorite meat?” He followed up with only to answer, “chicken, right?” Which wasn’t such an odd assumption either. Something about my petite physique or the meals I pack for work or…something commonly causes people to assume that I’m healthy. Not that I think I am. Or, maybe his guess was based on the idea that it’s the unassuming meat that tastes like everything and so it’s the kind of meat a non-meat-eater might eat.
“No, it’s steak…beef,” I answered.
Which certainly took him by surprise.
But, it’s true.
Around my teenage years, faced with forcing myself to eat another meaty dinner, I thought a lot about becoming a vegetarian. Vegetables were awesome. My parents say that instead of telling me to eat my vegetables in order to get dessert they would tell me to eat my meat in order to get more vegetables. Once, as a seven year old at Disney World, I ordered a vegetable plate while out to dinner. Every so once in a while — as a rare treat — I’d get to eat nothing but vegetables at home.
I didn’t consider it to be morally wrong to eat meat and I’d given it considerable thought. Seeming to be an evolutionary addition to the diet both old and sweeping enough it seemed reasonable to consider meat eating natural — native to our beings rather than invasive let’s say. I thought about other carnivores and omnivores such as lions and vultures and cats. Humans don’t seem better than all of they. We’re all on this planet together and our ideas of better than is based on our ideas. (Except for roaches and fire ants — I’ve never heard a good thing about these evil beings.) It’s not fair to judge them only by our standards. Perhaps to the bird building a nest it’s architecture. Perhaps the dolphin is thinking philosophy while it swims. If I don’t think it’s wrong for a carnivore to eat another animal then it’s okay for me as well. Though this statement has never been received well.
There are a lot of ethical problems with the industry, but that is equally true for plant products. It’s true for the dairy industry too and I’ve never seriously considered going vegan. There is a lot of waste in the cuts and varieties of meat consumed, but that is equally true for plant products.
I considered what it would be like to eat only vegetables, what it would be like to not eat meat. Any meat. Here is where I got stuck. I do really like a roast chicken, but roasted root vegetables are pretty swell too. There’s a lot of sauces that are fabulous, but, well, they are fabulous on pasta and rice and vegetables too. Seafood I could give up easily. Then came the umami — hamburgers, steak, stew. These aren’t replaceable. I craved them for their meatiness. Yet, I’ve never craved the acquired tastes of a veggie burger or tofu or seitan or any of those other alternatives. Sometimes I’ve craved a portobello, but only because it is a mushroom and I really like those.
With that I decided against becoming a vegetarian. Being in charge of my own meals (remember this all happened as a teenager) has been very helpful. I can primarily eat the whole foods — vegetables, fruits, nuts, and grains — I really do crave day after day. I do try to eat as much kind foods as my budget will stretch to allow. Happy cows and happy farmers. I regularly scold myself for failing to eat enough variety whether that be animal or plant. I’ve never killed my own meat. Which I kind of think is something that should be done, but I’m scared (or should I say too chicken) to.
I try. Which perhaps is what I’m trying to say.
In trying I’ve managed to make some really good stews and very good steak. Yet, I’ve never managed to make a really good hamburger. I always have to resort to the turkey variety at home and the beef variety out and about. While my dad might still make the ultimate grilled burger…the one I grew up with…the one that led my omnivorous ways…Austin has been getting much better at this. There are now respectable hamburger choices many of which are walking distance from my home. Which I’m sure has nothing to do with why I live here.