Hi, my name is Aimee, and I’m a vegetarian. Well sort of…I allow some seafood. Ok, so I eat a lot of sushi, and oysters too! And yes, I eat eggs, but only the organic vegetarian cage free variety. Plus I eat dairy, although I try to only have organic if possible. (Hey, I never claimed to be a vegan.) Oh the justifications. Its complicated. Yes Mom, I eat raw fish but not cooked beef. Call me crazy.
I used to think that I had to be all or nothing, or somehow I wasn’t as “good” as the other vegetarians. After moving from Seattle to Chicago, I found that being a vegetarian in the Midwest was regarded quite the opposite of “good” and actually more like walking around with a huge flashing “I’M AN ALIEN” sign above my head. Chicago = Baconfest. I’m living in the most meat centric city I know of. I’m lucky to find a vegetarian salad on most menus!
My husband Mark has told me that if I choose to eat fish or possibly expand my diet to include chicken broth (gasp), no one is going to knock down our door and steal my vegetarian badge. I’m trying to wrap my mind around possibly dabbling in the carnivorous world. I’m evaluating my dietary reasoning. Why exactly am I a vegetarian?
First of all, there is childhood trauma around eating family pets. That brown oily meat that didn’t taste like chicken? Ya, that was our pet duck Priscilla, who apparently was terrorizing the flock and needed to be taken out. Thanks Dad. Add to that various other unappetizing encounters with antelope, elk, buffalo, beaver, and horse, and voila, the groundwork has been set for a vegetarian lifestyle! Did I mention that I was tricked into eating Rocky Mountain Oysters as a child too?
Secondly, my beef with beef. I’ve never liked the taste or texture of it (with the exception of lean ground very very well cooked beef heavily drowned in taco seasoning). I disliked hamburgers my whole childhood. I would beg my mother to burn them into little hockey pucks that I would then smother in spicy mustard. I’ve never had a Whopper. I hid my Grandmother’s weekly Sunday pot roast in my napkin and happily helped clear the plates so I could toss it in the trash. I’ve had 2 steaks in my entire life. I don’t like red meat. I never have and most likely, never will. That also applies to rabbit, duck, antelope, and horse.
As for the “other” meats, I did like chicken and turkey. But just the breasts. With the skin removed. And the extra fat trimmed. And the veins and any gristly chewy stringy things completely obliterated! Well, you get the point.
The third and final straw that sent me over the edge was a book recommended to me by a vegan who wanted to “help” me. After reading said terrifying book, I couldn’t fathom ever taking another bite of any meat. Eating “the terror of the animal” was just too much to handle. Knowing that my highly processed, plumped up, white chicken breasts were coming from cruel, unsafe, unsanitary factory farms pretty much ruined what little enthusiasm I had left for meat. I’d already mostly given up pork and beef. Giving up all the rest wasn’t that hard. I did it cold turkey, so to speak.
On a more reasonable note, eating a mostly plant based diet is a very environmentally friendly practice. The amount of water resources and feed it takes to produce a single animal is absurd. Not to mention the deforestation, water pollution, and methane gasses that factory farms are proven to cause. I’ve always taken pride in knowing that my (mostly) vegetarian lifestyle was making a greater environmental impact than if I gave up driving altogether. Being a vegetarian gives me environmental warm fuzzies. Yet another reason to be meat free!
After almost 15 years of avoiding meat, I have developed what my very tolerant husband refers to as “The ICK Factor”. If you think about eating road kill, that is how I perceived eating meat. ICK, that’s gross, right? But slowly, I’m trying to retrain my brain and distinguish different foods for what they are. If for nothing else, to not “ICK” my husband’s “YUM”. Fast food mystery meat? ICK. Organic chicken broth? Maybe not so ick after all. Packaged ground beef at Costco? ICK. Organic farm raised chicken? Hmmm, I could possibly eat this…
I’m able to prepare it again and serve it to other people (but only if its free range and organic). I’m not quite there to consume it myself, but I’m making an effort to be more accepting. I allowed wild caught seafood back into my diet years ago and am able to eat it with a clear conscious (except for that poor tuna that I’ll probably have to give up before it goes extinct). I’m able to eat dairy with the stipulation that its organic and the cows are pasture raised. Now if I can just find a happy cage free chicken who had a good healthy life and attempt to have a taste of it. I’ll let you know how it goes, if i can actually do it. One bite at a time.