It’s been almost two weeks since my last official meat meal. I’m finding vegetarianism interesting so far. I think it must be different to make a dietary change for health reasons – if, when you eat shrimp, you go into anaphalactic shock, then you probably pretty quickly develop an aversion to shrimp. I don’t feel an aversion to meat, really, I just decided not to eat it. Although I feel strongly in an ideological way about meat consumption, I don’t have strong feelings about meat when I see it on a menu or on someone else’s sandwich. It doesn’t gross me out or make me feel ill, which I know happens to some vegetarians (and which does happen for me with broccoli, the one vegetable that I truly cannot bear). A dietary restriction not for reasons of health or taste but for ideological reasons seems sort of unnatural: if the food looks good and smells good, and I can reasonably assume it won’t make me ill, then it seems natural to eat it. I have to keep reminding myself that factory farming of meat isn’t natural. This is a conscious lifestyle choice I’m making for myself, and I guess I’m getting used to what that means.
Two restaurant incidents of note. Last Saturday, F and I stopped at Popeye’s Chicken for biscuits – just one biscuit each, to tide us over until dinner. When we walked in the door, the chicken smell almost knocked me over. I really like fried chicken. I practiced tapas and we got out of there without chowing down on bird flesh, but it was still quite an experience. Just the awareness that I couldn’t have the chicken made the smell more powerful.
Also, last Sunday I had lunch at Subway with my mom. I had never realized before just how meat-centric their menu is. Subway used to be one of my favorite fast food places; I have so many memories of getting the spicy italian sub with my best friend on Saturday afternoons in middle school. Now there is exactly one option on the menu for me – the veggie delite – and I’m not overly fond of Subway’s veggie selections, so this is kind of a letdown. (No pickles and no olives, please, and hold the sweet peppers too.) As soon as we realized that my choices were limited at Subway, Mom offered to go somewhere else, but I need to figure out how to feed myself at normal restaurants, so I said we should stay. My veggie delite was perfectly serviceable. No spicy italian, but pretty okay.
I had the thought that next time I could have them put marinara sauce on the sandwich – I often used to do that with the spicy italian, to turn it into a pizza sub, so this would just be a veggie pizza sub, something I could get excited about. Then I realized that the marinara sauce at Subway has the meatballs sitting in it. There’s likely to be little meat chunks throughout the sauce; I’ve encountered little meatball bits in my spicy italian pizza subs many times. This means the marinara sauce is out for me. I wouldn’t eat chicken broth even if there were no chicken chunks in it, so why would I order marinara sauce that had meatballs sitting in it? I guess I could, since unlike chicken broth the marinara sauce is not intrinsically made of meat, but it still feels like cheating. Overall, I need to measure how far I go with this, how fanatical I want to be. I think it’ll be a long learning process.
“A dietary restriction not for reasons of health or taste but for ideological reasons seems sort of unnatural: if the food looks good and smells good, and I can reasonably assume it won’t make me ill, then it seems natural to eat it.”
That’s an interesting take on that. I agree that there is a different, but for me the ideological reasons make it easier, not harder: it’s not that I shouldn’t eat it (because it’s not healthy) or that I don’t want to eat it because I don’t like it, I choose not to eat it because I think it’s wrong and I don’t want to take part in that industry of death anymore.
Maybe at this point the choice is so ingrained in me that it isn’t difficult anymore, I don’t know. But for me it’s like having seen the matrix, and once you’ve seen what meat and dairy and eggs really are, there’s no going back. Or at least that’s how it is for me.
The smell or sight of meat doesn’t make me sick either, but I don’t know whether it’s conditioning or not, but whenever I think, “Oh, that smells good” I remember what it is that smells good – like Morrissey said, “it’s not comforting, cheery or kind, it’s the sizzling blood and unholy stench of murder”. And then it doesn’t smell good anymore.
As for sauces – if the sauce is made with the meat, it’s not vegetarian. It’s not a matter of being fanatical or not (I really dislike the word in the context; I think “strict” or “consistent” works better). Either you think killing and eating and using animals is wrong or you don’t. If you think it’s wrong, you shouldn’t eat it, or else you’re a hypocrite. Which is fine, too, of course. (I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m calling you a hypocrite, because I really don’t want to do that!)
I like your practice of reminding yourself what that delicious smell is to avoid cravings. And “consistent” is definitely a better word for what I’m going for than “fanatical”. Thanks for your thoughts!
Something else that helps me is knowing that I am not doing this for myself. I’m doing this for the animals, and for all the other people in the world, and for the environment. Like with everything else, when taken in a larger context, my own craving seems very small and insignificant.
As a life time vegetarian, I often wonder how people fare when ‘giving up’ meat cos it cannot be easy! But yes, having a sauce made with meat in it, is very un-vegetarian 😉
I cannot comprehend eating a sandwich that has had the meat removed (yet many times in my life someone has suggested I do just that) .. The sauce thing you mention is the same to me: it’s ‘contaminated’ *grins*
I have some easy, sensible vegetarian recipes on my blog if you’re interested and will check back now and then to see how you’re doing, good for you on giving this a go!
I definitely agree with you about a sandwich that has had the meat removed. I want my own sandwich, thank you! I had just never thought about the sauce issue before. I think I’ll probably have a lot more “realizations” as I move forward in this process that are just common-sense things to everyone else. Thanks for commenting!
Oh I found the comment above interesting if harsh: “Either you think killing and eating and using animals is wrong or you don’t. If you think it’s wrong, you shouldn’t eat it, or else you’re a hypocrite”.
Wonder what they make of a vegetarian who cooks meat, as I do.. lol
My sister-in-law is a vegetarian and also a chef. She had an interesting time in culinary school, because she had to learn how to cook meat just like anyone else. Her classmates had to taste her food for her and tell her how it was.
I am also intrigued by the same statement. My decision falls into a much grayer area because I don’t believe it is wrong to kill, eat, or use animals, but I do think we’ve culturally turned it into an unhealthy and wasteful process. I’m wondering if I’m a hypocrite by this definition…
Well, see, if you think eating meat is okay, that *is* your choice. But then you cannot call yourself a vegetarian, because if you do that the term becomes meaningless. Same goes for vegan – if someone who calls herself vegan goes around eating cheese and keeps calling herself vegan she’s being a hypocrite. I’m not saying people aren’t allowed to eat what they want (although I wish they would think about what they’re doing), but I do have a problem when people misuse and mistreat words like that.
I think that’s why I feel like I’m in a gray area – I’m not vegetarian, but i am pescetarian. But my decision to not eat meat is not based on a belief that it is inherently wrong to consume animals. I *do* think that we raise and distribute meat in an unhealthy way. If, say, I decided to have my own farm, I would have no problem eating my own pigs. I’d know how they were treated and that I was not eating a bunch of hormones and antibiotics and misery. I guess my question is: what is the morality inherent in a voluntary dietary restriction? Does it have to be that killing animals is wrong? I worry about where my food comes from, regardless of if it is animal or vegetable.
Okay, I can see where you are coming from. So this is more a question of health, I’d say, than a question of morality, which certainly allows for more flexibility in terms of what you can do. I wholeheartedly believe that it is wrong to make any living being suffer unnecessarily, which means that I believe it’s wrong to kill or use animals. I’ve often read that vegetarianism is a much more “emotional” choice than veganism – once you’ve come to see things a certain way, it’s a matter of logic. I hope this makes sense!
But I stand by my saying that the words we use to describe our eating habits matter, and we should take care to match them to our lifestyles, otherwise the words lose their meaning.
restaurants are tough. i’m debating whether or not to cut fish out of my diet, but i have to say it’s been a real life saver at times, like work travel, to still have the tuna sandwich option. because otherwise there are rarely sandwich options. which is sad cause there are loads of amazing veg sandwiches that can be made!
there will be times when you have no options if you’re going to hold to your voluntary dietary restrictions. i’ve encountered this more than once. sometimes i’m hungry and i’ve gotten a bit irrationally angry about it. it’s something i’m still struggling with and working on.
Thanks for commenting. I’m definitely having an interesting time on this AZ trip with restaurants, which I’ll post more about later. It’s an ongoing challenge.
Restaurants are difficult at first, but it does get easier. If you stick with it, choices like where to eat and what to eat will become more intuitive. But the lure of fried chicken will never go away. Just so you know. Also, the smell wafting from grilled meats gets me every time. But, because it’s been so long since I’ve indulged, all I have to do is remember how eating it makes me feel (heavy and sleepy, if not sick) and that allows me to enjoy the smell and not crave the source. Good luck!
Thanks, Sara! I’ve already figured out that Quiznos is better (for me) than Subway, so I’ve got sandwich shops covered so far. 🙂