From Chicken to Merely Insufferable

I quit smoking over a decade ago after 2 or 30 attempts, depending on how you count them and I’m seeking to eliminate another addiction: meat – also delicious when smoked. I want to become a vegetarian. The decision to give up my carnivorous ways has evolved over the last few years. My mother has been a vegan since her mid-50s and my daughter, who never really liked the taste of meat, announced that she was a vegetarian at the ripe old age of 4. She learned that meat was from animals and that was it. So grandma, stop sending her vegetarian propaganda – you’re preaching to the choir.

I was raised eating meals where meat was the jewel in the crown. My cooking experience is all about matching side dishes to a meat. I love the smell of grilled pork chops, the spiciness in chicken fajitas and on occasion, a big juicy burger when my body screams for a little iron….sigh. There are a lot of reasons for me to make this change, but foremost is that I want to align my actions with my values. The deliberate raising and killing of other creatures for my benefit doesn’t fit with my belief that I should be a steward and not just a consumer of the planet. It’s hard to think about that when you’re hungry, though.

Since having a child, I’ve made many changes to my eating lifestyle. No more fast food runs or meals without vegetables. And a lot of conversations about what mom and dad are eating. The pleasure of eating meat is ruined when your child grills you about what animal it comes from and how it was killed. Sometimes the simple wisdom of children makes you want to snarf down your meal in the garage.

I grew up in small towns in Iowa. I’ve seen hogs and chickens killed and it felt like watching a horror show – until it lay nicely sliced on my dinner plate. It’s a dichotomy reinforced by the fact that now we get our meat mid-process from the grocery store. It no longer looks like an animal – until my daughter chimes in, “did it want to die?” Her natural curiosity reminds me that I need to make choices that are aligned with my heart, emotionally and artery-wise.

The problem with giving up any addiction is that you pick up other, more awful habits: self-righteousness and talking about your choice ad nauseam. I suspect if it’s anything like giving up cigarettes, I’ll be trailing behind servers at restaurants trying to get a whiff of grilled burgers and salivating while watching someone else eat. Once I feel confident that I’ve kicked the habit, I will become virulently anti-meat eating, making “harrumph” sounds whenever a friend orders it for a meal and announcing loudly that I haven’t had meat in a year. In short, I’ll be a real dick about it.

I’ll admit that I’m anti-smoking. I’ve worked in environments where people lived for the next smoke break or where people were so anti-smoking, I didn’t want them to know I had ever smoked, lest they think less of me. I feel strongly about it because it is a profitable addiction that benefits entities other than the actual smoker.   I knew it was bad for me and I still did it, both for the addictive relaxation and for the fact that it isolated me with other self-destructive outsiders. Or as I usually refer to them, my friends.

It takes a lot of self-perception and respect not to impinge upon other people’s choices when it comes to breaking my own habits and addictions. It takes so much effort to make a change that my thinking becomes one-tracked. It’s all I can think about day and night. Before I know it, I’m licking bacon grease from a McMuffin wrapper in the neighbor’s garbage. Change is hard. Explaining to your neighbor why you are licking their garbage, even harder.

I am hoping that my attempts to convert to a vegetarian lifestyle aren’t as numerous as when I quit smoking. All I can do is try, try again until the smell of Chipotle doesn’t give me the DTs. Then I can ride my high horse – just as long as I don’t eat it.

18 Comments on “From Chicken to Merely Insufferable

  1. “Before I know it, I’m licking bacon grease from a McMuffin wrapper in the neighbor’s garbage.” Funny!

    Good luck, and more power to you! I’m afraid I’m an unabashed carnivore, proud of my status atop the food chain. I’ve never had that sense of revulsion, but I’ve fished and hunted, which might make a difference.

    My question: can we not be both steward and consumer? I’m not sure they need to be exclusive.

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    • I don’t think we have a choice in being a consumer, but I’m trying to ameliorate my guilt by becoming less of one. There’s a lot of arguments for health and the tremendous amount of damage done by industrial ranching. For me, it still comes down to not believing in treating other creatures cruelly, yet scarfing down their flesh at a moment’s notice. It’s a personal contradiction I’d like to resolve.

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      • I can appreciate that, and I agree to some extent. I don’t eat a lot of meat, but I wouldn’t give it up willingly (same for cigars). When you try to provide meat for a country of 300 million people, things do get ugly. And it isn’t an efficient use of resources; it takes a lot of energy to make meat. (I suspect that someday we’ll clone steaks in a vat, and then a lot of the animal treatment part goes away.) I’m supportive of people who make the choice you do; I’m just not one of them. (I did go vegan for three years shortly after college, but I realized I missed chicken enchiladas too much.)

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        • It’s definitely going to be a challenge! Chicken enchiladas are on the top of my list of foods that tofu can’t improve!

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  2. Kids are great for questioning things that most of us take for granted. Our family has been vegetarian for over 5 years but my son never ate meat he couldn’t swallow the stuff. I stopped giving it to him when one day when he was about 3 I saw a huge blob protruding from his cheek, he had just stashed a wad of turkey there after chewing it like gum for god knows how long, poor guy couldn’t get the stuff down. I can honestly tell you that any meat dish you love can easily be replicated without the use of animals, it’s all about the sauces and spices not the protein itself. The first vegetarian cookbook I ever got was Moosewood Restaurants New Classics it really made the transition much easier. Good luck!

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    • Thanks! Our family is actually having fun experimenting and our daughter decided spinach was okay this summer (big victory!). I have a Moosewood cookbook and am looking forward to a long winter of trying out recipes. Right now we’re enjoying a lot of fresh fruit and veggies.

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  3. You can do it! There are so many vegan bloggers on WordPress. Lots of amazing recipes. Have you checked out the post punk kitchen website? Veganomicon cookbook? I started out with the Moosewood cookbooks 20 years ago… they are great, but things have come a looooong way. You will find so many new, wonderful foods to enjoy. Cheers!

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    • Thanks for the encouragement and info. The challenge is changing how I think about meals, as well as improving my cooking skills (and patience). I’ll have to dig around in the blogs and take a look at that cookbook. Thanks for reading!

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  4. I have cookbooks for you, cooking veg/vegan is what made me like cooking! There is a good cookbook I just checked out from the library titled something like vegan cooking for the carnivore.. Good stuff!
    Oh and your story about being ashamed to admit you ever smoked reminds me of my days hanging out with people I refer to as the vegan mafia, I was warned by a friend in the group to not let then know I was only vegetarian, not vegan ( which of course made me want to shout it at them to see what would happen, they were pacifists so what could it hurt)

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    • This is the kind of virulence that I’m talking about – very funny about them being pacifists as well. Will definitely be looking over your cookbooks!

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  5. Was referred by a friend to your very wonderful blog – love it! Thank you for exploring these ideas out loud 🙂

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  6. Thank you for your wonderful blog! A friend referred me, and I really enjoyed the way you explore ideas out loud. Keep it up!

    – Hannah, of smartsexyvegan.com 😉

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      • Strength in numbers!! Yeah, I’m excited about it 🙂 Just downloaded Spanish Level One!

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  7. Pingback: The Green Study Hits the Road, Jack | The Green Study

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