I was a vegetarian for about 5 years, vegan for 3 of those. I did such a terrible job making sure I got necessary amounts of iron and B12 and really any other vitamin besides nicotine and alcohol, that when I got pregnant, I reversed course: No nicotine, no alcohol, no caffeine, and I craved meat like a (enter crass meat-craving double entendre here). So ended my highly-political reasons for vegetarianism.
Fast forward 16 years.
I’d rarely eat beef, replacing it with poultry when cooking for the family — when suddenly I developed a severe aversion to poultry. My ardent love of chicken had been replaced with an inborn need to turn my head, hand over my mouth. What was happening to me?
I tried eating a turkey burger and ended up gagging and running to the trash can.
Where did this come from?? I love eating turkey! My dad was the BEST barbecuer of that bird in the history of barbecuers. Thanksgiving was all about noshing on turkey skin. Crispy, crunchy fat-ladened-turkey skin AND NOTHING ELSE! (Well, yeah. Except the whole “thankful” thing.)
I just can’t stomach poultry anymore, no matter how it’s prepared. There is something in the smell, I think. I just … I can’t.
The only meat I didn’t and still don’t eat for non-food-aversion reasons was/is pork. I think the mass-factory farming of pork is just vile. (It was the fecal swamps that pushed me past my edge.) Thing is… I love pork. I love bacon and ham and chops and sausage … I really do my gawd! Linguica! Chorizo! It’s a heavenly mish-mash of meat and fat and whatever else… but my sense of empathy for the people that live in communities surrounding pork factory farms is too large to allow me to consume it. (And clearly the pork industry has been devastated by my abstention.)
So what is a meat-loving-can-no-longer-stomach-meat girl supposed to do?
I am not your typical vegetarian. While I do feel desperately sorry for slaughterhouse animals, it wasn’t always that way. I was fine with staring into their cute little faces and imagining scarfing them down with some kind of savory sauce. I’d been eating animals for a long, long time — almost my entire life — but as soon as the aversions started, well … so increased my empathy for those widdle faces, and my resolve to avoid eating them.
Have I told you how much I love the taste of a fillet? Or a rib eye? OhmyGAWD I love beef. Even the fat around the edge of a good steak. With garlic. With ketchup. With A1. With lime. Whatever — I LOVE IT. Beef is the only meat I can stomach.
But I don’t eat it anymore.
What’s my problem?
In part, beef is called “cows” when alive. And cows have cute faces, and apparently, personalities. And when I really examined my beef intake (minimal to begin with) and protein needs (pretty low), I realized wow — HOW MANY resources are going into creating that occasional rib eye I so enjoy? According to the Sierra Club, “16 pounds of wheat and up to 2,500 gallons of water are necessary to produce one pound of grain-fed beef.” Gulp. Add the amount of hormones and antibiotics found in beef, and well … I soon couldn’t eat beef, either.
So here I am, an overly-empathetic meat-lover with food aversions who is now a born-again vegetarian (much to the surprise of my family). Am I an advocate? An activist? An ardent believer in flowy clothes, comfortable shoes and all-things soy?
Meh. I do like comfortable shoes. For everything else, I believe that, like all things in life, what one chooses for oneself is one’s own business. What one puts down one’s gullet is no business of mine. I have to follow my own convictions (or lack thereof), and currently, my gut tells me that eating meat has again gone the way of nicotine use and the over-consumption of alcohol of long ago.
It’s something I just can’t stomach.
—By Traci Arbios, herdingsquirrels.com
Traci Arbios is a mom, stepmom, and working mom. She lives with and writes about her blended family of seven kids, five pets and one amazingly patient husband at www.herdingsquirrels.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or zap her on twitter, @girlmonkey.