Over the years I’ve revised my ideas about most things, often multiple times, and food is no exception. When I was maybe 5 or 6 I decided that I didn’t like red meat. And by red meat I meant steak and burgers. Lasagna, tacos and other foods graced by Big Bessy somehow still made the cut. Unless my memory fails, which is a distinct possibility, it all started during a backyard BBQ when I saw the burger patties being formed for the grill. Pink, squishy, bloody things and I was supposed to eat that? I had always been what I will generously call a “challenging” eater. Looking back, I’m not sure if I actually disliked the foods I refused to eat, or just revelled in the drama of it all. Once I wouldn’t eat my peas and my parents told me I was welcome to go ahead and eat the peas or sit at the table until they sprouted wings and took a kamikaze flight down my gullet.
I sat there all night.
So when I refused to eat a burger and my mum acknowledged that she was also not a big red meat eater, I was delighted by the adult acceptance of this refusal. This was not being picky. This was making an adult decision. And I stuck by this decision, into my twenties -loudly decrying “big hunks of bloody meat” and talking about meat and potato eaters like some musicians talk about jocks.
And in the summer of 2004 I moved to France. In France, to cook a steak you ceremonially circle the meat over the flames as a grandfatherly Turkish man swirls the tea leaves in your cup before reading your future. My largely fabricated notions of “red meat” and its dubious connection with jersey wearers was made submissive to the stronger need to be a polite guest and eat what I was given. I loved it.
If France was a turning point in my approach to red meat then South Korea would change forever my intimate knowledge of what a squid looks and tastes like when it’s still moving on the plate set down in front of you. Or the even more challenging proposition of prying the twitching muscles of an octopuses suckers from a plastic plate and trying to not let it leave a hickey on the inside of my air passage way -thus rendering me incapacitated.
Since then I’ve developed a taste for almost any kind of fermented vegetable and even eaten horsemeat (at least I knew what I was eating and it was local: Mislabeled food, slavery and the food industry) while couchsurfing in a lovely town in Italy outside of Firenze.
So what possessed me to try going vegan for a week? Lactose intolerant friends and family, gained knowledge about the hellish feedlot factories, the pollution created from said feedlots, the obesity epidemic and other issues have led me to look into food choices that I once thought were crazy.
A goal I have for myself is to be mindful and intentional about the things I say and do however, I often do not apply this to what I purchase and what I put into my body. Every thing we consume in the US is a choice. The equivalent to a vote, a Facebook like, a request to produce more of the same. And I wasn’t sure what I was voting for was the kind of food I actually wanted playing a large role in my life.
What would it be like to cut out all animal products? How hard would it to find/prepare meals, how would I feel and what would I miss?
The first question turned out to be: ridiculously easy. Living in Chicago, there is a plethora of vegan options within walking distance, let alone a metro ride away. I didn’t feel as Tinkerbell light and bottled water commercial “pure” as I thought, but towards the end I did feel a difference in my body’s energy levels and digestion. Interestingly, I didn’t crave non-vegan foods as much as I thought I would. Eggs, meat and milk were barely missed at all but cheese and chocolate baked goods were on my mind frequently. The first non-vegan thing to touch my lips was an oreo stuffed brownie. I ate two bites and couldn’t finish it! Not being a quitter, I returned to the brownie later and dispatched it honourably.
Now that I’m “free” to eat whatever I like again, I still find myself gravitating towards certain vegan and vegetarian options. In rehashing our joint venture, my partner and I have decided to make our Wednesday cooking night vegan (as well as the whole day) and possibly start doing Meatless Monday with some of our other friends.
Throughout this mini-quest I was amazed at the amount of people that I once saw devour beef (because in Missouri, it’s What’s For Dinner) and other animal products, who have since become vegan, nearly vegan, vegetarian or pescetarian. I was made aware of considerable changes many people are making to their lives and it has only fuelled my interest in the topic.
It has been my observation that a majority of people, myself included, are wary of marked changes in their lives -in addition to lacking the diligence to implement the ones they want to embrace. Change is something we both fear and long for in the deepest place inside of ourselves.
Therefore, if the people around me around me are changing -I want to try to understand the why and the how of that transformation.
Here is a great website I found thanks to a book recommendation by a librarian friend. The author of “Veganomicon,” the ultimate vegan cookbook, Isa Chandra Moskowitz runs this site Post Punk Kitchen and I’m excited to make her pink, squishy, bloody-red beet burger. ^^