Monday, June 20, 2005

Ode to Kale

Today marks my third year of being a vegetarian. I thought I'd reminisce about the whys and hows of it all. Vegetarianism isn't that interesting of a topic to put on a blog, but I'll try to be funny, at least. Or at least make fun of myself enough to keep you occupied.

The most amusing thing to think about is how my attitude about not eating meat has changed over these last years. I used to swear off meat because I wanted to do my part for oppressed animals everywhere. Well, I'm still a veggie because of that, but now it seems that I just eschew meat out of habit. I rarely think of why I'm not eating it. You can't think about crippled calves or featherless chickens every time you don't buy a red, plastic-wrapped, mushy package. You'd go mad. I don't push my shopping cart past the meat section and think "can't eat any of that..." When people would try to hand me a smoked sausage sample in the supermarket during my first few months as a veggie, I'd put my hands up in the "defend" position, sail past and say "No thanks, I'm a VEGETARIAN". It used to give poor Ramon fits. I browbeat the salesladies at Bath & Body Works because they couldn't guarantee that their products were entirely cruelty-free. Those first few months I'd walk around all day thinking "I'm a vegeTARian. I'm a vegeTARian." I would read every label, agonize (AGONIZE - I even wrote Miss Manners about it, though she never wrote me back) over what I should tell people having me over for a meal - should I tell them a few days before I eat with them that I don't eat meat, or should I just pick it out of my food when I get there and risk freaking them out? I would look at all sorts of food (fried chicken, my dad's steaks, marshmallows, Jell-O, cheese puffs - they contain rennet), smile sadly, wisely, and say: I shall never eat these foods again. I kept close tabs on my hair (would it thin out?), my nails (don't those little white stripes mean protein deficiency?) and my iron levels when I went to give blood. I carefully ate a whole grain AND a legume at every meal, to ensure the consumption of all 14 amino acids at the same time. This is unnecessary, by the way. I calmly waited for my body to magically begin to melt away. Later - a year later - I learned that there is actually a weight gain associated with becoming a vegetarian, of which I partook. Yes. I partook. Oh, the humanity.

Anyway, now I'm a bit blasé about the whole thing, really, I mean who isn't a vegetarian nowadays? Tofurky and Morningstar Farms and even Boca and Gardenburger make things so easy on us herbivores. Tofurky has a bratwurst that's to die for. Earth Balance has a no-trans-fat, non-dairy butter that tastes better than butter. Tofutti has ice cream sandwiches that my omnivore husband likes better than dairy ice cream, and their "Better Than Cream Cheese" tastes...better than cream cheese. IF you can eat it for 3 weeks to get used to it and never, ever eat dairy cream cheese again. I love tofu paté dip. I haven't found a restaurant yet where I can't convince the serving staff to bring me steamed veggies over rice - even Red Lobster, people. And wait staff in restaurants are always nicer if you don't peer at them from behind the menu, arch an eyebrow (okay, both. I can't arch ONE eyebrow) and ask primly, "are ANY of these soups vegeTARian?" I swear I used to do that, then feel oppressed for my righteousness when they worked me over.

NOW, the hard-core thing to do is to be VEGAN. Vegetarians are SO 2001, but VEGANS, walking around looking slender and mystical, are where it's at now. Hoo. I'm not there yet. Better for now to be a pudgy vegetarian who still gets to eat ice cream or a fried egg sandwich if she likes. I'd LIKE to go vegan, since the reason I gave up meat was to stop animals being hurt for my sake and animals used for dairy and eggs are just as mal-treated as meat animals. Or so I've heard. And who am I kidding? I'd love to be slender and mystical.

One thing I refuse to do is preach to people about giving up meat (disregard the former paragraph). I'll tell people why I don't eat meat MYSELF, but I've never gotten on someone's case for remaining omnivorous. I refuse to have dealings with PETA. I don't hand out copies of "Meet Your Meat", though I don't think PETA's bad (just self-righteous and incredibly annoying) or that the disturbing images they tout are made up. Hell, I won't even watch their DVDs or look at their brochures. You're preachin' to the choir, there, friends. I just think the information's out there and people who eat meat are following their path and I'm following mine. Sure, I'd love a world where lambies and little bunnies and cows all walked the earth freely without fear of meeting their fate in an abbattoir, but I don't think browbeating someone with a forkful of steak lifted halfway to their mouth is the answer. Just like I think confronting an overweight person sipping on a shake in McDonald's ain't gonna help them any. And smacking the rodeo queen in the face with a tofu cream pie was just wrong.

Anyway, my protein intake is great (wish I could control my caloric intake a little better, but that's neither here nor there) , my iron levels are still higher than the average woman's (sorry, Aly), my hair looks just fine, thank you, and my conscience...would be a lot clearer if I gave up eggs, milk, honey, wool, silk and the odd pair of leather shoes. Eep. It's a journey, just like everything else, I guess. I miss meat, just like I'll miss eggs and dairy and the rest when I give them up someday. But I'm still glad that I gave it up. I don't even begrudge the Universe that last 15 pounds I gained. Too bad french fries are still OK for me to eat...

Happy nibbling, little bunnies.


Blogger Aly H. said...

Oh, you do make me howl.

I was a vegetarian for about 18 months. It was great, and I actually looked amazing. (I was also working out 6 times a week, which probably had more to do with it.) You already know the whole, sordid blood disorder story...but if that wasn't a factor, I'd be all over the Tofurkey bratwurst.

I'm newly obsessed with the idea that we carnivores should be required to kill our own food. (This is cause for extreme internal conflict, as I am staunchly pro-gun-control.) When we lived in Kenya, we kept sheep, chickens, and a dairy cow - and eating them was an almost mystical experience. Very thank the Great Spirit and that. Anyway, it was a far cry from the Sinclair Lewis freakshow we have in the American meat industry (INDUSTRY!). Blech.

6/21/2005 10:23 AM  

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