Friday, July 20, 2012

A Meating of the Minds

     The child is the father of the man, according to William Wordsworth. It was my daughter who got me to be a vegetarian.

     Well, not quite. But close.

     My daughter gave up meat when she was in high school. At first she just stopped eating things that looked like they came from an animal -- a pork chop or a chicken leg. They grossed her out. She still ate hamburgers and other super-processed foods from fast food restaurants. But eventually she gave up meat entirely. I remember the last item of meat on her personal menu was chicken McNuggets from McDonald's. They looked nothing like any animal -- just an oblong piece of food you dip in some tasty sauce.

So cute!
     But finally she gave up McNuggets as well. "I don't eat anything that has to die," became her motto. She still ate cheese and milk and eggs. (Okay, the eggs are questionable, but I'm not judging, I'm just reporting.)

     The last two years of high school, and throughout college, she was a strict vegetarian. She ate lots of pasta and tofu and other soy products. And whenever she came home, she was never shy about lecturing us on the cruel conditions at slaughterhouses and the health hazards of ingesting animal products.

     She finally got to me. I started noticing bits of gristle and bone in my hamburgers, and when I did, they didn't seem so appetizing. A pork chop started looking way too much like an animal's rib, and a steak, to my mind, became nothing but a hunk of flesh wrapped around a bone.

     But I couldn't go all the way. I love fish -- swordfish and salmon and shrimp and scallops. They taste good and are light and full of protein. And most of all, they don't remind me of a barnyard.

     I also decided that chicken would be okay, and turkey. So I gave up red meat. And you know what? It didn't seem like a sacrifice at all. Not to me anyway.

     B, my significant other, complained at first about how this cramped her style in the kitchen. Plus, her kids live on hot dogs and hamburgers. But I didn't mind if she cooked up a ham or a meatloaf. I just ate the potatoes and the veggies and the bread. Spaghetti? No problem. She makes the tomato sauce and the meatballs, and serves the meatballs on the side. And when we have a cookout, I just throw a turkey burger on the grill next to the regular hamburgers. A turkey burger is just as good. And besides, when you get finished adding on the cheese and the lettuce and tomato and ketchup and pickles, who can tell the difference anyway?

No thanks
     I've been on my no-red-meat diet for about five years now. I've lost a few pounds (not many, because I haven't cut back on desserts) and my cholesterol is down by about 15 points. Nothing major, but every little bit helps.

     I don't stand on any high moral ground about my semi-vegetarian life. I figure, something's got to die in order for people to eat. That's the way the world works. But I do occasionally think about those poor cows being led down the chute, and then the guillotine drops, the knees buckle, the animals drop to the ground and bleed out. And then the butchers start hacking away at the meat and bone and sinew of the animals, and if something drops onto the floor, they just pick it up, spit on it to clean it off, and throw it back into the hopper. And if they nick themselves in the process and a little of their own blood gets in there as well -- aah, nobody will notice.

     I've just decided that red meat is kind of disgusting. It's not for me. You guys . . . you go ahead, cut the meat, gnaw at the bone, lick up the blood . . . I mean the juice on your plate.

     I don't mind. But for me, please pass the potatoes.

     Meanwhile, my daughter is now grown up, and she no longer subjects us to her self-righteous lectures about meat when she comes over for dinner. Indeed, she's softened her vegetarian stance -- I've seen her nibble on a piece of fish or take a bite of beef.

     Last time she was here she drove me over to the mall. There, on the floor of the back seat of her car, was an empty cardboard carton from McDonald's. You guessed it. McNuggets.


Olga said...

I am a sometimes vegetarian, an almost veetarian, whatever. I actually prefer grains and vegetables, but sometimes I just get tired of having to cook two different meals.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

I'm with you, Tom -- a semi-vegetarian, aspiring to become totally vegetarian with the possible exception of fish. But I don't say anything about it around here -- not to eat red meat in this area is total heresy!

Stephen Hayes said...

Lots of young people go through an experimental stage, but like your daughter they grow out of it.

June said...

Since Husband's heart attack we've been way closer to vegetarianism, and further from MEAT than ever before.
It's easy in these warm months . . . so much wonderful fresh vegetable food to be had. I wonder how we'll do when it's cold beef stew in the crockpot weather.

schmidleysscribblins, said...

I'm on the Weight Watcher diet and can eat anything I want as long as I stay within my allotted points. A slice of bacon is one point and an egg 3-4 depending. We eat mostly Kosher bacon (??) but lately, I bought bacon from my granddaughter who works on a meat-producing farm here in VA.

We don't eat much red meat at all, being mostly chicken and fish people. Dianne

Mac n' Janet said...

I'm an omnivore and though I wish animals were brought to market in a more humane way I still plan on eating them. I make no apologies.

Arkansas Patti said...

I tend to go back and forth, sometimes strick then others kind of wishywashy. Red meat is almost completely gone from my table, chicken has been reduced. I do eat porkloin on occasion. I eat a lot of fake, soy based meat and turkey.
Funny about the McNuggets.

Catch Her in the Wry said...

Humans have front canine teeth for a reason - to tear meat. Your mouth is made for ripping into meat and chewing. I haven't seen a vegetarian yet who would file down their canine teeth so they can grind plant based foods better.

The healthy thing is to just eat meat in moderation like everything else.

Linda Myers said...

After six weeks on a no-meat, no-dairy, no-fat diet, we're setting into a more normal way. Lots of fruits and vegetables, no dairy except occasional cheese, small portions of meat. Works for us!

Dick Klade said...

I am amused by another delightfully written post, but not quite converted.

QwkDrw said...

There may be health benefits that come from not eating a lot, or any, red meat. To me, this is more important than some politically correct group-think logic


naomi dagen bloom said...

Wandered over from your comment at TimeGoesBy to find your evenly-considered post. Without saying so directly, you make an excellent case for the possibility of change in older lives. We can use more credit for that--thanks.