Monday, July 21, 2008

To Pig or Not to Pig- My Struggle with Vegetarianism

At age 12 I gave up meat. I think that perhaps it was an overdose of "Charlotte's Web" at a young age, or perhaps it was the fact that I am a complete bleeding heart and would be physically incapable of ever killing an animal, but I told my mother I would not eat meat anymore. This was completely unacceptable to her. I lived in a house with four other meat eaters (my parents, brother and sister) and she was not going to cook a special meal for me every night (understandably). But I felt VERY passionate about my inability to eat Wilbur or any of his buddies and I held my ground. Eventually we came to a compromise, I would continue to eat fish and poultry but I would cut out the main barnyard creatures. No more pigs, cows, lambs, etc. I was never a huge meat lover to begin with so this was not a problem. I have always hated pepperoni pizza and preferred salad over steak, so the personal change was not as tough.

When I went to college I became a total vegetarian. No more chicken and fish. I even went through 9 months in Europe without tasting one bistecca Fiorentina or a authentic moussaka or souvlaki. I have never felt as though I was missing out on too much, but recently I have begun dabbling back into the meat world. The world of the Omnivores. Now, I have always been surrounded by said omnivores. I am friends with them, I date them, I am related to them, I even live with them. It never bothered me, it was more a "to each his own" kind of sentiment. But since I have started dabbling in the meats (there is now a bite about once a week. And I ate a strip of flank steak last night) I am beginning to feel guilty and have some remorse.

This morning John and I were driving through China town on our way to work and we saw a large truck. As we were nearing said vehicle, it became apparent that the contents of this 4-wheeled monstrosity were pig carcasses. Yes, they were filling it to the brim. I was shocked! Now, I know that bacon, pancetta, pork, and guanciale and all other funny words are actually a nice way to say "dead pig prepared in the manner of..." Yes, I am not naive. But somehow seeing an entire truck filled with the little guys makes it all more real. This is not one single strip of bacon that I am eating (I usually like to say I am just tasting it, for some reason the euphemism makes it less cruel)but I am a responsible party in the butchering of animals. I am an active consumer of animals and it made me feel awful. Now, I believe I am actually overestimating my meat consumption. I have yet to actually purchase any red meat (I know Pork is "the other white meat" but I put it in the same category). I buy fish and chicken, but I actually eat those in only small amounts as well.

So, what to do/ Do I continue my exploration into the dark world of the omnivores? Or do I rapidly remove myself and go back to my old ways? I have thought about going to complete vegetarianism again too. How long would it last? Well, the problem is John eats the meat, and I am a sucker for sushi. My brief foray into veganism made me realize that I am capable of eating that way and will try to eat a mainly vegan diet for many of my meals, but I cannot exclude cheese from my diet. I could probably never eat cream again, or milk, ice cream or even yogurt, but not the cheese. I am weak for it. I love it. It makes me smile/ I'll save my cheese love for another day. But what is a girl to do. When you starting walking down a path do you embrace it or not?

Well, I have yet to decide but I know this, I will never be a huge meat eater ever. I do not like it that much and I am TRULY dedicated to attempting to buy food that is GOOD for this earth. I try to shop at local markets, buy from local brands, and I am lucky that the Bay Area has some of the more incredible food producers in the country. I enjoy supporting places like the Cowgirl Creamery and the Acme Bread Company. So, am I going to purchase a steak one day? I have no idea. I still have huge issues with the slaughtering of animals and really don't want that in my body very often. So what should I do? I guess I will figure it out. Maybe it will just come to me organically...


Caroline said...

Thanks for sharing, I think a lot of people can relate to this, myself included :)

eclecticgrocer said...

That's a difficult struggle. I was briefly a vegetarian in college, but gave into the pressures (as it were... more of a convenience, really) of eating meat.

With my recent cholesterol results though, I'm now ever more mindful of the downside of fatty meats, so I have stuck to turkey and fish for a few weeks since visiting the doctor.

I can see going vegetarian at some point. I can't see veganism as an answer for me, though, as I too am a sucker for a good cheese. And malted milk shakes :)

I'm curious to see you discuss this more. It's an internal conflict for a lot of us, and it's interesting to see you express it externally.