When I first moved to Austin, I wanted to write a little something on my return to the world of carnivores. This is what I wrote and have never posted. Although it states I have no dietary restrictions, I do believe strongly in organic food, sustainable meat, and the Slow Food movement but I can write another piece on that later. So here it is- my coming out. I’m not a vegetarian anymore:
I remember it well- just a normal day passing by the restaurant kitchen I passed by just the day before. A hurried server rushed by with two cheeseburgers made to order. I double checked the ticket to keep an eye on the line. One with blue cheese melting onto the plate, the other with cheddar and a side of french fries. That was it. I wanted it. Wherever that permeating smell of flesh came from, I wanted it.
What used to smell like charred flesh to me now just seemed like a good idea.
I don’t know what changed that day. Possibly a temporary shift in hormonal glands, an instinctive yearning for iron and protein, or maybe just the universe telling me that not eating meat might not be my true calling.
I gradually stopped eating meat when I was 16. I never really had a true motivation- I couldn’t claim myself to be the largest animal rights advocate and never thought too much about the state of my intestines but I was strongly influenced by high school peer pressure. I never felt like I had to drink or smoke to fit in but I hung out with the kind of people who peer pressured you into vegetarianism- diatribes on factory farming and how the veggie delight at Subway was the cool thing to do. So you try it and you stop it for a while and then thinking of where that meat is coming from starts to take over. Just when I thought I was just taking a tiny break from large steaks and bacon- my turkey looked up at me from my Thanksgiving plate. The shrimp in my Chinese food takeout were never the same again. There it began- seven years of foliage and some more nutritional exploration.
In those seven years, I tried everything. At one point, I felt like cheese was just wrong and went vegan thanks to some skinny bitches. I remember rice salads and faux turkey slices. At one point, I tried Taoist guidelines and ate nothing but vegetable and nut butters (but not peanut) to clear up my Qi. I also ate salads, seeds, Larabars throughout the day trying to get that raw glow and I also tried living off of maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and lemon juice for a week managing to get that green and gaunt glow.
Then that fateful day in that restaurant kitchen came along. The questions, the whatifs, the pros and cons lists of whether I should change back to my carnivorous ways. I went back the way I came and started slowly-chicken broths and organic chicken breasts. Then came the grass-fed burger and the floodgates opened. There I went consuming everything. I ordered bacon at the diner, plates of serrano ham and chorizo, turkey curries, seared lamb salads, barbecued brisket and ribs, fried chicken livers, and sausages made from wild boar and deer.
My culinary world opened up. A love and a passion of mine- cooking, travel, and food always shoved to the side- changed and became a world accessible. A woman- after managing a restaurant and strangely enjoying her work- found it could be a possibility for life’s work. For years- I had put my strange obsessions with Anthony Bourdain (self-proclaimed hater of vegetarians), Top Chef episodes, and celebrity chef restaurants off to the side because that realm without meat would be half of a world missing. Starting with that first chicken tortilla soup- I could now write about food, I could cook all food, I could eat all food, experience all food, and all at the side of Anthony Bourdain no less. With that first bite of a charcuterie- I had a found a living and that a diet of eating everything made with the same love in which I ate was the best one I could take on.
Having the experience of being a vegetarian, I have the utmost respect for those who believe in what they do (and I am personally kind of afraid of running into old friends) but there’s another end of it- who also believe in what they do. There will be no middle ground and no answer but we all eat what we believe will enrich our lives. At this point in time, I’m all about the experience.