I’d been planning to write this post for awhile, and then Chandelle’s recent conversation about meat-eating inspired me to actually sit down and pound it out…
In the late afternoon my Mom would often set some meat on the counter to defrost for that night’s dinner. It was usually some chicken or ground beef. From that she would cook all kinds of typical American dinner foods. When I was little I thought those packages of thawing meat were beautiful and I loved to scrape a line of frost off the top of the package and then suck the crystals off of the tip of my finger. For some reason I was particularly attracted to the valu-paks of ground beef that she would thaw. More than once I snuck nibbles of slick red meat off the corner, thinking that was a special treat. That my Mom had told me pointedly not to eat raw beef made it all that much more sneaky-special. Sort of like licking a bit of frosting off of a cupcake, I suppose.
Of course now I’m amazed that I didn’t get any major intestinal diseases from licking meat packages and ingesting raw ground beef. Ugh.
About 16 years ago I gave meat eating. The impetus was my father’s death. Seeing his body turn from a living breathing thing to a slab of “meat” was one of those life-changing moments. I’d always struggled with death (yes, I cried in bio labs when we had to kill the animals), and this was such a potent reminder to me of our own fragility. Every time I’d start to eat meat I would feel a repulsion–as if I were eating my own flesh. The world felt so violent and cruel that I didn’t need to add my eating habits to the weight of violence that already existed in the universe. Though this is a bit of a tangent, I believe that era of my life is also when my pacifism solidified into something that began to lead my everyday actions, and I also had increasing difficulty with the necessary violence of the Christian atonement. But back to my main story….
About two years ago when I started experimenting with locavore eating, I realized that I could tolerate small amounts of humanely-raised and slaughtered meat. And since then I’ve occasionally indulged in meat if I was having one of those very-anemic days or if I happened upon an eatery where I was comfortable with the source of their meat. It felt good not to be dogmatically vegetarian (having shed my dogmatism about nearly everything else in my life).
So now, due to a variety of health issues, I’ve begun to eat a high-protein low-carb low-fat diet. Nothing as extreme as Atkins, but I’m more than doubling my protein intake. And in doing so I’m eating meat nearly every day. It feels weird to look at a slab of red flesh and cook it into something that I will put in my mouth. Walking by the meat aisle isn’t exactly appetizing to me. But I am enjoying my forays into meat-eating, and the variety of options that are available to me now that weren’t when I vegetarian. And, quite honestly, I’m feeling better physically than I was when I eschewed meat altogether–I suspect this has to do with the roller-coaster effect of blood sugar highs and lows that accompanied my mostly carb-based vegetarian diet.
I continue to have concerns about the meat-packing business and the mostly unethical practices of those who raise American livestock. I’m not shoving those concerns aside, I’m letting them sit with me as I figure this out and experiment with new ways of doing things. I feel sure that many of my vegan and vegetarian readers will feel offended by my choice to eat meat, and I’d love to hear your side of this–I’m still weighing the evidence and considering the various possibilities. And for those of you who eat meat, I’d also love to learn about how you approach this decision.
And, for the record, I’m no longer tempted to nibble on raw ground beef. Though sushi does give me a bit of the transgressive raw-meat rush that I remember as a child.