People always assume that because I don’t eat meat I am somehow offended by its very presence. As a vegetarian I am expected to whip out a soapbox at the slightest provocation and let loose a gospel of animal cruelty, and condemnation of the meatpacking industry. I am supposed to be filled with love for all living things, a warm fuzzy type who could no more eat a cow than she could step on an ant.
Truthfully, I became a vegetarian sixteen years ago because I wanted ice cream for dessert and my family had just had chicken for Shabbat dinner. Faced with waiting three hours before a bowl of mint chocolate chip, I vowed never to be fleishig again, and have stood by my word ever since. I don’t eat poultry, beef, or lamb. I do eat fish, and eggs, and I maintain my belief that a day without good cheese or ice cream is not worth living.
I have never been a preachy self-righteous vegetarian simply because there’s nothing particularly righteous about my choice. I always want to have the possibility of ice cream in my near future. No, that doesn’t make me a good person, or even a better person than someone who buys a Big Mac from McDonald’s every day. But it does make my life much easier when it comes to keeping kosher.
I have one set of dishes in my kitchen, which leaves more room in my cupboards for fun cooking gadgets, like a standing mixer, and a food processor. I never worry about accidentally stirring something with the wrong spoon, or something meat dripping into something dairy. I never have to check my watch to see when I finished eating, and I kasher my oven once a year before Passover.
Because I don’t spend lots of money on kosher meat I feel comfortable paying more for organic produce and dairy products, free range cage free eggs, and wild fish caught from healthy, well-managed populations using low-impact fishing gear; or farmed fish raised in systems that control pollution, chemical use and escapes.
Milchigatarianism, as I’ve come to call it, isn’t going to win over any hardcore meat-eaters or vegans. If you love hamburgers almost as much as you love your spouse, this is not the kashrut program for you. And if you think drinking milk is the ultimate act of cruelty, you’re also not likely to adopt my diet. But if you adore veggies and cheese, and you are daunted by the scores of halachot governing your kitchen, there is an easier way to live. Go milchig forever. Embrace the simplest way of keeping kosher.