Meaty Decisions: Vegi, Flexi, Pesci…Carnivore?

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It’s been a year since I wrote my two posts “Could I Play For the Other Team?” and “I Caved into Turkey,” in which I wondered about whether after 20 years as a pescatarian, I could return to being a carnivore. Given that I haven’t addressed the topic since, I thought now would be the right time.

(I am not so narcissistic as to think that readers of this blog have been on pins and needles all year wondering about the eating habits of some woman they don’t know. But given that these posts sparked some discussion, and the topic is relevant to this blog, I do think it’s worth a post, whether you know me or not).

While I mentioned some of my reasoning in those two posts, I left one important thing out. And that is that after 20 years of being mostly vegetarian, I’ve eaten a hell of a lot of soy. And while I like it, I worry about its ramifications on my health. I strongly believe that we are meant to have as diverse a diet as possible; too much of any one thing just isn’t good for you. And since I completed a whole foods cooking program, as well as devoured Michael Pollan, I distrust products with too many ingredients on the label. I’m not a raw enthusiast, but I do like my food to be as close to its natural form as possible. Tofu is heavily processed and non-organic tofu is usually genetically modified. While it’s certainly easy to get organic tofu where I live, my guess is that all that tofu I eat in Thai or Chinese or other restaurants (I love Asian food) isn’t organic.

Fake meat products, while delicious, have so many additives and flavorings – especially those of the I-can’t-pronounce variety — in them that I don’t want to eat them. And then there is the estrogen risk associated with too much soy. My mother died of breast cancer, succumbing to it in her third bout with the disease. I am already considered high-risk. While there is still some controversy over the studies that say so, it is believed that eating too much tofu raises estrogen levels, which is dangerous for women like me.

While I thought fish was the perfect protein source, and I still do love it, I am now limiting my intake of that as well due to the overfishing and environmental impact we’re all hearing about. So where does this leave me for protein? I do love my beans, and eat them regularly, but as I said above, I believe in a diverse diet. As much as I love all the dahls I make, and other lentil and legume dishes, I need more variety.

Probably to no one’s surprise, I ate turkey again this year. And while the turkey I ate at last year’s Thanksgiving was the first time I deliberately ate meat in 20 years, this year’s turkey was not the second time I ate meat. But I still can’t call myself a carnivore.

Since last year, I have had numerous bites of different kinds of meat. I’ve tried chicken, lamb, beef and goat. None of them were kosher, but all were organic and/or grass-fed, which to me, given that I did not grow up in a kosher home, is my own highest standard. In each case, until this weekend, I only had one or two bites, enough to know whether I liked it or didn’t.

One friend who was vegetarian for years told me that each bite of meat gets progressively easier, and that is definitely true. But my reactions to the meat have been decidedly mixed. Several bites of lamb (where some friends were present for the slaughter, I might add) straight off a barbeque were beyond delicious. One bite of grass-fed ground beef off the same barbeque was equally divine. One bite of beef in a bowl of lime-coconut broth with noodles (which my husband and friend both loved) gave me the willies. A bite of goat in a hip new eatery didn’t really do it for me. But at this year’s Thanksgiving, I ate more turkey than last year, and during that weekend, in which I went away for the weekend with friends, I had a fair amount of chicken.

I remember when I was a vegetarian (even before my fish-eating days) and the rare person would tell me that they were a vegetarian too, but they only ate meat occasionally. “Well then you’re not a vegetarian,” I would roll my eyes in retort.

So here I hover, in this no-man’s land between being a pescatarian and — dare I say it? — a carnivore. I still haven’t ordered a meat entrée in a restaurant, since I never know whether I will like it (I taste bites off my husband’s plate). I haven’t yet cooked it myself. I don’t know why these labels are so important, but I may take to calling myself a flexitarian (if only more people knew what that meant) or a label my friends coined this weekend, an “eco-eater.” I still fear word getting out that I eat meat, because what if someone serves it to me and I don’t like it?

I also worry about my business as a personal chef. I haven’t cooked meat in over 20 years. While none of the clients I cook for are vegetarian, I am known for cooking delicious vegetarian food. I am not ready to start cooking meat (but that might be soon around the corner), and wonder: what would potential clients think about my being an expert in vegetarian cuisine if they knew I ate meat?

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4 Responses to “Meaty Decisions: Vegi, Flexi, Pesci…Carnivore?”

  1. Kerr Says:

    Vegetarianism isn’t the right choice for everyone. I wish it were, because it would be simpler, but I’m not the only one out there who’s had to make the choice to either continue eating meat or take weekly or monthly shots of B12 (which is probably produced from animals, or tested on animals, uses petroleum, releases carbon, and fills up landfills with medical waste). I can eat less meat, and only (more)humanely and (more)sustainably raised meat, but I can’t rule it out altogether at this point.

    It occurred to me the other day that almost all the vegans I know use products containing palm oil as a substitute for butter, and palm oil is destroying rain forests and contributing to the extinction of rain forest animal life. It seems like butter from small-scale organic dairies that treat their animals humanely causes less suffering than substitutes made from vast palm oil plantations in areas formerly covered by rain forest.

    It just seems like the “eco” way to eat is more complicated than easy labels to put on things, which is unfortunate—it makes social eating much more difficult.

  2. mollyjade Says:

    Kerr, just FYI, the most popular vegan margarine, Earth Balance, sources their palm oil from producers that don’t clear cut or harm orangutan habitat.

  3. Kerr Says:

    Molly, thanks for that information! That’s good for me to know, because I really like Earth Balance. I’ll do some research and then report back to my eco-veggie housemates. :)

  4. Kerr Says:

    Molly… a quick google search makes it sound not that simple: http://invisiblevoices.wordpre.....s-and-ran/ :

    “If killing orangutans were the only problem that existed with palm oil, then maybe Earth Balance could get off the hook. But it simply is not. Every where that palm is grown– very much including Peninsular Malaysia– involves clear cutting rainforest and planting massive monoculture plantations– with serious consequences for both endangered species (the tapir lives in Peninsular Malaysia.. does it deserve to go extinct?) and the climate. It also involves displacing communities off their traditionally owned land, which regularly occurs in Peninsular Malaysia. Particularly in Peninsular Malaysia, migrant workers from Indonesia and India are forced into modern day slavery, forced to work for minuscule wages while paying back the companies for their their transportation from their country of origin. It’s a wreck.”

    But the good news is that the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil seems to be looking for a solution. Probably my housemates and I could go back to Earth Balance next year or so, if they agree to use only RSPO-certified palm oil. In the meantime, olive oil is good enough for my bread.

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