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?