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The Ever-More-Reluctant Omnivore

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So, I am not a vegetarian.

I enjoy food immensely. All kinds of food, with few exceptions. I am not a picky eater. In fact, I’m fairly adventurous when it comes to trying unidentifiable foods. Of course, there are a few foods that are just completely unnacceptable; foods that I find so repulsive, the facial expression I unwittingly make after tasting them makes me look like I’m turning my face inside out.

  • Liquorice/aniseed/fennel
  • Almond paste/marzipan

Then there are foods that I don’t find quite so objectionable taste-wise, but the texture just makes me shudder from the top of my head right down to my toes, like quince paste or cabello de ángel (a type of pumpkin jam).  If it’s soft and sweet with a weird grainy texture and the grainy bits aren’t sugar, I’m naturally suspicious. Up until recently, I was a cheerful omnivore, eating everything before me. I am still trying to be an omnivore, but for the past year and a half, it has been a struggle.

I never understood vegetarians. I understood the reasoning behind it, but I didn’t feel any kind of way about it. Yes, I love animals, and no, I would never kill one myself, but meat is delicious and we are designed to eat all kinds of everything, so how could you give up all that edible enjoyment for some ethical ideal? For me, my love of animals was entirely disconnected to the meals I ate.

For the past year and a half, however, something has been happening. Feelings are seeping into my mealtimes. The more I read, the more feelings I have, and the less I’m able to enjoy my meals in the thoughtless, ignorance-is-bliss way I did before… Honestly, it’s kind of killing my buzz. I read a comment by Peter Dinklage where he said,

“I like animals – all animals. I wouldn’t hurt a cat or a dog, or a chicken or a cow. And I wouldn’t ask someone else to hurt them for me. That’s why I’m a vegetarian.”

… and I thought, Well, damn it.

I love chorizo. I love jamon serrano. I love seafood and shellfish and chicken noodle soup. I love chili con carne and sushi and bibimbap and winter stews. All of this is true.

It’s also true that the one time my father ever brought me fishing, I caught one and then bawled my eyes out when a man came up behind me and dashed the fish’s head against a tree stump.

It’s also true that, while staying in a house with a chicken run in the garden, one of the chickens got sick, stopped laying eggs and grew a strange fungus that made it look like one of her legs was turning into a tree branch. I took the time every day to grab Sick Chicken, gently wash her leg and smear it with vaseline until she got better.

It’s also true that as a child, I would make my father stop the car every time we spotted roadkill so I could cimb out and check if it could be rescued. Most of the time the answer was no, no it could not, but on the rare occasion the animal was still breathing I would insist on it being put in the car and brought home for “medical attention” (food, water, and a blanketed cardboard box in the garden shed).

These are not, as it turns out, wholly compatible mentalities. There is now food that I actively feel guilt while eating (pork, in particular), which greatly diminishes my enjoyment of it. I’m still fine with fish and shellfish, but I never thought it would ever happen to me with meat so the question is… for how long? How long can I hold out? How long more will my enjoyment of food outweigh the feeling of being a selfish hypocrite? And why now? Why have I suddenly developed this late-onset vegetarianism?

It blows.

I am torn by my love of food, and my feeling that I shouldn’t eat anything I wouldn’t be able to kill myself. Which is basically nothing. I can’t even kill Lenny, what hope do I have of killing something sentient? Left to my own devices in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, I’d have to become a woodland forager, surviving on questionable mushrooms and bits of seaweed…

So, I am not a vegetarian.

Yet.

0 thoughts on “The Ever-More-Reluctant Omnivore

  1. Just be careful of which mushrooms that you consume, or you might not be in a rational state when the zombie apocalypse happens. 😉 I don’t think that I could become a vegetarian. I had difficult time lasting 10 days on a veggie cleanse last year. I also cannot kill, so I don’t know if I’d be consuming those same mushrooms that I had warned you about. Sigh. Here’s a wish that zombies aren’t real. 😀

  2. My other half is a pescatarian for reasons that are nothing to do with ethics (she’s not even sure why she doesn’t eat meat other than she never really has) so in a way she’s kind of balancing you out. So enjoy that bacon sandwich knowing that someone else is abstaining on your behalf…

    1. Haha! I love that. Scrubs is a vegetarian and I won’t cook two separate meals so most of the dinners I cook are vegetarian already, takes some of the pressure off!

      1. Yep I’m a vegetarian through convenience. I always order meat when I’m out, even if the veggie option looks appealing just cos I never know when I might get the chance again…

  3. I saw a bumper sticker a few years ago that said, “I’m not a vegetarian because I love animals. I’m a vegetarian because I HATE VEGETABLES.”

    I tried being a vegetarian on a bit of a lark a year or two ago, but had to give it up because I was gaining too much weight. I was having so much fun trying different concoctions, seeing how inventive I could get with different grains and such, that I was overeating like mad. It was all so good! I ended up 15 pounds heavier after about 3 months, and literally had to stop being a vegetarian for my health. Odd as that sounds.

      1. You’d think so, and if you were asking this of a mere mortal the answer would indeed be “yes”.

        But I’m not a mere mortal. (Well, not in the kitchen.) I say unto you, I AM GOD, AND GOD DOES NOT NEED RECIPES.

        Lol. Ok, maybe I’m not a deity in the *strictest* sense, but it’s true I generally don’t use recipe. I can honestly say that during those months that I eschewed flesh, I ad libbed every vegetable dish I made. I can give you tips, and general descriptions, but not step-by-step recountings.

        If that’s what you’d like from me, btw, feel free to shoot me an email. In a few weeks I’ll probably even get around to responding.

        🙂

  4. I try all the time to be a vegetarian. I don’t think it’s because I have an issue eating animals, I just hate cooking meat and not knowing if it’s fully cooked. I can’t eat anything less than well done and at that point isn’t it over cooked?
    I challenged myself to a month of meatless meals in November and after having done that I felt much more confident in wanting to make the switch. The only issue is that I cook for a family of carnivores and I’m too lazy to cook multiple meals so I’m stuck with meat for now.

  5. Since I was raised in farm country, it was ingrained in my mind that if you don’t eat it, something/someone else will, be that your brother, your dog, your brother’s dog, a wild creature of some sort (boar, bear, bob cat, (b)vulture [I was on a roll with those b words…]), or eventually, earthworms (a.k.a. Lenny’s cousins). I once upon a time gave up red meat for a new year’s resolution and since that time, I’ve noticed my red meat consumption has stayed pretty low. Is that a good/bad thing? I don’t know. But the same number of pigs/cows/chickens/fish are going to ‘go to market’ whether you eat it or not.

    1. True… the way my mind works though keeps telling me that I, as a human, know better than dogs/boars/bears/beets/battlestars! Unlike them, I’m aware that what I’m doing end the life of a creature…. and then I feel guilty. 🙁

      I know youre right but on a personal level it just bothers me, even though I know the world keeps turning whether I eat meat or not!

  6. Read “Fast Food Nation” That might take care of your problem. My brother went vegetarian after reading a *review* of the book. It made me give up beef for a few years, but I’m weak. A good burger is just too irresistible. BTW – I LOVE liquorice/aniseed/fennel.

    1. I haven’t read that but I have read studies about animals’ ability to feel pain and it made me feel reeeeeaaaaal bad. Real bad.

  7. I have been the same way, I love animals. I’ve rescued field mice, and other creatures. I can’t bring myself to smash insects or most things. Vegetarian ideas can sometimes prey on our emotions, those of us who are disconnected from humanity’s nature, who’ve never killed something to eat it. But, we are still human. Just like it isn’t immoral for a lion to eat a gazelle, it isn’t immoral for us to eat other animals. To me it isn’t a moral question, it is preying upon someone’s natural empathy for other living things. Empathy and respect for other living things is certainly a good thing, but it can also be used to make an argument that appears moral when it is really just preying on your upbringing and what you are comfortable with. I don’t want to slaughter animals for food, just as much as I don’t want to be a sanitation worker or do many other disgusting, filthy or dangerous jobs that I’m not prepared to do (either because of upbringing, lack of training, or just my nature as a unique person), but if push came to shove I’m sure I could get used to it. To me, saying someone shouldn’t eat meat because they aren’t comfortable with killing the animals themselves, is kind of like saying someone shouldn’t drive a car because they aren’t comfortable drilling their own oil well, or shouldn’t throw away trash because they wouldn’t want to work at a land fill. Just my two cents, no offense to the vegans/vegetarians out there, you do you, that’s just how I look at it.

    1. The problem with the lion analogy is that lions don’t have the ability of higher reasoning that we have… They can’t consider the life of the gazelle and the pain that they’re inflicting, whereas we can. So shouldn’t we use that ability to lessen suffering of other creatures? And I get what you’re saying about messy jobs but they don’t involve ending the life of another creature because I think they’re tasty. I get it, but I think it’s a little different. Drilling oil wells and working at land fills at least would be doable for me but killing another living thing…. I just know I couldn’t do it. I know it sounds a bit twisted and silly but that’s just the way my guilt complex works!

      1. Nothing silly about it. I figure humanity is specialized for a reason. Another good point is being a soldier or police officer. I’m glad we have people willing to do those jobs, but I wouldn’t be good at those things, harming people or taking their lives isn’t for me, but I’m glad we have people willing to do it when it has to be done to protect others. The point is, just because you personally wouldn’t want to perform some action out of disgust, guilt, or some other reason, doesn’t mean you can’t approve or benefit from others doing it.

        And the argument that human’s are higher reasoning beings and so shouldn’t behave in that manner has some merit, but isn’t perfect and is often applied inconsistently. For example, many animal rights advocates argue that humans are just animals and a human life is no more valuable than an animal’s life, but then turn around and say that humans are higher reasoning and so have a moral imperative to not take animal lives. In essence, the humans are higher reasoning until they are not as the need is to prove a point. My only point is, be wary of how these arguments exploit your emotions and sense of guilt.

        1. True. And I agree! I guess in the end it all comes down to personal belief and not letting yourself get dragged by any particular current.

  8. I grew up on a farm so it was the norm to make friends with the pet lambs then wave them goodbye a few months later. Whenever we did question the circle of life my Grandad always said ‘The lion wouldn’t think twice about eating you!’
    Thankfully I’ve never met a hungry lion!
    I did go vegan for a month once because my friend is in the vegan police, it was ok, I didn’t actually miss eating meat at all but did miss cheese and chocolate!

    1. Yeah no I couldn’t go vegan. I’m sorry, that’s a bridge too far! I’m human! All the delicious foods are non-vegan! Yeah I was a city kid with country cousins… a bit of both worlds!

  9. Poor Lenny. What makes you think he is not sentient?😊 I went through this faze some years back. I was vegetarian for six or so years unless I was eating at my mum’s place (which was rare as I lived overseas and interstate during that time). Mum doesn’t do vegetarian meals, at all, ever!! The trouble with being a vegetarian is that you have to do it carefully and I just didn’t have the time or the inclination to work that hard. Result was too little protein, not enough iron and poor health. My doctor suggested I regularly eat meat again. I did and my health mostly improved as a result. I still feel guilty sometimes but that is over ridden by all the deliciousness I can indulge in again. I really missed meat.

    1. Yes. My iron is low. I take supplements and I know I’m lucky to have the time to dedicate to figuring all this out!! Quorn makes things easier but … meat is delicious!

  10. I would weep if I ever found out we lost you to the vegetarian collective. I find the best way to reconcile a care and concern for animals with a desire to burn flesh on a grill is to be as involved as possible with the process. It seems counter-intuitive I know. But for example, learning to hunt means you can go out and get your own meat from a free, roaming animal that has lived a good life vs one in a stable or some inhuman stockade. And knowing how to properly kill an animal means a swift and painless death in the most humane way possible. Knowing how to butcher and carve larger pieces of meat (like the PISMO) means being able to cut, prepare, and appreciate more of the animal which leads to less waste and less unnecessary killing. I think the latter is easier and more practical for most to learn, and the former is really for those who want to go all in. But that’s one of the big reasons why I took up archery. I’d like to hunt and become part of the food to table movement. But yeah I mean, I wholly support the whole ‘know where your food comes from’ sentiment and caring about the condition and quality of your food. Guilt-free dining!

    1. Hmmm. I agree with that actually I just know I couldn’t do it. I like the food to table movement and actually feel much better eating at places where I know the sources were wild/lived good lives. Those are the places I eat best at!!

      1. This is why I want so badly to go to Scandinavia. Norway and Sweden primarily. Great food, and I’m never not 100% UNsure that they didn’t just kill the animal that morning or find all their vegetables on the side of the road. Hahah.

    2. Totally with you on this (I’m a vegetarian), an understanding and ability to face the processes surrounding meat production can help to increase our respect for the nature that feeds us as well as motivate us to waste less – if you kill an animal for your own consumption you would be an idiot not to try to use all of it. Also, one of my personal reasons for not eating meat (and generally eating little dairy (glad I read that back, it had auto-corrected to ‘fairy’ and I definitely do not eat any fairies)) is that I feel that the current system of mass farming is both cruel for the animals and harsh on the environment. Obviously not everyone has the time, skills or motivation to go out and hunt or keep their own livestock, but I think I certain amount of scaling back to less wasteful, more considered consumption of meat would be a step in the right direction. I’ve been vegetarian for over two thirds of my life now, I made the choice to not eat meat when I was seven (my parents, thankfully supported me in getting the nutrients I needed as a child), so I don’t think I would be able to switch back to eating meat. But in theory I would be comfortable with keeping a few animals for my own consumption.

  11. I’ve been an ethical vegetarian for about as long as I’ve been capable of original and independent though. This was extremely trying growing up in a Texas town that’s affectionately nicknamed “Cowtown,” but I also found that my experience sticking to my guns against all kinds of insults and incredulity has served me well every day since.

    I know it’s tough to give up certain foods, but I reckon once you’ve got a strong enough inkling that it really doesn’t sit well with your ideology, the pining for certain flavors will fade. It’s always an extremely difficult dilemma.. I don’t even swat flies, yet I do enjoy fly fishing a great deal. I only use barbless hooks and often get the fish off without ever lifting them out of the water, but this has led to a great deal of confusing introspection and ‘blurred lines’ over the years.

    Keep thinking, both inside and out loud. You’ll figure it out! <3

    P.S. I effing love almond paste. Especially in sugar cookies or almond croissants.

    1. For me it’s not that the pining fades, it’s that the enjoyment of the flavour isn’t worth it because I feel too bad about it. I’ve switched to Quorn for almost everything now and am really only eating fish and shellfish. How does fly fishing work? Like catch and release?

      You can have all my almond paste John. All of it.

  12. Hahahaha! Quinn, your first few paragraphs cracked me up. “I am not a picky eater!” And two sentences later: “…foods that are just completely unnacceptable; foods that I find so repulsive, the facial expression I unwittingly make after tasting them makes me look like I’m turning my face inside out.” Umm, I need to go double-check the definition of “not picky” again. 😉

    Here’s my comment of fine wisdom for you… 😀

    Everything… I mean every single organic species on this planet are Predators like you. All organisms and organisms that makeup all species require ‘energy’ to survive and/or propagate. That energy comes from consuming other organisms and/or species. Period. So take heart Quinn! Every living things on this planet — down to the molecular level — are flatout Predators, even plants! 😀 😈

    Your good! You are no different than Predatory Vegetarians. Hehehe

  13. This article so reminds me of old me 🙂 I started gradually going off different meat until I went vegetarian…20 years ago (crikey how has it been that long!). I went vegan this year after having said I never could because of cheese! Best advice I can give is read both sides of the argument (and people on both sides can be very argumentative about it!) and feel your own way to what is right for you 🙂

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