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.