Friday Five: A very veggie anniversary

Six years ago this month I became vegetarian. In some ways it feels like much longer, others like yesterday. “Six years without a hamburger?!?!” Happy Anniversary to Me!

I wasn’t interested in saying sayonara to meat.  It wasn’t a resolution for the new year. It wasn’t even something on my radar. I had been back from China for around eight months at that point and had actually just worked meat BACK into my diet after staying at arm’s length from most while in the clutches of the East. That’s another post…

But then a Christmas joke turned into a very big reality.

That December I was gifted a cookbook because of its funny name—Skinny Bitch in the Kitch. It garnered laughs and we moved on. It wasn’t until I started looking through it for inspiration that I realized it was a follow-up, a recipe-laden sequel to their book Skinny Bitch. I was intrigued, so I found it at my local library and dug in. Not realizing until then that it was a book about the vegan lifestyle.

It documented in gory detail the ways of the slaughterhouse, what caffeine does to your body, the addictive chemicals found in cheese (a chapter I pretty much skimmed…some changes will never happen). It wasn’t written in any sort of academic way. I didn’t feel like I was being preached to by some diet fanatic. It just felt like two girlfriends telling me what was up in—at times—some very crude language. You gotta respect that.

So, I took the bait and gave myself two weeks to try it. I’ve discussed the change briefly before, but it really was big enough of a difference for me to keep going. And now, six years later, here we are. It’s not a diet. It’s not a fad. It’s not because I love animals—though I do and don’t judge anyone for making the change because of it. This is my life now. And I absolutely love it.

I think I was always destined to live this way. I’ve never once liked steak. As a child I was convinced that chicken tasted like shampoo. (Seriously, it’s a thing.) And I tearfully declared most meats to be “gnawy” to me. I hated…HATED…chewing on meat. In fact I spent many nights sitting pouting at the dinner table after everyone had cleared away, my parents insisting I eat a few more bites of meat. I always felt like this scene, roughly around the 2:15 mark to the end:

“That ain’t the last bite.”

I wanted them all to be last bites.

People always ask what I miss, what I crave. So I thought it would be fun to, what else, make a list. If I did go back…if only for a day, without consequence, cramps or caloric overload …here’s what might be on the menu:

5. Seafood

Garlic shrimp, Lobster bisque and Sea Scallops, oh my! Stop it. This is just wrong. My love of seafood finds its origins in a deeper-rooted love of butter. Actually, I think that’s all it is. I don’t ever crave seafood, but I do crave it smothered in garlic and butter. I crave it stewed in butter and cream with tomatoes. I love that you can eat lobster with a side of drawn butter and feel no shame as you dunk away. Maybe it’s a good thing I’m not eating seafood anymore! My arteries are nodding in agreement.

4. Pepperoni or Canadian Bacon Pizza

Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with a good cheese pizza. Roasted vegetables and feta on a crispy crust? I’m there. But there’s just something really satisfying about a greasy slice of pepperoni pizza. It’s the flavor factor – no vegetable or cheese topping can compare to the salty tang of processed meat. It’s just a fact.

3. Fast Food

The only time I regret being a vegetarian is on road trips. And after recently being on a bus for 17 hours each way to California and driving cross country this summer, I can assure you my stance hasn’t changed. It’s just impossible to eat well on the road. It’s Subway or fries. That’s it. I can’t even tell you the amount of Subway I ate while driving to Utah. Enough to make me never want to go back. But if I were eating meat, I’d hit up Arbys: The only fast food establishment I ever had any type of craving for post-switch. Good thing they have good fries…you know, for when I’m on the road.

2. Bacon

Unlike most vegetarians, I’m not a bacon hater. I was always a big fan of pork’s greatest offering. And sometimes I just miss the salty crunch of it all. A little pyramid of chopped bacon on my risotto sounds pretty good. A slab or two on my Jimmy Johns sandwich sounds equally yummy. But here’s what I don’t miss: flabby, flaccid bacon strips. Got that mental picture yet? It’s how they like to eat their bacon in China and it grossed me out. The epitome of gnawy meat! Joe once told a waitress just to burn the bacon on his hamburger. “Burn it. BURN. it.” he told them, pointing to the barely-cooked slabs on top. It was the only way they’d understand. And it still wasn’t crisp enough.

1. Roast

Let’s be honest – full disclosure here – it’s the gravy I miss. My family’s roast recipe is dee-licious and its hours of cooking time guaranteed it to be the least gnawy meat on the planet. That time also ensured a creamy gravy to develop that’s so mouthwatering perfect, my cousin and I used to fill a teacup with it (each!) for meat and potato dunking. Maybe she still does it. I know I would.

See? I don’t really miss any type of meat. I miss the convenience. I miss the salt and butter and crunch. I miss the gravy. Oooh, do I miss the gravy.

Vegetarianism isn’t for everyone—I’m always very clear on that, but I do think anyone can cut back or go meatless once in a while. Or read Skinny Bitch and decide for yourself. Give it two weeks and we’ll talk again in six years.

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