Once upon a time, in high school (getting to be so long ago now), I spent about two years as a vegetarian. Eventually I added back fish and later chicken because of what I perceived as anemia (more likely the blood sugar issues that plague me to this day), and it wasn't until late in college that I admitted to eating red meat (I'd eaten it on and off, but didn't cop to being a red meat eater for years). And then this morning I sat at the table eating sliced apples and tahini with a cup of oolong tea, and I found myself missing the vegetarian years.
I apparently had more dedication back when I was in high school because any and all attempts to become a vegetarian again have failed. It's less a love of meat and more a love of convenience--now that I'm in the desert paradise of Marfa, TX, which only has one fast food place, it's easier to cook in general.
I hate cooking meat, honestly. I fear so many food-borne illnesses that once I have cooked every last germ to death dinner has a bit of a shoe-leather vibe. I'm only willing to cook fish, which is the only meat I'm madly in love with. Everything else I can take or leave. I could call myself a pescetarian, but it's a term that seriously pisses off vegans. I don't think the people who go veggie for health reasons give a rip, but the animal-rights style of vegans don't want to be associated with so-called vegetarians who murder defenseless fish. Animal-rights vegans often have a problem with honey because it exploits poor defenseless bees. Ironically, most bees live through the honey process ... what often kills them is being shipped off hundreds of miles to farms to pollinate vegetables covered in pesticides. Carried to its most insane extreme, members of PETA will eventually eat nothing.
I ate more interesting things when I was vegetarian. I still admire the simplicity of many of the meals I ate at the Main Squeeze in Columbia, MO, during those vegetarian years. Kale, tahini, and a bowl full of beans still strikes me as my idea of a good time. Sometimes I wonder if the meat obsession in America keeps Americans from trying truly good foods that just happen to not have meat in them. Chris tells me that people like Chinese immigrants who open restaurants are often shocked at how much meat they have to order just to sate their American customers.
In an example of a strange reversal, having been vegetarian makes it easier to be an Orthodox Christian, but being Orthodox makes it harder to become a vegetarian again. When you've made satisfying meals of kale, tahini, and beans, you're certainly not tearing your hair out trying to figure out how to feed yourself for 40 days; that said, after going 40 days without meat, dairy, etc, just adding back a little cheese doesn't seem all that different. Understand?
I'm going to do a series as Lent draws closer called Vegan Nutrition for Orthodox Christians. Sorry kids, but you need more than lentils throughout the fast.