Confessions of a Former Vegetarian

Once upon a time, I ate meat.

Then I stopped for good.

Then I changed my mind…

Today I’m taking a break from sharing recipes to just share food thoughts.  Sometimes it’s good to step back and evaluate why we eat the things we eat. 

I’ve been back and forth all over the map about meat. 

We were carnivores growing up.  Pork chops, ground beef, chicken, turkey, fish right out of the lake, kielbasa, hotdogs, steak, bacon, you name it.

When I was an early twenty-something, I left home to tour with a performing arts group.  Every tour was an eating bash!  At every stop, host families and host churches fed us like crazy, rich foods to satisfy honored guests.  Boy was that fun!!! 

Underlying the whole thing, though, was a fear that I wouldn’t get enough to eat.  We relied completely on others for our sustenance, and I wasn’t sure what I’d have packed for me day to day.

If I’d relied on God instead of on my own stomach, I wouldn’t have lived to serve that fear.  I should have trusted Him to provide for me through those wonderful people, as He did.  I never went hungry.  But at every meal, I ate all I could fit in my belly and then some.  

I began to realize I was feeling sluggish on stage and my dance partner was having a little trouble lifting me.  Poor guy had a bad back anyway.  I could see him in the shadows during concerts, trying to work out the kinks from lifting his dance partner and I. felt. bad.

Still, I ate to my belly’s content. 

When I arrived home after my final trip, I was 20 lbs heavier than my usual weight.  I felt gross. 

It was right around Thanksgiving and the weather was just getting nice and chilly.  I started running hard almost every day, and changed my diet by removing meat from it.

This happened at the same time that I discovered some very disturbing facts about how chickens and cows in particular are raised and slaughtered for most of our store-bought meat.  I remember researching these things and just crying in my room because I had no idea that such cruelty had been used to feed my needs.

I can’t do this anymore,” I sobbed.

I decided to try a no-meat diet for 3 months and see how I liked it.

I LOVED it.  Together with my renewed exercise regimen, switching to a vegetarian diet helped me lose the added weight quickly and made me feel lighter and better than EVER.

For the next four years, I ate no meat, unless it would have been offensive to a cook if I abstained.  I still drank milk and ate eggs, and tried not to get preachy about vegetarianism.  It really bothers me when people act like that.

At the end of those four years, I delivered our first child.  It became necessary to eat meat for a little while, just to get through recovery.  I realized I had been missing it, and didn’t really mind eating it after all. 

Some textures gave me trouble.  It was all I could do to choke down half a burger for the first year. 

Now here I am, blogging about stuffing balsamic glazes underneath chicken skins with my bare hands. 

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME?!

I guess I’ve decided not to label myself.  It seems awfully unfair to demand that a person choose one diet or one style or one career, etc etc etc and love it for the rest of their life.  I could still go back to vegetarianism, because I give myself the freedom to choose.

Right now, the choice to eat meat is for our family.  It’s cheaper at this point to eat meat, because I’m not demanding organic cuts, and sometimes the vegetarian alternatives to getting protein are VERY expensive.

I’m also saving time in the kitchen by cooking one meal for all of us, instead of two – one for the boys and one for kooky Momma.

If I can save money and get more time with my family, I feel I ought to do it. 

Honestly, it still feels unnatural to eat flesh.  The sight of blood in medium-rare steak makes my stomach a little uneasy.  The feel of certain meats in my mouth can be a little trying…

But I know that during pregnancies, during nursing, and even for my own busy body’s sake, it’s better for me to eat some meat these days.

So why am I writing this?

Those who know me have been very patient with my back-and-forth choices.  I wanted to thank them for being so sweet, especially my family, who often made a vegetarian option to go along with whatever they were serving for a meal. 

And I wanted to encourage my readers to give yourselves the freedom of choice.  It isn’t wrong to experiment and try to find what works for you.  

And no matter what anyone says in words or faces, what matters is a heart at peace – to be settled between you and God that what you’re doing is okay, and it’s not making someone else stumble.  If somebody is having a really hard time with your choice, maybe someone close to you, it could be good to reevaluate. 

In the end, my time as a veggie really challenged me in good ways:

I learned not to go overboard – not to allow natural/green living to dominate my thoughts or become an idol.

I learned not to shove my own preferences down other people’s throats.

I learned to think about what I’m eating.  What will it do to my body?  What was done to it before it entered my body?

Someday I would love to be able to afford eating ONLY local, organic meat.  But I can’t right now.  Right now I can just do my best to feed myself and my family affordable, healthy meals that please everyone around the table.

By God’s grace, I will have the wisdom going forward to know what to eat and how to eat it in each season of life.

This season includes meat.

Pass the chicken, please.

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “Confessions of a Former Vegetarian

  1. Love the Peter Pots mug, that one is my favorite! We switched to organic-mostly, a few years back, and then I had to compromise some…. During the summer months I shop local, farmers-markets and FARMERS. I drive some distance to pick up pastured chickens and grass fed beef in bulk, and it has been SURPRISINGLY AFFORDABLE. Although the price per pound is more, especially in the case of chicken, my family is learning to enjoy meat in perhaps… smaller quantities than before. Really, one burger is enough, where I used to supply two for each adult. In the winter I have to compromise and buy the feed lot meats….. I was amazed the first year we bought chickens from the farm: Four chickens a month was quite enough to feed my family! That was one/week. And that one, four pound clucker made us at least three meals, often four. (Now that our family has doubled in size I need to roast two chickens, but you’ve got some time, I buy six a month now.) One chicken cost about $15, and so that was $5 per meal, divided by 4 consumers… yeah, pretty cheap. Oh, and when your food is healthier, your kids are healthier, which means you spend less time trucking those toddlers to the pediatrician. Also, I have had to learn to cook things I never would have bought at the store… for instance… chicken livers (GREAT nutrition for pregnancy!), and chicken FEET (makes the most incredible broth you’ve ever had, NOT JOKING. Also, remember that at a store, even ‘organic’ chickens have water weight added. We brine ours at home, so the price/lb comparisons are off a little. Okay… sorry.. Just wanted to encourage you that it can be affordable, even on a tight budget. Also our farmer is a Christian, and I believe God has multiplied our creativity and stretched our budget because we are honoring Him and supporting our brother. Anyhoo….. love your blog. Thanks for posting!

    • I deeply respect your creativity and awareness of how your choices can bless your family. I really hope we can buy local. Some of us are looking in to splitting some bulk buys. We’ll see if it works out. I agree about whole chickens – what a great choice and they stretch your dollar over and over. What is the brining process all about? By the way, I miss you!

  2. *chuckle* I’m drinking coffee from that mug right now. And there’s a whole chicken going in the crock pot too. 🙂 It’s going to become enchiladas and black bean chicken soup.

  3. I miss you too! Brining is simply infusing meat in a salt/sugar solution. (Through the scientific process of osmosis.) All commercial meat purveyors do it, and that’s why Perdue chickens are so ‘juicy’. When I thaw my whole birds, I do so in a gallon of water (in a large stock pot), and I add 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of salt to the water. A brine! Here’s a great article by Cook’s Illustrated on brining. http://www.cooksillustrated.com/images/document/howto/ND01_ISBriningbasics.pdf
    My husband can tell the difference if I get lazy and neglect to do it. 🙂 Some people mistakenly think that pastured chicken is tougher or dryer than commercial meat, not so much, you just have to remember to brine your own since they don’t come that way.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s