I was a vegetarian for 10 years. Then I had dinner with a girlfriend of mine in Barcelona and I was caught full in the face with her tantalizing seafood paella and that was the end of my 10 year experiment. That was 5 years ago.
I have been a carnivore now for 5 years.
I remember the calamitous day I got turned off meat.
I’m from a Meat n’ Potatoes kind of family. We’re from northern British Columbia. A rich, brown, savory turkey gravy signals a Very Good Day. When my parents come to visit and we go out for dinner I make sure there are “normal” things on the menu:
Spaghetti & meatballs. Burgers. Fish & chips. Steak.
That’s not to say my folks aren’t capable of more adventurous dish choices, but I just like to make sure options like that are AVAILABLE. Sure, we MAY be in for a Crazy Curry Extravaganza but JUST IN CASE I don’t want to be accused of taking the group to some impossible FOREIGN place with weird, inedible food… like chickpeas. I’d never hear the end of it.
On that fateful day 15 years ago my parents were having some adult-types over for a Lobster Bake. I was in my teens and the thought of that many of my parent’s friends in my immediate vicinity was already making me queasy. But it would get worse. Somehow I caught wind of the fact that there were lobsters on the back porch and THEY WERE ALIVE. In cardboard boxes.
I’m not sure why this struck such a cord with me on that day. I’d eaten lobster before. I’d gone to restaurants and watched them feebly tap dance around in huge tanks fully aware that the lobster I was happily diving into melted butter was one of their bretheren.
This time was different though. This time I crouched beside them in their damp boxes and they were alive. They were stacked on top of one another and they wouldn’t have been able to move.
Do you get claustrophobic? I do.
I peered through one of the holes and a protruding, jet-black beedy eye stared back at me.
Maybe what got to my teenaged-self was the fact that I wasn’t going to do anything to help them out of their incredibly shitty situation.
Eventually I made my way back into the kitchen and a couple of the lobsters were in the sink. There were bright blue elastic bands stretched around their immobile pinchers and when they shifted it sounded like dirty cutlery scraping at the bottom of a sink full of soapy water. Their beady eyes circled. They kept on shifting and scraping.
Just then my dad stepped into the kitchen to present a large dinner plate stacked almost a foot high with raw steak. The flesh was a deep Crayola crimson and it was resting in a pinkish pool of watery blood. The pile wobbled in the unnerving way that a lot of raw meat wobbles. My dad’s eyes were wide and he had a conspiratorial grin of anticipation on his face.
My dad was super pumped about this meal.
I was decidedly less pumped. One and a half minutes later I was half way down the street escaping to my best friend’s house doing my best not to retch on the side of our residential, meat-lovin’ street.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I fully embraced being a vegetarian. I moved across the country to Toronto to go to university. I lived on campus. I ate a lot of cafeteria food and didn’t want to die of salmonella poisoning. And I was lazy and cheap and didn’t want to go to the labour and expense of preparing meat a few times a week. In any case, other than eggs and dairy, no animal products passed my lips.
(to be continued…)