Vegetarian: 10, Carnivore: 5

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.

Until Barcelona…

(to be continued…)

19 Responses to “Vegetarian: 10, Carnivore: 5”

  1. Jason N says:

    My vegetarian experiment was only 6 months, and that was after reading Eating Animals and watching Food Inc. I am now back to meat, but try to at least eat organic when I can.

  2. claire says:

    i can totally identify with your carnivore vs vegetarian back and forth….i am 98% vegetarian, but every now and then i eat meat if i feel like it comes from a good place.

  3. Kim Clune says:

    I too have been a vegetarian for more than 10 years (13 actually) and yet I find myself considering a return to meat. I eat seafood a lot more than I used to now, mostly because I don’t feel energized by my vegetarian diet, and fish seems to help. In fact, I was beginning to feel very depleted, tired at all hours of the day, and I suspect I’m having difficulty absorbing B12, as often happens with long-term vegetarians.

    My husband and I recently discussed the choice vs. need concept. I think I need meat, although I certainly don’t want to need it, and he thinks a body can be trained not to need it. I just don’t know.

    I recently read that humans were never created to be carnivores with our flat teeth and lack of deadly claws, but we learned to develop spears and knives to imitate carnivorous claws seen in the wild. It was nothing more than artificial adaptation. That argument only brings up more questions for me. Should we eat like we were meant to, or are we now bound by Darwinian evolution after countless generations of adaptation?

    Amy Burkert (GoPetFriendly.com) told me about a book called Eating for Your Blood Type, the premise of which is that blood type determines whether your family line was mainly vegetarian or meat-eating based on location. This adds a biological aspect that supersedes choice. Although I have not read the book myself, from information Amy has shared, it sounds like, according to my blood type, my body hasn’t the ability to process a strictly vegetarian diet as well as one that contains meat. Admittedly, I’ve eaten a bit of turkey I knew was free range, hormone and antibiotic free. Sadly, the guilt makes it not worthwhile.

    I have no answers. These are things I am struggling with more and more daily. But I’d rather struggle with the questions than blindly fill my body, without question, with products from industries that have hijacked our food chain with inhumane practices and chemicals that have turned my body into a highly allergic toxic soup, one that reacts unfavorably to anything unnatural including the Formaldehyde in our soaps, shampoos and laundry detergents. Why do we accept this? Isn’t it all part of the food chain as it washes down the drain and back into the water we use in gardens and for farm animals?

    Along this vein, our local farmer’s market just held a class on how to pick vegetables. This says to me that , as human beings, we have become so distanced from our natural food sources that the majority of us can no longer grow or identify food ripe for the perfect picking. Instead, we rely on a capitalist food chain to fool us with wax coatings and poisoning preservatives that are increasing instances of disease. Whether vegetarian or carnivorous, for that we should be ashamed.

    • @Kim- Thank you for your comment and sharing your struggles. I am very close to a return to vegetarianism. I read Animal Liberation and learning more about the insane intensive farming practices is mind boggling. I believe for the most part we don’t need meat. I also believe however, that we need to do what we need to do to have a good day (not a vain day or an irresponsible day, I mean a good, healthy day). If that means that you need to eat meat once a week or twice a week (or whatever) to achieve that, then I think you should do that.

      Did you know that the Dalai Lama is not a vegatarian? He tried but didn’t feel well. Not that this gives us all an excuse to chow down on burgers morning, noon & night… but that surprised me when I learned it. http://www.dalailama.com/biography/questions-and-answers/routine-day

      If you are not getting the nutrients you need in your regular diet and you have looked into this (talked to a nutritionist, naturopath, etc, etc)… then I think you should do what you need to to have a good day, whatever that means.

      My two cents 🙂

  4. I’m a total meat eater, but I think the lobster experience would be unnerving. Too many good Disney movies…

  5. Yeah … what Kim said (at least the part about the book, Eating for Your Blood Type). For a long time (say 10+ years, I never ate red meat). Then, for about 2-3 years, I was a pretty good vegetarian. The problem was, I was always tired and my digestive system never really tolerated the food). Then I read the book and found out my genotype is a carnivore … I am supposed to eat meat! I have to tell you that I switched back to eating “some” meat, and I feel great on the days that I do. I know that being vegetarian is more PC – but you also have to listen to your body.

    • @Rod & Sherry- I’m not sure where I am yet in terms of eating meat at all. I don’t believe that killing creatures in an inhumane way is right. I don’t believe that raising creatures in an inhumane is right (keeping them in stalls where they can’t turn around/lie on their sides, keeping animals in isolation from their kind, transporting them 100’s of miles without giving them food or water for often up to 56 hours). In this way I think it is very important not to support intensive farming practices. Our first step is to source the animals we are going to consume from as close to home as possible from farmers who raise and kill those animals in a humane way.

      If we’re giong to eat meat at all I think that is the right way to approach it.

  6. Sherry says:

    I am a carnivore as is the Dalai Lama. I tried a raw food diet and did not feel good and did not like the taste of most of what I tried. I need protein and too many new vegetarians tear up their stomach because they don’t get enough protein. I have cut back on my meat consumption but don’t intend to give it up.

  7. Caz says:

    I’ve been vegetarian since 2007 when I was in the process of getting pregnant, it’s a recommended way to improve fertility. It worked.
    I’m still veggie and although I think about meat occasionally, on the occasions I’ve accidentally had some, I haven’t been able to eat it. Even the fake stuff makes me uneasy about how closely it resembles the real thing texture-wise.

    Funnily enough, when I read the Eat Right for your Type book, it had me down as a veggie even though I was a committed carnivore at the time…the reason meat worked for me and veggie didn’t back then was because of all the carbs and sugary rubbish I was eating. Since I’ve cut all that out again, veggieness is working just fine for my energy levels.

    • @Caz- Near the end of my veggie stint I was finding that my energy wasn’t great… I wasn’t putting enough effort into what I am eating though, either. I have often heard it commented that meat can be a *convenient* form of protein, fat and calories, not necessarily the best form.

  8. I’ve gone back and forth between being a vegetarian and carnivore a few times. When I use to be a veg, I just didn’t want to eat meat any more. Now that I know what goes on in the food industry, I just can’t stomach the idea of eating meat or dairy or eggs, so it’s vegan for me. I can’t say that I’m sure that I’m getting everything that I need to be healthy, but it wasn’t like I was eating healthy before that, so I’ll just call it a draw. It’s been a few months now, and I’ve survive all summer without dairy ice cream. I consider that a major victory 🙂

    • @Rena- It’s the “knowing what happens in the food industry” aspect of things that have totally put me off also. It’s a big deal. Anyone who actively hurts a creature does not deserve support. Simple as that.

  9. Roo says:

    Not a lobster fan myself as I visualize the poor souls screaming in a pot of boiling water. Makes the hair stand up on my back.

    Why can’t they cook them like frogs…slowly so they don’t know what’s happening till its too late?

    I am a major carnivore as you probably know but I let others do the dirty work for me. I just go to Butcher Mound and purchase my prize cuts of meat 🙂

    Gettin hungry with all this food talk,
    Roo

  10. Kari says:

    I was a vegetarian for a while. Then I started eating meat again. Now I can’t think of why I would stop….

  11. […] is a follow up post to the one about why I became a vegetarian. You may want to read that one first. Maybe not. If not, I have taken the liberty of providing a […]

  12. Abigail says:

    I grew up on a farm and my mother still takes it as a personal attach that I stopped eating meat.