Tuesday, July 24, 2012
To meat or not to meat, that is the question. A recent survey on MSNBC.com showed that 30 percent of carnivores wouldn’t date a vegetarian. (Presumably, 100 percent of people wouldn’t date a cannibal.) I’ve been through several phases of vegetarianism. Most were based on being broke. Eggs, oatmeal and canned beans are cheap eats. But about 18 months ago, I decided to get real and went on the meat wagon permanently, giving up beef, pork and deli meats…. bacon, sausage, pastrami, all the good stuff. (I haven’t had a fast-food meal in 10 years, and long ago cut out dairy, bread, sugar, chips, white flour and potatoes. The only exception is on Sundays, when I splurge. Widdle calls it “Stand Back Day!” because I will cheerfully attack any food not covered in paint and/or caustic chemicals.) I don’t walk around hollering about my dietary choices, but people tend to notice when you go to a pig picking and eat only cole slaw. It’s no big deal. I don’t act holier than thou because my plate is meat-free. (The only thing Widdle loves more than steak is bacon. Have at it, baby!) Sometimes people ask, “What the heck DO you eat?” The short answer is “Everything!” Baked beans, mushrooms, corn, sweet peppers, almonds, eggs, vegetable soup, quinoa, hummus, whole wheat pasta, salsa, veggie chips, oatmeal, pineapple, Triscuits, tomatoes and cucumbers, stir-fried green beans, steamed cabbage, baked Vidalia onions, granola, roasted okra, black bean burgers, creamed spinach, protein bars, squash fritters, quiche, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, popcorn, cashews, sweet potatoes and the list goes on. (Also, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have the occasional chunk of salmon or chicken.) Another question is, “Where do you shop?” I shop the same places as everybody else, just not at the meat counter. I don’t hit Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck) because, A) The nearest one is 35 miles away, and B) Organic isn’t always better, and I refuse to pay $6 for a box of granola bars. Basically, I quit meat because I started noticing how I felt when I ate it, and how I felt when I didn’t. Nobody loves a char-grilled porterhouse more than moi, but it was no fun having to lie on the couch (or any available horizontal surface) for an hour after eating meat because my stomach thought I had swallowed lead sinkers. I just feel better when I skip it. Also, I’ve read too much about the chemicals, hormones and antibiotics in the meat we eat. Even if only half of it is true, it makes me nervous. Bottom line: I think I’m doing the right thing for my health, but who knows? My paternal grandfather was a butcher, and he ate meat three times a day. Fried meat, in fact. He told his second wife, Elsie, “Don’t ever serve me a meal without meat,” and she never did. Granddaddy lived to be a hale and hearty 96. One morning he took a nap after picking tomatoes in his garden, and forgot to wake up. He’d be horrified at my meatless ways. My mother also eats meat daily. Her favorite snack is a bacon-Swiss double cheeseburger. She’s 84. All I know is, I’m going to be really mad if a nutrition study comes out that says soy-burgers are bad for you. I’ll be gnawing on a steak before you can say, “Where’s the beef?” Julie R. Smith, who ate a vat of oatmeal and cream last Sunday, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.