When I was around 20, I experimented with being a vegetarian. I did not make this change because of any social or moral reasons, I did it because I wanted to feel healthier. I lived in Chevy Chase, Maryland, a northern suburb of DC. I had a dinky efficiency apartment that cost a fortune and no spare money. At one point, I had to move around a single light bulb from the living/sleeping area to the bathroom and kitchen until I got paid and could buy more bulbs.
Given my economic realities and the fact that I don't like to cook, I found it difficult to keep up the vegetarian lifestyle and eventually went back to being an omnivore. The #1 meal (Big Mac) has always been an important part of my diet.
I have thought about returning to the veggie life several times. My family has a strong history of heart disease and I find Dr. Dean Ornish's research on the benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle (in reversing heart disease!) compelling.
And I have always had these vague notions of disgust over how food animals are raised and treated and slaughtered. Like many people, however, I have blocked out those thoughts and focused on the neatly carved and wrapped slabs of meat sold in my grocery. Out of sight, out of mind.
But these interests - reversing heart disease, animal treatment, general health - have not been compelling enough to cause me to change. The drive-through is just so darned convenient.
Sometimes things just need to come together in a particular way to nudge change. And they did.
1. I still have an interest in going veggie for my health. And with my family history, it's pretty important I not wait too long.
2. It is becoming easier and easier to eat vegetarian.
3. I joined a new social networking site for boomers called Tee Bee Dee. They have a group called, Go Veggie, and for some reason I did not hesitate to join this group (while digesting a fast food burger).
4. Bill and I decided to rent a DVD last night. We picked Fast Food Nation up from the shelf, I handed it to him and kept walking and looking, he hung onto it and said, "let's rent this one." I thought it was going to be a dark comedy like, Thank You for Smoking, which I loved. So we got it and watched it last night.
Fast Food Nation is not a dark comedy. Let me tell you, I have never felt so disturbed. The DVD is good, and the few truly gross parts are tastefully done (bad choice of words, I know). It's not all about the meat - there are several interesting subplots in the movie, many of which were apparently not in the book by the same name. We watched the extra features too. The director talked about how they were lucky to get access to shooting in a meat processing plant, including the "kill room."
My stomach feels sick as I write this and think about the whole topic. I can't imagine eating meat henceforth. Maybe a fish that I catch in a stream, but I don't know.
This is all a big sign or rather several signs coming together. Now I need to explore and decide what I do want to eat.
What's OK? What's best for me and the world? Will having a bean burrito at Taco Del Mar be OK or do I need to be concerned with 1) if there is animal fat used in its preparation and 2) if the other bad practices of fast food production make this a bad choice? Actually, I was very pleased to see that Taco Del Mar had this very informative page up on their website for vegetarians (they are opening a Taco Del Mar one mile from our house).
One thing I feel for sure, no more #1 meals.
BTW, my aim in writing this post is not to push a veggie agenda - I would not be a very good spokesperson, anyway. I think we all need to decide these things for ourselves. This blog is all about change, however, and we often come to change only after many signs clunk us over the head. Sometimes not even then. So for me, this post is selfish. I know that by writing this down and sharing it with the world, I will be more likely to pay attention to these signs and stick with my new choice. I also plan on sending emails to all my regular clients and pals so that my dietary choices can be better accommodated during future gatherings.
And I just told Bill. We were going to have leftover homemade chicken soup for lunch (that Bill made, very delicious). I told him to go ahead and I would make a peanut butter sandwich (we don't have much food in the house, we usually shop every day for that day). During lunch, I told him I think I need to go veggie. He asked lots of questions like whether I would eat dairy, fish, or meat grown and processed under human conditions. I said "no" to the meat, but the other questions I am not sure about. We have had different diets before and it will not be a problem to have some differences now. I am also lactose intolerant, so I need to factor this into the diet.
Day 1 and counting. I would be happy to receive any advice or coaching from those of you who have made the transition to veggie. A few specific questions:
1. Which are the best veggie burgers? I like veggie burgers a lot, but find the quality and taste vary a lot.
2. Lets face it, I will not become a cook. I still need my faster foods, especially when Bill travels. What have you found that is fast and convenient and healthy?
3. Any major pitfalls to avoid?