This is me approx. age six/seven. LOL at my tiny hands & puffy biceps. And my Harry Potter glasses. And my lengthened bowl cut. Christ almighty. As you can see, I’m looking pretty skeptical about the hot dog I’m wielding before me. I probably ingested that greasy little dog with as much enthusiasm as I would a turd.
I’ve been this way all my life. What an abnormal girl, the carnivores exclaim to one another, between mouthfuls of filet mignons (pronounced, phil-it mig-nun). That’s fine, and not completely inaccurate. Abnormal– sure. But, have fun dying before me– your little hamburgurs are going to kill you.
I’m only kidding – I ingest plenty of horrendous things (Four Loko, anyone). But, as of a few years ago, to the consternation of most of my friends, family, and peers, I decided to jump ship on the whole meat eating thing. Vegetarianism they call it. And, for those of you who like to nitpick (which seems to be everyone, ever) no, I’m not a real vegetarian. You are correct. But, I’d sound like an ass if I went around saying, “I’m a lacto-ovo-pescatarian“, although that’s technically what I am.
But truthfully, I just eat what I want, which just so happens to exclude meat & include dairy (lacto), eggs (ovo), and fish (pescatarian). And cheez-its. And whiskey.
I do realize that most of the world’s population can more easily relate to this little, dare I say, f*cker, named Curtis.
And that’s totally respectable (It isn’t). No judgement. Eat all the bacon your heart desires. But I’m on Joy’s team. Throw it out! Begone with you, bacon.
Though I’ve officially become a veg-person quite recently, my boycott against meat began much earlier in life.
Timeline of Monica’s Meatlessness
1990 – Birth – Vegetarian by default. You don’t feed an infant meat.
1994 – My first memory of hamburger hatred. I was never forced to eat a hamburger ever again. I must thrown quite a fit, having made it quite clear that I was not a fan.
1995-1997 – Countless tearful dinners. “Eat your food or you can’t leave the table“, Mum & Dad would say, as my distraught self looked upon my plate through tears, at the detestable lump of cold, already-chewed steak fat, that I had half attempted to choke down 20 minutes prior, but spit out back onto my plate out of repulsion, gagging and sobbing. I was trapped. There was no way in hell I was going to ingest that vile lump of animal carcass, but if I didn’t eat it, I’d miss out on dessert; nor could I leave the table without being reprimanded, so this was out of the question too. Believe me, I tried everything I could think of to get out of eating the hunk of misery. I’d discretely toss whatever carnivorous misfortune was being served that night on the floor. Or, taking a leaf out of my sisters book, I would try going to the bathroom with the piece of pork chop artfully hidden in my mouth, then spit it out & flush the abomination. Alas, my parents were too smart. It never worked. I typically just cried at the table and waited a few hours for my scolding before being sent to bed, exhausted by the whole ordeal. On the bright side, this is how I cultivated my Tibetan monk-like patience.
Luckily, I’ve repressed most of these memories, but remnants still linger. And it wasn’t just with steak, but all animal carcasses. Lemon-pepper chicken, pork chops, sausage, ham, many a pot roast, beef stroganoff (the worst, since the fat bits were hidden in the sauce, undetectable until biting into one), turkey, roast beef. You name it, I cried over it. And mother is a fabulous cook, a regular Martha Stewart, so I know I can’t attribute blame to poor cooking.
1998 – A little hell hole called Fudruckers, a restaurant in Cincinnati that only served hamburgers and hotdogs was my own personal hell on Earth. The Human Centipede of restaurants, if you will. I really hated this place. People might’ve enjoyed eating here. But, not me. I’d pout on the drive to Fudruckers, and just be as unpleasant as possible during the whole meal. Hamburgers were out of the question, so I’d reluctantly order a hot dog– the greasiest things I’ve encountered to date. Even the bun was gross. How does one ruin a bun? Moving away from Cinci was such a relief because I knew I was safe from Fudruckers. This place is closed now, because what they were serving was unfit for human consumption.
1999 – McDonald’s chicken nuggets. Woof. I don’t really have any qualms with McD’s as a whole (we all know fast-food isn’t where you turn for a balanced meal). I do take issue with their “chicken” nuggets, though. As a child, more often than not, I’d get a nasty nugget or three that had some unnatural, unchewable mass –surely not chicken– inside the nugget. Riddle me this: How you gonna use a non-chicken entity to make something called a chicken nugget?
Well, naturally, I would lodge these mutant nuggets in whatever crevices I could find, in order to avoid being yelled at for wasting “food”. On road trips, nuggets would be shoved between the seats (I’m no heathen, but desperate times call for desperate measures). But one notable occasion in the 3rd grade, father and I sat down for a meal of Mickey d’s, and to my alarm, I’d been served one of these mutant nuggets. Long story short, with no where to hide, I had to eat it (you can only avoid nugget consumption for so long before Keith’s patience wears out). It was grotesque. This was the last McDonald’s chicken nugget I have ever put in my mouth. I made a vow then and there, sitting on the plastic chair with the dried ketchup stain, at the McDonald’s on Blankenbaker Pkwy, that I would never, ever under any circumstances, put another McD’s nugget in my mouth so long as I live. And I’ve been true to my word, because that’s the kind of person I am.
2000 – Going out to eat at places like O’Charley’s (yuck), I would order a plate of tomato slices and love life. Budding vegetarian? Sure looks like it.
2002 – A close friend and confidant found a maggot in her chicken. Needless to say, that made a significant impact on me.
From here on out, I was pretty much free to eat what I please, and it was understood that most meats were not to be passed my way, except the occasional shicken breast.
No, I’m not a PETA person (yet). And it’s certainly not for religious reasons (I’m not religious, I’m spiritual!). Perhaps those traumatic childhood suppers are to blame, but I don’t think so.
Reasons for exiling meat from my diet, in no particular order:
1. Meat consumption is associated with increased cancer risks. I know, I know. You’re thinking what isn’t associated with cancer these days. Surely binge drinking isn’t doing much to help on this front, but I’ve got to pick and choose my battles. I’d take a nice hoppy IPA over a ham sandwich any day.
2. You eat more vegetables by default. Unless you just don’t, then you’re a carb-atarian. It provides a nice excuse to start trying new foods. I’d probably never have had baba ghanouj, tempeh, or brussel sprouts if my menu options weren’t limited to the *vegetarian asteriked items. By the way, baba ghanouj is the cats meow.
3. There are other ways to get protein outside the meat world. And guess what. They are easier/cheaper to prepare and they taste better. Beans, tofu, & nuts to name a few.
4. Mad cow disease. No thanks. People already think I’m crazy, let’s not make it worse.
5. The little globs of unchewable fat on steak and pork chops– they’re what nightmares are made of.
6. Steroids, hormones, antibiotics and other chemical gibberish. The thought of eating chicken or beef laced with hormones makes me salivate, not from hunger, but from nausea.
7. I’m poor. Meat is pricey. I’d rather spend my money on… literally anything else.
8. I can’t tolerate touching raw meat (unlike this beast who eats it). Even just taking raw chicken out of its package is an ordeal that I prefer to avoid. It probably has something to do with reason number 9…
9. I have a very real fear of salmonella. Did you know you could end up diarheeuh-ing severely for 7 full days if stricken with the ‘nella. F*ck thaaaat.
10. It takes a long time to cook. Ain’t nobody got time for that. When I realize I’m hungry, the community has about a one minute window until I become hangry and dangerous— there’s no time for foreplay. Feed me now!
11. Beef jerky isn’t real. It’s an insult to snackfoods everywhere and it reeks.
12. I actually like vegetables. Someone call the cops.
13. Hummus. Ooooh diggity. Hummus makes the world go round.
14. Factory farming is depressing & I’m an animal lover.