This is my last piece about my temporary journey into vegetarianism. Back at the beginning of June, I wasn’t quite sure what this one would be like. I had a general plan about what five of my six pieces would cover. I got my shock and awe out of the way early with the little bit on how to field dress a deer. Then I snuck in a little hopeful snippet about how I was actually enjoying the cooking (I suspected I would). I knew I was going to Maine, and I assumed that I’d get some good material there. The budget piece was a little bit of surprise, but a welcome one. And I knew that I wanted to do one that featured a collection of amusing scenes from the sixty days I’d be without meat.
Then there were the discarded ideas. A stream of consciousness piece featuring me cooking an exceptionally complex vegetarian meal with lots of unfamiliar ingredients. A letter to a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich that would call to mind a soldier’s letter to his gal back in Anytown, USA. A Fourth of July piece written from a slaughtered hog’s point of view (probably better that I didn’t go that route).
But this last one was always a mystery to me. What lessons—if any—would I learn?
Would I be a convert and preach about how everyone should at least try being a vegetarian? Would I put together some sort of wishy-washy piece about how I’ll always be a meat-eater, but maybe I’ll think a little bit more before I take that next bite of steak? Would it be an in-your-face inventory of every last scrap of meat I ate since August 1, 2012?
Turns out that it’s not going to be any of those.
Instead, I’d like to start by talking about Stand By Me—the movie, not the novella. Specifically, the story Gordie tells to Chris, Vern, and Teddy on their trek through the wilderness. You know the one. The one about Lardass Hogan—the overweight boy who decided to get even with the town that mocked him by drinking a bottle of castor oil and eating a raw egg before entering the blueberry pie eating contest. If you’ve ever seen Stand By Me—and especially if you were lucky enough to see it under the age twelve or thirteen—what happens next is one of the finest moments in American cinema history.
I tell you this because I want you to understand what happened after I ate my first hamburger in over sixty days on August 2, 2012. The roiling in my stomach. The queasiness.
Yeah, replace those blueberry pies with hamburger and you’ll get a pretty good picture of what my evening was like.
So August 2, 2012 may go down as the last day I ever eat hamburger.
So am I a convert? No, not really. A neighbor treated to me to a sandwich at Goose The Market for lunch and introduced me to the Batali—a wonderful monstrosity that features most of the meats I missed out on at the wedding in Rhode Island. And I’ve made one or two stops by a local wing joint in the last several days.
But did I learn anything? That’s a harder question to answer. I learned that I don’t need meat, so maybe I’ll be eating less of it from now on. Certainly, we’ve got a few new meatless meals in our repertoire, and I imagine that we’ll continue making them every so often. I learned that ground beef no longer agrees with me. So I’ll definitely be eating less of that.
My overall outlook on the subject, though, hasn’t changed. Animals were—and remain—a source of food to me. Even the cute ones. Sorry, Becky. At least I gave it a shot.
And that’s what’s important, I think. I gave it a shot. I tried to understand something that made no sense to me, and I’m hopefully coming away from the experience a better person. A more open person.
I used to have a snide comment on hand anytime someone mentioned they were a vegetarian. Oftentimes, they were left unsaid, but they were still there. For every animal you don’t eat, I’ll eat three. Or I’m not a vegetarian, but I eat animals who are.
I doubt that that will be the case anymore. It hasn’t been so far. So maybe I have changed, at least a little bit. Maybe a lesson was learned—a lesson that both you and I should think long and hard on. Especially over the coming months.
Never mind what you say out loud. What do you think when someone tells you that he’s religious? Or that she’s liberal? Or you meet a couple that votes straight Republican and is proud of it? What goes through your head when someone unabashedly adores Aaron Sorkin? Do you form opinions about gun-owners without actually knowing any? What about a person who’s pro-choice? Or one who’s pro-life?
If you’re honest with yourself, I think you’ll be disappointed with the answer to at least one of those questions.
But then again, maybe this was all just a silly gimmick for an online magazine.