It's National Vegetarian Week! I for one am celebrating because I am no
longer a vegetarian, which means I no longer have to spend countless
hours defending my vegetarianism. My husband and I were vegetarian for a
period of about nine years that ended just over a decade ago. And just
to dispel any stereotypes, making the change from omnivore to herbivore
was his idea.
During the years we didn't eat meat, I was surprised by how defensively people would respond when we told them. Often they would attack. "Why do we have canine teeth, then? There's rennet in cheese, you still eat cheese, don't you?" Etc., etc. I wish I'd thought of the response one of my vegetarian friends gives now: "Would you eat a dog?" Most people are appropriately abhorred. "So that's where you draw your line when it comes to eating meat," he says. "I draw mine similarly, in that I will eat the cheese, but I stop at the cheeseburger."
Our foray into vegetarianism came about shortly after I had decided to give up red meat. My husband wouldn't even go along with that. But, being an engineer with a scientific mind, he did begin to read up on it. During his studies, he read Peter Singer's book In Defense of Animals. When he finished, he put the book down and announced he was vegetarian. He wouldn't even wear a leather coat. So, curious, I picked up the book to see what could reform a man who previously wouldn't even give-up his pastrami. When I finished, I was vegetarian, too.
People who used to tell me, "I'm mostly vegetarian," or "I'm sort of a vegetarian," used to annoy the crap out of me. (Actually, they still do.) You have no idea how much meat and animal by-products we consume on a daily basis and until you've stood in the grocery aisle reading the fine print on the labels of everything you put into your cart, you are not even close to being able to say you're "almost vegetarian." Yoplait yogurt? Gelatin. Fast food French fries? Beef fat. Vegetable soup? Chicken or beef stock. And on and on.
We fell off the wagon because of our pediatrician. I waddled into her office six-month pregnant with twins. We told her we were vegetarian and she said, "Oh that's so healthy!" Great, we thought. We've found our doctor. The vegetarian me gave birth to two six-pound babies. But when the boys were about one and a half, she insisted we introduce meat. "The kind of meat that grows on trees?" I thought, because that's the only kind we would eat. Well, long story short (er) I couldn't find a single study, book or bit of empirical evidence to bring back to the doctor. All I found were books written in the seventies that said things like, "Fern was raised vegetarian and see, she turned out okay." Hardly the scientific evidence I was looking for.
Even though I knew in my soul they would be okay without it, I found myself cooking chicken a couple of times a week, because the doctor had told me our "growing boys needed protein so they wouldn't be anemic." It didn't take too many times standing in the kitchen serving chicken to my sons with drool dribbling down my chin before I caved to the temptation myself. My husband tumbled shortly thereafter.
It's a shame really. Vegetarianism is probably healthier. It's definitely better for the planet. And I would have to guess the animals like it, too. It's just so damned hard. With three kids and two careers, I'll do whatever it takes to make life easier.
So perhaps instead of eating tofurkey in honor of National Vegetarian Week, I'll just point out, it's National Craft Brew Week this week, too.