Skip to comments.I was a vegetarian - but now I'm a happy meat-eater
Posted on 02/18/2003 2:19:47 AM PST by MadIvan
I was brought up vegetarian, and remained that way until relatively recently, when a visit to Paris inspired me to move over to the carnivorous side of the culinary divide.
And since then, I've been catching up I've tried pretty much everything from hamburgers to snails to steak tartare. I've found that while chicken and turkey leave my taste buds cold, nothing can beat a medium rare fillet steak, preferably washed down with a glass of red.
My life as a vegetarian started when my parents took a trip to Amsterdam. I would have been about six at the time, left behind with my two sisters.
Rather than trying out psychedelic drugs like any sensible free-from-the-kids parents would have done (it was the 70s after all), my parents had to land in a restaurant where they tasted vegetarian food for the first time. It was called The Golden Dawn and they're a bit hazy on any other details "they wore robes and had turbans" is all they'll say.
Anyway, after that meal they swore never to eat meat again and they've never looked back at a fry-up with regret. My sisters and I had to go along with it we went from being a meat and two veg family, to being a veg family.
It's not like meat was a taboo in my house. I don't remember ever feeling guilty for stuffing down sausages at friends' parties; in fact I never missed the opportunity. But gradually, as I got into my teens, I established vegetarian convictions of my own. I wanted to be a vegetarian (didn't know any better, I like to think now) and I thought it was wrong to kill animals for food.
Like my parents (smoked salmon vegetarians if ever there were any) I continued to eat fish. Logical? Not really. But you can fall back on that argument that fish don't feel pain, so you don't actually hurt them by having them killed to feed you.
If you eat fish, visits to restaurants are much more enjoyable; you don't have to settle for the dreaded 'vegetarian dish' always a mushy amalgam of vegetables drenched in melted cheese.
I wasn't one of those vegetarians who felt the urge to lecture meat-eaters about the wrongness of their ways. But I did find that friends had certain expectations of me as a vegetarian. That I was terribly sensitive about butchers, for example. So they would practically shield my eyes from the carcasses when we passed a butcher's van. But really I was not offended by the sight of meat hanging up after all I didn't eat the stuff.
If, by accident, I ate a dish that contained meat stock or some small pieces of meat, they would also expect that I would a) be traumatised and b) get sick. Neither ever happened to me and I never had an upset tummy as a result of eating a stray piece of meat.
On the down side, dinner parties can be quite fraught. You run a couple of risks if you don't know the host, because they may not know that you're a vegetarian. You have two choices: you can alert them, so that they can make a dish that will suit you. Or you can wing it and hope that it won't matter. There you run the risk that they'll have to spend the whole evening in the kitchen rustling up a quick omelette for you. Either way, it's a hassle.
And so it went despite a year spent living in Paris (so many missed opportunities), I stuck to my vegetarian guns.
But gradually, after about 20 years as a vegetarian, I found my convictions leaving me it was frankly boring living off vegetables and I was missing out on so many wonderful classic French recipes and combinations.
And so to breaking point. I had been feeling run-down for months and I was pining for a change. I cracked in Normandy, on a work trip. I was offered a choice: a slice of pork sizzling straight from the oven or over-cooked vegetables accompanied by crackers and cheese. That first forkful of pork was sheer heaven.
The next day I set out on a voyage of discovery first stop snails in a local restaurant in nearby Brittany. The snails had been marinated in Pernod, and tasted slippery, salty and very very boozy. They went down a treat.
On to Paris, where I had the best steak of my life. It was small but perfectly formed a fillet steak, medium rare, served with pepper sauce, accompanied by pommes dauphinoises and a side order of grilled leeks. I was amazed and thrilled that the dish could be so small and yet so perfectly balanced and leave me feeling so sated the experience was unforgettable.
I've tried brains (not recommended on health or aesthetic grounds), I've tried confit de canard (delicious, duck cooked in its own fat). Hell, I even tried tripe on my last trip to France (looks like fish, tastes stale ugh). So I like to think I've been very thorough in my explorations of the world of meat.
And I can definitely conclude that it's better to eat meat it tastes amazing, it combines brilliantly with herbs and wine and it really does open up a new world to your taste buds.
Somewhere along the way of my exploration of the aesthetics of meat, I realised that I really didn't care that animals were dying in order to keep me content with my diet. Well, to be a bit more nuanced about it, I'd like them to have been kept humanely before being killed.
And now that it's easy to get organic, free-range meat at some shops and restaurants, there's really no more excuse for being a vegetarian any more.
I guess I'm missing what makes this a conservative issue.. or any issue at all.
I can say this because when I lived in Europe as a DOD civilian, no beef could beat the American commissary beef.
Too bad he's in France. If he was in a country that still had an American presence to speak of, maybe some gracious G.I. family could have him over for dinner. He'd never look back.
There is a political component to vegetarianism, a "you shouldn't eat more than your share" that is socialistic in outlook. Those who eat a lot of expensive protein consume more, in their thinking, than someone who eats soybeans. Takes more land to support a cow, yadayada. Resentments of this sort are leftish more than sympathetic to animals.
I wasn't one of those vegetarians who felt the urge to lecture meat-eaters about the wrongness of their ways
For some reason, your reply has reminded me of many different Freepers. Authoritarians are authoritarians are authoritarians. ;-)
This guy doesn't seem to have been that kind of vegetarian.. so I can't really see this as some sort of ideological victory... and it's a pretty pointless article to boot. Vegetarianism never required an "excuse". Don't they have editors in Ireland?
vegetarian: Primitive word for "lousy hunter"
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