Hannah Eats Everything. But lately, I don’t. My discomfort with the idea of eating meat has been around since college. At first, it was conveniently limited to discomfort with eating specifically the kinds of meat I already didn’t like (steak, chicken in any preparation other than fried, anything tough and sinewy, too much meat at one time, like in a chop), but it has been growing and getting a bit out of hand.
Trying to minimize my meat consumption started by not cooking it at home, which then became also not eating it when it was convenient/crappy, like free pizza at work, which turned into its current incarnation: not eating it unless A) it’s a rare opportunity to try a unique dish, B) I have it on good authority it’s going to be transcendent, or C) a friend or their grandma or something gives it to me and then stands there expectantly.
What I didn’t expect was that this stage was also where my tastebuds stopped being within my control. They started balking at certain meats, tasting something offensively gamy, like a subtle wet dog smell, where before they might have luxuriated in marrow, intestines, or liver. For example, the other day I couldn’t finish a bowl of Phnom Penh noodle soup because it was too liver-y. Too liver-y! For me! I used to order larb made of liver at North Hollywood Thai restaurants. I had a fridge full of Trader Joe’s truffle mousse pate. I mean, I judged Phnom Penh noodle restaurants on their ability to stand up against soup gentrification by using the ‘icky parts’ of the pig despite casual tourists’ squicked-outedness. And now I was pushing the liver down into the depths of the soup, hidden under the noodles, so I wouldn’t have to face the shame of my traitorous tastebuds.
I’m afraid to try pate, a former favorite. Popeye’s fried chicken, a guilty pleasure for years, hits my tolerance level after half a thigh. I used to eat burgers about once a month. The last time I ate one was October - and it was Korean-influenced - and I still didn’t like it. And this one pains me most: when my family follows my grandma’s recipe for essig-fleisch, it tastes like tomatoey straw with this unmistakeable farm animal smell-tang.
It shouldn’t pain me at all, or shame me, or even surprise me. I support eliminating factory farming, and would be happy to pay the inflated price for humanely killed meat. I believe we should cut meat consumption to a fraction of what it is now - that the worldwide trend toward increased meat consumption is the wrong direction. I believe animal flesh is something that should be consumed mindfully, with thoughts towards the sacrifice involved. I have wished out loud after watching some horrific factory farm video or reading “Eating Animals” or “Animal Liberation” that my body didn’t love and crave meat so much. Then, I’d be free to go vegetarian.
And now, it doesn’t. I am free(er) to go vegetarian.
I am, half-under my control and half-not, moving that way. I still eat seafood with abandon (or, abandon if it falls under my A/B/C three-stage rules above). For some reason, few seafood items have yet inspired even slight revulsion in me (exceptions: stingrays, which have the effect of a ropy combination of tuna and steak). But the proportion of mammal/bird meat in my diet is rapidly shrinking.
It pains me, I guess, because this blog is nothing if not a shrine to novelty. Newness is more important than quality, goodness, complexity, authenticity, or any other measure I might otherwise choose to rate food. And along with newness comes openness to experience, that Big Five Personality scale item that I choose mainly to apply to food experiences. How can I remain fully open, or claim allegiance to novelty, when there are now things towards which I hold prejudice? Not just "hey, I've tried this thing and don't really like it" prejudice, but moral prejudice?
I will try to keep writing regardless, perhaps pointing my spotlight at more fish-and-veggie-centric experiences, as I figure this out - but the unease remains.
It's kind of funny when you take a step back - I'm scared to be a vegetarian!