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On Missing Meat…

February 5, 2009

Last weekend, while visiting my sister in Ohio, she turned to me with a grave expression and asked, “M, what do you miss most about me?” Surprised, I immediately looked at her husband. I wondered if this was another pregnant hormonal question, the sort that you should not answer but just smile and nod, feigning momentary hearing loss. Potentially treading on unsafe waters, I giggled a bit and asked,”What was your question?” She replied, “What do you miss most about meat?” Relieved we weren’t going down some sort of minefield, her husband and I relaxed and laughed at her, not with her, mind you. It took me a minute or two to answer her though…It had been a long time since someone asked me that question. Most often, people are more concerned with what I can eat. There are long discussions about the health benefits of a low-fat diet, my absent gallbladder, and whether one would call me a vegetarian or not. But actually, C’s question is the most interesting inquiry that I have gotten about not eating meat, what do I miss about it. The answer, nothing.

I never miss meat. To miss meat, would imply that there is something addictive or necessary to eating meat. Kind of like the question one might ask someone who used to smoke, drink, or even shop at Saks too much. I don’t see someone eating meat and wish I was too, because well, I was never addicted to meat. What I do miss? Options. I miss going to a restaurant and being able to look at the entire menu. During my brief meat eating years, age 22-25, I loved being able to open the over-sized menu and order like a king. I would loudly declare, “I WILL HAVE THE MEAT!” Confused, the waitress would ask me to specify what type of meat, “um,” eyes squinting the continuous rows and rows of options, “the COW!” A would quietly explain to the waitress that I was new to this meat thing. Now turning to me, like a small child wearing a bib at a four star restaurant, “Now, sweetie, how would you like that meat cooked?” “So its dead!” I would announce. Well, to tell the truth, it didn’t go exactly like that, but sometimes it felt close. To be honest, I never understood how to order meat. A would tell them if I wanted the steak bloody or leathery. The plate would arrive, and I would sit and stare, grab the wrong knife, and saw. A few bites of chewing and I would quickly get flashbacks to childhood dinners, which was always exciting with me choking on steak, bi-weekly, at the dinner table. Panicked, I would look at A and wonder if he knew the heimlich, or would he do the heimlich after my embarrassing steak-less knowledge on how to properly chew, and then be reminded on why I don’t eat meat. I don’t need a production to my meal.

As I said, what I miss most is options. At home, A and I cook millions of recipes and find delicious meals where he doesn’t miss the meat. What frustrates me most, is that I wish restaurants wouldn’t treat vegetarians and pescetarians as a side show, someone they remember they might have to feed, but don’t care for them to return. I refuse to go to a restaurant where my only choice is to decide between pasta marinara and salmon. Those dishes are usually poor in quality; I could make a much better version at home. Meat is a cultural dominant that appears to be the only choice to a good meal, which is simply not true. In fact, often meat distracts from quality ingredients, spices, and recipes. When the meat is gone, the cooking must be strong. Yes, you can tease me for that last one.

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