On Monday I read Susanne’s post about being vegetarian or flexitarian. On Tuesday I caught up with Episode 5 in this season of Top Chef—“Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em”—where they barbecue a whole pig. What a contrast! I went from onion skin to pig skin and plant protein to animal protein.
The Vegetarian Dilemma
It reminds me of when our kids were small and had diametrically opposite food preferences. You try getting a meal on the table when one kid says, “I won’t eat anything that has a face,” and the other one counters with, “If nothing died, it isn’t dinner.”
In my previous life I had a colleague who had worked on a chicken farm and did not have a high regard for their intelligence and social behavior. He called them “vegetables with feathers.” chickens do have faces, though, so I can’t quite put them in the same category as, say, eggplant.
The Big Four Reasons
Susanne’s post made me feel guilty, as I always do when I contemplate becoming a vegetarian. Spiritually, I aspire to it but I always fall short for four reasons:
- I like steak. Also pot roast, beef stew, roast chicken, lamb chops barbecued ribs and hamburgers—among many others. One of my granddaughters put it very well when she said, “I’m sad that animals have to die so we can eat but they taste so good.”
- I like to cook. Putting together a roast or stew or pot pie is relaxing and makes me feel creative. Salads, on the other hand, bore me. Salads require basic peeling and chopping and little else. Vegetarian cooking strikes me as just more peeling and chopping. Plus, I can’t get excited about squash lasagna or quinoa in any form. Veggie pizza is good, though.
- I like to have energy. With only half a thyroid gland, I’m hypothyroid and have to take medication daily to maintain my energy and stay healthy. Soy, a major source of protein for vegetarians, inhibits the absorption of thyroid medication and exacerbates thyroid problems. So, no soy for me, especially un-fermented soy like edamame. I allow soy sauce with sushi but that’s about it.
- I’m busy. Yes, other plants, grains and beans contain protein but I just don’t have the time to go through the research and fuss of combining incomplete proteins. It’s hard enough to figure out what to make for dinner right now. Plus, I’m out of the house a lot, especially during tour season. It’s easy to catch a quick meal if I consume animal products, not so much for vegetarian options.
The bottom line for me is that we’re omnivores, not herbivores. Human beings require protein and the fastest, most nationally complete way to get it is through consuming the flesh of other creatures.
I try to make up for these deficiencies in my spiritual will power by eating fish more often. Fish is, of course, more expensive although that’s less of a problem now that I’m only cooking for the two of us. I also like fish and shellfish. My mother fed us a lot of it when I was growing up because back then it was cheap. Yes, there was a time when fish was plentiful and offered a low-priced alternative to meat.
But I won’t eat Tilapia, which is often the cheapest fish in the market. It’s nutritionally poor. promotes inflammation, contains a high level of carcinogenic substances like dioxin, contains antibiotics and pesticides and has higher levels of Omega 6 rather than Omega 3 fatty acids. Also, the Asian fish farming practices are horrific—unless you are OK with using human and animal feces as fish food. If you are what you eat, I choose to pass on this one.
Yes, I know all the reasons why eating a plant-based diet is better for me, the planet, and our water supply I just can’t bring myself to do it. Perhaps if I had a private chef who cooked vegetarian meals for me, I would be able to stick with a vegetarian diet. I don’t see that happening any time real soon, though.
For now, however, I’ll keep eating chicken, fish, and some meat. It just tastes so good.