exciting, informative, snarky, and very likely fabricated tales of life as an american expat in london

our arteries will thank us

by Jen at 8:20 pm on 12.04.2007 | 4 Comments
filed under: mundane mayhem

it kind of crept up on me over the past year, but recently i’m realising i’ve inadvertently become a vegetarian. again.

back when i was first entering high school, in a tiny act of rebellion or parental spite or misguided dieting, i decided to stop eating red meat. in fact, when i first started, i don’t think i had any more high-minded or noble purpose than the vain hope of perhaps losing a few pounds and setting myself apart from the crowd in some way. the only vegetarians i had run into then were the pale, stringy types who idly pushed their stuff around on their plates with a fork and picked gingerly at birdseed, all the while protesting that flesh was “gross”. and (my) flesh did gross me out, so i decided to restrict my dietary intake in a socially acceptable, even lauded way. i sold the idea to my parents by saying i was doing it for “health reasons”, and coming from families chock full of heart disease, (and betting, i’m sure, that the whole phase would last all of 2 weeks) they agreed to let me try.

the funny thing is, i used to love meat. rare, bloody meat. cured, fatty meat. thick, juicy meat. i loved steak. i loved pepperoni. sausages and chops. i used to steal bits of raw ground hamburger out of the frying pan. i used to down raw strips of bacon.

by all rights, this little experiment should have been an utter failure.

but amazingly, stubbornly, i stuck with it. i never lost any weight, of course (and looking back, i didn’t actually need to) but i continued on with it simply to prove that i could. to show my parents i could live the way i wanted. over time, it became a lifestyle by force of habit, and i never really thought much about why i’d started. i even went vegan for two years in college, eating no animal products at all, just to see what it was like. all told, i stuck with it for 14 years.

and then one day in 2000, i made myself a hamburger. and that was that. i ended much like i started – for no really good reason other than a whim.

so it’s pretty clear i was never vegetarian for moral reasons – i think there’s a reason humans are at the top of the food chain and have eaten meat for 2 million years. we’re designed to. i have no compunctions about killing animals for food, or qualms about the idea of eating dead carcass. even as a (not-so-strict) vegetarian i’d had the very rare piece of fish or chicken when at other people’s house. so it didn’t bother me to start suddenly eating meat again.

and i ate meat happily for many years, whenever i felt like it. and then i moved here.

and found out that meat in london is really, *really* expensive. and it doesn’t taste the same. and i don’t really know how to cook it very well. but j, being from south africa, has always been a pretty hefty meat eater. so we were having meat a lot, for quite a while.

and then two things occurred contemporaneously somewhere in 2005: we began saving *hard* for our trip, and i saw a programme on chicken factories. now i’ve always known that animals bred for food are not treated particularly *well*, but what they showed happening at the chicken factory was just beyond the pale. i decided then and there that if i was going to eat meat, i was going to buy only the most ethically sourced meat i could find. to some people that might sound like a silly distinction – after all, the animals end up dead anyway – but to me it was the difference between consciously choosing to support humane farming methods, and just eating whatever happens to be on the shelf in the plastic wrap without looking too closely. i’m lucky enough to have the luxury of deciding what kind of food i want to buy, so i decided that perhaps i should put a little thought into it.

and once that decision was made, meat simply wasn’t in the budget anymore. i wasn’t interested in buying steaks at £10 each when i could buy a week’s worth of tofu products instead. surprisingly, j was in agreement. meat was phased out, soy was phased in. it all happened pretty seamlessly.

and since we’ve been back from our travels, that mentality seems to have stuck, for whatever reason. it’s not with any purposeful intent – we could buy and eat meat if we felt like it. we have lots of fish (yes, i know that’s not truly vegetarian) and beans and quorn. when we go shopping i ask j if he wants anything in particular, and he invariably says no. i think, “oh it’d be nice to make steak tonight”, but then just kind of let the idea drift off. on the rare occasion when we do have meat, it never tastes as good as i think it will. it never seems worth it in the end.

so we’ve become aimless mostly-veggies by default. halfway-sorta-but-not-really on purpose. kind of the way it happened the first time. we could change that – but neither of us truly wants to.

but, damn, i still love me some pepperoni.

the housemartins – me and the farmer

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  • 1

    Comment by amity

    14.04.2007 @ 11:01 am

    so those beef medallions and duck rolls we ate last week don’t count, eh? -)

    you know, i have never tried quorn. i’m going to have to sneak some into our food one day and see if paul notices.

  • 2

    Comment by Anglofille

    14.04.2007 @ 12:12 pm

    I gave up red meat two and a half years ago because I cannot digest it properly and it made me sick. And I have never felt better since I gave it up. Because of that, I will *never* go back. I gave up dairy too, but I still have that occasionally. However, I will not budge on the red meat because I know if I taste it, I’ll want it again. And I have dreams about pepperoni! I bought some soy pepperoni when I was back in the US last summer. I wish I could find that here!

  • 3

    Comment by Jen

    14.04.2007 @ 16:05 pm

    i said *mostly* veggie ) actually i only ever really eat any meat outside the home. we never buy it or make it anymore.

    and no, that teeny tiny “medallion” doesn’t count lol

    oh man, i totally miss the faux-meat products in the u.s. most of the ones here suck.

    the dairy, i just cannot do – it makes me feel so ill.

  • 4

    Comment by amity

    15.04.2007 @ 00:25 am

    hey jen — if you can be a mostly veggie but slip every once in awhile, why can’t i smoke a cig a couple times a year without you whacking me in the arm repeatedly? just sayin’. -)

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