meat market signIn an ironic twist of fate, my New Year's resolution for this year happens to be the exact opposite of my resolution from last year. What can happen in 365 days? Why the about face? Here's what went down:
One of the things that occurred near the end of my marriage -- when we were already having problems -- is that my now ex-husband and I both read a book (Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer, one of my favorite authors), and our meal time together was immediately changed. We both were impacted by Foer's ethical arguments for being vegetarian -- namely, that factory farming is bad for animals, for people, and for the environment. But while I was content to simply use his message to make more mindful decisions about what we were eating, my ex was cleaning out the refrigerator and swearing off meat forever.
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I wish I could say I was as enthusiastic about the vegetarian lifestyle as he was: I blogged about it and tried to act excited about eating lentil soup three times a week. But my heart just wasn't in it, for a multitude of reasons: It was nearly impossible to be a food writer when I didn't eat meat. Avoiding meat and trying to figure out what in the world to eat for dinner every night became another source of stress in an already stressful relationship. And when it came right down to it? I loved meat. I wasn't ready to live without it.
Perhaps I should pause here to qualify that I actually do think being vegetarian or vegan is an entirely noble and worthy lifestyle, especially considering how animals raised for food are treated in many parts of this country. That said, when it comes to deciding what I feel ok about eating, I tend to borrow from the philosophies of people like Michael Pollan and Dan Barber -- specifically, that even if you eat vegetarian, you still have blood on your hands. Here's another way to look at it: I may eat meat occasionally, but I'm constantly educating myself about ethical and sustainable meat purveyors and practices, being aware of and vigilant in my food choices, and writing about these topics whenever I can. Sure, some would argue that's a defensive and convenient way to eat; but we all constantly justify things to ourselves in order to make it through the day. For me, I didn't feel guilty living this way until the person I was married to attempted to convince me otherwise.
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I feel a little pathetic when I think back on how much I was willing to compromise in an effort to save my relationship -- giving up meat obviously wasn't the only thing. But if I'm truly honest with myself, I suppose it makes sense: Sharing a meal was one of the last connections we had, and I was determined to do anything not to shatter that routine. Plus, I was already doing a pretty crappy job at marriage; was it really the best time to add senseless, immoral animal killer to my resume as well?
This may shock you, but reluctantly adopting a vegetarian diet no matter how genuine the intentions wasn't enough to fix a broken marriage: I tried. I failed. I'm trying now to find ways to move on. And, now that my relationship is in the past and I've had a chance to re-experience how it is to live in the world as a single person, I've reintroduced meat into my diet. Not every day. Not in a way in which I'm taking animals for granted. But in a way in which I'm getting what it is that I need to feel healthy, satisfied, and cared for (even if it's just me doing the caring).
You see for me being a meat-eater is about much more than diet. It's about recognizing what it is that you need, living for yourself, and refusing to compromise -- all with a clear conscience. These are things I plan on doing a lot of in 2011 -- while enjoying a burger or two as well.
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