The short update is that I willingly ate two hamburgers (medium-rare) and then pooped for 16 hours. I rather enjoyed both experiences, albeit for amazingly different reasons.
Many of you can stop reading now.
Still with me? Good. Hello again.
Despite how earnest (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) I may have sounded in my last post, it took a little while for the Meat Sabbatical to truly begin.
(Although as many of you have pointed out, its not really a MEAT Sabbatical as much as it is a Vegetarian Sabbatical, if the correct definition of the word sabbatical were to be upheld. Some of you also pointed out that “Meat Sabbatical” would be a great title for an exploratory Lesbian porn. To each their own.)
First, I could not willingly eat meat again unless I was in the presence of my fiancé. Not because she had any invested interest either way, but because her presence supports and calms me like no other person on the planet. Plus if I puked and/or cried and/or cried and tried to MAKE myself puke she’s also the only person on the planet that would rub my back while calling me an idiot and still love me after.
Second, it had been so long since I ate meat, I didn’t know where to start. On top of that, I needed to be careful. My body hadn’t produced the enzymes necessary to break down meat in a few years and if I overdid it, I would pay for it.
Third, after five years I was not craving meat, and generally speaking I try to not eat something simply for the sake of eating it. For about two days I tried to fixate myself on the prospect of a fried chicken sandwich (a favorite of mine from my chubby childhood), and yet when it came time to put up or shut up, all I craved was a black bean burrito with seared pepper tofu and corn salsa. I went with that. It was delicious.
Fourth, part of me wanted my reintroduction to meat to come in the form of something I cherished as a child. Like I mentioned in Part 1, my family are big meat eaters and have been my whole life. A lot of my best family memories came packaged with a wildly non-animal friendly palate memory, and part of me wanted to draw on those memories either as a motivation or a distraction (to the extent that those two statements are even different) from the act of eating meat again. This is quite possibly the most dramatic and self-indulgent logic implemented in this process.
That opportunity came during a visit to my sister’s house this past weekend. Despite not eating meat for five years, I never lost my love of grilling. While salmon, veggie dogs and asparagus became the new defaults in that regard, I still loved the smell of a good burger or steak on the barbecue, even if I had no desire to consume it.
My sister was concerned. She wanted to be sure that I would be okay with what I was doing (she had not read Part 1) and, I suspect, also be sure I wouldn’t diharrea all over her floor. I assured her, to the best of my knowledge, that I would not. My brother-in-law and fiancé (who HAD read Part 1), were supportive and walked me through the different forms of cooked beef that I had long forgotten. I settled on Medium-Rare (for taste and consistency purposes).
As my brother-in-law grilled, I was brought back to some of the earliest days of my family living in this country, spending the summer grilling in the back yard, surrounded by New Hampshire foliage. It was a good a time as any.
Except for the fact that my sister likes her burgers rare. Very rare. Like pool of blood red juices leaking out of the thing as soon as it hit the plate rare. Admittedly, this almost made me run for the portabello caps she bought “just in case.” I collected myself and rededicated to the experiment. Nothing said I couldn’t go back later if I needed to.
I’ll save you the flowery details of me dressing my burger. Ketchup, mayo, grilled onions, bun. Simple enough.
After sheepishly blurting out a misguided personal platitude something along the lines of “thank you Mr. Cow for dying of old age so that I may eat you” (the line needs shaping and and less naiveté, but its a work in progress), I took my first bite. It was damn good.
And that was that.
I’ve now rewritten the ending to this post six or seven times and each ending has been worse than the last (this one probably won’t turn out much better). The primary reason behind this, I think, was my desire to come to some kind of conclusion.
As a person, and definitely as a writer, I tend to be someone that tries to build up the significance of, well, basically everything. Some people might refer to this as being a drama queen, and they would be 100% correct.
This idea that my soul searching on this subject should amount to some kind of vapid, flourishing declaration of purpose is exactly the kind of idea that got me into trouble in the first place.
Either I concocted some kind of hackney’d response about finding myself and inner peace in the middle of cooked animal (I literally wrote and deleted the line “I tasted a living memory” at least seven times) or how I wanted to hate myself for liking it but deciding hating myself is dumb or how eating meat is part of human nature or about how I find purpose in living authentically and on and on indulging in whatever processed drivel or insincere treatises on life and living that popped out of my head that would completely invalidate my point and make promises I shouldn’t and/or offending someone (first and foremost myself).
Because they are just the words I would hide behind to avoid actually caring.
At the end of the day, the biggest thing I will get out of this is that it does not matter what I eat on a GLOBAL scale. My diet does not define who I am and it is certainly not something worth turning into a spectacle. (Especially since, as an evolving “healthy” eater, I probably won’t be indulging in much of the fun meaty things all that often anyway and will still be a veggie-focused eater 95% of the time, officially changing nothing.)
Even if I never eat another hamburger in my life, I won’t be calling myself a vege/pescetariwhatever again. I used that phrase as a cocoon, a flag and a cause because it was convenient and I desperately wanted to stand for something, ANYTHING that could make me feel distinct or important. Not wanting to eat meat and stand up for animal rights gave me the right intention, but the wrong attitude. I am not fulfilled by eating meat, just like I was not fulfilled by not eating meat. Truthfully, thinking too hard about what fulfills me makes me feel tired and dirty.
Because the truth of it is, living authentically means just living. Not building up a detailed narrative for yourself and putting your convictions out there as a barrier against communication with other people. Living authentically means not desperately trying to seem significant and hyping everything up into some meaningless crescendo of jargon. (And yes, I realize the very act of blogging these words may invalidate them, but I can only eliminate so many of these tendencies.)
I genuinely hate that vegetarianism was what ended up being my crutch, because it really is a lifestyle I deeply support and admire. There are so many aspects in play here that I never bothered to invest in because simply not eating meat was “enough.” It was the worst kind of armchair activism.
I’m glad to be rid of it.
So yes, this story could’ve had many more than 2.5 parts to it. Chances are I will be struggling with this for years to come, but thats the point. That is being human. Life rarely lets us wrap our challenges up in nice little bows, even if the internet does. I want this post to end in an ellipses (figuratively, as the alternative would convey awful punctuation skills), because that is the most honest way to end it.
Go eat a burger. Go eat a fresh apple. Go eat processed macho protein shakes are most likely made up of crushed up cheetah bones (I swear they sell this at my gym). Go eat what makes you happy.
And stop overthinking it.