It ended and started with ribs- the beginning and end of my vegetarianism

Back in September 2008, living in Melbourne, I read a book called “Two Caravans” written by Marina Lewycka. The main character in the book works in a chicken farm and the author ensured she gave a pretty vivid account of what life is like for the chickens in such an environment. After finishing the book, I gave up eating chicken. Yep, all because of what I read.

Fast forward to July 2009, living in Vancouver, when I read another book. The authors of “Skinny Bitch” Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, were a little more obvious in their intention- they wanted you to become vegan by also giving vivid accounts of how all animals are treated when being converted into food. I was unaware of this ulterior motive when I first purchased the book, purely choosing the book due to its risqué title. But after finishing the book in only two sittings, I was convinced that I needed to extend my non-chicken eating ways to include all meat. I couldn’t go the whole hog (pardon the pun) and go vegan- I love dairy too much- so I settled on being vegetarian. Unbeknownst to me, my final meat meal ended up being a meal of ribs that I cooked and shared with my parents and youngest brother who were visiting me in Vancouver at the time. Yep, all because of what I read.

On arriving back in Australia four months later after travelling North and South America and maintaining my vegetarian status, “You need to stop reading” was the common response I got from my friends when I told them why I was now vegetarian.

Being vegetarian was actually quite an interesting social experiment. Some people would become quite defensive about their own meat-eating habits when they would find out about my non-meat eating ways. Not once did I ever try to convince someone that they should become vegetarian; even when they asked the exact reason why I did, I would still avoid sharing the gruesome details and just answer with a vague “I just read some stuff about how animals were treated.” Yet here were some of my carnivorous friends trying to get me to cross back over to the ‘dark-side’.

I lost count of the amount of times I was asked, “But do you still eat chicken?” (no, it’s still meat even though it’s white, and I gave that up first). I was informed by a Norwegian traveller that I should “eat prawns because they can’t feel pain.” I’m not sure how he or any scientist knew that for a fact, it’s not like the prawn was ever going to say, “Bring it on. Keep poking me with that skewer- doesn’t hurt a bit.” I was often questioned how I got all my iron (legumes, green vegies, varied diet in general seemed to do the trick). However, most people were just genuinely curious and I was happy to answer their questions.

Now due to having eaten meat for 26 years of my life prior to becoming vegetarian, I didn’t feel as though I could get too preachy when people would cook BBQs and not have the vego option cooked away from the meat (yes, vegetarians who request this generally aren’t being annoying, they just don’t like the actual taste of meat. Which is fine. But I always have, so I didn’t mind if a little chop juice made its way onto the surface of my mushroom). Nor did I kick up a fuss if there was no vego option and I had to sit there and pick out the bits of meat. If I ordered something mistakenly thinking it was vegetarian and it wasn’t (enclosed pastries were high on this list) I normally just munched down on them anyway. I figured that if I didn’t know, it didn’t count.

Another vegetarian rule which I altered was this: if I was in a different country, I could eat meat. There was no way I was going to spend three weeks in Spain and France and not eat a seafood paella, a boeuf bourguignon, a croque-monsieur or a bouillabaisse. This rule then extended to my extra job as a mystery guest at mid to high-end restaurants in Melbourne. Again, I was not going to miss out on lobster rolls at Golden Fields or the lamb shanks at Builder’s Arms. I was an inter-continental, restaurant dependant ‘flexitarian’ (definition according to ‘does not eat animal products most of the time, but will occasionally eat fish or meat’).

And then there were simply times when I just felt like some meat, but didn’t give in. Perhaps I needed the iron. Or perhaps I just wanted to stop having a restriction on what I ate. And this wasn’t high quality meat I was craving. I wanted the BBQ snag in Homebrand white bread out the front of Bunnings. I wanted the sliced ham and salami from the supermarket deli. I wanted kabana off the cheese platter at barbeques. I wanted bacon when I was hungover. Actually, this I did consume on a number of occasions, the most memorable was a night of wine and vodka drinking after a staff conference, when the next morning I actually looked like death, dragged my sorry self into the venue’s restaurant for breakfast and ordered bacon. Much to the shock of my workmates, I devoured every last morsel of it. And it was good. So good.

Rib plate at The American, Echuca
Rib plate at The American, Echuca

Fast forward to March 2016. After recent trips to Vietnam and Bali (where most people would probably be sceptical about what the meat they were eating actually was) I yet again applied my rule of different country, different rules, and then stopped and asked myself, what am I doing? Who am I kidding. I couldn’t really consider myself a vegetarian any longer. Selective vegetarians are the worst. And that’s coming from a self-proclaimed selective vegetarian. So, a week ago, I stopped. Yes, just like that. And my first meat meal with my parents were ribs. This time at The American in Echuca, Victoria. No, they probably weren’t the most amazing ribs I have ever eaten (I’m still convinced the ones I made were divine). And yes, I did feel a little guilty munging away on the bones of what was once a happy-go-lucky pig. This last week I have had some meat here and these, still feeling a little naughty that I’m breaking this rule that I’ve (more or less) followed for nearly seven years.

But do you know what? It doesn’t seem to taste as good now that I’m no longer vegetarian.


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