March 6, 2012

Meat: A Reintroduction

It all began because someone (I'm looking at you, Katy Vine), had to go and write an article for Texas Monthly about two Austin pit masters. Leading up to its publication, emails would be sent around the office: "There's brisket in the kitchen. Mueller's and Franklin's. Help yourself!"

Being a vegetarian, I'd simply shun the kitchen for an hour while the meat disappeared. Colleagues walked back to their desks, taunting me with plates of moist brisket, singed on the edges. One day, after another email went out, I went to the kitchen and stared at the hunk of beef on the counter.


It smelled like something I remembered so fondly—growing up, we had lunch at Louie Mueller's in downtown Taylor so often it felt like Saturday's church-going equivalent. I grabbed a piece of white bread (something that is probably worse for our bodies than a piece of meat, might I add), and dunked it in BBQ sauce.

A few colleagues caught me in the act. "I thought you were vegetarian?"

"It's just bread and sauce. I couldn't resist."

A few weeks later, I sat around a table at Stiles Switch BBQ with my entire family. They passed around the tray of meat while I was relegated to macaroni and cheese and coleslaw. I felt left out, shunned, passed over, alone in my non-omnivore (nominivore?) ways.

In more than two years of vegetarianism, I rarely ever thought I'd go back to the dark side. But suddenly, brisket was the only thing I could think about.

So after far too much soul-searching and debate, I settled on a new path. A new turn in my food journey. I was filling out paperwork for an acupuncture visit, and this question appeared on the page:

Are you a vegetarian? ___Yes   ___ No   ___Yes, but not that strict

I struggled to answer it and finally decided that a little meat, now and again, wouldn't hurt. Food is an experience, after all, and the answer "Yes, but not that strict," struck me as the perfect balance.

So I started simple, with salmon. It was terrifying and even though I'd made the decision, I was still conflicted. Then we went out for BBQ. I had one small slice of brisket that very well near changed my life. My Texan birthright (as one friend put it) was once again fulfilled.

In the last month, I've had BBQ twice, in much smaller amounts than I used to consume on my Saturday trips to Louie Mueller's. I have cooked the same salmon recipe twice, too, and quite enjoyed it. But 98 percent of the time, I'm still a vegetarian. I don't have any desire to eat chicken, actually; and while I'm sure I will soon be giving in to bacon, things like processed meats (lunch meat, etc.) won't ever be a part of my diet again.

"Yes, but not that strict" means I can make provisions for having wonderful food experiences. Like the rest of the planet, I am now excited to one day enjoy sushi at Uchi. At Thanksgiving, I'll put a piece of turkey on my plate, and better yet, enjoy a leftovers sandwich with sweet pickles that night. If Saturday calls for a trip to the BBQ joint, I'll enjoy my Big Red the right way—with a bit of fall-apart, melt-in-your-mouth, blackened-edge brisket.

So there you have it. I'm now a Vegetarian, Not That Strict. Thankyouverymuch, Katy Vine.


Shannon said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I have been a vegetarian for almost three years and have been dabbling with reintroducing meat into my diet just so that if the opportunity to go to Franklin's presents itself, I won't be laying in bed sick the rest of the day. This post made me feel so much better about feeling eating-meat-jitters!

Sustainable Diet said...

So happy to hear it, Shannon!