Saturday, August 15, 2009

A meaty challenge

Over the past few weeks, I've been playing fast and loose with my vegetarianism. Only relatively so but after nearly thirty years as a veggie, even the smallest amount of meat is a huge change. First of all I was persuaded to try a small piece of beef. When I say small, I mean absolutely tiny. At first I resisted but then I was overtaken by some ridiculous compulsion to accept the challenge. Added to this was a sort of equally childish need to 'impress' my dining partner with my flexible attitude as I am always slightly ashamed by my admittedly dysfunctional eating habits. So I put it in my mouth, chewed it as quickly as I could and swallowed. Did I enjoy it? Not really but I felt a sense of achievement in that I had challenged myself and found that I was happy being a vegetarian.

Challenge two came in the form of bacon. Throughout my veggie days, I've always had a sneaking regard for bacon. Other meat smells pretty awful to me but I do like the smell of bacon and during my pregnancies had a bit of a yen for it although I didn't indulge. Again I took a small piece, had a chew and swallowed. Quite nice actually.

Challenge three was a piece of salami or prosciutto. Not so nice this one. It tasted and felt fatty and I was glad to swallow it and wash my mouth out with some wine. Bleeeurgh!

So am I converted? I don't think so but I do feel my reasons for being vegetarian are perhaps not the most laudable or worthy. As a teenager I developed a distaste for eating at all and found lots of reasons for not eating this, that and the other. It slowly became a self-fulfilling prophecy which I could justify with talk of animal rights and morals.

That's not to say I don't believe in caring about animals because I do, passionately. I was brought up not even to hurt an insect if I could help it and I absolutely abhor the idea of harming another creature simply for entertainment. It's just I feel that saying that's why I became vegetarian is deluded and disingenuous. I believe my vegetarianism was the manifestation of body dysmorphia and a borderline eating disorder that has became so ingrained that I can't really change now. However I am slim, healthy and have low cholesterol so it's not done me too much harm.

My children eat meat and nowadays I believe that if people want to eat meat that's OK for them and that if they can eat meat that's been produced in a compassionate way then all the better. I don't want to join them, despite my recent meat eating antics, but I'm not so certain they are wrong and I am right as I was at sixteen years old. However, I won't be joining the meat eaters at the barbie - I'd rather chew on a raw carrot than a steak.

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