A Study in Lost Momentum

On November 18, 2010 by Eden M. Kennedy

I stopped eating meat in July. I’d just come back from a yoga weekend of almost-vegan living, and it simply made sense to use the momentum. It wasn’t a reaction to the terrible crimes of industrial farming, nor was it done out of fear of karmic retribution. I just liked the energy it gave me, and I felt like there were a lot of things to eat in the world besides meat so why not expand my definition of lunch? I dug out my Mark Bittman book and began buying chard. Jack, a deeply committed carnivore, backed me up 100%. No, really. He didn’t make fun of me once. “Who are you and what have you done with my husband?” I asked him the night he deep fried a block of tofu. We both lost five pounds.

After a few weeks of falafel and weird quiche experiments, he said, “Can we eat some fish once in awhile?” So we made a fish compromise and Friday night sushi resumed. I made seafood risotto, then fashioned a little conga line of uneaten shrimp around the edge of my plate. “They’re dead anyway, throwing them out makes their sacrifice meaningless,” Jack reasoned.

Whose karma would take the hit, the person who accepted their lives to sustain his own, or the person who poked at them in disgust and then threw them out? I threw them out.

A month later Jack said, “I think I need to eat a steak.” In the interest of marital harmony I bought a steak and he ate it. I had more blood on my hands than I could ever wash off, anyway.

Then Jackson took me aside. “Dad says he can’t wait until you’re done with this goddamn vegetarian shit.”

“First of all, watch your mouth.”

“But Dad said it!”

“Second of all, I’ll be done when I’m good and ready. It may be tomorrow, it may be never.”

“Mom, can I have McDonald’s for dinner?”

“Jesus.”

“Can we move into a McDonald’s? I love McDonald’s.”

“I’m going to force-feed you a kale smoothie.”

“So what do we do about Thanksgiving?” Jack asked. “Jackson really wants a turkey.”

“Then Jackson should have a turkey,” I said.

“What about you?”

“Oh, hell, I don’t know.” I flashed back to a Thanksgiving at my parents’ house when I’d given up meat in my twenties. I got a plate of Potato Buds and stuffing. “Maybe I’ll just give up giving up meat for the holidays. Prime rib is on sale at Shalhoob. Let’s have some veal, while we’re at it. Rack of lamb. Get an entire tenderloin and cover it in foie gras and caviar. Fuck it.”

Jack looked at me warily. “I don’t know if your body could take any of that.”

“I’ll just drink heavily. It will be okay.”

“Maybe you should go back to yoga.”

Maybe I should go back to yoga.

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27 Responses to “A Study in Lost Momentum”

  • I need to go back too.

  • I gave up meat in July, too. And it feels really great! Oh, but how I love all of the holiday casseroles that I KNOW are made with Cream of Chicken soup. Like you, I’m not really doing it for ethical reasons, and I’ve always told myself that I’ll dose up a big helping of self-forgiveness when I once again go back to the carnivorous lifestyle. HOWEVER, that first bite is a tough one. Figuratively. And literally. (Also, I’m within five days of letting my NaBloPoMo spark fade. I feel like going outside and shouting “Ya ya!” toward the west.)

  • The only animals I’ll eat are those on life support, since they’re technically vegetables.

  • “We made a fish compromise” – Now I want to write a recipe book with “Fish Compromise” as a main course. Perhaps some Chocolate Platitudes for dessert.

  • “…..Maybe I’ll just give up giving up meat for the holidays. Prime rib is on sale at Shalhoob. Let’s have some veal, while we’re at it. Rack of lamb. Get an entire tenderloin and cover it in foie gras and caviar. Fuck it.” This would work for my family. I may have the only kid around who has love foie gras and caviar since he was weaned off breast milk. Me? No Thanks. Its his dads side of the family that has all the food influence. I eat anything that is ordinary and if I have my way I eat it out.

  • “Dad says he can’t wait until you’re done with this goddamn vegetarian shit.”

    That made me cackle like a madman.

    I’ll gladly accept whatever karmic retribution comes from being an unapologetic carnivore. I love the meat and I mean that in the most non-euphemistically heterosexual way possible.

  • You guys are awesome, have I told you that lately?

  • hahahahahha!

    I love November. Fussy is one of my favorite parts of the day.

  • Stuffing without sausage is like my belly without Merlot. Empty.

  • Mmmm. This part was my favorite: Prime rib is on sale at Shalhoob. Let’s have some veal, while we’re at it. Rack of lamb. Get an entire tenderloin and cover it in foie gras and caviar. Fuck it.

    Can I come over?

  • This is a bit my problem. I find if fascinating how just doing yoga makes me not want to eat meat. Why is that? It could be the power of suggestion–being around all those vegans–but for me yoga is not at all personal. I don’t talk to all those yoga folks. I don’t really have any deeper commitments. I’m just one of those people who goes into class, can barely do squat but tries anyway and then leaves. If I do yoga three times a week, even our leather couch bothers me. I become all life-affirming and stuff.

    I quit eating meat about a year ago but I was the only one and I do all the cooking so I keep slipping. It’s super easy to be ovo-lacto-pesco. Which is why vegans have such scorn for us. I even went off the pesc for a while though.

    Other veg people find it horrible that I didn’t just get my kid not to eat meat. Yeah, right. She barely ate meat as a young kid and the first time she saw ribs she went INSANE. She ate an entire cow. She also loves seafood and put away a bucket of crabs at the age of three and we had to order more for the rest of us. Later she described herself as a ‘tyrannosaurus shark’ and now deeply identifies with all carnivorous animals.

    Then we got a boarder (mortgage issues which I believe you kindly empathized with me about once) and she is a picky eater and financial desperation prompts me to try to cook up these great meals so she’ll stay ’til March as she planned…so after all that time cooking it is hard not to eat chicken at least.

    You just reminded me I forgot to eat the kale in the fridge and I’m out of town. Crap. It was BEAUTIFUL kale.

    My new kale recipe you just take off the bigger part of the stem and in a hot pan braise it with grapeseed or olive oil and then add a 1/2 cup of vegetable broth (cheap at Trader Joe’s) and then a little bit of red wine vinegar (but you don’t have to). You can throw a bit of garlic in. So tender. Bobby famous chef somebody found on internet.

    Anyway, if this not eating meat is like everything else I try to do that involves self improvement it will be a lifetime of serious baby steps, backsliding and no purity or perfection.

  • Check this out as there are many vegetarians things that are actually easy and delicious:

    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/dining/20101116-bittman-thanksgiving-interactive.html?hp

    I never felt superior from going veg since I knew I would be half-assed about it as I am about everything. But I do feel somewhat superior suddenly about the fact that I am making all these MEALS and COOKING. I can’t really explain why but I sort of enjoy this slight feeling of superiority–against whom? My former re-heating self, perhaps.

  • I did something similar a few years ago.

    I did a short fast, and as I was coming out of it you were supposed to only gradually reintroduce animal products. I just kinda thought, why not? And that began a year as a vegan and two subsequent years as a vegetarian (not counting the occasional drunken pizza binge).

    About mid-way through that time I moved in with my boyfriend (now husband) and my resolve slowly but surely dissolved. Now I’m just a meat eater with a keen appreciation for beans.

  • I gave up meet over two years ago, though occasionally I eat fish ( I like to know where it comes from). My husband is a carnivore. It works out fine. Mostly I plan vegetarian meals and if he wants to add in a meat, he’s in charge of that. Meat has become the side dish. Nothing against meat; I just feel better now that I’m not eating it. Plus I haven’t had a migraine in almost two years.

    I have found that being a vegetarian, even in a state where meat is on or in everything, is easy. But only because I know it’s the right choice for me. Not necessarily true for every body.

    GO BACK TO YOGA!

  • I’ve been a vegetarian since I was eight (my smugness is old enough to drink, vote, and die for it’s country!). When I was a kid, it was all about the sides — potatoes, green beans, and these amazing rolls my aunt would get from a nearby Portugese bakery. But now that I cook my own dinner, it’s gotten a little tastier. We had a pumkin lasagna last year that was divine, and the year before that I stuffed a pumpkin with vegan dressing and baked it in the oven. There’s also an amazing stuffing in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything that has mushrooms and leeks and two sticks of butter. Thank God I’m not vegan.

  • There are all kinds of issues tied up in the foods we consume. From an evolutionary perspective the human body was not designed to eat much meat. Pastoralism (as well as agriculture) is relatively recent to the human experiment, and I can only imagine what it would’ve been like trying to catch and kill animals out on the African plains before the advent of stone tools. Even then, it’s still crazy. And the great benefit of fruits and vegetables is they don’t run away.
    So, lots of fruits, veggies, maybe various kinds of nuts with small amounts of lean meats is probably the make up of the human diet for most of our evolutionary history (admittedly, my knowledge of this is spotty and somewhat speculative). Processed stuff is probably the worst, and the industrial process of creating high-fructose corn syrup has been speculatively linked to increased rates of diabetes among Americans. Which would probably be well worth avoiding, if at all possible.
    But there are other issues, and I think they have to be personal choices about what’s right for self, family, and friends. For me, sustainability really is at the forefront of any serious (or, better yet, humurous) discussion of the ethical and/or pragmatic nature of really any aspect of the human project, but also and especially when it comes to food. So much of our food comes shipped from South America, with all the attendant environmental and social costs.
    Living in New England, if you don’t dry and can yr own fruits and veggies and dry yr own beans or whatnot, you’d have to eat meat and seafood (as well as lots of pears, apples, and kale [the number one item in late fall New England locally grown food shares]). It’s wicked hard, and the hard truth is that the carrying capacity of New England’s agricultural potential is way less that the number of people that currently live here. Which means that if everybody tried to do it, the cost of locally grown food would skyrocket and be even more expensive than it already is.
    And factory farming, besides being just kind of crappy when you think about it, is more energy intensive than a more plant based food system and also dumps all kinds of nasty stuff into streams and rivers.
    So, there really aren’t any easy answers. Probably I just overthink things. It’s also best not to stress yrself out about the choices you make like I do. It’s not healthy either. All that cortisol in the bloodstream just makes you anxious and gives you heart attacks.

    Also, for all the vegan beer drinkers, they use ground up horse hooves as a clarifying agent to remove protein in just about all commercial beer brewing, which seems insane, but it makes the beer less cloudy, which is apparently preferable to more proteiny for some unapparent reason. You can use irish moss, but I guess it’s more expensive or something. I prefer to just leave the dang protein in there when I brew, which hasn’t been for awhile, admittedly. Probably, you didn’t want to know all that. Sorry. Great, funny post, as always.

    • Five stars for this comment, thank you so much, Edwin.

      • Two points of clarification that my well instilled OCD requires me to make:
        1. The horse hooves are used as a reactant to take protein out of solution in the beer and are then all strained from the beer. So, animal products are used in the commercial beer brewing process but not actually in the beer itself. Not that that distinction would matter to any of the vegans I’ve known.

        2. I just started reading Ian Morris’s so far quite brilliant interdisciplinary look at historical trends in the ascent of human societies called Why the West Rules-For Now, and he starts with paleoanthropology and specifically addresses the evolutionary state of human food consumption. I’ll let him explain.
        “The marks [homo habilis's {which date back to at least 2.5 million years ago in East Africa}] stone tools left on animal bones show that Homo habilis ate meat as well as plants, but it looks like they were still quite low on the food chain. Some paleoanthropologists defend a man-the-hunter theory, seeing Homo habilis as smart and brave enough to kill game armed with nothing more than sticks and broken stones, but others (rather more convincingly) see in Homo habilis man-the-scavenger, folloing the real killers (like lions) around, eating the bits they didn’t want. Microscopic studies show that marks from Handy Man’s tools did at least get onto animal bones before those from hyenas’ teeth.”

        So there you have it. Obviously the story continues from there, but our prehistoric ancestors were probably mostly eating plant matter, which means that we’re pretty much designed to eat mostly plant matter (and not Cheetos, pizza, and Coca-Cola [life is so unfair sometimes!]).

        • I’ve heard that part about us being mainly scavengers way back when, and it makes sense to me. Unfortunately, Cheetos, pizza, and Coke are my child’s favorite foods, and I have no one but my husband to blame.

  • I just want to say, this post made me laugh so hard, I nearly peed my pants. I love yoga. I love meat. I know it’s incongruent. But there it is. Just don’t eat beef before doing yoga. Not a good combo.

  • I tried being a vegetarian for a month at Oberlin. I was dizzy, lightheaded, and cranky. I began to sneak out of my clothing-optional vegan dorm and eat cheeseburgers at Mr. Fred’s. I immediately felt better.

  • I started eating meat in June after 15 vegetarian years. I feel like a tiger. Sometimes I pretend I’m a tiger at the dinner table.

  • I think I could be a vegetarian if only pork belly was a vegetable. Also… What IS it with that Ojai retreat and your lady’s holiday??? Let’s start yoga again together. I think I may be at AYSB Tuesday morning… maybe. In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving… I’m thankful that I get to read your writing.

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