Monday, June 6, 2011
Five years ago, after watching a television show called "How it's Made" and seeing the way baby chicks were processed via conveyer belts and tossed down big tubes after a worker would determine their sex, I cried. I said out loud to no one in particular, "I don't think God intended his animals to be treated that way."
In only a short amount of time, I completely removed meat, (fur and feathers) from my diet. I technically became a "pescatarian" or one who eats dairy, eggs and fish. While my decision to stop eating meat was purely ethical, I do understand that the other products I would continue to consume may still have been sourced through less than optimal conditions. (Yes... I also continued to eat certain cheeses knowing rennet was used as part of the process.)
I'm not really sure if I gained any health benefits because of my meat abstinence, but I sure took great care in making sure I wasn't consuming it. Do you have any idea how diligent one must be to ensure there is no chicken bouillon in your rice mixes or even your vegetable soup bases? If you are eating convenience foods of any kind, you may often see "natural flavors" listed with the spices and when I contacted one company, they said that these spice blends of "natural" flavors were sourced n such a way that they couldn't guarantee them to be animal free. Sigh.
I will be the first to admit that I'm not the healthiest eater and it only seemed to get worse when I stopped eating meat. All the pasta, cheese sandwiches, pizza... It's a chore to find good quality fresh fruits and veggies in the winter and so much easier to eat the carbs, carbs, carbs....
Before I stopped, my first thought was to continue eating it but to only buy the grass fed, no antibiotic, steroid-free, free range types of meat but I didn't think I could stick to that. I was concerned that I lacked the willpower to do it and would quickly be back to buying factory farmed meat- and so I just cut it all out of my diet.
For the first few years I wouldn't allow any meat products into the house and luckily, my husband was a good sport about it. (Though I'm sure he'd chow down on the occasional Whopper to compensate.) I wouldn't even order a pizza for him with meat on it, I'd make him call it in. But sooner or later I started feeling bad about him eating all those soy burgers and I would bring him home chicken patties, a box of Bubba burgers... I even went so far as to buy ground meat and bake him a meatloaf. (Hands shaking, he squealed with delight as he took the first fork full...)
But hot dogs? Herein lies the problem. I've always loved hot dogs and they were probably the thing I missed the most and I couldn't stand the smell of them cooking - because I wanted them. The smell of a grilled hot dog would actually make me somewhat hostile, and though I'd very occasionally buy them for The Jeff, he had strict instructions to only cook them when I was out of the house.
I can't tell you how many times I just wanted to go and buy a sack filled with Potsie's Hot Dogs along with a quart of chocolate milk. (A local thing.) I once even worked up the nerve to walk in to Potsie's and order a few "condiment" dogs. Steamed rolls with American cheese style Cheese Whiz, mustard and sweet onions. Though I feared laughter and judgement, they were happy to oblige.
But then one day at the farmer's market, I saw a sign. "Old Fashioned Hot Dogs." Growing up on Oscar Meyer's and graduating to Ball Park's as an adult, I shouldn't even know what an old fashioned dog is... Enter my friend Lisa.
My friend Lisa's grandfather was a butcher. He used to make what I assume would now be referred to as "old fashioned" hot dogs. She once told me the story of how her mother, long after her Pappy had died, had found a decade old pack of those hot dogs buried in the bottom of the deep freeze. To answer your question, yes. They most certainly ate them and relished every bite. When I saw that sign, I thought that maybe The Jeff would enjoy a special treat of these old fashioned hot dogs and so I bought a package along with a loaf of sourdough bread to eat them with.
Once I get home, The Jeff cooks the dogs on the Foreman grill while I am outside. When I come back in, I do not smell anything I would associate with the regular scent of a grilled dog. (Mmmm.. smells good in here...) I watch him as he carries the plate into the living room and sits on the sofa. I am turned completely around in the chair as I watch him take the first bite. I ask him, "Are they good?" "Oh my God...." he responds. I say, "I really want one." I turn around in the chair and try and watch tv. I hear the casing snap with each bite he takes. I can't take it.
I go into the kitchen and look at the remaining hot dogs sitting on the plate. My mouth is aching. I am salivating. I look at the meat and because I know that these were ethically sourced, I am confused. I'm asking myself. But isn't that what it was all about? Ethics? While some might argue that eating any kind of meat is unethical, my reasons didn't seem to apply here. I heard a voice in my head, "If you want it, just eat it. It doesn't make you a bad person. You are at least conscious of your actions."
So I open a drawer and grab a fork and knife. The Jeff yells, "What are you doing?" (Like I'm about to smoke crack.) I cut off a piece about two inches long and I lift it to my nose and inhale deeply. I almost cry, it smells so good. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" he yells from the other room. I respond, "I'm an adult that can make my own decisions." and I take a bite. Oh dear god.... Five years to take a bite of the best hot dog I've ever eaten. Ever. I wrap the rest in sourdough bread and put some Gulden's spicy brown mustard on top. Seriously - best hot dog in the whole world. And though I'd like to stop at one, I can't. I eat a second one sans bread, and it is at this time, The Jeff is snapping pictures of me with his cell phone camera. For what? To blackmail me? To out me to my vegetarian friends?
As the years wear on, I've noticed at certain female times of the month that my energy levels have been tanking- think anemia. I've also seemed to have developed digestive problems related to certain raw vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and cabbage. Oily melted cheeses set my gallbladder a fire. So though I could probably be more assertive with what I eat and consume, I had been pondering whether or not the introduction of a small amount of organic meat to my diet might be a god thing. So we'll see. I've eaten three different things since that day. Nitrate free bacon from the farmer's market, and some chicken labeled under a brand that claims them to be cage free, veg fed, antibiotic free and steroid free.
Time will tell if this is the right decision for me, but I am going to put it out there that my intention is to remain diligent against eating any meat that is factory farmed. And next week? Maybe some pork shoulder for pork and sauerkraut... Oh my.....