when there’s a mosquito flying around the room, i just sort of sit there and let it happen. i’ll cringe sometimes, or sort of gently swoosh it away from me, or try to redirect it out the window, but i won’t slap it. obviously, it would be real ordinary and acceptable to slap it, because it’s a bug that can carry a variety of unpleasant diseases and would like to steal my blood. but i have the problem where if i *do* slap it, i will then spend way too much time thinking about the nature of existence, the pain undoubtedly felt by all living things including insects, etc.
despite this, i only started trying to become vegetarian this year. is that fucked up or what?
the problem is (and there are a lot of problems, not a single problem, but this is really the crux of the whole thing), the problem is that i really like meat. i REALLY like meat. i once ate 38 hot buffalo chicken wings in a single sitting. (i used to be a chronic binge eater in the clinical sense, which is obviously a problem and not good for you, but i can’t help speaking of it the same way you sometimes hear recovered alcoholics talking about the worst times of their life: yeah it was terrible, but wow i was an impressive drinker!)
since i grew up in San Francisco, surrounded by free-love hippies and an abundance of different foods, i always knew heaps of vegetarians and vegans. i know heaps of vegetarians and vegans now, too. they’re great, i love them. sometimes i try to talk to them about cutting meat out of my diet, and they’re like:
“yeah, it was really only natural that i go [vegan/vegetarian/pescatarian/what-have-you], because in retrospect, the only meat i ever liked was the super processed chicken nugget. i actually don’t like meat at all!”
and sometimes they’re like:
“oh sure, chicken was fine, but i hated eating fat, or gristle, or skin”
and this is a beautiful way to live, but in that moment i hate them and i want a meteor to hit us both. look, the nugget is good; the nugget has its place in the world. vegans are 100% correct when they say that the nugget is represented just as well by a plant-based assortment of ingredients. the chicken adds nothing to the nugget. in fact, if you find that your favorite form of meat is the humble nugget, or the “strip” or “finger” of chicken perhaps, or the “patty”, or any other uber-mulched form of tasty meat, i strongly recommend experimenting with some fake meat and seeing how you feel about it. you may not actually particularly like, or require, meat.
if you do find meat disgusting, you should probably skip the next two paragraphs…
but i suspect that whatever this very common narrative is, i’m the opposite of it. my go-to order at Chinese restaurants was spicy beef tendon (chewy, gooey bits of jellified connective tissue), or crispy chicken knuckles (breaded fried gristle). i’m obsessed with bone marrow, eaten by itself or spread on bread. i can spread animal fat directly on toast or eat it straight. in Vietnam, while everyone else ate normal breakfasts, i once gleefully consumed a bowl of broth with a ladle full of blood poured directly into it, to cook in the hot soup like a scary jellyfish or the world’s wrongest poached egg.
a different Chinese restaurant, back in San Francisco, once served me fried pigeon with the whole head intact, which i then ate in order to be social, and the beak was really good. when i have hot pot with friends, i sometimes get tired of waiting and directly eat the raw meat: thin sliced beef and lamb, meat balls, whatever. i’ll eat livers, feet, heart, all sorts of funny looking bits. i used to eat hot dogs without cooking them. i even like tripe (which can be admittedly hard to love) when it’s fried!
if you find meat disgusting, you can start reading again. the point is that i really LIKE meat, not just in the nugget form, but on its own merits. there are a variety of companies that have essentially solved the problem of the vegan nugget, or the vegan burger, but to my knowledge no one has yet solved the problem of the vegan offal, for awful people like me.
what’s the solution? i don’t know yet. the simple fact is that we live in a world of increasing catastrophe and i think that food scarcity is likely to come for me in my lifetime. yes, i want someone to invent the perfect plant-based pate, but the real answer is that sometimes you want crispy cubes of fried duck and pork and you don’t eat them because you don’t feel happy with yourself when you eat animals. you eat something else, and you still enjoy it. it’s hardly a satisfying answer.
it’s all about harm reduction, right? “plant-based eating” is not a boolean choice, nor should it be. the “all-or-nothing” approach is not friendly to a lot of people, and often not sustainable, and it’s rare to see it in other, functional movements. unfortunately, it’s everywhere in veganism. years ago, i mused on social media that i was interested in trying vegetarianism; a stranger sent me paragraphs of gruesome statistics about the maltreatment of dairy cows and told me that if i still eat cheese it doesn’t matter if i stop eating meat. obviously this is a bold move and, obviously, it did not encourage me to give up either meat or cheese.
but eating less meat is not a movement or a dogma. it doesn’t matter if other people who do it think i’m doing it correctly or incorrectly. it’s about looking at the way things work, taking a deep breath, and deciding that you want to do something else. even if meat is really, really tasty!