Approximately ten years ago, on a pre-movie dinner date at a quiet restaurant in Providence, I ordered, without much thought, a shrimp and pasta dinner. Instead of eating the shrimp, however, I opted to push the critters to the side, out of my way, and probably even put a few on Don’s plate. And as I ate the pasta, it dawned on me: I didn’t have to eat the fish. I didn’t want to eat the fish. After thirty-plus years of eating meat and fish out of mere habit, I could make the decision to stop.
And so I did. Right there in that restaurant–and for the next ten years.
Admittedly, I’ve probably been more of a carbotarian (if that’s now a word) than a vegetarian (though there really are plenty of vegetables I like); but as far as meat and fish–none, not for a decade. I made an exception when my unfortunate genetics required my adding a fish oil tablet every day (along with a potent high blood pressure pill) to my diet. And even though my doctor suggested eating tuna–and I tried–that was short-lived (as in one sandwich). I couldn’t. I wasn’t ready, and it wasn’t time.
But something changed this summer. And though I’d love to brag that I made a conscious decision to eat meat and only meat that is raised on happy farms, it wasn’t quite like that. It was a crockpot full of chicken teriyaki, the smell of which I had bonded with throughout the entire day. When it was time to taste-test, instead of giving some to my friend, who was willing and able to try it and offer her opinion, I grabbed a fork, fished for a cube, and, to her horror, I think, popped it in my mouth. And it was good. And probably not raised on a happy farm.
So for the last few weeks I have been dabbling–slowly, but most definitely surely. And my cooking life has become easier in ways I never could have imagined. I can actually make the same meal for everyone–no variations on a theme required. And when you’re cooking for five, anything that makes life easier is welcome.
And I am at peace with this decision. We aim to avoid attaching much emotion to our eating and try to teach our children that you need to listen to your body in terms of food–eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. And I think the same is true of what kind of food one eats–eat meat if your body is asking for it; stop if it’s asking you to stop (or to take a break).
But stay away from that siren that is crockpot chicken teriyaki. It has power enough!