Updated: Jan 17, 2020
I grew up around hunting, farming and fishing and eating all the delicious meats and treats that Central Illinois has to offer. The finest of all Midwest cuisine is called a Maid-Rite it’s a loose meat sandwich and what Rosanne served at the Lanford Lunchbox. (Sorry about the Rosanne reference, Donald Trump and Fox News have rotted at least one crazy old aunt’s brain in every family and for some sad sap, Rosanne is that old crazy aunt.) As I sit in my Brooklyn living room, the grease of Maid-Rite sits in my heart, next to Mississippi River water, and the words to the 4-H pledge. But lately my heart's been telling me a new story about what I want to consume and why.
We're just starting a new decade and every year I feel like I know myself a little better and listen to my heart a little closer - eating meat just isn't jiving for me anymore. There's two parts of my brain in a brawl, some good ole cognitive dissonance. I grew up with a livestock, not animal, mentally. "I'm from the Midwest, we support farmers, we eat cows and pigs, the way ole G-O-D intended!" I shush the part of my brain that says, “You know pigs are smarter than dogs, right?” while I nosh on bacon at brunch. Anytime someone brings up a documentary about factory farms, my response is something along the lines of “My god, why would I watch that? Do you know how fucked up the world is? Rosanne is a white supremacist now, ya know? I hate everything enough as it is.” I would honestly prefer to never, ever consume and animal products again over sitting down for 2 hours to watch a documentary on factory farming. I know it's atrocious, I know it's abuse, I don't want to look at it. If I take the time to be conscious of where my food comes from, I know don't want to be a part of that industry. I don't need to see a movie to be convinced.
Whenever I go home, I see with my own little peepers beautiful little farms trying to make it and I support those farmers. I mean, they're literally my friends from high school. But the fact is, farming, especially livestock farming, is becoming industrialized. Short of shopping only at the farmer's market, I'm not sure how to know that my meat doesn't come from a concentrated animal feeding operation, as opposed to a family farm on IL-61.
I made a deal with myself, not to be strictly vegan (I’m doing a lot of other huge life things this year and that would feel way too restrictive), but to not shush to my brain or my heart anymore.
Conversations that I haven’t shushed:
Hey Sam, If you don't like how animals are farmed, why don’t you buy local, humanely raised meat at the farmers market?
Great question Sam, if I saw a cow living their best life in upstate New York, I wouldn’t personally be like 'ohh, let’s kill this one!' because like everyone’s dream to have a nice little place upstate and so this cow has basically made it, ya know? But, YAS, give me some cheese, yogurt, milk, and ice cream please. And if people do want to eat meat from the farmer's market, that's an awesome choice!
Ugh, meat is so bad for the environment. You get a gold star, Sam. No, a green sparkly star!
Sure, I’ll take it, but like, there’s one thing that drives every-damn-thing in the US, money. Until we make a profit from stopping climate change, we won’t. But at least I’m putting my money somewhere else, I guess, even if that's not the main reason for the change of diet. We need a green new deal and big ole carbon tax, honestly, but I’ll do my part in this little way. THANK YOU FOR THE GREEN SPARKLY STAR, SAM!
You know pigs are smarter than dogs, right?
UGH, yes I do, Sam. They made a whole PBS documentary about it. Not to mention my favorite Insta person has a pig named Bikini that sleeps in a kid's bed under A BLANKET, my heart! (seriously follow @wolfgang2242 on Insta.) WWE's Alexa Bliss, has that perfect pig, Larry Steve. My most enduring friendship has been with Ted, my wonderful dog. I can’t even fathom eating something smarter and more sentient than Tedward. (I do think I’m off bacon forever, kids.)
Sam, are you going to eat that meatloaf your boyfriend's mom brought over?
Yes Sam, it’s dead, it’s bought, it’s prepared, it was a gift, I love meatloaf.
It’s been a good, gassy, reflective transition, folks, and there have been a few things that have made it easier:
I subscribed to a vegan meal planner put together by the folks who make the Forks Over Knives documentary. The meal planner is fantastic - a really comprehensive whole food, plant based solution. It has thousands of recipes you can swap out, has a checkoff-able grocery list, and the UI is great. The recipes are phenomenal and don’t take a ton of time (this coming from the slowest cook on the planet). I am eating lots of veggies, fruits, seeds, nuts, whole grains and legumes - not frozen veggie burgers. I do a lot of resistance training, so it’s important to me that I’m getting enough protein, this planner has made it a ton easier. (I didn’t see the documentary, it got mixed reviews, it's about how much healthier a plant-based diet is. I'm skeptical that a vegan whole food diet is healthier than a whole food diet where meat and dairy are eaten in moderation.)
I’ve made the bulk section at Whole Foods my new home. I’m making recipes that call for things like chickpea flour, homemade date paste, hemp seeds - and they’re all there! Plus, I can just buy the quantities that I need, critical when something calls for optional toasted pine nuts on top and I don’t want to buy a $12 bag.
I haven’t been using willpower. Annie Grace teaches that we have a limited amount of willpower and white-knuckling our way through anything doesn’t work. I got clear enough on my reasons for going plant-based, so I don’t have the urge to eat meat. I changed my thinking around it, my unconscious mind, which is the best way to change a habit.
I am gentle with myself. I am doing big transitions this year, so this one needed to be flexible. This couldn’t be about committing to never eat animal products again, that's overwhelming and would keep me from even trying. It’s about eating with intention and paying attention to (not shushing!) my values. Still though, my man Chris Van Vliet (2nd best wresting podcast out there), always quotes Jack Canfield's, “Vague goals get vague results.” Here are the goals that feel right today: I cook vegan at home. I eat vegetarian out. If I’m in someone else’s home, I will eat what they feed me. And when I’m at Maid-Rite, all bets are off.