Nov 23, 2012

Lamentations of a Vegetarian on Thanksgiving

For Thanksgiving this year we were invited to our friends’ for dinner. Last year I prepared my first full Thanksgiving dinner on my own - just a small dinner for two. The year before that I went to Florida for a family Thanksgiving. But regardless where I go, I face one single challenge: I’m a vegetarian.

Let me just get this little confession out of the way: I did not become a vegetarian for altruistic reasons; rather I became a vegetarian for the absolute most selfish reason of all: I just don’t like meat. Or poultry. Or fish. Yuck. I hate the flavor (especially fish) and I can’t stand the texture (especially steak - gross!!!). The mere thought of putting any of that in my mouth, well, let’s just say you might as well be eating wood chips, that’s how little I view meat as food.

I grew up in New England and summered on Cape Cod for most of my life, where it is near unheard of to not, at least, eat fish. However, all growing up from as early on as I can remember (and I can remember being 3), I haven’t liked fish. The smell would hit me first. I cannot even walk into a fish market without gagging so I certainly wouldn’t want to swallow it. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had to literally spit my food out into a napkin in public because some jackass friend or family member made me feel so guilty for not eating seafood that I’d go, “Fine. You want me to try it again right here right now to see if I still don’t like it? Fine.” And I’d bravely take a bite, but then an involuntary gag reaction would kick in and before I could stop myself out the food would project onto my napkin.

Next came beef. I just couldn’t stand the texture of it in my mouth especially when hitting a pocket of gristle. Even just writing about it now makes my skin crawl and my stomach turn yet I haven’t eaten beef since I was an early teen. Even earlier than that I ceased eating burgers. I recall my dad screaming in McDonald’s, “I am not buying her anymore cheeseburgers. All she does is pull out the beef and eat the bread and cheese!”

In my latter teen years, I would on rare occasion eat turkey or chicken, but I wicked picked at it. Like I would pull Turkey Club sandwiches apart and scrape out any fat or undesirable or weird looking parts and I would grimace at the sight of my father just biting right in without a care in the world. I did not eat chicken legs, though, or anything that actually resembled meat; only cold cuts processed to the max. The less like flesh it was, the better.

I really should have realized I was a natural born vegetarian much sooner, but it was just plain not an acceptable state of being in the 1970s and 1980s in rural/coastal Mass. Heck, even beyond. To this day I get ridiculed and attacked by meat eaters who automatically assume I’m a vegetarian for purely altruistic reasons. Thing is, the only thing I ever do to provoke such attacks is to simply proclaim I don’t eat meat when asked. Then wham bam suddenly all the meat eaters are on the defensive telling me how they would never deny themselves the yumminess of meat or whatever.

Um. Hello? Have you met me? I have ZERO willpower. If I really wanted to eat meat that shit would be in my mouth faster than you can say PETA.

Thus, Thanksgiving can be difficult. I feel like I miss out on the central bonding experience of eating the turkey, then feeling sleepy. (Heck, I even had insomnia last night.)

Why don’t I fit in? Why don’t I like meat? It was not a learned behavior or an inherited behavior. In fact, my family tried like hell to break me of being vegetarian but they couldn’t ever force me to eat something I just plain didn’t like.

Now, granted, since then I have adopted a more moral vegetarian stance, but, if I’m being perfectly honest, it’s largely out of convenience, since if I don’t already like to eat meat it’s no great leap for me to then also advocate for animal rights.

Regardless, despite it all, I had a particularly fun Thanksgiving this year so thanks to my friends for that (not that any of them probably even read this blog but if you do Hi! *waves* Wanna brownie?? =P).

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