Thursday, 23 August 2012

I use to be a vegetarian, now I'm not


You may have seen me tweet that same statement last week. I used to, but now I’m not.

My meat, no meat, some meat, meat tale isn’t a particularly interesting one but it’s something I want to write about all the same.

While I wouldn’t say I was a wilful daughter, I was always stubborn with food and didn’t like meat even as a kid. I first wanted to give up meat in Year 7 (aged 12) and Dad put his foot down. A few years later it came up again, and once more Dad put his foot down. His view was never that I had to eat all the meat but that I was a growing girl and needed the protein and iron meat provides. Yes, you can get a balanced diet without meat, but with our life, Dad (a single father of two, a son of a dairy farmer who most happily exists with meat & 3 veg, a full time office worker, a football coach and netball umpire) didn’t think I would be able to. At the time, especially the latter I was far more stubborn. I gradually began eating less and less meat, cutting out more and more cuts of it. I wouldn’t eat anything with bones (chops, t-bones, roast chicken, ribs, rack of lamb etc). Then I wouldn’t eat anything unflavoured. Many a marinated chicken breast (and chili con carne, lasagne and stir-fry later), I was 20 and embarking on an overseas adventure with a friend. I was leaving the nest, and really free to make my own decisions. I booked my ticket to London, marked vegetarian and went on my way.

All of my issues with meat as a kid/teenager stemmed from not liking it. I didn’t like the tastes. I really didn’t like the texture – the dense chewiness, the stringiness (for want of another word), the way it felt in my mouth. I didn’t eat meat because I just didn’t like it

Fast forward ten years and I was approaching thirty. Recognising my tastes had changed a lot in the last ten years (hello gin, olives, avocadoes, mushrooms, blue cheese and I’m sure many other things I’m forgetting right now), I thought I should try again. Maybe I would like it now. Some trusted colleagues and I went to a favourite (of theirs) steak restaurant. A French steak restaurant, the steak was served slathered with a tasty sauce and some wonderful fries. Wary of the meat, I had ordered well done. That was a mistake and I chewed through it. I didn’t hate the taste but did hate the chewing and was left feeling so uncomfortably full. For a few days afterwards even.

Then I turned thirty and celebrated the weekend in Prague. Also in Prague that weekend were the Christmas markets. After drinking a plenty, some mates got various food stuffs from the markets. I tried a bite of my mates hog roast and didn’t’ instantly hate it . A drunken hot dog was maybe a step too far (my body bounced it but that could have just been the alcohol).

Slowly since that trip I’ve been trying more and more types of meat. I’m not a big meat eater and I’m not sure I ever will be but I’m curious about it, keen to try it all again and find what works for me. This experimental period culminated in dinner at a rodizio grill last week. A meat feast. Skewer after skewer of meat is brought to the table, fresh off the barbecue where my favourite thing of the night my just have been the chicken hearts (although I didn’t really like that you could see the aorta). 

My initial observations are that I still end up really full, ridiculously so if I eat meat. My digestive track doesn’t love it, but I suspect it’s just a matter of getting used to it. I still haven’t had anything with bones (I had some ribs which I left as they just looked too fatty/boney). Pig (pulled pork, chorizo and bacon) tends to be my favourite. I don’t like lamb, chicken freaks me out a bit unless it’s crumbed (or is a chicken heart – I tried and liked them last week). Rodizio style topside was ok but very rich. Too rich maybe?

So yes, I use to be a vegetarian and now I’m not.

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