It all started with Bacon Fest. I went to Portland to see two lovely folks get married, and when I arrived there, I went to Bacon Fest with my friend Brett. The fest was a little overwhelmed by all the people, and they'd actually run out of bacon. So we didn't eat any actual bacon, just bacon-related products. We had bacon-infused shortbread with this amazing caramel dipping sauce made of bacon drippings from Cookie Pedalers, an awesome Portland cookie place.
We had the aforementioned bacon cupcakes:
We had bacon-infused vodka:
I'm happy about the Bakon vodka, too!
The reason I wanted to mention Bacon-fest was not that it was this tremendous deal (I mean, it was fun, but it crowded and actually-bacon-less and Brett was sleepy cause she was all like "I got up early and drove like five hours to Portland for a Union meeting cause I work for Legal Aid and volunteer time with the Union cause I believe in social justice and direct plays in my spare time" and I was like "Well I read a book on the plane so that was hard work too" and then we went and checked into our hotel and took a nap).
But I wanted to mention Bacon Fest a) because I enjoy "things made with things that shouldn't be made with that thing" which is why I enjoy meat desserts and blue-colored drinks and b) 'cause it seemed symbolic to me.
I'm an ex-vegetarian and a fairly recent ex-vegetarian. I was a vegetarian from the ages of 12 to the age of late-27, and I've been non-vegetarian for about a year and half now? So it was a big shift, and I'm still processing it. I wrote a little about it here and wanted to write more. But I'm not quite sure what to write and in what tone (my instinct is to be flippant, and I'm usually flippant about it in conversation, like I EAT THE FLESH NOW GIMME, and I can certainly write a flippant blog post about it, but then are more serious issues involved that I do care about but that seems to be a lot to take on in one blog entry, and I DON'T EVEN KNOW IF I'M SURE WHERE I STAND ON THOSE ISSUES ANYMORE, or, more specifically, maybe I'm not sure that I LIKE where I stand, and I should probably read this book, but I don't know and arrrgh.
At the wedding, I met Julia Gazdag, who endeared herself to me right away by complimenting me and Brett's dresses (I mean, each of our dresses, not that Brett and I shared dresses). Brett's was arguably snazzier, being from mod cloth and all, though I think mine was pretty dope for a good ol' fashioned thrift store find (found on a thrifting trip with this bad-ass cactus).
Anyway, J.G. and I both shyly admitted that we wrote stuff sometimes and in the best writer-fashion were all like "mumble, it's stupid, I guess I write some stuff, it's dumb though..."
When she admitted that she wrote for Hello Giggles, I was totally impressed because girl crush fellow writer pamie writes there, and I'd already "liked" them on facebook (which is a pretty big commitment, I think you'll all agree).
At one point, I made a joke, and J.G. said that exact joke was in the screenplay she was writing, and I'm not repeating the joke here because I hope it gets into the screenplay and the screenplay eventually gets made and I can bore everyone with this story every time the movie is mentioned and it was one of those "you're in mah brain!" moments where I realize I'm in the throes of a new girl-crush and it's like "Play it cool, damnit! PLAY IT COOL!"
ANYWAY [and check out this tremendously awesome segue and the way I thematically link all the disparate elements of the blog post together] if we get out various writings of J.G. on Hello Giggles, we can see how they link to my various interests mentioned in this blog!
3) I was like, what's up with all the dinosaur things? And then I was like, I must have this.
4) I think lots of people assume that because I currently live in the town where I grew up and hang with a few folks I went to high school with that I'm all about high school and high school people. I'm not, though, and I didn't go to my ten-year high school reunion, even though I lived in town at the time. So I really appreciated this. My favorite part is this quote:
The more I think about going, the more it seems like a terrible idea. No one at my school was cool enough that they might come back in fabulous self-made outfits and brag about inventing post-its, but I would probably still be the Janeane Garofalo character standing in the corner and wondering why I bothered to show up. I’m planning on being Daria for Halloween anyway, that seems like enough high school pot-stirring to last me for the next decade. Besides, Alan Cummings is gay in real life, so there goes that.
Hearted for Romy and Michele reference (which I'd like to note was set in Tucson). Also, this movie was apparently filmed in Tucson and it's a crying shame I've never seen it. I've got to fix that ASAP (for what it's worth Hamlet 2, which I've also not seen but should is set in Tucson but was not filmed here).
5) And this, [this is the really CONNECTING POINT OF THE BLOG Y'ALL] which talks about working on a farm and having to face the idea of slaughter if you do eat meat (and support local farming and compassionately raised meat):
We kept the boys [goats] in a pasture down the road up until the frost stopped melting in daytime and they could no longer feed off their surroundings. After thirteen years as a vegetarian, I did not want to attend the slaughter but I felt I owed it to my boys to see them out. It was an intense day that all of us shared, both together and in solitude. I left after the third goat was gone, feeling like I had experienced what I needed to and any more would be overdoing it. Realizing that this was also part of the cheese I had been so excited to make, though, led me to two weeks as a vegan so I could extract myself from the cycle in order to examine it. I haven’t made chevre since.
This was one of the things that kept me a vegetarian for a long time: I'd be too much of a wimp to face slaughtering or even watching the slaughter of an animal, so eating meat seemed the worst kind of hypocrisy. My standard speech when asked why I was a vegetarian (people ask you in ways which can range from polite queries to belligerent, defensive demands) was "I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with eating meat -- obviously, animals in nature eat each other! -- but there's a lot wrong with the current meat industry, which wastes a lot of resources and treats animals in terrible ways. I'm all for responsible farming, but it just seems easier to me to not eat meat at all then to pick and choose which kinds. Plus, I'd be too squeamish to kill animals so it seems hypocritical to eat them."
Which I think is a perfect valid perspective and choice. But...my vegetarian diet was not the greatest. I was known among family and friends as "the vegetarian who doesn't like vegetables." Truthfully, I've always resented the term "vegetarian" -- it just means you don't eat meat. It doesn't mean you're sitting around living on nothing but vegetables.
"But what else is there?" People would ask. "Other than meat and vegetables?"
Well, lots of things. Mostly carbs. I ate grains and carbs of all kinds. Pasta, bread, rice, various kinds of grains like quinoa et al. And fruit! Duh, there's fruit. Plus there's beans and lentils of all kinds. Dairy products -- youghurt, eggs, cheese (not a vegan, clearly). And I don't hate all vegetables. I just...don't...love...all of them. And we could get into a intense debate about which vegetables are clearly awesome and which are clearly disgusting, but those kind of conversations never end well. Plus, people are different. Broccoli tastes bitter, yo. Let's live and let live.
But I'm the first to admit that my non-meat-eating and non-vegetable-loving self often tended to mainline far too much cereal, pasta, and pizza. Don't get me wrong -- I love carbs. But we all know refined sugar found in various commercial carb-y products just leads you to crave more and more of it. Plus, binging on carbs can raise your serotonin levels, which can lead to momentary bliss after a big pizza or pasta-fest, but then makes you feel sleepy and gross after.
But being a vegetarian was a big part of my identity for a long time, and it was what I was used to, and I did believe in it.
Then one day, I was flying home to Tucson for a visit and had a stop over at the Phoenix airport.
My gate was directly in front of Aunt Annie's Pretzels.
If you've got any appreciation for soft pretzels (and I'll take them any way I can get them -- see the I-unhealthily-love-carbs things above? I'll even eat stale soft pretzels with nacho cheese when I'm shopping at Target) you have to acknowledge that Aunt Annie's are just about the best soft pretzel on offer. They're delicate and soft with just a hint of salt even when plain and they are dipped in melted butter. I'm getting the shivers just thinking about it.
So I walked over to get a soft pretzel and saw that Aunt Annie's also sells pretzel dogs -- long hotdogs wrapped in delicious soft pretzel.
And I realized that I was all alone. I could order a pretzel dog. No one would know. When I asked the lady behind the counter for one, I half expected her to pause and say, "Aren't you a vegetarian? What are you doing?" But she didn't. She just gave it to me.
And oh, it was good.
Then something snapped inside. My eyes went blurry, with clouds of red forming in my peripheral vision. Blood, blood! I must have more meat! I stalked over the a Quiznos and ordered a roast beef sandwich. This time I half-hoped the man behind the counter would say, "Aren't you a vegetarian?" so I could triumphantly shout, "Yes, I am, NOW FUCK OFF AND GIVE MY SANDWICH."
I inhaled the roast beef sandwich and had one of the most profound moments of dirty satisfaction I've ever had. I suddenly understood why people who have been faithful for years suddenly have a mad, passionate affair while off on a business trip. It's wrong! But you're a different person in the Phoenix airport! You can be free and depraved! There are dirty, unholy depths in you that you've never realized!
I convinced myself that this was just an aberration, just a moment of madness. So my body needed a little protein. Big deal.
A little while later, I went to a farmer's market in Minneapolis with two friends and the adorable small child of one friend. I walked about with friend #1, who is about as excellent in the food and lifestyle department as you could wish -- she works in the produce department of a food coop, bikes everywhere, etc. And she's an ex-vegetarian who'd lately been whispering in my ear that all that soy in all those fake meat products wasn't the greatest for me.
We passed by a stand, in which a stalwart Local Farmer was selling bratwursts. The farmer was standing with his small, adorable daughter and they were selling bratwursts under a home-made sign that assured us the meat was local and grass-fed. My friend #1 decided to buy a bratwurst and I looked at it longingly.
"You know," she said. "Minnesota pig farmers need support."
And I thought -- there's nothing stopping me from eating that bratwurst. It was locally raised, grass-fed! By a farmer and his adorable daughter! I was supporting them in difficult economic times! Eff it.
So I bought it, and ate it, and it was delicious. Then our other friend came over with her adorable child -- and they looked at me in horror. The whole family were vegetarians. The young child looked at with big reproachful eyes.
You can't please everyone, I guess. There's always going to be an adorable child to dissapoint.
And so from that point on, I started eating meat. Having not eaten it since age 12, it's like a whole new world of taste and flavor. Every day, I discover something new I haven't tried. A Reuben sandwich? Never had one. A Philly cheesesteak? Nope. It's pretty amazing in that regard. Cooking with meat is also a whole strange new adventure, one that still scares me.
My rationale, on that Bratwurst day, was that I would eat local meat -- humanely raised meat. I'd support free-range farmers and food coops. No problem with that. It was still consistent with my original principles (If you side-step the whole "slaughter it yourself" angle).
But there's always the second aspect to the story -- the crazy-eyed purchase of pretzel dogs and Quiznos roast beef sandwiches. Have I always been consistent in my purchase and consumption of meat since? Do I always make sure I know where it comes from? Do I sometimes buy beef jerky when I'm in gas stations? No, no, and yes, the nacho cheese flavor is amazing.
So I'm kind of what I never wanted to be -- a hypocrite.
But there are personal advantages to the meat-eating. I don't binge on carbs anymore. When I eat meat, I feel full, and then I stop eating (I'm mean, okay -- there's the occasional "I finished my hamburger, can I now finish your hamburger? You don't want the rest of it, right?" moment). My portion sizes are better as a result of meat-eating -- it slows me down. And I do feel my appreciation for food has expanded in an exciting way.
And I have lots of issues with food. Ethical concerns aside, I've struggled in the past with eating disorders (the "starve and binge" cycle that almost every woman in America has some knowledge of). It's healthier for me not to have anything "totally off limits" -- putting something "totally off limits" makes me a little crazy and increases my anxiety about food (I realize that I'm very lucky not to have any health concerns that limit what I can eat -- I manage to get myself screwed up in the head enough over food all on my own, and I admire those who manage to limit their food intake in ways that don't result in disordered eating. I just think eliminating things entirely from my diet isn't a great way to go for me if it can be avoided -- the "eat everything in reasonable amounts" approach just seems to fit me better).
But despite the fact that eating meat really works for me at this moment in time, I still occasionally feel like a traitor -- a deserter of the cause.
And I'm sure I wouldn't have an easy time watching a goat being slaughtered. Even if it was like the luckiest goat in the world and had been raised by an adorable farming family and given the best goat-food and told it was pretty every day and killed quickly and humanly and consumed responsibly. It would still be tough.
I'm an adorable goat baby.
NOTE: So I managed to get bacon cupcakes, Hello Giggles, and vegetarian recidivism in the post! There's still some things -- recipes, thoughts on leather jackets, stories of my
stalking admiration of George Saunders -- that I didn't get in there, but that would have made this insanely longer. Still to come!