Saturday, January 1, 2011

hello 2011.

Happy New Year, friends.  Celebrating the new year is fun.  I love the idea of a fresh, new beginning.  Last year was hard, though it was dotted with positive accomplishments.  Professionally, I graduated from law school and I passed the bar exam.  Personally, I became a better person as I learned about how, who, and what I love. 

perfect new year's day dinner - seitan jambalaya, black eyed peas and collards eaten in my house robe.
I hope you aren't disappointed, but I won't be posting a recipe tonight.  Keep reading to learn about what I want in 2011, and why I'm changing my diet to a mostly vegetarian diet.   Also, listen to the soundtrack of my life right now.  Ten decisions change your life...

I want to be positive about 2011, but I'm filled with a certain lassitude.  I have a feeling that all I need to do is share these fears, and by the end of this blog entry, I'll feel better.  My world is going to change dramatically and that's pretty scary.  I'm going to leave the student world and begin my career as an attorney.  At this point, I don't even know where my firm is going to place me.  I will be moving to a new place alone.  Well, not alone.  I will have Radio.  I will be leaving my friends behind, and I am nowhere near my family.  I'm 28.  This wasn't the plan.

at least i have great friends! who let me sleep on their couch with no end in sight!
Faced with these future insecurity, I'm focusing on myself.  I've spent so much of my life denying who I am, or not even knowing myself.  It took me a long time to realize that it's not just food that I love - it's the sharing of food at the dinner table with the people I care about that is what I really love.  Without the love and encouragement of someone special to me I never would have started this blog.  This year I want to be true to myself and my ideas.  I want to love more.  Other people, and myself.  Which brings me to a new food decision.  I think I might be a vegetarian.  Again.

As ridiculous as this sounds, I was a vegetarian for a few years in college and law school as an act of defiance against where I came from and who my family is.  My mom hunts deer and eats squirrels.  I've seen my cousins eat steak flavored chips.  Not eating meat was saying to my mom and my family that I'm different than you.  I'm better than you because I see the immorality and I am going to have higher standards.  How awful that I thought such things.  I stopped being vegetarian when I stopped fighting where I'm from and embraced my family and where I'm from.  I'm certainly not better than my family, and if it wasn't for them, I would have never made it to where I am now.  I am sad that I gave my family such a hard time when they loved me so much and supported me. 

I became a vegetarian to rebel against my family and upbringing, but also because I could not stand the immorality of the working conditions in the meat industry.   The vision of immigrant workers wearing eight pounds of chain mail wielding sharp knives and injuring themselves and those workers next to them, only to be shut out of any compensation by their companies or the government resonated within me.  People should not be treated that way. 

I don't know whether humans are meant to eat meat, but it doesn't matter.  We don't have to.  We can be perfectly healthy without it.  I know how horrible the meat industry is, and the fishing industry for that matter.  I won't recount the horrible things about the meat industry in this entry.  You probably already know.  I definitely knew it.  But I would willfully deny it when it was convenient.  I think that if I could afford to eat meat that is from a farm I've been to and know (like Michael Pollan), then eating meat would be okay.  Let's face it though, most of the time I don't know where my meat comes from.  Maybe I could justify eating meat if I could eat the deer my mom shot (no way am I eating squirrels), or get to know a farmer that I trust is treating his animals according to what I believe is right. 

Even if I knew the farmer and the farm where the animals I ate came from, it is hard for me to eat meat at times.  I can't take the bones between my teeth.  Or the weird veins and tendons that run through the meat reminding me that it's flesh I'm eating.  It's repulsive when one of those veins pops in my mouth, snapping back to the bone. 

So, I'm becoming a "vegetarian" again.  This time I'm not doing as an act of defiance, I'm doing it for me.  It's what I think is the right thing in my life.  It's hard to say I'm a "vegetarian" for so many reasons.  First of all, I hate to draw attention to my eating preferences.  I never want to alienate myself or be a painful dinner guest.  Secondly, "vegetarian" is a term I cannot easily define because there's no logical end to the argument.  If I feel like eating meat is immoral, is eating eggs also immoral?  It seems like being vegan is the only way out.  But it's not.  Vegetables are genetically modified, farmers are injured by pesticides and mistreated.  In the end, the only way out of the moral quandary is to grow your own food but that's not even an option for me.  Until then, the line between being vegetarian and being a carnivore is arbitrary.  I am just going to take this day by day and try to make decision I can stand behind with my food.   This year, I'm going to eat food that is good for me, the environment, and the people that grow it.  That's something I can feel good about.