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Hungry Magazine - All Things Tasty
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05.30.06

Vegetarianism: A 12 Step Program

Food Memoir


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vegetarian

As a rule of thumb I usually mock anyone’s attempt to severely change their lifestyle, especially in regards to diets. I’ve too often been the hapless victim of my own vain attempts to establish a healthy lifestyle. My latest foray into the self-help realm was a halfhearted attempt to experience, first hand, the ebb and flow of vegetarianism.

Mind you, I’m an unapologetic carnivore. My body needs meat to operate properly and if I abstained from all things good and porky, how would I keep up my lovely figure? (More Drew Carey than Carey Grant). This experiment would be more of a battle of will and a challenge to my self-determination than another fruitless attempt to regain the svelte figure of my not so distant youth.

It really forced me to reevaluate my eating habits and take stock of how dreadful my diet had become. I could no longer classify drive-thru cheeseburgers as “road work,” or refer to my midnight burrito cravings as “cultural anthropology in the food ways of native Mexicans.”

It was time to call a spade a spade. My name is Sean and I’m a Meataholic.

Hi Sean!

I liken my attempt to shed my meat eating ways to a twelve-step program. I didn’t get so far.

On the eve of the initiation of this experiment I decided to order a feast of Chinese food, knowing full well that all of the meat would be questionable at best. I guess I wanted to go out with a bang. Mushu Pork, Chicken Fried Rice, Crab Rangoons, Potstickers, Eggrolls, etc.. I was a prisoner dining on his last meal.

Day 1: I started the day well with my usual bowl of cereal and some fruit. Lunch was a simple can of soup reheated in the office microwave (Read: Office bacteria incubator). The real challenge would come at dinner time. I came home to discover that our dog had devoured a part of a leather ottoman in our living room. She too had a taste for meat and needed the leather to sate her craving I suppose. In my usual fashion I turned to food to ease the pain of losing such a dear friend.

“Oh Leather Ottoman, you supported my feet for so long, why has our dog forsaken you?”

I was weak and broke into the left over Chinese food to quell my nerves. FAILURE! Less than 24 hours into the experiment.

Day 2: Starting over. My day began much in the same way as the day before. I felt at ease by mid day and unlike a nicotine fit I had no problem staving my meat urges.

Days 3-5: Talk about temptation. I taught a Chicken 101 class on Wednesday and a Traditional Mexican Taqueria class on Thursday. I resisted the temptation to dive head first into a Chicken Kiev and battled the urge to devour a left over platter of grilled flank steak. It was tough but I felt as though I had really turned a corner; albeit less than a week into the experiment.

The weekend: I was in Detroit for a friend’s bachelor party. No problem, right? I could just drink my dinner. WRONG! I was weak. I stood in front of a platter of Jimmy John’s sandwiches and folded like a house of cards. I couldn’t look past all of that processed cheese and mayonnaise smothered roast beef. I’ll admit it I’m weak. My stomach growled in bacchanalian delight as I devoured sandwich after sandwich. If I weren’t half in the bag already I might have felt that tinge of guilt that so many failed addicts must feel when they come down from that ill-advised high.

Experiment over!

So how can one expect to maintain sanity, let alone stability, while turning their life inside out to experience the vegetarian way? If you really want to take a break from meat and shed the guilt of being a heartless carnivore then there are a few details that you should take into consideration.

First and foremost, before you attempt to plunge stomach first into the vegetarian lifestyle, you must have one last feast of meat. This should be a strictly carnivorous affair, an all meat orgy worthy of a trip to your cardiologist. Be sure to include all of the basic food (meat and such) groups: Steaks, Chops, Loose-meat, Encased, Jerky, and artificial. By artificial I mean any sort of convenience store find that might include the words “bacon” in the title of the product.

Second, be sure to clear your kitchen of any possible temptations. This includes that bag of freezer burned ground beef in the rear of your freezer. Take a good look at your collection of canned goods. I’ve been lured from my slumber many a night by the prospects of a tin of Vienna Sausages tucked into the back of my cupboard. If you, like me, have at least 6 cans of pork and beans on hand at any given time, get rid of them. No, they are not considered vegetarian.

Third, take stock of your eating habits away from your own kitchen. When you have a hankering for a midnight burrito run what are you going to order? I strongly caution against ordering anything that is billed as “vegetarian.” The refried beans will have lard in them. That’s what makes them so damn good. Usually “vegetarian” means that they will substitute chicken for carne Asada. If you’re dying for a cheeseburger how do you plan on staving off the craving? Take a good look at how you satisfy your needs for that guilty pleasure, fast food.

Fourth, know what you’re getting yourself into. Not only are you going to have to drastically change your lifestyle but you should also be prepared to accept the heartless mocking of your friends and family. Fellow carnivores will consider your choice to forgo meat in exchange for vegetables as a sign of weakness. They will immediately seize upon the situation and see it as an opportunity to isolate you from the herd and ostracize you until you accept their views. Don’t give in. Stay strong. I know this is only a crackpot theory but I really think that vegetarianism was the linchpin that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. All it would take is one tyrannosaurus to adopt the vegetarian lifestyle and the whole balance of nature would be thrown. Just wrap your head around the thought for a minute, I think you’ll agree.

Lastly, enjoy the new discoveries you are bound to make. Try all of those crazy vegetables and exotic grains that you’ve been passing by on your way to the butcher counter. Maintain a healthy balance of protein to carbohydrates. Amazingly this can be achieved through wonderful soy based products. If you don’t attempt to supplement your loss of protein you will more than likely gain weight. Our bodies need protein to break down carbohydrates. Vegetarianism is a lifestyle, not a diet plan. Remember that. Have fun getting to know your local farmers as you patrol the weekly farmer’s market for fresh vegetables.

It’s not an impossible transition to make. In fact, don’t consider my failure as a sign of the difficulties involved in transitioning to a meatless diet. I implore you to take it as a challenge. Let my failure be your motivation. Show me the way. Heck, I’ll even give it another shot, 30 days without meat.

For anyone else out there with the masochistic urge to take on vegetarianism here’s an outline that might help you to achieve meatless nirvana:

STEP#1: “We admitted we were powerless over Meat — that our appetites had become unmanageable.”
STEP#2: “Came to believe that a cutlet greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
STEP#3: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of the Butcher as we understood Him.”
STEP#4: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of the steaks and chops in our freezers.”
STEP#5: “Admitted to the Butcher, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
STEP#6: “Were entirely ready to have Green Grocer remove all these defects of character.”
STEP#7: “Humbly asked Him to remove our encased meats from our baskets.”
STEP#8: “Made a list of all animals we had harmed and arteries we had clogged, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
STEP#9: “Made direct amends to such animals whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
STEP#10: “Continued to take a personal inventory and when we were craving bacon, promptly admitted it.”
STEP#11: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with Mother Nature as we understood Her, praying only for knowledge of Her seasons for us and the power to locate the best farmstands.” (Emphasis in original.)
STEP#12: “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to Meatoholics, and to practice these principles.”

Be sure to check back here at Hungry Magazine for weekly updates of my ups and downs in my second attempt to over come my meat addiction.

7 Comments on "Vegetarianism: A 12 Step Program"

Sean Gartland

To Everyone: No, that is not a picture of me trying to be Chairman Kaga. I prefer large wedges of Iceburg reather than Romaine.

Sean



meatlover

i too cannot stave off the temptation of mayonnaise smothered, processed cheese covered jimmy john’s sandwiches- even the late night burrito runs- who wants lettuce and tomato at 2am?
cheers to feeling your pain!!!



Erin

Ahh meatlover… the ignorance shown thinking all we as vegetarians can eat is lettuce and tomatoes will never cease to amaze….



Tim

Nice article , Good luck on your 12 steps



Cathy Merriman

Sean,

It is great to see you all grown up and doing great. Your writing is so entertaining. I know your mom is proud of you.



Barry Strum

Skip the next meeting and read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan. He describes “industrial food” in thorough detail……….and if the steer and chiken’s treatment with grain feed infused with antibiotics, hormones, and whatever else is included to quicken the trip to the abattoir turns your stomach and makes you feel like a wretch, consider the fact that corn and soybeans reach our tables with just as much Draconian zeal……….and corporate values. The pastoral, whether vegetarian or traditional omnivore-based is fading fast. The Old Testament extracted a major share of guilt about eating animals. Disney reinforced it with Bambi, Thumper, Madison Ave gave us Elsie Borden, and “Charlotte’s Web” could even bring a tear to a rabbi’s eye. Consider the alternatives……..no animals ae used for food. They start hanging around. Some pursue an education but find it difficult to make it in accounting, law, and other professions. Do you want a chicken to represent you in a divorce case? Root canal done by a rabbit? Mattress technology has limited the number of sheep that can find work in the sleep disorder industry. While I do not relish the prospect of armed robbery were I a clerk at a convenience store, I shudder at the specter of a nervous 1,200 lb steer waving a .38 in my face while I try to stuff shopping bags full of cash and grass clippings. So, forget the guilt, scrap the 12 step thing, buy a few lamb shanks, some white beans, a nice assertive, fruity, red wine, appropriate seasonings, and cook it for a long time at low heat so all the tough connective tissues can melt away, leaving you with a true comfort food experience. After dinner, go out and clobber a vegan for me.

B. strum
Cincinnati, Ohio



panasianbiz

I stumbled upon this blog while I was doing some online research, and I have to admit that I found what I read to be quite humorous, though I don’t think it offers any really practical advice to someone seeking to make any sort of major lifestyle change, of which adopting vegetarianism would be just one.



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