I grew up in a family that was rooted in a crossroad of white, Mexican and native attitudes toward food: We left no food on our plates, we never threw away food unless it had gone bad and if I didn’t like what was for dinner that night, then tough luck. Meat and other animal products were staples of our diet, since most of the recipes that my parents and grandparents loved couldn’t be made without them.
Because of these factors, my attempt at being a vegetarian went pretty poorly. I remember it began late around my sophomore year in high school and pushed a little into my junior year. It was around the time when many of my peers, as their perspectives branched out from their own lives to the world around us, had grown skeptical about the food industry. Many were recoiling in disgust when they found out about all the chemicals and hormones going into meat and other animal products. My circles of friends grew up in that late 90s and early 2000s wave of distrust of establishment and industry, and so it was through them that I started to hear secondhand rumors about all the grotesque secrets of the food industry. Soon, a couple friends had become rigid vegetarians, and a few others, even the hipsters, got into these weird variants where they only consumed certain kinds of animal products.
I didn’t care much at first, but then some of my friends started raving about the animal abuse in the food industry. Now, this was a big problem for me, because although I grew up on a meat-centric diet, I became nauseated whenever I thought about farm animals being slaughtered for that meat, and I preferred not to think about that violent part of the food chain. Unfortunately for me, as I got caught up in my friends’ growing passion for animal rights and vegetables, I got more and more curious about whether all that stuff I heard from them was true. I ended up seeing some gut-churning videos of chickens in overstuffed cages and cows being slaughtered, and so my appetite for meat pretty quickly dried up.
I wasn’t a particularly good vegetarian, though. I definitely didn’t make it more than one or two days without having a slice of ham or a bit of chicken here or there, even when I had a girlfriend at the time who was also vegetarian. I tried to keep the diet, yet I couldn’t get over the cravings for meat. And yet, I also felt guilty if and when I ever threw away meat. My upbringing made me despise wasting food, and yet I also didn’t want to imagine how that animal had been treated in life.
But eventually, I just gave up and accepted that I was eating part of a dead animal. Meat cravings aside, it felt facetious calling myself vegetarian. I didn’t do it because I was genuinely passionate about animal rights or anything; I just didn’t want to imagine some teary-eyed cow or sad-looking captive chicken every time I sat down at a restaurant and ordered a burger.
The food industry does have problems with animal cruelty that need addressing, but I’m not passionate enough about animal rights to shed a tear over every chicken nugget. I see it like, hey: I can’t bring that animal back to life. If their meat goes to waste, then that animal suffered and died for nothing. I may as well respect it, preferably by using it in a delicious dish. If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, then that’s great; more power to you. I totally respect that. (And if you’ve got any good recipes, hook me up.) As for me, the creatures of the world are just too damn tasty to deny myself.