I gave myself the gift of vegetarianism for my 25th birthday. At that point I had long left red meat and pork behind. In fact, the last hamburger I ate was back in 1996 at my college dining hall. People always asked what led me to give up meat and to tell you the truth, it started when I was a toddler. Family folklore tells the tale of me ordering nothing but grilled cheese or chicken when dining out my entire childhood. When it came to vegetables, I was the six-year-old chowing down spinach and lima beans while my brother was hiding his veggies in his dinner napkin. And I was notorious for stealing raw potato chunks while my mother peeled and sliced them for dinner. I have always loved the salad bar, eating the skin of a baked potato, have never met a vegetable I didn’t like, and would often refuse to eat meat.
I first declared “I am no longer eating red meat” the summer of 1990. My understanding father indulged me with turkey burgers and grilled chicken that summer. Because I lived with my mother during the school year, my red meat ban didn’t stick and I occasionally ate meat to stop the dinner time battles. Fast forward to
freedom college and I stopped eating red meat all together.
So the looming question…”why didn’t you like red meat”? To me it tastes like metal. Red meat has a very specific metallic taste to me. Have you ever bitten your tongue (of course you have!) and it bleeds a little… and tastes..well…metalic? I assume it is the iron (blood) of the animal. I mean, would you suck on a piece of metal??? Gross, right? But that’s what it tastes like to me. As for pork, it’s just not my thing taste, texture or smell wise.
In the entire twelve years I was a vegetarian (evolving into a pescatarian), I never once became anemic. It turns out my body (likely due to Celiac) stores iron. If I was not a vegetarian I may have had iron levels that were too high. I don’t think my vegetarianism was a coincidence, I think my body knew what to do.
Now here is the twist…10 weeks into my pregnancy and 12 years with no meat, ALL I WANTED WAS CHICKEN!! And I ATE it, and ate it, and ate it. I even ate a Nathan’s hotdog when I was 27 weeks pregnant (clearly a low point for my palate). After my daughter was born, I had some complications and lost a LOT of blood. I had an uncanny resemblance to Dracula’s daughter (‘vamp’ is not a good look for me) and was prescribed iron tablets. My CBC count stabilized very quickly which seemed to surprise the doctors. At the hospital I narrowly avoided a blood transfusion and 3 weeks later you would have never known.
Let’s fast forward again. Here we are in February of 2015. My daughter is now 8 months old and starting finger foods. I am still breastfeeding but my craving for meat has plummeted. On January 31st I cooked Ball Park turkey dogs. I prefer Applegate Farms organic, but my husband bought Ball Park so I wasn’t going to be a snob about it. They did not look like the healthiest hotdogs so I cooked them until they had stripped black wrinkly skin. Twelve hours later and for the next 36 hours I had an intestinal upset I never want to experience again. A few days later I was cooking organic turkey bacon and could barely look at it much less stomach the smell of cooking meat. It just all clicked. Just. Like. That. I am DONE with meat again.
All I can say is that I need to listen to my body. I didn’t think twice about eating meat while I was pregnant because I knew it was not me that wanted the large amount of
animal flesh protein and iron, it was my growing baby who demanded it so I just went with it. People who know me were tickled by my aversion to anything green and leafy and my new-found love of chicken and turkey. I am not sure what causes these sudden onsets of food cravings and aversions. I chalk it up to hormones. Baby J is now 8 months, eating whole foods and not requiring as much breast milk. I think this meat thing is an indication of my child getting nutrients from whole foods now and that weaning may be near.
So I guess it’s official. February 4, 2015 started my meat free life….again.
Are you a vegetarian or a vegan? What made you give up meat? Or start eating meat again?