I had an inconvenient epiphany a few days ago. A really inconvenient one.
I watched the documentary Forks Over Knives on Netflix, and less than a quarter of the way through it, I had a distinctly uncomfortable feeling that I “got” what they were talking about. That I might be an actual c-c-convert – a die hard meat-eater who needs to rethink the whole meat-eating thing. A personage who might need to make a serious change in her diet and that of her family and become p-p-plant-based.
If you haven’t seen the movie, watch this trailer:
Since I watched Forks Over Knives, I haven’t been able to eat meat. I’m not advocating this, I’m just saying what’s going on with me. I’ve heard stories of former meat-eaters who somehow became suddenly revolted by the sight of meat and then became vegetarians, but…me? No way, Jose. Pass me the carpaccio.
Today, for example, I had oatmeal for breakfast (ruined by the fact that I put milk in it (animal-based) and artificial sweetener (carcinogenic)). For lunch I made myself a two-egg (animal-based) omelette with cream (animal-based), cheese and salsa, which I found disturbingly unpalatable because I couldn’t stop thinking about how the eggs were animal-based eggs (well, what eggs aren’t?), and how the cheese was also animal-based (I never really thought of cheese as being animal-based, would you believe, but apparently, it is. Dear God, am I becoming a v-v-vegan? Me?) For dinner, I had zero idea what to make because we usually have some kind of meat – so I did stir-fried rice with tofu (and egg, ahem, animal-based) and fresh (but mass-produced! not local!) asparagus. I avoided using butter, another animal-based food the film cautions us to avoid, but I did use my trusty Pam cooking spray – which I now understand is uber-bad for the environment because it’s an aerosol.
It’s turned my world upside down. I don’t even want to tell you about the double-capuccino I had at Starbucks this morning, all the frothy, creamy dairy milk it had in it. Shit! I can’t even enjoy my main addiction anymore – the film said we’re all addicted to coffee, that our three main food groups are: caffeine, sugar, and fat, heh. Suddenly my barrista wasn’t a barrista anymore she was a dealer! Then when I elbowed past all the yuppie addicts to go and doctor my capuccino, all I could see was this vast array of more animal-based products: milk, whole milk, skim milk, half-and-half full fat milk. Oh, so delicious!
Do I need to switch to soy? But…doesn’t soy have like, serious hormones in it that make your voice go up an entire octave or something? I don’t even know if tofu has soy in it.
So why would switching our family over to a plant-based diet be inconvenient for me? Well to start with, I am a die-hard, life-long carnivore.
I love meat.
Toss me a bone and I’ll gnaw on it, seriously.
I am a meat worshipper who has always secretly equated vegetarians as prancing hippies, basically, who feel the need to broadcast their food preferences and restrictions to the rest of us in a self-indulgent and political way (judgmental, aren’t I?). When I was 20 I had to travel around Paris with a fellow student who had changed her name from Wendy to Winter (worse – L’Hiver in French) who was a militant vegetarian rebel-type. It was such a major drag, to have to stomp all around Paris, the city of culinary delights, in search of a bean-sprouty, vegetarian restaurant that served par-boiled kale (and at the time there weren’t many). By the end of that summer, I hated vegetarians.
Pre-Paris, I had a boyfriend who was much older than me, and he was a health freak – a total fanatic way before it was even vogue to be one. One night, I cooked him a surprise gourmet meal of halibut in bechamel (cream) sauce, my twice-baked cheesy cardiac potatoes, a green thing to accessorize, followed by my creme brule. He got so upset at me for that menu, interrogating me about what was in the sauce (“It sure isn’t Spirulina, I can tell you that!” I shouted) and lecturing me on the link between proper diet and longevity. It wasn’t long after this that we broke up. Anyway, fast forward something like 50,000 years and he’s still super health conscious (in fact if you want to take a peek at him, here is his website, which is all about health and longevity – and whoa does he know what he’s talking about. I mean, the bechamel sauce is on me, because he has not aged a day and now he is fifty-something, and honestly looks fitter than a twenty-year-old.
My sister went vegan once for a brief period of time, and we all secretly ridiculed her because it was one of her many “food phases.” I have another friend who was a “raw foodian” – she only ate stuff that fell from trees or that you could grab with your hands – and I’m not making this up – she and her husband went through a Jack In the Box drive-through on their way back from a weekend raw foodian retreat, totally binged on cheeseburgers and fries.
So in California, where I’m from, food is political. What you do with it, how you eat it, what you eat or don’t eat – it all becomes an extension of who you are. It can become really irritating to the people around you, so I’m wary of it, and I never really care to hear people talk about the food they are eating or not eating or whether it’s organic or how many calories it has or whatever the f. it is – unless it’s to share something neutral like a recipe or something. Also, my mom had a pretty serious eating disorder, which put me off the whole topic of what everybody’s eating even more.
About a week before I saw Forks Over Knives, I had watched Food, Inc. I learned that Monsanto has taken over most of America’s farms and has actually patented the soybean (scary! this means they control the whole crop, the soybean, Orwellian! they also control and bully any farmers who try to keep their old seeds so they can plant them the following year!) – it put me off GMO soybeans, not that I was into them in the first place but still – and I’m appalled at how animals are treated in slaughterhouses, how non-organic cows are fed corn and because of this, we see deaths from salmonella and huge meat recalls (if they were fed grass and allowed to roam free, according to the film, we would not have this problem) – and the “cost” of what the mass production to the planet – well, after seeing this film, I went to the grocery store.
I felt as if I was seeing the supermarket for the first time. With new eyes. I scanned the massive produce section for where I might find local produce – and found a single stall that had some bruisy looking apples, green beans, onions, and melons. And that was it for the local farm produce. (I’m going to have to start going to local farmer’s markets on weekends, or have local produce delivered with the milk, but wait a minute, if we have to move to a plant-based diet we wouldn’t be having any milk. Right?! Oh, it’s all so gosh-dern confusing!)
When I went to see if I could find any organic, free-range, grass-fed beef, such as steaks, all they had in their gargantuan meat department was one small package of ground beef, which I bought, and a small section of organic chicken. Everything else was all the mass-farmed, corn-fed, shoddily slaughtered stuff I’d seen on Food, Inc. That movie suggested that each time we pass an item under the scanner at the supermarket, it’s like casting a vote against mass-farming and for the planet. So I brought my cage-free free range eggs, my locally farmed green beans, and the organic ground beef to the cash register and cast my vote: more of this, please.
Note: I had to go to the manager to ask where the organic, grass-fed meat was, because nobody seemed to know. So he called the meat department on his walkie-talkie and said, “We have a customer here who is looking for organic, breast-fed beef,” I was like, “No, I’m not – I’m looking for grass-fed beef, not breast-fed beef.” We had a good laugh over that one, maybe it’s the next trend.
It took me a few days to adjust to the shock of all the information I learned from Food, Inc. and from the folks who had weighed in on my Facebook page when I asked what, if anything, they do to avoid toxins in things like cleaning products, sunscreens, food, and lunch box containers.
Someone on Twitter suggested I watch Forks Over Knives.
And I did.
I learned about plant-based eating (which I used to call vegetarianism or veganism, and which as you know I used to secretly taunt) in a whole new way, with fresh eyes. I don’t want to alarm you or bore you with this but essentially in the film they draw a pretty grim and convincing conclusion that the soaring rates of cancer in America, of heart disease, and other illnesses, and all the ads for drugs like Lipitor we see on the television, are all caused by the fact that we are eating a meat-based diet of processed food and empty calories. I’ve long known that fast-foods are not good for you, and in fact my children are the ones that refused to ever eat at McDonald’s after they heard about what’s in the food there – they are the ones who told me to stop buying Wonder bread! – however something about this film got me.
I’m not saying I’m actually going to do anything about it, yet. Just that I’m…in a mild state of shock, and right now I can’t seem to eat any meat.
I’m not really sure where I’ll go with it from here.
My ten-year-old heard us talking about it and begged me to watch the film – so last night I let her watch half of it. Just like me, by about a quarter way through the movie she said, “I just want to try not eating meat for a while.”
I am not pleased about this, oh no not at all. It is hard enough for me to figure out breakfasts, meals, and lunches without having to factor in shit like the environment, sustainability, and now – plant-based foods. I’m not even really sure about what kinds of plant-based foods contain protein, and protein is one thing my younger daughter needs about every 4 hours or she gets cranky.
And the people who follow this way of eating – they have to do a lot of cooking, and have to re-learn how to shop for whole foods, how to read labels, and well, how to cook things that don’t have faces. They probably also have to put up with a lot of eye-rolling from judgmental doubters like me.
I’m not sure I can do it.
I’m not even sure I want to do it, frankly.
I may just switch our family over to mostly plant-based foods but meat – organic, free-range meat – once or twice a week. I don’t know. I really am in a state of mild shock, frankly. I’m realizing that, as a mother, the very things I’ve been feeding my children – in Ella’s case, protein, such as bacon in the morning, or her cup of hot cow’s milk at night – could in fact be bad for them. I’m feeling a little like those moms from back in the Fifties who were force-feeding their babies formula from bottles on “scheduled feedings” because they were told by their doctors it was the best thing to do – and twenty years later they look back and realize that maybe it wasn’t. I’m feeling a little like that – in a fog, confused, and pissed off that I may have gotten this whole entire food thing utterly wrong.
So – apologies for the boring food rant, but this is kind of big. Stay tuned.
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