Eat & Drink

Why I Stopped Being a Vegetarian

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After 13 years of being a vegetarian, I recently crossed back over to the dark side.  However, my reasons for being a vegetarian had nothing to do with the idea of human consumption of meat.  As a faux-hippie, semi-political teen in Los Angeles, I took on the label of Vegetarian to help define myself and identify where I stood on ethical issues in the world.  Teenage years are tough, and we all use strange and unusual methods to cope.  Angry at the inequalities in the world and feeling powerless to make any difference, I decided that I would abstain from meat as a form of protest against factory farming and the amount of hunger around the world.  Only thing is that it was just recently I figured out how to express my relationship to the meat industry in those terms.  Back then I just said meat was 'œdisgusting.'  I’ll say it again, teenage years are rough!

After years of drooling over a couple hundred voluptuous steaks and a 6-month trip in West Africa, I decided that my reasons against eating meat were just not as potent to me as they once were.  Don’t get me wrong, I still have my faux-hippie, semi-political points of view on the issue!  There’s no denying that factory farming is an atrocious, unhealthy way to produce meat.  There is also no debate that eating lower on the food chain saves more energy and can feed more people.  Joseph George from AlterNet writes, “According to the British world hunger group VegFarm, a 10-acre farm could support 60 people if they grew soybeans; 24 people if they grew wheat; 10 growing corn — and only two if they used the land to raise cattle.”  Here’s a few other interesting articles on the subject:

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Some of my travels helped me make my decision too.  After awkwardly, sometimes unsuccessfully, trying to communicate my vegetarian views around the world from small fishing villages in South Korea to generous families in Sub-Sahara Africa, I began seeing my political stance on meat-eating as more rude than enlightened.  In some ways vegetarianism is a privilege of a wealthy society.  Many people I’ve met on my travels have not had the luxury to flat-out turn down an entire food group.  (Though devil’s advocates might mention that these people’s lifestyles are not a part of a large-scale, factory meat industry either.)  Anyway, for all these reasons, and yes, maybe a bit of selfish desire, I finally decided that it didn’t make sense for me to abstain from meat completely.  I still try to eat meat on a small scale and where possible, eat free-range, etc, etc, but I am also happy to say that now I have no qualms about indulging in some delicious Filipino lumpia when served at a dinner party!

As you can imagine, this has opened up a whole new world for me pretty much any place I can think of traveling to.  Just cause I’m here, though, lets start with New York.  My boyfriend Carlo turned me onto something called “lard bread”.  Ok, I can see what you’re thinking.  She went from the veg wagon to totally off the deep end, but stick with me here. “Lard bread” is this amazing loaf of freshly baked peppery bread with chopped up pieces of salami and melted cheese twisted and layered through out.  On lazy Saturdays, especially rainy ones like today, we pick it up at Mazzola Bakery on Henry Street just down the street from our apartment (in Carroll Gardens where the Italians still know who’s boss).  The seasoned, soft, melt-in-your-mouth dough goes really well with sleeping til 1pm and an iced coffee.  Upon some Internet perusal, I learned that “lard bread” is not only found at Mazzola, and it has quite a loyal following with lots of other tips on where to procure your Brooklyn lard bread on Chowhound.com.

Interestingly enough, the meat that I crave the most right now are hot dogs!  I am not above a $1.50 dog from a street vendor, but I’ve been delighted to discover some other places with variations on the theme.  Dogmatic is a modern, fancyish hot dog store near Union Square that I’ve also taken a huge liking to.  They use sausages (Beef, Chicken, Pork, Turkey, or Lamb) and fresh baguettes instead of buns.  With six sauce options ranging from cheddar jalapeño to sun dried tomato feta, I’ve still got many combos to try.  Also, their meats and ingredients come from sustainable and locally sourced farms.

Those of you on the West Coast, I’m sure you have tons of wonderful suggestions to share with me, but I also have two here for you.  When I asked Stuart about meat restaurants with some sort of opinion on the whole mean industry thing, he mentioned Urbun Burger in the Mission that uses local ingredients in their food. (They also have the “Certified Humane” logo on their website)  Is it a marketing ploy or not?  I couldn’t really tell.  If you’ve been there, let us know what it’s like!)  Also, Prather Ranch Meat Company in the Ferry Building Marketplace sells “Certified Humane” and local meats, and they also sound very open about answering any questions you might have about meat farming and the meat industry.

The meat debate in today’s world is wide and passionate.  Everyone has a different (and equally important) point of view.  I’m a fan of the moderation method, but feel free to share your opinions here!  Next week I’ll be writing a little bit more about my forays into the strange and slimy world of meat preparation and cooking.  13 years is a long time, and I’m as rusty as one can be.

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Danielle Levanas - Bargain Soul Huntress

Danielle Levanas - Bargain Soul Huntress

Danielle was raised by a pack of coyotes in the Los Angeles hills. Since arriving in NY in 2001, she has had any number of strange jobs, including back-up singing for JELVIS (the Jewish Elvis), starting the non-profit LYDIA, and writing political cabarets. A huge advocate for travel as a way of life, you can find her at the Brooklyn Public Library when her bank account is empty, fantasizing about where to head off to next.

4 Comments

  1. Chloe - Pennywise Reporter
    Chloe
    October 4, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    damnit. i’m gonna have to up the ante on my vegan posts now.

  2. October 4, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    I must say, I’m a bit jealous that you found your way back to the dark side. I became a vegetarian in 1995. For the past 3 years or so, I have tried to incorporate fish into my diet for health reasons. Now I’m completely broke, and I should eat meat because living on rice and beans just isn’t cutting it. I have tried to eat meat, but it’s so disgusting to me that I can’t do it. I can only eat salmon, and only small bits at a time. I have successfully eaten turkey maybe 3 times, but I took one bite of bacon and promptly vomited. Ugh. Like you say, it’s a privilege of wealthy society…even in the US, sometimes!

  3. sabrina
    October 18, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    hey Danielle! Just reading your archives to avoid going to bed. I was vegetarian from age 12 to 24 after reading John Robbin’s Diet for a New America! Remind me to tell you the story of how I cracked and ended up eating a mom n’ pop hamburger in a dark alley in Melbourne (so no one would see me). I also mostly craved Meat-That-12-Year-Olds eat: hot dogs, hamburgers, fish sticks, chicken nuggets. My bf at the time cooked me a nice steak and I couldn’t eat more than a bite of it!

  4. March 24, 2010 at 9:42 am

    I enjoyed your post. If I may, I would like to suggest my farm web site.

    Sumas Mountain Farms is the only producer of 100% certified-organic, lifetime grass-fed & finished beef in the Lower Mainland of BC (near Vancouver, Canada). We also offer chicken, eggs, pepperoni, jerky, salami, sausage, farmer sausage, steak and more.

    Because our beef is 100% grass-fed & finished, the quality of the meat is exceptional, and the flavor is unsurpassed. Plus, it is more nutrient-dense and packed with healthful Omega-3’s than conventional beef, which is healthier for you, your family, and the planet.

    Please visit http://www.sumasmountainfarms.ca/ for more information! We have plenty of recipes for you to try.

    Thanks.