Okay, I kind of hate the word “veggie-versary.” But it applies.
2015 marks the tenth year since I stopped eating meat. I gave it up for complex reasons: to minimize my environmental impact, to withdraw my support from the American meat industry (which is wasteful as well as cruel), for my own wellbeing, and to live more economically.
I waited until college to quit meat, because I knew it would be easier to do when I was most in control of my own food choices. Before that, I practiced by ordering vegetarian entrees when I ate out and packing vegetarian lunches for school. I cut back. In college, I went more or less cold turkey (ha ha?), but for the first few years I continued to eat ethically slaughtered meat at home. I had a few slip-ups early on–chicken is crazy hard to cut out of your life–but eventually it became second nature.
I still consume eggs and dairy products. Occasionally, I eat fish and shellfish. Mostly crabs–I am from Maryland, after all. (It’s odd, by the way, how many people seem to consider fish not a meat.)
I don’t miss meat. Most people don’t believe me when I say that. “What about bacon?” they gasp. “Everyone loves bacon!” But honestly, I’ve forgotten what most meat tastes like.
The majority of the smells don’t appeal to me. They don’t bother me much either. I’ve started to find the sight and smell of hamburger kind of off-putting, but it’s never a problem. I try not to be difficult about my vegetarianism–my family and I joke around about it whenever we can. I do my best to confine myself to a sigh or eye roll when someone exclaims “Ewww, gross!” at tofu or proclaims proudly, “I could never give up steak.” I know they’re usually dealing with their own discomfort; they feel guilty or judged. (Note: I’ll only ever judge you for being unpleasant about my vegetarianism.)
What I love are the unexpected perks of the lifestyle. Not just feeling healthier or clocking my groceries in at a lower price (especially given how cheap fresh veggies are in the country) or putting my money where my mouth is when it comes to my principles. Vegetarianism has made me think more about my food. It’s put me in touch with where it comes from and what I can do with it. It’s inspired me to try things I never would have if I always had the full menu available. I love vegetables–and there are so many to love. I have one restriction, I like to tell people. Anything else goes. I appreciate the aesthetic of food more. I love cooking. Vegetarianism has been a big part of that.
Plus, the world has gotten a lot more veggie-friendly in the last decade. There are more options. More people occasionally or casually go vegetarian. The demand is higher. The culture is friendlier. Which is fantastic.
I don’t miss meat. In fact, I’m looking forward to the next ten veggie-rich years. And the next. And the next.