Tonight, I’m going to cook a chicken. It’s a chicken that was raised on my friends’ farm. They took great care to protect its quality of life and ensured that it was killed in the most humane way possible. It was butchered by a mobile butcher on site and then packaged and delivered to me. I’m always struck by the generousity of people who grow and share food. It’s a giving that really touches my heart.
I still have feelings about the cooking of the chicken and those feelings may get in the way of me eating it. Maybe, maybe not.
I’ve been varying degrees of vegetarian/vegan for nearly thirty years. As a kid, I never liked the stuff, but not eating meat just wasn’t really an option that was readily available at that time. In my early teens, I met a guy who was a cook at the summer camp where I went and later worked. In Chris Leblanc, I encountered my first real, live vegetarian and something just clicked. I came home at the end of August that year and I was done with meat.
My Mom was always a pretty health conscious person, didn’t fight it, but she insisted that I research my decision. Even though I hadn’t know that meatless was an option, she was clearly holding out on me. She counselled that I needed to consider protein and iron if I was going to opt out of animal products. I learned about the nutritional side of vegetarianism (much of this information has more recently been debunked) and implemented strategies for getting enough the nutrients I was lacking. I basically did the opposite of most young vegetarians and got healthy first and then took a nosedive.
Often when people tell their story of their vegetarian life, the started with a phase that is self-descried as “junk food vegetarian.” This is the phase where people look at a bag of chips or something of equal nutritional offense and shrug saying, “well, it’s vegetarian.” Back in the early 90s when I was new on the veggie scene, that was not only common, but I would argue necessary. Back then, there wasn’t a full fresh grocery store section offering faux-meats and other replacement food. You couldn’t get a veggie burger anywhere, let alone at nearly every fast food chain. (Shout out to A&W and their Beyond Meat Burger AND to all who supported the initiative leading to the meatless phenom outselling the restaurant’s classic Teen Burger in some locations.) So, sometimes you had to settle for something crappy, yet vegetarian if you were going to eat anything.
About ten years ago, I finally went vegan for the first time in my life. It really sat well with me. My energy skyrocketed and I found I just felt better all around. After about two years, I moved back into eating some animal products (mostly dairy and eggs) at the prompting of my naturopath at the time. Two or three years after that, she started to talk to me about incorporating some meat back into my diet. As she put it, she just didn’t feel like vegetarian/vegan was working for me. I resisted, but later agreed to give it a shot. Some days it came easy and other days it was impossible. And from one day to another, I could never tell you whether today was going to be a meat eating day or if it was going to be strictly carrots and rice and beans. And, I’m not going to lie, on the days when I did eat meat, I was basically one of those people in the Farm episode of Portlandia.
(My friend who gave me the chicken actually joked about making those papers for her chickens.)
So, over the last few years, I’ve lived a mostly vegetarian life peppered with tiny and infrequent meals that include the most well documented and proven humane courses of meat. And now I’m going to cook a chicken that has been in the care of friends that I know and trust and I could not get a better, more clear history on a meal. I’m going to cook it, but I still don’t know if I’m going to eat it.
I’ll let you know how it goes and when I do, I’ll even tell you the secrets that I’m using to make it great. I bet you’ll never guess where I got them from.