Friday, May 11, 2012

On Vegetables

My two sisters and I used to be vegetarians.

At Prudence's bat mitzvah, we stayed with friends of friends.  They served a traditional Shabbat dinner: salad, sweet potato casserole.... chicken.  My middle sister looked at her plate.  Then she looked at me.  Then she picked up her fork, because we were brought up to be polite.

Prudence came to visit one Pesach and was seduced by a roast chicken.

And one day in France I got really, really hungry.

And that was the end of that.

When I married Dr. S, I wasn't a vegetarian, but the kosher butcher was six miles away and I didn't have a car.  We'd have chicken or fish for Shabbat- sometimes. He promptly lost 20 of his 195 pounds (he's 6'2"), leaving him a very shadow of his former self.

We still don't cook very much meat.  For one thing, we are poor, and yea verily, kosher meat is expensive. Tofu, on the other hand, is not.  Completely separate from that are a couple moral and health considerations:

1) According to various sources, the average American eats between 0.5 and 0.75 pounds of meat per day.  This is not environmentally sustainable, especially not under humane animal-raising conditions.
1a)  It's not especially good for one's health to eat that much meat, either.  Manifestly

2) I believe that, as part of the prohibition on cruelty to animals, if one is eating meat, it should be prepared in a delicious fashion.  This takes a lot of time.
2a) And it's more of a special thing for us because we eat meat once every week or two.  This suits my sense of frugal appreciation of the delicious, delicious animals.

This week was Pesach, on which we always indulge in a brisket.  Delicious, delicious animals. Vegetarianism, I have forsaken you.  I fear it will be forever.


  1. I think if I forsake vegetarianism it will be for FISH STICKS. They just look so good with the tartar sauce! And crab cakes. They just smell so good!

    That statistic on meat consumption is horrifying. As is the phase "manure lagoon".

    Did you happen to read the NYT magazine essay (on the ethics of eating meat) contest winner?

    1. That reminds me that I've never been to a Friday Fish Fry here. I love tartar sauce. Never had a crab cake (treif) but they do smell delicious.

      Haven't read the essay- we don't subscribe any more- but I'll have to look it up.

  2. Brisket is wonderful, I'd love to hear your recipe sometime. I've been trying to cook with tofu more lately, though I botched my latest attempt at tofu parmesan (breading fell of while cooking). Of course I made it for company, though they were very close friends who overlooked it. I like it fine plain, but DH needs more flavor and texture, apparently.
    The cruelty to animals link was very interesting, but you really can't spay or neuter pets? That was surprising.
    Fish frys can be good, in a comfort food kind of way, but I prefer the Door County fish boil. I prefer anything that includes a large outdoor fire.

    1. Most Jews do anyways, except in Israel, where there is a HUGE problem with stray cats and dogs. Also, women, children, and slaves aren't Talmudically accepted witnesses. Times have changed.

      Big fire!!!

      Our college caf served Kentucky Fried Tofu periodically. The memory still fills me with horror.

  3. Anonymous2:11 PM

    uh, meaty, here. (surprise!) sometimes very meaty. because we shop at the coop, it is mostly feel-good meat -- grass-fed beef, that sort of thing. (and not much beef or pork, because, yeah: expensive.) eating that kind of meat makes me not much care for the other kind, because it just doesn't taste that great. i agree with your idea that taking an animal's life ought to mean taking care to make the food at least taste good.

    i was unofficially vegetarian (and briefly vegan, pursuant to an overly intellectual eating disorder) as a teenager. i stopped when i started feeling dizzy on ladders. (i was doing theatre lighting then; i was on a lot of ladders.) i'm reasonably certain that i could be healthier than that while still not eating meat, but i don't think it would be as easy. that looks terrible, written out -- i'm too lazy not to eat animals -- but there you are.

    i do try to stay at least aware of the fact that eating meat means eating animals, even if i am ashamed to say that i am not so sure i could kill a cow, when you get right down to it. fish, i have killed many. chickens, i'm pretty sure i could do. a hog would be tough, but the ones i met at the state fair -- ones raised to be eaten -- didn't fill me with tender feelings. i'm sure they'd eat me. likewise, the cattle steers on my cousin's farm can be pretty threatening when they care to.


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