About 15 years ago I reached some kind of crack in the sidewalk of my life--nothing discernible happened, or at least nothing stands out in my memory. I just decided that if I really couldn't eat anything that looked like the animal it used to be, that maybe it was time to be honest with myself and just stop eating meat.
So I did. I had some leftover cocktail weenies from a New Year's party one January 1st and that was it, no more meat.
I wasn't a squeamish vegetarian, I still cooked a Thanksgiving turkey for my family and I made pork ribs and steak for my husband and sons.
I learned about the health benefits of being vegetarian, and got pretty excited about what someone at a women's retreat I attended called "eating close to the earth." Obviously, eating no animals meant no feeding, watering, transporting, processing or packaging animals.
Eventually my sons grew into teens and the two oldest--both for environmental reasons--chose to stop eating meat. My husband got the ultimatum from his doc "get your cholesterol down or you're going on medication" and with side effects like muscle weakness, he was ready to get radical to stay off the drugs.
After all these years I had come to the point where I was not cooking meat at home, and after one final turkey carcass-picking incident, I ruled all meat had to come in our house ready to consume or be prepared by other people when I was not anywhere nearby. And good lord please don't let me smell it.
I thought when my oldest son, the one we always called a carnivore, went veg that I'd never see a more surprising change. But when my husband decided to stop eating meat, I wondered if I was living in some soap opera world where an evil family had made eternal winter in our town and somehow made my husband a completely new man. But he was all in and still the same great guy, no evil Carradine plan was at work, apparently.
My meat loving husband's cholesterol dropped dramatically on a mostly plant based diet. The doc made him come back again and again for blood tests because he was radically skeptical that the levels were really down. But his levels stayed down and he stayed away from meat, well, except for oddly important meals, like when he was in Korea on an airline accident investigation and an older Korean man handed him freshly grilled beef wrapped in lettuce, and he just ate it. Some things are just, you know.... a THING.
Pretty soon I was convinced by mounting evidence from social media pictures of cute chickens and really good documentaries that I should stop eating all animal products. I read statistics about the number of gallons of water it takes to grow a cow who would give me gooey brie cheese vs. a pound of beans. There was no need to convince me about the lives of animals and their value, I have spent my life owned by a series of beloved dogs and cows are just big dogs who eat hay.
And then when Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn explained endothelial cells in "Forks Over Knives" I was sold. Two years later I'm still not hard core, I do eat some cheese when I am forced to by it's awesomeness and when there are eggs in really delicious looking cookies, I might pretend that they are some kind of fake eggs and gobble up the cookie before I come to my senses. But I don't eat grilled cheese or scrambled eggs, nothing like that. And it's good.
It's actually really good.
And it's super easy. We cook almost all of our meals, we can eat out at almost any restaurant (great goddess of all things fried, Applebee's is even harder to eat at than a steak house for even the most resourceful plant eaters) but we like to eat at home because our food is better. It's not rabbit food, it's hearty and balanced and wonderful; just tonight we had a fabulous Shepherd's Pie that would make even the toughest meat eater swoon--and then reach for seconds.
But here, today, on Earth Day, I wonder why so many people who drive hybrids, hang their laundry to dry, keep their houses cool or warm and fight passionately against climate change don't do the easiest thing of all to keep our world safe; just stop eating animals. It's a change, but it's not hard, really, it's not. You feel better, you prevent disease in your body and you do your part to help our spinning blue planet. Maybe giving up meat is too much, but I know people who have Meatless Mondays and Flexitarian Fridays! You can try a Field Roast sausage brat or meatless crumbles in spaghetti sauce--so good. And really, no lie, easy.
OK, thanks for listening. Now, I will take my soapbox, and my leftover Shepherd's Pie, and I will go home!
Happy Earth Day!