Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Accidental Vegetarian, IX

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Today when we're out with friends at a restaurant or visiting family, and the question comes up – and it still does, even though my small circle of acquaintances should know by now – I say "No, I still don't eat meat."

With that, the meal proceeds, my quirkiness accepted, even reaching out to the point where I can admit to my friends that I've taken to reading labels carefully – vegetable instead of chicken broth in soups, jam instead of jelly to avoid gelatin products, no Worcestershire sauce all tart and acidic with anchovies, no Thai roasted red chili paste flavored with dried shrimp.

When someone newly met says "Oh, you've given up meat?"

I pause for a moment. To say, "Yes," even though agreement now seems a fraud, or at best less than the whole truth.

"Gave up" implies a sacrifice, and I no longer feel as if I sacrificed anything. A random choice for ritual, a Lenten offering that meant something, and nothing, has changed the way I perceive the world and my place in it, in the way I strive to articulate clearly without seeming sanctimonious, for my own sake if not yours.

And so I lie to deflect those to whom I care not to explain myself. "I have digestive problems. The doctor recommended a meatless diet."

With others, I might seek engagement, seek to force myself to define what I want from the choice. "Why?" they ask. "Really, be honest."

"I don't know, at least not that I can explain entirely," I might reply. "Something to do with factory farms, certainly, an objection as much personal as environmental."

To be continued.

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