Try as I might, I can’t get Rocky to be a vegetarian.
As I begin to solidify a broader code of ethics, vegetarianism has become a big deal to me again. I was a veg for a long time – somewhere around ten years, I think – then, I moved to Texas. In the north, in the communities I lived in, if you bring meat to a potluck, you get stares of disbelief (and, I might add, run the risk of not getting invited back). Here, if you bring a tofu and veggie dish maybe one person will actually eat it. That person will be you, because you are apparently the only vegetarian south of the Mason-Dixon line. For Texas the USDA recently named “Brisket” as a food group.
A few days ago Rukan, Rocky and I had breakfast with a high school friend I haven’t seen in almost fifteen years, and a friend of hers. The two of them are from the north – Michelle from Vermont, originally, and Susan from Massachusetts. We ordered. “A pancake, and bacon for the little one, please.” Susan and Michelle gave me the Astonished Vegetarian Yankee look. “Bacon?!” said Michelle. “Yeah, the kid loves her some meat,” I said. I tried to explain it to them, but they just sort of stared at me until I dropped it. I was speaking another language. If Meat is the language of Texas, I’ve finally learned to speak Texan.
Did I mention how much I love Texas? I love Texas. But it’s damn hard to be vegetarian here.
So as I’ve committed to living with more awareness of my impact, I’ve recommitted myself to vegetarianism (among other awareness-type things, like not switching labels at HEB, not cheating on my wife, etc.). If the animals to become the chops and ribs at the grocery store were happy, healthy animals that led natural lives and were raised with respect for the environment and were slaughtered quickly and thoroughly, hell yeah, I’d eat ’em. I love meat. I miss meat. But they’re not, and so I won’t.
To give Rocky a balanced view, I tell her where the meat she loves so much comes from. She’s wise to the whole cycle of life deal, so the concept of death is familiar to her. We’re in the grocery. “What’s that?” she asks, pointing at the meat under the glass. “That’s steak,” I tell her. “Steak comes from cows.” She gives me a blank look. “You know hamburgers? A person takes care of a cow, and then kills the cow, and then we eat the cow. The cow is the hamburger.”
“I want a hamburger,” she says.