my daughter is a bona-fide Texas carnivore

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.

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6 responses to “my daughter is a bona-fide Texas carnivore

  1. You’ve done it again with this post, Fu. Good stuff.

  2. Thanks, Baty.

  3. My husband is a Texan and a big meat eater. He has high metabolism and works with his body. He can’t not eat meat. I’ve seen it, and it’s not pretty.

    Do you know Rocky’s blood type? Apparently type O’s are supposed to have meat. My dad is type O, and was a vegetarian for a while. His doctor told him he had to eat meat.

    Have you checked out the Halaal butcher shops? Halaal is similar to Kosher, in that careful attention is paid to how the meat is raised and slaughtered. Of course, you won’t find any pork products, but the meat is delicious.

    A friend brought up an interesting point about the ethics of eating meat, and the protesting of said ethics by abstaining. She said that vegetarians often stop eating meat because of how the animals are handled, but this takes them out of the debate. However, it has been the *meat eaters* who have demanded better conditions for how the animals are raised and killed who have actually made a change. Labels like free range and organic were not around 30 years ago, but they are now, in large part to the demands of the consumers. Something to think about.

    I’m with Rocky: I want a hamburger!

  4. Good point, Epiphany. I imagine you’re right, that the conscientious meat eaters have played a big part in many of the steps that have been taken to improve the conditions for food animals. Vegetarians, however, are not out of the debate. Many vegetarians, whether they be of my ilk (don’t eat it because we can’t afford, or can’t find, the humanely-handled stuff), or just believe eating animals is wrong, have stepped up to help head up the fight against factory farming and the big slaughterhouses.

    I also think that it’s entirely possible that genetics could play a part in whether or not someone can be healthy without meat. I seem to do very well without it, most of the time. Melissa, not so much. We’ve even wondered if ethnicity could play a part in the need for meat. Who knows?

    The important thing, in my opinion, is not to focus on making everyone in the world a vegetarian, but to promote responsible husbandry of the earth and the creatures we’re responsible for.

    Savory Beanloaf, anyone?

  5. How is it that we can allow ourselves to be so ignorant (and I include myself in this) about who we’re impacting by the choices we make? Is it natural, that we can shut ourselves off to the suffering that we’re promoting by eating factory farmed meat, buying clothes made in sweatshops, allowing our government to hurt people in myriad ways, or the ways we hurt the people we’re supposed to love? It seems like there’s an epidemic dulling of the senses in our species.

  6. I have often thought that people tend to get overwhelmed when we think about changing the world. The tasks just look too big!

    For instance, I think that we, as a culture, do eat too much meat. But asking everybody to go vegetarian or vegan is unrealistic. What is more realistic, perhaps, is asking people to cut back a little. If you eat meat five days a week, cut back to four. Little changes like that can make a huge difference!

    I heard a story on NPR the other morning about a program in Japan called “Cool Biz” where they did away with suits and ties for government employees in order to raise the temperature on A/C. Government buildings in Japan now have their thermostats set at 88 degrees. It’s spreading to the private sector, and cutting down on carbon emissions.

    As far as the unawareness, I’ve learned a lot from studying the theory of Spiral Dynamics, regarding the evolution of consciousness. It’s a matter of people evolving from egocentric (I have enough to eat, and that’s all I care about) to ethnocentric (my family/tribe/country isn’t starving, and that’s all I care about) to worldcentric (it doesn’t matter if I have enough to eat; I want to be sure everyone has enough to eat). When enough people start getting worldcentric consciousness, things will start to change!

    It’s the little things that make a difference!

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