Until two weeks ago, I had been a vegetarian for about six years. Beyond that, I had never eaten seafood — not even before I became a vegetarian.
If you had asked me last year, I would have told you that I didn’t have any plans of quitting vegetarianism, thank you very much. I was quite content where I was, and nothing was going to change.
But as I got older it became more and more apparent to me that I couldn’t continue that lifestyle. Though I still stood by all my views, it grew increasingly limiting when I travelled, both locally and abroad. I was glad to be sticking to my convictions, but I always looked down at my plate in sadness when the only thing I could eat at a small town restaurant was their house salad, while those around me were wolfing down huge piles of ribs or sampling sashimi or any other number of things. About a month ago, I decided to stop being a vegetarian.
My first bite of meat hit me by surprise. No gagging, projectile vomiting or fainting. I didn’t hear cows crying in the background, and the sky didn’t fall in around me. In fact, it was completely unremarkable. It was a decent enough burger, I ate a bit and that was it. Six years officially down the drain.
I then set out to rediscover all the foods that, truthfully, I hadn’t missed. My second meat item was a hot dog — a regrettable decision.
Indeed, I learned that my childhood dislike of hot dogs still remained, though I could recognize the artistry involved in making one that actually looked like food rather than whatever I was given in the elementary school cafeteria.
As my carnivorous adventures continue, I can’t deny some things I’ve eaten have been good. I can now firmly state eating a hamburger is one of the most genuinely wholesome things you can do. It was something I had unfortunately forgotten — there’s just something about burgers and fries that brings to mind friends, and the national anthem, and campfires. I’ve also been enjoying sampling local restaurants’ renowned takes on meat, from fried chicken to barbecue.
I’ve even been trying meat I never had before: chorizo, for one. I took one bite and actually was upset it hadn’t been in my life until this point. Welcome, friend. I hope you are here to stay.
Some other foods, however, like the hot dog, are taking a bit longer to get used to.
My dislike of seafood is unfounded but nevertheless persistent. I don’t know why, but I just can’t do it. It freaks me out. Last week, at a cooking class I was taking, I did something I never thought I would do: I ate a shrimp.
I imagine this means little to you. Or, you think I’m melodramatic and perhaps a little crazy. But I don’t understand the appeal of shrimp — how could you ever look at a live shrimp and think it was appetizing? — and was quite determined never to let one past my lips. But that day I did.
It was awful. Really, really bad. I couldn’t do it. Up until that point, I was generally happy with the variety and tastiness of the meats I had been sampling, but that crustacean sealed the deal: I remain a non-seafood-y person.
All in all, I’m not quite sure how I feel about eating meat again. I can’t entirely say what I think about the whole experience. It was underwhelming, for one. Looking ahead to it, I had imagined it as something life changing, something I would remember forever, because being a vegetarian was so closely linked with my personality. Not so at all it turns out.
It is certainly nice to be able to know I’ll have food wherever I go now, something I could never be sure of before. And it bodes well for the future. After all, if I visit some exotic location sometime soon, I’ll have more to remember it by than just a garden salad.
Emily’s column runs biweekly Wednesdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.