All vegetarian have their rules. There are many reasons people choose this increasingly common lifestyle, so everyone does it a bit differently.
Some vegetarians (actually vegan), eat no meat, fish, dairy, or eggs. Others, trying to limit their consumption of saturated fat, don’t eat beef and pork, but are fine with chicken and fish. In college, I had a biology professor that only ate meat when she was doing her fieldwork in Africa, because she believed the animals there were raised and slaughtered more humanely than they are in the U.S.
Me, I stopped eating meat when I was twelve. I had just learned about the animal welfare issues surrounding factory farming, and I knew I didn’t want to support this system. As I’ve grown older and learned that the market offers more humane choices, this has become somewhat less of an issue, but my concern for the environmental impact of animal agriculture persists. Agricultural pollution and climate change are the main reasons I’m vegetarian today.
The second reason is my health. It’s hard enough to keep my cholesterol and calories at bay when I so love cheese and sweets–I can’t imagine being able to maintain a healthy diet if I also ate meat.
Last, I just don’t have an interest in or craving for meat. Meat-free and plant-based foods are so common today that even when traveling, I rarely have trouble finding something I’d rather eat. So I don’t need meat, nor do I really want it.
But there are two odd exceptions to my rules…
1. “Creative” Uses of Bacon
Who doesn’t love bacon? The smell of it frying makes my mouth water, and the popularity of bacon memes on the internet show me that most everyone agrees.
Still, I choose not to eat it. Remember how I said I worry about my health? As amazing as it tastes, I can’t bear the thought of its fatty goodness filling my arteries.
In recent years, I’ve seen a lot of chefs and creative food companies experimenting with using the food as an ingredient to flavor a dish, most often in sweet recipes. Maple-bacon donuts, bacon and salted almond ice cream, and chocolate-covered bacon are some things you may have seen around. In the spirit of fostering this creativity and eating adventurously, I allow myself to indulge in these uncommon creations.
So this fragrant and crispy fried bacon is a no…
But this Bacon Caesar, made with house-made, bacon-infused vodka, is a yes!
(I tried this Bacon Caesar recently at Mercer Hall, in Stratford, Ontario. I’m trying to replicate this delicious beverage at home so stay tuned for the recipe!)
2. Edible Insects
I love insects. I studied entomology for a while back in college and I’ve remained fascinated by this diverse segment of the animal kingdom. Likewise, I’m fascinated by the many cultures in the world that eat insects. They are a great source of protein, they don’t cost much to harvest, and have less of far less of an environmental impact than other higher forms of animal agriculture.
So whenever I have the opportunity to try eating bugs I do, though I admit it makes me squirm. The first time I tried chocolate-covered crickets, the legs got stuck in my teeth and, because I didn’t have anything to rinse out my mouth, I ran to the restroom and nearly vomited. When I visited Oaxaca, Mexico, I saw fried grasshoppers for sale in a local market, but couldn’t get up the nerve to try them. I made up for that recently at a Oaxacan restaurant in my home town, where I sampled them fried, salted and served with guacamole (this time, I pulled the legs off first!) Last fall, I tried the beetle larvae pictured above, at a market in Otavalo, Ecuador. The elderly indigenous woman selling them didn’t charge me for the bag because she enjoyed laughing at me as I wrinkled my nose and psyched myself up for the task.
Photo Credit: Fried Bacon, Flickr/Shutterbean.
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) says
I knew another vegetarian at one point who couldn’t give up bacon, either. I wonder if it’s the most common food that causes veggies to relapse? She also found it really hard to resist fried chicken! I had about 16 months as a teenager where I went meat-free, but as I was the only one in my family observing this diet, it was really hard to maintain. By the end, my love of cheeseburgers lured me back over to the meat-eating dark side!
These days, I feel like I could give up meat if I had to, but I admit, now that we’re traveling through Asia I am so glad that I don’t have a restricted diet. There are so just so many amazing foods I would miss out on! I do try to limit my intake of meat for sustainability and health-purposes, and for now, that’s a balance I am happy with.
Cassie Kifer says
Hehe, I think you’re right about bacon being the hardest food to avoid because I’ve heard of this before. And yes, I think you’re right about it being great to be open to everything when traveling in Asia. I have heard it is easy to find vegetarian food in regions with lots of buddhists? Before I go I’ll have to learn a bit in the language(s) to explain what I can and can’t eat.
I was a vegetarian for more than ten years and even vegan for two years. I was planning of staying vegetarian for the rest of my life, but one day while walking in the supermarket I got this extreme craving for chicken wings. It was all I could think about. I had never ever had a craving this strong and I was practically drooling while looking at the raw chicken wings. We bought a ton of chicken wings, raced home and I ate more than a dozen chicken wings. From that moment on chicken became one of my favorite food staples and I eat it almost every day. No regrets whatsoever.
Cassie Kifer says
Great story! And interesting both you and Steph mention vegetarians going nuts for chicken wings, which I think is funny because I have no interest in the look or smell of chicken wings! I always preferred the taste of chicken breast, though.
We’ve just turned vegetarian about a month or two ago and maybe because we’re just getting started so we’re using our willpower to the max, but I just don’t think I could eat bacon or bugs again (ate some in SEA).
Doesn’t mean that myself and bacon don’t have many fond memories together though 🙂
Cassie Kifer says
Hehe, who doesn’t have fond memories of bacon?! Even our dog does — one of the last times Kevin made it at home, our dog stole and ate a whole pound of bacon. It was the best day of her life (obviously!) so she goes wild everytime she smells the stuff.
And what bugs did you eat in Asia? I’d love to see the pics, do you have any up on your site? Please share the links!
Cassie, I quittet to eat meat 1988. Since that time I avoid meat. The main reason is, that I won’t support “factory farming”.
But I’m no “vegan” (not yet), I eat few eggs, cheese and put milk in my cappuchino (I tried soy milk… oh no, it tasted not good) –
and I like ice-cream and sometimes chocolate . 🙂
Maybe – one day – I’ll be a consequent “vegan” (without eggs, cheese and milk), but otherwise I’ve learned, to be “TOO strict” can be counterproductiv and I don’t like to evangelize other people like a schoolmaster and I don’t like if they would do this to me…
PS. I’m not sure, if I’d be able to eat insects… 🙂
Hehehe… I also avoid bacon, but – to be honest: When I visit my old mother in Berlin (1-2 times/year)
I’m going to eat all what’s coming on the table (also bacon).
Cassie Kifer says
I understand all of this, Matthias! I agree–I don’t feel comfortable being too strict about these things, especially for something that is important and so life enriching as food!