as my mom would say, we were never big meat eaters. we could never afford to be. meat was expensive and a single mom on welfare, and then a part time school bus driving gig had to make the meal stretch.
add a can of kidney beans to the pasta sauce. that and a quarter pound of hamburger was enough for the two of us for dinner one night and lunch the next day. add a few more potatoes to the sausage, pepper, potato casserole. meat was not a big thing.
and yet, it was. culturally, it was. it is. meat is 'healthy', it's a staple. it's down-home and common. i may have known a few folks growing up who dabbled in vegetarianism. but it seemed out there. that's not what poor folks do. that's not what my people do. how do you live like that everyday? besides, i never had a problem with the idea of animals as living beings and yet there for us to eat. i still don't know that i think using animals for food is always a wrong. but it came down to other things.
i knew cassie all through her three years at university with me. by senior year we were friends and then we worked together the summer after graduating. she had made a commitment to go a year without eating meat. our boss questioned her about it one day. that was the first time i heard the word agribusiness. i had always considered myself an environmentalist. recycling, alternative energy, stopping the whaling, reducing purchasing and packaging--i was all for it.
the more i learned about the waste and destruction created by agribusiness, the inhumane treatment of animals, and the health factors of living without animal products the more i realized that i would have to change.
it didn't happen overnight. it was easy enough to cut out red meat, pork, most dairy products (being lactose intolerant helped in that area). then came chicken, and not for a few more months did i give up my tuna sandwiches and general seafood eating at restaurants. a few months after that i ate my last dairy yogurt, about three years ago.
it's easy enough to live this way, especially at home. especially living in a large enough city that there are many grocery options for me, many restaurant options, even, if i want to not cook one night.
but it can get tiring and frustrating too. going back to where i grew up; family picnics; vacations; hearing everyone criticize me for what i'm eating. not that i've considered eating meat again (okay, maybe seafood, sometimes). i think the slow transition helped me in that respect. it's mostly frustration at this world. at people who even know better, and still do what is easy, or common for them. at a society who chooses to ignore reality rather than change it.
but mostly i live this life quietly. i don't proselytize. if people ask, i'll explain my reasons. but i also know many people aren't ready for the truth. aren't ready to change what they do, and who they are. what i hope most is only to show that this life can be lived. that it isn't hard, it isn't out there. i recommend cookbooks, recipes. i cook for people. i live my life to show other people that this life can be lived. i think that is how change often begins. that's how it began for me.