When I met my husband eleven years ago, I was a university student living on boxes of mac and cheese (eaten straight from the pot), bagels, cheap sandwich meat, yoghurt and apples. Occasionally we had best sausages in hog casings. I’d been raised in a straightforward meat & potatoes kind of family, which never really ventured at all into ethnic foods. And then I met Tom, who was raised in a vegetarian hippie family, and he liked to cook. He cooked wonderful spinach and feta pies, with pastry he made himself, and spicy curries and yummy bean burritoes. When we talked about our future together, he told me that he wanted to live in a vegetarian household instead of having two separate meals on the table at dinner time. And I was smitten and full of yummy food he’d just cooked and said, “Sure, I can be a vegetarian! No problem.” I promised myself that if I felt like I was missing meat I’d go back to eating it.
And for a long,long time I didn’t miss it.
Then I got pregnant. And one day I went walking by McDonalds and spotted a poster with an enormous cheeseburger on it and I thought to myself, “I could go in there and eat a cheeseburger right now.” And so I did. And it was so tasty that as soon as I’d walked out onto the sidewalk again I turned around and went back for another.
The cravings went away after I gave birth, and apart from the occasional hankering for a turkey dinner around thanksgiving, I was content with a vegetarian diet again until sometime late last winter. I started having overwhelming, repetitive thoughts about turkey sandwiches. My tooth started aching and I read Cure Tooth Decay, which recommends a diet high in animal fats, raw butter and bone broths for optimal tooth and bone health. A little seed started sprouting, and I began to wonder if a vegetarian diet really was the best one for my particular body.
You might be sitting there thinking, “Well, just start eating more meat again, silly.” But I live in a vegetarian household. And I know more about choosing healthy animal-based foods now, so eating McDonalds or other processed meat products isn’t an option I want to take anymore. If I’m going to eat meat, it needs to be ethically raised and cooked simply. I want to respect the fact that my husband finds the idea, smell and sight of meat cooking in our kitchen pretty repulsive. But I’m curious about what kind of effect a change in my diet would have on my state of being. Can I really help my achy tooth heal by eating more high-vitamin animal-based foods and fewer grain-based ones?
I do believe that a vegetarian diet is the best choice for the world’s population and the overall sustainability of our life on the planet. It is far more efficient to feed lots of people a vegetarian diet instead of feeding a lot of food to animals that will then be slaughtered to feed fewer people. But at the same time, it’s hard to argue against the fact that humans evolved as omnivorous predators who hunted animals AND gathered plant-based foods.
I’m not sure yet what kind of changes I will make to my diet. I’ve just read Wild Fermentation and I’m waiting for my turn to take Nourishing Traditions out from the public library. I’m making small changes, like cooking omelets instead of pasta for lunch, and thinking about bigger changes. I’m afraid if I dwell on the relationship between health and food any more I’ll be diagnosed with Orthorexia Nervosa. (That article is kind of over the top, but still – WHAT?) Food has been on my mind in a big way lately.