Day 39

Historically, I haven’t done a very good job caring about issues that are important. That’s changing, but I’m still small-minded at times. When we first got married, Michelle likely noticed that I didn’t sweat so much the politics du jour, but it annoyed me to no end if she cut the onions in the wrong way for a certain dish.

Once, we were making stir-fry. She chopped an onion for me, but I wanted it sliced. I was flipping livid. It was our last onion. A do-over would have taken a trip to the store. It still tasted fine, but it looked wrong and I had a hard time being cordial.

I’ve improved. I pay more attention to political issues now and sweat less about silly things like onions.

But, I’m not cured. If I could accomplish one last task in my final week, one giant leap in the world of grace, it would be to get over this vegetarian thing. Apart from an allergy or other serious physical malady, being a vegetarian is a choice. And I’ve never heard an argument that’s been convincing.

To me, it boils down to the kind of teeth you have. Herbivores have flat teeth, which are appropriate for grinding grasses and such. Carnivores have the sharp, pointy kind, good for tearing meat away from a carcass. Humans have both kinds of teeth. Like bears, we are known as omnivores. We enjoy both berries and flesh.

If that argument’s not enough, there’s always the wisdom of John Cleese: “If God did not intend for us to eat animals, then why did He make them out of meat?”

And so it is with this strong belief  that I must confront the fact that Michelle turned vegetarian about two months ago. While I  disagree with the idea of vegetarianism, I don’t really begrudge folks that lean in this direction unless they’re obnoxious about it. My uncle, for example, is a very accommodating vegetarian (for cholesterol reasons). But some people act all pious, and those are the ones I detest.

Michelle’s been decent about it, but it just hits too close to home. She says it need not impact me, but this is impossible. I’m happy to eat a vegetarian dish now and again. We do it often, in fact. I’m not opposed to eating tofu any more than I’m opposed to giving frog legs or dog legs a try. But there’s this wonderful world of meat that is being degraded for reasons I do not understand, and my boys and I are left to love meat in our tiny piece of the now empty-feeling world. We love Michelle, and we want to share our joy with her. And this is becoming a lost part of our family. Our life is forever altered.

Why? Why? Why? There is no answer good enough. I don’t like it, and I’m having a hard time accepting it, but I have no alternative. I don’t want to be impacted or bitter. I don’t want to be a jerk-hole for the next forty or fifty years. And so I must find grace on this topic. That will be my great suffering this week, stupid as it seems.

Being a Christian is itself a choice, so I guess I really must find a way to forgive the noble girl, though secretly, I’ll dream of her return to the dark side. That delicious, meaty dark side.

About Wilson

J. Wilson is an award-winning homebrewer, BJCP judge and pretty good dad. View all posts by Wilson

15 responses to “Day 39

  • Colleen

    First of all, I have really enjoyed following this journey. I am a Christian and a fan of beer, and I’ve found your story to be wonderfully thought provoking and encouraging this Lent.

    Another thing that I am? A vegetarian– but the kind who has no qualms about grilling a steak for my family. I never enjoyed eating meat as a child, and finally quit for good when I was quite ill at age 18. It forced me to be more conscious of what I was consuming to make sure I was getting enough protein, iron, etc. In the 7.5 years since, it has become more about my relationship with the environment but still remains at least somewhat focused on being healthy.

    Vegetarianism doesn’t necessarily mean that she or anyone else is degrading meat. Think of it as: more for you! Give it time. My family struggled with my choice at first, but it’s really second nature now. Also, they’ve been exposed to all sorts of lovely, healthy foods that I might not have experimented with otherwise.

    Patience and peace to you on your journey!

  • LeeAnn Balbirona

    I am a meaty meat lover, but I gave up meat for all of Lent. I survived! Well,only a week to go! I agree with you about humans being designed to eat meat, but there are some good non-political, non-animals rights type reasons to eat vegetarian more often. For one thing, if we spend less on meat, which is the most expensive part of a diet, then we have more money left to share with the poor.

    Also St. Benedict of that famous “Rule of St. Benedict” only allowed for monks to eat fish and chicken sparingly…red meat was only for weak and ill monks who needed to regain strength to get back to their regular life of sacrifice and self-denial. You can read the Rule at http://www.osb.org.

  • matt newberg

    just try to put tofu on the smoker for 12 hours and see how that crap tastes-animals are delicious! there is a reason kids hide vegetables under the mashed potatoes, but not the meat……

    • jkd

      actually, I did smoke some tofu the other week, along with pork chops and porgy. With a soy sauce, ginger and scallion topping, it was incredible – smoky, savory, sweet, salty. So was the fish and pork – but don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it!

  • Jonathan Chesney

    I’ve been a vegetarian for Lent this year. While I don’t think I’ll remain full veg. (and in my non-Lenten life, I sometimes hunt,) I think it will affect how much meat I consume, especially preparing food for myself (I’m single.) I agree with you about freedom of choice and not being self-righteous about it though, and respecting that of others. Conversion through guilt and argument generally doesn’t take, whatever level we’re talking about, right? 🙂

    I do think there are some valid Christians arguments for vegetarianism, or at least different ways of approaching omnivorism that are worth looking into and dealing with though: extensions of non-violence and bringing in God’s Kingdom, where the lion will lie down with the lamb. Also, sustainability, value for life (which applies to how we treat the animals we eventually harvest and consume, which currently, in the general meat market, is pretty abysmal. We don’t allow the cow to be as God created the cow to be, for example.) Anywho, like I said, none of that should be a guilt thing, but I do think there are related areas to the subject of Christian ethics and issues of food/animals/life. Fun to think about!

    Really enjoying following your blog and peace to you this Palm Sunday as we enter Jerusalem and begin Holy Week!

  • Mike O'Brien

    I commend you for your spirit!

    I guess that part of the joy that I have with both beer and food – is sharing both with family and friend.

    Brewing up a batch of beer that you share with someone that ‘doesn’t like beer’ and seeing a positive reaction is a revelation for them – and to me a reinforcement of the gospel of good beer.

    The same is true for BBQ when you serve up a perfectly done whole hog the majority of people are is such amazement that ‘pig could taste so good’!
    This BBQ is so good I have cooked hogs for more than one vegetarian!

    Vegetables, nuts, cheeses and other non meaty things can benefit from smoke and BBQ.

    I was going to wait till you were done with you fast to share this site with you – but I see you are already in the planning phase – so if you haven’t checked it out already – check out Meatheads . . .
    http://www.amazingribs.com/

    Peace!

  • Paige

    If you really love Michelle (and I’m pretty sure you do), then you should try to understand and respect the joy she is finding in vegetarianism. If eating meat brings her none of that joy, why would you want her to do it?

  • Tiffany

    Like this year with my liquid fast, 3 years ago I did a vegetarian fast. I had no meat throughout Lent. While on that vegetarian Lenten fast, my family felt affected by it. I had gone home for my grandfather’s funeral and everyone at every meal we had together felt like they couldn’t eat meat either. So I can see your point about your family being affected. After a while, they got over it, but it too a lot of my insisting on them to eat normal. Anyway, with your wife being a vegetarian, has it changed your first meal back to food on Easter?

    I’m counting down until I can finally have a sandwich this coming Sunday, though I know I’ll be full just with one bite!

  • Seth

    I’ve been reading your blog since Day 1, and have been fascinated by the updates you’ve provided. However, I must say, I was a bit taken back by this particular post. I don’t want to make the mistake of overgeneralizing any passing reflections you may have simply been providing about your initial reactions to your wife’s change in lifestyle, but it does seem that you’re presupposing only a particular reason for a vegetarian diet: evolutionary characteristics of the human body. Correct, this remains to be debated even today, with arguments from both sides. But, you must remember that the decision to become a vegetarian – or even a vegan – does not always rest on those findings and opinions. The meat industry (our nations’ “factory farms”) produces so much waste and is responsible for so much pollution and bacterial devastation. Sometimes the choice has environmental roots, then. Moreover, sometimes the reasons pertain to ethical ones: some individuals take issue with it being “okay” for another animal to be raised and killed (and in these “factory farms,” the quality of life and manner of death is far from pleasant) so that he or she can be physically gratified, when, indeed, one can obtain the same nutrients from a meatless diet. Finally, another reason could be motivated by nutrition and health: a diet without an abundance of saturated animal fat, I’m sure you can agree, is probably a bit better for the human body. Now, I don’t want to start a tirade here about meat and health, or enter into the elusive dialogue you mentioned about our teeth, but the first two reasons I mentioned above are certainly noteworthy. Your writing, as you have made clear, is being produced within the context of contemporary Christianity (as it is clear you are a practicing Christian). However, you also have a non-Christian audience, and (but again, not to overgeneralize or presume your own sentiments) not everyone shares an anthropocentric understanding of the world (that humans are more worthy, or of higher esteem and matter more, than all other forms of life – or maintain a particular type of “dominion” over them, which has historically been one of exploitation rather than responsibility), which of course relates to the first two examples I mentioned above: environmental and ethical reasons.

    Just something to think about.

    Cheers!

  • Bill Farr

    The meditative practice I follow strongly encourages vegetarianism. I have yet to make that full commitment, because one the most basic level, animals eat meat, and ethics doesn’t come into it. But on a wider level, quality of life matters, and I know that the life of a domesticated animal destined to be food in today’s world is a sorrowful one, and the lives of people who work in large slaughterhouses are difficult and dehumanizing. So that has made it easy to reduce meat consumption — the ethics and bad karma come in how we get meat today, not in the act of consumption.

    But more simply, kudos to you in attempting to understand and to change your reactions to kinder, gentler ones, and kudos to her for having met your less kind reactions in the past with grace.

  • Amy in StL

    Don’t worry, very few of those who switch to vegetarian are able to keep it up eternally. You didn’t mention what her reasons were for giving up meat; but I agree with you that most reasons people give aren’t valid. You can choose to eat responsibly grown meat, or only meat that you procure yourself if factory farming bothers you. If you think that we shouldn’t eat other animals because we’re more highly evolved than that; then your argument on tooth type negates that. My mom eats very little meat; but loves a good Liverwurst or beef hotdog. If she can stick to it with you eating her favorite type of meat; then I guess you should just accept it. But honestly, she’ll come back to the dark side soon; we have bacon.

  • Jennifer @ Conversion Diary

    Interesting post! Maybe the two of you could find some common ground if you agree to look into getting meat that’s humanely raised?

    I’m a former vegetarian who’s come back to the tasty side, and my health has improved so much that I’d never go back. I’m also not an animal rights fanatic, and don’t have a problem with eating animals in theory. However, there is some pretty nasty stuff going on in the meat industry these days, and I’ve started looking into getting meat from local small farms, where animals are treated will in life and slaughtered humanely. The animals have a much better life than they would in the wild, and the meat tastes SO much better than the stuff in the store!

    Maybe if you showed an interest in getting meat from a local CSA or farmer’s market she might feel that you’re at least hearing her side of things…and might even start to wonder just how much tastier that grass-fed beef really is than the store stuff.🙂

    Blessed Holy Week!

  • Abel

    But some people act all pious, and those are the ones I detest.

    I find pious Christians much more irritating than pious vegetarians, especially since, compared to the former, there are so few of the latter.

  • Jay

    I just found out about your journey the past day, so I read all your posts (up to day 42). I saw this one and it immediately hit me… I’ve been through exactly this. Take a look at Romans 14 and it should help put an ease on your feelings. It discusses the very thing. I know it helped me during a time with vegetarianism in my own family. Hope you are able to get past this quickly.

    Glad to see you are still enjoying beer. God bless and hope you get time to reflect on this whole lenten experience and grow from it.

    Kinds regards,

    Another beer drinking and brewing Christian.

  • Craig

    I just couldn’t resist a response here, even though I’m a bit late. The best argument for vegetarianism comes from God Himself:”‘Look, to you I give all the seed-bearing plants everywhere on the surface of the earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; this will be your food.” (Gen 1:29).

    Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m no Fundamentalist. I’ve got an MA in theology and I’ve been an aspiring monk from my own corner of the world for more than 10 years. The more one gets to know the monastic tradition and the great spiritual traditions and holy people in Christianity (Franciscan, Dominican etc.) the more one realizes that vegetarians were EVERYWHERE. All of those Holy people must have been onto something! It’s hard to wrap one’s head around just how pervasive this was among holy and spiritual people for the last 2000+ years. If this was the path trod by the Holy, the we would also likely do well to discern WHY they did so.

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