The other day I rambled on for far too long about some of the reasons I’ve started reintroducing meat into my diet and all of my stupid feelings regarding those decisions. Well, lucky for you, I have more “dear diary” thoughts about all of the things that I put into my stomach. Even though I am skating dangerously close to essentially embodying every single stereotype about Stuff White People Like, I’ll go ahead and finish up. Self-deprecation aside, these are things that occupy large quarters in my brain, and they may become relevant in Thailand.
In the last entry I covered how locavorism has challenged some preconceived notions I held regarding meat consumption, and how being with Andy has facilitated a former vegetarian to act on some of those principles. This was a transition that happened while working as an environmental consultant. In August, I began work at a co-operative brew-pub–quite the change in work culture, I can tell you. The brew-pub operates differently that most restaurants in more ways than the just the lateral managerial style and thousands of owners.
Thought goes into every aspect of food preparation and sourcing. Excess vegetables are pickled in house, meat parts discarded in other restaurants are turned into pates, rillettes, or other nose-to-tail specials. Bread for all of the sandwiches comes from a local co-op bakery and many vegetables, cheeses, and meats are sourced locally. Most of the meats that are not local come from Niman Ranch, which is renowned for its humane and sustainable agricultural practices, and serves as a model for other farms. All of the hard thinking is done for the customers before selecting what to eat. It’s freeing. And delicious.
I don’t go out of my way to order meat here, but if there is a special, or if the cooks send something out for us, I won’t push it away. I’ve sampled goat head cheese and crispy goat tongue, fried quail, pork pate and lamb meatloaf. I know that the environmental impact from these items is less than that of similar dishes with different sources.
But here is the thing. The thing. Eating meat does not make me feel as good physically as a plant-based vegetarian meal. I do not believe this is psychological. I do have concerns for animal welfare, and I do believe that we arbitrarily choose which animals are edible. Pigs are as intelligent as dogs, and some argue that they make great pets, yet we eat suckling pigs and cry abominations if a puppy is endangered. I think I’m morally okay with the occasional eating of animals on a moral basis. As I addressed in the other post, I believe it’s inefficient, unkind to the environment, and arguably not as good for us.
Especially after eating animal fats, I feel sluggish, overly full, and kind of disgusting. I’m prone to over-eating in any situation, and plants feel much better than animals in my body. Today, we can get all of our nutrients from plant sources–animals are not necessary for iron, B vitamins, proteins, and fats. Plants can offer these nutrients while also providing fiber and a slew of other vitamins at the same time. Eating meat, even local, humanely-raised meat in the company of my boyfriend does not come especially naturally to my body. Yet I’ve been enduring for Thailand.
I do not think that for one second I will be able to identify what is what on a menu, nor am I going to be the one who forces my first-world privilege of over-thinking on a culture in which I am a guest. My neurosis end at the borders. Period. I will maintain my own rules in my own kitchen, but in eating out and especially in eating food that others have prepared, I will eat anything and I will ask for seconds with gratitude. My system is going to be challenged with foods it has never conquered. I will be confronted with edibles not even considered food stateside, and I will hide them in my belly without reservation.
I’ve got heavy hitting antibiotics that will have to suffice for bouts of the inevitable traveler’s diarrhea. It’s going to happen. I know the basic rules: peel it, cook it, boil it. Eat the hot food, avoid the raw. Watch where the locals eat and eat there. I’ve got to get ready, avoid letting my own neurosis steer me towards the food that is more likely to make me sick. I’ve started early, at home, in the hope of relieving my body of some tiny fragment of the shock its going to be in.
Wish me luck.
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