Finally, almost a year to the day when I posted about my angst over still being a meat-eater, I am finally, almost, meat-free. I say almost because I'm still eating fish, and because, over the past month, I have slipped, to the tune of two meatballs and a chicken leg.
How did this come about? Was it the noxious factory farming? The animal cruelty? The risk of e-coli in my hamburger? Nooooooooooooooo...it was pure selfishness. I've read quite a bit lately about the negative health effects of consuming meat, particularly concerning how it relates to the risk of developing dementia. As I may have mentioned, my mom is suffering from early-onset dementia; whatever the gene that causes that is, if I have it, I would far prefer that it lay dormant. Eating fish, on the other hand, reduces your dementia risk; hence my refusal to give up eating those poor beasts.
But that's not all. Once I got started, I found a surprising amount of evidence that the huge amounts of meat modern humans eat may be doing us in. T. Colin Campbell's The China Study lays out how consuming animal products, particularly the casein in milk, stimulates the grown of cancer cells in lab studies. Dean Ornish, M.D., talks about how a very low-fat plant-based diet, combined with exercise and stress control, can reverse coronary artery blockages and diabetes. The Dude constantly struggles with borderline high-cholesterol and blood pressure, despite running six miles daily, and needs some heavy dietary support on the home front to stay healthy.
So, goodbye, blood and guts and veins and marrow. As you may tell, I've gotten this far through a goodly bit of psych-out. It was opening a package of rotten chicken meat that jump-started this latest effort, and thinking about that moment still works. As does remembering what my friend S. says: "I wouldn't bite into my cat. Why would I eat another animal?"
I haven't even begun to address how I feel about eating animals morally, because I've simply never gotten that far, number one, and because boy, that's a slippery slope. I've stopped buying leather, but according to an editorial in The New York Times today, there are animal parts in all kinds of stuff, from wine to the little pads on my lady-razors. Egads! I still feel, somehow, that I need an out every now and then. I can't imagine not eating what a hostess serves as a dinner party, for example, or turning down my sister-in-law's plump pork dumplings. Hypocrisy? Perhaps. Similarly, I'm not demanding that my kids stop eating meat, though I'm gently weaning them away from meat in their lunches. After all, they may have the dementia gene(s), too.
Right now, I'm still fairly clueless about what and how to eat this way, hence the ridiculous amount of packaged food I'm eating; I simply could not survive without the Indian food packets from Trader Joe's, and canned chickpeas. I also know my way around a stir-fry; kale, above, is fabulous with peanut oil and a generous amount of garlic cloves.
The few slips I have had have been out of desperate hunger at the end of a long day. I know packaged goods aren't healthy or green, but until I get a few good lentil recipes under my belt, they will have to do.