Yesterday I mentioned I stopped eating meat for two categories of reasons: taste and intellectual reasons. Today I’ll cover taste.
By taste I mean not just flavor, but what one likes or not, as in musical taste.
I never liked eating meat. At least I don’t remember liking it, but it was a long time ago. I remember disliking eating meat.
My mom would say “It’s all meat!” about the fat around a steak that, no matter how much you chew, doesn’t break down in your mouth. So I had to chew that stuff while it made me gag. I think my siblings all remember the phrase. So if I ever liked steak I didn’t like it after that.
The tendons on a drumstick eventually got to me too. I didn’t mind the meat part, I think, but the boing-y tendons got to me. The meat, I guess formerly muscle, seemed abstract enough as not to come from animals, but the tendons seemed obviously to come from a living animal. They stuck to the bone and you could piece together the animal it came from.
Come to think of it, I feel like a rite of passage for many children occurs after they learn that meat comes from animals. When too young to know the difference, they eat meat out of ignorance. When they learn meat comes from dead animals they either have to reconcile they are eating something once living and possibly too gross or too cute to eat, or at least something they wouldn’t want to kill themselves.
For example, along the beautiful Wissahickon Creek near where I grew up is a small area called Valley Green where, when families come, children throw breadcrumbs to the ducks there. The kids are cute. The ducks are cute. The kids like the ducks. Everything is picturesque. Across the path, called Forbidden Drive since motor vehicles are forbidden on it, lies the Valley Green Inn. The restaurant has been there forever — well, since 1683, a mere 48 years after my first ancestor arrived in what is now the United States — and everybody loves it.
On the Valley Green Inn’s menu is duck. Duck! I played with those cute ducks in the stream long before I learned people ate duck. And then they serve it right there!
Do they serve the ducks from across the path? I don’t know, but as a kid you can’t help but connect them. I didn’t like the rite of passage of realizing people killed and ate something I didn’t want to harm.
I went through that rite of passage, but eventually reversed it. I feel like you have to kill something inside yourself to embrace killing other animals, no matter how much you like the meat you get afterward. Maybe people feel otherwise, like they like killing animals, but I don’t think so. I mean, psychopaths, sure, but I think most people don’t like killing animals. I respect that hunters and fishers like their activities, but I think that however much part of them enjoys killing, at least some part of them dislikes it.
They had to harden themselves to accept they had to kill to eat their meat. You see that my mom mentioned my grandfather had trouble killing animals from their farm — and he had served in the Navy in World War 2 as well as living on a farm much of his life.
Some may consider this passage maturation or growing up. I consider the lost innocence sad. When I went through it I was too young to think critically about it. When I grew up I rethought it and realized I had made a mistake.
I should mention that I do remember enjoying eating “meat,” where by “meat” I mean processed meat-based products, analogous to “food” versus food. “Meat” is so far removed from meat, you can’t tell its source — things like Chicken McNuggets and hot dogs. I just went to the McDonald’s web site (for the first time, and probably the last — I spend more time learning about McLibel), clicked on “chicken” and saw nothing remotely resembling anything coming from a living chicken. I find these highly processed un-meat-like products can be easily reproduced without killing animals.
So I don’t count liking “meat” as liking meat. And I remember one of the main reasons for me stopping eating meat when I did was that I was cooking on my own. A few times I bought chicken meat to bread and fry my own chicken nuggets. The more I did so the more I connected meat with “meat” and couldn’t keep them separate.
People talk about the physical pleasure of the taste, smell, and texture of consuming meat. I have no memory of that pleasure. I kind of remember liking bacon and some other things, but not really anymore. So that aspect of the taste of it doesn’t resonate with me at all.
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