Monday, July 26, 2010

The Vegan-ing of the End

I lasted about a year as a vegan. I can't remember what year it even was at this point, because, all told, the experience was pretty forgettable. I remember less about the changes in my body, the experiments with new foods, the realigned social agenda than I do about my longing for pizza. So back to dairy I went, with barely little more than a "smell ya later" to the vegan ethos.

Meat, on the other hand, I've had no real longing for over the years. I've said it before, and I'll try not to hammer this point home too much, but I grew up hating the meat portion of tri-component meals (the ol' protein-starch-veggie combo). If there were a late-night commercial advertising a CD compilation of People's Reactions To My Meatless Diet, some of the greatest hits would include:

1) Don't you miss ___ [steak, burgers, hot dogs, bacon, sausage]?
2) What does your mom cook for you? (I was 16 when I stopped eating meat)
3) You'll stop being vegetarian eventually.

First of all, do those compilation CD's even still exist? There's a reason why "Jungle Boogie" is perpetually followed by "Lady Marmalade" in my head, and I think it has something to do with a little thing called Disco Fever, available for the low, low price of $14.95. In 1994. Second of all, Color Me Badd as Track #3 is on repeat.

With the increasing awareness of socially- and environmentally responsibly produced meat and dairy products, I wonder if more vegans and vegetarians are inclined to switch back to animal proteins. I wonder what the data is. I wonder if people really are buying more locally and humanely raised animal products. I wonder if locavores are the new vegans.

Hold your fire, vegan punk-rockers and PETA cheerleaders. When I think about my experience with veganism - personally and vicariously - I think about its unbreakable connection to the visual art, music, and social reform. Then I look at the small cheese producers, chocolate-makers, butchers and restaurateurs who are currently on my radar. The artisan- and local food movement of today feels a lot like the vegan an vegetarian communities of eight, twelve, and (from what I've heard and read) twenty years ago. - artists, hippies, punk-rock kids of all ages with a motivation to change shit up and make delicious dreams come true.

Lemme cut to the chase - last week, I bought and cooked meat for the first time in over a decade. I hit the Brookline Farmer's Market hard, snatching up plump corn, vibrant bell peppers, and precious, petite potatoes. With great trepidation, then a surge of conviction, I approached the line for River Rock Farm. They offer a selection of fresh, dry-aged beef for seemingly affordable prices. I bought the lest expensive and most approachable cut - kebabs, $8.95 a pound. I took home 1.23 lbs (which yielded three meals for two people). Not only did I take on cooking beef for the first time, well, ever (I seriously think I've only ever cooked chicken breast), but I also made my maiden voyage on the grill. Long story short - I kicked the ass of both meat and grill. Oh good golly it was so good. Sock it to me, patriarchy.

Stupid-Simple Beef Kebabs (From A Gal Who's Blind at the Grill)

1- 1 1/4 lbs sirloin beef, cut into manageable chunks (very technical, I know. if this hadn't been efficiently cut into chunks, I wouldn't have known what to do with it. I have so much to learn)
1/3-1/2 cup olive oil
juice from one lemon
a few splashes of soy sauce
3 or 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
some chopped parsley or mint
assorted veggies cut into 1/2'' cubes (I used onions, bell peppers, and new potatoes)
sea salt 'n' groun' peppa

Soak some wooden skewers in water for a half an hour. Toss everything but the beef and veggies into a bowl; cover and shake or whisk to combine. Add the beef and veggies; toss to marinate. Refrigerate for an hour. Um, then the stuff goes on a skewers, the skewers go on a pretty hot grill, turn the skewers over and marinate frequently. When the veggies can be poked without too much give, they're done. When the meat is no longer alarmingly bloody, it's done (or something like that).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Have We Me[a]t?

I didn't realize that I owed so many people an explanation until I started proclaiming my life changes on, well, Facebook. Cries of confusion and hints at heresy prompted a long-overdue post. I'ma just break it right down - after a twelve-year hiatus, I've started eating meat again. I made the decision to drop the edge in preparation for a two-week trip to Sicily to study, ahem, the food and culture of Sicily. I've traveled before, and always knew that I missed out on so much by not eating according to the cultural, environmental and economic constructs of the region. I didn't even eat seafood on the coast of Chile. Moron. So, for education, for experience, for Sicilia, I resigned to eat absolutely everything that everyone else ate. I steeled myself for the emotional transmission, and dismissed others' concerns about my health - "Won't you get sick?" Thought I appreciated the concern, meat-mouths and veg-heads don't seem to realize how much chicken stock, pork fat, and fish gelatin work their way into things as innocuous as lentil soup, home fries, and multi-vitamins.

So my first bite of flesh was lamb. I could scarcely recall the sinuous texture and incomparable savoriness of roasted meat, and I had never even tasted lamb. The experience was quite unparalleled. And to my surprise, I really, really liked lamb. Baaaa. It wasn't all easy. I wept openly before eating ham, and I thought that the chicken liver I tried was possibly the most foul substance I'd ever put in my mouth. But I gave it all a shot - beef, spleen, pancreas, snails, fritolla (pictured above, and captured by the unsinkable Lauren Bennett. I can't verify if it was re-introducing flesh into my diet, eating farm-to-table every day, or the Sicilian air (seriously, the simple act of breathing there was its own pleasure), but I felt stronger and more energized that I had felt since I was a little kid, spending my summers stumping through fields and collecting crayfish in the creek.

I've eaten some meat since I've been back, and this week, I even cooked it. At home. On purpose. I've had a lot of time to think about it and to feel... ok about my decision. Feel free to grill me, chew me out, get to the meat of it (see what I did there?), because I'm happy to talk about my revival of occasional carnivorousness. And to close, I thought I'd reaffirm my commitment to una vida llena de veggies. This is a picture of my my favorite thing that I ate in Sicily: a "peasant soup" comprised of pasta, broth, and and assortment of vegetables picked from literally right outside the kitchen. I never knew that zucchini leaves could sing before I ate this soup.