<—- This is not Jade. But this round two of Jade’s guest blogs for IHB. Visit her in the beer garden at Bares and Broncs in Eburg 5/17. Alright, Jade. Go for it.
I’ve been a vegetarian for 19 years. 19 YEARS. I was 10 when I sat down to dinner and put together the fact that the lamb-chop my grandma had cooked actually came from a lamb. A LAMB! Oh God did I lose it. I can remember sobbing, my poor mother watching in shock as I declared I would never eat meat again. She tried to get me to eat fish for about a week, enticing me with my favorite, tuna noodle casserole. But I left all the tuna in the bowl and only ate the noodles and condensed mushroom soup. I was a full-fledged vegetarian.
It was only in my early 20’s that I started to feel the affect of low iron and anemia. I couldn’t stay awake in school, I got sick easily and I had a general feeling of ugh. My doctor suggested I eat fish and it helped immediately. I’ve eaten it on and off for the last 8 years, sometimes more than others, but have definitely developed an affinity for sushi.
So now I find myself headed to Mongolia in 3 months where the cuisine is mutton with goat, or goat with mutton stew. As in, actually, I’ve been told that there are almost no fresh vegetables on the steppe. Not this vegetarian’s dream… actually, my worst nightmare. So other than the fact that the animals I’ll be eating have lived on the open plain, free to roam without cages, and being fed grass only, there is very little comfort in this dietary dilemma.
The Mongol Derby is not a place for people who are afraid to be tough, and it’s not a place for people whose stomachs can’t handle what’s thrown at them. So that paired with the fact that we’re only allowed an extra 5kgs of weight, I’m not ready to give up necessary items like extra batteries or a pair of socks for vegan friendly protein powder.
I realized immediately after I was told I’d be competing that I could have to retrain my body to process and digest meat. I’ve heard horror stories of long time vegetarians eating meat and becoming violently ill, but I’ve also heard that sometimes it’s fine if you introduce it slowly.
Either way, I’m not leaving it up to chance and I’m not waiting till I’m out on the steppe to realize I have a violent reaction to the only food out there.
In other words; I refuse to fail to finish this race because I can’t stop shitting my pants. I’ve been putting this experiment off since October when I found out I had received a spot, but today I realized the race was a mere 3 months away and that now was as good a time as ever.
So today my loving semi-carnivore boyfriend and I wandered into Whole Foods. A place I generally dislike, but know that if anyone is going to have meat I’m going to feel ok about eating, it’s them. After a little bit of panic at the raw meat counter, and lots of guilt about what I’m going to do, I decided on some turkey bacon. A nice stepping-stone, I think.
I wandered up to the counter with 2 packages and asked, “Which turkeys lived a better life, and did they have toys?”
Thank God we live in Portland because the guy didn’t blink an eye, pointed to the package in my left hand, and stated that both of the companies raise pasture centered turkeys with toys and vegetarian feed, but he personally knew the farm in my left hand had very happy turkeys.
Sorted. Well, sort of. As if this decision wasn’t hard enough, I had to take into consideration whether the meat was kosher or not. I am Jewish and I was raised keeping kosher but was able to largely dismiss the laws as I never ate anything other than cheese that would be in question, given my vegetarian ways. This turkey bacon as it turns out, was not kosher. And according to the turkey happiness expert, the kosher organic farms simply are not big enough to meet the demand of the Whole Foods giant.
Great. So now I have to choose between religion and animal happiness.
For the love of God I choose my SOAP based on animal happiness, how could I not make that my main concern with what I eat? I chose turkeys with toys. Mom, please forgive me. This is not a life decision.
While there, Chris, who generally eats vegetarian with me, started eying the grass fed, pasture raised, buffalo steaks and lamb stew meat. No! No lamb stew for me, not on the first try. Not ever, in fact. But buffalo, I’ve heard good things about buffalo. Back to the meat expert, “Excuse me, where does buffalo fall on your animal welfare scale?”
I was assured that the farm the buffalo were raised on had room for them to wander, that they were given great care, and that they were not forced to travel more than 25 miles to be slaughtered (to reduce stress put on the animals). Chris had stars in his eyes about a nice piece of buffalo, and I turned away as the guy cut it in half and packaged it for us.
Fast-forward 6 hours later, a couple of Sunday beer tasting flights, and a leisurely bike ride, and we’re ready to cook up a buffalo steak. I’m sorry, not we, Chris. Chris did the cooking and I started taking pictures of raw meat and writing my feelings down.
He made stir fried veggies on corn tortillas and cooked the meat well done. But not before we both try it relatively rare (with lots of garlic for me). And I realize that I prefer to just eat it plain, and that hiding it in other food freaks me out. I guess I like being conscious of the fact that I’m eating something else. It made me appreciate it more. Or maybe it’s just the beast in me coming out. All in all I ate about 2oz of buffalo. Not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but more than what I’ve eaten in 19 years.
UPDATE I ate turkey bacon for breakfast and I still haven’t shit my pants. Maybe I’ll do all right in Mongolia after all.