Monday, March 21, 2005

Accidental Vegetarian

Since my wife and kids are practicing Catholics, i try to be supportive by joining them in giving up something for Lent each year (i was going to entitle this entry Lental Soup, but i was afraid i'd be struck by lightning). This year i decided to give up meat. This wasn't a huge sacrifice for me since as a family we already eat relatively little meat, especially of the ungulate mammal sort (my kids, oddly, don't like hamburgers so we never have them at home; though Emily and i enjoy a good filet mignon every couple of months). The biggest hardship for me personally has been the near elimination of one my staple food items: the burrito. There are only so many times you can eat bean and/or veggie burritos. I also miss fish tacos, panang curry with duck, and kabab kubideh.

Along with many meatless dishes i regularly eat (pasta, hummus and falafel, salads, various TVP things from Morningstar Farms), i discovered a few new things that have made going meatless fairly easy. First, i have to acknowledge Sipz, a vegan restaurant not far from where i live that is absolutely fabulous. They specialize in spicy Asian fare with tofu replacing the meat. Amazing. Next, the vegetarian version of the Big Wave hamburger at the Islands chain is pretty good (i think it's Garden Burger). The Tasty Bites line of microwaveable Indian food is very good if you can get past the slight repulsion of its astronaut-food packaging. I never did find a meatless burrito that i really liked, although my best friend (who's also a vegetarian) recommends the veggie burrito at La Salsa.

I'd like to say that skipping meat for a month-and-a-half has cleared my head and transformed my health, but to be honest i expect that on Thursday evening (when Lent officially ends for Roman Catholics), i'll probably celebrate with a chicken burrito from Chipotles. Although over the years i've become more and more disgusted with factory farms and the meat processing industry, i think that being a farm kid from Indiana makes it difficult for me to oppose meat-eating on ethical grounds, and the taste of a good steak with a nice Cabernet makes it hard for me to oppose meat eating for health reasons.

On the other hand, this giant chicken vacuum that they posted on BoingBoing a couple of weeks ago almost convinced me to give up chicken for good. My grandfather was a chicken farmer, and i won't kid you and tell you that his approach to chicken farming was especially humane-- the chickens still ended up dead. But the chicken vacuum is even more nightmarish than the chicken pie machine from Chicken Run, not merely because they suck the chickens up a chute but also because they end up packed into stacked pens. It's really quite awful, and that's coming from somebody who's witnessed the slaughter of hundreds of chickens.

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